Chapter Sixteen: Relief
A soft noise found its way to _____’s ears through her sleep. She tried her best to ignore it, assuming that it was just Feliciano snoring beside her. She guessed again when she heard a voice.
“Fräu,” it whispered.
Someone shook her shoulder gently, causing her eyes to flutter open. Her eyes immediately locked onto blood-red ones. “Gil?” She quickly sat up, a bit surprised that Feliciano wasn’t in her bed. “What’re you doing in here? Why aren’t you in bed?”
The albino shrugged. “I got bored.”
_____ looked at the clock on her nightstand as she turned on the lamp. “Gil, it’s four in the morning. Why aren’t you asleep?”
Gilbert coughed hard, struggling to get a breath in between coughs. _____ sat him on the bed and rubbed his back. He calmed down and slumped over, leaning his exhausted body on _____ as he panted. _____ noticed that his face was sweaty, and dark half-circles were under his eyes. She ran her fingers across his silver hair and continued rubbing his back with her other hand.
“That’s why,” he rasped. “I can’t sleep because I end up coughing every five minutes.” He lay his head on _____’s shoulder. “I’m so tired, Fräu. . .”
Seeing her friend hurting so much pained _____ more than she cared to admit. She sighed as her hands held him gently. “Why didn’t you get a freaking vaccine?” she said quietly.
“Because needles are the most unawesome thing in the universe.”
She sighed again, this time irritated. “I hate them, too, but I still got my shot. Dammit, Gil!”
Gilbert chuckled softly. “I know. Mein bruder gets onto me about this stuff, too. I just. . .don’t want to deal with things like that. Things like that make me feel. . .weak. . .”
_____ raised an eyebrow. “Well, you must feel real strong now, huh?”
“Nein,” he answered in a silent, uncharacteristic voice. “I feel awful, Fräu. I feel worse now than I ever have in my entire life. I feel like. . .I’m gonna die. . .”
“Don’t be stupid, Gil!” she snapped. “Stop being a hypochondriac!”
_____ groaned. “A hypochondriac is someone who thinks they’re sick when they’re really not.”
“But I am sick.”
“Not sick enough to die!”
Gilbert’s hand suddenly grasped _____’s arm. His grip was tight but shaky as he weakly lifted his head so that his chin rested on her collarbone. His quiet breathing became erratic in her ear, and she turned her head to see tears welling up in his tired eyes. She had never seen this man––who was always so proud and carefree––so weak and without hope. It scared her.
“I just want it to stop, Fräu,” he said, his voice choked up. “I just want to sleep without having to cough every verdammte minute. I’ve had to put up with this scheiße for four days now! I’m so tired of this, Fräu! I just––” A heavy coughing fit racked the albino’s body, and _____ held him and rubbed his back.
“It’s okay, Gil,” she cooed in his ear. “You’ll be okay, Gil.”
Gilbert gasped for air as his coughing grew heavier, and _____ noticed tears falling down his pale cheeks. It was clear that he was in pain, and, finally, he was letting it show. His eyes were shut tightly to keep the tears in, his forehead on _____’s collarbone. She rocked him gently back and forth as his body shook underneath her arms. His coughing subsided, but he kept still while she continued to rock him like a child. She began to hum softly, stroking his hair. She could hear him sigh sweetly through his panting, and she started to sing slowly the lyrics of the song.
“May the angels protect you,
Trouble neglect you,
And Heaven accept when it’s time to go home,
May you always have plenty,
Your glass never empty,
And know in your belly,
You’re never alone.
“May your tears come from laughin’,
You find friends worth havin’,
With every year passin’,
They mean more than gold,
May you win but stay humble,
Smile more than grumble,
And know when you stumble,
You’re never alone.
I’ll be in every beat of your heart when you face the Unknown,
Wherever you fly,
This isn’t goodbye,
My love will follow you,
Stay with you,
Baby, you’re never alone. . .”
Gilbert’s breathing became normal again, and he nuzzled _____’s neck. She blushed at the touch, her body going stiff. The albino chuckled. “So, you can sing. . .”
She laughed. “Yes, Gil. I can sing.”
“That reminds me.” He supported his chin on her shoulder, a smirk on his lips. “I still haven’t seen that recording of your singing.”
“Oh, yeah. . .” She stood up and walked to the open door. “The camera’s in the living room.” She turned around to look at Gilbert only to see him still on the bed. She raised an eyebrow. “C’mon, Gil.”
Gilbert coughed slightly, one arm wrapped around his torso. “Gimme a minute, Fräu.”
_____ walked back over to him. “Need any help?”
He didn’t answer.
She sighed and took his arm. “C’mon. I’m taking you back to your room.”
He groaned. “But, Fräu! It’s boring in there!”
“Don’t care!” She managed to yank him to his feet, his arm around her shoulders. “You’re sick, so I’m gonna have to play doctor.”
Gilbert smirked. “Oh, you are, are you~?”
_____ smacked him in the back of his head. She led him to his room and lay him in his bed. “Now stay here. I’m gonna go get the camera.” She turned and left the room.
Gilbert grunted in annoyance and let his head fall back on the pillow. His eyes were closed and his brows furrowed in thought. He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling. He closed them again and began to hum softly to a random tune. He immediately hushed himself when _____ walked back into the room, camera in hand.
He sat up slowly and smirked. “Alright, Fräu. Time to hear your awesome voice in front of millions.”
She plopped down beside him on the bed and turned the camera on. “Actually, it was only a couple dozen people, at most,” she said. “And my singing’s not that ‘awesome’.”
“Aw, come one, Fräu.” Gilbert nudged her shoulder. “Don’t doubt yourself so much.”
_____ smiled, then turned on the video of her singing the other night. Gilbert didn’t recognize the song, but he could tell by the way she sang it that it was special to her. He leaned against _____ and rested his chin on her shoulder, watching the video with a small smile on his lips. When _____ had finished the song, a roar of cheers and applause burst through the speakers of the camera, and Gilbert could hear Feliciano (who had recorded the video) cheering loudly in a very high-pitched voice that almost made him laugh.
The video ended, and _____ said, “So. . .what’d you think?”
Gilbert sat up straight, smiling at her. He patted her head. “Now that was some awesome singing.”
“Hey, Alfie. Listen, my visits around the dorm houses are gonna have to be postponed for a little while, okay?”
“What?!” shouted Alfred on the other end of the phone. “But I had everything all planned out! Do you know how long it took me to schedule all that crap?! Dang it, _____!”
_____ had to keep from laughing. “Sorry, Alfie. But Gil’s really sick, and I just kinda wanna be there to take care of him for a few more days, okay? Ten days, tops.”
He groaned loudly. “Okay, fine! You can play doctor on him. But I’m comin’ for you after a week, got it?”
She smiled. “Yeah. See you later, Alfie.” She hung up the phone and walked into the kitchen. She smiled at the man who was already in there. “Morning, Ludwig.”
“Guten morgen, Fräu,” he said. “It’s a bit unusual to see you up this early.”
_____ grabbed a tray off one of the counters and set it flat on the kitchen table. “It’s six-thirty, Luddy.”
“Exactly,” he replied, causing _____ to roll her eyes. “How long have you been awake?”
“Since four, when your brother came into my room.” She heated up a bowl of chicken-noodle soup that Tino had brought over. He had made more when ____ told him that Gilbert was sick, and the albino was then put on a strict diet of nothing but soup, saltine crackers, and water.
Ludwig sighed in exasperation. “What was his excuse this time?”
“He was bored.” She placed the hot bowl of soup on the tray and filled a glass with water. “It’s a pretty good excuse, though. When you’re forced to stay awake from coughing so much, it can get rather boring just staring at the ceiling.” She put the glass and a small plate of saltine crackers on the tray and picked it up, heading for the door.
When _____ reached Gilbert’s room, she noticed that he was lying completely still in his bed. She quietly placed the tray on the nightstand and looked at him. His eyes were closed, and his face was pale(r). He was breathing, which was good. He looked somewhat at peace now, like he was relieved.
_____ reached out her hand to shake him, but brought it back after a moment of thought. He needed this little time to rest. She smiled warmly. She placed the cover back on the soup bowl, whispering, “Sleep tight, Gil,” and walking out of the room.