From the 8th of July 2011 at 10:47 PM to 29th of November at 10: 40 AM.
Jen. Rend, grellsmidnightlover, Tala, xxxXXXSMILEXXXxxx, JustAmel, Ranulf, Shizuka Aralia, graysam, Queen Mab, Cacow, animerockchick, Awesomeness Incarnate, ichiman, Anankha Clemens, Catsdon'tcry, Madee-Chan, TygahstahLuvah33333, skittleAcullen, KajiMori, Seilez Wingalas, Oreocooky, silver Alida, Pigyz-kun, Stripes93, woodbyne, Erik's Phantomess and Goldpen. I love you all so much, thank you for being part of this with me. I'll reply personally when I'm less emotional.
Also, my laptop just arrived. Expect a whole lot more porn from here on in.
Feli sat on his knees as people swirled around him. Ludwig's deadweight was hefted into an ambulance; whose foresight had arranged that. Thank you, law enforcement. There were people clamouring for his attention, agents Kirkland and Jones, the police, a paramedic.
"Agent Jones," Feli demanded; his first words in fifteen eternal minutes, "give me your gun."
"No fucking way, Vargas. I am not going to give you any kind of firearm." Alfred said in disbelief. He was an agent of the law, and that meant not giving emotionally unstable members of the mafia weapons of any sort.
In one fluid motion, Feliciano stood, swaying slightly. His face was pale beneath its olive overtone, his face was uncompromising and his eyes wide with a mixture of grief and rage.
"That woman just shot my bodyguard," it felt wrong to use such an impersonal term to describe the man who had saved his life, with whom he had shared his body. He was indeed a bodyguard. His protector, "I don't know how it works in your family, Jones, but in my family, we look after our own. She will pay."
"She's already dead," Arthur said, trying to calm the maelstrom of feelings that were making the smaller man shake, "Jones shot her." He gave Alfred a disproving glare.
"Agent Jones," Feli repeated crisply, his voice snapping taught in the cool air, ignoring Arthur completely. He leant forward, and even though Alfred was not only taller than the Italian, but broader too, he took a step back. In those clear honey-brown eyes there was pure murder, "give me your gun." He held out his hand expectantly, his face challenging Alfred to deny him.
Without thinking, and unable to look away from those sad eyes, the American handed over his gun.
"Thank you." Feli said shortly, striding over to the corpse of Sophia. He didn't even know her last name. There she was, vengeful face stopped in an expression of grief and hatred. The assorted members of assorted law enforcement agencies watched the slight Italian.
Hands coated in the soft, dark sheen of kid leather slid lovingly over the barrel and down, popping the magazine out with a click. Six fat little cylinders sat snugly in the black plastic. Their conical crowns rattling as a gloved fingertip caressed them gently. Like a stick along a railing as a child. Naughty. Not supposed to be doing that. In a swift, violent movement, the magazine snapped back into place. The safety catch was pressed off with the same motion that Ludwig had made when he wiped Mariana sauce from the corner of those full, sweet lips.
A steadying breath puffed its brief staccato from ice-encased lungs. Here. On this afternoon that was burning away the morning chill was no time or place for a frozen heart. But the sun couldn't see through the fragmented ribcage. It could not see the beating heart laid bare. It couldn't melt the silent scream that was wrestling its way through the mangled flesh of Feliciano's chest.
Face as calm as a still lake, first the left foot shifted, shimmying into place, the right following suit. It was a stable stance. On prepared for kickback. The right hand held the gun firmly, index finger teasing the trigger, not quite depressing it fully. Caressing it. In the exact way that Ludwig's slow caresses and burning touches had teased him to completion. The left hand reached out and cupped its twin, steadying it. Wight was shifted from one hip to the other in a slow undulation that mimicked the motion of meeting the thrusts of another.
A jerky tilt of the head pushed that ever-present copper spiral from his vision. Teeth clenched as the soft lips drew back in a poetic snarl. Eyebrows pulled down low over narrowed eyes, forming a V of anguish.
First one saline droplet fell to earth, and though the square was by no means silent, the inconsequential splash of that tear echoed, then another, and another, until water coated hot cheeks and the delicate curve of his nose was flushed, breathing stuffy with snot.
The woman on the ground, as yet uncovered by any anonymous body bag, but for her stillness and the blood staining her white dress, could have been having a bad dream. The frown on her face was not one of malice, but of sadness. Still he hated the sight of it, and his gorge rose. Ludwig. Gone.
After only a few short months. Not even a year. Not nearly enough time. Forever wouldn't have been long enough.
Feli looked at the face of Sophia. She just wanted her father back. He knew that. He'd done the exact same thing when his parents had died. But sometimes things are beyond control. A staircase is something that is beyond control. The frailty of an old man's spine is beyond control.
"You stupid whore!" he screamed, his voice shrieking like a badly tuned violin, all the stereotypical, whimsical music that the German had come to enjoy was gone from him, "I didn't kill your father!"
He fired the first shot. The bullet ploughed into her right eye with a squelch.
"Congratulazioni, cunt! You didn't kill me, but now I want to die!"
The second bullet shattered her cheek, sending bone fragments flying like shrapnel.
"Lo lo amo! Tu cagna stupido! Lo l'ho amato!"
The third bullet entered just below her hairline.
"Are you happy now, Sophia? Areyou?"
He squeezed the trigger again and again and again and again. Until the empty clicking noise registered and he let his hands drop. He kicked her viciously in the ribs, blood dotting the stiff, polished leather of his shoe. Not that he cared.
He looked down at her face, pockmarked as it was by the tunnels the metal shells had burrowed into her flesh. He kicked her in the head, again and again, and an animalistic scream ripping itself from his lungs, running its claws across his vocal chords and up his airways, tearing at his lips. Almost as one the Italian police force turned away from Feliciano, leaving him to his grief, leaving only Arthur and Alfred transfixed.
The slim Italian strode back to where the two foreign agents stood. He placed the warm weapon into Alfred's hand, a faint smile on his lips, not quite reaching his red-rimmed eyes.
"Thank you very much for the use of your gun, Agent Jones," he said, a little hoarsely.
The American nodded dumbly, looking at the chunk of plastic in his hands.
Feli turned to Arthur, a veiled threat in his kindly expression, "Be kind to Peter and Victoria, Artie. When it comes down to it, your family is all you have."
He turned on his heel and walked back the way he had come, back to his car. It seemed too big now that it wasn't filled with gruff, quiet kindness.
Alfred continued to stare unseeingly at his gun.
"I have no idea how I'm supposed to explain this to my boss."
There were five people at the funeral. It was a small affair, a few lilies and an expensive casket.
The Priest said a few words and looked to the audience in case anyone had anyone had anything to add. No one even looked up. Their eyes transfixed by the shining chestnut coffin.
Feli turned away. He couldn't do this. Not today, not ever. He couldn't stand here and toss a handful of dirt into a premature grave on top of a casket that shouldn't even exist with no tears left to cry.
Lovino grabbed him by the shoulder and roughly shoved him away, his eyes never leaving the priest.
"Get out of here, fratellino."
The younger brother nodded and turned to leave. At first he was just walking, then he was walking fast and finally he realised that he was running, sprinting through the headstones. The tears he thought he didn't have were streaming unbecomingly down his face.
Out of breath and shaky of limb, he stopped. He didn't even know why he had come to the stupid funeral.
He had other places that demanded his presence, other duties that demanded his attention.
But before he could do that, he had to stop and wretch, his empty stomach trying to empty itself over a tombstone.
The small apartment was bare of speech, only the sounds of the two agents snapping equipment back into its casing. Arthur looked up at Alfred's deep frown – that boy was going to need to get a grip on his hero complex; sometimes you just couldn't save the world; - and shook his head.
"You know that it's not your fault, lad," he tried.
"I was sent here to corner a drug dealer!" the American bit out in frustration, "And now that I fucking well know who it is, I can't lay a finger on her!"
"What? Bloody hell, lad! Why didn't you say anything?" Arthur asked, feeling a little offended.
"It's embarrassing," Alfred admitted, hanging his head and pulling a crumpled, much-read piece of paper. The letter was fabric-soft where it had been repeatedly scrunched up and smoothed out,
"'Dear Jonesy,'" he read, an angry growl in his throat,
"'It's been a pleasure evading you on my home turf and I look forward to doing it on an international level again as soon as my honey-moon is over. Mattie says to never bother him again, he hates you. And Francis might just kill you if you try and contact him; he's back to his pacifist ways, but who knows. ;)
Never yours, because you're never going to catch me,
Antonia Carriedo (Vargas-to-be!)'"
Arthur shrugged, "A deal's a deal, Alfie," he said, prompting the taller man to kiss him harshly.
"And that Nazi damn sure knew how to put a deal together," he complained before Arthur kissed him back, "Mmmm- We can't lay a finger on anyone or he'd – Mmmph! Can I talk?"
"I'd really rather you kissed me," the Englishman sulked.
"Look, Artie, if I'm ever, you know; if I ever find myself in England and you're at home- would you mind if I, you know, stopped by or something?"
"If you just happen to find yourself in a lose end in London? So if you just happen to hop across the pond for a weekend?" the Brit asked incredulously.
"Yeah, I know, stupid idea-"
"Only if you'll return the hospitality whenever I'm Stateside."
One Year Later
He stood in his place among the groomsmen at the altar, his mouth fixed into a grim line as he watched Gilbert flirting shamelessly with a bridesmaid, who readjusted the one-year-old on her hip so that she could flash him an obscure and most likely dreadfully offensive hand gesture. Their relationship was strained ever since Daniel had been born; Gil, despite himself, hadn't quite forgiven her for cheating on him and Elizaveta resented his occasional snaps. But they still loved each other, and Daniel, enough to make it work.
Actually, Gil nipped across the aisle to where his fiancé was standing, kissing the ring on her finger briefly before scooping his son out of her arms and ruffling the boy's shock of brown hair,
"You're standing on the wrong side, bucko!" He told the child, swinging him around and rejoining the groomsmen. Elizaveta smiled a little, watching them together.
The rest of the ceremony went off without a hitch. Except for the maid of honour, who was constantly giggling and smiling at him across the aisle. She winked and she flirted and she wiggled her fingers at him when the priest wasn't looking.
Or at least she did until Antonia smacked her over the knuckles in the middle of her vows. That got a laugh from the congregation.
Once the bride coaxed Lovino to say his vows at a reasonable volume and kissed him joyously on the mouth, much to his dismay and (though it really shouldn't have been) surprise, the lavender dressed maid of honour cornered him and wove her slim fingers through his.
"Ve~ Bello," Feliciano grinned dropping Ludwig a heavy wink from under his fake fringe, "Let's dance!"
The blonde man nodded and took Feli's hand, "Ja. Let's dance."
Slowly they revolved on the spot, stopping when the German began to wince. He touched his stomach gingerly and the Italian sighed
"Ve~ Lutz. You shouldn't have done that," he said tutting and leading his ex-body-guard to a seat.
"It's my job Herr Vargas; I have to protect you."
Feli frowned his disapproval.
"Besides," the larger man continued, "better me than you."
"What if I'd lost you?" Feli said, looking down at their joined hands.
"You would have found love. It's impossible for you not to. Everyone loves you."
Ludwig remained silent, and Feli smiled patiently. It would take a while, but he could wait.
They sat like that until the sun set and it was time to toast the happy couple.
"Well, " Gilbert said, clearing his throat after he accidentally smashed the wine glass he was supposed to be tapping with his spoon, "I know most of you, and you know me. I'm Lovino's human shield. So I kind of have to wonder why I'm also his best man. It makes about as much sense as anything he does. But I guess it does in a way. Because I was there on the night he proposed. In fact, I've been with him every step of the way with her. When he first asked her out, when they had their first kiss. I've got it all on tape if anyone's interested," everyone but Lovi burst out laughing, "But I knew that they were meant to be when I was handing him his tie on the night he proposed, and he accidentally let slip with, 'Mi adorata Anotnia' Now I don't speak Italian, but I'm pretty sure that he didn't mean to call her that in front of me. Here's to Antonia and Lovi, folks. God bless them both and whatever hell spawn they bring into this world!"
There was a smattering of nervous applause and loud laughs from the bride, a grudging smile form the groom.
"Ve~ Ludwig, are you sure that you want to do this?" Feli asked, sitting behind the wheel of the car – the German still wasn't supposed to exert himself, even though it had been so long since the .22 rounds had ploughed into his appendix (there was no way that Sophia could have been aiming for that) and his colon. There was still the risk of delayed shock, of re-opening those dangerously infect-able wounds. The possibility of bile and excrement getting into his abdominal cavity was a scary reality.
"Ja. I need to do this," he looked down at the blue and white scarf in his hands. It was knitted clumsily, as if by too-thick fingers with little know-how. After taking a deep breath, he got out of the car and walked up the neat garden path. This must be a very child-friendly neighbourhood. He could hear laughter from inside the house. With a nervous pulse thudding in his throat, he knocked on the door; there really was a remarkable lack of security here, considering his profession.
A woman opened the door; she had a messy bob of golden blonde hair kept back with a black ribbon and blue-green eyes.
"Belle van Dyk?" he asked.
"Yes, that's me, can I help you?" she asked curiously.
"My name is Ludwig Beilschmidt-"
"Oh! Yes, Lars talked about you all the time; you must have been good friends!" She smiled and pulled him inside, not noticing the scar he had tucked under his arm, "Have you heard from him? He hasn't been home in a year. The girls and I miss him," her smile was touched with sadness.
"That's what I came to talk to you-"
"Girls! Come meet Mr Luddy!" she called, before turning back to him apologetically, "I'm sorry, Lars always tells them stories about your adventures together; saving the world and defeating evil. They think of you as some kind of hero." Belle giggled.
He stopped as twin girls galloped into the room with wide blue eyes, "Mr Luddy! Mr Luddy!" they clamoured, hanging on his arms in awe, "You're even bigger than daddy said!"
Even as the name that Lars and Mathias had uttered as they burnt Monika's corpse, slit Louise's belly fell from two sets of small pink lips, he knew that he couldn't begrudge these two little girls,
"What are your names, lieblings? Lars told me he had two beautiful little girls, but he never told me your names,"
"Monique!" chirped the girl with darker blue eyes.
"Eloise!" her lighter haired sister chipped in.
He felt his insides freeze solid. Monique? Eloise?
Herr Gott im Himmel.
"Excuse me, I have to go," he said, standing up abruptly, letting the tissue-paper wrapped parcel fall from under his arm. The girls pounced on it with cries of "present!" that died in their throats when they saw what it was.
"We made this for daddy," Monique said confusedly.
"We made it special for his birthday," Eloise added, a frown etching her young face.
Belle sat hunched over on the couch, white fingers pressed to her trembling mouth.
"Doesn't daddy like it anymore?"
"He loved it," Ludwig said hoarsely, "so much. Excuse me, but I really must go."
He was halfway out the door when Belle grabbed his arm, her nails stabbing through his shirt and pressing curved welts into his skin.
"What happened to my husband?" he half begged half yelled.
"It's best that you don't know. He was thinking of you as far as I know, but I wasn't there."
"You aren't his friend are you?"
"I don't know if you know what kind of man your husband was, but for your sake and that of your girls, I hope that you don't. Monika was my wife's name and Louise was my daughter's. I – Keep your girls safe, Belle. Tell them their father was a hero, even if he wasn't. He was good to you, and I suppose that's all that should matter to them."
"What are you-? Lars is dead?"
"Yes. I'm very sorry for your loss; I know how you must feel."
"No you don't!"
"Yes. I do."
Trying his best to block out Belle's wretched sobbing; he walked back to the car on shaky legs and climbed in. Feli didn't say anything as he pulled out of the driveway and began the drive back to the airport.
Halfway there, he had to pull over onto the shoulder and take Ludwig into his arms. The large man was sobbing uncontrollably, not even trying to make sense with the syllables that spilt from his mouth. They had the same names. Almost. Was Lars that obsessed? The girls looked just a little younger than Louise would have been. What was Lars going to do to them? Had he intended for Ludwig to take over his family. What was going on? He didn't care. He just let the grief of losing his family, all the hurt he felt, the regrets and bitterness heave themselves out of him in great, hiccupping sobs.
Feli simply sat with his arms around the shuddering man, his lover, his protector, whispering soothing phrases in Italian until the tears ran dry and his shirt was stained with tears. Ludwig wiped his face messily, just trying to clear his eyes. He gave Feli a watery facsimile of a smile.
"I'm sorry about that. I'm much better now," the smaller Italian reached up to touch his left cheek and kissed the right one, knowing better than to try and kiss him so soon after his little breakdown. Sometimes Ludwig would go very quiet and get a little moody, and it was generally a bad idea to try anything romantic when he got that way, but those episodes were steadily getting few and far between. While they had been in Belgium, then had stopped off in Germany and he had showed Feli the graves of his wife and child. Feli had talked to them, telling the headstones all about himself and how Ludwig was doing, and how he wished that he could have met them. That made the German smile.
"No you aren't," Feliciano murmured, resting his head against the larger man's shoulder, "but you will be. I know it."
"You're my guardian angel," Ludwig said softly, leaning in for a brief, tentative kiss that made the mobster's heart sing.
"I thought you didn't believe in angels," he teased.
"I believe in you."
Feli didn't answer, opting simply to smile his most sincere smile while they sat in silence on this shoulder of a Belgian highway.
Hi everyone. I know it's not much of an ending. I know that there aren't any sloppy I-love-you-for-eva-and-eva's but that's seriously not how I roll. I was actually seriously considering killing Ludwig, because gut wounds are just that bad.
I can't believe that this is over.
Thank you to everyone who stuck this out; through exams and flu and insignificant personal crises. Thank you to my mom who helped me with anatomy and likelihood of certain events, to my dad for synonyms and when I couldn't find a word. To my friends, who let me thrash out the plot with them and give them spoilers so that they could give my plot ideas. To Woodbyne, who let me type chapter 11 on her computer and who is always just a phone-call away when I've capped my internet or run out of "filling for my pie," and who lets me post my shit on her account. To my sister who sat through my explanations and demands and computer-hogging with a bored expression on her face but was really helpful all the same. Thank you to Lucy, who for the last two weeks has been enabling my tea-habit.
And finally, a huge thank you to every single person who has stuck through this story through thick and thin, if you just joined or if you've been with me from the start. THANK YOU! If you reviewed or if you just lurked, THANK YOU.
The sequel should be up sometime soon-ish. It's called Sonata and its pretty much the next generation of MSIMP characters, twenty years on. It focuses more on Elizaveta and Gil's relationship, with Daniel and his friends as main characters. Guest cameos of old friends from this story will feature. I'm not abandoning this universe just yet! But I will be posting other stories as well.
I hope to see you all again soon, if not; well, I'll miss you.