Sulking, Gilbert wandered the sidewalks of the school's campus, bored nearly to death. There was almost no one else outside since classes were currently in session, but the white-haired teen didn't have class yet. Even if he did, he would have skipped it without batting an eye. It's not like anyone would have noticed, anyway.

Red eyes lazily examined his surroundings as he walked, looking over the familiar buildings and landscaping. He was a junior this year, finally old enough to—legally—go out drinking with friends and party until he couldn't even walk anymore. Partying had always been Gilbert's favorite pastime, but now that he spent most of his time on his own, he hardly went out at all.

Zis is so not awesome, he thought, dropping onto one of the stone benches dotted around campus and slouching back, hand reaching into his front pocket to retrieve a pack of cigarettes. With practiced ease, he shook one out of the little paper box and caught it between his lips, holding it there as his free hand found his lighter and flicked it so a tiny flame burst to life. Inhaling, he held the fire to the end of the cigarette and took a drag as it lit. Nicotine rushed to his brain and some of his irritation melted away as the taste of the cigarette coated his tongue.

There was nothing like a smoke to put him in a better mood.

Still, he couldn't help but scowl as other students began to pour out of the buildings, talking and laughing with each other. Gilbert caught sight of two males and his scowl deepened when he recognized them. One was a Spaniard called Antonio, the other a Frenchman named—laughably enough—Francis. They'd been his best friends, but that was a long time ago. They had their own cliques now, and Gilbert had himself, his pet bird, and his little brother. Speaking of which, there went the tall blond now, pale blue eyes locked on the small, bouncing youth at his side. The sight made Gilbert wrinkle his nose in disgust. How had his brother gotten stuck with a hyper-active kid like that? He didn't even look old enough to be in college! Yet his brother, Ludwig, had become almost inseparable from the boy. So, really, it was just Gilbert and his bird.

The albino's phone beeped to alert him that he had a class starting in fifteen minutes. World History, probably. At least, that was the class he thought he had next, but he hadn't bothered to check his schedule that morning, so he wasn't sure.

Eh, might as vell go.

Dropping his almost-finished cigarette and grinding it out with his shoe, the albino stood and made his way to the building where the social sciences were taught. No one looked at him as he stared straight ahead, shoulders hunched forward, hands jammed into his pockets. Gilbert didn't bother trying to look friendly, and he certainly wasn't going to waste his awesome self on the lame-o's that went to this school. They weren't worth his time. All he wanted was to pass his classes and graduate so he would finally be able to escape the shining sun that was his little brother.

It wasn't that he didn't love Ludwig. He did, as much as anyone would love their little brother, but the blond was so disgustingly perfect that Gilbert couldn't find a reason to try anymore. Even growing up, it was "Ludwig is so smart, he'll be a doctor or a scientist one day," or, "Look how strong our son is! Ludwig's got the muscles of an ox," and, "Could any parent ask for a more orderly, well-kept son than Ludwig?" Ugh. His parents absolutely fawned over his little brother, and Gilbert had resented it right from the start. So he wasn't as tall as Ludwig, wasn't as broad in the shoulder and his albinism was a bit frightening to some people, his grades were as good and he wasn't quite as clean as the blond. So what? That didn't mean he wasn't awesome, and if Gilbert was anything, he was awesome.

His scowl still in place, the moody college student dropped into a chair at the back of his World History class and waited for the rest of the students to show up so class could begin. God, he already wanted another cigarette, but then, he always smoked more when he was depressing himself with thoughts of his parents.

I need to find a better outlet or all zese cigarettes are going to kill me.

Lung cancer was definitely not awesome, but Gilbert was addicted to nicotine and he had yet to bother trying any of those so-called cures that were supposed to help a person quick in record time. Besides, he liked smoking. Smoking made him look almost as badass as he really was.

Sitting there, it occurred to the albino that he hadn't brought his bag or any of his notebooks, so he wouldn't be able to take notes on the lecture. A glance at the clock told him he didn't have time to go back to his dorm and get them without being late.

Fuck. I'll get in trouble if I just sit here doing nuzing.

There had to be something he could do to avoid having points taken off his grade, and Gilbert quickly scanned the room in search of anything that might solve his problem. His gaze landed on a student he hadn't noticed before, sitting in the farthest corner of the room, head bent over the desk. From here, Gilbert couldn't be sure if it was a boy or a girl because of the long-ish wavy blond hair that was hiding the student's face, and he or she was dressed in jeans and a red hoody, so it was impossible to judge by body shape.

"Hey," Gilbert said, loudly enough for the other student to hear him but not loud enough to catch the attention of everyone else in the room. "Hey, red hoody."

Startled, the blond looked up and around the room, and blue-violet eyes landed on Gilbert. "Yes?"

Ah, a boy. Gilbert did his best to look friendly in an attempt to win the stranger over. "Can I borrow a few sheets of paper and a pen? I forgot mine."

The blond looked pleasantly surprised and nodded, quickly ripping several sheets of blank paper out of his notebook and standing. His footsteps seemed unsure as he brought them over to where Gilbert was sitting. "Here." He handed over the paper and a perfectly sharpened pencil. "I'm Matthew, by the way. Matthew Williams."

"Gilbert Beilschmidt." The albino looked away from Matthew so he wouldn't have to see the recognition at his last name. Just about everyone on this stupid campus recognized his last name because of Ludwig, and at first they were interested in meeting Gilbert, but once they learned how different he was from his younger brother, they lost interest. Gilbert hated it.

"It's nice to meet you, Gilbert."

What? The white-haired student looked up to see a genuine albeit shy smile on Matthew's face and, to his surprise, felt himself smiling back. Not scowling, glaring, smirking or sneering. Just smiling. The kid had really cool eyes, a blue that was closer to being purple, and he had one curl that stuck out to the side of his face—Gilbert wanted to touch it, but refrained.

"Yeah…you, too…"

Matthew looked like he wanted to say something else, but at that moment the teacher walked in, so he just waved a little and returned to his desk.

The next hour and fifteen minutes of World History class was entirely lost on Gilbert even though he pretended to take notes and listen. He really had intended to use the borrowed paper and pencil to keep up with the lecture, but he found it entirely impossible to focus, especially with Matthew sitting only a few chairs away.

"Can anyone tell me which country the United States of America first went to war with after winning its independence from Great Britain?" the professor asked, brown eyes scanning the classroom. The only hand that went up was Matthew's, but the teacher didn't seem to notice him. "Anyone?"

He's sitting right zhere, damn it. Just call on him. For some reason, it bothered Gilbert that the professor was apparently ignoring Matthew even though no one else knew the answer.

"Excuse me, sir," Matthew spoke up hesitantly, and the professor finally looked at him.

"Yes, mister…?"

"Matthew, sir. The answer is Canada."

"Correct. Can you tell me why they went to war….?" The professor paused, searching for the name he had just been told and already forgotten.

The blond was even quieter this time. "Matthew. Because they wanted to prove to the world that they were powerful enough to win a war, and also to seize land from Canada."

"Also correct, Marcus. Now, when—"

"Are you fucking serious?"

Every head in the room turned to stare at Gilbert, including the professor and Matthew, both of whom looked shocked that he had both interrupted class and cursed so loudly. The professor looked particularly indignant.

"Is there a problem, Mister Beilschmidt?" It was clear from the man's tone and expression that he couldn't believe Gilbert was related to one of the school's star students.

"Ja, there's a problem." Gilbert glared back at the teacher with all the disdain he could muster. "You called him Marcus. His name is Matthew, like he told you twice. Are you deaf or just stupid?"

The teacher looked irritated as he locked eyes with the albino. "I teach over three hundred students a day, Mister Beilschmidt. I'm not going to remember the names of each and every student that comes into my classroom."

"So you're stupid."

An angry red began taking over the man's face. "Unless you want to fail this course, I'd suggest you either sit through the rest of the lecture without saying a single word, or you get out of my classroom and receive a mark of absence for today."

"I'll stay, if you can remember his name," Gilbert decided, lifting a pale hand and pointing to where Matthew was sitting. The blond looked terrified, as if he couldn't believe he'd somehow been dragged into a fight between a teacher and a student and would have liked nothing better than to turn invisible to avoid all the eyes that were suddenly looking straight at him.

Gilbert could practically see the veins throbbing in the professor's neck and face, much to his amusement. Some of the teachers around here got upset pretty easily, though being cursed at and insulted in front of a full classroom would probably bother even the calmest of professors.

Several moments of silence passed as the professor looked back and forth between Matthew and Gilbert. He clearly didn't remember the blond's name but didn't want to admit it. Finally, he straightened to his full height and pointed at the door. "Out, Beilschmidt."

With a shrug, the red-eyed college student gathered his papers and went to where Matthew was sitting. Matthew stared up at him with wide eyes, his glasses slipping down his nose adorably and that one curl bouncing ever so slightly as he moved. He looked partially terrified and partially grateful that Gilbert had bothered to stand up for him, even over something so trivial as a teacher forgetting his name.

"Thanks for lending me your pencil," Gilbert said loudly enough for the teacher to hear as he placed the writing utensil on the blond's desk. Then he turned and left the classroom, grinning and winking cheekily at the professor just before the door closed.

Damn, zat vas zee most fun I've had in ages, he thought to himself, grinning as he leaned against the wall just outside the classroom door. There wasn't that much time left for class, so he'd decided to wait and catch Matthew on his way out. He wanted to apologize for making the other boy the center of attention since the blond hadn't looked at all comfortable with it, but he also wanted to get to know him better. Matthew was the first person in long, long time who hadn't immediately asked about Ludwig upon hearing his last name. Gilbert loved his little brother, but was it so wrong to be sick and tired of hearing how great the tall German was?

When class finally ended and students began leaving the classroom, Gilbert waited until he spotted the already-familiar wavy blond hair before joining the stream and easily moving to Matthew's side.


The blond jumped, startled, and clutched at the strap of his bag for dear life before recognizing Gilbert. "O-oh, hi, Gilbert."

It was hard not to grin. "Sorry about that, you know, making everyone stare at you. It just bothers me when people like him can't bother to remember someone's name."

Matthew attempted to smile, though it looked a little strained. "Well, I'm used to it, I guess. People don't tend to remember me or notice me very much."

"Why not?"

"I'm too quiet, especially compared to my brother. No one ever forgets him."

Ah, so Matthew was overshadowed by his brother, too. Well, at least that was something they had in common.

"Who's your brother?" Gilbert asked, wondering if he'd ever heard of him, though he didn't recognize Matthew's last name.

"Alfred Jones. He's a senior."

"Hm. Never heard of him."

The blond looked surprised at this but didn't comment on it as the two walked along the sidewalk.

"I zought your last name vas Villiams, not Jones," the albino pointed out in an attempt to make conversation.

"Alfred and I are only half brothers," Matthew explained. "We have the same mom, but different dads. We grew up separately, and our parents decided to send us to the same college to try to get us to get to know each other, but it hasn't really worked."

"Vhy not?"

Matthew shrugged, twisting his hands on the strap of his bag in a nervous fashion. "He's kind of loud and popular and goes out a lot, but I prefer the peace and quiet, so we don't spend very much time together even though we're roommates."

That sounded extremely similar to Gilbert's current situation with Ludwig, at least in respect to the fact that he shared a room with his own brother yet rarely spent time with him. "I know how you feel."

"You do?"

"Ja. My little bruder goes here, and we share a room, but I don't see him very often. He...has more friends zan I do."

Nodding, the blond loosened his grip on his bag somewhat. They were quiet for a moment.

"So, vhere are you headed, Matthew?"

"To the library to study." He bit his lip, hesitating. "Do you, uh, wanna come with?"

The library? Lame. Gilbert usually considered himself to be too awesome to waste his time in the library, but he liked Matthew and was willing to put up with those stuffy old librarians to spend time with him.

"Ja, but I need my zings from my dorm, first."

Pleased with the response, Matthew smiled. "No problem. I'll walk with you, if that's okay."

Gilbert nodded and changed direction, leaving the slightly shorter blond towards the hall he and Ludwig lived in. When they got to the room, he made sure to knock before swiping his key and opening the door, and then he peeked in just to make sure his perfect baby brother wasn't in there with that little brunet kid. Unfortunately, Gil had walked in on them once, which made him paranoid about going into his own dorm, but he tried to act as casual as possible upon entering the empty dorm and picking his bag up off the floor.

"Wow, it's so clean in here," Matthew commented, looking around curiously. "I thought college dorms were supposed to be super messy."

Shrugging, Gilbert packed his books away into his bag. "Ludvig, my bruder, and I vere raised by our vater, our dad. He vas in ze military, so ve vere taught to be very neat and orderly."

Despite his words, the albino's side of the room wasn't quite as clean as Ludwig's side. He wasn't anal about keeping his bed perfectly made, and he didn't organize his school books by size or title. His dirty clothes were piled in, on and around his hamper whereas Ludwig's were all placed inside his hamper with the lid closed to hide them from view of guests.

Once he had all his books, he slung his bag over his shoulder and went back to where Matthew was waiting patiently by the door.

"Ready?" the blond asked, looking up at him with a shy smile, and Gilbert let himself smile back as he nodded.

"Lead zhe vay."

Together, the albino and blond left the dorm hall and went to the library, stopping to buy smoothies at the small café in the lobby on their way to the study rooms in the basement. Gilbert let Matthew walk in front, since he didn't actually know where they were going. He may have been a junior, but that didn't mean he'd ever ventured into the library's basement; he'd never even checked out a book before and only ever went to the library to print off papers or stop at the café.

Matthew, on the other hand, seemed to know exactly where he was going, and even hummed softly as he walked. It took Gilbert a second to recognize the tune.

"Is zat zhe Canadian anzem?"

The blond glanced back at him in surprise. "You know it?"

"Nein, but I've heard it often enough to know vhat it is. Vhy are you humming it?"

Dropping his bag on the floor, the blond sat on one of the lounge chairs set up in the study room he'd chosen, his legs tucked under him—Gilbert noticed for the first time that Matthew was actually on the petite side. "I grew up in Canada. Alfred was raised in the U.S. I'm only here on a schooling visa, so I'll go back when I graduate. Sometimes I get a little homesick, but humming the anthem helps."

Gilbert nodded in understanding as he sat in the chair next to Matthew's. He and Ludwig had moved to America with their parents several years ago, but both brothers still had thick German accents and often slipped into their native tongue, especially when the words were similar. Though he was now an American citizen, he still missed Germany at times.

The two males moved at the same time to open their bags and retrieve their books. It was quiet as they studied, occasionally making comments to each other about the lessons or teachers, and Gilbert found that he enjoyed Matthew's company immensely. Perhaps school wouldn't be such a bore with the shy Canadian around.