It was quiet in Gilbert and Ludwig's dorm, mostly because Gilbert was there by himself. This close to the end of the semester, boxing practice had been suspended until after winter break, so he had a lot of free time now. Of course, he and Ludwig had taken to working out together since sports were unavailable, but he still had more time for himself than his blond brother did.

So he was lying on his bed with his phone in his hands while Gilbird perched on top of his head. The little yellow creature was content in his next of messy white hair, occasionally letting out a quiet little peep, and only shifted and shuffled if Gilbert happened to move too much.

Quiet, the albino tapped his fingers against the edges of his phone as he thought. He had a test tomorrow, the last one in that class before the final. November was going fast and only the first two weeks of December would be taken up by school. Less than a month. Barely over three weeks, and from experience, Gilbert knew those three weeks would go by much too fast. First, though, he needed to get past this history test. He'd been taking good notes for most of the semester, but studying on his own was hard. He got distracted, he lost interest, he procrastinate. He knew he needed another person there with him if he was going to accomplish anything.

The question was, did he wait for Ludwig to get back and study with him, or did he invite Matthew? They had the same test, after all, so it would make sense for them to study together the way they used to. But they hadn't spent time together alone since becoming friends again. It wasn't something they'd talked about, but neither of them had made any move to see the other outside of class unless there would be other people around. Since Matt roomed with Alfred and almost always had friends around, it hadn't been a problem. Gilbert was slowly rebuilding his friendships with Francis and Antonio. Mostly Antonio, but no one expected him to get close to Francis.

Sighing, Gilbert looked up as if that would allow him to see the bird on his head. "Vhat do you zhink, Gilbird? Do you vant to see Matzhew?"

Gilbird chirped softly and Gilbert decided to take that as a yes. Steadying his grip on his phone, the albino opened a new message and addressed it to the blond Canadian.

Want to study for history?

He wasn't worried that Matt wouldn't reply—the younger student was much too polite to ignore him—but he did think there was a good chance that his offer would be turned down. If that happened, then he'd just wait for Ludwig to get back and it wouldn't be a big deal, but he did want to see Matt without all the noise and distractions of Alfred's friends.

Zzz…zzz…

A little amused because it seemed that Matt was still just as quick about replying to texts now as before, Gilbert clicked the message open.

Sure, your room?

Ja, if that's all right.

Be there in five.

Kay

Matthew was coming over. They were going to spend time alone together for the first time in weeks, and Gilbert was more excited about it than he should have been. It was just Matt, his best friend, coming over to study for a test. There was no reason for him to be excited or for Francis to get mad—No one said it, but they all knew the older blond was wary of Gilbert being around Matthew.

"Matt's coming over, Gilbird," the albino said quietly, looking up again. Gilbird peeped. He knew his pet didn't really understand, but he also thought Gilbird would be happy to see Matt. The Canadian had been pretty fond of him, and Gilbird loved anyone who petted him and called him handsome the way Matt had. Chances were, Matthew would make it all of two steps into the dorm before Gilbird claimed his head or shoulder to rest on.

He should probably get his history book and notes out so he'd be ready when Matt got there, but he didn't want to disturb Gilbird, and he was really comfortable. Getting up seemed like so much effort. Ugh. Really, he could see his books on his desk barely five feet away. It shouldn't seem like such a struggle to move from his bed to his desk to the futon, and yet he found himself staring at his books as if by force of will alone he could move them to his bed.

"Gil?" Matthew's voice sounded from outside the door, accompanied by a quiet knock.

Wow, had he really been staring at his books that long?

"Come in!" Now suddenly worried that he would look unattractively lazy, Gilbert quickly sat up—dislodging Gilbird and making him whistle in annoyance as he fluttered to the desk chair—and straightened his clothes. The door opened just as he was flattening his hair, and Matthew came in.

"Hey." The blond smiled, chin tucked towards his collarbone so that he could peer over his glasses. After being outside in the cold, the heat of the building was making them fog up, and Gilbert had the immediate thought that this Canadian was the cutest thing on the planet.

"Hallo." He grinned and stood, his first instinct to hug the shorter male, though he stopped himself before he could make a move to do so. That would probably have been a bit awkward. Hugs might not be welcome at this point. Luckily, Gilbird interrupted and filled the absence of a hug with a series of loud chirps as he abandoned the chair in favor of Matthew's shoulder.

"Hey, Gilbird," the Canadian murmured as a feathered head nuzzled at his cheek. "Missed you, too, buddy."

Careful not to disturb his tiny passenger, Matt slid his bag off his shoulder and took off the white hat he'd been wearing—the ball on top wobbled a little as he pulled off his gloves and tucked them into his coat pockets. "Futon?"

"Ja." As casual as he could, Gilbert crossed the room to pick up his books while Matthew kicked off his snowy boots. They met at the futon and sat next to each other, both a little shy and cautious about this; Matthew shrugged out of his coat and let it drape over the futon, slowly enough that Gilbird could climb onto his shoulder and settle down to sleep in the warm space provided by Matthew's neck and hair.

"No plans vizh zhe guys tonight?"

Shaking his head, the blond took his history book and notes out of his bag and placed them carefully on his lap. "It was just me and Al. We decided that today was a homework day, and Alfred gets distracted too easily to have everyone else around. Kind of like you." He smiled, his tone slightly teasing towards the end, and Gilbert fought back a grin.

"Ja, ja, vhatever. Vhere do you vant to start?"

"I think the study guide says," Matt replied absently as he flipped through his book in search of the stapled packet. It was neatly folded and tucked between two pages and only took him a moment to find, and he presented it to Gilbert with a slight flourish. As much as they both disliked their history professor, the man was generous when it came to study guides. The questions were specific and space was provided for them to write the answers so that once the guide was filled out, it would be easy to go over as many times as a student needed.

"Fill it out and quiz each other?"

"Ja."

Such was their usual study method, because it involved copying the information down the way Matthew liked to study, and the verbal corrections and reminders would help Gilbert memorize the information. In near silence, both boys turned to the right page in their books and began looking for the answer to the first question. The first five or so questions were simple, easy to find definitions and dates, but after that they had to summarize important historical events and figures, and after that there were sample essay questions. History exams were always at least fifty questions, true or false, multiple choice, short answer, and one or two essays, depending. The professor didn't like to give them time to procrastinate and dawdle, though they were allowed to stay late to finish if they needed to. Hopefully, this study session would mean that neither Gilbert nor Matthew had to stay over the allotted class time.

"Glad ve only have vone more of zhese."

"No kidding. Are you registered for spring classes yet?"

"Nein, I vas going to see my advisor tomorrow."

"Same."

It was quiet, meaningless chatter, but it was better than the sort of awkward silence Gilbert had feared might happen.

"Finished." Matthew closed his book and set it aside, pencil held in his teeth.

"Vone left."

Just as he was penciling the last answer, the door opened and Ludwig appeared, two familiar forms following just behind him.

"Hi, Ludwig," Matt greeted cheerfully, "hey, Feli."

"Matthew! Ciao!" the happy Italian smiled widely to see Matthew sitting on the futon, and ran across the room in order to hug the blond. "Matthew, this is mio fratello, Lovino!" he introduced the other brunet, gesturing at Lovino. He'd already claimed Gilbert's desk chair and was digging through his backpack, so he barely glanced up to acknowledge that he was being talked about. "Lovino, this is Gilbert's friend, Matthew."

"Ciao."

"Hi." With a smile that was a little uncertain, Matt looked at Gilbert out of the corner of his eye and met the albino's gaze. There was something in the set of the older boy's jaw and the way he was holding his mouth that made it clear this was the Lovino that had been driving Antonio crazy since what the Spaniard acted like was the beginning of time itself.

Without a word, the two went back to their study guides. Gilbert finished out the last problem then closed his book so he could use it as a table on his lap. Matthew had been busy scribbling on a sheet of notebook paper, which he ripped out of the notebook and passed to Gilbert. Curious and amused, the albino took the paper and examined what his friend had written there.

"We should do something."

It was an obvious referral to the situation going on between Lovino and Antonio, and Gilbert knew the Spaniard wanted his help in wooing the surly Italian sitting just across the room, but he didn't know what he was expected to do. Lovino had a temper and a vulgar vocabulary. He wouldn't listen to his own brother about Antonio, so why should he listen to Gilbert?

"I don't know what we can do. He's stubborn and won't listen to us."

"We could trick him."

"Mattie, so manipulative."

"Jerk.

Here he'd skipped a line.

"I meant we could set things up to give Antonio a chance without Lovino knowing what we're doing. We're smart, and the others would help. We could pull it off."

"And what makes you think Antonio will put any chance we give him to good use?"

"Do you really think he'd miss an opportunity to win Lovino over? You've heard him pining. He's miserable. Any chance would be a gift from God."

"Fine, I'll help you come up with something after break. Can we study now? I can't fail this test."

He passed the note back Matthew's way and picked up his study guide. "Let's go zhrough it a few times zhen quiz each ozher."

"All right." Folding the note, Matt slipped it into his bag and started reading through his study guide. He made sure to commit each answer to memory, and had read through the guide nearly three times before Gilbert finally set his down.

"Quiz me." Gilbert turned and wiggled his way along the futon until he could lie back, one knee leaning against the futon's back and his other leg hanging off the side with his foot on the floor. His hands were tucked under his head so that it was tilted just enough that he could look at Matthew without having to strain his eyes or neck.

"Causes of the French Revolution."

"Monarchy und zhe Enlightenment, bankruptcy, und…?" he trailed off and glanced at Matthew.

"The social and legal systems."

"Got it."

"Why?"

"Uh…monarchy vas divine right, vich vas rejected by zhe Enlightenment. Bankruptcy because some bastard got into too many vars and built up zhe national debt."

"And the social and legal systems?"

Gilbert paused as he thought, trying to remember what he'd written on his study guide. "…taxes?"

"Yes," Matthew's tone implied that he needed more of an answer.

"Nobles und churches had privileges, so zhe commoners had to pay more, ja?"

"Correct."

Enjoying his small victory, Gilbert grinned and nudged his foot against Matthew's thigh. The Canadian scowled at him, though a smile fought to lift the corners of his mouth, and he pushed at Gilbert's knee playfully.

In this manner, the pair made their way through the study guide over and over until Gilbert could answer every question. He snatched up his guide at some points to double check himself, and between questions would nudge at Matthew or swing his leg up onto the blond's lap only to have Matthew smack his thigh and push him off. Once Gilbert was confident in his knowledge of France and England, Napoleon Bonaparte and his wars, and the Industrial Revolution, it was his turn to quiz Matthew, who, of course, easily answered each question because he'd been memorizing them while quizzing Gilbert.

"I'll think we'll be fine." Matthew's tone was light as he tucked his things back into his bag.

Gilbert sat up on his elbows. "You're leaving already?"

"It's almost ten, and Al wants to talk to me about something."

"Is somezhing wrong?" There was obvious concern in the albino's question.

"No, it's probably about Arthur. They aren't going steady yet and I think Alfred might start panicking soon." After transitioning Gilbird to the back of the futon, the blond stood and picked up his coat, shrugged it on, then put on his hat; it made his hair puff out funny around his ears. "He's probably just desperate for advice since Francis and I are his idea of a successful couple." Too late, he saw the flash of regret on Gilbert's face and both males looked away from each other.

Good going, Matt.

He hadn't meant to hurt Gilbert's feelings, but he didn't want to have to act ashamed of his relationship with Francis, either. Balancing his time between his friends would have been bad enough without the rivalry between his boyfriend and best friend.

"I'll valk you back." Gilbert stood and moved to get his coat.

"You don't have to."

"I vant to."

Too meek to argue, Matt waited in silence as Gilbert got his coat and hat and boots.

"Be back in a bit," the albino said to no one in particular ad he and Matt left the room. They were quiet all the way to the lobby and out into the cold.

"So, zhings are going vell vizh Francis?"

"Yes. He's very considerate." Why did he sound so formal? He didn't want to sound formal. He was talking to his best friend—he should sound relaxed and happy. "I mean, I'm happy. He's great. I don't know what I'd have done without him."

Gilbert squirmed at the uncomfortable knowledge that it was his fault the person he liked was dating someone he all but hated. "Zhat's good. I'm glad he makes you happy."

No, you aren't. Don't lie to me.

He couldn't say that. It would be cruel to force Gilbert to admit his feelings now, especially since they'd already talked about this. They were friends again and Matthew was going to stay with Francis because he was happy with the Frenchman. There could be no good outcome from making the boy beside him admit how he really felt about it. He knew Gilbert was unhappy. Of course he was. Matt wasn't thrilled with it either, but this was how things were. Francis didn't deserve to be hurt. Gilbert had missed his chance. And Matt, well, Matt just didn't want anyone to fight anymore.

This was getting really uncomfortable, and he couldn't even turn the subject away from himself because the only thing he could think to ask was if Gilbert liked anyone but he already knew the answer to that question and it was exactly the opposite of what he wanted to talk about. All his life he'd been avoiding conflicts and now he was standing on the edge of a very tall, very steep, very dangerous cliff and even a tiny stumble could send him tumbling over. He could anger Gilbert or hurt Francis, he could confuse himself, he could accidentally force his friends to take sides or get everyone angry and against him without wanting or meaning to. Caution was essential if he was going to last until semester break.

Relief flooded the blond when they turned the last corner and began down the short stretch of sidewalk to Matthew's dorm hall. Since it was so late, the doors would be locked, and he busied himself with digging his keys out of his coat pocket as they got closer and closer. He'd hoped to have them out and ready so he could go inside before any other awkward conversation could take place, but one of his keys was caught in the lining of his pocket and refused to come free.

"Having trouble?"

For a moment, Matthew continued to struggle with the key but gave up when he realized his gloves were making it nearly impossible to get a good enough grip. "Yeah."

"Let me." Bending down slightly, Gilbert managed to free the metal teeth of the key from Matthew's coat and presented it to him with a grin. "Zhere you go."

"Thanks."

"No problem."

The uncomfortable silence returned for a moment before Gilbert sighed gruffly.

"Come here." Without waiting for a response, he pulled Matthew into a hug and held him tightly, arms locked around the Canadian's middle. "Ich vermisse dich. Ich möchte die Dinge wieder normal. Ich weiß, dass ich durcheinander, und es tut mir leid. Wenn Francis dich glücklich macht, werde ich nicht stören. Nur, bitte, mich nicht hassen weil sie eifersüchtig auf ihn."

Matthew didn't understand a word of the muttered German, but when Gilbert's voice nearly cracked towards the end, he couldn't help but hug the taller male just as tightly as Gilbert was hugging him.

"Je t'aime," he whispered before pulling away. A small, sad smile was all he offered before letting himself into the dorm hall and leaving Gilbert to walk back to his own room by himself. Alone, Matthew hurried up to his room, removing his hat and gloves as he waited for the elevator to carry him up to the right floor, his feet tapping nervously.

He'd just told Gilbert that he loved him. Part of him knew he shouldn't have and he knew he should feel like an idiot for saying it, but it hadn't been a lie and he couldn't bring himself to regret the words.

Finally, the elevator stopped and he started down the hall towards his room, mouth already open when he started turning the door handle.

"Alfred, I—" He stopped, taken off guard by the sight of two blonds in the room, two pairs of totally different blue eyes looking at him. "Francis. I didn't know you were coming over."

"I missed you." Francis smiled warmly and got up to hug the Canadian, then kissed him briefly. "I was just going to drop by to say 'ello, but you weren't 'ere, et Alfred et moi started talking. We must 'ave lost track of time."

"Yeah. Thanks for the advice, Francis," Alfred spoke up, having yet to move from his desk chair.

"Soyez le bienvenu," Francis ducked his head and smiled at the blond American before looking back to Matthew. "'ow was studying?"

"Fine. Gilbert and I should pass without a problem."

"Good." A kiss was placed on the younger boy's forehead. "I would stay, but it's getting late. I'll see you tomorrow, oui?"

Matthew forced a smile and kissed the man who cared for him so deeply. "Oui."

"Good night, mes amis." A small wave and another charming smile, then Francis was gone and the blond half-brothers were left alone in their dorm.

"So." Matthew turned when Alfred spoke. "Why did you look so panicked when you came bursting in here?"

"Panicked?" He decided to play dumb.

"Yeah, panicked. I thought you were gonna have an anxiety attack or something when you saw Francis." Suspicion entered the older boy's expression and he stood. "Did something happen while you were at Gilbert's?"

"No, of course not." Avoiding eye contact, Matthew moved farther into the room and began getting ready for bed. He could feel Alfred's eyes on him the whole while and knew his protective brother wasn't prepared to let it go so easily. "We studied, he walked me back."

"And?"

"What do you mean, 'and?' Nothing else happened."

"Either tell the truth or learn to be a better liar, little bro."

Exasperated and defensive, Matthew turned in time to see Alfred drop onto his bed to stretch out and lounge. "I'm not lying."

"Sure you're not."

Matthew decided he didn't have anything to say to that and finished his bedtime routine in silence. Since Alfred didn't appear ready to go to bed yet, he left the lights on as he climbed up into his loft and settled down to sleep. He knew it was probably going to take him a while to actually fall asleep, but he also knew that if he stayed up, Alfred would keep asking him, and eventually he'd admit what he'd said. There was a good chance Alfred's reaction would be supportive and sympathetic, but he still didn't want to tell the older blond. He didn't want anyone to know.

No one but him and Gilbert needed to know what he'd said.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

I liiiiiiiive!

Hope no one panicked. Missed you weirdoes, you know, but I did get a couple of one shots and a two shot out of the way. If you were wondering where I'd been or you haven't seen them yet, you can go check those out. Split Personality, Need, and Birthday Surprise. Don't be afraid to let me know what you thought! Feedback is better than…everything!

(ROUGH) TRANSLATIONS:

Ich vermisse dich. Ich möchte die Dinge wieder normal. Ich weiß, dass ich durcheinander, und es tut mir leid. Wenn Francis dich glücklich macht, werde ich nicht stören. Nur, bitte, mich nicht hassen weil sie eifersüchtig auf ihn.

German: I miss you. I want things back to normal. I know I messed up, and I'm sorry. If Francis makes you happy, I won't interfere. Just, please, don't hate me for being jealous of him.