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The Most Confusing Years Of Our Lives

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"Why are Wednesdays always so boring?"

Matthew Williams had mumbled those words to himself with a soft huff. There he was, at the same desk in the same far right corner of the same classroom, bouncing his leg out of pure boredom per usual. It was pretty much a normal day for him: keeping to himself, being pushed around in the halls and trying his best to pay attention in class without getting lost in thought. The teacher talking his ear off about their personal life wasn't helping his case either. His spiral notebook for the subject was in front of him, flipped to a crisp blank page, titled in MLA format and all, but he wasn't writing notes. Instead, he had succumbed his short attention span half an hour ago and passed the time procastinating by out by writing down various things he observed around the rather dull prison-like room, which is something he does a lot to pass the time. For example, the thick coat of aged white paint on the wall by his desk was chipping more-so than before. He always picked at it throughout the year and it seemed to finally give in. Oh, and the person next to him was beginning to fall asleep to the sound of the teacher's lecture about God know's what by now. He was surprised, mostly because they at least looked like they were usually paying attention. He reached out to shake, or more likely, poke them awake, but his hand retracted as he remembered. He wouldn't even dare attempt to wake them up, as they probably would think a ghost or demon had awoken them.

Now, Matthew wasn't a spirit or anything of the supernatural, don't worry about that! He was as human as a human could possibly get. However, Matthew wasn't exactly popular or even really known at his high school. People would ignore him and he was often treated as if he was invisible. Not that he particularly minded most of the time. He was particuarly introverted and would most likely try to keep to himself even if people did try to talk to him. Besides, he's perfectly content with his older brother having the social spotlight, even if he was a little bit full of himself (and that's being nice.) Occasionally, of course, his human instinct, or more rather, his teenage chemical concoction of depression and anxiety, liked to beat him up for being so forgetten. He never knew why people didn't acknowledge him, and at this age he was beginning to get a tad irritated about it. Even his own brother forgets he exists at times, and they share a bedroom for God's sake!

Before his self-loathing session started to really get out of hand, it was halted as the schoolbell's harsh ringing startled him to the point of almost falling out of his chair with a wheeze. You would think people would turn around and stare, maybe even laugh at him, but it was as if Matthew was transparent, or that time stopped. Everyone stayed turned to the teacher. No one even batted an eye at him. They all had already began to gather their things as they attempted to funnel out the door. Unfortunately, the teacher had other plans and stopped them to talk about how they weren't dismissed until he dismissed them. That sure went over well. A wave of complaints filled the classroom as Matthew stayed glue to his seat, waiting for everyone to leave and had started to zone out again, slowly detaching himself from reality.

At this point, he was really starting to wish that people would stare when shit like this happened. At least they'd pay attention to him. Luckily, it was the last period of the day, which meant he could take advantage of the walk back home and distract himself some other way. The last thing he needed was a breakdown during the middle of the week. He'd never recover! As he grabbed his notebook and finally started to get up from his seat, the person in front of him, a tall, brooding guy wearing a pure white hoodie with an...interesting iron-on decal of a black eagle on the back of it tossed what looked like to be a crumpled up piece of paper behind his back. Whatever he might've been aiming at though, he missed, as it hit Matthew in the leg and landed onto the tile floor with a soft bounce. Matthew snapped back to the real world as he watched the culprit seemingly rush to get out the door afterwards, leaving nothing but the paper and the scent of his colonge.

Must be in a hurry, Matthew thought as he stood by his desk, watching the other push and shove his way out. He then, like any decent human being, bent down to pick up the paper to throw it into the trash where it belonged. He honestly hated clutter, and he would rather pick it up than having a custodian do it. He might as well do his Good Samaritan Deed for the day, anyways. As he waited for everyone else to finally file out of class, he began to fidget with the ball, tossing it back and forth into each hand. Another thing Matthew hated were crowds. Just the thought of having his personal space invaded was enough to make him start to panic. The paper ball began to slightly unfold with each pass. He tried to crumple it up again so he could keep fidgeting with it, but he had noticed something that peaked his curiosity: The paper seemed to have writing on it.

"Are these...notes?" He whispered to himself, slowly unfolding the piece of paper. He looked up to see if everyone was out of the room and, seeing that his class was indeed gone (as if it would have mattered.), flattened the paper out the best he could on his desk using his hand. It wouldn't be wrong to do it, right? Matthew began to question himself. If it was something more private the guy should've been smarter and threw it in the trash or like, burned it. It hit him anyways, he had a right to know what it was. He fixed his glasses to concentrate on the words, which were written in shiny navy blue ink. The handwriting was almost unintelligible, being pretty much chicken scratch at first glance. Thank God he was used to his brother's handwriting, this was nothing to him. Along with the horrid handwriting, the letter was littered with an assortment of doodles consisting of what seemed to be cartoonish birds and... weapondry? That certainly was an odd combination to say the least. Was this kid a maniac? He squinted to read the note.

"MEET ME BEHIND THE SCHOOL. 4PM - GB"

Matthew's eyebrow rose as he caught himself reading the words over and over, attempting to process what he had just read. He read that right, yes? Was... was this meant for him? Who the hell is GB? Was it that guy's initials, or was this given to him from someone else? He initially reached for his bag to pull out his phone and text his parents he wasn't going to be home right away, but his common sense and anxiety stopped him. He didn't particularly feel like risking waiting outside only for some guy to probably beat him up into a pulp, or interrupting something private, even worse. Even if there was a chance someone noticed that he existed, he doubted it. He was practically invisible to the world, remember? He resorted to hastily crumpling up the paper and tossing it straight into the teacher's mini trash bin. Out of sight, out of mind. He took a second to recollect himself, fixing his glasses again (a nervous tick!) and squeezing his eyes shut for a few seconds. With a deep breath, Matthew walked out of the classroom only to have the living daylights scared out of him by his one and only oh-so annoying brother Alfred yelling directly into his ear.

"HEY DUDE!" he "greeted," ('yelled' would be much more appropriate here.) his washed out red sneakers squeaking against the tile trying to stop himself from colliding into his brother. "Why'd you keep me waiting? School's been out for..." He took a glance at his tacky Spiderman watch. "Five minutes!"

The other initally stumbled back, dropping everything he had in his hands. "Al--! Don't scare me like that!" He managed to say as he tried to compose himself while crouched down, grabbing his stuff. "Does five minutes even really matter? I was just waiting for everyone to get out. I don't like crowds, you know that!" He snapped, catching the other a bit off guard.

Alfred cocked his head as if he was a confused puppy. "Hey hey, chill! I'm not mad or anything!" He waved his hands around frantically. He was always one to be unintentionally melodramatic. "It's just that everyone was already out of the room, and I saw you readin' something. You were kinda zonin' out, man." His eyes widened after seemingly putting two and two together. "Ohhh, I see." He flashed his signature cheeky grin. "It was a love letter, wasn't it?" I can't believe you're finally gettin' some, dude! Never thought I'd see the day!" He cheered as he gave Matthew a congratulating 'pat' on the back, the force of which shoved him forwards. At least he managed to not drop his notebook this time.

"Ow--No!!" Matthew replied in a rush, huffing from having the wind knocked out of him. "Someone messed up on notes and they threw it at me without knowing. I just...threw it out for them, that's all! forget about it." He walked up to his brother's side, nudging him down the hall. "Can we go home now, please?" He tried to change the subject and get the conversation over with as fast as he could. He knew his brother would never let him live it down if there was even a slim chance someone was passing notes to him out of all people, so if it meant being a bit harsh (and feeling really bad about it afterwards), so be it.

Alfred sighed, finally taking the hint. "I mean, I guess...I wanted to get Mcdonald's first though."

"Absolutely not. Papa's cooking tonight and I want navarin."

Matthew was prepared for and very used to his brother's following reaction of a loud groan and a myriad of complaints, and showed his numbness to it by drowning out his wailing the entire fifteen minute walk to their house by putting in his earbuds. How alternative rock can sooth the soul when you want to drop kick your older brother to another country. God, he wish he could start heading home by himself. Unfortunately, even if he really wanted to head home alone and let his brother go gorge himself, he couldn't. Their dads would kill them both if one kid showed up without the other. Unless they had an excuse, of course. However, Mcdonalds isn't really a good one. Once they were at the front door though, Alfred stopped dead in his tracks and his complaints were soon replaced with compliments.

"Dude!! I can smell Pop's cooking from here! Let us in!! let us in!! I'm so hungry I'm gonna die!! wanna eat!!" He exclaimed.

Matthew sighed, shoving his hand into his pocket for the house key. "Okay, okay, stop drooling." He laughed out, snickering at his brother trying to look through the door's window to see any sign of their parents. "I swear you act like we never feed you."

Even if he hated him sometimes, Alfred could be a great source of comedic relief when you needed it. After a few minutes of mild panic and shuffling around he managed to find the key in his messanger bag instead. He unlocked the door with a sigh of relief this time, hoping to finally be able to take a breather from today. All he wanted to do was curl up in bed and recharge for tomorrow. Nothing sounded better right now than decompressing via scrolling the web and listening to music. As he walked through the door and started to sneak up the stairs, his plans were, as always, ruined as the boys' dear Papa Francis had walked down the hallway and caught him (sort of?) red-handed.

"Ah! Bienvenue à la maison, mes chéris~" he said, clasping his hands together. He wasn't at all oblivious to Matthew's ruts, so he would often wait for him to come home from school so he could keep him from wasting all his nights away in his room. Same goes to Alfred, except instead of depression and social anxiety keeping him cooped up, it was videogames and underaged hangovers. Francis pushed a half-empty box that was blocking the hallway to the side with his foot. "I've been decorating for the holidays, so don't mind the m-

Alfred soon interrupted. "But it's not even Halloween yet! What's the point?" As his brother began to ramble to their poor father about how more important Halloween was, Matthew took the time to examine the foyer, which was decorated top to bottom with an array of elegant christmas decorations. Well, as elegant as hallmark can buy you, anyways. Holiday family pictures taken throughout the year were neatly fixed onto the walls. From the hallway, Matthew could see the edge of the Christms tree waiting to be decorated. Decorated garland spiraled around the staircase and over the door and poinsettias were stashed everywhere where you could see. They were fake ones of course, a regrettable but necessary precaution from Francis' point of view. The family cat had top saftey priority.

"It looks pretty nice, actually..." Matthew murmured, fully not expecting for his Papa to hear him over Alfred's intense Halloween rant.

"Merci, merci! I'm so lucky that at least one of my sons were blessed with good taste." Francis took the oppurtunity to get away from Alfrled and shuffled over to hug his now caught-off-guard son, to which he awkwardly accepted after processing what was happening. "Hey!" Alfred huffed, crossing his arms. "I have good taste!"

"dans tes rêves, Al! You have the exact same taste as Dad!" Matthew teased from his Papa's embrace before gently nudging him off. He wasn't really one for physical contact for the most part, but he'd indulge his Papa when needed. At least he meant well. The pair were giggling at Alfred's dramatic offended look when 'Dad' came around the corner, a bitter look on his face. More bitter than usual, anyways.

"What the bloody hell's going on in there?" He questioned, taking off his reading glasses and folding them, tucking them into his vest pocket. That with the newspaper rolled up in his hand told Matthew he was interrupted and was not very happy about it.

"Authur, mi amor! The kids are home and we're catching up, that's all!" Francis waved his hand dismissively as he spoke. He turned back to the teens. "Don't mind him, he's been grumpy all afternoon." He jokingly whispered more than loud enough for his husband to hear. Authur interrupted with an "Oi!" and grumbled to himself as he walked into the dining room. Francis chuckled to himself.

"Good timing, you both can help me finish making dinner!" And with the word 'dinner,' Alfred dashed into the dining room, with Matthew shyly following suit after hanging his bag up.

The rest of the night felt like one giant chore to Matthew; preparing and eating dinner felt like a blur, doing his actual chores were more tedious than usual and he could barely getting homework done without losing focus. Thank god he finally had to chance to wind down in bed with earbuds in, mainly to block out Alfred yelling into his mic while playing video games, the rest of that night Matthew just couldn't get his mind off of that damn note. Why did it stick out to him so much? It's not like it's the first time he found one off the ground. Hell, if he had a dollar for every note that was thrown at him that he had to pick off the floor and throw out, he'd probably be the richest guy in his area. This one shouldn't be any different. Besides, it probably won't happen again, it wasn't even for him, he reminded himself, putting his volume up when he heard his brother yell in defeat at his game. He just needs to stop being so desperate for something good to come out of this, that the restlessness will fade and he'll probably forget it even happened. Why would anyone even want to go out of their way to talk to him anyways?

 


 

The next day at school was, as you'd expect, the exact same as before. A day full of uneventful events, such as being pushed over and no one even noticing he fell, and sitting alone at lunch only to find himself people-watching. People truly were either oblivious or spiteful. However, Matthew's usually pessimistic outlook on the last period was even worse today, thanks to that stupid note. Why was it still in the back of his mind? He felt pathetic for thinking about it so much, but lonliness would constantly creep into his mind and give him ideas. As soon as he thought maybe it was for him, he retaliated at himself, shooting it down and practically having an argument with himself in his head about it. He didn't even know why it felt like such a big deal! It was just a note! It would never happen again!

Or so he thought.

The dreaded last period arrived, and he arrived five minutes early per usual to make sure no one would steal his seat. Of course though, no matter how hard he tried, he was never the first one there. There was always one or two people there, chatting or trying to share some gossip before class started. Even if no one noticed him, Matthew dreaded coming in places late. He absolutely couldn't stand when people eyed him down or watched him. At least there were some perks that made being useless in the high school society hiarchy not entirely awful. He strolled over to his desk and hung his messanger bag on the side of the chair, causing him to look down. There, tucked under the foot of the chair, was another piece of paper, this time it was messily folded with a 'READ ME!' scribbled on top. Perking up, he picked it up and sat in his chair, immediately opening it up to see what it said.

"DON'T IGNORE ME! MEET ME BEHIND THE SCHOOL. 4PM. - GB"

After commenting to himself how oddly demanding this person was, Matthew (naturally) started to freak out a little as he blankly stared at the note. What does this person want from him? Did he do something wrong? Maybe this really was for him...? No, no, it wasn't for him. It couldn't possibly be, he doesn't talk to anyone in this class! He doesn't even have any friends! It was probably just for the person who always sits next to him anyways. Besides, who would ever want to go out of their way to be all buddy-buddy with him? Matthew "I Bring Everyone Down" Williams? Matthew "The Invisible Sucker for Happiness" Williams? Matthew "Never Good Enough" Williams, Matthew--

Oh, how his spirals are so convienently interrupted! Before he knew it the teacher had said his greetings and class had begun. Only after opening his notebook to hopefully mindlessly write down whatever he managed to catch from the lecture did he continue, belittling himself for the rest of the class for seemingly no reason. Deep-rooted depression is a terrible thing, especially when the base of it is that you have no one to back you up. He sulked with his arms folded on the desk, already giving up on the whole writing notes part. It's not like anyone would notice him not paying attention anyways, right? The period was instead spent analysing the note, making note of each dumb bird doodle and blotch of ink where the pen stayed still for a second too long. Matthew was only interrupted ten minutes after class ended as before he knew it the note was suddenly snatched straight from his hand by none other than his brother.

Alfred studied the letter as the other tried to comprehend what was going on. "I knew you had a secret admirer!" His comment echoed through the now empty classroom, shaking Matthew out of his depression-indunced trance.

"Hey! be quiet first of all!" He reprimanded, straightening up and trying to pull himself together as fast as possible. Why did Alfred out of all people have to spot him like this? How the hell did time pass so quickly, anyway? He could've sworn it was two in the afternoon an hour ago. "Second, that wasn't even meant for me! It was for whoever sits next to me. It must've fell off their desk." He lied through his teeth as he shot up from his desk and grabbed the note away from Alfred while he was listening and jammed it into his coat pocket. Well, it wasn't a TOTAL lie, it's what he thought, and it was entirely plausible with his luck.

"Oh, whatever!" The other teased, rolling his eyes dramatically. Typical Alfred. His attention soon turned to walking through the door. "You can tell me who it is when you want, I guess!" He turned back to his brother for a second, noticing he was already winding down. "Let's just go grab some Wendy's or somethin' and get home. It's Dad's turn to cook tonight and if I'm forced to eat another rock-hard biscuit I'm gonna puke my brains out." He then proceeded to hang from the doorway. "And don't think I won't do it. It's happened twice this month and I won't hesitate to make myself do it again to prove you wrong!"

Matthew's demenor changed and he laughed softly at the remark, brightening his mood up a little. He wasn't really sure why his parents set up the turn system in the first place. I guess it was just to make his dad feel better about his god-awful cooking. Trust him from experience first-hand, it was bad. It was almost routine at this point to grab fast food whenever he was in the kitchen for the night. He made a mental note to try to convince his Papa to do all the cooking from now on as he trailed behind, pulling out his phone to text back home about their excursions. "Fine, fine, but I just want a soda. MAYBE fries if you're paying." He said, not looking away from the screen.

"You're gonna look like a twig for the rest of your life if you eat like that." Alfred joked as he poked at his brother's cheek.

"Shut up."

Chapter Text

Friday.


Friday was...anxiety inducing, to say the least.


As mentioned before, Matthew was actually quite early for his classes most of the time, yet he was always at least the second one in. Usually it'd just be some people who wished they weren't there, but he couldn't couldn't blame them much for it though because come on, no one likes math. No one. However, for the past few days that damned kid in the weird eagle hoodie had always been there early, like, first person through the door kind of early. It was especially suspicious considering he would usually come to this period embarassingly late. Being naturally observant has it's perks, sometimes! Matthew also would note to himself about whoever the mystery hoodie man was (do you think he cared enough to pay attention to personal details like his name?) seemed to never pay attention in class, always fiddling with pencils and other stationary instead, sometimes annoying the person who made the unfortunate mistake to sit next to him. He seemed to be pretty popular too, always being crowded by unknown faces by the time class was over. Matthew soon realized he had been zoning out for the past few moments, that he had been standing in the doorway as if he was a deer in headlights. Slightly embarassed, he made a beeline for his seat, staring down at the floor on reflex to avoid eye contact. (Which was a fruitless habit anyways, but don't try to remind him.) He pulled out his notebook and placed it ontop of his desk, which made a...crinkling sound? Last time he checked, notebooks don't sound like you're wadding up a piece of paper. Naturally, Matthew was slightly confused. He decided to peek under the notebook to see what was under there, thinking someone just threw more discarded notes onto his desk.


That wasn't the case this time.

No, not at all.

The culprit turned out to be a letter.


That's right, a letter. A small, pale yellow letter with his name written on it taped onto the middle of his desk. Well, not exactly his name; It was addressed to a "Mattie" complete with a little star in place of a dot for the I. It's not like he was nitpicking at the moment though. Matthew happened to be fucking bewildered at the entire situation, just to put it bluntly. Who in the world would call him "Mattie?" No one calls him that except his Papa and Alfred. Wait, hold on a minute...this was a prank, isn't it? Oh, he should've known! Unfortunately, There's only one way to find out if it was. He might as well bite the bullet and open it, it'd be rude. Besides, he was starting to feel bad for whoever was pulling these dumb note stunts. Whoever this is must be either really desperate or really stupid...or both. He sat down and slowly attempted to open the letter as neat as he could (which failed miserably), taking out the piece of paper inside as a small wave of people pooled into the class. He made no rush or anything of the sort to hide the contents, it wasn't like people were going to notice him reading it anyways. Once again, the note was written in that same blue ink, with the same odd doodles, but it appeared to be somewhat more formal than the last two, if you could even call it that. At least they took it up a notch and decided to write on a piece of (messily folded) printer paper this time.


"HARD TO GET, ARE WE? I CAN'T GET ANY MORE DIRECT THAN THIS: SAME LOCATION, SAME TIME. DON'T MISS IT THIS TIME, BIRDIE.
STAY AWESOME - GB"



"...What the fuck?"

That was the only thing Matthew could really say to himself at the moment. What was even happening at this point? It was like the forces of fate woke up and felt like being a giant dick to him this week. Before he knew it anxiety (with a touch of excitement thrown in for a change) began to swell inside him like a balloon, the words echoing through his mind. His worries festered inside him as he found himself asking a myriad of questions. Who the hell could this be? What the hell do they want from him? What did 'stay awesome' mean??? Who would even say that? It sounds ridiculous! Even worse, why did they call him 'birdie?' Was that supposed to be an insult or was it affectionate??? God, he hopes it isn't affectionate. Why couldn't they just talk to him in person? Were they embarassed to be seen with him? Matthew was already starting to reconsider the idea that this was a very cruel prank. He took a deep breath as a (futile) attempt to regain his composure before finally sitting down in his seat, stuffing the letter and its contents in his jacket pocket. He then decided to spend the first half of the period playing detective, thinking of all the possible ways this situation could have possibly presented itself. It wasn't even near Valentines, so it couldn't have been a secret admirer. That's a relief. It's not like it could've been someone trying to get a rise him or something either, they would'nt have been so...persistent. Whoever's doing this must have some paitence, or once again, might just be very, very stupid. Come to think of it...how did this person even find the chance to even get to tape the damn thing on his desk, anyways? Nobody could've possibly been able to put this here switching classes. Alfred's last period isn't anywhere near here, so it couldn't have been him or anyone else in senior year. (thank God.) Who was in here today before he came in? No one, actually, except--

Oh.

Holy shit.

 




The last half of the period was spent now playing the role as a ridiculous overthinker. It really was that annoying, loudmouthed hoodie guy this whole time, huh? Matthew felt like he probably should've guessed it, but why would someone so...flashy and supposedly popular be trying to talk to him out of all people? From what he could see (which wasn't exacly a good view, considering he could only see the back of his head), he had his signature sweatshirt off today, instead opting for a white band tee with...something written on the back of it. (what it was exactly Matthew couldn't really make out as it was both partially obscured by a classroom chair and in another language.) If it was anyone else right now he would've been rolling his eyes and say something along the lines of "he's trying way too hard to look cool, it's 30 degrees out for christ's sake!", but there was something different about him. Something that he couldn't quite put his finger on. Was it his seemingly bleached platinum blonde hair? Or was it the tacky wallet chain? What about the bulky cross pendant he always wore around his neck matched with an array of bizarre looking beaded braclets? You know, maybe he was the desperate one here. Before he even knew it, the bell rang, but this time he wasn't scared by the noise or dreading to leave. Quite the contrary actually. For the first time during his time at high school, he was excited. That also meant he was nervous for the millionth and first time during his time at high school. If you couldn't tell, this would be the first of many 'fuck-it' kind of moments. Matthew felt like he needed to take a few risks in his life anyways, or more rather, that was his reasoning for being reckless and not listening to his common sense. He quickly pulled out his phone to send a few texts before strolling out of the classroom, unconciously smiling at his mobile screen.


Now, Matthew didn't really enjoy lying to people, but current events had made him compelled to send a couple tiny white lies via text to his Papa to let him stay out without Alfred. This was 'fuck-it' moment number two. He told his father that he was going to do his homework at the local library, since it was much more quieter over there than the hustle and bustle of the Bonnefoy-Kirkland household. Same with the latter, but made it sound even more boring that it already was to make double-sure he wouldn't tag along. He wouldn't have anyways, it was simply a double-precaution; Alfred had the attention span of a toddler and the volume control of a megaphone. Luckily, Papa also happily agreed, mostly due to the fact that his son was willingly staying out of the house for once. All that he asked was to bring home a cookbook for him to page through and to be home by 6:30. That was easy enough, guess it pays to be the polite and quiet child, he thought to himself, clutching his phone to his chest leaning against a brick wall. The back of the school was less exciting than you'd think it would be. The only people who came around here were second hand drug dealers and underaged smokers, and even then that was rare, considering this was supposed to be a 'good neighborhood.'

"3:59." He whispered, "He'll be here any minute now--"

"Hey, you finally decided to come, birdie!"


Matthew initally jumped at the sound of the unfamiliar voice. The first thing he noticed was the accent. It definitely wasn't from around here, or even the States in general. It had to be European. German, maybe?


"I-Is that supposed to be me?" He stuttered out. He immediately mentally smacked himself for saying that afterwards. 'Of course it's supposed to be you, you idiot!' He thought, mentally sulking. He had a feeling this was going to turn sour real fast.


The other laughed at Matthew's reaction. "No, the pile of stomped-on leaves next to you." He sarcastically replied, not reading the air of the situation until he noticed the other's slightly embarassed expression mixed with awkward silence. "Of course you, dummy!" He grinned as he walked over to a mildly afraid Matthew and sat in front of him, ushering the other to sit with him. "I'm the one and only Gilbert Beilschmidt, but uh, you can call me Gil. Gilbert sounds totally un-awesome, it's like what your mom calls you when you get in trouble."


Matthew's weak smile turned into a genuine (and a somewhat worried) one. German, he knew it! He slid don the wall to meet eyes with Gil. Did he have contacts on? He had never seen eyes that red except in cartoons. Even when they were sitting down across from each-other, Matthew towered over the other. Curse his tall, lanky stature! "Un...Un-awesome? Is that even a word?"


"Of course it is! West gets annoyed at me for saying it so much though."


"Um...West?" It had been five minutes and Matthew was already extremely confused at this interaction. What did he say about this going downhill?


"Oh, you know that one Junior? Blonde hair slicked back, buff, looks like he could murder you by just staring at you for too long?" Gil recieved a slow nod and a soft chuckle as a reply. "Ludwig. He's my little bro, skipped a grade." He started rolling his eyes, exaggerating the gesture by scoffing. Something told Matthew he was a little more upset about it then he let on. "but at this point he's pretty much the older one. He's a good kid though! Taught him everything he knows!" Matthew simply watched the other as he contined to gush about his brother. He assumed they were pretty close. "Oh-- Anyways," His eyes fixated on Matthew, who had soon realized that the ruby red tint in his eyes were, in fact, real. "Enough about me! I want to know about you."


He tensed up immediately. God knows that he was absolutely terrible at talking about himself. "What? Why? Not sure if you know, but I'm not that interesting! I'm practically invisible." He looked away from Gil on instinct. Good job trying to cover that one up.


"Pfft! I call bullshit! Everyone's at least a little interesting! Just say anything about yourself, doesn't matter how stupid it is!" He gave Matthew a reassuring smile once he looked back, and for the first time in what felt like forever, he felt...sort of okay.


The two warmed up to each other much sooner than Matthew expected, and they ended up talking about a wide variety of subjects...their favorite being themselves, mainly. Matthew couldn't remember the last time he talked to someone without worrying about what came out of his mouth. He learned that Gil was friends with Alfred, which is where he got "Mattie" from. (Of course.) They both also had a huge interest in music. Gil played guitar (electric and acoustic!) and was trying to start his own garage band, which had everything except someone on drums, which Matthew had been meaning to learn. They also had the same taste in music, although Gil was more of a fan of 90's rock. Both struggled in school, but for different reasons. Gil at the very least made up for it in personality and people skills. He also LOVED any sort of weapondry and had a knife collection back home (Which he promised to show off if he ever went over. That also explains the sword doodles.) He also had a pet canary which was affectionately named Gilbird ("What's a better way to love your pet than naming it after the best thing you know?") which Matthew made him promise to never bring it around his house in case the family cat decided to get some ideas.


By the time they were starting to run out of things to talk about, the sun had started to set, making the light that was once bright and clear more alike to a burnt-out orange, their shadows beginning to creep out. They signaled to Matthew that he had to leave, or more specifically, should've left a while ago.
"Hey, I, uh, have to go. I promised my Papa I'd be home already, sorry." He had cut Gil's current rant about his favorite Netflix comedy specials short, getting up from the cold concerete blacktop and brushing off any dirt or pebbles that had gotten on his oversized track jacket and jeans. It was amazing that everything he wore always looked slightly too big on him. "Plus, he uh, probably needs help with dinner and stuff...sorry." He didn't even realize he apologized twice in a row until after the fact.


"Papa...cute." Gil murmured to himself, not realizing the other had (partially) heard him.


"...What was that?"


"Oh, nothing, it's nothing! That's fine, no worries!" Gilbert flashed a grin, acting as if nothing happened while fishing something out of his back pocket. He pulled out a ripped piece of looseleaf paper which had his phone number scribbled on it and handed it to the other. "Here, text me when you're home?"


Matthew examined at the paper for a second, confused, but then smiled at the gesture, grabbing the paper and transferring it into his jacket pocket. "Yeah, definetly. See you on Monday?" He gave a (sort of awkward) half-hearted wave.


"Hell yeah! See ya!" Gil waved back (much more enthusiastically), then turned the other way, walking towards the school parking lot.


Matthew didn't walk away, instead he stayed in place, watching him leave. Did he really just spend easily more than two and a half hours talking to someone? Someone who actually enjoyed his presence? His interests? Him? As much as he tried to convince himself that there had to be some sort of ulterior motive to this, he just couldn't shake off the feeling that this might just possibly be genuine, that by some weird miracle brought by the universe that he had a (small) chance at being a normal teenager. It was a nice change, being happy. It was also sort of jarring, as Matthew had always struggled with being able to see the glass half-full when chances like this popped up, but he was content that he took the risk for once. He was content even though he felt like everything could go wrong at any second, each step he took on the sidewalk, however long it took to find his house key in his bag. Something could come crumbling down at any given moment, and ruin everything like how he felt like it always did, but right now he didn't care. All he could think about was how excited that he finally could text someone, call someone, be around someone. He could finally talk to someone and maybe even start to pour his heart out, even if it was probably only for a joke in the end. He felt like a little kid making a friend on the playground, to be honest. Matthew;s head was buzzing and he was beaming as he opened the door, yet it quickly faded and was replaced with confusion as and he was greeted to an empty foyer.Weird, he was expecting his Papa to wait for him like he always did when he got home late. He didn't pay it much mind though, as he was most likely busy preparing dinner.

"Mathieu? Est-ce vous, chérie?" His Papa called from the kitchen. Looks like he was right. Not that it was a bad thing, he could go for some homestyle cooking, anyways; he hadn't eaten anything since Wednesday.


"Oui, sorry about the hold-up, Papa!" Matthew yelled, making his way towards the other's voice. "I kind of lost track of time, I got caught up on my worst subject." Once again, not a total lie, but it was bad enough to make him feel guilty about it afterwards.


"Don't even worry about it. I am so proud of you for studying so hard!" Francis said as the other peeked through the kitchen doorway. that statement sure Matthew feel even more guilty. He found himself feeling like he was going to sink into his jacket. Francis took a hair tie off of his arm and began to tie his shoulder-length hair into a small ponytail. "Since your father is sleeping and Alfred went to play video games," He rolled his eyes at the latter's unproductive choices in activities. "How about you put your bag down by the stairs and help set up the table? Dinner will be ready in around ten minutes, so you should go tell your brother afterwards. Lord knows he should take his eyes off that screen once in a while."


Matthew nodded in reply, hurrying back to the foyer to set his bag down. (and his jacket, his Papa always kept the house a little too hot during the colder months.) Arriving back in the kitchen, he rolled up his sleeves and went over to grab some silverware from the kitchen drawer when he heard:


"So how was your studies? You said they were tough, no? Oh, and what book did you pick out for me? I can't wait to see it after dinner~! You know I need some new recipes to work with!"


Shit.

Chapter Text

The rest of the night could honestly not go fast enough for Matthew. He ate his food in a rush for starters, which was unusual enough for him as he would rarely eat most of the time. He then almost dropped a plate on the cat in an attempt to wash the dishes as fast as he could, much to his brother's amusement and his dad's horror. Then after what felt like forever, he hurried upstairs and into his bedroom before his older brother could follow, not even remembering to make up a fib for the missing book. Luckily, no one remembered, since the universe had settled on giving him a break; everyone else had all gotten into an argument during dinner over the correct term for 'cream puffs.' ("They're called profiteroles, god damn it!" "Non! Chou à la Crème!" "Can't you two act like you're American for once and call them cream puffs?") He closed the bedroom door behind himself with a sigh of relief as he flopped himself ontop of his red and white sheets, looking up at his ceiling.


...Suddenly he realized that this was a lot harder than he thought it was going to be.


Texting first is one of the hardest things to do! What if you say the wrong thing to open the conversation up? What if you type up too much or too little? What if, what if, what if! There's more things that could go wrong than right! Why couldn't he have just gave Gil his number? Thoughts raced around Matthew's mind as he fished Gil's number out of his pocket. He examined the hastily scribbled down numbers, written in the same blue ink. It was almost like his trademark by now at this point. "Well...now or never, right?" Matthew said to himself as he took his cellphone out from underneath one of the pillows, unlocking it and opening the messanger app. His thumb hovered over the contact button as he gave the action one last second thought. He did tell him he was going to text him tonight, it'd just be rude not to hold himself up to that. He typed in the contact info along with a simple message before hitting send with his eyes squeezed shut.


MATTHEW: Hey, is this Gil? Hopefully I got the right number.


He had recieved the reply a few minutes later while scrolling through a social media app to distract himself from his own nerves.


GILBERT: hell yea u did bud!! what's up??


'Bud'...Wow, Gil sure typed informally. It's not like Matthew wasn't guilty of it either, but he typed much more politely to people he knew in real life. On social media however? That was an entirely different story. A story for another time, not now.


MATTHEW: Nothing much, really. Just ate and now I'm kind of hanging around in my room. Boring, right?


The reply was almost instant.


GILBERT: not at all, i did the same.


...How the hell was he supposed to reply to that?


MATTHEW: Nice!

MATTHEW: Soooo...

GILBERT: so what??

MATTHEW: I'm just not exactly good at this whole conversation thing, really.


"Figured that was kind of obvious from the start, Gil." Matthew said to himself, sighing. Once again, he had low hopes for this conversation.


GILBERT: well we can like idk

GILBERT: ask eachother questions abt ourselves?? like we did a few hrs ago

GILBERT: shit we wanna kno abt eachother, dumb stuff.

Matthew was learning soon enough that Gilbert was just as bad at talking to people as he was. (As if the notes didn't explain that well enough.) This happened to be both a relieving and horrifying revelation.


MATTHEW: Okay, easy enough. I can go first.

MATTHEW: Favorite candy?



Immediately after he sent that, Matthew felt as if that question was suddenly the most uninaginative of its kind.


GILBERT: easy, himbeer bonbons


Google was now officially Matthew's best friend.


MATTHEW: Oh, cool. Mine are Coffee Crisps...I'm getting broke from ordering them online haha

MATTHEW: Your turn.

GILBERT: ok this one might be a biiit weird.


Oh no.


MATTHEW: Hit me with your best shot.


Well that sounded cockier than expected. Once again, it was an instant reply. This guy's been replying faster than Matthew could think.


GILBERT: whats ur room look like??


A couple things: For one, how fast could Gil type? It was faster than Matthew, and he was known in the family for it. He was using a mobile keyboard too, which is even more impressive. Secondly, that's a bit of an invasive question to ask when you've only known someone for a few hours, isn't it? At least he acknowledged it was weird. Most likely this guy just couldn't think of a good question to get the ball rolling. At least it was an interesting one. He wasn't sure how he could respond with just words (if he even could), so instead he opted for rolling out of bed and taking a quick photo of his side of the room.


His bedroom walls were painted a deep navy blue (the only color both siblings could agree on back when they were eleven) with the only decoration over them being a few band posters he's collected over the years and thumbtacked photos from family trips that Matthew had taken with his Polaroid. His window situated right above his bed was open, giving a peak of the calm suburbs he lived in. On top of his pillow was a well-loved, fluffy, cream colored plush bear lying as if it was a ragdoll. Matthew had the stuffed animal as long as he could remember, and even if it's a little embarassing to still have around he couldn't get through some things without it. Next to the bed, there was a desk complete with an office chair (that looked like it had been in use for the past ten years nonstop) with a desktop computer by his bed, which was opened to a screensaver of a hockey team logo (go Pittsburgh!) and had colorful sticky notes pretty much entirely covering the sides of it. Most of them had hastily written down reminders to do things such as do homework or take medication. A few even had dumb little doodles that he was just a little too proud of to throw away. At the end of the bed was a bookshelf that was chock full of novels of all genres with figurines and other knick-knacks taking up the remainder of the shelves. (He would always tell himself he would get to reading some of those books.) After reviewing the photo, Matthew took a bit of extra time to be a bit productitve and change his clothes into a comfy, plain gray t-shirt with matching sweatpants (not forgetting a plastic headband to keep his hair from getting in the way of anything) before getting back into bed and sending the photo.


MATTHEW: [image attached]

MATTHEW: Simple enough, I guess.

MATTHEW: What about yours?


How else was he supposed to keep the conversation going? Besides, the talk made him curious. Once again, the reply popped up on his screen almost immediately with two photos attached. Was he already prepared for this? He clicked on the notification.


Gil's room was...neater than Matthew thought it was going to be, to be honest.


In the first photo, which seemed to show his sleeping quarters, posters of various movies and music groups were plastered throughout the entire room, yet they were neatly organized to the point where you couldn't even see the color of the wall. His bed stood out, mostly because it looked like no one had ever laid in it before, almost as if it was on display. The headboard doubled as a shelf, having a small collection of trophies and small framed photos. (and also a few opened can of Redbull.) There was a snack table in front of the middle of the bed with a closed laptop ontop of it, with a canary-themed mousepad covering the brand label. Man, this guy must really likes birds... Maybe he also had some internet knowledge? At the end of his bed was a large (and heavily stocked) birdcage, presumably where Gilbird resided. Did such a small bird really need such a big cage?


The second photo showcased that Gil also had a desk to the right side of his room, but instead of a desktop there was what could only be described as organized chaos: homework papers seemed to scatter across the surface, the trashbin situated next to it was overflowing with crumpled-up pieces of paper and energy drink cans, and Matthew could see a single pen that seemed like it was about to be chewed in half. a corkboard was hung above the chaos, with printed out photos of micilanious things tacked into it. There was also a calender near, but he couldn't read out any events that were on it. To the left was a large television monitor seated on a low-level coffee table, perfect for the collection of video games and their matching consoles. There were also two black beanbag chairs. (Matthew assumed the other was for Gil's younger brother.) There was also a minifridge with various tacky magnets decorating the front.


GILBERT: [image attached]

GILBERT: ur room looks so much cozier than mine tbh


...Cozier? What part about his room could possibly be considered cozy? Was it because it was smaller? To be fair, it wasn't even that small, his brother just took up the other half of the room, but it wasn't like he was going to even try to bring up that fact. Gil would probably drop him right then and there. Come on, who still shares a room with their sibling at this age? Even if he did decide to risk it, Alfred's side of the room always looked like a hurricane, no, three hurricanes ran through it... he'd save Gil the second-hand embarassment. Now that he thought about it, it could've also been the fact that his desk looked like he practically lived there. Hopefully it just looked like he used the computer to study, not that he spent the majority of his free time browsing the web. Matthew knew he probably already looked like a total loser, but at least he had dignity. Besides, most of those sticky notes have been there longer than the school year. He made a mental note to himself to organize his desk before replying.



MATTHEW: My turn. Why ask for a photo of my room out of all things?

MATTHEW: Cozier? I guess you could say that.


How risky! To his surprise, no typing bubble popped up. He even waited a few seconds just in case, but it was fruitless in the end. Matthew knew he was probably just busy (or more likely, had fallen asleep, it was around nine at night, but it was a Friday) but that didn't stop him from worrying. Was that too invasive? Should he have just asked a normal question? The fact was that it was done now. He just needed to do something to calm the nerves, that's all. So like any (extremely nerdy) teenager, he resorted to moving to his desk, pulling up a roleplaying game to pass the time instead of wasting away in bed. Can you blame him? Anyone could lose themselves playing those sorts of things. Besides, it's much easier to talk to people when you're masked behind the role of someone entirely different.

 



Ding!


The notification noise had pulled Matthew right back to reality. How much time passed? He clicked his phone open: it was a little over midnight. That was around three hours from when they started. His first thought was 'why wasn't Gil asleep by now?' His second was 'why isn't *my brother* asleep by now?' He looked over to the other side of the room, noticing that his brother wasn't even in the room. So that's why it was almost eerily peaceful in here! He probably must have passed out on the couch again. Matthew couldn't even imagine what would've gone down if Alfred found him smiling at his phone like he has been this entire time. He considered it a blessing in disguise. Those seemed to be given to him at an alarmingly fast rate as of late, but he wasn't going to start complaining. A sigh of relief escaped him as he proceeded to open up his messages to find out the answer to his question.

GILBERT: u can tell a lot abt people by stuff like that yanno??

GILBERT: same with like idk

GILBERT: how people dress. the shoes mostly.

GILBERT: thats how i first noticed u around


...Excuse me? The...the shoes? Was Alfred's dyslexia starting to surface in him? He rubbed his eyes before checking the message again. Forget any suspicions now, this guy definitely had a lot more than a couple screws lose in his head...but he did have a point. This made Matthew instinctively look over to his bedside where his own shoes, a pair of well-used black converse, were messily tossed a couple hours beforehand. Could they really stand out to someone like that?



MATTHEW: How in the hell did you even notice that, anyways?

MATTHEW: Let me guess, the Converse?

MATTHEW: Kind of a silly way to start talking to someone, you think?


Okay, that was enough questions for now. He didn't want to make Gil feel like he was being interrogated. He didn't even get the chance press unpause on his game before a message came in with another 'ding!'


GILBERT: yea we have the same pair

GILBERT: never take mine off n urs look the same lmaooo

GILBERT: but cmon look around u man

GILBERT: ur bro wears nothing but like $200 nikes that's gotta say somethin

Even though he was slightly embarassed about the implication that his shoes were in desperate need of a scrub or, even better, replacement, he did realize that Gil was surprisingly right. He didn't exactly seem like the observant type, though. Perhaps this guy was a little more bright than he initially lead on. Besides, he genuinely thought he was the only one who judged people based on clothing. Then again, he judged people based on a lot of things, but he wasn't about to become an asshole about it. If anything, he was too nice to people who he had a distaste for. He was actually going to press for more details on the whole shoe discussion, but the weight of the day was starting to get to him. Matthew could feel himself practically falling asleep at his keyboard.


MATTHEW: That's true. Maybe you're onto something.

Matthew: Hey uh, I'm really sorry but I am REALLY tired. Do you mind if we pick this back up tomorrow?


He took the time to shut off his computer, take a generous dosage of melatonin, and shuffle off to his bed before checking his phone again.


GILBERT: yea no prob

GILBERT: gn!!


If Matthew knew anything, it's that if someone says goodnight to you after just meeting them, that means they're being genuine. That or they just really want to get the conversation over with, but he was obviously not hoping that the latter was true. (His pessimistic side didn't need anymore fuel, mind you) At least he might've done good enough to make this guy actually like him a little bit.


MATTHEW: Goodnight!


And then he powered his phone off, plugging it into the charger and placing it under his pillow. He took off his glasses and set them on the windowstill before closing the window itself. (Could you imagine if his Papa found out that he was the one who always let out all the hot air at night?) Then he grabbed his stuffed bear (the perfect overthinking companion!) and laid completely in the dark (save for the glow in the dark stars Alfred placed over the ceiling when he was little) processing the conversation. This...this is what normal teenagers do, right? This is much more draining than talking to people online. He was honestly more surprised that this hasn't all fallen to pieces yet. It couldn't be a joke now, could it? He still wasn't sure, or more rather, he still wasn't sure that people actually enjoyed his presence in general. Matthew just couldn't get the lingering feeling of dread out of his system. This was all too good to be true. He'll probably just fuck it all up in the end, anyways. He suddenly felt tired, moreso than before. Looks like the sleeping meds were doing their job. He probably would've imploded if it weren't for them. His worries will have to wait until the morning.


If only he knew how well he was doing in the eyes of someone else.