_____ sighed as she pulled into the student parking lot. It wasn't because she would suffer from a boring day at school. No, she would be suffering from the lovely hell that is band camp. She played the clarinet in her high school marching band, which meant that band camp was mandatory.
'At least this is my last year of it,' she thought, climbing out her car. This was her senior year, which, in marching band, came with two perks (excluding the obvious seniority): being section leader and only having one more year of band camp.
When _____ turned around, another car parked right next to hers, being very careful not to hit her. The car parked, and out climbed Alfred, Feliciano, Gilbert, and Ludwig.
_____ smiled as they came toward her. "Hey, guys," she said. "Thanks for coming. We could use all the help we can get out here."
Feliciano smiled brightly and waved at her. "Ciao, sorella!"
"Are you ready for this?" said Alfred, wrapping an arm around _____'s neck.
In turn, she wrapped an arm around his. "As I'll ever be," she sighed.
"Mein GOTT!" exclaimed Gilbert, waving his hand in front of his face. "It's so HOT!"
_____ laughed. "Well, that's band camp for you, honey." She pat the albino on the head. "You're just going to have to suck it up like the rest of us."
Gilbert snorted. "Ja, but unlike you, we aren't in band und can leave at any time."
A pair of arms deftly snaked around _____'s waist, pulling her close to the owner of said arms. _____ was surprised at first, but smiled and looked up at her boyfriend's face. "Hi, Ludwig," she said sweetly.
Ludwig smiled down at her. "Hallo, schatz." He lowered his head and kissed her on the forehead. "You'd better get going. You wanted to be early, right?"
_____ pulled away and made her way to the band room, the men on her tail. "You're mistaken, mein liebe. To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late. And to be late is to be dead. Therefore, in band, early does not exist."
Ludwig chuckled at her logic. The week before, _____ had begged the four to come to band camp with her to, if anything, just help out (refill water coolers, pass out wet rags, etc.). They had agreed and were excited at first, but now that they were here and under the blazing sun, they were beginning to regret it (except Ludwig, who could handle that kind of crap like a pro).
_____ sighed as she stomped off the sidewalk to the practice field, the boys following her. "Halfway done." It was now the second half of day three at band camp, Wednesday, around 2:30 in the afternoon.
Feliciano, who was already breathing heavily from the heat, sighed loudly. "How can you do this every year? It's really hot and there aren't a lot of breaks."
She put her Frogg Togg around her neck and pat his head. "You get used to it after a while."
"This kinda reminds me of mein bruder's training," commented Gilbert.
When everyone had assembled on the practice field, the band director instructed the band to split up into sectionals. Since _____ was a senior, she was section leader, which meant she was I charge of the other clarinet players.
"Alright guys, get into two rows for me," _____ commanded to the lowerclassmen. After giving the command, she dressed the lines using two yard lines and the home sideline.
"Okay," she said after dressing the lines, "let's just go forward eight and backwards eight for right now."
She counted the group off and inspected their marching. Surprisingly, the sophomores and freshmen were doing great. Most of the juniors were fineexcept one.
_____ scowled at the junior. "Tori," she called when they finished. "You were just walking."
Victoria (a.k.a. Tori) raised an eyebrow. "And?"
_____ raised both of hers. "And we're in marching band. We don't walk. We march."
Victoria rolled her eyes. "This is so retarded."
_____ was about to go off on her when the band director called for a water break and added, "Section leaders, come here for a minute."
Before going to the director, she glared at Victoria. "Get serious." She turned and walked away, feeling a slight pain in her head.
Victoria was left by herself, mulling over what just happened. She was very displeased, to say the least, and began thinking of a way to get back at _____. She looked over at the men that had followed _____ there, paying special attention to the blond German in a black wife's beater and cargo shorts. She knew Ludwig was _____'s boyfriend, and decided to do something that would really piss _____ off.
Victoria walked over to Ludwig and started off with small-talk. "So," she said to him. "How long have you and _____ been together?"
Ludwig looked at her, a bit surprised that she would ask a question like that. "Er, almost eight months now, but I've known her longer," he said. "You're Victoria, ja?"
She nodded, subtly pulling down the front of her low-cut tank top. "Yeah. listen, I have to tell you something."
Ludwig nodded curiously. "Ja. What is it?"
Victoria glanced over to where _____ was with the band director and the other section leaders. If she was going to do this, she would have to do it at the right moment.
And she did. She grabbed Ludwig's wife's beater and pulled his face closer to hers, causing their lips to meet awkwardly. Ludwig was shocked and froze for a moment. But that moment was all it took, because _____ turned around the second they kissed.
_____'s face flushed from anger. "Get the hell away from him!"
Victoria calmly pulled away as _____ rushed toward the two. Unlike what Victoria had expected, _____ passed right by Ludwig and went straight for her, grabbing her tank top and pulling her to close proximity. "What the hell are you doing with him?! Who do you think you are, trying to do something like that?! What the hell's the matter with you?!"
"_____," said Ludwig calmly but loudly. "That's enough. Let her go."
After a second, she shoved Victoria out of her hands and looked at Ludwig, hurt filling her eyes.
Ludwig noticed and reached out his hand. "_____, I"
"No," said _____, her voice dropping and entire octave. "I don't wanna hear it."
Before either one could get another word out, the band director called for the band to go to opening set. Hesitantly, _____ made her way across the field, picking up her clarinet on the way. Ludwig sat down on the ground, grabbing a wet rag and wrapping it around his neck. He pressed the end of it to his forehead, the stray drops of water cooling his face. He tried figuring out what had just happened, then realized that he needed to apologize and explain himself to _____ as soon as possible.
"Nice going, West," said a voice near Ludwig.
Ludwig looked up and saw Gilbert looming over him. He sighed. "I didn't do anything. That girl just came up to me und kissed me."
Gilbert sat down beside him, handing his brother a cup of cold water. "I know. But schwester doesn't. You need to tell her."
"I know that," said Ludwig, an edge in his voice. He took a sip of water, knowing better than to drink something that cold quickly in such heat.
He stared at _____ as she marched across the field. Her form and posture were perfect, and she stayed in step even when everyone around her wasn't. He smiled at her resilience. That was one of the many reasons why he loved her. God, he loved her. He loved her more than anything. That was why he needed to apologize. He didn't want to lose her, especially over something like this.
Moving her feet to the beat, _____ smoothly marched from set to set. She kept her eyes on Ludwig, only glancing around occasionally to check her location and intervals. Her mouth felt dry as she played. She hadn't had anything to drink for about two hours now, which, in this heat, was not good. She rotated her shoulders and tilted her head back for a second, attempting to make her Frogg Togg release some water and cool her off a little. It didn't do very much, and she stopped playing to breathe through her mouth. Sweat poured down her face, neck, and back. She was severely overheated. She needed water now. The pain in her head returned and intensified, impairing her vision and coordination. The pain grew tenfold for a split-second before her tired body fell to the ground.
Although they were paused at their sets, it took everyone a moment to realize that _____ was unconscious. Excluding Ludwig, who had been staring _____ the whole time, Anna, the flute section leader and one of _____'s friends, was the first to notice.
Anna bent down and gently shook her. "_____? Are you"
"_____!" Ludwig came running onto the field toward his girlfriend. He knelt down beside her and held head in his big hand. "Schatz?" Ludwig's heart sank when he saw that she wasn't breathing. He looked back at Alfred. "Alfred!" he called in a panicked tone. "Call for an ambulance!"
Alfred quickly carried out the order while Ludwig began performing CPR on _____. "Come on," he mumbled. "Come on. Come on." As he repeatedly pressed his hands down on her chest, he looked at _____'s unconscious face. She was so pale, so lifeless. He couldn't stand to see his sweetheart like that. Just the very sight made his heart break.
At this time, everybody, including Alfred, Gilbert, and Feliciano, had gathered around the scene. Gilbert had grabbed several wet rags on the way over and started to slowly place them on _____'s forehead, neck, and continuously running one across her cheeks. He tossed her Frogg Togg to Feliciano and told him to soak it in the ice water where they got the wet rags from. Feliciano obeyed, running to and from the cooler as fast as he could, and all the while sobbing and begging for God to let his "sorella" be alright.
"Okay. Thanks," said Alfred as he ended the emergency call on his cell phone. "An ambulance is in its way."
They nodded emphatically, Ludwig still trying to get _____ to breathe. Feliciano knelt down next to _____'s head and gently placed the now soaking wet Frogg Togg on her neck, pressing the ends to her cheeks for a moment. "Sorella. . ." he whispered, tears running down his face.
"Come one, _____," mumbled Ludwig. "Stay with me."
"My god, you guys," said a voice behind the group. "Stop getting all worried. She's obviously faking it to see if Ludwig still has the hots for her."
"That's a lie!" exclaimed Feliciano. "Sorella would never joke about something like that!"
Ludwig turned to Victoria, glaring at her the same way _____ did. He stood up, Gilbert taking control of the CPR. "Does this look fake to you?! Look at her! You think she's playing around?! Get it through your head! She's not joking! Und neither are we!"
Victoria's eyes were wide and her already red cheeks were even redder. She looked away from Ludwig and slowly walked off.
Soon after, the ambulance came, and _____ was carried on. Ludwig started to climb in when he was stopped by one of the paramedics. "Sorry, son. You can't come in."
Ludwig was in a state of panic right now, eyes widened and hair sloppily hanging in his face. "Nein! I have to be in there!"
The paramedic looked quickly at _____, then back at Ludwig. "Are you her boyfriend, or something?" he asked in a monotonous, but still sympathetic voice.
Ludwig nodded. "Ja. Yes, I am."
"Alright. Come in. Just don't get in the way."
Hearing this, Ludwig quickly climbed into ambulance, mumbling to the paramedic, "Danke."
As they drove away from the school campus, Ludwig sat transfixed beside _____, watching every movement the paramedics made like a guard dog. When the paramedics finished reaching across the back of the ambulance for things and finally relaxed, Ludwig took _____'s hand in his. It felt so tiny in his, so fragile. She seemed so fragile. He lifted it up and kissed it lightly.
"Schatz?" he said quietly. "Can you hear me? It's Ludwig. You're going to be fine. I promise. We're on our way to the hospital now." He watched as one of the paramedics stuck an IV into _____'s right arm, flinching when it pierced her skin. He knew how much _____ hated needles, and also knew she wouldn't be too happy when she woke up and saw an IV in her arm.
That is, if she woke up.
Ludwig shook his head furiously, wanting desperately to rid himself of that thought. He tightened his grip on her hand. "_____, if you can hear me, squeeze my hand." He waited a moment, but her hand remained motionless. "Schatz? Please, squeeze my hand. Move your fingers. Do something! I need to know you're still there! Please, _____! I love you!"
Despite all his efforts, _____ didn't move. Aside from the occasional shake that was sent through the ambulance, she stayed completely still. Ludwig panicked, but before he could do anything, the ambulance came to a stop and the paramedics carried _____ out and into the emergency entrance of a hospital. He followed them all the way to Trauma Room 1, where he was left outside while the doctors helped _____. He looked through the slender window, seeing a small group of doctors and nurses crowded around _____. His heart lodged in his throat when he saw a doctor pull out a defibrillator.
Ludwig backed away from the door to the other side of the hallway. He couldn't take any more of this. He sank down to the floor against the wall with his legs close to his chest and arms covering his head. And at that instant, he began to cry.
"Please, _____," he whispered, his voice failing him as tears rolled down his cheeks. "Please, don't go."
Ludwig remained in that state until the doors to Trauma Room 1 opened an hour later. He quickly and subtly wiped away his tears and stood up as _____ was being rolled out.
"_____--" He started to follow when a doctor grabbed his arm.
"Are you a friend of hers?" he asked.
Ludwig looked at the doctor and nodded. "Ja. I'm . . . her boyfriend." He glanced down the hallway in the direction _____ was being rolled. "What's wrong with her?"
The doctor sighed slightly. "She suffered what looks like a stroke. Fortunately, only a minor one. Was she doing anything strenuous prior?"
"Ja. She was outside for several hours."
The doctor nodded. "Can give me some information about her?"
Ludwig blinked. "Like what?"
The doctor chuckled. "Well, her name is a good start." He held out his hand. "I'm Doctor Evans."
Ludwig shook his hand. "Ludwig Beilschmidt."
Evans smiled. "Nice to meet you. Now, shall we discuss your girlfriend?''
". . . Ja."
After two more hours, the hospital had enough information on _____ to go with, Ludwig had called the other boys to tell them at what hospital they were, and had told _____'s parents about the situation. Now came the difficult part: the visit.
Ludwig stood in front of the doorway of _____'s room in the ICU. His stomach was in knots as he thought of what to say, what to expect. He hesitantly opened the door and what he saw made the knots in his stomach grow tighter. _____ lay in the deep hospital bed with multiple IV's sticking into her arm and a tube wrapped around her head sending oxygen into her nostrils. She was asleep but still very pale and lifeless.
Ludwig walked over to her bedside. "_____?"
Very slowly, _____'s eyes fluttered open, instantly locking onto Ludwig's. The steady beeping of the machine keeping track of _____'s heart rate started to speed up. Ludwig gave a half-smile. "Hallo, mein liebe."
_____'s heart rate gradually slowed down, returning to normal. She looked at Ludwig blankly for a moment, taking in his expression. Despite the little smile, he looked sad, scared.
"You okay?" she asked, her voice only a whisper.
Ludwig felt his heart breaking again. "J-Ja. . ." he forced out. "Are you alright? Do you need anything?"
_____ thought for a moment. She closed her eyes and furrowed her brows, letting out a quiet groan.
"What's wrong?" Ludwig asked.
"I keep hearing something," she said. "I keep hearing that damn metronome."
Ludwig blinked at her, trying to figure out what she was talking about. Then he remembered that the band director liked to hook the metronome up to a loudspeaker. It must have been ringing in her ears. Ludwig didn't quite know what to say or do. It was an odd thing to say when lying in a hospital bed. It was an odd thing to say in general.
"J-Ja. . ." After a short silence, Ludwig took _____'s hand. "But seriously, schatz. Are you alright?"
"Oh, yeah. I'm great," she said casually, even though she looked and sounded like an absolute mess.
Ludwig kissed her hand, holding it up to his lips as he spoke. "Don't lie to me, schatz. You almost died out there."
_____ did something Ludwig did not expect. She let out a weak laugh from deep within her throat. She closed her eyes."Yeah. I know."
"Don't laugh at such a thing!" he snapped. "You almost died! I almost lost you! Do you know how worried I was?! How scared I was when I saw you lying on the ground as pale as a ghost?! It terrified me! So don't laugh!"
_____ stared at Ludwig, wide-eyed. Her heart rate rose again, and it was displayed on the monitor. Ludwig saw, thinking that she might be put under unnecessary stress, and forced himself to calm down.
"Es tut mir leid," he muttered. "Und I'm sorry about earlier with Victoria. . ."
"I-It's okay. . ."
Ludwig sighed in relief, knowing that she knew it wasn't his fault Victoria kissed him and that she would forgive him so easily. He gently placed his hand on her cheek, causing her to close her eyes and smile contently.
"Ich liebe dich," he said softly. "I love you so much. Und I don't want to ever lose you."
"I love you, too."
"Man, the show looks great from here!" said _____ as she took a sip of her Coke.
Due to her heat stroke, _____ was not allowed to participate in any strenuous activity for a long time. Unfortunately, marching band was included in the list, so she was no longer able to be in marching band. Two months later, _____ came to her first football game of the season just to see her band's halftime show (and to see her football team kick some butt). After a bit of convincing, she managed to get Ludwig, Feliciano, Gilbert, and Alfred to come with her (although Alfred didn't need much convincing).
Alfred sipped his drink, then realized it was empty. "Hey guys, I'm gonna go get a refill. Anyone want anything?"
_____ handed him a few dollars out of her wallet. "Yeah, get me a pretzel."
Gilbert gave Alfred money and his order before Alfred left for the concession stand. _____ watched the band as they marched gracefully across the field. The show was so wonderful, and all the band members were so happy to be in band and loving every minute of it. It made her smile while she looked on. But it also made her sad when she thought about not being able to be there, not being able to share in those memories. She leaned her head on Ludwig's shoulder. Hot tears threatened to leave her eyes, but she kept them back. She wouldn't allow them to see her like this.
She sniffled, causing Ludwig to look at her. "Are you alright, schatz?"
"Hm? Yeah, I'm fine."
The show ended, and _____ stood up and cheered loudly for her band. After a moment of joyous "Whoo!"-ing, she sat back down next to her boyfriend, still feeling a hint of disappointment.
Before she could object, Ludwig wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close to him. He kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry. I know you wanted to be in it. I'm sorry that you couldn't."
_____ nuzzled his neck. "It's not your fault. You couldn't control what my body wanted to do." She sighed, letting out a small, humorless laugh. "You might be a band nerd if you cry when you find out you can't be in band."
Ludwig smiled sadly. He knew _____ almost never cried, and would only cry if she was either extremely depressed or extremely frustrated. In this case, it was both. He kissed her cheek. "You know what?"
She looked up at him. "What?"
"Ich liebe dich immer noch," he whispered into her ear, sending chills down her spine.
She smiled sweetly at him. "Ich liebe dich auch." She closed the space between them with a warm, gentle kiss. After a moment Ludwig deepened the kiss and cupped _____'s cheek in his palm.
The two pulled away and looked at Alfred, who had a pretzel in one hand and a hot dog and Coke in the other. He was standing on the bleachers in front of them with an arched eyebrow. "You guys done?"
Ludwig blushed and _____ giggled as she took the pretzel and thanked Alfred. "Sorry," she mumbled.
"_____ and Ludwig, sitting in a tree~!" chanted Gilbert. "K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"
_____ reached over Ludwig to smack Gilbert on the arm. He laughed loudly at this. "Easy, schwester! You don't have to be so defensive! I'm completely fine with you making out with mein bruder!"
_____ rolled her eyes.
"Well, I love that Ludwig and sorella are together!" chimed Feliciano.
After a little more debating and rebuttals, the group went back to watch the game. _____ and Alfred stood up and cheered and high-fived each other whenever the team got a touchdown.
_____ tore off a piece of what was left of her pretzel and offered it to Ludwig. "Want some?"
Ludwig looked at it, then took it in his fingers and put it n his mouth. He looked surprised. "Wow. It's good."
She smiled. "What, you think Germany's the only place that makes quality pretzels?"
"Nein. I just didn't expect a high school concession stand to make a quality pretzel."
_____ raised an eyebrow. "Mm-hm." She watched the two football teams run around on the field, thinking about how graceless somebody looks on the field when they're not marching. She smiled sadly and sighed. "You know, I may be sad that I'm not in band anymore, but at least I've got you guys." She looked at Ludwig. "At least I've got you."
Ludwig smiled at her, kissing again fully on the lips.