Author's note: Yeah, this is weird for me too – or at least it was, until I got really into writing this story. :) A while ago I read a story where Gilbert and Roderich showed up as a side pairing. I thought it was really weird until I realized that I had never thought about them seriously before. Could they work? I realized that yes, they could. Then I noticed that my cat looks exactly like what I figure Austria-cat looks like, and voila, a fic was born. However, as much fun as this was, I sincerely doubt I will ever write a fic for them them again. I wrote all of it in a day, so next chapter will be up soon.
Gilbert had never been easily accepted by society. His pale white skin and hair and his red eyes had always driven people away before he even opened his mouth. They said he looked like a ghost, so he thought it was ironically appropriate that he was moving into an apartment that was supposedly inhabited by one.
The apartment building was located in one of the old parts of Vienna that had once been home to the rich and well-to-do, but was now more likely home to rats and mold. This particular one was still livable, at least, but it was rundown and in disrepair. That also meant it was cheap, which suited Gilbert perfectly.
He had taken a tour of the available apartments before he produced any money. When he had been shown this particular one, the woman showing him around had said as she opened the door, "This particular apartment is . . . unusual. I must warn you that previous tenants have reported that it is, well . . . haunted by a . . ." Here she leaned in and whispered, "ghost. However, it is at a particularly discounted price–"
All Gilbert saw were dark wood walls and floors and a fringed, faded carpet. He didn't even step inside. "I'll take this one," he said immediately. He liked to think later that he had taken it because it would take the least out of his bank account. A part of him, though, knew it was because of the word ghost.
He moved in that afternoon. There wasn't any reason not to; he had all his belongings with him, and the apartment hadn't been inhabited for years. It was actually quite sizable, with a nice living room that took up most of the space. A small bedroom and bathroom that led off of it. The kitchen was small and cramped but usable. There wasn't any space for a table, but he wasn't complaining. He didn't own one.
The only curious thing about the apartment itself was that at the back of the living room was a set of polished wooden stairs. The door at the top, however, had been blocked off completely with plaster and cinderblocks, along with any space that could connect the two floors. It had clearly once been an apartment for some aristocrat, presumably with the bedroom up the stairs, but had since been turned into two for its modern residents. Gilbert eyed it with brief curiosity, but upon determining that breaking through the plaster would be more trouble than it was worth, he mostly forgot about it.
He spent his afternoon unpacking and sort of throwing his stuff around. He didn't have much in the way of entertainment, but apparently the previous residents had been in a hurry to get out, because a bookcase full of books was still standing behind the couch. He picked one out at random and settled down.
Gilbert was quickly becoming sure that he was going to die, not in some exciting way like by the hands of a ghost, but of boredom. He hadn't even spent the night yet, and he was already feeling confined and dusty. He snapped the book shut, threw it on the side table, and went to the kitchen.
He had forgotten to get any food, and there was very little in the cupboards. He had been hoping for something canned or even cracker-like in the pantry, but it was empty. He made a face and let the door bang closed. When he turned around, he found himself face to face with a cat.
They weren't actually face to face, because the cat was sitting on the tiled floor of the kitchen and Gilbert was a lot taller than a house cat, but it felt like they were face to face. A pair of distinctly feline but disturbingly dark, blue eyes stared accusingly up at him. Its fur was black except on its face and chest, where its long fur puffed out like the white ruffled ascots men used to wear. It sat straight and perfectly still, without so much of a twitch of its tail.
As Gilbert stared at it in shock, it seemed to decide their small staring contest wasn't worth the trouble. It looked casually away, as if it had just happened to look straight at him. Now that Gilbert could see it in profile, its resemblance to an aristocrat of days of old was unmistakable. Gilbert grinned, and then broke into raucous laughter. At that, the cat's ears twitched backward and it returned to glaring at him.
"What, are you the ghost everyone was complaining about? Was this your house or something, and now you've come back to haunt it?" Gilbert was grinning. The cat did not appear pleased. "Were you some aristocrat, huh? Was this your apartment?" He reached down quickly in an attempt to pick the cat up. It immediately hissed and spat at him, and then tried desperately to back away from him. Gilbert hesitated, giving it just enough time to turn tail and run. Gilbert straightened. "Geez," he muttered. "What an un-awesome cat. No wonder no one wanted this apartment." He glanced back at the empty pantry and sighed. Whether he liked it or not, he needed to go buy food.
"Hey kitty kitty, I'm home!" Gilbert announced as he slammed open the door to his new apartment. He was met with silence, which was about what he had been expecting. He shoved the door closed behind him with his foot and made his way to the kitchen. He dumped the shopping bags on the tiny counter and began unpacking. As he pulled out a carton of milk, he hesitated. "What the hell," he muttered. He grabbed a saucer out from one of the cabinets (geez, was there a lot of old stuff in this apartment), dusted it off a little, and poured some milk in it. He set it by the sink. "Just so you don't starve," he told the room at large. There wasn't an answer.
His first night passed uneventfully. He made himself something quick for dinner and went to bed. He didn't see the cat again.
The next day, he went out just for something to do. The saucer had been empty that morning, he had noticed, so he bought some proper cat food. It was the only productive thing he did. When he got back to the apartment, he found a small bowl and poured some cat food into it. He set the bowl next to the saucer. "You'd better appreciate it," he muttered to the empty room. "I don't have money coming out of thin air."
He lazed around the apartment for a while, but buying groceries had made him painfully aware of how strapped for cash he was. He needed a job, and badly. As he sat on the couch, trying to put off the inevitable, the cat appeared nearby. It sat down and watched him. "Don't look at me like that," Gilbert told it. "If I'm going to be taking care of you, you should go get a job. I don't see why you're making me do all the work around here." The cat narrowed its eyes and looked away. "Yeah, whatever. Don't destroy the place while I'm gone." He stood up, threw on his coat, and headed outside.
There was a bite to the air, but he ignored it. There was a street full of shops not too far from the apartment building, so he wandered up and down it for a while, looking for anywhere that had an opening. The bar on the corner rejected him so quickly he hardly knew what had happened. (It might have had something to do with him trying to get a free drink out of the deal by flirting with the waitress, but you could never be sure about these things.) He passed by the seamstress's shop without a second glance. The only place he had any remote interest in working at was a bakery. The head baker threw an apron at him and told he started the next day.
Gilbert went home not in the best of moods. He had a job, but that didn't mean he had to like it. He jangled the key angrily in the lock of his door. When it clicked, he shoved the door open and walked inside.
It took Gilbert a split second to notice him. He was sitting in the old fashioned chair in the living room, the one that looked like it had belonged to a fancy set for a dining room table. The chair faced the couch, so the man's back was to Gilbert. All he could see was dark, smooth hair with a stray curl sticking up. It was enough to know that he had definitely never met this person before.
"Who the fuck are you?" Gilbert demanded as he slammed the door shut behind him.
The man turned his head slightly, just enough for Gilbert to get a glimpse of pale skin, a dark blue eye, and the frame of a pair of glasses. "Please, have a seat."
"Hey, you're the one sitting in my house without permission. Totally un-awesome." Gilbert glowered at him. "Explain or leave."
"No," the man said slowly as he turned enough to fix Gilbert with a glare, "This is my house, and you're the one living in it."
That gave Gilbert pause. He had never actually met the landlord, but somehow he didn't think that he would break into his tenant's apartments. Gilbert slowly walked around to stand across from the strange man, but he didn't sit down. He crossed his arms. "Alright, I'm listening. Talk."
"My name is Roderich Edelstein." He looked up at Gilbert expectantly.
Gilbert raised an eyebrow. "I'm not telling you my name until you tell me why the hell you're here."
"Alright, Mr. Beillschmidt," Roderich said. Gilbert twitched. "Believe it or not, we've met before."
"I think I'd remember a face as ugly as yours," Gilbert shot back. "And what the hell are you wearing?" He was just now noticing that Roderich looked like he had stepped out of the 19th century.
Roderich's eyes narrowed. "I'm the one who's haunting this place."
There was a moment of silence. Gilbert burst out laughing. "What, you're the ghost? Haha, that's rich! And here I thought it was just the cat!" Gilbert doubled over, guffawing.
"I am the cat," Roderich said loudly over Gilbert's laughter.
"You're – You're the cat?" There were tears in Gilbert's eyes now from laughing so hard.
Roderich gave him a final glare and suddenly, he was gone. In his place, sitting primly on the old fashioned chair, was the cat. Gilbert stopped laughing.
"Whoa dude, not funny," Gilbert managed as he stumbled backwards. The back of his leg hit the couch and he suddenly sat down.
The cat glared at him for a moment longer, and then suddenly it was a person again. "I wasn't trying to be funny."
"Fuck," Gilbert said. "I haven't been drinking, have I?" He looked around the room, but there was no sign of so much as a drop of alcohol.
"Now listen," Roderich said. "I don't have much time to explain this, but here's how it's going to work. I will let you live here if you don't disturb me, don't ask me stupid questions, and don't leave saucers of cream for me." His mouth curled up in disgust.
Gilbert's eyes narrowed. "Hey, don't tell me you're not going to eat the cat food. That shit's expensive." Roderich simply glared at him. Gilbert leaned an arm on the armrest of the couch and his mouth spread into a lazy grin. "Would it be a stupid question to ask how you came to be part cat?"
Roderich's mouth twitched. "Another time," he said, and suddenly he was a cat again. He jumped down elegantly from the chair and padded away.
"Hey, you'd better explain everything before I go to bed tonight," Gilbert called after him, "Because this is freaking creepy."
The cat simply twitched its tail and disappeared from view.
The cat reappeared to watch him eat dinner. He offered it a forkful of beans, but it turned its head away and managed to look disgusted at the very idea. Gilbert did his best to ignore the cat. It simply sat there quietly until he was done. Gilbert threw his dishes in the sink and sat back down. "Alright," he said to the cat. "Time for you to answer some questions."
The cat stood up, and suddenly Roderich was there, flicking a bit of dust off of his blue velvet coat. He sat down in the same chair he had sat in earlier and looked disdainfully at Gilbert. "What would you like to know?"
"How you came to be this way, first off," Gilbert said. He settled deeper into the couch.
Roderich sighed. "I came to be in this state because a witch named Elizabeta made me this way."
"Geez, what did you do to her?" Gilbert asked with a smirk.
"She was my wife." Roderich looked away. "We got in a fight."
Gilbert laughed. "So she turned you into a cat? Smooth."
Roderich glared at him. "It is not as pleasant as you think. I can only take my human form for short periods of time, and I am not permitted to leave these premises."
"So, what?" Gilbert asked, a slight frown on his features, "She just made you a temporary cat-human thing and you're stuck this way? That seems kind of cruel." He titled his head to the side thoughtfully. "And what do you mean by the premises?"
Roderich waved his hand impatiently at the walls around them. "I can't leave this apartment, which was once mine. She did allow me a way to escape the curse. I will be released if I find my True Love."
Gilbert grinned. "And what, they have to kiss you on the lips? Wake you up from your enchanted sleep?"
"She didn't specify," Roderich muttered.
"So what happens if you die before you find this 'True Love' of yours?"
"I can't," he said bitterly.
"What, you're immortal?" Gilbert asked, surprised.
"Isn't that great?" Gilbert asked. Roderich said nothing. Gilbert snorted. "Geez, if I were you I would have given up on finding this love of yours a long time ago. Sounds like you have it great to me. That must be why you try to make everyone think this place is haunted, right? So you'll never die." Gilbert's laughter was sharp and raucous.
"It's not great," Roderich said sharply. "For all intents and purposes, this place is haunted." He took a deep breath. "It may be difficult to believe, but never being allowed to leave this place is one of the worst things she could have done to me." A brief expression of pain crossed his face. "I have had to watch it crumble around me, and there is nothing I can do about it."
There was a moment of silence. Gilbert eyed the man in front of him a little more carefully. "How long have you been stuck this way, anyway?" he finally asked. "No offense, but you aren't dressed in the most modern of styles." He waved a hand at Roderich's outfit – a long, blue button-up coat, complete with an ascot, tights, and black buckled shoes.
"Over a hundred years."
Gilbert raised an eyebrow. A grin suddenly stretched across his face. "Wow, you've waited that long and you still haven't found anyone who loves you? Tough luck."
Roderich immediately stiffened. His mouth tightened and his eyes fixed on a spot over Gilbert's left shoulder. There was a long silence. "Please leave as soon as you can," he finally hissed out. Suddenly, a cat was sitting rigidly in the old-fashioned chair. It leapt down onto the once fine carpet and padded away without a single indication that it was aware of Gilbert's existence.
Gilbert watched it disappear around a corner. He made a face. "So much for thanking me for the food," he muttered.
The next morning, Gilbert rolled out of bed with a groan. The sun was barely up, but he supposed that showing up too late to his first day of work wouldn't exactly gain him points with the baker. He splashed some cold water on his face, got dressed, and went to go make himself some breakfast.
Roderich – the human version of him – was sitting on the couch. He appeared to be simply staring into the distance, and barely gave any indication that he had noticed Gilbert's appearance. Gilbert stopped in the doorway. "Do you eat?" Gilbert asked bluntly.
"I don't need to," Roderich said.
Gilbert nodded. "Great, more food for me." He yawned and stumbled into the kitchen.
Roderich watched him eat, which Gilbert found a little weird, but after their tense conversation the night before he decided not to complain about it. He dumped his dishes in the sink with last night's and headed out the door. "I have work," he told Roderich, though he wasn't sure why he felt the need to explain himself. "Don't . . . touch my stuff while I'm gone." Roderich simply looked back at him. Gilbert closed the door behind him and left.
After a day of throwing things in and out of the giant ovens at the bakery, Gilbert was more exhausted than he liked to admit. It was dark when he got back to the apartment. He walked inside, locked the door behind him, and blinked.
He had moved into a dusty, rundown apartment with faded rugs and stained tiles. The rugs were still faded and the tiles were still stained, but there was not a speck of dust in sight. The floors and walls shone. A lamp had been left on in the living room, though there was no one in sight. Gilbert went into the kitchen to grab some food. The dishes from the past two days were gone, and the sink had clearly been scrubbed within an inch of its life. Gilbert looked out at the rest of the apartment. "Thanks for doing the dishes," he called. He made himself some food and sat down on the couch.
While he was eating, the cat padded into the room. Mid-step, it turned into Roderich, who settled himself in his familiar chair. "I don't like dust," he said by way of explanation.
"How come you didn't clean up this place before, then?" Gilbert asked around a mouthful of food.
"I don't usually spend much time down here." Roderich glanced away.
"Down here?" Gilbert asked, surprised.
"Yes. The upstairs is also part of the apartment."
Gilbert glanced at the blocked-off stairway. He supposed that there were some holes in the plaster small enough for a cat to get through. "Ah, right. What's up there? Just the master bedroom?"
Gilbert nodded. After dinner, he threw his dishes in the sink without bothering to wash them. The next day when he got home from work, he found a cat glaring at him, but the dishes had been washed. Gilbert grinned. He could live like this.
The weeks passed. Gilbert discovered that Roderich-the-cat really was eating the cat food. At first, he assumed that it was because of guilt, but when he brought it up, Roderich informed him in a sharp tone that he couldn't always control his instincts as a cat. He immediately turned a little red and looked as if he wished that he hadn't said anything. Gilbert grinned. Oh, this was going to be fun.
One day he came back with a canary just to mess with Roderich. He knew that in his cat form, Roderich wanted to eat small yellow birds. He also knew that there was no way that Roderich would let himself stoop so low. So Gilbert hung the cage in the living room (far above the floor, just in case) and whistled happily to himself.
Sure enough, the next morning he found a cat sitting in the living room and looking up at the canary, its tail twitching. Later, Gilbert fed the bird seeds through the bars by hand as a treat. "Now, what should the awesome me name the awesome you?" Gilbert asked the bird. "It should be almost as awesome as my name . . ." His eyes lit up. "That's it! Gilbird!" The bird twittered happily. Gilbert laughed. "Is that the best name or what?"
"I don't think I've ever heard a stupider one," a dry voice said from behind him.
Gilbert turned around and grinned, his eyes flashing red in the morning light. "Just more proof that it's actually awesome." He turned back to the canary, chanting, "Gilbird, Gilbird."
After the first few weeks, Roderich started being around less and less. It made Gilbert increasingly irritated, though he couldn't pinpoint why. One day, neither the cat nor the human made an appearance of any kind before he left for work, and when he got home he didn't see either for hours more. He was just about to go to bed when the cat padded into the room from the direction of the staircase.
Gilbert turned on the cat and glared at it. "Why do you spend all your time up there, huh? What's so amazingly awesome about it? You miss your wife or something?"
The cat turned into Roderich mid-step, who then walked right past Gilbert. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and began to dust the mantlepiece, his back to Gilbert. Gilbert had seen the expression of hurt on his face, though. "She's not my wife anymore," Roderich said. "In case you've forgotten, that's only true until 'death do us part'."
Come to think of it, Roderich didn't wear a ring, either – but then again, Gilbert wouldn't know. Maybe the ceremony had been different back then. "Well, whatever," Gilbert said with a frown. "What's upstairs? There has to be something you're not telling me."
Roderich didn't say anything for a moment. He was dusting the same part of the mantlepiece over and over. "It doesn't concern you."
"It does since I live here too!" Gilbert said. "Does someone else live up there?" The thought had never occurred to him before, since he never heard any footsteps except Roderich's, but it was certainly possible.
"No," Roderich said. "Part of the wall rotted and fell in some time ago, so it got entirely boarded up."
"How long ago was 'some time ago'?" Gilbert demanded.
Roderich finally turned to look at him, a slight frown on his features. "I don't know. I have a hard time keeping track of time. I only really know what year it is or what's going on when someone buys a newspaper."
Gilbert immediately felt guilty and decided to buy a newspaper the next time he was out. "So, what?" he asked desperately. "You just really like being alone?"
Roderich turned back to the mantlepiece, though he had given up the pretense of dusting it. "My piano is upstairs," he said softly.
Gilbert waited for a moment, expecting more. "What? That's it?"
Roderich turned away from the mantlepiece, his face contorted in anger. He took two steps and then turned into a cat. He bounded towards the stairs.
"Wait!" called Gilbert. The cat paused and looked back at him. Gilbert suddenly felt stupid. "If – If there's a piano, how come I never hear you playing?"
For a moment, the cat was Roderich again. "Because it's broken." Then there was only a cat bounding up the stairs and disappearing through a hole in the plaster. Gilbert suddenly felt quite sad for a reason he couldn't explain.