“There’s no way.”
“It’s not possible.”
“Oh, ja, it is!” Gilbert retorted to Ludwig and _____ as they sat in the airport, waiting for their luggage.
_____ rolled her eyes. “Gil, it’s impossible. There is absolutely no way you can put your entire fist in your mouth.”
“Ja, there is! Watch this!” As promised, Gilbert executed the stunt, inserting his fist gracelessly into his mouth, and winning the cheers of his best friends Antonio and Francis. Contorting his jaw, he managed to slip his fist back out and wipe his saliva off onto his pant leg.
Ludwig face-palmed. “Mein Gott. What is wrong with mein bruder?”
“Oh, he’s not that bad,” assured _____, putting her hand on his shoulder.
He stiffened at this, and blushed when her hand remained there. He had had feelings for her for some time now, and he would be confused whenever his heart fluttered at the very thought of her. He had once even went to his brother about it, but Gilbert only laughed and insisted that the two should “just get it on already”. He went to Roderich next, who smiled warmly and said that it might have been the first stages of love, which he shared that he had felt when Elizabeta first came into his life. Lastly––and reluctantly––, Ludwig went to his Italian friend Feliciano for help; Feliciano had become so excited upon hearing the news that he had already started brainstorming over their wedding plans. After consulting the three for advice, he had concluded that it was indeed love. But Ludwig, however, was very new to romance, and had absolutely no idea on how to act on said love––or how to tell _____ how he really felt about her. How in the world can I tell her? he thought.
“What’s the matter, Ludwig?”
Ludwig pulled his mind back down to Earth and looked up at _____, who looked concerned. “Was?”
“You looked mad,” she said. “Are you okay?”
Ludwig made a puzzled expression. “O-Of course, I’m alright. Und I’m not angry. I was just thinking. Why do you ask?”
“Oh. . .” _____ looked away, embarrassed. “Well, the look on your face wasn’t very. . .pleasant. . . And I thought you were mad again. . .”
Ludwig raised his eyebrows. “Oh. I see. . .”
An awkward silence fell over the two. Soon the group went over to the luggage dispersing area, and grabbed their individual suitcases, bags, and, for the Bad Touch Trio, a large bag of objects used for their “practical jokes”. How they were able to get it past security _____ never figured out.
“Wanna go grab something to eat?” she asked Ludwig, not wanting to stick around near the trio any more than was required.
“J-Ja. . .”
The two sat in a local diner, eating their selective lunches in silence. Their suitcases sat neatly under the table as they ate. Every now and again, _____ would look up at Ludwig’s face, catching a glimpse of his furrowing brows and slight grimace that was obscured by the food occasionally entering his mouth.
Luddy doesn’t really smile much, she thought as she consumed another morsel of her lunch. He doesn’t really show any emotions aside from anger. He’s always got that irritated expression. She glanced at him, marveling at the sight of his gorgeous blue eyes. I wonder why. . .
Ludwig twitched at the use of his forcibly given pet-name, then looked up from his plate with a slight blush dancing across his cheeks. “Ja?”
“U-Um. . . Nothing. . .”
After their lunch, the two walked down the street calmly. They meant to find Alfred, who had invited them (and several others) to stay in Boston for the Christmas holidays, and look for a decent place to stay, whether it be his place or a hotel. _____ shivered in the cold Boston winter air. She was not used to such weather, having been raised in a very warm climate. Ludwig, on the other hand, after living in northern Germany his whole life, was perfectly accustomed to the cold.
Ludwig looked down at _____, noticing her shivering. “Are you cold?”
She nodded. “A-A little.”
Without hesitation, he removed his overcoat and placed it gently around _____’s shaking shoulders. She blinked, trying to process what he had just done, then took the hems of the large garment and pulled it closer to her. She smiled warmly at him. “Thanks, Luddy.”
A bright shade of pink colored Ludwig’s cheeks. He looked away, nodding tersely, and started off again. _____ followed quickly behind, then stopped when they encountered a man in a bright red Santa Claus outfit ringing a bell that was in his right hand. His left hand held a bucket with “DONATIONS” written across the side. _____ instinctively dug out her wallet and pulled out fifty dollars.
Ludwig looked at her, a bit shocked. “_____. What are you doing?”
“I’m giving them money,” she replied simply, and put the money in the bucket. As she pulled her hand away, she noticed that there was no other money inside, and felt a small pang of guilt. “Ludwig,” she said, turning to him. “You should give some money, too.”
“Because they need it!” She tugged his arm toward the man in the Santa suit.
Ludwig looked around and saw people about twenty feet away sitting at a fold-up table with another donation bucket. Hanging from the table was a sign that read “SALVATION ARMY”. Ludwig nodded in understanding, but paused. “Uh. . . Mein wallet is in that coat. . .” He pointed to the coat that he had placed around _____’s shoulders.
“Oh. Okay.” She hastily searched the pockets until she found the brown leather wallet and handed it to Ludwig. He took the object, pulling out a few bills and dropping them into the bucket.
“Thank you!” said the man with a warm smile that was partially covered by the fake Santa beard.
Ludwig looked away and nodded. “Bitte. . .”
The man looked at him, a bit puzzled at Ludwig’s apparent timidity, but dropped it when _____ mirrored his smile. “You’re very welcome!" she said. "Always happy to help! And Merry Christmas!”
With that, she took Ludwig’s hand and began walking down the street.
“So, who were they?” he asked after a few minutes.
_____ stopped in dead her tracks and looked at him, dumbfounded. “You don’t know who they were?”
He shook his head. “Nein. I don’t.”
She raised her eyebrows and blinked at him. “Are you kidding me? That was the Salvation Army! They collect donations, and almost every penny goes to the poor. They give more money to the poor than any other foundation!”
“O-Oh. . .”
Readjusting Ludwig’s coat on her shoulders, _____ stepped closer to Ludwig, pressing her side to his. “Stupid cold,” she mumbled.
Ludwig’s face turned bright red at her touch. As she pressed herself into him, he could feel how cold she was, and could feel every shiver that coursed through her body. Hesitantly, he raised his arm and wrapped it around her, pulling her into him more.
“Angegangen,” he said softly. “Let’s find Alfred before you freeze.”
Ludwig and _____ eventually arrived at the hotel Alfred had notified them about. _____ glanced at the paper Alfred had given her via mail, checking the address. “Yep,” she said, mostly for herself. “This is the right place.”
The two entered the building and looked around the lobby a moment before spotting a man with dirty-blond hair, a stubborn cowlick sticking out in the front, and glasses that covered his cerulean eyes. _____ smiled when she saw her best friend. “Alfie!”
Alfred’s head shot up at the sound of the nickname. He knew who it was immediately; only one person had ever called him that, aside from his late mother. He turned his head toward the two, smiling brightly and springing from his seat.
“_____!” He ran over to her and picked her up and spun her around. After setting her down he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a tight hug. “I haven’t seen you in forever! How’ve ya’ been?”
_____ gently pulled away. “It’s only been five months, Alfie.”
He scoffed. “Only been five months?!” He hugged her again. “That’s way too long, if you ask me!”
She sighed, a soft smile forming on her face. “I guess you’re right. It has been a while, hasn’t it?”
“Yeah. . .”
The two friends stood there for several minutes, sharing in each other’s warmth. After a while, Alfred caught a glance of Ludwig waiting awkwardly near them. He pulled away from _____ and said plainly, “Well, I guess I should take you guys to your rooms.” He took _____’s suitcase in one hand and her shoulder opposite him in the other. He looked over at Ludwig and smiled. “C’mon. You have one, too.”
Ludwig’s expression had returned to its usual scowl, and he nodded at Alfred, picking up his own suitcase and following quietly behind.
“So, will I be rooming with anybody?” asked _____ as they entered the elevator.
“Yep,” Alfred replied. “Feliciano and Lovino are gonna be in your room, but I don’t think they’ll be much of a problem.”
She smiled at the thought of the cheerful Italian and his adorably grumpy brother. “Not at all.”
“Arthur and Matthew will be in the same room as me, and Ludwig’ll share a room with his brother and Antonio and Francis.”
Ludwig groaned. “You can’t be serious.”
Alfred smiled apologetically. “Sorry, bro. Can’t fix it now.”
“Ugh. . .” He rubbed his eyelids, furrowing his brows.
Alfred patted him on the back. “Aw, it’ll be okay, dude.”
The elevator door slid open and the three walked down the hall until they stopped at a door. Alfred dug through his pocket and pulled out a key-card. “This is your room,” he said, handing the card to _____. “Feli and Lovi should already be in there. My room is two doors down to the right, and Luddy’s is three.”
_____ heard Ludwig groan slightly when Alfred used his pet name, then smiled and nodded. “Okay. Thanks a lot, Alfie.”
Alfred returned the smile. “Anything for you, _____.” He leaned in and kissed her forehead.
As _____ entered her room, Alfred said quickly, “We’re all gonna have a Christmas party tonight. You should come. There’ll be food!”
He heard her laugh. “Okay! I’ll be there!”
Her door closed with a loud click, and Alfred and Ludwig were left alone in the hallway.
“C’mon, Lud,” said Alfred, starting to walk to the other rooms. “You’re room is over here––”
“Why did you do that?”
Alfred furrowed his brows in confusion. “Why’d I do what?”
“Why did you kiss her?” Ludwig said quietly, staring intently at Alfred.
Silence enveloped the hallway as Alfred stood speechless, mouth slightly open. “S-Sorry, Ludwig. . .”
“You know I have feelings for her.”
“I know. But I only kissed her in a friendly sorta way. That’s all. I’m sorry if you saw it differently. . .”
Ludwig’s expression softened as he looked away at the door to _____’s room.
“I-I’m sorry, Ludwig––”
“Nein,” he said flatly. “I’m sorry.” He started to walk in a quickened pace, brushing past Alfred to his apparent room. “This is mein room, ja?”
Alfred nodded. “Uh, y-yeah.”
He pulled out a key-card from his back pocket and handed it to Ludwig, who snatched it away in a suppressed anger. He turned and unlocked the door to his room. “I assume mein bruder und his friends are already here.”
Ludwig grunted in response and opened the door a bit before saying, “I will be at the party tonight as well.”
Alfred blinked. “Uh, o-okay. See you there, Lud.”
Ludwig entered the room and closed the door behind him, setting his suitcase down. He sighed in exasperation when he heard familiar voices.
“Oy, West! You’re in our room?! Awesome!”
“Good to see you didn’t get lost out there! You definitely would’ve frozen to death, mi amigo. ¡Es muy frío afuera!”
“Oui, mon ami. I thought I might freeze off my--”
“Francis, don’t even say it!” shouted Ludwig.
“I was going to say my stubble,” replied Francis in a false irritation.
“Ja, West! Get your mind out of the gutter!” Gilbert blinked when he saw a genuine anger on his brother’s face. There was almost always a show of frustration on his face, but Gilbert, being his older brother, could always interpret his expressions. “What’s eating you, bruder?” he asked softly.
Ludwig looked at his brother, sighing again. “Nothing you would take seriously, bruder.”
“Aw, come on, West!” Gilbert jumped off one of the two beds in the room that he happened to be laying on, and sauntered over toward his brother. “Have a little faith in me!”
“Ah, but that’s just it, bruder,” said Ludwig. “I did have faith in you at one time-- until you proved that you were completely unworthy to have such a privilege.” He was about to take his coat off but then remembered that _____ never gave it back to him. He mentally face-palmed at his unusual forgetfulness.
Gilbert scoffed and crossed his arms. “You’re so cruel, West,” he pouted.
“Only to you, bruder.” Ludwig stepped toward the fold-out couch and sat down on it, leaning his head back as though he were exhausted from the conversation he had just had with his brother. He closed his eyes and furrowed his brows, thinking back on just a few minutes prior, when he had witnessed Alfred kissing the one person he truly cared for. And to make matters worse, he was sure _____ felt the same way about it as Alfred. To those two, who had been best friends since they were small children, it was a simple and innocent gesture of endearment. But to Ludwig, it was a knife through his heart. To think that _____ would choose Alfred. . .
“It’s about _____, isn’t it, bruder?”
Ludwig’s eyes flew open as he looked at Gilbert. He glared at him. “Why do you care? Are you going to make fun of me now?”
Gilbert shook his head. “Nein. I won’t hurt mein bruder when he’s already down. I’m not that heartless. . .” He took a seat on the couch next to Ludwig, nudging his shoulder. “What’s the matter this time? Did you confess only to find out she didn’t like you back?”
“Did you confess und she said she needed ‘time to think’?”
“Did you confess at all?”
“Well, then, what is it?!” Gilbert shouted. After a moment, he gasped at a thought that had crawled into the vulgarity of his mind. “Is she. . . not into men. . . ?”
“Was?! Of course, she is! Why else would she have smiled when--” Ludwig stopped himself, afraid he would say too much if he kept going.
Gilbert furrowed his brows and stared at his brother in a vain attempt to read his mind. “When what?”
Ludwig hesitated, then sighed. “Right before she went into her room, Alfred kissed her.”
Francis gasped. “Where?!”
“On the forehead.”
The other men looked at Ludwig skeptically, each raising an eyebrow. “Is that it?” said Antonio.
Ludwig closed his eyes and lowered his head. “Und she smiled at him. . .”
“But is that really it?” Gilbert said, unconvinced.
Ludwig shook his head. “You weren’t there. You didn’t see how she smiled, how he kissed her.” He looked up into the albino’s eyes. “You didn’t feel what I felt.”
Gilbert blinked, then his expression softened. “Es tut mir leid, bruder,” he whispered, pulling Ludwig closer to him in a tight hug. Ludwig was taken aback by the sudden kindness shown by Gilbert at this moment, and relaxed into the smaller arms of his big brother, eventually hugging him back.
“But I did know what you feel,” continued Gilbert. “I felt it not so long ago, when mein best friend left me. Und she didn’t just leave me, she left me in her dust.”
Hearing this, Ludwig felt a pang of guilt. He knew how much his brother had loved Elizabeta, his best friend since they were all children. Not two years prior, Elizabeta had chosen to break off all ties she had with Gilbert and marry Roderich Edelstein, a kind, yet stubborn Austrian composer and music teacher.
Ludwig pulled away from the hug, patting Gilbert’s shoulder. “I’m also sorry, bruder. I know how much it hurt for you. . .”
Gilbert waved a hand out playfully. “Pssh! What about it? I’ve let it go. I’m over it. I’m too awesome to let stuff like that bother me.” He smiled sadly. “It’s too late to fix mein problem, but we can still fix yours.”
_____ sighed contentedly as she stepped into her room and spotted her two Italian roommates. “Hi, guys!” she said cheerfully.
Feliciano smiled widely when he saw her, springing from his seat on one of the beds and wrapping his arms around her tightly. “Sorella!”
She patted his head and smiled. “Hi, Feli. It’s good to see you again, too.”
“It’s been five months,” slurred Lovino as he sat up on the fold-out couch. “It was about damn time we saw you again, ragazza.” A smile tugged a bit at his lips.
“Yeah, well,” she started. “Summer’s the only time of the year when I don’t have much that I really have to do. The rest of the year is pretty much filled up with school, family, and extra-curricular stuff.”
Lovino grunted and returned to his original position on the couch, laying supine with his head on the arm. “You going to the party Alfred’s throwing tonight?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t I? Are you guys going?”
Feliciano nodded. “Si! I am! But I don’t know about fratello. . .”
“I might,” he replied.
_____ rolled her eyes, setting her suitcase down on one of the two beds. “So, who’s sleeping where?”
Lovino opened one eye. “That bed is mine,” he said, looking at the bed _____ had just put her suitcase on. She quickly picked it back up off the bed. “The other one you can have. Fratello will sleep wherever there’s room left.”
_____ snickered when she noticed Feliciano poke his bottom lip out and make a whiny sound. “It’s okay, Feli. You can sleep with me.”
Feliciano immediately perked up and smiled again. “Really? Yay! I’d love to sleep with you! It’ll be just like before! Oh, wait. . . You won’t steal all the covers and kick me off the bed like last time, right?”
She laughed. “I’ll try not to, kid. Oh, yeah!” She opened her suitcase and pulled out a rectangular present. “Merry Christmas, Feli.”
Feliciano’s smile grew wider as he took the present from _____. “Oh! Grazie, bella! Grazie!” He leaned over and pecked her on the cheek.
The party that Alfred had decided to hold took place in the hotel lobby, tables and furniture relocated to make room for a dance floor, and the main desk converted into a spot for the DJ. The noise from the party was so loud, that people all over Boston heard and they poured into the hotel by the dozen to join in. The Bad Touch Trio was running around laughing the whole time, taking shots of beer, tequila, and whatever else they could get their hands on. The Italian brothers were arguing at a table in a corner. Arthur had taken a seat at the bar when the party first started and passed out not even an hour later.
_____ left her seat at a table by Ludwig to look for her friend, grabbing his arm when she found him. “Hey, Alfie!”
Alfred turned around and smiled at her. “Oh, hey, _____! Havin’ a good time?!” They had to shout to be heard over the blaring music.
_____ nodded slightly. “Uh, yeah.” She wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t exactly telling the truth either. She loved to be able to spend time with her friends, but all the strangers near her made her uncomfortable.
Alfred patted her shoulder. “Well, I hope you have fun! You deserve it!” He turned and took off toward a small group of girls gathered on the dance floor.
_____ sighed and made her way back to her table, but stopped when she saw a rather attractive woman leaning against the table, looking at Ludwig through lustful eyes. She seemed to be coming onto him, but he maintained his usual discontented expression and shook his head occasionally. He eventually stood up and tried to walk away, but the woman took hold of his arm and refused to let go, pressing her body into his as she attempted to lift her face high enough to kiss him.
Anger rose up in _____, and she darted toward the scene, shouting, “Hey, chick! Get off my friend!”
The woman looked at her, pulling away from Ludwig’s body but still holding onto his arm. “Who are you? And why the hell do you care if you friend hooks up with someone else?” She turned back to Ludwig and tried to kiss him again--only to be stopped by _____ pushing her off him and onto the ground.
She sat up and glared at _____. “Bitch! I’m gonna--”
She stopped herself when she saw _____’s glare directed back at her, burning with an anger much hotter than hers. She huffed and scrambled to her feet, staggering to the bar.
_____ looked at Ludwig. “What was that all about?”
“I don’t know,” he said calmly. “She just came up to me und started talking to me.”
“You mean she came onto you?”
_____ furrowed her brows. “And you let her?”
“Eh?” he looked at her, puzzled. “Nein. Why would I let her say those things to me?”
“Gee, I don’t know! You tell me! You didn’t do anything to keep her away!” She turned and started off angrily toward the elevator.
“Yes, I did! I told her that there was already someone!” The words seemed to slip out of his mouth so easily--and yet, they were so hard to say.
She looked at him, astonished. “You met someone?!”
He nodded slowly.
A shade of pink dusted Ludwig’s cheeks. “About seven or so months ago. . .”
_____’s eyes widened. She and Ludwig had met nearly seven months prior. . .
“I didn’t know I felt this way about her until not long ago. . . But I know now that I love her. . .” He looked at her with a warm expression. “Ich liebe dich, _____. I love you.”
_____ felt her face heat up. She looked away, staring at the floor.
Ludwig reached out his hand. “_____--”
The two looked to the side to see the Bad Touch Trio standing there. Gilbert smirked and pointed upward with his index finger. “Look up!”
Curious, Ludwig lifted his head to see, his face turning bright red at the sight. _____ looked up as well, her face also turning red. After a moment, the two looked at each other.
“I . . .” stuttered Ludwig. “I-I’ve. . . never kissed a girl before. . .”
_____ felt herself begin to shake. “I-I’ve. . . I've never kissed a guy before. . .”
Ludwig noticed her shaking, and cupped her shoulders with his hands, leaning forward so they were at eye-level. “Geht hier nichts. . .” he breathed out with a tiny smile tugging at the corner of his lips. Slowly, he lifted her trembling chin with his index finger and pressed his lips softly onto hers. He wondered if he was doing it right, and reassured himself when _____ began to kiss back, uncertain herself. Ludwig lifted his other hand and cupped her cheek, running his fingers through her hair. "I love you, too, Ludwig," she whispered against his lips, making him smile.
The two parted, and cheers resounded through the large hotel lobby. “Well, it is about time!” shouted Gilbert. He was now standing by the DJ with a microphone in his hand. “Hey! This next song goes to mein bruder und his new girlfriend! Merry Christmas, you two!”
Grinning, he pressed a button and a song commenced to play over the speakers. _____ smiled when she recognized the lyrics.
I don’t want a lot for Christmas,
There is just one thing I need,
I don’t care about the presents,
Underneath the Christmas tree.
I just want you for my own,
More than you could ever know,
Make my wish come true,
All I want for Christmas. . .
Is you. . .
_____ looked at Ludwig, noticing an unusually wide smile spread across his face. “I’ve never seen you make that expression before,” she said.
He laughed--also very unusual. “I didn’t have you before!”
Her cheeks turned pink as he took her hands and kissed her again, this time more sure of himself.
Back at the DJ’s corner, Gilbert stood watching the new couple with a self-satisfied smirk. He looked to his left to see his two best friends walking up to him. “Did you two enjoy the show?” he asked them.
“¡Sí! ¡Me gusta, mi amigo!” replied Antonio. “¡Y gracias por tocar mi canción!”
“It was quite diverting,” said Francis. “And I liked the part with the other woman.”
Gilbert chuckled. “Danke. But it was nothing compared to the mistletoe you put up at the last minute!”
Francis smiled, pleased with himself. “Merci beaucoup, mon ami.”