Today, the 24th of December, is the birthday of a very, very good friend of mine. Written below is my fanfic gift to her that I spent that last week working on, instead of my normal projects. Please, read and review!


I.

Nighttime had completely taken over at ten o'clock, a black blanket covering the city. The car's headlights hardly illuminated the way ahead well enough to drive, and the pace was horrendously slow. Ice hazards on the street and all. It would be just the way to end the night, a car crash.

It was later than Roderich was usually up, being a creature of habit that woke up at seven and went to bed at nine every day. Unfortunately, he had not been able to get out of the family Christmas party, a night of dainty hors d'oeuvres and light alcohol while people made small talk in tuxedoes and cocktail dresses. The youngest Edelstein had always despised such social events, but they were a necessity, especially as he was the heir to the family's fortune.

The Edelstein family was generation after generation of musical prodigies. The money that came from their concerts combined with their frugal nature made for several billions of dollars in the bank. People had used to say that Roderich's father had been the most talented in the family, but his son had quickly overtaken him. He could play virtually any instrument thrown at him, but his skill on the piano especially was something worthy of awe. Those of faith said that God was speaking through the young man. However, Roderich was not one of much faith and would only respond to such praise with a strained smile and a thank you.

It would be expected that one of such high social standing and fortune would not wish to drive his own person from place to place, but, as stated before, those of Roderich's family were very careful with their money. His car was expensive enough, a sports car that even he could not tell you the name of – why would he pay attention to such matters? – but it was driven by himself and himself alone. No chauffeur was necessary.

It was eleven o'clock when Roderich finally pulled into the driveway of his countryside home. He stretched as he got out of the car, then absentmindedly smoothed the wrinkles of his tuxedo. Unfortunately, he had forgotten his planned change of clothing for after the party. Driving in such formal attire was not his preference, but he had made it, and that was what mattered.

He walked down the long pathway, shoes crunching the snow beneath his feet. Reaching the door after a walk that seemed much longer than it truly was, he fumbled in his pocket for his keys, shivering in the chill winter air. Getting inside would be just the thing, he was sure. A change into pyjamas, a hot cup of peppermint tea, perhaps another chapter of his current reading project, and then bed. A pleasurable ending to the boorish night, most definitely.

Unfortunately, his comfortable planning was interrupted by the crunch of feet behind him. Brow furrowed, he turned, still searching out the proper key on his extensive key ring. Violet eyes scanned the area behind him, yet there was no one.

Wary, though, for his ears were never wrong, Roderich stepped a little away from the door and narrowed his eyes to try and make out any movement in the shadows. He certainly wasn't expecting any visitors – imagine, having visitors at such an hour! – and without invitation, very few people showed up. That was why he liked his house so much, as out of the way as it was, no one was ever around to have the need to come in.

It took him a moment to soothe his nerves and turn back to the door and the menial task of searching through keys. He had just decided that he needed to place some sort of marker on the proper key so that it was easier to find when he heard it again.

Whirling around and now entirely on edge, Roderich was startled to see a pale figure stride up to him, seeming at ease. He didn't know this person, whoever it was, and it wasn't a face he would likely forget. Albino, white hair peeking out from under the hood of his Christmas themed jacket and red eyes staring at Roderich evenly. He obviously wasn't trying to hide his being there, just sidling up with his hands stuffed in his jacket pockets.

"Roderich Edelstein?" the man asked, with the tone of one who was only truly asking for pleasantries. He knew perfectly well whom he was talking to.

Oh, that voice. Roderich had never heard any other person talk in such a way, with such an odd mix of accents that somehow made the words curl around his ears and leave it impossible for him to answer. Not too terribly deep, no, rather medium if he had to say. There was definitely a strong hint of the Germanic accents that Roderich had grown up with, but what else was there? That he was not familiar with.

A white eyebrow arched upwards and an amused smile tugged at the corners of this stranger's lips. "That is you, yes?"

It took Roderich a moment to clear his mind from the surprise of such a new experience assaulting his ears – not that it was unwelcome. He pursed his lips and nodded, absentmindedly ruffling through the keys in his right hand. "Yes. Who is asking?"

The question was met with a mirthful, pealing laugh. Or at least, Roderich assumed it was a laugh. It, like the man's voice, wasn't like anything he had heard before. "I'd answer, but, little master, you are in no position to be asking questions."

Before Roderich could demand to know what was meant by that, the stranger had pressed him up against the door of his house with one hand, the other holding a cloth up against his nose and mouth. Roderich could detect a sharply sweet odor and tried to hold his breath and not inhale any of what he assumed to be chloroform as he struggled against the other's surprisingly strong hold.

He lasted for longer than most people would be expected to, having been trained in many band instruments and opera, his lung capacity was something startling. But eventually his lungs betrayed him and he took in a gasping breath. As the edges of his vision became blurry, all he could see were red eyes watching him with a calculating intensity. Then everything went dark.

II.

When Roderich came to, it was to a dark room with a covered window high up on the wall. He was laying on a bed, hands cuffed around the frame, and a gag stuffed into his mouth. For a moment he tried to sit up, but not only was he rather dizzy and nauseated, the way his hands were restrained made lifting his torso more than a few inches off the bed impossible.

His glasses were not on his face, but that didn't mean much. His eyesight was perfect, the glasses were a way to give his face more character. Taking the opportunity to look around the room, Roderich saw it to be empty except for the bed he was bound to. With the window covered in black fabric, he was unable to tell what time of day it was or hazard a guess as to where he might be. All in all, he was completely disoriented.

He judged that it was about half an hour before the door on the far side of the room from him was opened and the stranger from the night before – his kidnapper, he realized – strode in. He had a bowl of what seemed to be soup in his hand and was no longer wearing the Christmas jacket. Instead the man was simply clothed in jeans and a form-fitting black shirt that showed his muscles clearly. No wonder Roderich had been able to get free of his hold.

"Morning!" the man said brightly, sitting down on the edge of the bed and looking Roderich over. "Well, got to say that you are looking nice and rested."

The shock of the strange, amazing voice wasn't as bad this time and Roderich managed a glare. Unfortunately, this did not create the desired effect of immediately being let go and taken back to his quiet house.

Instead, the other seemed not even to notice it. "Now that you're here, I feel awful rude for not introducing myself. Gilbert Beilschmidt, at your service. I'd tell you where we are, but it wouldn't do you any good, so, what's the point?" He laughed, then flashed a grin at Roderich, not seeming to mind the glare that was still being directed at him.

"Now, I figured you might be hungry, and I've heard that chloroform has a shitload of nuisance side effects, so I brought you some chicken noodle soup. Good for you, you know." Gilbert winked playfully, as if sharing a private joke. "But if I take off the gag, you've got to promise not to be all annoying, okay? Let's start off on the right foot, hmm?"

Roderich was going to pointedly refuse as best as he could with such body language like turning his head away and closing his eyes, but a growling stomach made that impossible. He was hungry, really. Ravenous. He felt as if he hadn't eaten in days. And though he was certain that he had not been under drugged sleep for days – well, mostly certain – it was quite possible that he hadn't eaten recently. Music had been consuming all of his time. Perhaps he had just forgotten.

Another laugh, and Gilbert reached over to pull the gag off the face. Roderich worked his jaw for a moment to rid the feeling of the gag, and was about to speak before a finger was pressed to his lips and a soft shushing noise was made.

"You'll be good, right? If you don't cause trouble with screaming and such, I won't put the gag back on. I'm betting it's mighty uncomfortable. And it would be a shame to have to muffle a guest." Gilbert grinned again, then removed his finger.

Roderich took a deep breath, blowing out and watching his hair flutter in front of his face. That was an unfortunate sign. He spent quite a bit of time before going out every day arranging his hair in a very particular way. Lying down so long could not be doing wonders for it.

"What do you want from me?" he said after a moment, fixing his violet eyes on Gilbert. The other was sitting back and watching him with that strange calculating look again. It was unnerving to say the least. "If you want money, you can have it. Just let me go and it will be taken care of."

Gilbert looked surprised, his eyebrows shooting up towards his hairline. "Money? Who said anything about money? I have money. Wouldn't say no to more, but I'm awesome for now." He spooned some of the soup out and brought it to Roderich's lips, the brunette reluctantly opening his mouth and swallowing what definitely was chicken noodle soup.

After his throat was clear from the first mouthful, Roderich tried again. "Then what do you want? I promise, anything can be taken care of. If you let me go, I will not go to the police. You have my word."

Waving the hand without the spoon dismissively, Gilbert continued feeding his captive the soup. "I'm not worried about the police, see? They aren't going to find you, they aren't going to catch me. You have my word." He smirked, looking down at Roderich. "Look, you don't need to know what I want yet. You'll find out eventually. I promise I'm not going to hurt you or anything. I'm not a bad guy."

Roderich did not particularly believe this. He counted a kidnapper to be a rather bad person, especially if they were being entirely too difficult when it came to ransom. Frowning, he turned away and refused to accept any more soup.

There was a sigh that Roderich did not feel like reacting to. Then there was a hand on his forehead, pressing against it lightly like one checking for a temperature.

"Come on, Roddy, don't be so difficult. You were doing so well too! If you keep being all compliant and stuff, I can take the cuffs off." Gilbert's voice had taken on a whining quality that Roderich had to admit did not do it all that much justice. It sounded much better when it was more commanding or conversational.

After a moment, and only because he was still hungry, Roderich turned his head back and opened his mouth, accepting another few spoonfuls of soup. From what he could see, Gilbert seemed pleased by this and continued talking as he fed the other. He could discern no useful information from what was being said at all, an all but meaningless jumble or ramblings, ranging anywhere from his pet bird to how "awesome" potatoes and wurst tasted.

Eventually the spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl and Roderich could turn his head away again, knowing the meal to be over. There was a small sigh, then a hand pulled his chin back so that his eyes met red ones.

"Honestly. I want us to get along. But that can't happen without your help." There was a pause. "I have a piano, you know. I'd like you to play, but I have to be sure you won't try to run off. Please understand that if you do, I will find you. Also know that here you are under my rule. You'll be listening to me. Maybe even taking orders."

Frowning, Roderich stared at Gilbert, studying how red eyes contrasted with almost white skin. There was a small scar going from the corner of his right eye to the middle of his cheek, just a paler line on his face. Hair stuck up haphazardly, perhaps with only the smallest attempt to brush it, if that had been attempted at all. And around his neck… Well, was that an iron cross? He hadn't seen that in person before.

He saw Gilbert shift in a way that could only be described as uncomfortable. He opened his mouth to speak again, then closed it, and repeated the process a couple more times. Finally, he managed it.

"So… You'll be good? See, it'd be awesome if I could take the cuffs off. We would get out of this room and talk and have a good time, you know? It'll be fun."

There was a long moment when violet eyes stared into red ones, one trying to figure out the other's intentions, one trying to see what the other was getting from his words. After a moment, it was Roderich who backed off, looking away and closing his eyes.

"Tired, ja? Sleep then. I'll be back with the next meal."

Roderich could hear the scrape of the chair as Gilbert stood up and left, the door shutting and a click of the lock. So even with the handcuffs on, he was locked in. This strange man certainly didn't want to take any risks with him leaving.

III.

The next few days held little more of interest. Gilbert would come into the room three times a day for meals, and once at night just to talk. Roderich learned quite a bit about him without saying more than a few things at a time himself. He had to admit, he looked forward to these visits. It gave him something to do other than sleep in the endless monotony.

Gilbert certainly was not an uninteresting person. His father had died when he was in high school, and he had never known his mother. He had had to drop out in order to care for his younger brother, Ludwig. The only relaxation he had was in music, for he was a prodigy on the violin.

One thing that Roderich noted with interest is that Gilbert had been to every single one of his concerts. He talked about them with reverence, as if almost in awe. He had even been to the ones out of the country, in the Edelstein family home in Austria. Despite being impoverished nearly all his life – though he wasn't anymore, somehow – he had managed to find a way to any place that Roderich had played. It was enough to assure the brunette that he was not here to be hurt or killed. By now he was almost certain that he was here for his music.

Eventually he was so longing for company and the visits that his captor paid him that he did everything that the other said, from accepting food to answering questions. He could see that this was pleasing Gilbert, and found it with some relief that, on the twelfth day of his being there, Gilbert did not just immediately leave after the midday meal, but instead took a key from around his neck and undid the handcuffs. Not that they hadn't been undone before – he was still human, after all, and had to do things that all humans did – but this seemed final, as Gilbert took the handcuffs and slipped them into his pocket instead of leaving them around the bed frame.

Roderich slowly sat up and massaged each of his wrists, watching Gilbert out of the corner of his eyes. That calculating look was back in the other's expression, giving the Edelstein enough pause to merely hope that the handcuffs had been taken off for the best reasons possible.

Soon enough, Gilbert's expression cleared and he stood up. "You will play for me after supper. Any other movements in the house will be under my discretion, and the door will remain locked." He bit his lip, hesitating. "My brother will be visiting this afternoon. You staying quiet would be awesome. No one should know you are here, especially not Ludwig."

With those words, a doorbell rang, echoing around the house. Gilbert turned, shoving a hand in his pocket. "That's him. Just be quiet, okay?"

Roderich gave an affirmative, then watched at Gilbert left, listening for the click of the lock after the door closed. To his surprise, it didn't come. The albino was too busy hurrying to let his brother in to remember to lock the door. He hesitated, almost sure that he would be caught, then waited to hear voices in the front room. When they finally came, he strode to the door – my, did walking feel good – and pulled it open as quietly as possible. Looking around the unfamiliar house, he slipped into the nearest room – the bathroom – and waited for an opportunity.

Gilbert was laughing that high-pitched laugh that Roderich was not positive was natural. Underneath said sound was a deeper voice, unlike Gilbert's so purely that it seemed impossible that this was his brother. Not only was it a few octaves below the smooth tenor of the older brother, he also did not have that strangely musical accent that had startled Roderich so much before. How could two such different voices be so related?

The laughing abruptly stopped, and Roderich leaned forward to hear what Ludwig was saying to cause such a reaction. Soon enough, his own name hit him and his stomach plummeted.

"Ja, he has been reported missing. I hear that his parents are beside themselves, offering a huge sum of money to anyone who has any information about him. You wouldn't happen to know anything, would you?"

"Me? Course not! Why would I know anything? But this is awful! I had tickets for his next concert, too…"

Roderich hid his face in his hands, taking a few deep breaths. Yes, of course they would have noticed his disappearance by now. Christmas had passed and he had not been there. Christmas! How could he have forgotten? He groaned quietly, then stepped out of the bathroom to look around the hallway. Now would be a good time, while Gilbert was distracted with his brother.

He walked as quietly as he could, which wasn't that hard as his shoes had been taken. He was wearing what he assumed were some of Gilbert's clothes, for they certainly were not his, being larger, and judging by what he had seen of Gilbert, the other was a bit bigger than he was. Peeking into doors as he went by, he belatedly wondered how he was going to leave if Gilbert was in the front rooms with Ludwig. He probably had a clear view of the front door.

But there, by some stroke of luck, was an open window leading to what seemed to be a rather well-tended garden. Glancing around one last time, Roderich crept towards it. Now, he was not the most athletic person and certainly not one to use a window when a door was available, so he had never tried to climb through such an opening.

As it was, he was halfway through the window when Gilbert said goodbye to his brother, who had apparently been suddenly called away by work. Hearing that the other was leaving and remembering that he had left the door to the room he had been trapped in open, Roderich fell the rest of the way into the garden, landing on the snow with a quiet "oof". He lay there for a moment, trying to remain quiet and still in case Gilbert was walking by, then got to his feet, crouching down, and headed towards the very tall gate in the back of the garden.

Making it to the gate, Roderich was dismayed to see it padlocked shut. He cast around desperately, trying to find a part of the barrier not so tall, a place where he, with his limited strength, would be able to pull himself up. He eventually spotted a spot where a tree had fallen against the fencing, and began moving as quickly as he could towards it.

By now he was freezing cold, it being early January and he only wearing a t-shirt, slacks, and socks. His feet and fingers were numb and he was moving as fast as he could over the snow. With any luck, he would find that Ludwig hadn't left yet and wouldn't have to try and guess his way back to civilization – he had seen by now that the garden was surrounded by trees, and could only assume that they were in the woods. Not only that, but his clothes were wet from falling in the snow. If he didn't need to get away so badly, he would never have attempted this.

Roderich was almost to the gate when suddenly, a hand caught onto his shirt. The strength of the grip jerked him backwards and he fell back against the person with a cry. Then there were arms around his waist and a mouth right by his ear.

"I trust you enough to grant you some freedom… And this is how you repay me?" Roderich didn't think he had ever heard Gilbert's voice so angry. It was low and dangerous and the hold around his waist strong as iron. "Running off like a badly trained dog… I expected more from you."

Hanging his head, Roderich felt tears prick the back of his eyes. He had been so close… To what exactly? To getting out and probably freezing to death? He felt himself instinctively pressing towards the warmth of Gilbert's body, shivering against him harshly.

Gilbert seemed to realize this, for the next time he spoke his voice was gentle and worried. "Hey… You really aren't dressed for out here… It really wouldn't be awesome if you got sick, you know."

He was pulled back to the house, through a door that he had not seen during his creeping through the hall. Instead of taking him right back to his room, as expected, Gilbert brought Roderich into another bedroom. The firm grip on his arm did not lessen as Gilbert looked through the closet and pulled out more clothes for Roderich. He only let go to let Roderich change, but even then did not leave the room, instead simply staring in the opposite direction.

Once again in dry clothes, Roderich stood with his hands clasped behind his back and gaze trained on the floor, feeling almost ashamed about his runaway attempt. From the stories that Gilbert had told him, the other seemed lonely, and it wasn't as if he hated the albino. He merely wanted his life back, free to play and move about as he pleased.

"Come here, Roddy," Gilbert said quietly. Roderich could feel the red eyes trained upon him and didn't look up, just moving the couple of steps it took to stand right in front of the other man.

A surprisingly gentle hand cupped under his chin and tilted his head up so that their eyes met. Roderich was shocked to see a sadness there, something that he would place as both longing and apologetic. Then their lips were pressed together.

Roderich made a surprised noise, Gilbert coaxing a reaction from him. There were arms around his waist, pressing him flush against the other person, his mouth being gently opened. A hundred thoughts went through Roderich's head, without any of them truly registering. The first being that he was kissing back.

Now, Roderich was not someone who had kissed many people, but neither was he inexperienced. In second grade he had kissed his best friend, Vash, because it reminded him of the story that his mother had read him the night before. Unfortunately, that had had the unexpected result of ending their friendship. In sixth grade, his closest friend now, Elizabeta, had kissed him under the mistletoe and he had realized that he was gay. And his previous boyfriend, Antonio, had shared a few kisses with him. But this was nothing like any of those.

No, Gilbert clearly knew what he was doing. The kiss was desperate and needy and, to the both of their surprise, reciprocated on both ends. It was Roderich, though, who pulled away first, staring up at Gilbert with wide eyes.

That calculating look was back and Gilbert's arms did not move from around Roderich's waist for a good minute. He eventually moved one to gently brush against the brunette's cheek, a small smile on his face. Roderich watched his motions almost apprehensively, now having absolutely no idea what to think.

"You asked me when you first came here what I wanted from you," Gilbert said quietly. "I've gotten tired of sharing you with countless others in a crowd. You're mine, you see? I want you to play music only for me. I want you here for me to hold and kiss and love without anyone talking. I'll treat you right, I promise. Just don't try to leave."

Roderich hesitated, then kissed Gilbert again as his answer.

IV.

Days, weeks, maybe even months passed in endless repeat. Roderich was no longer allowed out of Gilbert's sight, but could go anywhere he wanted – mindful that it was inside the house. Whenever Gilbert left, Roderich found himself locked inside the back bedroom again, though usually with a book.

Playing was mandatory at least once a day. The two would often play together, duets for the piano and violin, though just as often were the demands that Roderich play by himself. He slowly got used to following such orders, as being told what to do was now commonplace. All in all, he decided, it wasn't such a bad life.

He was expected to cook supper every night, true, but he had always liked cooking. The days were slowly warming up and yet he hadn't been outside since his failed attempt to make a run for it, but he had always been more of an indoors person after all. He had to share all of his time with a sometimes annoying, very egotistical, controlling man… But that didn't matter, because if he hadn't fallen completely, he was falling for him.

No longer did Roderich sleep handcuffed to the spare bed, locked inside a cold, empty room. No, he was held tight to Gilbert's body, head resting comfortably on the other's pale chest. Never having been particular good at falling asleep, Roderich found it a comfort to listen to the soft breathing and heart beating and soon could not drift off without the quickly familiar noises.

The only time Roderich did not find this new life of his just as good as his old was when Gilbert's brother came over. He would have to stay in a different room, though able to hear the conversation. And infallibly, the conversation would turn to the search for the missing Roderich Edelstein.

It always came as a shock to hear that name, though. Not only had Roderich grown used to Gilbert's nickname for him, Roddy, but hearing his last name no longer reminded him of himself. It only brought memories of his parents and cousins, aunts and uncles. It was as if his own past had just vanished. Remembering all that he had done was like blowing dust off the pages of an old book. All that seemed real was his time with Gilbert.

It was painful to listen to, also. Hearing about how his parents were still desperately searching for their son, even though everyone had told them it was no use anymore. It sounded as if the only other person who hadn't given up hope for Roderich's safe return was his long-time friend, Elizabeta. She had always felt a need to protect the young Edelstein and would go to the ends of the earth to get him back.

Every time after Ludwig's visits, Gilbert would find Roderich curled up in some chair and staring at the ground, shaking a little. It would take a few hours for him to get the Austrian back to his usual self, and the sadness at this in Gilbert's red eyes was evident. He wanted Roderich to forget the other people with whom he had once spent his time. He wanted to have his captive lover all to himself.

V.

The snow had cleared out, leaving in its place quivering flower buds and rainstorms. Roderich could often be found in a window seat, curled up with a book that he was ignoring and staring outside at the spring. Gilbert could see the longing for some bit of sunlight in his eyes, something to turn the now so pale skin back to its normal color. Yet even that was too much sharing. Gilbert had grown up with too little to share.

It had been six months. Roderich had been surprised to find this out, the weather patterns not matching up with what he knew of summer. Realizing just how far he was from his former home made it seem even more like a past life, something so far gone and so unreachable that he would be a fool to try and get it back. Why would he want to get it back anyway? He had everything he needed here.

Gilbert started to take him on walks through the garden, then the woods. Always he made sure that their hands were clasped tightly together, and checked ahead to be positive that no one was around to see them. Despite the latest news from Ludwig – that Roderich's parents had given up and only Elizabeta now that it possible that he would return – Gilbert was still horribly paranoid that someone would find out about this, his most important secret.

He had spent years dreaming about the figure on the stage that called forth the most beautiful melodies from his piano. Years finding out everything about him: from that his favorite tea was peppermint and his favorite flowers were bluebells, to that sometime in his tenth year he had fallen into a shark tank at the aquarium and since then was terrified of sea creatures. He had known that he had wanted to own that, and Gilbert Beilschmidt was one to pursue his desires.

All this he eventually told Roderich, admitting it with some embarrassment. How often do you admit to the victim of your stalking that you had been stalking them? Surprisingly, Roderich hadn't minded, almost flattered by the interest that had been taken into his life. To be sure, despite his and his family's success, Roderich was no celebrity. Not many people still listened to classical music, even some of such beauty as that which he called to his fingertips.

So, slowly, the color returned to Roderich's cheeks. He smiled more easily than he had in years and spoke to Gilbert more readily than he ever had to anyone. Surprising as it was, this man who had kidnapped him was a positive influence, bringing the boy who thrived in isolation out of his shell, if just for one person.

It was in that sixth month that the peace of their lives was almost shattered for good. A loud knock sounded on the front door, and as always, Roderich took that as his cue to go and hide in a less used room. However, before he could fully steal away, the door was kicked in by a heavy boot and the house swarmed by police.

"Roderich!" cried a shrill female voice, a small figure with long brown hair launching herself at the unsuspecting musician. It felt strange to him as her arms wrapped around him and held him protectively to her, even after he realized who it was. Elizabeta had finally found him.

A pained shout came from the opposite end of the room and Roderich's head turned to look at Gilbert, being handcuffed by police. Their eyes met and like that gave him strength, the Edelstein shook off Elizabeta and ran to his lover, pushing at the policemen and shouting at them to let go.

Elizabeta was behind Roderich now, lips pursed and hands on her hips. "I don't understand. He kidnapped you, right? There were signs of a struggle outside your door, in the snow. This asshole," there she spat out the word, earning a frown from Roderich at how unladylike she was being, "took you by force."

Roderich had managed to get hold of the key for Gilbert's handcuffs and quickly freed the albino man, wrapping his arms around his waist. Looking over the other's shoulder, Roderich stared at Elizabeta, eyes begging her to understand. "I love him," he said quietly, the first time he ever had.

It was like the entire room froze, everyone staring at the newly found Roderich and his kidnapper. Gilbert disentangled himself from the Austrian's arms, flashing him a familiar smile, that almost commonplace calculating look once again in his eyes.

Then he got down on one knee, pulled a small blue box out of his pocket, and said, so everyone in the room could hear, "Roderich, will you marry me?"

The shock of all that had happened in the past few minutes was too much and Roderich started to cry. He cried tears of bitter anger that people were trying to ruin the happiness he had found here, and he cried tears of joy for what Gilbert had finally found the courage to do. Amidst all the crying, he eventually was able to nod and hold out his left hand, letting the gold band be slipped onto his ring finger.

Gilbert stood up and the two kissed, not caring that all the policemen and Elizabeta were watching, only that they two existed in the world.

VI.

Roderich, of course, refused to press any charges against Gilbert for kidnapping him and holding him captive for so long. Once again, he was free to the world, but he chose not to leave at all, preferring to stay in the secluded peace that was the house in the woods, only his new fiancé for company.

They were married on the sixth of October, in their own garden. It was a small reception with only friends and family, Ludwig Gilbert's best man, Elizabeta Roderich's maid of honor. Somehow, Gilbert managed to convince his bride to wear a white dress instead of his preferred tuxedo. An old family friend of the Edelsteins married them, and they shared their first kiss as a wedded couple just as the sun set, for Roderich had planned the wedding and timed everything perfectly.

Now Roderich looks back and laughs at how they met, amused at himself for hating Gilbert so back then. He sits in his window seat with a book that he is ignoring, petting the little black cat he spent a great deal of trouble getting his husband to let him keep, and thinks back on all of it. Sometimes he wonders how things would have been different if Gilbert had just asked him out on an old-fashioned date, over a table with candles on it with a French waiter slipping them alcohol to try and spark the flames of l'amour.

Really, he is glad that things worked out as they did. What is a better way to know someone so intimately then to be confined to only their company? What way of asking someone out is more like Gilbert than stealing them away in the dark of the night? He finds it strangely romantic, in a way, and looks back on the whole situation with fondness. Why would he hate something that brought him such happiness?

He only becomes more sure of his thoughts on the matter when Gilbert comes up next to him and scoops him into his arms, pressing a kiss to his cheek. Roderich leans over to set the cat down on the cushions and leans his head against Gilbert's chest, listening to that ever familiar beating of his heart.

Their unconventional love story is the best, he believes, as he is carried away from the window. Maybe some people will hear of it and believe them both to be crazy, think the whole thing rather wrong and mad. Yet how could something be wrong when it feels so right?

Two wedding bands glint under the light of the moon, shining in through the bedroom window. Gilbert is long since asleep, his breathing even and deep, a sound that has been a comfort to Roderich for a very long time. Shifting from his regular position of his head on his husband's chest, Roderich reaches over to the end table and pulls from the drawer a pair of handcuffs. These have history behind them, the very pair that kept the captured Austrian restrained during his first week or so in the house. Now he takes the key and puts it on a string around his neck, holding up the handcuffs so he can examine them. After a moment, he gently lifts Gilbert's right hand and snaps a cuff around it, then puts the other side around his left. Head goes back on chest and after a moment there are two sets of even breathing in the otherwise silent room.