((A/N: Hello again ! This is a fic I've been working on for a friend. I've never written an AU (or this pairing) before so let's see how it goes. I can't picture Gilbert calling his brother anything other than West… so at some point I guess I will have to explain why he calls him that in this AU. Aha. Oh, and the title apparently means "Out of the frying pan and into the fire" in German. ))
There were few people Elizabeta dreaded hearing from more than a certain Gilbert Beilschmidt. Though she had known the man since they were children, he was quite possibly the most annoying person to talk to on the phone. He prattled on and on about this and that and never hung up first. He had mostly grown out of that phase (and they were no longer on speaking terms anyway), but she still cringed every time a phone rang.
Unfortunately, the phone happened to ring, on her day off, while she was lying on the couch, book in hand.
Her lips pursed as she sat up and brushed the long brown hair from her eyes. The phone sat on the glass coffee table, ringing away, mocking her. With a sigh, Elizabeta dog-eared the novel and leaned over to grab the phone. "Hello?" She crossed her fingers and closed her eyes, praying for the voice on the other end to be a telemarketer.
"Ah, Elizabeta, hello." The stiff, formal voice that emanated from the phone sounded faintly uncomfortable and she knew at once who it was. Ludwig, who happened to be the brother of the last person on earth she wanted to have a phone conversation with. "I'm sorry for bothering you, but I'm afraid I have a bit of a… problem."
"Oh, hello, Ludwig." She shifted the phone from one ear to the other and pressed it against her shoulder. "It's no bother, really, but I hope this doesn't involve your brother." The silence on the other line didn't do much to alleviate her fears.
Once upon a time she had considered Gilbert a friend.
When they were young, they had competed in anything and everything. Who could run fastest(Elizabeta), hold their breath longer(Gilbert, before he passed out), jump highest(they could never actually calculate that one), and a number of other inane things.
"Well, you see…," Ludwig paused and she could just picture him frowning, "it does involve my brother, but…"
Elizabeta huffed, rolling her eyes. "You know I can't help you with that. No one in the world can help that guy."
If there was anyone to blame the deterioration of their friendship on, it was Gilbert. Shortly after she'd gotten engaged to Roderich, someone Gilbert could not stand, Gilbert became increasingly hostile until he stopped talking to Elizabeta entirely. Though the engagement had broken off, they had never really made up.
"Ah, it's just that I'm going to be doing some renovations on my house and I need somewhere for him to stay… just for a… well a month."
She could have dropped the phone. "A MONTH? Really, are you serious? Can't he stay in a hotel, or with… I don't know, whatever friends he has?"
"Well… that's actually the problem. I told him to leave and he didn't take it very well." Ludwig cleared his throat. "Currently he is drunk and very upset and I can't bring myself to call Francis and Antonio over."
At least Elizabeta could understand that. She certainly wouldn't want to call those two to fix any problems she had. Gilbert's friends had destroyed Ludwig's house on more than one occasion.
"And he keeps asking for you."
The phone nearly slipped out of her grasp again. Though she would never admit it to Gilbert, she did miss him. Evidently, he missed her too.
With a defeated sigh, she said, "You owe me. I'll be over there in an hour," and hung up. It was going to be a very long day.
An hour and a half later, Elizabeta found herself standing on the top step of Ludwig's basement. The imposing blonde stood behind her, looking somewhat apprehensive. "I can't thank you enough. I promise I will make it up to you somehow."
Elizabeta just waved him off. Out of everyone, she probably knew Gilbert best, no matter how much she didn't want to admit it. They had known each other since they were kids, before Elizabeta had even established her own gender. In those awkward early years she had been convinced she was a boy and so had Gilbert. "I probably won't keep him the whole time. I'll just sober him up and get him to a hotel."
"That would be fine," Ludwig said, taking a step back. "I'll just wait in the kitchen. I believe I would just make things worse."
With a nod, Elizabeta took a step into the abyss. She clutched the handrail and made her way carefully down the stairs, nearly stumbling when she reached the bottom. "Hello? Gilbert, are you down here?" Squinting into the black room, she pressed herself against the wall, feeling for a light switch.
"West sent YOU!" The voice echoed from the far end of the room.
"Yes, he sent me," Elizabeta replied, sounding rather irritated. "Why is it so dark in here and where's the light switch?"
Her fingers found the switch, flicking it before the sentence had finished. A shower of sparks erupted from the ceiling, illuminating the room for a moment before settling on a rather tattered old sofa. Flames sprouted from the top, eliciting a scream from Elizabeta.
In the flickering light from the burning couch, she could make out the form of Gilbert scrambling towards her. "I tol' you not ta do that!"
She jumped back onto the stairs. "It's not my fault your lights are defective!" Wide eyes darted wildly back to the blaze. "Put it out, put it out!"
The heat in the little room grew stifling as the fire raged on, threatening to spill onto the carpet. "Do I loo' like a fireman?" Gilbert retorted, tottering away to face the fire. In his hand he held a bottle of what Elizabeta could only assume to be beer. As if in slow motion, he lifted it and poured the contents onto the flames.
Her screams were drowned out by the piercing fire alarm.
Thirty minutes later, Gilbert and Elizabeta sat in Elizabeta's car, looking sullen. Ludwig had burst into the basement and put out the fire before shooing them away. Unfortunately, that left Elizabeta smelling like smoke and in possession of a very drunk Gilbert.
Neither said anything as the little car pulled out of Ludwig's driveway and onto the road. Elizabeta had already shouted at Gilbert enough when Ludwig dragged them out onto the lawn. She doubted he would remember any of it later, but it made her feel better at least.
Of course, Gilbert had to be the one to break the silence. "So di' West tell you bout wha' he did?"
Though hard to understand, Elizabeta had heard his drunken slur often enough to be fluent in it. "Well he told me you needed a place to stay while he was renovating his house. Don't know why it has to be me who babysits you though." She kept her eyes on the road, not bothering to look at Gilbert even once.
Surprisingly, Gilbert had nothing to say in reply. The silence stretched on for so long that Elizabeta had to look over just to make sure he hadn't died or something. Instead, she was shocked to find Gilbert looking very melancholy as he stared at the glove compartment.
"Because I'm soooo freakin' pathetic and don't have a place t' go home to."
Her grip on the wheel tightened. It was true, of course; Gilbert had lost his job a few years back and never quite recovered. Though he tried to pretend he would be alright, Elizabeta knew how much it hurt his pride to move in with his little brother.
"What kind of attitude is that?" Elizabeta turned to look at him once more. "You never used to be like this, you know. I think your penis must have fallen off."
Gilbert sputtered, pitching forward against his seatbelt as he scrambled to sit up straighter. "What? I've still got it! I'll show you right here and now!"
"Oh stop, you'd just embarrass yourself. Everyone knows mine is bigger anyway." Usually when people came to Elizabeta with their problems, she listened and tried her best to help them out. Not Gilbert. Around him, she seemed to revert back to her previous self, some kind of masculine version that just didn't sit well with her. She had stopped being that person long ago… right?
He just stared at her, openmouthed, before crossing his arms and sinking back into the seat. Neither said a word until they reached Elizabeta's house.
Elizabeta found it very hard to bite back the laughter that bubbled up as Gilbert stumbled out of the car. "Honestly, you are pathetic. Getting all worked out because you had to move out of the basement? Wow."
"Shut up." Gilbert glared at her as he swayed on the spot, holding the door so as not to fall over. "You don't even know what it's like being me."
Unfortunately, that just made everything funnier to Elizabeta. She supposed she should have felt bad, but everything just seemed hilarious because it was Gilbert. Gilbert, the man she used to consider her greatest rival, reduced to living in a basement and getting drunk over trivial matters.
She felt a stab of guilt as Gilbert nearly fell flat on his face and any retorts died in her throat. Instead she grabbed Gilbert's bag out of the car and hauled it to the front door, striding right past the inebriated man hanging all over her car door. Without looking back, she unlocked the door to her house and stepped inside.
The luggage dragged across the floor before Elizabeta dumped it unceremoniously by the couch. For a moment, she nearly forgot all about Gilbert and just about closed the door on his face.
"Hey, watch it!" he hissed, pushing past her and falling onto the sofa heavily.
"Oh good, you found your bed."
He made no attempt to respond, apparently already asleep. Or passed out. Or dead.