Oh, I'm sorry, did I keep you guys waiting? Well, this is the last chapter (I think), so I hope you all enjoyed the story and please don't be mad at me for ending it happily. It just felt right. I hope I didn't disappoint anyone! (too much at least.)
It begun the night Gilbert returned from the hospital. Matthew was sleeping on the couch downstairs, Ludwig and Gilbert in their own rooms, and at two in the morning, the two brothers heard Matthew shrieking in fear. Ludwig was the first to react, since he had been familiarized with the nightmares already. He bolted mistakenly to Gilbert's room, seeing the albino sitting upright with a confused expression.
The cry came again, and Gilbert threw back his sheets and followed Ludwig downstairs, welcomed by the sight of Matthew's strained and somewhat twisted body and he gasped and panting through the first of many horrific nightmares. Ludwig acted first, knowing he would probably be reprimanded later when Matthew was conscious, and he grabbed Matthew's wrists, tugging them up and getting violet eyes to snap open. Matthew's forehead was practically soaking, and his bangs clung to him, splayed out in various patterns. Matthew grunted and panted in what could have been mistaken as pain, and he jerked his wrists away.
"Brother." Ludwig beckoned, and Gilbert was beside the youngest blond in seconds.
"Go get the sedatives. We'll call Dr. Oxenstierna in the morning." Gilbert ordered, and Ludwig got to his feet and ran back upstairs. Gilbert locked eyes with Matthew, getting a loud whine from the blond as he flinched and jerked on the couch.
"Can I touch you?" Gilbert asked, holding his hands just above the panicking blond and getting a brief nod of approval. Gilbert nodded in return, then grasped Matthew's cheeks, keeping their eyes locked. He let one hand slip down and grasp Matthew's wrist, immediately feeling the rushed tempo of his heart.
"Hey, you're safe, Mattie. You in my house now. The awesome me's house. I'm not going to let anything happen to you, okay? Whenever you see me, you should know this." Gilbert said softly, but quickly, letting his words bore into Matthew's mind. Matthew's breathing leveled out and he stopped kicking. Soon, he was laying still, panting lightly, but calm. Tears begun running down Matthew's cheeks, and Gilbert wiped them away.
"Nightmares are so not awesome, huh?" Gilbert said lightly, getting a weak huff from the blond he was comforting. Ludwig returned with half a sedative, handing it to Gilbert who then pressed it against Matthew's cracked lips.
"Take this and you won't dream." Gilbert promised, getting a nervous and doubtful expression from Matthew. Gilbert smiled at him, then brushed his wet bangs away from his face, "I take them every night, Mattie. They're safe."
Matthew was reassured by this information and he allowed Gilbert to push the pill past his barely parted lips. When he swallowed the pill, Gilbert looked back at Ludwig and nodded, silently telling him he could go back to sleep. When he turned his attention back to Matthew, he patted the blonde's cheek and stood, only to have his wrist grabbed tightly.
"N-no, don't go please!" Matthew begged, looking panicked and nervous. Gilbert's brows rose, and Ludwig stopped at the bottom of the stairs, looking over at the two. Gilbert frowned, then ran his fingers through his hair and nodded.
"Alright, move over, let the awesome me lay with you." Gilbert instructed, and Matthew nodded and rolled onto his side, allowing Gilbert to lay between him and the back of the couch. Ludwig continued up the stairs and went to his own room, figuring Gilbert had it under control.
When Gilbert was comfortably spooning Matthew, one arm bent under his head and the other hung across Matthew's hip, his hand held by both of Matthew's own and pressed to his chest. They lied in silence, but Gilbert could feel Matthew still shivering beneath him, his soft breath wavering every time he exhaled.
"What did you dream about?" Gilbert whispered, hugging Matthew tighter and allowing the blond hair to tickle his face. Matthew didn't respond immediately, but when he did, he spoke barely over a whisper, "I dreamt of the start of the fire…. The alarm went off, but it had been faulty for a few days, so I ignored it, along with most of the other tenants. When I smelled smoke, I opened my door to check, and the whole hallway was in flames. I didn't think and I locked myself in the apartment…. I thought I could keep the fire out…."
Gilbert made a small grunt in the back of his throat to show he was listening, gently pressing his fingers against Matthew's chest and feeling his heart beating. After a few more seconds of listening to each other breathe and feeling one another against their body, Matthew spoke again.
"Gilbert…" He breathed, his eyes slowly becoming heavy and his limbs growing weak.
"What's the matter?" Gilbert asked as quietly as his voice could let him. He was a loud person since birth, and it was always a challenge to keep his voice house appropriate.
"I'm scared." Matthew admitted, and his shoulders shivered slightly as if to prove his very words. Gilbert cocked a brow, then pressed his nose against the back of Matthew's head, taking in a slow, deep breath, then sighing, letting the warm air hit Matthew's neck.
"You know what I used to do when I awoke from a nightmare?" Gilbert questioned, even though he already knew the answer to it, "I would take a shower and talk to someone."
"At the same time?" Matthew asked, turning a little in Gilbert's arms to face the smiling albino, getting a nod of clarification.
"I ruined three cell phones like that in four months." Gilbert mumbled proudly, earning a small smile from the nervous blond. Matthew turned back onto his side, facing away from the German man, and a few more minutes passed.
"Will you take a bath with me, then?" Matthew asked slowly, and Gilbert's eyes practically snapped open. Gilbert stared down at the back of Matthew's head silently, then he slowly nodded and mumbled out "Sure…"
Matthew slowly got to his feet, looking back to see Gilbert following after him. Matthew grasped Gilbert's hand, then pulled him upstairs and towards the bathroom. When the lights flickered on, Gilbert went to the tub and began running the water, letting Matthew decide at which temperature it should be.
As they waited for the tub to fill, neither of them undressed. Matthew did tug off his socks, but that was it. They stayed in their pajamas, a simple blue button up flannel and some kind of silk-like pants for Matthew, and a simple pair of sweatpants for Gilbert. They were both quiet and the kept glancing at each other.
When the tub was almost filled, Matthew let out a soft sigh and stepped into the water, allowing his pants to soak up the water and flutter around his ankles like budding flowers in the wind. Gilbert watched him silently, keeping his eyes on Matthew's face as the man slunk down into the water, his shirt becoming somewhat transparent, the water stopping just below his chest. When he was comfortably sitting with his knees pulled to his chest and his arms wrapped around them securely, Gilbert smiled and stepped in too, not even bothering to roll up his pants since they would get drenched when he sat.
They were facing each other now, and Gilbert's shoulder was pressing awkwardly against the faucet, but he didn't complain. Matthew looked over Gilbert's face and shoulders, then he stared down at the water and began lightly running his fingers over the top of it, barely skimming the surface. When the tub reached their armpits, Gilbert turned off the water and Matthew sank in a little deeper. His shoulders were now submerged and his hair was teasing the ripples he made, swirling around with only the tips of those blond locks.
"You can talk about anything you want." Gilbert said reassuringly, resting one hand on the edge of the tub and maneuvering the other towards Matthew, rubbing a finger against his toe. Matthew's nose cringed, but he smiled regardless and he wiggled his toes in response to the touch.
"You know…." He began, staring down into the water, moving his right foot over his left foot as if protecting it from Gilbert's touch, then he slid his hand towards Gilbert, brushing their fingers together, "You're the only person I've been able to touch since I was a kid."
"Really?" Gilbert was surprised, and his brows rose to prove it. He let his hand bob in the water as Matthew lightly skimmed the pads of his fingertips against Gilbert's palm.
"Yeah. I couldn't even touch my own parents…" Matthew detailed, resting his head against the ceramic wall and moving ever so slightly closer to the other, their hands still mingling with one another, "I've only been able to touch my Papa without being scared or nervous. I wasn't allowed to see him, though, and when he died, I thought that that would be the last time I would ever feel another human's hand again…"
"What were you so afraid of?" Gilbert asked, his hand flinching slightly when Matthew's finger brushed against a particularly sensitive nerve. Matthew hesitated at the flinch, but he continued touching him anyway, now pressing his finger against Gilbert's thumb, then following the digit down and around his entire hand.
"I think…. I think I was afraid of being left alone. I didn't want to have to deal with being separated from someone I cared about, so I never created a connection. I became so fearful of being forgotten that I stopped allowing people to know what they might forget. I don't know why my Papa was different, and I don't know why you are too…. But even if I can touch you, it doesn't make me any less afraid." Matthew explained thoroughly, and Gilbert slowly led their hands above water, twisting his wrist around so his hand was no longer in a cupping position, but with his palm faced out, and he allowed Matthew to press his own palm against Gilbert's. Their fingers intertwined, and Gilbert gently pulled Matthew towards him, parting his legs to let Matthew lay against him, his cheek against Gilbert's shoulder. Their hands kept a hold on one another, and Matthew let his eyes focus on that and that alone.
"I'm happy, then." Gilbert said, and Matthew's brows furrowed.
"Happy about what?" Matthew asked, rubbing his thumb against the back of Gilbert's hand.
"I'm happy that I'm different. That I won't forget you." Gilbert answered softly, looking down to Matthew's now relaxed features, and Matthew's eyes fell from their hands and went instead to Gilbert's collarbone.
"I don't believe you." He said softly, and Gilbert laughed just as softly. He turned his and Matthew's intertwined hands so the back of Matthew's hand was facing him, and he shook his head slowly.
"You don't have to. You just have to be patient." Gilbert said slowly, bringing their hands to his lips and kissing Matthew's hand, getting a soft gasp from the blond. He wasn't reprimanded though, so Gilbert did it a second time, then a third.
"What do I have to be patient for? What am I waiting for?" Matthew questioned doubtfully, looking now at Gilbert's nose and frowning.
"Well, you'll have to be patient because I won't be able to prove I'll never forget you in one day. No, I'll have to spend my whole life on it. Every day, every week, every month, every year from now on to the day I die, I'll remember you. And I said my death instead of yours because even if you die before me I'll still remember you. I'd visit your grave every day if I have to, if it proves it to you. And once I'm done proving it, then you can believe me. Once I give out and I have to leave for whatever may or may not be out there, then you can smile and nod and say, 'He was right. I should've believed him since the day we sat in the bathtub together.' And when that happens, I know I won't be forgotten by you either, because that's really my fear too."
Matthew stared up into Gilbert's eyes as he spoke, his entirety completely captured by this silver-tongued and drop-dead gorgeous individual. He swore his heart was echoing throughout the bathroom, and Gilbert just smiled down at the already captivated blond.
Matthew wasn't sure if this was all just really good timing. He wasn't sure if this was because Gilbert had saved his life from a burning and crumbling building, or if it was because he was being taken so good care of by Gilbert and his younger brother. He wasn't sure if this was a fleeting feeling, a temporary ailment, one designed during a troubling and stressful time just to serve as a happy way out.
All Matthew was certain of was that this man he was able to touch, this Gilbert Beilschmidt, he wasn't lying. And even if offered all the money, fame, or bravery in the world, Matthew would never be able to explain, or even fathom, how Gilbert seemed so in love with him. He couldn't even imagine why this man who seemed so calm and collected and perfect would dare to push his way into a building in order to rescue some man with one too many fears and a truck of emotional turmoil just so he could sit in a tub of water with him dressed in pajamas.
And his Papa's words seemed to echo in his mind at that moment of uncertainty and wariness and excitement and endearment, whispering in his ear…
"Matthew, just because no one hears you screaming doesn't mean there isn't someone out there looking for you. You just have to be patient and hold on to whatever you may be clinging to until that person arrives."
"Matthew?" Gilbert whispered, snapping the blond out of his dazed thoughts. Matthew blinked, then looked down and shook his head.
"I don't understand you, Gilbert…." Matthew said, and Gilbert frowned. He hoped he didn't scare him, because he was absolutely certain that this Matthew was the Matthew he loved, even when no one thought he was there.
"I don't understand you, but…. I believe you now." Matthew finished, and Gilbert's frown was replaced by another happy smile. They stared at each other for a few more silent minutes, then Gilbert shifted Matthew who was still lying against his chest, and he pressed his lips down on the blonde's forehead, getting a shuddering gasp from him, but not receiving any punishment.
"Feeling better?" Gilbert asked, and Matthew nodded slowly. Gilbert smiled more and nodded, "Good."
"Let's go to bed." Matthew mumbled, pulling himself to his feet and letting go of Gilbert's hand. His shirt stuck to his body, crinkled in various places and his pants were wrapped around his legs as if they were vacuum sealed there. His clothes dripped rapidly, but he stepped out onto the bathroom mat, looking back at Gilbert to see him pull the plug to allow the water to drain, stepping out after him.
"Want to lie on the couch again?" Gilbert asked, putting both hands on Matthew's small shoulders, getting the man to look at him and think.
"Let's lay in your bed." Matthew decided with a nod, turning towards the door and stepping out, walking down the hall with small puddles of water trailing behind him. Gilbert smiled at this, then he turned off the bathroom light and followed the blond to his bedroom, keeping the lights off and peeling off his pants, swapping them for a different, dry pair.
"Want to borrow something to sleep in?" Gilbert asked Matthew, who shook his head and allowed his wet clothes to bunch together on the floor before slipping under the sheets. Gilbert slid in beside Matthew, lying on his back as Matthew lay on his side, facing away from the albino.
"Good night, Matthew." Gilbert mumbled, and Matthew nodded.
"Good night…" He whispered, and after a few comfortable minutes of silence, Matthew reached behind him and gripped Gilbert's hand, linking them together without rolling over or pulling Gilbert close.
Just before Gilbert fell asleep, he noticed his own, made-up Matthew standing by the window of the room. He was holding a cell phone that was open, and Francis' voice could just be heard.
"Gilbert, mon ami, I told you everything would get better."
"I'm glad you're happy, too." Imaginary Matthew added with a smile, leaning against the wall beside the window, "I'm never going to forgive you if you forget me, though. Okay?"
"Okay." Gilbert whispered, and real Matthew frowned and shifted in his sleep, but he didn't wake.
Matthew and Francis disappeared, and Gilbert sighed comfortably and closed his eyes, falling into a deep sleep, dreaming of closure to what had haunted him for so long.
He dreamt of his mother, who ran to every room in the apartment complex in search for her son who thought she had been crushed beneath the rubble. His mother, who beat down the door to the apartment he was stuck in with an axe just because she had a feeling. His beautiful, brave mother who used her own body to cradle her bleeding and sobbing son as the rest of the building came crashing down on the two, cutting and smashing the woman to shreds and splinters, but never hitting the child she protected.
And somehow, knowing that this was how it all ended made Gilbert feel at peace. When he awoke the next day, he didn't feel the need to take his SSRI's or his anti-hallucinogens because he no longer felt nervous or scared or followed. Instead, he lay in bed, past the time he was supposed to take his medicine, and he watched as Matthew continued sleeping beside him. The slow up and down of his chest, the way his hand twitched slightly from whatever dream he may or may not be having, it all made Gilbert smile and helped the albino decide that he was finally, truly happy.
"I don't get it at all! That tomato-eating bastard tells me to meet him here and he runs late! What kind of lame date is this?" Lovino complained, propping his shoes up on the coffee table and glaring at Gilbert, who was laughing away at Lovino's irritation.
Matthew was in the kitchen making pancakes, a dish that even Feliciano couldn't rival him with. When he came out with a plate for Gilbert and Lovino, the Italian sat upright and nodded.
"Sweet, at least there's food!" Lovino said happily, taking the fork and digging in. Gilbert quirked a brow, then looked at Matthew and smiled.
"Thank you, Mattie." He said flirtatiously, and Matthew reddened and turned away, heading back into the kitchen to finish making the last of the batch. Ludwig came down sporting a black muscle-shirt that hugged his seventeen-year-old muscles and a pair of dark grey jeans, and he ran his fingers through his slicked back hair, making sure every piece was in place.
"I'll be going out with Feli and I won't be back until tomorrow afternoon." Ludwig announced, almost proudly, and Gilbert waved at him to show he heard. Before he stepped out, Matthew called out to him and motioned him into the kitchen. Ludwig sighed softly, but followed the shy blond and offered up his hand. This became a daily thing, and every time it turned up the same reaction, but Ludwig knew it was a kind of therapy for the man.
Matthew bit his lip and pressed a shaky finger to the palm of Ludwig's hand, flinched away almost immediately and shivering. He hated the feeling of other people's skin, aside from Gilbert's, but he knew he would have to get over his fears at one point in his life. Gilbert was already helping him with his anthropophobia, but he wanted to try and get past his aphephobia first. Which is why Ludwig was the perfect treatment.
"Done?" Ludwig asked, raising a brow as Matthew held his hand against his chest.
"Um… yeah." He muttered, turning back to his pancakes and flipping them.
"Alright, I'm going." Ludwig announced again, and Gilbert rested his head against the back of the couch and called out, "Condoms, West!"
"Hey, bastard, my brother isn't some loose slut, you know!" Lovino hissed through a stuffed mouth. No one could resist Matthew's pancakes. Gilbert looked at Lovino curiously and Ludwig left, then Gilbert leaned forward and shook his head, "But he's so girly, I think he could get pregnant!"
"Shut up!" Lovino snorted, but he was smiling a little. When Matthew finished the pancakes, he brought himself a plate and sat beside Gilbert so their knees pressed against each other. Gilbert didn't mind the closeness, and he patted Matthew's leg comfortingly.
They continued to eat and chat, and about ten minutes later, the doorbell rang and Gilbert got up to answer it.
"It's probably Tony." He muttered as he walked over to the door, grabbing the handle and tugging it open to see the Spaniard standing there with a bouquet in his hand and a smile on his face.
"Whoa, flowers for me? Awesome!" Gilbert chuckled out sarcastically, and Antonio rolled his eyes and stepped in.
"Yeah, right, like I would give you flowers! They're for mi Lovinito." Antonio purred, walking into the living room and smiling at the Italian, who scoffed and rolled his eyes.
"I don't even like flowers, ass." Lovino grumbled, but his cheeks were a bright red regardless. Antonio just smiled and sat beside the boy, handing him the bouquet.
"Why did you tell me to come here to meet you anyway?" Lovino asked, taking the flowers and discreetly smelling them. Gilbert rejoined Matthew on the couch opposite of Antonio and Lovino.
"Because here was closer from where I was at." Antonio explained with a shrug, then he got to his feet, "Plus, Gilbert told me to bring you here, so…."
"Oh yeah, I did, didn't I?" Gilbert gaped, then he looked at Matthew and the blond sighed softly and got up, going to the front door and locking it tightly, then the back door, and finally he sat on the stairs to prevent his and Gilbert's captives from escaping. Lovino raised and brow, and Antonio's eyes widened slightly. He had a hunch to where this was going, and he swore he would punch Gilbert in his face if he did what Antonio was thinking he might do.
"So, Lovino, you're seventeen, right?" Gilbert asked, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees, as if he were interviewing the Italian.
"Uh, yeah? Why?" Lovino asked, a little wary of being locked in a house with a post-psycho and his anti-social boyfriend.
"Just wondering. So, I was talking with Antonio one day not too long ago…" Gilbert began, raising his brows and wearing a smile, even when Antonio yelled at him to stop.
"Gil, this isn't funny." Antonio growled, feeling panic bubble up in his chest. Gilbert ignored him.
"And we were talking about you, in fact, and he told me the most interesting thing!" Gilbert continued, and Lovino's attention was now on Gilbert entirely.
"Gilbert, stop, you promised you wouldn't tell him!" Antonio tried again, but he went unheard.
"What did he say, potato-bastard?" Lovino weakly threatened to hear what Gilbert was saying, eager to find out what it was. His eyes were wide and he had this hopeful look on his face, and Gilbert immediately thought, 'Oh yeah, they're crazy for each other.'
"Well, he told me something really… awesome! He told me-"
"Dammit, Gilbert, you pendejo, don't tell him I love him!" Antonio shrieked, and the room went silent for a good minute. Lovino sat up straight upon hearing those words, and his eyes were wide, but they bore into Gilbert instead of Antonio. Matthew smiled a little and watched the scene unfold from the stairs. Antonio's face drained of all colour, and he could feel all of his rage be replaced with embarrassment. Gilbert resumed his sentence.
"He told me you were interested in birds." Gilbert finished, and Antonio nearly fainted from disbelief and shame. Lovino snapped out of his shock-induced stupor and he blinked a few times, then he looked at Antonio.
"Antonio…" He mumbled, and the Spaniard flinched at the soft tone of his voice. This was so much worse than yelling. Antonio sighed and geared himself up for the scolding of his life, expecting Lovino to start yelling about how they were only supposed to be friends with benefits, having random sex whenever they felt like it, so on and so forth.
"Tomato-bastard! I hate you!" Lovino finally shrieked, and Antonio flinched. Gilbert's smile widened and he watched as Lovino got up from his seat, still clutching the bouquet to his chest, "I hate you so much! Why didn't you tell me? Fuck! I…. I…. Ugh!"
Matthew was quick and he unlocked the front door for the pissed off Italian. Antonio gulped, then ran after him, crying out for Lovino to wait. Gilbert stood and went to the door with Matthew, wrapping an arm around the blonde's waist and watching as Antonio caught up with Lovino, grabbing his arm and tugging him back. Whatever conversation –if you could even have a conversation with a pissed off Lovino- they had, Gilbert and Matthew couldn't hear. However, in the middle of Antonio's sentence, Lovino threw the bouquet at the Spaniard, then wrapped his arms around his neck and kissed him.
"Oh yeah. I'm awesome!" Gilbert cheered, closing the door and chuckling, "I'm so going to be killed tomorrow!"
"I helped too." Matthew pouted, and Gilbert laughed softly and nodded, trapping Matthew against the wall and caressing his cheek.
"You did. So you're awesome too. How about we share our awesomeness?" Gilbert suggested, and Matthew rolled his eyes and smiled.
"I think you're using my deprivation of human contact to your advantage." Matthew sighed, putting his hands on Gilbert's chest and looking into his eyes. Gilbert shrugged lightly, then pulled the blond into a kiss, enjoying every second of their contact.
When they pulled away, Matthew raised his brows and smiled, "See? You're just using me."
"Tch, 'using you' my ass. You're the one who said yes." Gilbert teased, linking their hands together and tugging him upstairs.
"You make it sound like we got married! I just agreed to live with you for a while longer, that's all!" Matthew huffed, following the albino without much thought. They stepped into Gilbert's room and went to his bed, Gilbert climbing onto Matthew and smiling.
"Still, you said yes. In my awesome mind, that means we're married." Gilbert joked, kissing Matthew again, "Now stop complaining and let me love my husband."
"I still don't understand you!" Matthew huffed, but he allowed Gilbert to touch and kiss and caress, and he enjoyed every minute of it. After their strenuous activities, they both lay together in Gilbert's bed, holding on to one another as they rested. Gilbert sighed softly and kissed the top of Matthew's head before closing his eyes and allowing himself to drift. The final thing he remembered thinking was quite a simple thought.
So worth it.