"Elizabeta?" Ludwig stood with his bony hip leaned to the kitchen counter, his cell phone held casually to his chest as he called, "Elizabeta? Gilbert's on the phone."
"Tell him I am not going out to drive his drunk ass home, so he might as well get comfy in the gutter!" the woman snapped from the other room, still fuming over an hours-old disagreement.
Wincing at the harsh retort, he sighed and muttered into the receiver, "Yeah… no. Don't come home tonight."
The teenager paused, expression darkening with his sibling's response.
"What? No! I'm not giving her the phone!"
Elizabeta sat, listening, on the couch with her knees drawn to her chin as she stewed in slowly dying rage. Her boyfriend (if she could stand to call him that after what had happened) was acting like an absolute fucking idiot, just as bad as she remembered him being when they'd gone to school together. And she'd been so sure that things had changed between them, that her ass of a boyfriend was (just maybe) "the one".
It had all started that morning when he'd charged off first thing without a word. He'd returned around lunchtime, and when she'd asked where he'd gone, Gilbert had only smirked, insisting that she didn't need to know. Then he'd looked at her with what could only be described as disgustingly suggestive eyes, his cheeks flushed and mouth twisted with wicked amusement. As far as she was concerned, he had fully earned her open palm full across his face.
He'd called her a crazy bitch, so she'd called him a horny lech, and he'd roared back that he didn't even know what the fuck that was supposed to mean and that she had no right to hit him, goddammit woman!
The situation had not so much gone downhill so much as it had become a hightly explosive runaway train racing wildly down the face of Mount Everest. Ludwig had come home from his first day of eighth grade to find the two of them almost at blows, faces red and eyes flashing like gunfire on a dark night. Gilbert had left shortly after, snatching up Elizabeta's car keys and driving off post haste.
That had been almost six hours ago.
"No, leave the car, Gilbert. Just… no, listen, just get a taxi and stay with Arthur or Antonio or… no. No, Elizabeta does not want you-"
"Give me that phone," Elizabeta practically snarled, stalking into the kitchen toting a suffocating aura of feminine wrath. Snatching it up, she let out a low hiss. "Where the hell are you?"
"Liz… Lizzie?" His drink was thick in his voice, slurring almost beyond recognition. "Izzat you?"
With one look at the increasingly murderous expression on the young woman's (generally) beautiful face, Ludwig took his leave and in the safety of his bedroom.
"I'm calling a taxi and coming over there, Gilbert," she warned. "And the moment I get there, I swear to God I'm going to strangle you with my bare hands."
"Well then, h… hurry over, wouldja?"
Even when he was beyond her vision, she could still make out his obnoxiously (undeniably attractive) sneer.
"You've got fifteen minutes left to live starting now."
"Well?" Francis cooed, raising a brow from his place leaned up against the payphone box. "How did it go, hn?"
"She's comin' over…" The albino groaned softly, just barely supporting himself. "Aw hell… What'm I gonna do, Francis? She's gonna kill me."
"You might try sobering up a little, mon cher. Women rarely enjoying having to deal with drunks."
"Tell me, before your petite amie arrives, what was it you did to start this mess, hm?" He lounged against the bar with his jaw cradled in his palm.
Gilbert glowered in response. "What makes ya think I started it?"
"Are you really asking that?"
"She hit me first!"
The ghost only fixed him with a look that asked bluntly that he hurry up and confess already.
"I… I wen' t'get her a ring… back at Mr. Hassan's place… an' she got mad 'cuz I… I was gone all morning…"
"Well, what did you tell her when you got back?"
"I told 'er it was none o' her business where I went."
Francis looked staggered, and the question of his intoxicated companion's intelligence could be read quite clearly in his eyes. "Gilbert, did it ever once occur to you that what you said sounded very much like what one would say to a spouse during an affair?"
"A-an affair?" Unsteady eyes fastened onto the deceased Frenchman in stupefied realization. "But… but I wasn'… I was getting' her a ring, an'…"
"You're an idiot, mon ami, you know?"
Smacking himself ungracefully (and a good deal harder than he'd intended) on the forehead, the albino man let out a loud cry of defeat before collapsing with his forearms to the bar. He snatched up his drink and downed what was left there, slouching pathetically. "I'm a dead man."
Francis just grinned in that aggravatingly condescending manner that only he could express so effortlessly. "Well, how about you lend ton grand frère your ear and let him handle the damage control, ouí?"
When Elizabeta threw the door open, the bar fell into an icy silence. It seemed that the men there were no fools – they could sense very well the wrath of the opposite sex, and she had burst in practically reeking of it. Several of the onlookers felt themselves shriveling from the force of her stare, though it rested pointedly on a rather far-gone fellow sagging on his stool. His beer-nursing compatriots let slip quick prayers for his safety and for the safety of his reproductive organs as the young woman stalked across the room to seize him up by his wrinkled t-shirt.
"You take off without an excuse, steal my car, and come here to get wasted? What the hell's wrong with you?"
The disgust in her voice made Gilbert wince, his entire face straining with the action. "H-hold on, Liz, i's more th'n-"
"'Hold on'?" she all but snarled. "You clearly have no idea what deep shit you're in, Gilbert. You're virtually drowning in shit right now, so I'm going to try this one more time. What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Take her outside, mon ami," Francis advised, peering over Elizabeta's shoulder at him. "You don't want to pose your question in a wretched dump like this."
Considering this carefully (or as carefully as possible at his current level of intoxication), the albino managed to choke out, "L-le's talk 'bout this outside… 'kay?"
"Fine. I don't want any witnesses, anyway." Growling, she hauled him to his feet and took up his arm to help drag him away. When they reached the exit, the brunette turned to shoot ocular lasers at the remaining patrons before slamming the door behind her. Had she been listening, she might have heard the collective sigh of relief that was heaved as she disappeared from sight.
"Start talking," Elizabeta commanded. Refusing to meet her boyfriend's bloodshot eyes, she searched the parking lot for her car.
"I didn' wanna hafta tell you like this," Gilbert began, clutching her shoulders with desperate intensity. "I didn' wanna… wanna fuck this up…"
The finality in her tone just about crushed him.
"… I love you, Liz."
Her gaze was callous and hard. "I'm too pissed to give that a proper answer."
"I love you… God, I love you…"
"Gilbert, you're completely smashed. Shut up and help me find my car."
Francis drifted between them, waving his hand impatiently in the universal sign for "stop fucking around and just ask her already, dumbass".
"I wanna… want you t'marry me…"
His words became jumbled together, mushing into some unintelligible blathering that only served to further his girlfriend's irritation. "Save it. I'm not in the mood."
"Liz, c-c'mon… hear me out, wouldja?"
Whirling to face him, Elizabeta released her hold and glared down at him where he'd collapsed. With arms crossed and lips frowning, she drew in a breath that seemed liable to split her chest for the emotional swell trapped there. She spat, "You've got ten seconds."
"I didn' wanna do it like this…" he muttered softly, rooting through his pockets. Finally, withdrawing a small, velvet box that had definitely seen better days, he brought his pawnshop find out into the crisp, autumn night. "Liz… 'Lizbeta… I really, really didn' wanna be trashed f'r this…"
When he rose up on one knee, wobbling for balance and cursing under his breath, her heart skipped a beat. She gaped wordlessly, her brain suddenly not functioning properly.
"Sh-shit…" A spasm of panic crossed the albino's clumsy, flushed face as he caught sight of her expression. Dropping the boxed cause of his suffering, he lunged forward and grasped her around the waist. "God, I'm s- sorry f'r all this… Don' leave me, Liz. Oh, God, don' leave…"
His shoulders shook as he buried his face in her stomach, arms tightening stubbornly. "I know it's not great livin' with me 'n' West, an'… an' you're finishin' up school t' be an ambassador an' get some job in Hungary where I'll never see ya 'gain, but… Aw God, Liz, I love you…"
Should she have been able to see the French spirit before them, Elizabeta would have found him shaking his head for the lost cause of a man sniveling at her feet as amusement teased his lips into a smirk.
"Gilbert, I…" She inhaled, trying to steady herself. "I'm not going to… I wasn't going to leave you. I just wanted you to tell me where the hell you were this morning."
"I was…" His hands tightened into fists against her back. "I was ring shoppin', Liz."
"I was ring shoppin' f'r you…"
"And what'd you find?" For a brief moment, she was glad he was drunk and wouldn't hear the surprise, the hope, in her voice.
"I wanna be with you f'rever."
"Will… will you-?"
Gilbert blinked up at her, fear dancing in his glazed eyes. Slowly, she reached down to cup his face, her thumb tracing small circles against his cheekbone.
"I agree. I don't want you to be trashed for this, either."
The world stopped.
"Get up, you idiot." With laughter jangling in her relieved, happy words, Elizabeta pulled Gilbert upright. "How about this? We go home, you sleep on the couch, I lecture the hell out of you tomorrow morning when it hurts, then you drop down on your knee and ask away. Sound like a plan to you?"
"Yes," he whispered against her neck, pressing reverent kisses to the warm flesh. "Thank you…"
"Don't be thanking me yet," the young woman warned, unable to conceal her excitement. "You've got a whole morning of hell to survive before I let you ask me anything."
Stooping awkwardly to retrieve the battered ring case, he straightened with a lazy shrug. "I could… could live through thousands o' those mornings… I could, s'long as you were with me…"
"Shut up, mon ami," Francis advised him airily, following them to the car. "Mon Dieu, learn to quit while you're ahead."