***Well, this is the final chapter! Be warned, it's not a happy one. Thank you so much for all those who followed through with this until the end! You're the best! I would love to hear your final thoughts in reviews. I know this was one of my shorter RusPrus fics, but I still think it's a good one! I hope you enjoy it as well. Thank you for reading!
***Warnings: Violence, angst, a lot of angst, sad times are ahead…
***Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia. I am making no money off of this fic.
Chapter 11: Goodnight Noises Everywhere
"GIVE ME THOSE TICKETS!"
Ivan slammed his fist in to the officer's face, breaking the nose as he did. The officer cried out as his nose gushed blood and Ivan took the chance to snatch back the tickets. The second officer hit him with the nightstick, but against Ivan's broad back he had barely felt the sting. Enraged further, he spun around to meet the terrified gaze of the other officer. Ivan reached his hand out, grasped the man by the face, and slammed him against the wall.
"I've had it with you scum eaters taking whatever you want!" He slammed the man's head continuously against the wall with the blood spot growing larger on the brick. "You are the worse! Disgusting, filthy, and rotten human beings!" He was certain the officer's skull was shattered now, so he tossed the man to the side where the corpse landed on the other.
The first policeman, holding his gushing nose, muttered loudly and scrambled away from the dead body of his partner. Quickly he tried to crawl away but Ivan was only a few strides behind him. "No!" He sputtered. "Please!"
Ivan reached down with both hands and grabbed the man by his uniform jacket. With a heavy roar he slammed the man back up against the wall. Pressing his weight up against the officer, he whispered in his ear. "I hope fucking Gilbert was worth it, because now you're going to die for the act!" Ivan pulled him away from the wall by the back of his hair so the man could see the wall in front of him. "I've been wanting to smash your face in!" The man shouted 'no' but the cries ended when Ivan slammed his face in to the brick. He grinned as he slammed him continuously, four or five more times before letting the body collapse to the ground. What he was about to do next was a Gilbert style of symbolism. It was in poor taste on his end, but Gilbert would approve. "Piss on the law." And that's just what he did.
"HELP!" Someone shouted. "HELP! MURDER! MURDERER!"
Ivan looked around the streets as people were beginning to gather. He had been too careless! He killed these men in the open! Tucking the tickets in his jacket pocket Ivan took off down the street as fast as his feet could carry him. The police would be hunting him down soon. 'Damn it' Ivan thought to himself 'I'm right back where I started from! I have to get back to the circus and grab Gilbert! We have to leave now!'
Arriving at the circus grounds in the park, Ivan rushed towards Gilbert's wagon only to find Clifford, Pumpernickel, and Billy outside of it. Ivan came to a halt, panting heavily, and looked from each one of them. "Where's Gilbert?"
"He's gone." Clifford said with a deep frown. "He left everything behind. We can't find him anywhere!"
"What?" Ivan's eyes widened in disbelief. 'Oh no…he's run away!' "Did he say anything? Anything at all?"
"Not a word." Said the clown. "One of the workers said they saw him running but that was it."
Billy growled. "He must have run away! He has nowhere else to go!"
Ivan gulped. "Let me try and find him. M-Maybe he didn't really run away."
Clifford narrowed his eyes. "The worker said he seemed very upset, and after last night…well, what would you think?"
"I'll find him. When I do I'll bring him back here."
"Take my cloak." Pumpernickel said, removing it from his shoulders to place it over Ivan's. "It looks like rain."
"You'd better bring him back!" Clifford hissed. "Or I will let the law enforcement know where you are!"
Ivan just gave a nod and turned to hurry out of the park and back onto the streets. This wasn't good! It would be best if he hid for a while but the cloak would have to do for now. Lifting the hood over his head, Ivan began to search the streets for Gilbert, looking down every alley. He was afraid to ask anyone if they had seen him in fear of being recognized. Word must be traveling quickly of the murder and there was no reason to make his search hazardous. Gilbert was sick, he couldn't have gotten very far. So up and down Ivan searched. He even called for him.
"GILBE!" He called. "GILBE!"
The sky began to drizzle, and then a little harder before it became a heavy downfall. This was good, though. People would be seeking shelter and wouldn't be out looking for him right away. The heavy rain would shield his face as well. Now where was Gilbert? Where would have run off to and why? He needed to find him so they could make it to the train station.
"Hang on, Gilbert! Just hang on! I will find you! I will save you!"
'No stars…no moon…just rain.'
Gilbert sat between two rusted trash bins alongside a slum house. He kept his head lowered, steadily watching the waterfall of rain dribbling down from the front of his cap. The rain was cold and dark. It chilled him to the bone. He sat on the cold wet ground, arms wrapped around himself, and shivered. Gilbert feared he didn't make it very far from the circus once he started to run for his illness had sent him in to a coughing fit. The violence of the coughing forced him to stop and rest. Once he had caught his breath he ran again, only to nearly pass out this time from exhaustion. He walked between two buildings, seeing nothing but grime, garbage, and trash bins. He couldn't make it any further and had to rest.
Now this would be the spot where Death would come to greet him. Death would stand before him, reach out his hand, and take Gilbert's in his own. And then he could sleep. Let the other streetwalkers and the poor find his shriveled body on the filthy street; a place where he had lived nearly all of his life. It was a struggle every single day to survive, and he was still amazed that he had made it this far. If he hadn't been sick then perhaps he would have lived a bit longer.
There was nothing for him now. What was he living for? He had nothing to look forward to. His illness would kill him before making it out the country, which could only extend his life for a short period of time. And he was poor. Homeless. There was nothing he could do to make his last days on this earth enjoyable, thus was the life of the poor. The only true light in his life was the time he shared with Fredrick. He would suffer this illness a thousand times for the chance to have that moment returned to him. As for Ivan, well, he loved Ivan too- but the feelings were mutual. Why fall in love with a person who is going to die? Why pick a wilting flower? He couldn't blame Ivan for not wanting to love him.
'But I would still love him if our roles were reversed. I wouldn't limit myself. Oh well…it means nothing now.' The rain continued to beat down on him. 'Come on, Death. You sure are taking your sweet goddamn time!' He heard footsteps approaching. His eyes widened. 'Is that Death?' The footsteps came closer. Gilbert was afraid to look up when the person, or monster, stopped to stand in front of him. 'I've been staring Death in the face for weeks now…so why can't I look up at him now?'
'I know that voice!" He looked up at the dark form, blinking the heavy raindrops from his eyes. "Ivan?"
"We need to get you out of the rain."
Gilbert lowered his head again, shaking it slowly. "No, I'm fine here."
"You are not fine. Gilbert, you are sick; and being in the cold rain will only make it worse."
"I don't care anymore."
Ivan crouched down in front of him. "Well, I care about you. And I am still going to help you. Come with me. We'll go somewhere to hide."
Gilbert chuckled. "Hide? I'm tired of hiding. I'm tired of everything. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired." He lowered his hat. "I just want to die."
"I won't let you go that easily. Climb onto my back. I know a place where we can go."
Gilbert wanted to refuse yet a small part of him chose to go with Ivan. Maybe he could die somewhere that was dry. He climbed onto Ivan's back, slumping, and allowed himself to be carried. Ivan was running, holding on tightly to his thighs. Gilbert hissed a bit in pain but kept silent. He didn't know where they were going nor did he bother to ask. He really didn't care where they were going so long as he could end his life with little issue. Ivan suddenly whispered, 'we're here', and Gilbert slowly opened his eyes to look at where they were. They stood outside of a church, but it was not the one they previously shared. This was an active church. Gilbert chuckled.
"I've been to religious houses before, Ivan. They always turn me away."
"Perhaps we can't sleep inside, but maybe they have a stable, or a shed. We can rest there."
Ignoring Gilbert's defeated attitude, Ivan marched up the steps careful not to slip on the wet surface. The lights were on so the inhabitants were present. Balancing Gilbert's body, he knocked with the heavy doorknocker. A few short minutes later the large door opened to reveal two elderly nuns. They looked a bit surprised and frightened by the two of them.
"Sisters…please…my friend is very sick, he has the cough. We humbly ask shelter for the night. We will sleep anywhere; anywhere that is dry. Please, my friend does not have much time." The sisters told him to wait as they left to receive the head priest. Ivan bowed his head to the older man. "Father, we seek shelter for the rainy evening."
The priest looked at Ivan, and then to Gilbert. "This is not a hospital, nor is it a safe house for those with the cough. We have our stables out back. You and your friend are more than welcomed to spend the night there. I will have someone bring out some bread and water."
"Thank you, Father."
"Bless you, my son." With the sign of the cross the door was closed to them.
Gilbert mumbled. "God's messengers on earth can suck my cock."
"Gilbert…" Ivan said in a warning tone while walking back down the steps.
"Really! I'm fucking dying here and he won't let us in! I hate this world!"
"Hush now. Let's now frighten the animals."
Ivan carried him around the back of the church, past the gardens, and to the row of stables. The rain made it hard to see but Ivan looked in to each one, searching for the stable with the least troublesome animal. He chose the largest stable, which contained two sheep and one lamb. The sheep hurried out of the way as Ivan entered the stall. He gently placed Gilbert on to the cleanest spot of hay, standing a moment to catch his breath before plopping down beside him.
"At least it's dryer in here." Ivan stated.
Gilbert was shivering. "Doesn't feel like it!"
"Take off your jacket and hat while I search for something to cover you. They have a few horses here, so there is bound to be a horse blanket or something." Ivan got back up to climb over each stall wall and in to the next; searching for something, anything, he could use to keep Gilbert warm. Once he came upon the horses, Ivan was relieved to find two blankets, one green and one black. He eagerly brought them back to Gilbert. "Look, Gilbie! I found you blankets!"
"Oh, good. So now I can be warm when I die."
Ivan removed his coat and hat as well. "What makes you think you will die tonight?"
Gilbert wrapped the black blanket around his shoulders, giving a heavy shudder. "You didn't see all the blood I coughed up. The more blood there is the closer I am to death. Fucking death, Ivan!" He sneezed. "I sure as hell wasn't going to die in that god-forsaken place dressed as a fake demon!" Ivan calmly sat down behind him and wrapped the green blanket around them both. Gilbert felt at ease right then.
"Is that why you ran away? You were scared of dying?"
"Of dying there. Yeah. I figured…if I ran away I could hold on to some of my pride and croak on the streets. I grew up on them. Alone. Unloved. Hated. Feared. Scorned." He sighed as he felt his body slowly warming up. "The streets I knew well…so why not die as I lived?"
Ivan closed his eyes, holding Gilbert close to him. "Gilbie…I wish you had stayed and waited for me to return."
"I didn't know where you were. I panicked."
"I was getting our train tickets."
Gilbert gasped softly. "Train tickets?"
He nodded. "I spent all we had to buy them. I didn't know you'd be gone when I got back, for I planned to run away with you that very moment. But now-"
"I fucked everything up." Gilbert hissed through his teeth. How could he have been so stupid? "It doesn't matter really. I would die before we could even get to the country."
"You don't know that."
"But I feel it." He leaned in to the other. "I'm just tired, Ivan. I'm tired of losing. I have everything going against me and I don't have the strength to fight it anymore. I'm done with this life. I'm done with everything."
Gilbert paused for a moment. "I guess so. Even you. I know you don't really love me as I hoped you did. Why would you allow yourself to fall in love with me? A person who is close to death."
Ivan breathed in his scent. "We haven't known each other long enough, Gilbie. I would say…we are best friends and not lovers. If we could stay together longer I know I would fall completely in love with you. Are you in love with me because you really feel it? Or are you thinking you're in love with me because you have nothing else in this world that can make you happy?"
Gilbert was chest fallen. Ivan spoke the truth. Yes, he was in love with the idea of being in love but knew it wasn't true. It felt like love. He wanted it to be love. But it wasn't love; it was a special bond between two sufferers trying to survive in a cruel world. Coming to this realization, Gilbert suddenly felt much more at ease and content with himself. Ivan said he would fall in love with him if they had more time together, and Gilbert knew it would be the same for him. The idea of that made him smile, and it was a true smile. Perhaps a special bond of deep friendship was better than love.
"I just want to be happy…that's all I want."
Ivan squeezed him in a hug. "Do you think death will make you happy?"
Gilbert let out a sniffle. "I don't…really have a choice, do I? I think death would be better."
"Well-" He looked out the stables to the pouring rain. "In death I'll be free of everything. Free of pain, suffering, heartache, and hatred. I won't have to worry about begging for food. I won't have to prostitute myself for a single piece of bread. And best of all…everything would be quiet."
Gilbert was scaring him. Ivan knew for certain that Gilbert was speaking the truth in his reasoning's for death. Gilbert's body was suddenly wracked with coughing, forcing them apart. Ivan helped Gilbert hunch over as he coughed up large amounts of blood. Ivan stared in shock at the amount on the dry straw before them. Gilbert hadn't been lying when he said there had been more. Even Ivan knew that his friend was nearing the end of his life, finally losing the battle with the cough.
"Damn it." He spoke between coughs. "My chest is on fire!"
"Here, lay down." Ivan helped him lay back on the hay. Gilbert was still coughing but they were manageable now.
Getting Gilbert to the train station would prove impossible. He doubted the man could even stand, much less walk or run. They were running out of time too. Ivan was being hunted once again for killing those officers, all in revenge for their cruel treatment of Gilbert. Regardless of what happens to Gilbert, Ivan knew he had to be on that train before they could hunt him down. Maybe now it was time to tell Gilbert the full truth about himself. Gilbert would want to know.
"Gilbie," He lay down next to him. "I think…I should tell you about myself before…before you go away forever."
The albino turned to face him. "I would like to know more about you, Ivan. Don't leave anything out."
Rolling onto his side so that he was facing Gilbert's face, Ivan began his tale.
"I lived on a farm owned by a rich Duke. When he got into trouble I was forced to leave the farm. This was after my mother was killed by an automobile. I worked with my father until he died as well, leaving me all alone. I was afraid and lonely, so I met with some people who offered me opium. I grew very addicted to it and it made me do some horrible things."
"Like what? What horrible things could you do, Ivan?"
Ivan closed his eyes for a moment. "Like murder." He opened them again. "I murdered some innocent men, or so I was told. I was high on opium, I attacked them, and I killed them. People thought I was insane, so after I was arrested I was taken to an asylum. It was…a terrible place. They tortured me night and day, treating me like a piece of trash good only for their science experiments. Once I escaped, I vowed to never go back. That's why I wear these bandages, to hide my face, as you know. But I have some confessions to make as well."
Gilbert nodded. "I'm listening."
"I…I was being blackmailed by Clifford and Billy. They knew you liked me, and they found out who I was. So…they told me to make you more compliant with the demon show, or else they would tell the police whom I was. I was scared, Gilbie. Terrified. I did not want to go back to that awful place! I'm sorry for using you against your will…but I was being selfish. But if you saw how I was treated there…then you would understand why I did what I did. I couldn't go back there, Gilbert. And I still can't go back there."
Gilbert closed his eyes for a moment. "So you were using me to-"
"But I had other plans to counter the blackmail!" Ivan defended himself. "I needed us to earn money so I could buy our train tickets. I had to…to sell something, though." He saw those pink eyes widened, first in shock and then in anger. "I sold your flute. I'm very sorry."
"That was YOU? YOU SOLD FREDRICK'S FLUTE?" The yelling brought forth another vicious rounds of bloodied coughs. "That was all I had left of him!" He started to cry, wiping away the tears with his sleeve. "That was all I had left! THAT WAS ALL I HAD LEFT!"
Ivan pulled him close, softly hushing him as the albino weakly fought back by pounding on Ivan's chest.
"WHY? WHY? WHY, WHY, WHY?"
"I wanted to see you safely to the country! I wanted to free you from this city and get you someplace where we could both be safe! I did it for us, Gilbert! For US. It was a necessary sacrifice, and I'm sure Fredrick would have understood why I did it."
Gilbert continued to sob and cough against Ivan's chest. "You bastard…damn you! Damn you to hell! You fool! You stupid, stupid fool!" He threw his arms around Ivan's larger body. "Damn you…" He trailed off.
Ivan stroked the damp back. "You carry his memories, Gilbert, not the flute. The flute was just a piece of metal. A material. An object. It is in your heart and in your mind where Fredrick lives."
After Gilbert's sobs had ceased, he spoke. "I couldn't even play it anyway. I know why you did it. I just wish that I could have died with it beside me."
"But you have me beside you."
Gilbert thought about it, and then he smiled. "Yes…yes I do. My biggest fear was always dying alone. It's comforting to know that I have someone here with me. That's what is most important."
"So…do you forgive me?"
"I do." He gave a shallow sigh. "I don't care about your past or what you did to me. It doesn't mean anything now." He coughed again, turning his head away. "I never want to hear the sounds of my cough again. I just want…I just want silence."
Ivan nuzzled the damp white hair. "Then you shall have it."
The two of them fell silent until a nun appeared with a pitcher in one hand and some bread in the other. Ivan sat up to take it from her, giving her a soft 'thanks'. He offered the bread to Gilbert but the albino was too weak to eat it; or rather, he didn't want to. Ivan offered him the water, which Gilbert drank greedily.
"I love fresh water." He panted, smacking his lips. "Mmm…fresh."
Ivan took a little sip, saving the rest for Gilbert. He noticed that Gilbert was crying again, but this time the tears were silent. Holding back his own, Ivan lay down beside him once again, pulling him in to a lover's embrace. "Why do you cry, Gilbie?"
"I'm scared, Ivan. I'm scared."
"I'm here with you."
"Yes…but you can't accompany me in death. How ironic that it's raining this evening when I always hoped to fall asleep under the stars. I was never fully sure which moon I saw in the sky would be my last. I wanted a warm night…with a clear starry sky, a bright moon, and silence. I wanted the air silent and still, free of smells and sounds. I hoped that God would grant me that little wish, instead He sends me rain." He coughed again.
Ivan closed his eyes, feeling a single tear slip down his cheek and hit the straw. "But you have something better than that. When you were wishing for your moon and stars and silent night, you were thinking about dying alone. It may be raining outside, but inside it is warm, dry, and soft. The best part is, you are not alone. You are here, wrapped in my arms, warm and safe. I only wished I could have done more for you in our short time together."
Gilbert managed a chuckle. "You're right…I'm not alone. I have you. My friend. My friend and lover." He held Ivan close. "Keep holding me like this." His voice was growing weaker. "It hurts to talk. I just want to say…goodnight to the world."
"Rest now, sweet Gilbie. I've got you." He lifted Gilbert's chin so he could place a gentle kiss on the dry lips. "I'll see you in the morning. Goodnight…Gilbie." He could barely get the last two words out.
Gilbert's only answer was a smile.
Ivan didn't know what else to say. All he could do was hold Gilbert close and ease the man's suffering as best he could. There was a very good chance that once Gilbert fell asleep this night he would not wake up to see tomorrow. Ivan inhaled deeply, fighting hold back his tears. He had witnessed so much death in his lifetime; his mother, father, friends, and now Gilbert. Poor Gilbert suffered more than all of them. Even through all his hardships, Gilbert managed to survive this long and keep a strong attitude. It was only towards the end of his days that Gilbert's fighting spirit began to fade.
After tomorrow, whatever happens, Ivan knew he had to get on that train. So for the rest of the evening, he silently prayed to God to give Gilbert the strength to make it through the night. He prayed long and hard, but feared it would do no good. Eventually, exhaustion took over and he fell asleep beside his friend and…lover.
The rain continued to pour.
By morning, the storm had passed along with the rain and bright sunshine shone through the stable walls. Ivan had to squint his eyes first before opening them with a few blinks to block out the sun. Instantly, he remembered Gilbert beside him. Holding his breath and fearing the worst, Ivan carefully rolled Gilbert onto his back. He let out a happy sob of relief to see that Gilbert was still breathing. He glanced up at the sky to thank God before turning back to his albino lover and friend. Although Gilbert was still breathing, the man looked to have grown sicker overnight. Gilbert looked like death. Gently he stroked the thin brittle hair, pulling away with a few strands of it on his fingers. Ivan knew that Gilbert hadn't any strength left to fight the disease. It wouldn't be long now.
"Gilbie?" He whispered in the other's ear. "Gilbie."
"Mmm…" The albino opened his tried eyes. "Ivan?"
Ivan smiled. "Yes, I'm right here. It's morning, Gilbie! And it's a beautiful one!"
"I should like…to see it." Gilbert held out his hand, signaling for Ivan to help him up. Ivan pulled him into a sitting position so he could see the morning sun. Gilbert felt a small smile touch his lips. "It is a beautiful…morning."
"The sun hasn't shone like this in days! Isn't it lovely?"
"Yeah." Gilbert coughed a bit. "I slept through the night."
"You did! That's wonderful! Let's get into our coats and head to the train station right now!"
Gilbert slowly shook his head. "Ivan…I can't go with you. I can't even feel my legs…I can barely move." Another cough. "I used to be so strong when I was younger…so strong. I never thought I would be defeated…but now-" He swallowed. "You can't beat sickness."
"Gilbert, don't talk like that! Please, I will carry you if I must."
"I will slow you down. You're a wanted man, Ivan. You have to get on that train."
"Not without you." Ivan said seriously. "I said I will carry you!"
Gilbert's eyes welled with tears. "Don't yell at me…please?"
"I'm sorry." He stroked Gilbert's cheek; the man's skin was so cold!
"I forgive you." Gilbert leaned in to the touch. "Hey…before I croak… let's sing together. One more time? Pestilence and Famine. I have no flute..but…"
Ivan chuckled softly. "Of course." It was a dying man's wish. How could he not say 'yes'? He wanted Gilbert to maintain what little breath he had left. "What should we sing?"
"Fredrick's favorite song?"
Ivan wrapped his arm around Gilbert's shoulders, holding him close. "I'll start."
They sang the song softly, together as one. Ivan was carrying most of the tune while Gilbert was struggling to meet the notes. HE wanted to tell Gilbert to stop, to save his strength, but he feared it would hurt the man's feelings. He wanted to make Gilbert's last moments on this earth a pleasant one, for the suffering man deserved happiness.
And then, the nightmare unfolded.
Gilbert began to cough violently, his entire body rocking with the force. Streams of blood came out between coughs and hit the stable floor. Ivan tried rubbing Gilbert's back but it did no good. Gilbert was gasping and wheezing for breath, unable to do so between the coughs. Blood spotted his shirt, trailing down his chin and pooling in his hands.
"GILBERT!" Ivan cried out, holding the man tightly to him, not caring about the blood. But Gilbert's body started to convulse so Ivan was forced to lay him down. "Gilbert, can you hear me?" His friend and lover was lost to him, those pink yes seeing but not recognizing. Ivan couldn't bear to watch, so he covered his face with his hands. He allowed himself to cry, feeling completely useless and scared. It was reminding him of his mother, and then his father. 'Gilbert…Gilbert…Gilbert…I'm sorry!'
The coughs had ceased. The rustling of the straw had stopped. Slowly, Ivan lowered his hands to look upon his friend and lover. His breath and heart stopped. Gilbert lay still on the hay, his eyes wide but dull. Blood continued to trickle out of the corner of his mouth. Reaching out a trembling hand, Ivan closed his lover's beautiful eyes. Gilbert was gone from him, and this world. Unable to resist, Ivan lay down beside the corpse of his friend to look upon the angelic face. He wiped away the blood so it looked as if Gilbert were sleeping. Through his tears and his heartbreak, Ivan found himself smiling. Gilbert's suffering had finally come to an end. The troubles and chaos of this world would no longer plague him. It was a dark life Gilbert had lived, yet he hand managed to keep a strong will and remain kind. He befriended Ivan before he even knew who he was. Gilbert was welcoming, friendly, and had a lot of love to give if only the world had showed him a little bit of it.
Now Gilbert can rest in peace where his disease can no longer harm him. He didn't have to smell the polluted air, walk the dirty streets for money, and listen to the ridicule and curses of ignorant people. Ivan had only wished that Gilbert had passed away peacefully in his sleep and not choking on blood. But it was just as Gilbert had said it would be. Now he was free.
'Sleep well, Gilbie.' He kissed the cold cheek. 'May you find happiness wherever you are.'
"Sir?" Ivan sat up quickly to see the priest and a nun watching him. "How is your friend?" Ivan shook his head. "I am very sorry for your lost. I assure you a prayer will be said for him."
Ivan looked at Gilbert's body. "Where can I bury him? I have no money…I cannot bury him in a cemetery."
The priest folded his hands. "We have a potter's field in the woods behind the stables. There is a small shed there with everything you need. The Lord gives us many trials to face while we live our lives on earth. Yet all will be rewarded in the end."
"My friend died choking on his blood. How is that a reward?" He stood up.
"There is a popular belief that we are living in Hell now because we all must suffer so. But there is a light at the end of that cave, and it is there where we find our true salvation."
Those words gave him a small bit of faith, but they still did not heal his heartache over the tragic death of his friend.
Thanking the priest, Ivan carried Gilbert's limp body to the woods wrapped in the blankets. Among the trees and open spaces there were mounds of dirt, old and new, which contained the bodies of loved ones. Ivan could tell by all the crosses marking the graves. He found the shed that housed tools, mostly shovels. First he would have to find an appropriate spot for Gilbert's grave. Ivan walked around, looking at all the possible places. He stumbled upon a small clearing with an open canopy of trees where the sun was shining brightly upon him. This spot would be perfect for Gilbert. The man could look up at the sun every day and say goodnight to the moon and stars. Laying his friend on the dirt, Ivan retrieved the shovel and began to dig.
It took hours to dig the large hole, but soon he was finished. The bandages were beginning to bother him, so without a care he unraveled them. He could feel the sunlight on his face, and it brought a smile to his lips. But he was not ready to bury Gilbert just yet. Ivan still had his knife from long ago, and the bandages would have another use. This was something he used to do to the baby animals when they would die; he would cut out the heart and bury it. He would not bury Gilbert's heart here but would take it with him to the country and give it a proper burial, on free soil. It was a difficult task to perform, especially on a person. This cold and limp body beneath him was full of life a few days ago. Now Gilbert was just the shell of a man.
"Just a shell." Those three words helped to cut through the skin, go beneath the ribcage, and pull out the still warm heart. Ivan stared at it, holding it now in both hands remembering its faint sound during the times they slept together. Ivan smiled and held the heart directly over his, taking a moment to remember Gilbert's bright smile and obnoxious laughter. "I wonder if you can see me wherever you are?" He kissed Gilbert's cold forehead.
After having wrapped the heart tightly in his bandages, Ivan set to placing Gilbert in the deep grave. Carefully he laid Gilbert on the ground, making sure to cover him up tight in the blankets. He didn't want Gilbert to be cold. It was a struggle to climb out, but when he did, the need to fall back in to the hole was strong. Did he want to die with Gilbert? No, he couldn't die. That wouldn't be fair to Gilbert.
"I have to live for the both of us." He said and stood tall, looking down at the wrapped form in the grave. "I love you, Gilbert, and I would have shown you how much if you had lived to see it. I will miss you, my friend. Our meeting was short, but it was one I will always hold dear."
With a constant stream of steady tears, he filled in the grave and placed a makeshift cross at the top.
Ivan stood there for some time staring at the mound, but instead of crying, he sang. He sang every song he and Gilbert performed together. Gilbert loved to hear him sing. It was all he could give right now.
"Alright Gilbert…I have to leave you now. I'm going to catch the train to the country…and I'm taking your heart with me. I promise to live for the both of us. Thank you…for being a friend."
Blowing a kiss to the grave, Ivan finally found the strength to turn away with Gilbert's heart held tightly in his hands.
The train whistle blew loudly. People were pushing and rushing to catch it. Ivan was among them. He had placed Gilbert's heart in his pocket for safekeeping. He had made it here without trouble from the police, and it was all thanks to that heavy rain that made Gilbert's last night miserable but allowed him this chance. Ivan liked to believe it was Gilbert's spirit watching over him to make sure he arrived safely. Ivan kept his head down as he handed his ticket to the conductor who punched a hole in it. He moved to let Ivan on.
'I'm here, Gilbert! I made it to the train! You don't know how much I wish you were with me.'
Ivan took an empty seat in the far cart next to a small window. He spoke to no one as the train rode on. All he did was stare out the window, thinking about Gilbert, both the good times and the bad. He wished he could erase the violent death of Gilbert from his mind, but like his mother's death, it would haunt him until he was dead. In some ways, Ivan felt guilty for living. Gilbert had wanted to live; yet he did not get the chance to live life to the fullest. Ivan would be able to do that, but he would be doing it for Gilbert as well.
He didn't know how long the train ride was, nor did he care if it were to stop or keep on moving. The world would continue to move on, with or without him in it. At least now he would have a real second chance at life.
Two days later…
Ivan had walked through the main country town to reach the many, many farms out in the vast open land. He was tired, and he was hungry. He could not bury Gilbert's heart yet, not until he found an appropriate place. Now came the challenge of finding work on one of these farms. Hopefully no one would recognize him here. This was his chance at a fresh start.
After a few rejections, Ivan was awarded the job of 'farm hand' at a large ranch swarming with horses, cattle, and crops. Ivan gratefully accepted the job and set to work right away. He did, however, get a chance to wonder off in to the back woods of the ranch. There, he could properly bury Gilbert's heart where it would be out of range of the ranch but close enough to 'see' it. Ivan liked to believe that Gilbert's spirit wanted the ranch to be in sight. He found the perfect spot among a large tree surrounded by flowers. Ivan dug a deep hole with his hands first before taking out the heart wrapped in dried, bloodied bandages. He smiled at the organ of his lover, brought it to his lips, and kissed it.
"You don't have to worry about anything now, my friend. Here you are free. The police will never find you. The circus is far behind us. All you have now is fresh air, clear skies, and a beautiful resting place." He lay the heart in the hole and covered it with dirt. Then, he gathered some rocks and made a small circle around the area to mark the grave. He placed a pink wildflower in the center. "I know you'll love it here, Gilbie. On warm nights I'll come and sing to you. Say 'hello' to Fredrick for me. I'm sure I would have liked him. Oh?" Ivan felt a warm breeze on his face, one that gave him a familiar feeling.
Ivan smiled, for he knew who it was; and that gave him the strength to turn away and begin his life anew.
Goodnight noises, everywhere.'
–Goodnight Moon- By Margaret Wise Brown
Four months later…
"Ivan! I need you to bring in that firewood!"
"Right away sir!" Ivan hurried to the woodpile to start gathering some firewood. The sun was shining bright but the air was cold with the promise of autumn right around the corner. "Brrr! Sure is cold!"
There came a tweeting from nearby. Ivan stopped for a moment to listen to the whistling song. It sounded very familiar to him. Curious, he followed the sound to a bare branched bush where a small, plump yellow bird whistled its song. Ivan tilted his head, smiling at the little bird that sang so sweetly. It didn't fly away when he came near. Why was that song so familiar to him?
"Could it be…? Nah, that couldn't be!" The bird sang again. "Could it?" Ivan stared at the bird who fluffed its feathers and shook its head. "You sure are cute, little bird." He held out his hand, palm up, and the bird hopped into it. A little surprised by the trust the bird was showing him, Ivan brought the yellow fuzzball up to his face. "I think I know you." Ivan whistled the same tune. Fredrick's song.
The bird sang back in its whistles.
Ivan laughed. "You must be cold out here, little bird! Why don't you stay with me for the winter, hm?" He placed the bird on his shoulder. Most people would be frightened by this, but Ivan had no fear of the bird. "I think I should name you. How about…Baby Bird?" The bird puffed out its feathers in what appeared to be annoyance. Ivan just grinned. "How about…Gilbird?" The bird nuzzled his cheek. "Sweet little Gilbird…I'm glad you're happy. I think…we'll be friends for a very long time, you and I."
The bird whistled happily.
Gilbird would remain with Ivan throughout the day, but then fly off around early afternoon to nap. The yellow bird would always fly to the same spot and sleep in a small circle of stones among the wildflowers.