And now, I present the final chapter.
The next morning, Alfred and Romano had apparently made up, if the kisses they exchanged when they thought Matthew wasn't looking—or sometimes when he was—were anything to go by. Matthew had woken up around eleven with a mild hangover. He was lucky he was a nation, or it would likely have been unbearable. However, it was coupled with a good, old-fashioned headache from having to watch his brother's romantic happiness throughout breakfast.
Despite his headache and heartbreak, Alfred had tried to rope the northern nation into making pancakes for all of them. He had just given Alfred a blank stare, so the American had stuck some Eggos in the toaster. Romano had expressed his disgust, but had refused to cook, instead snacking on the leftover caprese salad from last night's disastrous dinner.
Finally, when he caught Alfred stealing a kiss from Romano out of the corner of his eye for the tenth time, he stood up. "I should go," he said, straightening the wrinkled button-down he was still wearing from the night before.
"Are you sure?" Alfred asked, looking at him with a flash of concern in his eyes. "You don't have to go. The Eggos aren't even ready yet!"
"Yeah. Thanks for letting me crash here."
Alfred let him go, but made him borrow one of his many cars rather than letting him call a cab, since Gilbert had taken the motorcycle they had driven there together on. It was an obnoxiously large Jeep with tires so tall that Matthew had to jump into his seat, but even the engine's loud roar couldn't drown out his own thoughts.
Having Alfred and Romano flaunt their happiness in front of him had been tough, but at least it had provided some sort of distraction.
He wondered where Gilbert was, what he was thinking. Was he even upset over their fight? Or was he already moving on to his next target, now that he'd slept with Matthew?
The morning before, Matthew had woken up to find Gilbert beside him in bed, propped up on one elbow and watching him. There had been love in those red eyes, Matthew was sure. Or had been sure. Now he just wondered who else had gotten the same treatment. Did 'I love you' mean something to Gil, or had it been a way to get Matthew to open up to him?
He hated Gilbert for making him doubt that what they had was real, and hated himself for caring so much.
What if Gilbert did really love him? Would he still after Matthew's brother had bodily tossed him out of his house, and Matthew hadn't done a thing to stop it?
The worst part of what that Matthew didn't know who to blame, couldn't know until he knew for sure what Gilbert had been truly feeling through all this. He had spent months with Matthew, if only a part of that officially dating, whereas he had picked Romano up during the course of one night. Did that mean Matthew was special, or that Gilbert was willing to wait as long as necessary to get what he wanted?
After accidentally missing several turns, Matthew pulled into his driveway. He was so wrapped up in his own thoughts that he had to double-take, turning around to see the familiar motorcycle that was parked at the bottom of his driveway.
"Maple," Matthew said quietly, wondering if it's too late to put the Jeep in reverse and hightail it back to Alfred's house.
He got out of the car and walks up his driveway, feeling like he was walking to the gallows. Why was Gilbert here?
When he got to the front porch, he stopped dead in his tracks. Gilbert was propped up against the front door, head lolling to the side as he snored softly. His white hair was even more ruffled than usual, and his dress clothes were hopelessly wrinkled. He looked adorable.
Though he could go around to the back door, he just cleared his throat. "Hey, Gilbert."
Gilbert jumped and scrambled to his feet. "Birdie," he said, words slurring slightly as his eyes struggled to focus on Matthew.
Matthew crossed his arms, trying to strike a more confident pose than he was feeling. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Mattie, you have to hear me out," Gilbert insisted, coming closer and putting his hands on Matthew's shoulders. "Okay?"
Matthew's brain stuttered. "Er…"
"I know that the stuff Romano said last night sounded pretty bad. Okay, maybe really bad. And maybe I didn't handle it with my normal grace." Matthew snorted, but Gilbert kept going, "But it wasn't what it sounded like! That happened like two years ago."
"You finally remembered?" Matthew asked.
Gilbert nodded. "Once I thought about it. I hadn't realized it was such a big deal, or I would have… Maybe. I dunno. Listen, Mattie, what I'm trying to say is that whether or not I used to be a jerk doesn't matter. Well, by your expression I can tell maybe it does matter, but you knew that that's who I was. I thought you knew that that's not who I am anymore, though." Gilbert took a deep breath. "You're important to me. You're the best thing that's happened to me since I lost my country. Maybe the best thing ever, because the person I am around you is the person I want to be. I like making you happy. I'm really trying to be a good boyfriend here. I thought you knew that."
Matthew looked up at him with wide eyes. "Um…"
"I love you, Mattie. This relationship is real for me, and I hope it's real for you. This is like nothing I've ever done before. You can be upset with me for being a jerk to Romano last night, and I'm really sorry about that, but you have to know that all that stuff that happened before we got together, all the sleeping around and conquering people, that's not me anymore. I'm, well, I'm committed to this relationship. Trust me, that's not something I say to….anyone. I'm Prussia, king of commitment issues, but I'm willing to change for you. I want to change for you, to be the kind of guy who deserves you."
Matthew blinked up at him, trying to organize his thoughts.
"Seriously, Mattie, you've got to believe me. Do I need to beg? I can get down on my knees. I can sell my motorcycle. I can…"
Matthew leaned forward and pressed his lips against Gilbert's, unable to think of anything to say. Gilbert hesitated for a moment, and then wrapped a warm arm around Matthew's waist. He pressed against the seam of Matthew's lips, and then pressed his tongue inside, gently reclaiming Matthew's mouth. The action was tender, and Matthew felt loved wrapped there in Gilbert's arms.
They parted, but remained close enough for Matthew to feel Gilbert's breath. He looked into his red eyes and smiled gently. "Pancakes?" he suggested.
"Mein Gott, yes," Gilbert said, attacking his mouth once more. It was a while more until they finally went into the house.
The next world meeting was two months later, and Gilbert and Mattie were still going strong. Even after a disastrous giant family dinner, which had included an irate but not antagonistic Romano, a crass America, a drooling Elizaveta, a snobbish Roderich, a tipsy Feliciano, and a mortified Ludwig, Mattie had stuck with Gilbert, and the albino couldn't have been happier.
They entered the world meeting together, Gilbert's arm wrapped firmly around Mattie's waist. Francis and Antonio spotted him almost immediately, disentangling themselves from their respective lovers and coming over. Gilbert nudged Mattie towards the table, making him promise to save him a seat, before the other two-thirds of the trio could grab him.
"Gil, it's been forever!" Antonio said, grabbing him in a hug.
"Only like a week," Gilbert argued, but returned the hug.
Francis looked at Mattie, then back at Gilbert. "You're awfully clingy, mon ami," he pointed out.
"That is my boyfriend," Gilbert snapped.
Antonio laughed. "It's okay, Gil! We think it's adorable how whipped you are!"
"Oh, shut the fuck up," Gilbert growled good-naturedly. He saw Mattie looking over at him with concern, and gave him a reassuring smile. He turned back to find his two friends giving him matching grins. "Like you two aren't whipped, too!"
Antonio blew a kiss over to England, who blushed, even though he appeared to be locked in an argument with America, so the ex-empire apparently had an eye on his airheaded boyfriend. "Of course I am!" Antonio agreed.
Francis just laughed. "I am France, the nation of love. I don't get whipped." Gilbert didn't know how Francis had done it, but Francis had been sleeping with Switzerland for at least a month by then. Gilbert had been sure it was a one-time thing, but apparently it had been happening at least once a week since then.
Though he was too far away to have heard the conversation, Switzerland turned to where the trio was standing and beckoned once to Francis before turning back to his conversation with Greece.
"Adieu!" Francis said, bounding away towards Switzerland.
Gilbert and Antonio exchanged glances, and then broke down into laughter.
Antonio slapped Gilbert's shoulder. "So you and Canada are still going strong?"
Gilbert nodded. "Well, yeah. It's serious."
"Like, serious serious?" Antonio asked, eyebrows raised.
"Actually, I was going to tell you—"
Ludwig was standing at the head of the table, glaring at the room as he shouted, "The meeting is starting! Go to your seats!"
Gilbert rolled his eyes and shook his head at Antonio. "I'll catch you later," he said, and went to his seat next to Mattie, leaning over and snatching a quick kiss. Mattie blushed, but gave him a sweet smile.
As the nations settled, Ludwig looked around suspiciously. "Where did America go? He is supposed to start this meeting."
Suddenly, the double-door entrance of the meeting room burst open to reveal the nation they had been discussing. He was carrying enough red heart balloons to make Gilbert surprised that he wasn't literally lifted off the ground. "Yo, dudes, listen up!" America said, strolling into the room. It took Gilbert a few seconds of staring at the balloons and the ecstatic, yet nervous, expression on the nation's face until his eyes widened and he whipped his head around to look at Romano, who was slinking down in his chair, face bright red.
No freaking way…
"The past few months have been the happiest of my life. It's even better than those crazy Roaring 20s and I'm pretty sure it's better than the 70s, though I don't really remember much of that decade. Romano is the sweetest, funniest, most interesting person or country I've ever met," America announced. Gilbert shot another look back at Romano, just to make sure that America was actually talking about the same Romano Gilbert knew. Yep, the tomato-colored blush and death-glare were still in place.
"America, this is not the time for—" Germany began, but America ignored him.
"Now, Romano's a pretty private guy. Hell, some of you all might not even know we're dating! But I wanted to have an audience for what I'm about to do. Not just because I'm a narcissistic git," he added, sending a brief glare at England, "but because I want to show how serious I am."
Beside him, Mattie gave a tiny gasp. A glance at his wide eyes and open mouth told Gilbert that the other nation hadn't been informed of the stunt America was about to pull, which Gilbert thought was totally unfair. Seriously, bros before… other bros.
"Romano," America said, approaching Romano's seat at the table with a large, sheepish grin, "You're the best thing that's happened to me. Will you give me the chance to try to make you happy for as long as we both are around?" He knelt dramatically, nearly hitting Feli, who was sitting next to Romano, with the giant horde of balloons. "Will you marry me?"
The nations at the world meeting held their breaths, looking between the hopeful, excited look on America's face, to Romano's red cheeks and teary eyes. Since Romano's expressions for love and fury were about the same, Gilbert wasn't sure if America was about to get accepted or head-butted in the nose.
Romano muttered something softly.
"Huh?" America asked, still holding his pose and smile.
"Yes, I'll marry you, you damn bastard!" Romano shouted.
The smile on America's face became positively beaming, and the nations applauded obligatorily. Gilbert could hear England and Feli both sobbing loudly, and France was saying something along the lines of being sad that those two were being taken off the market before being silenced by Switzerland.
Romano launched himself forward into America's arms, making him release the collection of balloons, which drifted to the high ceiling as Romano locked lips with the blonde nation.
Beside him, Mattie looked teary-eyed and delighted, clapping along with the rest.
Gilbert put his hand in his pocket dejectedly, tapping the small, velvet box sitting there. Fuck. How on earth was he supposed to compete with that?
Gilbert had been in a weird mood ever since Alfred had proposed to Romano that morning. He had been quiet throughout the whole meeting. Even their usual sex before bed had been quieter, more intense than usual. Not that Matthew had been complaining, but now, lying together in bed, Matthew couldn't help but feel a little worried.
The worst part was, he was pretty sure he knew what was wrong.
"Hey, um, Gil?" Matthew asked softly, propping himself up on one elbow and looking down at his boyfriend. Gilbert's hair was messy, since Matthew loved running his hands through it, and his pale chest looked warm and inviting, but Matthew held off on more cuddling, wanting to speak his piece.
Cracking open one eye, Gilbert looked up at him. He smirked softly. "Hey, Birdie."
"Oh, were you asleep already? Okay, never mind, just go back to sleep," Matthew said, quickly plopping back down on the bed.
Gilbert chuckled and rolled onto his side, snaking an arm across Matthew's chest and looking down at him. "I'm up. Well, I'm awake. If you want me to be up, I'm sure we can work something out, if you give me a little recovery time and a little incentive."
Matthew chuckled at that, and shook his head. "I just…" He couldn't meet Gilbert's eyes, and the words he had planned earlier had vanished from his mind.
"What's up?" Gilbert asked, idly tracing a pattern across Matthew's side.
Taking a deep breath, Matthew said, "I just wanted to say that you shouldn't… Don't pay attention to what Al and Romano do. We're a different relationship. We can take things at whatever speed you want. And I promise I'm not saying that as a secret hint or something stupid like that, I actually mean that we need to go at our own pace."
"Huh?" Gilbert asked, blinking.
"I just… Don't let the fact that Al… you know, to Romano throw you off. Al's always been a fast and furious kind of guy. And I…" Matthew finally met Gilbert's eyes. "I need you to know that there's no pressure. I love you, and I'll love you in any way you want me to. We don't need to get married."
At the flash of hurt in Gilbert's eyes, Matthew quickly amended, "Not that I wouldn't marry you! God, I'd love to be your h-husband. Wow, that would be…amazing." Then, he shook his head. "But what I'm saying is we don't need to rush. You don't have to compete with Alfred. I already know I have the best relationship in the world."
When Gilbert still didn't answer, Matthew quickly launched up and kissed Gilbert quickly. At first it was uncomfortable, since he managed to jam their noses together for a second before their lips touched briefly, but as he let his head fall back on the pillow, embarrassed, Gilbert followed him, brushing their lips together before easily slipping his tongue into Matthew's mouth, gently coaxing and twisting.
Matthew moaned softly into the sensual kiss, archly slightly off the bed as Gilbert moved on top of him, his warm weight covering Matthew, making him feel loved and protected.
Gilbert kissed from Matthew's mouth to his ear, then bit the lobe gently. "Marry me," he said softly, grinding his hips slowly against Matthew.
In the rush of sensation, it took Matthew a minute to process his words. "Eh?"
Gilbert's weight was suddenly gone, back over to his side of the bed. Gilbert was sitting up, looking frantic. "Fuck," he said. "I didn't mean to say that."
"Oh," Matthew said.
"No, no, no, don't give me that look. I mean, I want to marry you. I do! Wait, I'm not supposed to say that part yet either. I just wanted it to be perfect. There was going to be a motorcycle ride and a sunset and roses and some champagne and…" Gilbert suddenly scrambled off the bed. Matthew heard him rustling around, and then he was back. In the moonlit room, Matthew could only make out the outline of the small black box in Gilbert's hand.
"I think I already screwed this up, but at least let me give my speech. I love you, Mattie. Everything about you just makes me so much more in love with you. I love your eyes, your pancakes, the way you seemed so shy but were comfortable scolding me when I left dirty plates out from the day we met. I love how you don't even realize how amazing you are, but I want to spend every day of my life—however long that is—trying to make you see yourself as I see you. I love how hockey makes you turn into a Canadian rage beast, but how you apologize and patch me up when you kick my ass on the ice, like I didn't love the fight. You make me feel so calm, but so much more alive than ever before.
"Back in the day, I lived for the battle. For the rush of blood and the fight. But I was constantly trying to prove myself. I was never comfortable, or secure, or relaxed. Now, I get the same blood rush just feeling your arms around me, but I feel…content. Happy. There have been times when I've wondered why I didn't just die with Prussia, why I got stuck in a world that is moving on without me." He brushed a curly lock of hair from Matthew's face. "But now I know. I was always meant to find you, to love you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life." He opened up the box, and Matthew could make out the faint gleam of the gold ring in the darkness. Almost breathless, Gilbert added, "Also, I swear I bought this and was planning this long before your brother proposed to his boyfriend, so I'm not just copying. I promise. Seriously, I—"
Matthew sat up and kissed Gilbert quickly, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend and feeling his heart soar. After a second of shock, Gilbert dove into the kiss, making Matthew even more breathless than before.
When they finally parted, Gilbert gave an uncertain laugh. "Was that a yes?"
"Yes. Yes, yes, yes," Matthew said.
He could practically feel the tension leave Gilbert's body. "Great! That's great." Gilbert grabbed Matthew's hand and slid on the ring, then tossed the box onto the bedside table.
Matthew kissed him again, and then huffed. "Now I see why you were annoyed earlier. Al sure knows how to steal the spotlight, eh? Not that I would ever have a huge wedding, but you might want one. Do we have to wait until Al marries Romano? Maple, that could take forever! He's going to want to plan a huge thing and…" Matthew laughed softly, looking at Gilbert. "You know what? I don't care at all. I'm marrying the love of my life. I don't care if it's this minute or three years from now. You're going to be my husband." The words made Matthew feel giddy, like his heart was going to just float right out of his chest. "The wedding isn't the important part. It's just the start."
"I'm glad you think so," Gilbert said, pulling Matthew onto his lap. He looked up into Matthew's eyes, his usual smirk softer than Matthew had ever seen it. "Because I was thinking… Instead of waiting for your brother to hog all the attention, and for my brother to get involved and completely take over planning our wedding… How do you feel about eloping?"
Matthew let his enthusiastic kiss give the answer for him.