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PROLOGUE

 

France's blue eyes slid back over, irritated as he watched the former country tap his pen impatiently against the manila folder they'd each been given. The man had not paid attention to hardly anything being said at the meeting, which normally would not have bothered him, but he was also being a pest. Sighing loudly, asking for constant breaks so he could go use his cell, tapping that damned pen against the table.

He could tell that Germany was getting irritated with the man as well, though he'd not given any sign other than glaring, which he was doing very well at this very moment. Apparently the tapping was irritating him as well. Then again, his brother being present would be his own fault, so France supposed he could not complain to awfully much. He'd insisted that Prussia had not been involved in enough of the world affairs and if he wanted to continue to have any pull, he would have to begin coming to the conferences and at the very least taking notes. Something of which Prussia was less than happy to do.

It didn't take much longer for them to wrap up the meeting, thankfully and France noted with a curious twitch of his eyebrow that Prussia was the first one to grab up his things and make his way silently out of the room, Germany watching his every movement suspiciously.

"Notice zat too Mon ami?" France's smooth voice asked, quiet as he moved to stand beside the tall German. The blonde's eyes darted over to France's and he gave a small nod after a moment of sizing the other countries intentions up.

"Ja. He complains about not being involved in the affairs of the world and not having recognition, yet he seems very eager to run from responsibility. This is my bruder." he sighed heavily, gathering up his thing.

"Oui. Oui. But zat's not what I meant. 'e was in quite ze hurry. It does make one worry, Germany, zat he may 'ave an alliance behind our backs." At this, the taller country stiffened and turned his gaze back to the other man. "Not zat i'm accusing your brozer of turning on us, but it is...suspicious, no?"

It was a long moment and most of the countries having shuffled their way from the room later that Germany finally answered, eyes on the manila folder before him. "He's not been home, either lately. I did not think much of this as he goes drinking often, but i'd assumed it had been with you or Spain-" he glanced back up, catching the negative head motion from France and sighed. "but now this does seem much more...as you said, suspicious."

It wasn't something he wanted to think of his brother doing...forming a negative alliance, but if Prussia was determined enough to take back what he'd had, to keep a reigning title, it was not out of the question. And honestly with his brother he could put nothing like that past him. His actions had been disturbing and strange as of the past few years. And when Ludwig thought of it, he really hadn't seen him at home that often. At first he'd slowly seen less and less until now Prussia was rarely around except on important dates or occasions...

An unsettled feeling was boiling in the pit of his stomach as he watched his brother's outline in the car in front of them. At first, he'd been reluctant to take the French incarnation's offer to follow his brother and see where he was going, having a sick feeling for doubting him at all, but if he wanted any answers, he knew something would have to be done.

And so, resigned, he followed the flamboyant country as they trailed his elder sibling. He'd not even detoured toward Germany from the conference which had taken place in London. Instead, the private jet had begun it's long journey across the wide expanse of ocean towards the North American continent.

Imagine not only his, but France's surprise when they'd landed on the outskirts of Ontario, Prussia's car already waiting at the small airport for him. They'd circled a bit more as he drove off before landing and 'persuading' the 'rental' of a car from one of the airport's small staff.

And so they found themselves following the small white vehicle up the winding back-roads into a highly forested area, silent curiousity and worry growing between them.

An hour later, they found themselves parking their car at the end of a decent driveway, turning all lights off as Gilbert climbed out of his car and jogged his way up to a beautiful two story house set in the middle of a wooded clearing. Even more surprising was the fact that he did not knock on the door, but let himself in, shutting it behind him. From inside, shadows moved across the backdrop and nervousness sank into Germany's stomach. This would be the perfect location for a meeting of rebelling nations if ever there were one. Noone would ever think to check Canada, nor the back regions and this...it was just out of the way enough to be even more suspicious.

France pulled himself away from his staring trance, nudging at Germany's arm. "Ludwig, let's go. We need to see what they're saying in there!" he whispered, though at this point that was needless. Germany nodded slowly and followed his motions, opening the cardoor and climbing out into the crisp fall air. There was a slight crispness to the wind as the sun began to sink down behind the tallest of trees, signalling the onslaught of evening time to come. They quietly made their way up to the door, the French nation pressing his ear up to listen.

As he pulled away to speak however, a yelling startled them both. It sounded as though a loud fight had broken out within the household, two lighter voices yelling, nearly drowned out by the roar of Prussia's voice. With little thought for consequence, Germany's hand grasped the doorknob and shoved the door open.

!


This was not how this was supposed to happen. Though, he supposed, if he were honest with himself, he'd never really thought about it happening at all. Maybe somewhere in the back of his mind, he'd imagined that ignorance would be bliss as it had been for quite the while now. That this would never come to light and he could continue to live a damn near perfect life. But that was not to be, it seemed.

And so all he could do now was stand, frozen in place, as the two intruders stood frozen as well, wide eyed and watching him in near disbeleif. The taller and broader of the men, his hand on the doorknob that he'd pushed open hastily, moved his mouth briefly as though to speak but could not seem to find his voice. The other looked as though he were to pass out. The only reminder that he was still standing on real ground was the light weight at his front and back and the small breaths at his ear.

Time was standing still. Five pairs of eyes sizing each other up, two confused, the other three shocked.

"Gil?"

It was at that moment that his partner in 'crime' came around the corner from the kitchen, stopping in the doorway and freezing up as well a small hand attatched to his own, his other free hand resting on the heavy roundess of his stomach.

The world slowly began to turn again, time caught up and everything happened all at once.

"Matthieu?"

"Bruder?"

"Papa, who's them?"

"Oh Maple…."

!

Chapter Text


The first thing that Ludwig noticed was how strikingly similar the trio frozen in front of the couch was. Though two of them had hair a shade or two darker than the tallest of the three, they all had the same facial expressions. Their features from their noses to their mouths were identical copies of one another's. Slowly, the man stood up straight, his hands holding the precious cargo clinging to him firmly to make sure they didn't fall.

When he'd burst in the door, he'd expected a fight. He'd expected Prussia, headlocking some nation, or perhaps being the one held in an uncomfortable headlock, getting the shit beat out of him. That he'd expected. Hell, he'd even expected to perhaps find him with a random lover have a spat.

He never expected to find his older brother with two young boys hanging off of his neck. Not in a million years.

Prussia knelt down smoothly, patting the small hands still clinging to him. Without having to say a word, the two boys let go, one dropping to his feet in front of the man, the other sliding down off his back before moving around to join his brother.

It was at this point that Canada chose to speak up, reaching down with a sigh to lift the small girl at his side into his arms and pushing his glasses up his nose. "Boys, why don't you go into the back and play. There's a fresh pile of leaves that your dad raked up." he offered, moving into the main living room. Immediately the tension seemed to leave the boys as they cheered, shoving each other out of the way to get to the back door, yelling excitedly along the way about who was going to destroy the tightly packed pile first. Canada easily waved the two boys past him before moving toward Prussia, shooting a glance at the door.

"Why don't you two come inside and have a seat. Your letting the air out." he said lightly before turning to face Prussia, the crimson eyes lowering to meet his own, softening visibly. "I'm going to put her down to nap, i'll be right out, then we can sort this." The statement was calm but firm and the albino nodded once before dropping a soft kiss against the other's brow as he made his way out of the room.

!


When Matthew returned from the long hallway he was greeted by silence. Prussia stood leaning against the kitchen doorway while Ludwig and Francis sat on the couch, each attempting to look less uncomfortable than they actually were. Matthew, not one to beat around the bush, moved past them towards the kitchen. "Would you like anything to drink? This might take a little while." he sighed, finally looking the two in the face as he paused in the doorway.

Ludwig stayed silent and shook his head to the negative. Francis, however, stood in a rush and followed Matthew into the kitchen. The elder country seemed to pause before he raised his hand, resting it unsurely on Canada's shoulder. "Matthieu…you've never said…I knew you asked for space...zis is where you 'ave been?" he asked quietly. The shock was slowly beginning to wear off, replaced by a deep concern for the boy that he'd always thought of as his son. Matthew sighed softly, stopping at the refridgerator and turning to look over his 'father's' shoulder at Prussia, nodding for him to go sit with his brother.

With a slightly doubtful look, the older nation obeyed, pushing away from the frame and out of sight into the living room.

"Oui, Papa. It is, but I-i'd really rather talk in the living room with the others." he said softly, gasping when the elder French man leaned in to him, wrapping him in a swift hug before pulling away, an odd silence over him and a thick sadness in his eyes. Matthew had never seen his 'father' this way before and he swallowed the hard knot growing in his throat. Dissapointment was slowly making it's way up through his chest and for the first time in nearly nine years he felt the strong pang of guilt that he'd struggled so hard to keep away.

!


"How long has dis been going on?" Ludwig asked over his clutched hands, pressing his mouth to them carefully, as though the words he wanted had to be kept at bay lest they come spilling out and make this moment even more awkward. His eyes moved between his elder brother and the younger country seated next to him, down to their linked hands. That's what threw him the most. He'd never seen his brother be affectionate in such a sense with anyone, yet the way he carefully slid his fingers across the other's, gently gliding them to entwine, gripping as though it would save his life...

Ludwig's eyes moved back up to meet the red and lavender that had broken from one another to glance at the men seated before them. He was again startled at the seriousness in his brothers voice as he spoke, leaning forward to press his elbows to his knees, Canada's hand still trapped in his, the other hand moving to join it.

"About nine years." A half smirk accompanied his words as another round of shock jolted through the two countries seated anxiously on the couch before them.

"N-nine years? Matthieu, you 'ave kept zis nine years?" Francis breathed out as his 'son' nodded. "Mon Dieu!" disbelief traced through his voice at the thought that he'd noticed nothing in such a long period of time. Months perhaps, maybe even a year or two, but nine years of what must have been a careful quiet...

"How did this even start? No offence to you..."

"Matthew." Gilbert shot a look at his younger brother, who studdered in response, his face flushing just slightly.

"Right, Matthew. No offence meant at all to you, but dis is strange, even for bruder and he does many strange things.." he coughed at Matthew's soft responsive chuckle.

"Yes he does. But I suppose that's what made this work?" he offered, voice wavering as he glanced over to see those beautiful red eyes trained on him, a small smirk the response to his query. He turned back, eyes boring into Francis' as he spoke. "This was never meant to come out like this. I guess we sort of figured it would just...work itself out."

The gentle chuckle he gave came out with a tinge of bitterness. "But we really should have known better, I guess. It's hard to keep something like this secret, i'm honestly surprised we did so long. But...it was nice while it lasted." a small smile graced his lips as he sat back.

"What I don't understand is how zis came to be, mon cher. I know ze both of you and zis….zis I would never have thought…how?"

!


past *

For the fifth time in the last hour, Gilbert deliberatly ignored the harsh glares from his brother, instead shifting his feet so that they sat more comfortably on top of the long meeting table. He glared back down his nose as his younger brother, who simply sighed and turned back to drone on about world affairs. Nothing that Prussia was interested in at the moment.

Instead he took his time to stare around the table in boredom. All eyes were focused at the front of the table on the blonde, who's hands were waving furiously, gruff voice commanding their attention. All except one pair. A pair he couldn't see. A pair that was focused intently on what looked to be…a decent sized stuffed animal...man these countries were just getting weirder and weirder.

Prussia tilt his head to the side as though the motion would allow him to see the younger's face, but to no avail. After a few more moments of staring, however, he became flustered at the other's lack of interest. Surely the man could feel the intense glare-down he was giving him! Completely unawesome of him to ignore it! Prussia's eyes darted across the table, finally finding a suitable projectile and covertly launching it over the wooden surface, the metal tumbling through the air before finally coming to tap down on the blond man's head.

Canada's head shot up at the sensation of something hitting his scalp. Instantly, his eyes met with a pair of deep crimson ones across from him. That would be Germany's brother, wouldn't it? Prussia. He glanced down the table once before turning his gaze back to the strange albino, who now had an eyebrow raised as though challenging who'd attempted to gather his attention.

Almost immediately a flush of pink spread up his neck as the older country did not move his gaze away. He didn't even blink! He just kept….staring at him and it was quickly becoming disconcerting. And the slow smirk spreading across his face didn't help matters at all.

Matthew's insecurities kicked in full speed and he dropped his head again, eyes focusing on the fur of the bear in his arms. Kumajiro turned it's soft face up at the motio. "Who are you?" though the only answer he received was a heavy sigh.

"Hey! HEY! You! Bear guy!" Prussia huffed, jogging to catch up with the man in the red hoodie. He'd watched him the entire time, slowly growing more and more interested as the fact became obvious that no one else in the room seemed to see him. He would attempt to speak up on a matter only to be interrupted and not one of the others had given him a sideways glance throughout the entire meeting. That only proved to spurn on Prussia's curiousity for the young man.

Matthew caught himself at the last comment, having convinced himself that the person yelling was not yelling at him. Then again, no one else in the meeting was carrying a miniature polar bear around with them. He glanced over his shoulder to see the red-eyed albino catching up to him quickly and his eyes widened in alarm.

What in the world could he want with ME? Panic began to set in as he watched the man's run come to a crawling hault until he stood directly before him, unfortunately quite a little bit taller than him as well, at least by a six inches if not more. That only served to intensify the intimidation he was feeling.

"Me?" he squeaked out, eyes blinking owlishly up at the grinning face.

"Yeah you! Don't think I've seen you before, what's your name?"

"m'not surprised…" came the mumbled response to which Matthew received a creased brow in his direction.

"What's that?"

"Nothing." The nervous man cut in quickly before correcting himself. "I-I'm Canada. Um…M-Matthew."

There was a long pause and Matthew was almost certain the man had blanked out completely before the response finally burst out of him and he grabbed Matthew's hand roughly. "Awesome! I'm Prussia. Call me Gilbert. Or Gil. But not Gilbird, cause that's this awesome little guy, see?" he chuckled, pointing up to a small yellow puff of a bird nestled into the silver locks on his head.

Matthew's eyes widened for a moment and he sputtered. Torn between curiousity, anxiety, nervousness and confusion, he couldn't quite decide which emotion to feel first. Here was one of the older of the countries…well, former country…darn near hunting him down in the long stretch of a hallway when everyone else (except Francis sometimes) did not even see he was there. And on top of that…he was talking to him! Actually….talking. With words. And sentences. That had structure.

And there Matthew stood making a few strange sounds out of his mouth, unable to find a semblance of coherency in him to save his life. It seemed he didn't' have to though, as Gilbert had already found his second wind.

"You looked just as bored as I felt in there! I don't listen to half the crap they ramble on about. Economies und taxes und whatever else. I'm not really part of that anymore." He shrugged, scratching the back of his neck as though he were answering an actual question put to him. "But hey! What're you doing? I mean now. Cause I'm hungry und I don't want to eat alone, ja?" he grinned, tossing an overly-friendly arm around the Canadian.

At this point, Matthew was fairly certain he was hallucinating. People did not ask him about his day, they did not inquire about his feelings, hell they didn't acknowledge him, let alone ask him to eat with them! "Uh….."

Gilbert raised another eyebrow, something that sent a strange jolt through Matthew's skin, though he wasn't exactly sure why. Fear? Nerves? He couldn't quite tell. "Awesome! How about you cook me something? I like wurst und potatoes und beer-"

Matthew frowned at the last one, fairly certain that you could not cook beer, but he could always be wrong. "Um..well I don't know how to make any of those. I mean, I'm sure I could if I try, but I really can only make pancakes and even then, I really should be getting home…" he said softly, his voice a quick muffle of anxiety.

Gilbert went silent for a moment, staring down at the fidgeting man. "What's pancakes?"

Any and all argument that Matthew had set aside feebly floated off into the distance with those two words, eyes turning upwards in utter disbelief. "What?"


Inside Matthew was berating himself for this. He could be raped, he could be hurt or murdered and no one would ever know. This man could do awful things to him for his own joy and no one would be there to come to his rescue until Alfred realized he was missing…possibly years from now!

But as he sat the plate of fresh cooked pancakes down in front of the silver-haired country, he couldn't help but feel a bit of the tension leave his body. The look of utter confusion on his face was nearly adorable, and though he was certain that was NEVER a word used for this man, it seemed oddly appropriate now. He watched as he poked and prodded at the fluffy food produced in front of him and a small grin crossed Matthew's face before he placed his own plate down on the table and sat before him.

"Um..like this…" he said softly, demonstrating by taking the crock of maple syrup and pouring an overly generous amount on his pancakes. He held the container out for the other man, trying his best not to giggle as he doused his own pancakes in the amber colored liquid.

Red eyes watched the Canadian's hands carefully as he cut into the stack and slid the ample bite into his mouth, smiling a little in contentment.

Finally, as though braving some new world, Prussia raised his fork, stuffed full of pancake to and slid the food into his mouth.

Matthew had thought that the look of confusion on the man's face had been adorable but this one, this took the cake. A slow, true smile began to cross his lips as he watched the elation on Gilbert's face at the taste of the food. A few, what he assumed to be German, words flowed from the man's lips before he began stuffing the 'delicacy' into his mouth, eyes nearly rolling into the back of his head. Matthew ate nearly half his stack before Gilbert had finished, trying desperately to scrape the last bits of the pancakes off the plate and into his mouth. After a moment's debate, Matthew pushed the remainder of his stack over toward the other man who's eyes lit up in surprise.

A short nod later and his half-stack was nearly gone into Gilbert's maw. Good lord but the man could eat.

It was only a short time later than Gilbert found himself sliding halfway down the kitchen chair, arms fallen to his sides, stomach wonderfully sated, mind attempting to wrap around the heavenly experience that had just taken place. He loved his German food, that was a given, but this…this was like a little slice of food perfection, something he hadn't known he was missing in his life. He'd almost go so far as to say it was at equal awesomeness with even himself. But that may be a bit far for food….but it was close.

He caught the sight of Matthew out of the corner of his eye and let his head roll to the side lazily, watching the other man as he began to wash the dishes, shoulders a little less slumped than they'd seemed early. Oh yes, this was not going to be the last time he came here. If for nothing else, than those….pancakes. And as the quiet Canadian glanced over his shoulder with a soft, hopeful smile, Gilbert had a feeling he might just be coming for the company as well. If he could get him to talk that was….

*end past*


Gilbert sat back in his chair, watching the contemplative faces of the two men before him. They'd listened intently, relaxation finally settling in as the situation began to come to light. Canada had gotten up twice to use the restroom and once to fetch a drink of water during the drawn out tale of their first meeting and the next few to come.

"Und that just…progressed I assume." Germany sighed, leaning back in his seat.

Before the question could be answered, however, the back door slammed open, two whirlwinds of rambunctiousness rushing into the living room and colliding with their father's side.

"Daddy! Daddy! There was a skunk-"

"It was huge and had fangs! Daddy you should see-"

"-clawing all over the ground, we thought-"

"Jacques was gonna hit it with a stick und-"

"-all growling and huge and Daddy!-"

Ludwig and Francis were once again stunned into silence as the two boys rambled on at their father who only smiled and shook his head, lifting the two from the ground, still talking mind you, and onto either one of his legs.

"Boys.." Canada's soft voice cut through their mile-a-minute rambling and they immediately quieted down, glancing at the new-comers once again, curiousity in their eyes.

"Jacques, Lukas, dis is my bruder, Ludwig. He's your uncle. Und that's Francis. He's your….um.."

"Granpapa." Frances whispered, wide eyes moving from one boy to the other.

Jacques, the boy on the right was no more than an inch taller than the other, his hair slightly shorter, silver like his fathers and cropped closely to his head. His eyes, however were all Matthew's, bright lavender and round. He squirmed in place, glancing from his father to the men, one by one, uncertain of how to react.

The other boy seemed to hold his ground steadier, however, keeping his calm from his father's lap. His own eyes were a light crimson like Prussia's, his hair the same color as his brother's but wild and unkept, making him look like a smaller copy of the man who's lap he currently resided. He, too, glanced up at his father, before turning his eyes on Matthew. "Papa?"

Matthew's smile was calming as he spoke, brushing a hand over the smaller boy's hair and tucking it behind his small ear. "He's papa's Papa. You remember talking about grandparents, honey. And Ludwig is Daddy's brother, that means he's your uncle."

The smaller boy seemed to take this into long consideration before removing himself from Prussia's lap and moving around the coffee table between the adults, taking a confident seat between the two new males to the group. "So that means, family, oui?" he stated calmly, readily accepting the nod of his own Papa.

The taller of the boys watched with more caution as his sibling turned to each of the men, giving them a stiff hug. "'Ello Granpapa. 'Ello Uncle Ludwig."

A long moment of silence stretched between the grouping, the sound of the clock in the background an awful reminder of the time slipping away from them.

Finally the other boy moved from his fathers lap as well, shuffling up to Ludwig's side, the large German looking a little more than uncomfortable as the boy slid onto his lap. "'Hello Uncle Ludwig.,.Granpapa." he said softly, staring down his sibling between the two as though a silent communication was taking place.

Ludwig, unsure what to do, glanced back and forth between Gilbert and Matthew, both of whom had matching expressions of amusement planted on their face before carefully patting the boys shoulders, keeping one hand on Jacques back to steady his seating. "Uh…..ja…hallo." he studdered.

Francis' face could no longer contain the smile that had been attempting to burst free and he wrapped an arm around the smaller boy seated next to him. "I'm a Granpapa! Oh 'ow exciting! You boys are so handsome too! Just like your fathers…." He preened, squeezing Lukas to his side and ruffling his hair gently.

A slight laugh burst from Canada's lips at the motion, the tension slowly seeping away from his shoulders at the positive reception they seemed to be allowed. He would be lying if he'd said he hadn't been the least big worried of their reaction not only to he and Prussia, but also to their children. The confirmation that they would be accepted would make the transition back into the world of their peers much easier.

"The little one sleeping is Alberta. She's just turned four in March. The boys will be seven in October and this one," Matthew smiled softly, brushing a gentle hand over the protrusion of his stomach, "is due in later November. We're not certain of the gender…kind of want to keep that a secret." He grinned up at Gilbert, reaching over to squeeze the reassuring hand in his own.

"I'm gonna ask for another sister for my birthday!" Lukas burst out suddenly, startling the two adults he was between. In an instant, he had both of their shirts in his grasp, turning from one to the the other in a long rambling of words ranging from his birthday gifts to the firetruck toy he had just gotten to the wild raccoon encounter only minutes before. His brother soon joined in, bouncing on Ludwig's lap, the tall German having to hold the boy steady. Matthew and Gilbert could only share a secret smile as Ludwig and Francis were pulled into conversation with their loud mouthed twins.


Gilbert pulled Matthew against his chest, careful of the bump that pressed between them before capturing the smaller man's mouth with his own in a slow, languid kiss. "You think this is going to work out well, Birdie?" he said softly, the hand not wrapped beneath Matthew's head brushing through the long blond locks of his lover.

"I think it has to. It's been long enough now that at least the boys are old enough to understand who people are and hopefully why they don't know them yet. But that's just something we'll have to take a step at a time, Gil."

The albino didn't respond, instead he lowered himself for another soft kiss before allowing his arm to settle on Matthew's waist.

He supposed the man was right, however. Whether things went well or not was not something to worry about. They'd done what they felt was right, brought up a family of their own and now that they'd been found out, they could not keep it from the world any longer. And their friends and family did deserve to know. There was no real reason for them to keep this secret any longer, especially if their children stood any chance of having family ties in the future.

But he still couldn't shake the unease of the day, feeling as though while gaining something new, he may have lost a little of something special.

Letting his eyes drift closed, Gilbert pulled up the memories of the past 9 years, shuffling through them methodically until he came to rest on a few of his favorites, allowing sleep to take him into a blissful dream-state of remembrance.

 


 

 

Chapter Text


*past*

Matthew sighed heavily, listening to the heavy tinkling of the rain across the windows. He'd arrived early for the meeting this time and taken his seat. Sometimes he enjoyed this. Being around others but still able to relax in the solace of his own little world. But only sometimes. Most of the time he would simply feel that burst of sadness that flooded through his chest as he greeted the other countries that filed into the room. He never got a response. Except from Francis. And sometimes England. But usually his British father was far too busy yelling at America to hear him. He didn't mind though, not really. ..

So it came as a startling jolt when the presence of a silver-haired country came sweeping in, dropping into the chair across from him with a large shit-eating grin on his face. "Hey Mattie!"

"Uh…uh hello Gilbert." He stuttered softly, attempting to look anywhere but at the Prussian country. It was difficult considering Gilbert was staring at him. He expected some sort of comment, but the minutes seemed to drag on like hours and nothing changed. Gilbert just….stared.

And stared. And stared…..Canada was starting to wish the others would begin to file into the room already as this was more than a little bit unnerving. Those crimson eyes boring into his as though he was searching for something.

"I can't stop thinking about your pancakes!" The words burst from the albino man's lips unchecked and he slid his hands up and across the table as though he were stretching out for an invisible plate of the delicacies, an enormous grin pasted on his face.

"Wh….what?" The northern country blinked in surprise. The fingers outstretched towards him wiggled in a semblance of anticipation, as though Canada would produce the desired pancakes for him from thin air. "I uh…I don't have-"

"Let's get started." Came the heavy gruff voice of Germany as the tall blonde entered, moving towards the front of the table followed by the rest of the countries, all chatting amongst themselves. Canada could feel the urge to sigh in relief rising, but suppressed it. After all, it wasn't like he hadn't hated Prussia's company. Quite the opposite. He was just as rambunctious and excitable outside of the meetings as he was in. And terrifyingly enough for Canada, just as affectionate. Something the blonde man was not used to…in the least.

The proceedings commenced as they did most times. With America nearly shouting his idiotic opinion, England desperately trying not to club him over the head (Canada often felt sorry for his 'father' when his brother got going like this), Italy being far less discreet about his adoration for Germany than the country would have liked and Russia nearly sitting on him again if it hadn't been for Prussia's rather loud outburst of 'Hey! Find your own seat!'. The ice country had given him a slightly confused face, but had found a different seat none-the-less, smiling eerily at Prussia for a while until he realized the man was less than intimidated.

Once or twice Canada had tried to put in his two cents only to be ignored. And though he was trying desperately to pretend that the East German country wasn't staring at him, it didn't change the fact that he was, nor the irritated look that flashed across his face when Canada was interrupted. A fact that confused him even more. Finally they'd reached the peak of the afternoon and Germany called a break, whether due to fatigue or the fact that America had England in a headlock, Matthew wasn't certain, but any reason was a good reason. Honestly he didn't know why he even came to these things.

As he walked the halls towards the vending machines, an arm slung over his shoulders and Prussia pulled him close, walking casually attached to his side. Canada jumped at the first contact, nearly tripping over his own two feet before staring up past his curl at the taller man leaning on him. "eh…?"

"So I was thinking after this, we can head back to your place und make some more of those AWESOME pancakes!"

"And by we you mean me..?"

"Of course!" came the snarky grin. Prussia's hand clasped his shoulder firmly, shaking the man against him, his voice filled with excitement. "Man, I've been freaking dreaming of them! So should I go with you or have West drop me off?"

"Uh…"

"Your right, it would be easier just to ride with you und have you drop me off at the airport when I need to head back!"

"W-Well…I…"

"Hey maybe I could take some home! That would be so awesome Mattie! We should make some extra so I can take them back and make West mad cause he can't have any! I'll give him a taste of course, but then when he wants them really badly I'll just eat them in front of him. How awesome would that be?" the deep chuckle rolled up through Prussia's throat, the thought making him even more giddy than he already was.

Matthew couldn't help but feel a little put out. What was he, a pancake press? And how many cups of coffee had this man had before he arrived here? "I guess….I mean we could make quite a few and you could take some….honestly though if that's all you need.. I-I can just make some and bring them next time to save you the trouble of coming over…" The last bit was meant to come out honestly, but the bitterness wasn't hidden as well as Matthew would have liked and he felt like slapping himself when Prussia clenched the hand on his shoulder harder, bringing their walking to a halt.

At least the elder country had the decency to look offended and…well I guess that could be considered hurt if you could look hurt with a smirk still on your face….

"Mattie! The Awesome Me is appalled!" and indeed he pulled one of the best appalled faces at that moment that Matthew had ever seen, causing the smaller country to giggle just the slightest. Gilbert's smirk spread across his face, blossoming into a full on smile at the noise. "Honestly! Thinking I just come for the pancakes!" he laughed and Matthew's shoulders seemed to relax significantly.

Okay..maybe he wasn't that bad..


*One Week Later – 8 am*


Matthew sighed heavily, stirring the contents of the bowl. He was distracted. Very distracted. Prussia had gone home with him a week ago after the meeting and the two had eaten pancakes together again. Matthew had sat in silence as Gilbert had talked his ear off, complaining about his brother, laughing about silly things Italy had done, France's new escapades with random inserts of how great the pancakes were. Overall the visit had been better than he'd expected. He'd expected awkwardness. He'd expected Prussia to become uncomfortable in the dim silence that filled his home. But that had been less than the case. Instead of being put off by Matthew's silence and lack of speaking, the silver haired man had taken the opportunity to talk his ear off. Oddly enough, it was…comfortable. Though his table manners did leave something to be desired, Gilbert proved himself to be decent company. And he seemed to enjoy Matthew's company as well. Though now, a week later found the shorter of the two kicking himself. Sure he'd enjoyed his company, as he was the only company other than Alfred that he'd really had in the last few years. But he didn't have his phone number, didn't know where he lived and hadn't heard from him outside of the meetings. Maybe they'd only be…well 'friends' might be assuming too much on his part…pancake buddies?..once the meetings were over. Or not at all…

Matthew was brought out of his depressing train of thought as soft nails dug into the skin of his thigh. He glanced down into the eyes of a very obviously hungry cub and shook his head. "Good morning Kumajiro. Hungry?"

"Who're you?"

Matthew simply stroked his hand through the fur on the bear's head with a half smile and tossed him a few of the sausage links frying up on the stove. Kumajiro caught them each in his mouth, munching loudly as he headed out into the living room again. A few moments later, the sound of soft whining caught Matthew's attention and he frowned, placing the mixing bowl on the counter to follow the sound. He paused in the doorway, watching as Kuma sat by the front door whining just the slightest and shifting from foot to foot.

"Kumajiro..what are you-"

A sharp knocking startled Matthew from the remainder of his sentence, nearly catching his breath and jumping just the slightest. "who-"

"Mattie! Mattie open up! I can't hold this stuff forever!" came the chipper voice.

Matthew blinked. Then blinked again before another knock jolted him. "Matt! C'mon man!" this time he didn't hesitate before rushing toward the door, his heart pounding in his chest as he flung the door open.

There on the other side stood Gilbert, a huge grin on his face, red eyes wide and excited. In his arms he held paper bags, both filled to the brim with what seemed to be food and lots and lots of beer. "Gilbert, what-" he began but quickly found his hands filled with one of the bags, a relieved Prussian moving into the house without an invitation and pushing past Matthew towards the kitchen.

"I picked up some stuff on the way in! Figured since you made me pancakes-wait…" Gilbert stopped sharply at the entrance to the kitchen, his chin lifting as he sniffed at the air, making Matthew imagine a small white puppy realizing there was fresh cooked food nearby. "Are you cooking pancakes?" he asked, whirling around to glance at Matthew.

The stunned country only nodded shortly, then bit back a grin as Gilbert let out a shout of excitement, moving fully into the kitchen and tossing things into the other man's refrigerator. Matthew stood still for a moment, glancing down almost longingly at the paper bag full of Canadian beer in his hands. Gilbert had taken the liberty of trying one last time he'd come over and since this bag was full of them, Matthew could only assume he'd enjoyed it. He did have good beer after all…

Thirty minutes later found them sitting comfortably at the small dining table in his kitchen, Gilbert scarfing down the massive stack of pancakes that Matthew had cooked for him while he took his time on his own significantly smaller stack, covertly eyeing the man across the table. He was a complete mystery. He assaulted him at the G8 meetings, talked his ear off, disappeared as fast as he came and now he was showing up randomly as though they were friends. But that may be a bit too much to hope for. Just maybe…

"So…what is all of the food you brought for?" he mumbled quietly, having watched the man put multitudes of unknown foods into his fridge after his arrival. There had been what looked like sausages and steaks and lots of potatoes, which were sitting in a large brown mesh bag near the back door at the moment and of course, an entire bag of Canadian beer (the best kind in his own opinion, but he was slightly bias).

"Oh yeah!" Gilbert spouted over the food in his mouth, something that made Matthew cringe. At least he chewed with his mouth closed, even if he did talk with it still there. "I'm going to make an awesome lunch for you!" he grinned, having the decency to close his mouth before he did. The Canadian blinked, stunned by the man's revelation, still trying to wrap his brain around it.

"You….want to cook for..ME?" the last word nearly came out as a squeak in his haste to speak the words, his tongue tripping over itself. Now that had been unexpected! He hadn't minded cooking for him, not in the least. In fact, having Gilbert nearly fumbling all over himself to stuff the pancakes into his mouth was the biggest compliment he'd gotten in…well…ever.

"Yeah! I figured since you cooked for me, the least I could do is give you a taste of my kind of food! But since you made pancakes we'll just have to wait for lunch. We can watch a movie or something till then." He shrugged, stuffing another faceful of food into his mouth, watching in amusement as Matthew cringed at his lack of table manners.

"..uh..sure. T-that's fine, I guess. I'm sure there's something on TV. And you really don't have to do that. I don't mind cooking pancakes for you…" he muttered, then flushed as Gilbert winked at him across the table.

"I know, but I want to. Plus it gives me a chance to show off my mad awesome skills!" he laughed, dropping the fork back onto his empty plate and patting his stomach contently. "That was great, Mattie, as always! You really know your way around breakfast, huh?"

Matthew chose simply to shrug in response, picking up the plates and depositing them in the sink for later washing.

The remainder of the day went better than Matthew could have ever hoped for. They chose a really bad comedy movie to which Gilbert laughed loudly and Matthew simply chuckled softly as was his nature. After the movie, they played a game of cards before Gilbert began cooking lunch, serving up wurst and potatoes, respectively grilled. The first bite that passed his lips was startling. He'd not expected the flavor to burst in his mouth the way it did. Nor did he expect the potatoes to be just perfectly softened and seasoned so that when he took the first bite, a small noise escaped his throat, causing Gilbert to raise and eyebrow and smirk in that irritating way.

He'd fully expected the man to leave after that, but he hadn't, instead pulling the beer out of the cooler and wrapping an arm over Matthew's shoulders, leading him into the living room. Once again, he'd expected the evening to be awkward but soon realized that was not something that Gilbert allowed. Instead, he was pulling into conversation and laughter over drinks, the two sharing stories of siblings and countries, war and peace. Prussia spoke of his brother and Italy's infatuation with the man. He learned of Prussia's downfall, seeing the resentment still lingering in the man's eyes. Prussia had prodded at him as well until he'd finally given in, speaking earnestly about the last few years of his life or lack thereof.

Again the man surprised him, his expression serious while Canada simply chuckled lightly about his invisibility. He didn't smile though, listening intently as the blonde's voice softened, talking about England and France forgetting him, mostly England as France never really forgot…he just...got busy. He spoke about Ivan sitting on him and the other countries not acknowledging his presence when he tried to speak up. About being forgotten, invisible. Sure it hurt, but he'd grown so used to it that he expected nothing else. Then he spoke about Alfred. About how even though sometimes he was a complete idiot and sometimes he forgot some things that he never really forgot Matthew. Even if he was late, he always came or called on his birthday, that he included him in his holidays, even if he didn't share them. That, rare as it was, Alfred would come to see him and spend time with him.

It was nearly midnight before the silver-haired man found himself standing at the door, a six pack of beer to-go in his hand and a contented smirk on his face. He paused on the doorstep for a moment, glancing over his shoulder and giving Matthew a genuine smile. "I promise I'll never forget you Mattie." And with that he was gone, down the driveway, hopping into his rented car and heading off towards the private airstrip, leaving a stunned Canada standing in the doorway, a silly half-smile on his face, cheeks flushed and heart beating wildly.


*end past*


"Boys." The incessant nudging was always enough to do the trick. And though they whined and complained, they still rolled their way into the waking world. Lukas was the first to sit up, pushing Canada's hand away irritably, who scowled at him before moving to his brother. "Come on. Jacques, get up. You have to get up and around. We've got things to do today and I want this room cleaned before noon. I've let you sleep in long enough. Come on." He said again, rubbing his hand over the young boy's back to rouse him. The older of the twins was sprawled out on his bed, one leg off the side, both out of the tangled covers, hands splayed out to either side. He gave a slight groan into the pillow, a crimson eye peeking open to glare half-heartedly at his father.

"None of that." Matthew chided, swatting his bottom lightly and tugging the covers off the bed, earning him a louder groan and a snicker from the other twin who was already changing into his day clothes. "Daddy is downstairs making breakfast, god forbid, so you'd better get up and dressed before he eats it all, then I want this room clean, eh?"

Two affirmative grunts sounded as he moved out of the room, tossing the comforter into the laundry basket on his way and padded his way downstairs, the railing his saving grace.

The sight that greeted him in the kitchen made him pause, leaning against the entryway to watch.

Prussia stood at the stove, wooden spoon in one hand, stirring what was likely wheat meal in a large metal pot. He was turning side to side, a slight bounce in his movements, a toddler clinging to him in his other arm, situated happily against his hip. Her blonde hair had been pulled up into slightly uneven pigtails and was bouncing slightly with each movement as her father hummed slightly, pressing small kisses to her forehead and cheeks. He'd placed her in a small black and white polka dotted dress set and small black skid socks.

To his right sat four plates all filled with sliced up bratwurst, roasted potatoes slices, scrambled up eggs and rough biscuits. Never let it be said that Prussia could not cook. Through the last few years, both had grown rather fond of the other's cuisine and Canada would never complain for the food he cooked. And Gilbert would always have the sweetest things to say about his cooking as well.

He allowed the moment to last a bit longer before he moved into the kitchen, kissing Prussia's shoulder in passing. "Good morning Gil. " he said softly, brushing a hand over Alberta's cheek and earning one of the sweetest smiles he adored. Matthew made himself busy by setting the table, putting the plates out, pouring their glasses of milk and orange juice and placing bowls out for the wheat soup. Try as he may, though, he could not shake the unsettled feeling. Even through the monotony of the morning routine he adored, he could feel the worry growing deep inside his chest. If France and Germany knew now, they could no longer keep their family secret.

Alfred knew, of course, but Alfred had always been understanding when it came to these things. He may be corny and an idiot, but he loved his brother and he'd grown fond of Gilbert. He knew he'd have at least one country behind him. But Gilbert had kept their family from his brother and his friends at Matthew's request. They both knew that it would not be easy for anyone outside of their relationship to come to terms with. Theirs was a special life, an unordinary life, but Matthew and Gilbert would have it no other way.

Before he could continue, however, his thought process was interrupted by the entrance of their eldest children. Lukas seemed to be dragging his twin into the room, the taller of the two letting his feet slide across the floor, arms wrapped around his brother's shoulders.

"Good morning, boys. Did you pull your sheets off the bed to wash?" Matthew asked, glancing up at the two and frowning in exasperation. "Jacques, get off your brother and come sit down. You two look ridiculous." He added, shaking his head. This caught the attention of Gilbert, who tilt his head back to see what the fuss was.

"I used to do that to Ludwig!" he laughed and his daughter chimed in, not fully understanding why they were laughing, but wanting to be included anyways. Gilbert moved from the stove and slid her into her booster seat, ruffling the once neat pigtails on her head before moving back to turn the burner off.

"Gil, don't encourage them. He's going to make Lukas slump if he keeps doing that."

Gilbert just shrugged, but conceded all the same. "Ja, Ja. Get off, Jacqs, food's ready."

Lukas shoved his brother off of him, snickering as he nearly lost his balance and took a seat near where Canada stood. "Are we going to see Uncle Ludwig today?" he asked, turning his gaze upwards towards the adult. Matthew bit the inside of his lip, uncertain how to proceed. He wanted them to be a part of their lives, but that pain of losing that privacy his family had was gnawing at him again. He watched as Jacques took a seat across from him, feeling a twinge in his heart. This was his family. These three children and the one on the way. Along with Gilbert, they'd become his entire life and he knew that the feeling was mutual.

Reaching down to brush Lukas's hair from his face, he took his seat next to him, "I'm not certain, sweetie. We'll have to see if they are busy or not."

"I'm going to go talk to them today. Told Luddy I'd call him today und see if we can meet. " Gilbert chimed in, placing down the bowls of wheat meal in front of each of them and taking his own seat next to Jacques. Grabbing the spoon his son was preparing to chuck across the table at Lukas, he met Matthew's eyes. "I thought talking to them first would help know where we can go from here. I figure they're behind us but I'm sure they've got questions."

Matthew nodded, sipping from his cup and brushing a hand over his stomach gently. "If they want to meet in town, I can take the kids shopping since it's getting colder and their coats don't fit after that growth spurt this summer. Alberta is outgrowing her things too, so that would give me the opportunity to get prepared early. You can get some coffee or something and talk and then just call me when you are done?" he offered, putting some of his food onto Alberta's tray table.

Gilbert nodded, taking a large bite of his own food, attempting to clear his mind and enjoy the quiet meal with his family. God only knew how much longer he'd have mornings like these.


Gilbert blew gently into the lip of the cup, watching the steam roll up through the air and inhaling the lovely scent of fresh made coffee. He'd been here a thousand times and still could not get enough. Matthew had introduced him to the small out of the way café a few years ago and now he was a well known regular.

Pulling himself away from thoughts of ground coffee grains and the delicious caffeinated drink before him, he turned his focus on the two men sitting on the opposite side of the booth. It was strange really, to see them like this. In any other circumstance, the two were not friends, but at least they'd gotten along once everything had been settled. Gilbert supposed that would make it a little easier. Most all the countries at least got along or tolerated one another if they hadn't become friends. He could be going into this with warring nations.

Silence seemed to stretch between the men. Once Canada had left, dragging the kids off with him, there'd been no more words spoken than the ordering of their respective drinks. It was slowly but surely becoming extremely awkward.

"You seem..happy." Ludwig broke the silence, glancing up from his own short cup of black coffee, eyes meeting his brother's. At that, Prussia allowed a slow, genuine smile to cross his face.

"Ja. I am. Very happy." He breathed, taking another sip before glancing between the men. "Und Matthew is too. We just don't want that taken away." The confession seemed to burst from him without his consent but he'd not take it back. "Bruder, I didn't want to keep secrets from you. You are my family. But dis. Dis was important. Too important to risk it."

"Ja, I understand that now. Und I would not try to take that from you. Nor will I make you extend this information to the rest of the countries if you choose to keep it to yourselves."

France looked between the two before sighing and brushing the blonde hair from his eyes. "You cannot hide zis forever, oui? Especially from Arthur. 'e is as much Canada's fazer as I am and 'e does 'ave a right to see 'is grandchildren." He paused thoughtfully for a moment at the sour look on Gilberts face. "I 'ave known you for centuries, mon ami, but I 'ave known Arthur longer. 'e will want to know. I won't say 'e will be happy about zis or that 'e won't fly off ze handle, but zat is a risk you should be willing to take. What would Mathieu want?"

Gilbert pressed the balls of his hands into his eyes, rubbing in vicious circles for a few moments before sitting back with a resigned sigh. "Ja. I know. Und I think Mattie would like to see England again."

"What about America?" came the gruff question from Ludwig.

At that, there was a short snort and a grin. "He knows."

A long pause passed over the table, both men's brown creasing. "'ow does Alfred know? 'ow long 'as he known?" Francis demanded, his tone put-out. His other son knew, but both parents had been left in the dark for nine years? He'd missed the first eight years of his grandson's lives and the first four of his granddaughter. He refused to be denied that time any longer, but to know that the errant America knew?

"He was the witness when we got married." Prussia shrugged and again the table was filled with a severe silence.

"You're married? I thought….I didn't think, even after children, you'd ever-" Ludwig's stumbling statement was cut off as Prussia held up his hand, the thick silver band proof to the statement. "When?"

"Before the boys came along. Look, I did expect the third degree und all but wouldn't you rather spend time with the kids while you are here? Your flight leaves tomorrow, you might as well take the time to get to know them."

The suggestion brought on yet another bought of silence, one that left the table feeling a little less uncomfortable. Ludwig didn't have strong feelings one way or another. Though if he admitted to himself, it was nice to see new members of the family and he supposed he should get to know Matthew more since he was his…brother..in law?

Francis on the other hand agreed whole heartedly. He already adored the children with the little time he'd spent with them and wanted to see more of his granddaughter as well since the boys had taken up most of his time. He was thoroughly impressed by the way they'd been raised. They carried on conversations nearly fluently in English, German and French, a feat he deemed incredible by their age.

By the time Canada arrived back at the café with bags and children in tow, the coffee had been long gone and the conversation turned to a lighter telling of the last few years.

With two down and a dozen or so to go, Prussia knew this was likely the final goodbye to their quiet life.

 

Chapter Text

*past*

Feliciano clung tightly to Ludwig's side, his hands playing with the material of the taller man's uniform. He was no longer paying attention to the conversation between the youngest of the German countries and Japan as they spoke of politics, instead opting to study the architecture of the walls from the doorway they stood in. They'd arrived early for the G8 meeting and since only a few other countries had arrived, had decided to take up time in one of the hallways with idle chat. Idle chat, for his companions, of course, meant that they would talk about the issues to be brought up in the meeting. Something that the northern Italian country wasn't interested in. So instead he'd busied himself with doing what he did best. Zoning out.

Something different this morning, however, caught his attention. Instead of the long stretch of silent hallway, he could hear two voices speaking. One was soft and slow, the other loud, fast and seemingly excitable. Furrowing his brows as the voices approached, curiosity took Feliciano over. He recognized one almost immediately, but the other was fairly unfamiliar. So he waited with rapt attention as the pair approached and passed the doorway, eyes wide with curiousity.

It was Prussia, Germany's elder brother. He passed by, walking closely, almost on top of, a shorter man in a thick red hoodie. For an instant, the image of America passed through his head, but he shook it away. This man was shorter, his hair a tad longer and the curl at the front of his brow a dead give away that he was not the ego-filled country. The smaller man gave a slight chuckle before responding to the question softly, clutching a small white bear in his arms. Neither took their eyes off the other as they walked, enraptured in the conversation at hand. Which sounded to be like food.

After a moment's thought, the Italian country moved away from his protector, instead opting to follow Prussia and his friend. After all, Italy was a curious country by nature and this deserved some investigation. He'd known Prussia nearly as long as he'd known Germany and had spent quite some time with the man. He'd seem him with France and with Spain and even with his brother, but only if Spain was there as well. He'd seen him at the meetings, but he'd never seen him with this person before. And though the man in the red hoodie was familiar, he couldn't seem to place a name.

The two rounded a corner towards the meeting room they'd all be sitting in not long from then and stopped in the doorway. Though he was no good in battle, Italy was phenomenal at running away, and when the need arose, hiding. So it took little effort to squeeze himself behind an outcropping on the wall's structure and listen intently.

The man in the red hoodie stood just outside the doorway, Prussia hovering over him and leaning against the frame, effectively blocking his path, but the smaller man didn't seem to mind, instead a small smile was gracing his face as he spoke. Prussia's smile was what caught Italy's attention, however. It wasn't his normal self-satisfied smirk or his 'inappropriate thoughts' grin, but an actual smile that had cross his face as he gazed down at the smaller man. Even to the dense Feliciano, it was obvious that Prussia was enjoying the company he kept.

" Well I figured we could just go out tonight. We've cooked every other time, might be nice to actually get out und have something different." The silver-haired country shrugged nonchalantly.

"I guess so. I did need to get a few things for the house as well, so making a trip into town wouldn't be too much trouble. " came the soft, thoughtful reply which earned him a grin.

"We could hit that seafood place you were mentioning. Man, seafood sounds really good right about now! Never as good as your pancakes, but still really good!"

Italy's head tilted, listening to the tinkling laughter that followed as Gilbert rubbed his stomach exaggeratingly. Slowly the wheels inside of his head began cranking, eyes sparkling as he slunk away, jogging back to his protector, thoughts of a certain pair in his head. He wanted to know more! Maybe he could ask Germany. He knew everything.

However, he found, before he could speak with Ludwig insistently pushed him towards the meeting room, stating unwaveringly that they had an important meeting to get to and any questions his smaller companion had could wait until their break to ask.

As they entered, however, Italy found himself immediately accosted by Prussia, the elder country stopping him at his seat. "Hey Feli what's up!"

"Er, ciao Prussia!" he stuttered out, taken by surprise.

"Hey, can you do me a favor, ja?" the man asked, leaning in as though passing a confidential secret.

"Uh…si? What's wrong?"

"Can you switch seats with Canada? I need to talk with him." He shrugged, leaning back up and glancing briefly over Italy's shoulder at his brother who was too busy shuffling papers around to notice his ward being accosted by his brother. Italy didn't hesitate in the sharp nod that he gave the taller man and Prussia let out a slight whooping noise, leaning over the table to grab Matthew's name plate, switching it with Italy's, who'd sat directly in front of him.

With a shrug, Feliciano moved around the table to the other side and took a seat in his new location. It took him a moment to realize that he'd been placed directly between Russia and France. For a moment, his eyes widened, realizing what he'd agreed to before he sank down in the chair, trying to keep as far away from both as possible. But as he watched the red-donned country enter (now he knew his name was Canada!), immediately being accosted by Prussia, he felt a small bit of self satisfaction. If he couldn't do things right on the battlefield, the least he could do was do something right for his fellow countries. With a small smile, he took the time to watch the two. Canada seemed very confused until Gilbert pointed to Italy, who promptly gave a short, excitable wave, before directing the lightly protesting country into his 'new' seat, immediately striking up a conversation despite admonishments.

Over the course of the next hour, between the slightly puzzled looks he received from Germany and the apologetic ones from Canada (he kept repeating the name and staring at the man to make sure he remembered as he did seem to fade in and out of being…how strange!), Italy was thoroughly enjoying watching the two. It was obvious, well to him at least, that they were more than acquaintances. And it was adorable to observe them interacting. Prussia would touch Canada's shoulder or poke him in the arm or sling his arm over the back of Canada's chair, leaning in close to talk to him and Canada would flush and mutter something softly back which Gilbert seemed to have no problems hearing. That and the smirk on the German countries face never left. Once the meeting was drawing towards a close, Italy made a mental note to make friends with the shy blonde country. If he was friends with Gilbert, than he'd be friends with Italy!


"Hey Gilbert…" the meek voice questioned softly, causing Gilbert to turn his head to look down into the violet eyes of the source.

"Hn?"

"…I uh..I was wondering..since you're coming over for dinner again, instead of leaving do you want to just…um…you can stay the weekend if you like? We could get some beer from the store, the kind you like and maybe you can help me gather up the leaves? They're falling already and I'd like to keep the yard clean." He shrugged, eyes not moving from the crimson pair gazing back at his. Over the last few weeks, he'd gotten better at meeting Gilbert's gaze, feeling more and more comfortable around the man. It was a relief to feel like he had a friend outside Alfred and Francis.

He thought Gilbert would think about it, hesitate, something. Instead the man's smile shot straight across his face, his eyes sparkling in excitement. "That would be AWESOME!" he nearly shouted, garnering a few strange sideways looks from other countries exiting the hallway. The elder country ignored it, as always and wrapped his arm over Matthew's shoulder, nearly throwing the man off balance once again. "Man, this will be great! The two of us hanging out this whole weekend! Und we can drink and watch a game or something! And in the morning, you can make me pancakes!"

Matthew's laughter burst from his lips at the ending statement, shaking his head. "Or I can teach you how to make them yourself."

"Na, that's okay, I don't mind helping, but I doubt it would be the same. You've got the touch that makes them amazing."

A red flush crossed Matthew's cheeks at the compliment and he shrugged out from Gilbert's arm, leading him towards the plane set waiting on the blacktop for them.


The incident had started innocently enough. Matthew had thought nothing of it as they'd entered his house, both moving around comfortably. Gilbert had taken his coat and hung both in the hall closet before moving back in, absently picking up a remaining can from the coffee table and depositing it in the trash. Both busied themselves in the kitchen as though they'd live together for years, neither noting this fact. Gilbert pulled out two beers from the fridge, popping both tops and handing one to Matthew while the Canadian began writing a list out on a sheet of paper for the shopping they would need to do while in town.

"We can rake up those leaves since it's still early and by the time we're done it should be nearing dark. We can head to town then, get some food and do the shopping." Matthew nodded, as though agreeing with his own statement.

Gilbert took up stance leaning back against the counter, propping his elbows up and swallowing a mouthful of beer. "Sounds good. Then we can come back here, watch a movie or something if you want. Then hit the sack whenever."

"Oh!" Matthew turned to glance at Gilbert, eyes wide as though he'd just remembered something very important. And indeed he had. Sleeping arrangements! "Uh…oh gosh. Sleeping, I forgot! You can take my bed. I can sleep on the couch, I don't mind."

"Pft. Na! I'm good on the couch! I've passed out plenty of times on West's. Just don't drop something heavy on me in the morning und we'll be good." He laughed, taking another large mouthful of his drink. Matthew shook his head, but relented with a sigh, drinking a modest sip from his own drink. "Let's get started then."

Twenty minutes later found them in the oversized open backyard. They'd let the leaves nearer to the forested area go in favor of raking the ones closer to the house. Each man had started on the outer edges, slowly making their way towards the interior. They'd managed to pull of a circular pattern, moving around the outside and spiraling towards the middle. The pile had slowly grown from a modest size to a towering mound of leaves all spread in reds, golds and oranges.

Matthew couldn't help but feel grateful that he wasn't doing this alone. The chill in the air had been enough to warrant a light jacket over a long sleeved shirt, but he was certain had he not had the help, he would have been sweating under his clothing by now. Gilbert, however, seemed to be doing just fine, going at his own steady pace, seemingly enjoying the task more than Matthew thought possibly. He had a look of pleased contentment and the younger man could only assume he was feeling very high on his horse at the moment having agreed to help someone else.

It didn't take them much longer to round the fallen leaves into the tightly packed pile and Matthew stood back, propping on the tip of his rake, admiring the pile. "Well. That went a lot faster than I'm used to! Now we just need to put them into bags and we'll be set for the rest of fall."

"Right!" Gilbert pulled the large empty bags from where they'd been dangling freely in his back pocket and tossed one towards Matthew, shaking it open before grabbing a handful of the dead foliage and stuffing it inside.

What occurred next would likely be ingrained in both their memories and later bring a smile to both faces.

Matthew lift a large amount of his share between his hands, moving to place it inside the bag. However, his aim miscalculated and instead of dropping it in the bag, he dropped it on Gilbert's head, currently bent over, stuffing the leaves farther down into one of the open sacks.

Gilbert raised up, staring at Matthew as though he'd grown a second head and though he tried not to, even going so far as to press his hands against his mouth, Matthew could not help the stream of giggles that burst forth from his throat. He tried, he really did. But the image of Gilbert standing there, a shocked expression on his face with leaves tucked all around his hair and clothing, one almost in his face was just too much.

"So you think it's funny huh? Two can play this game!" And without warning, a handful of leaves was thrown into the Canadian country's face as well, effectively stopping his laughter and starting up Gilbert's. What ensued was possibly one of the best days either of the men had experienced in years. The pile was slowly destroyed as they took heavy chunks, tossing them at one another. Gilbert would shove a large handful down Matthew's jacket and Matthew would shove an equal amount into Gilbert's hair, both laughing hysterically.

The moment of change, however, came when both men made the sudden discovery that they'd long forgotten the rakes. Gilbert came at Matthew, a handful of leaves outstretched towards his face as the younger man backed away, laughing riotously. Instantly, he tripped backwards over the forgotten rake, unceremoniously taking a graceless tumble into the pile of leaves. This, in turn, caused Gilbert to stop too quickly, falling forward as well and a moment later, both were on the ground, Gilbert floundering helplessly on top of Canada's small frame. Both men were completely out of breath, panting harshly in the cool autumn evening.

And should they reminisce, neither man would know quite why they didn't move immediately, as awkward as the situation should have been. Instead they simply started at one another for the longest of moments, trying to catch their breath and slowly realizing what had happened.

All too soon, the moment was over and Gilbert pushed himself off of Matthew, rolling to his side. "Oh man, I'm sorry!" he huffed, brushing some leaves from his hair. "We totally destroyed the pile!"

It took Matthew a moment to process the fact that Gilbert had not commented on his direct fall on top of him, but rather the fact that they'd ruined their hard work. Another chuckle burst forth and he flopped back on the ground, a deep flush in his cheeks of which he could easily blame on the cold. "That's okay. It's all still in one area I'm sure we can just shove it in the bags and be done with it."

Gilbert was on his feet in the next instant, hauling Matt up with one hand and reaching for the bag with the other. The rest of the task went by in silence, but neither man could deny the matching grins that had spread on their faces.


The small grocers market was settled in the center of the small hillside down and Gilbert thought he'd never seen anything so 'country'. It was adorable, the way the entire town ran like a small town stereotypically would. Everyone in town seemed to know one another, all of them gracing each other with smiles and greetings. It was no wonder that after running the entire country and world affairs that Matthew would choose to settle in a small place like this. His house was nestled up the in the hills just a ways, out of the way so that at night, the entire sky would come to life with glittering stars. He always admired them as he left, gazing up contently past the pitch darkened tree line. And now he found himself looking forward to the weekend here. He could wander out in the middle of the night and stare up at them all he liked. Oh yes he liked that. He'd definitely have to suggest that to Matt.

The grocery trip was a fairly easy one. Matthew turned out to be the type of person to follow his list to a 't'. He would walk the isles, picking out each item he needed in turn and placing it in the basket. Gilbert, however, felt the need to add a few things here and there, though Matthew didn't protest as the items were dropped into the basket. After all, he would be staying the weekend so they might as well pick up snacks and such that the Prussian would enjoy. Matthew knew by now their tastes in food ran similar, but they were likely to have differences here and there.

They picked up plenty of pancake-making materials, lots of beer (both agreed this was essential), potatoes, bratwurst (which Gilbert complained could be nowhere NEAR as good as his), a few vegetables, some cans of sauerkraut, maple syrup and a few other basic essential foods as well as extra toiletries and such before heading towards the checkout and placing the paper bags into the trunk of Matthew's car.

By the time they arrived at the small seafood restaurant, the sky was beginning to dim into a deeper shade of cobalt, the moon rising just under the tops of the massive tress that crowded this region to flood the valley with a soft light. They chose a table near the window, idly chatting for a few moments before the waitress took their order. They spoke in between bites, speaking of the evening, of the upcoming winter, a small bit about the meeting but nothing particularly serious. The conversation was light and comfortable, something they both relished in.


The rest of their evening went easily for the both of them, a sense of contentment falling over both men. They arrived at Matthew's house just after nine in the evening, unloading the trunk and placing the items away in their appropriate locations. A half hour on the back deck talking and two beers a piece later, they wandered back into the main living room to settle in for the night.

Gilbert watched Matthew tucking in a sheet around the thick cushions of the oversized couch, shrugging off the sweater he'd donned in favor of the plain tee underneath. The Canadian fluffed one of the pillows he'd swiped from his bed, laying it against one end of the couch and folding out an extra comforter from his closet. Alfred stayed over now and again, so he'd given in and just bought an extra comforter for when his elder brother crashed out on his couch after a long movie night, which had happened more than once. He smile to himself for a moment, remembering the snoring America, sprawled out on his couch.

"Thanks again for that. I would have just passed out as is." Gilbert laughed with a quick shrug.

Standing up again once the task was done, Matthew turned to face his house guest. "Well…um..I guess I'll see you in the morning?"

"Yeah, sounds good. Pancakes!" a laugh followed the words from Prussia's mouth. Another awkward moment followed as they both stood there, looking uncertain before Matthew took a step towards the hallway and his bedroom. "Well um, goodnight!" he breathed.

"Oh for crying out loud, we're friends! C'mere!" Gilbert laughed, pulling Matthew into a short hug, patting at his back. Matthew, for all his uneasy and awkward moments was certain that this would add to the long list. But as he was pulled into the tight embrace, he found himself returning the gesture with ease, grinning as they let go and moving back down the hall towards his own room.

The silver-haired country shucked his pants, tossing them over the back of the couch and slid under the comforter to nestle down into the makeshift bed. Turning to his side, a small smile unconsciously made it's way across his face. He had the growing feeling that his was going to be the best weekend he'd had in a very long time. He enjoyed spending time with Matthew more than he'd origionally anticipated he would and was glad he'd taken the chance to bug him. Pulling the pillow farther under his head, he let out a sigh, closing his eyes before he allowed himself to drift off into the land of dreams, met by the smiling face of his blonde friend.

Chapter Text

Alfred had come over early that morning, knocking fervently at the front door. In his hands he held multitudes of bags, full to the brim with food and drink. It hadn't taken Matthew long to answer the door, smiling happily as he widened the entrance for his brother, Alfred's loud and insistent chatter had echoed throughout the house as Matt followed him into the kitchen, shaking his head. His brother was going a mile a minute about passports and long drives and traffic for the holidays. Of course, his holidays weren't all the same and sometimes when they were, they weren't on the same date, but that didn't stop Alfred from coming to celebrate his own holidays with him. And Matthew liked to think it was just an excuse to spend time with him. This time around, as it was every year for the American, was his Thanksgiving. He brought all the traditional foods up with him, rambling on about the reasons for the holiday, which usually consisted of some silly thing about eating lots of turkey and seeing how much beer you could drink before you passed out. Matthew was certain this wasn't the real reason, but he wasn't going to argue with his brother over food.

One never won that argument.

So instead he opted for helping remove the items that he'd brought with him. A large turkey, of course, was the main centerpiece of the meal and he'd chosen an overly fat one this year. Which was ironic considering it was usually just them eating. Sometimes he invited England or France but it was a cold day in hell when they chose to join in the festivities.

He brought plenty of fresh potatoes, both spud and sweet to mash up or make a casserole out of. Corn, green beans, pre-made rolls, cranberry sauce, the list went on and on and the bottom of the bag seemed never-ending as slowly the Canadian's counter was consumed by food and drink. He'd even brought enough beer (both Canadian and American -ew-) to put down an entire army. Though he was certain between the two of them, they could do it.

And he always, ALWAYS brought plenty of desserts. From pumpkin and apple pies to tarts and jellos and ice cream, everything he could get his hands on. They usually had to pull out a small card table just for those as the rest of the food took up all of the counter space available. Which was a little sad considering just how large Canada's kitchen was. Not that he minded of course. He got to spend time with Alfred, which, as loud and annoying he could be, he was always a welcome reprieve from the silence of his home. And he loved him, of that Matthew had no doubt. His brother always made sure he knew he was there, even when he was busy, even when he was sick, he made sure Matthew was never forgotten and for that, he would be ever grateful. Even if he did have to sit through a hero speech time and again. It was worth it.

Alfred would talk his ear off as they prepared the food, telling him all about the economy and the last G8 meeting, rambling on about Arthur and random events within his country. With a little prodding he would get the Canadian to speak too about his current events, laughing as they reminisced their childhood together, all the while the house would fill with the delicious smell of Thanksgiving lunch and dinner. Because both of them knew that the meal would be an all day event.


Alfred had been in the middle of putting the marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole when a loud knock sounded at the door. Looking up sharply and with a slight from, he glanced sideways at his younger brother, the questioning clear in his gaze.

"Oh!" Matthew jolted one hand full of turkey stuffing, the other buried deep inside of said turkey. "He must be here early." he huffed, sounding only slightly put-out."I hope you don't mind, I invited another person to join us this year. Can you let him in? My hands are kind of..." he motioned down to his hand, obviously in no degree to be opening doors anytime soon. Alfred gave a quick nod and dashed off, popping a few marshmallows into his mouth on the way.

When he swung the door open, his slightly hopeful and excited expression morphed into one of pure confusion. Standing on the doorstep with a large grin on his face was Prussia. His silver-white hair askew in the late morning breeze and donning a light brown sweater and jeans, he looked the vision of relaxed. "Hey Al-boy!" he chuckled, moving past the stunned man and into the doorway. "I brought some German beer, didn't know what kind you guys liked und some wurst. I'm trying to get Mattie addicted." he grinned, nudging the American lightly in his shoulder. Alfred could only stare in awe as the former country bee lined his way into the kitchen, eyebrows hitting his hairline as he heard an undignified squeak from his brother in the kitchen, then friendly laughter tinkling into his ears. Carefully he made his way toward the kitchen, stopping in the archway, hands loosely at his side as he watch with a strange mixture of curiosity and shock as the two moved around the kitchen.

Gilbert would move to one side of the kitchen, handing Matthew something along his way, a cracker now hanging out of his mouth as he reached the shelves a bit too tall for the smaller country and pulling down ingredients they needed. They moved in sync, as though the choreography had been premade just for them, one taller and moving with sure motions, the other smaller, almost not needing to see where he went to maneuver around the larger man. After a moment, Alfred leaned against the wall, crossing his arms, the other two oblivious for the moment to his absence. The American didn't mind, however, watching with open curiosity now. Like watching a movie, the two seemed to be in perfect tandem. Prussia would move past his brother, hand on his shoulder as he passed, then moving away as he took one of the pans, placing the rolls inside one by one, their conversing never ceasing throughout the intricate dance.

And that's exactly what it was, Alfred realized. They were dancing. He wasn't a romantic type, never had been, but being around Francis, you couldn't help but pick up things...notice things. And these two, oh man were they dancing. A touch here, a laugh here, a light flush on Matthew's cheeks and the smirk that threatened to cross Alfred's face gave way. He never would have thought, looking at the two of them in their separate environments, that they would come to this. But it was plainly obvious to anyone looking, watching them as they swept around the room, that there was no other way these two could have gone once their paths crossed. But more to the point was the fact that neither of them saw it. At least, that they gave away. Their speech was all friendly, comfortable and inquisitive. Their actions counter-acted that, however. Any chance to touch, any chance to cause a smile, every opportunity was taken.

He knew he should be wary of the former country. He'd heard so many things, things that should make his skin crawl, things that should make him worry. And he did, he always worried about Matthew. But he also knew, above all else, his brother could take care of himself. He'd proven that time and again. But despite hiding himself away in his backwoods home of his, being unwillingly invisible (though he couldn't deny sometimes he hid in that) from most people, he knew his brother was lonely. Alfred could only come from time to time, so busy he was attempting to keep his country in pieces and other than him he only saw Cuba once or twice a year if that. Otherwise, without visiting Francis or Arthur on his own, Matthew was by himself. Day in and day out and it hurt Alfred to see him like that. It had been a very long time since he'd seen anyone be able to light up the smile on his brothers face the way he could. But there it was, shining as bright as the sun as he smiled up at something the Prussian had said, a soft chuckle the response.

With that, Alfred made his decision.


They spent the majority of the morning cooking all the main dishes, enough to feed a platoon of men, but thankfully for them, they had Alfred and Gilbert, who (shockingly enough for Matthew) were getting along well. They would laugh at a joke, talk about a mutual sport interest, food, anything that struck their fancy. Slowly as the early afternoon rolled in and the lunch preparation was nearly complete, Matthew found himself smiling more than he had in years as his two favorite men laughed and got along together. Favorite men? Where had that come from, he chuckled silently to himself. Of all the things to think.

Gilbert set out the plates at the table, avoiding the dishes of food already set out before them. Within minutes, they were all seated at the table, smiles on all of their faces as they filled their plates with the food in front of them.

"I'm glad you came Gilbert, I wasn't sure you would be able to get away." Matthew said politely, taking a roll and cutting it open with his knife to butter it.

"Eh," the silver-haired country responded, waving a hand before grabbing up some of the turkey, followed of course by his bratwurst his hand reaching up to feed a small piece to the tiny yellow puff of a bird settled in his hair, "West doesn't care. I just tell him I'm going out und he shoos me off. Besides, him and Feli have been flirting hardcore lately, und I don't need to be there when that bomb goes off." he laughed, eyes twinkling as he glanced at the two other men, who chuckled in return, Alfred giving a sideways look at the creature nibbling away at the chunk of turkey he'd been given. Wasn't that technically cannibalism?

"Well you are always welcome here you know." he offered, as though he needed to say so. He knew already that should Gilbert want to come over, he would do so whether he was invited or not. Not that he minded. In fact, he thoroughly enjoyed the company that the Prussian had begun to offer him. It was a nice reprieve from his normal routine. He found, as the short amount of time had gone by, that he was becoming used to noise in the house. Where there had been silence, there was now laughter, the sound of empty hallways replaced by the footsteps of a second being. Not that Kumajiro didn't count, but he really wasn't much of a conversationalist. Said bear was currently seated at his feet, munching on the pieces of turkey and wurst that Canada and Prussia were dropping down to his own paper plate.

When Gilbert didn't respond, Canada looked over at him, flushing slightly at the wide grin that had settled in on his face. Alfred smirked to himself but kept his eyes down on his plate, watching from his peripheral vision. Matthew wasn't quite sure what to make of the smile, as open and honest as it seemed. Usually his smiles were more like smirks or devious little grins that foretold a warning, but not this one. It was a slow smile that had spread across his face with honest emotion. "Thanks, Mattie." he finally said before ruining any moment that may have been with stuffing half of a wurst into his mouth.

"Y-yeah, no problem." Came the hushed response. A moment later, Canada jerked as Alfred kicked his shin rather hard.

"Ow, Alfred, what is your problem, eh?" the young Canadian nation yelped, glaring over at his brother.

"What?" came the innocent blinking of his eyes in return.

After another moment of silence, Canada shook his head and turned back to his plate, taking a large swig from his can of beer. Silence took over the table as the men ate, attempting to fill the hunger void in their stomachs as quickly as possible. As soon as the need to slow down on their intake became noticeable however, the conversation struck up once again. They spoke of sports and the upcoming winter season. Matthew laughed with Gilbert about the leaves incident, which the American found great humor in before Alfred cleared his throat, taking a drink of his own beer before leaning back.

"So. Food. Football? We could check out the season game playing today? They've got a couple college games on?" he asked hopefully, leaning toward and batting his eyelashes at his brother, who laughed and pushed his shoulder away from him.

"Yeah yeah, that's fine, I suppose. There isn't a good game on here today, so we'll deal with your football." he teased, sticking his tongue out, which Alfred tried to grab.

"So how'd you two happen?"

The silence that followed Alfred's question as well as the blank stares offered him no help. Rolling his eyes, he sat back up in his chair, propping himself on the balls of his elbows. "I didn't know you guys were friends. When did you start hanging out, I mean? No offence, Prussia, you're not exactly the type of guy I'd see my brother making friends with."

Matthew sputtered for a few long moments and the silver haired country simply leaned back and shrugged. "I was curious about him. Not much else to it. Noticed how quiet he was, noticed how everyone seemed to walk right through him, so I was intrigued. Didn't figure he'd be so awesome though." he chuckled, sticking his own tongue out at Matt, who flushed once more in pleasure. "Or that he'd make such amazing pancakes. I was hooked from the first bite." He teased, putting a hand over his heart.

"Y-yes well...you are persistent. I kept trying to deter you, but you don't listen."

"Nope. I don't." came the simple reply and Alfred burst into a snicker.

"And that was it? He was annoying so you gave in? Sheesh, Matt, grow a pair." he laughed, then yelped loudly as Matthew landed a well deserved punch on his shoulder. Gilbert was the one who laughed at that and before Matthew could think of his actions, he delivered a swift kick to the man's knee. What he hadn't anticipated however, was how fast Gilbert was and in an instant, he found his ankle locked in his grasp.

"Now, now Mattie, that isn't nice!" he grinned, tugging Matthew's shoe off. A burst of uncontrolled giggles flooded from the Canadian country's mouth as long slender fingers tickled across the bottom of his foot. "See what it got you. So violent!" he teased, continuing his prodding of the other man's foot.

Tears began to form at the corners of Matthew's eyes and Alfred's laughter joined in. "Oh man, I can see I'm going to like you just fine, dude. You found Matt's weak spot! He always guards it so well I can never get to it. Now you've got him." he joked, reaching out to poke his brother in the ribs, earning a fresh round of peeling laughter from the man now squirming desperately in his chair to get away.

"Gilbert no! Let go!" he panted out through his laughter, wiping his eyes with one hand and holding onto the chair with the other as he twisted to try and get away from the torturous grasp. Alfred's little snarky giggles were not helping in his attempt to escape. "Al! You're supposed to help me! What sort of brother are you?" he laughed, taking the chance to punch his brother in the arm a few times again, which earned him both laughter and exclamations of pain.

"Now that's not nice, Mattie." Gilbert chided, finally releasing the food, a large smirk on his face as he watched the other man, flushed a deep red, attempt to put his shoe back on through his embarrassment. "Teach you to kick the Awesome me."

Matthew huffed and stood from his place, making a face at the both of them before setting his plate in the sink for later. "Yeah yeah. Whatever." he grinned, sending the room into a fresh round of laughter.


Alfred had stayed to watch a game of football, something that Gilbert had never gotten into before. However, once everything had been explained to him by an excited Alfred, he quickly found himself being drawn into the action of the sport. Soon, Matthew was left shaking his head as Gilbert and Alfred high fived over another touchdown or yelled at the television when someone fumbled the ball. All in all, it was an unexpected bonding that had taken place over the holiday and once dinner rolled around, the three found themselves stumbling back into the dining room, slightly hazed over from the constant consumption of beer, for a second round of food and laughter.

Somewhere around nine that evening, Alfred stretched from his place on the couch, giving an over-exaggerated yawn before he stood, groaning as his muscles stretched out. "Whelp! I think it's about time I head home. I'm going to preparefor some of that black Friday shopping so I'll have to be up in like six hours." he laughed.

Matthew joined him, shaking his head as he turned the television off, watching absently as Gilbert moved towards the hallway, heading into the bathroom for the sixth time in the last few hours. "I don't know why you even do that. You know the stores are going to be overrun. And you complain about it to me the next day. Every year." A sideways glance came with the comment and the American just shrugged and tugged on his jacket.

"Eh. I know. But I still get all the best deals. Plus I need to get you something really good this year! And, I don't know, maybe I'll even pick something up for old Gil." he snickered, earning him a 'hey!' from the back hallway for the old comment. "Either way, someone's gotta be around to pick up the trampled people that there are inevitably every year. They need their Hero and here I am!"

The young blonde simply shook his head at his brother, shoving him lightly towards the door. "Yeah, yeah, go home to your own country with your bad beer and your scary shoppers." he teased.

Gilbert returned just as America was pushing open the screen door, zipping up the front of his jacket. "Thanks for having me again, Matt, it's always a blast. And save that food, i'll be back to eat it all soon." he joked, earning him another shove. He glanced at Gilbert again, raising his eyebrows. "You're right, he's so violent! What do you see in him?" he laughed, holding out his hand to the other man, who took it opening, shaking it firmly.

"Pancakes." And then it was Gilbert's turn to yelp as Matthew reached up to slap him on the shoulder.

"I swear, between the two of you, I'm going to be picked on forever."

"Get used to it, Mattie, you're stuck with the Awesome us."

"Sweet, dude, I'm awesome!"

Matthew rolled his eyes, cheeks flushing when the tall Prussia slung his arm around his shoulders, ruffling his hair teasingly. A small peep sounded from Gilbert's head and Gilbird bound down the arm to settle into Matthew's hair, earning a surprised look from it's owner.

Shaking his head, Alfred stepped outside into the November chill. "And with that, I'm off. See you guys! Gilbert, nice to get to know you, man." He said honestly, nodding his head at the other.

The two stayed in the doorway, watching Canada's elder brother drive off in his flashy truck before closing the door. A moment later, Gilbert seemed to realize his arm was still around the other man and he dropped it, scratching at his head sheepishly before glancing at Gilbird. "You are one strange little tuft." He chuckled, brushing a gentle finger over it's head, relishing in the soft plush of it's feathers. It took the opportunity to nuzzle at Matthew's head before bouncing it's way back to Gilbert's hair.

Matthew smirked, then looked slightly uncomfortable as he shifted from foot to foot. "I know it's getting kind of late so you are welcome to stay if you'd like. And if you aren't doing anything tomorrow, you are welcome to stay the weekend if you want. Would be nice to have some company around. I mean if you have something to do, I understand completely, I just figured-"

"Yeah! That would be awesome! We can eat all the leftovers before your brother comes back and watch some more of that football stuff. Hang out again, I'd like that!" the enthusiastic reply cut him off, a widely grinning Gilbert already moving away from him and grabbing up the empty beer cans strewn about the coffee table, side table and couch.

Matthew stood for a moment, a stupid grin crossing his own face before he shook it off and moved towards the kitchen. "If you want to toss those out, I'll start putting away the food if you can grab down some of the containers from the top shelf. You put them up high and I'm short." He snarked, moving to put some of the dirtied empty dishes into the sink. Gilbert joined him after dropping the armful of cans into the trash, reaching over him to pull down the larger Tupperware from the higher cabinets over the table. Matthew blushed as he had to lean forward to avoid Prussia from pressing him into the table. What was coming over him today? He was never this nervous around the other man. In fact, he'd just gotten comfortable with him, how could he start to feel so uncomfortable once again?

Pushing those thoughts to the back of his mind, he moved out from under the white haired man's arm and over to the side of the table. They packed up the remainder of the food into the containers, labeling and stacking them inside of Matthew's fridge before moving towards the sink. Soon they were working in tandem to clean the dishes in the sink. One large sink had been filled with heavily foaming dishwashing liquid and the other with clean water. Matthew would take a dish and scrub it down inside the soapy foam before passing it to Gilbert, who would rinse it off, then set it up to dry in a stacking holder on the counter beside him.

And as much as Matthew would have wished the night would go by without incident, that they would simply finish the task and head to bed before anymore confusing thoughts or actions took over him that day, it was not to be the case.

Gilbert could not leave well enough alone. It just wasn't in his nature. So of course, seeing a sink full of white suds and an unsuspecting victim was just too much for the former country to resist. Without warning, Matthew found a large glob of bubbled suddenly situated on his nose, threatening to drop of, but clinging just enough to the bridge of his glasses to hold there. "Gilbert!" he chided, wiping the suds away before glancing at his dish-washing partner. He had the most innocent look on his face as though he'd done nothing. Giving him a sideways glance, Matthew turned back to his task and a few moments later found another glob slathered on his chin. "What the-"soon joined by two hands, rubbing the bubbly material into his cheeks. "Oh that's it!"

Matthew grabbed a handful of the bubbles and dropped it heavily onto the top of Gilbert's hair, laughing as Gilbird seemed to pop up from nowhere, letting out a gurgling cheep from inside the mass. A quick retaliation lead to the two slathering handfuls of soapy suds into each others faces, arms slick up to their elbows from the soap filled water. Gilbert would land a huge slab on Matthew's neck and Matthew would shove his handful on the side of Gilbert's head, both laughing. Soon, however, they had nearly run out of ammunition and so came the alternative use of water. With only a few dishes left to wash and a floor already due for a mopping, Matthew could not be upset as they sloshed water at each other from the sinks. Eventually, just as the Canadian was certain he was winning the battle with his quick swatting motions, Gilbert grabbed his hand and spun him around, pulling his back up against the other man's chest, arms holding him in place against him, both heaving with lost breath. "I win."

They stood there for a long moment, hair and clothes dripping all over the floor and Matthew had no idea why he allowed himself to lean just the slightest back into his friend, resting against him. He expected Gilbert to pull away. He expected him to shove him off or let go of him or shift uncomfortably. But he got none of those reactions. Instead Gilbert held him just the slightest big tighter before loosening his grip. "We should probably clean this up." Came the deep chuckle from over his shoulder and a shiver ran through him. "Cold?"

Matthew nodded quickly, liar, his mind screamed. He moved away hesitantly from Gilbert, smiling at him over his shoulder. "I should probably clean this up then take a shower. Why don't you go ahead and take one now, there's some extra clothes of yours from the last time you stayed on top of the white basket of laundry in the hall. It's clean."

"Sure you don't want me to help you clean up?" came the offer, to which he shook his head.

"No, that's okay. It will give the water time to heat back up and I need to lock up for the night. I can set out your bedding too." He shrugged, pulling out a mop from the small utility closet near the back door.

With a hesitant nod, Gil moved towards the back hall, shrugging his shirt off along the way. Matthew quickly averted his gaze back to the floor, making quick work of mopping up the sloshed water and soap, finished up the few dishes that were left and set them out to dry. He listened to the soothing sound of the water flowing in the shower as he moved around the living room, tucking a sheet into the couch again and laying out the comforter. Once done, he moved to his room, shedding his own soaked clothing, waiting patiently in his boxers for Gilbert to finish.

Moments later, the water turned off, signaling the end of his Prussian friend's shower. Once Gilbert had exited the bathroom, scrubbing at his wet hair with a damp towel as he moved towards the living room, Matthew moved across the hall into the bathroom as well, enjoying the heat of the steam left over from the first shower. "I'll be out in a few." He called at Gilbert's location inquiry.


Matthew grinned at Gilbert's tilted head, watching the man read the titles of the books stacked on a shelf in his living room. "Hey. Glad you found the clothes alright."

Gilbert's head shot to look at him, giving a sheepish smile and moving away from the shelf towards his short, clean, blonde friend. "Yeah, they were right on top. You going to crash out?", he asked, nodding towards Matthew's pajamas.

"Yeah, long day today. Holidays usually leave me feeling worn out." And it was the truth. Each holiday with his brother tended to take it's toll on him as Alfred was a handful any which way you put it. "You are welcome to watch some television if you want though or read a book." He offered, nodding towards the previously examined bookshelf.

"Nah, I'll probably just go to sleep as well. Have to get up early if I'm going to pester you into making me pancakes." He winked with a chuckle and Matthew shook his head.

"I knew there was a reason you kept coming around. Who knew it was my food."

"You knew." He snickered, earning him another slap. "You know, I'm going to have to start finding an equal punishment for each time you slap me. Maybe I'll just slap you back."

"I'd like to see you try." Came the giggle. "I'm too quick on my feet. I might not look like it, but years of hockey equal a great dodging ability."

"We'll see about that." But no move was made to smack the younger man.

"Alright, I'm off to bed then. Sleep well and uh, I'll see you in the morning." Matthew shifted on his feet for a moment, smiling up at his friend. He let out a heavy sigh of what may have been relief or exasperation or even joy when Gilbert stepped forward without hesitation and enveloped him in a tight hug. He expected him to let go, to pull away immediately, but that wasn't the case. Instead, the Prussian held him for what seemed a stretch of long minutes, but was likely no longer than thirty second, a hand steady on his back, the other around his shoulders.

"Goodnight Mattie." He smirked, moving towards the bedding and with a nod and a bit of quick shuffling, Matthew headed towards his bedroom. As he passed the couch however, a hand swung out, swatting him sharply across the butt and he yelped, jumping at the contact before rushing back down the hallway.

"Gilbert, you hoser!" he hissed, the silver-haired Prussian's cackling laugh following him down the hallways and back into his room.

Chapter Text

*past*

Ludwig blinked for a moment, his mind lost in the grasping of a thought. Something was off, something was different. He wasn't certain exactly what it was until he slowly began to take notice of certain things. First it was how long his brother would be gone during the day. He would go to say something to him only to find he was not in the house at all. So, assuming he'd gone out with his friends again, the younger brother would shrug and go about his business, yelling at Feliciano when he failed to be on time for their training again.

Later that week he would search for his brother again, this time checking his room, but to no avail. Again, here, something seemed off, seemed wrong but he could not place his finger on it exactly. His brother's room felt….odd. The air almost seemed stale and the room looked slightly emptier than normal, but that didn't make sense.

Finally, near the beginning of winter, Ludwig noticed that his brother was not there at nighttime during some weekends. He did not notice before this point as he felt no need to invade his brothers evening privacy. However, upon seeking him out for questioning on a certain subject of which he could not recall, he realized the man was not in his room. Normally this would make any sibling worry, but with Ludwig, he knew Prussia had his friends and when he was with France and Spain, it was not unusual that he would not be seen for a few days. However, their gatherings were far more frequent than they'd ever been and he wondered if perhaps his brother was keeping something from him, something he felt he could not speak to him about.

He, however, was not the only one noticing things. Italy, though silly and often dense had his moments of wisdom from time to time.

Ever since the incident at the world meeting, the small Italian's curious mind had thought often of his Prussian friend and the blonde boy he'd traded seats with. And Italy could not help but feel swelling pride at the fact that he remembered his name. Canada.

He, too, noticed Gilbert's absence from the home but more than that, he noticed when Gilbert would take a small bag of clothing and personal items and stash it covertly near the front door where his brother was not likely to notice. The man had an air of excitement around him that, when paid attention to, was hard to ignore. However, he also took notice that Ludwig was paying more attention. And Feliciano, being the kind soul he was, decided all on his own that he would help Prussia. After all, when he wanted time with Ludwig, he knew he would appreciate having those moments to themselves where no one else would bother them. And since his albino friend was likely discovering a new facet to his relationship (or at least Feliciano hoped he was because he really wanted Gilbert happy), he was more than happy to 'offer' his assistance in the distraction of his brother.

And so, one of many incidents took place as such.

Gilbert moved around the home quickly, ready to head off and surprise Matthew. He'd not told him, again, that he was coming to visit. He did always enjoy the look on his little Birdie's face (he'd given him the nickname since Gilbird had taken a liking to his hair as well) when he showed up on his doorstep unannounced. It was a pleasant mixture of shock, annoyance, relief and joy. He would ignore the first two.

"Gilbert, what are you doing?"

The red eyed Prussia whipped around to see his younger brother, brows furrowed, arms crossed, staring down at him curiously as he shuffled the second bag around by the doorway. "Uh.."

"What is all that for? I thought that Spain said he and Romano were going somewhere this week and France is visiting England, so where are you going with all that?" a suspicious eyebrow raised slowly.

"Ah, ja, right, well…"

"GERMANY!" came the pitiful cry from the kitchen. "I CUT MYSELF TRYING TO PEEL YOUR YUCKY POTATOS!" a short sob followed and in an instant, the tall German had high tailed it into the dining area, fussing over a slice in Italy's hand. Prussia glanced in cautiously, worried. His eyes widened, however, when the clever little Italian winked over Ludwig's shoulder (as the man was hugging him per his request) and the intention of the distraction was clear.

With a hearty smirk and a thumbs up, the silver haired man was out the door before anything else could be said, though truth be told, his brother would be well distracted if Italy had any say in it and soon the man would forget that his brother had escaped his questioning once again. Though, that feeling of oddness would continue to linger long after the Prussian had left the house. But when Italy was being distracting, it was hard to concentrate on much else.


"What're you doing?"

Matthew nearly toppled from the ladder at the sudden appearance of what should have been, by now, an expected guest. Turning his head with a slight glare at the man, who simply shrugged, he sighed. "I'm winterizing the house. More specifically I'm cleaning out the gutters so I can make sure there's no cracks or anything so the snow doesn't collapse them. I've already finished everything else, this is just the last bit."

"Ah….okay." Prussia shrugged, hands shoved deep in the pockets of the coat he wore. The bitter wind was attempting to bite through the thick material but he knew better by now than to bring a flimsy jacket with him. Canada was much colder by far at this time of season than Germany and he wasn't going to be caught unaware.

Matthew brushed away the last of the leaves from the inside of the gutter, watching them fall to the ground, before climbing down and folding the ladder up. He lift it easily and moved to place it in the large garage, eyeing Prussia over his shoulder. "I figured I better get it out of the way. They are calling for the first real snow today and knowing here, it will be a pretty thick fall. " Once the ladder was placed up against the wall, he moved back out, pulling the garage door down before moving to greet his friend, eyes pointedly glancing at the suitcase. "I didn't know you were coming today."

"The awesome me decided to come stay for Christmas! "

There was a long pause, Matthew's face slowly splitting into a shy smile, Gilbert's self-important grin ever present. "Really?"

"Yeah! We hang out all the time anyways und I thought we could do Christmas too! Saves me from having to travel back and forth. Plus I think West deserves some extended time alone with his little Italy." He winked, a motion to which Canada drew his brows in and tilt his head.

"Just a hunch." Came the reply, accompanied by a shrug.

"Ah. Well, um, sure, come on in and we'll get you set up. Are you hungry? I need to run into town and get some more supplies for winter so we could grab a bite there if you like?" Matthew asked, turning and walking the taller country inside.

"Yeah sure, that sounds good. Can we hit up that café? The one with the potato fries und cheese…uh-"

"Poutine?"

"Yeah! That!"

Matthew laughed as Gilbert's eyes lit up at the mention of the food, glad that he was enjoying his culture. At least beyond the extent of his pancakes. Not that Matthew minded Gilbert's nearly unhealthy obsession with his pancakes. And his syrup. But the man DID have an obsession. For the life of him, Matthew could not figure out why no other pancakes could do. Gilbert's exact words. And as Gilbert moved to set his suitcase away, shuffling through the house comfortably, Canada could not help the warm feeling that crept up inside him. He always saw Alfred on Christmas but essentially he still spent it alone. This year he wouldn't. This year he would have his best friend…yes that's what Gilbert felt like now, was his best friend. And he would be staying with him through the season. He wasn't sure how long, he'd ask that later. For now, he was content in just knowing that he was staying. In truth, when Gilbert was not around, it felt strange, almost emptier in the house than it ever had before. That thought sometimes unnerved Matthew, but he quickly shrugged it off.

Gilbert returned to the kitchen where Matthew was pushing a few things aside in the refrigerator, Kumajiro in his arms. "Hey, where's his food, I think he's hungry."

Matthew looked up and froze, blinking rapidly for a moment as he took in the scene. There sat his Kuma, in Gilbert's arms, content as could be, gently pawing at the man's shoulder and licking his lips. Indeed the bear was hungry, that was no surprise. The surprise was the fact that he was letting anyone other than Matthew hold him. Hell, even when it came to Alfred the bear nearly outright refused for the other man to pick him up, going so far as to growl at him the few times he tried. But here he sat, perfectly happy to be held by the albino who's expression even seemed to hold concern for the bear's hunger. "Uh….."

Gilbert raised an eyebrow, brushing a hand through the soft fur of the bears head, scratching at an ear.

"Oh uh, it's…it's uh, here. I'll grab one out." He muttered, confused but pleasantly surprised as he pulled out a long strip of fish from one of the lower drawers in the fridge and placed it on a platter on the floor. Again the bear startled his owner by holding still until Gilbert saw fit to set him down in front of the plate instead of struggling like he did even in Matthew's hands. "Huh."

"What's that?" Gilbert's comment floated into Matthew's consciousness, snapping him out of his thoughts.

"Oh! Nothing, nothing. Just…he's never so friendly. With anyone." Came the reply, eyes gazing down at the bear now happily munching on his food before turning back to his friend. "You're really something, Gil." He smiled genuinely.

"Thanks!"

Matthew laughed and tugged briefly at Gilbert's sleeve, urging him towards the door. "Let's go ahead and get this done. We can get some food, do the shopping and then get back hopefully before it gets too bad. Maybe I can even start a fire a little early." He smiled happily back at Gilbert, who's expression matched his own.

"Sounds good, Birdie."


Gilbert leaned back against one of the large deep coolers, arms crossed, and eyes on Matthew as he checked off bits of his list, grabbing down items from the shelves. Truth be told, he was having a bit of a difficult time keeping his gaze steady. He focused as hard as he could on the back of the blonde countries head, grinding his teeth together as the smaller man stretched up once again to grab an item from a top shelf. As he did so, the hem of his shirt lift enough, just enough for the tiniest sliver of skin to show. The skin just above where his jeans rest, the curve of his hip just barely visible, but enough to know just where it was. It didn't help that under that ever popular hoodie (he'd worn dark blue today), he'd chosen to wear those jeans that sat tightly against his skin. It really shouldn't have mattered. At all. It shouldn't have had any sort of effect and Gilbert shouldn't be focusing on it at all, but every time he stretched, every time he moved, the silver-haired country's eye would wander downward of their own accord, settling on the well fit backside. Seconds later, he would catch himself, shaking his head hard and refocusing his gaze on his friend's head.

What was with him? It wasn't like Mattie was an unattractive guy. Quite the opposite. He just….was his friend. And that was something Gilbert had never questioned. The guy was sweet, he was funny and he was friendly. A bit of a pushover, but Gil felt that he only took advantage of that when he wanted pancakes. Or company. But Matthew never seemed to mind too much. Hell, at all.

Yet here they were, Matthew examining the various flavors of pasta sauces for a later dish, reaching for the higher quality brands on the top shelves and Gilbert attempting to keep his eyes straight ahead. They were just friends. None of that strange tension, right? Why was it so damn hard then?

Finally, after a few seconds of inner struggle, Gilbert gave in. He might as well just go with the flow. He was never one to question the ways of the mind. If his eyes wanted to grope his best friend's ass, then that's what they would do. He'd just make sure Mattie never saw that. He might get the wrong idea.

Damn, but the boy did have a nice one, didn't he? Every time he stood up on his toes to grab for another canister to examine, the muscles would tighten up. What did this kid do? Butt exercises? Not to mention that small slip of skin on his stomach made it plainly obvious that he'd tone there as well.

And as if the moment couldn't have gotten any more awkward, Matthew dropped the box of pasta noodles he'd been gripping in his other hand with a slight cursing, bending down to grab them up.

Gilbert's eyes widened at the very sudden and very unexpected reaction his body had to the motion, pushing himself away from the cooler and clearing his throat, moving towards the basket again. Well, that was….really strange. Sure, the kid was attractive. Okay, so he was really attractive, but Gilbert had never ever had a physical reaction like that to anyone before and to be honest with himself, it freaked him out a little bit. He could understand having a physical attraction to him, it happened, but this. This was as though his body had a mind of it's own and it unnerved him just a little.

Which is why he deemed it very important to drive the cart for the next half hour of shopping.


By the time they were driving back to Matthew's house, things had settled back into his control. Once they'd exited the store, his attention was immediately diverted by the fact that there were thick white flakes of snow falling and an already thick sheet of the stuff covering the ground.

"It's likely it'll be thicker at my house. Since were a little higher on the mountain, we'll have gotten more snowfall already. Be prepared to wade." Matthew had laughed as they slid into his car, heading up towards the secluded two story house that was his home. Gilbert would again find himself feeling a slight bit of shock as he realized he felt like he was going home as well, but quickly shook it off. He was really starting to read too much into this. Wasn't he?

They pulled up at the house nearly half an hour later finding that Matthew had, indeed, been correct in his assumption. There was nearly two feet of drifts already gathered in the front yard and though the wind had already begun to slow down, the backyard seemed to have fared just as bad, most of it covered in a three foot blanket of snow.

They quickly hauled the food and supplies into the house, putting them away in their proper locations, Matthew lighting a fire as Gilbert slid on some gloves. "What're you doing?"

"C'mon. Put your gloves and coat back on!"

The Canadian laughed at the enthusiasm in Prussia's voice, shaking his head but conceding to the request. "What are you up to?"

"I haven't gotten to mess around in snow in years." He explained, pulling on a white beanie as well. Aside from his light blue coat, everything he wore was white. And without waiting for Matthew to finish pulling on his own red beanie, he darted out the back door, laughing as he bounded into the snow.

Matthew chuckled, following soon after, stopping on the porch with a sigh. "Gilbert?"

After a long moment there was no answer but a light shuffling noise. "Gil? Are you okay?"

A few seconds later, just as he was ready to move down the steps into the snow, Gilbert's head popped up from behind one of the snow drifts, the albino nearly blending into the snow driven background. His crimson eyes stood out amongst the river of white, his headgear already spattered in snow. "Hey!"

Matthew giggled, shaking his head. "What are you doing?"

With a heavy sigh, one that said Matthew should know it was obvious, Gilbert rolled his eyes. "We're playing a game. It's called 'find the Albino'"

This time it was no mere giggle or snicker that came from Matthew's lips, but a full on laugh. "Are you serious?"

"Yup! C'mon." and with that, the white head disappeared behind the snow drift followed by a large amount of light shuffling.

Shaking his head, Matthew moved out into the drift, bringing his legs up high as he wade through the snow towards where Gilbert had been. Once he reached his goal, however, the Prussian was nowhere to be seen.

"Boo." Matthew whipped around, eyebrows furrowing as he caught sight of the other man nearly twenty feet to the right behind another snow drift. "Gotta be faster than that Mattie." He cackled, ducking down again.

This time, Matthew moved faster, stomping over the large drift of snow to the next spot. Once again, however, there was no Gilbert, but a small spot left where he stood.

"Too bad, so sad, Birdie!" came the cackling laughter and Matthew whipped around. Again the man was nearly twenty feet away, a large grin on his face, his head the only visible part of his body above the snow.

"Gilbert!" the Canadian country laughed, turning on his heel as he gave in, jogging as best he could towards his friend as he ducked again. He got faster, but each time, Gilbert would be long gone by the time he reached the prior destination, so he gave up that attempt and began to try chasing the noise of shuffling. This succeeded a slight bit more as he was much closer to his target, little giggles bursting from his lips as he reached out for his friend, only to find empty air and more shuffling and cackling.

Soon Matthew found himself nearly out of breath, his cheeks a bright tinge of pink and smokey air puffing from his lungs as he stood in the center of the snow drift valley, the shuffling having stopped as well. "Gilbert, you-EEP!"

Down he went, down, down until he was on the ground underneath a very wildly grinning Albino man. "Gotcha!" came the chortle, pride evident in his voice.

Matthew laughed, reaching up to brush away some of the snow from Prussia's face and hat as the man hovered over him. Pulling his hand away he smiled happily up at the other, watching the pink tinge of exertion that crossed over his face as Gil reaches his own hand down to brush the snow from Matthew's forehead. He saw Gilbert's smile falter just the slightest then, his adam's apple bobbing briefly before he fell away, flopping down alongside his friend, eyes on the sky. "You okay?"

"Yeah." The reply was short, almost bitten out and a moment later, Gilbert sighed, Matthew's eyes never moving from his friend's face. "Just forgot how much fun snow could be like this." He said softly, turning his head to glance at Matthew, eyes twinkling just the slightest. Seconds later, he began swinging his arms and legs side to side through the snow, grinning madly at Matthew who just laughed, but followed the example as well.

The two slowly made their way to their feet, examining the results of their movements. "Well, I think we make lovely angels, don't you?" the younger country laughed, patting Gilbert on the shoulder as he headed for the back door.

"Yeah.."

*end past*


Matthew was jolted from his thoughts as a pair of arms slid around his waist, settling just above the large rounded portion of his body, a chin settling softly on his shoulder and gentle lips pressing to the skin just below his ear. A smile slowly spread over his mouth, eyes turning from the window where the first few flakes of snow had begun to fall to meet the crimson eyes watching him with a softened expression.

"Hey you."

"Hey yourself. What you thinking about? You're pretty intently glaring down the snow out there." Came the deep chuckle.

A smirk in response was the first answer to precede his words. "I was just remembering our snow angels." To which he earned another soft chuckle. "I'm sure the boys are excited to be able to make some this year. They were too sick to go out last year and you know how much they look forward to the snow. Especially when they get to drag their daddy out sledding."

Prussia pulled away slowly, raising one of Canada's hands to press gentle kisses at his wrist. "Yeah they just like seeing me fall on my butt is all. Or tip over on the sled when they make me go down one of those hills alone."

"You know they love going with you," Matthew chided, reaching a finger up to brush against his husband's cheek. "I'll be sad I can't sled down this year, but there's always next year. Plus Alberta is old enough this year to go down with you guys. She'd love that. I'll be the one taking pictures and drinking my hot cider, thank you very much." He snickered, pulling away to wrap his arms around Prussia's neck.

"Papa! Papa! It's snowing!" the excited yell interrupted any sort of private moment that the two parents would have been hopeful of having as a set of arms attached themselves around Canada's hips. Not moments later, the other twin, Alberta hanging from his back came in, his excited expression matching his brothers.

Matthew glanced down, brushing a hand through Lukas' wild blonde hair. "I know. We were just talking about going sledding this year-"

Anything that Matthew would have said past that point was drowned out by the loud cheers of their children, who promptly took up residence on their parents freshly made bed, jumping up and down on the large mattress. "Hey, what have I told you boys?" Matthew's indignant grunt was ignored as they continued to bounce happily; Gilbert's laughing not a positive encouragement. The anger couldn't stay long however as his husband dropped a kiss to the side of his jaw.

"Oh let them jump. I'll remake it later." He shrugged, moving to fall on the bed, immediately being tackled by three small bodies. Matthew's laughter rang out in the large bedroom, and though this happy scene was one of thousands he had of his family, he still couldn't shake the nervous feeling growing in his stomach at what the upcoming months were bound to bring. They'd have to face it sooner or later and with each day there was a silent growing anxiety. Every call from Francis or Germany was another reminder that their time as a secluded family was coming to an end. He just hoped this was the right choice.

Chapter Text

Alfred showed up three days before Christmas as usual, boxes and bags in hand, an enormous shit-eating grin on his face. He always got so very excited this time of year. He would call Matthew for two weeks prior to them meeting up, begging him to wait until he could get there to put up the tree and lights on the house, insisting it was a family thing. Only a slight amount of bitterness would well up inside of Matthew each year, wishing his brother would stay with him for the actual holiday, but knowing he'd be spending it with Arthur and Francis instead. Matthew would some times accompany him, but after a few years of feeling utterly invisible around even his own family, bless them, he decided it was not worth the heartache. Instead, he allowed himself to enjoy the quiet evenings by himself, waking Christmas morning with a smile at the gifts that his family had sent him.

He knew they remembered him; essentially anyway. And it wasn't as though they really forgot he was there. He supposed it was partially on himself. He was so soft-spoken and so gentle moving that he could not compete with the loud vivaciousness of Alfred or the biting snarky comments that France and England made towards one another. Instead he usually found himself sitting quietly on the couch, Kumajiro in his arms as the rest of them flittered around the rooms. Now and again Arthur would stop to say a kind word to him, Francis would brush a hand through his hair or Alfred would outright sit on him just to annoy, but the rest of the time he felt sheltered. As though he were in a bubble of his own world.

It was for this reason that the last few years he'd decided to stay in his own home. Well…maybe it had been more than a few years. More like a decade or two. Maybe three, but he really wasn't counting that much. And Alfred, his sweet brother Alfred, he never forgot him. Each and every year he would come. Each and every year he would beg Matthew to go with him to London or Paris, to be a part of the family. But the longer he stayed away, the harder it was to return. Each year he became more and more comfortable with the seclusion of his home and though he sometimes would yearn for a friendly face, he would open his gifts in silence, sipping at his cocoa and listening to the fire crackle. He would eat a small stack of pancakes and watch the snow fall, perhaps watch a movie and politely talk on the phone when Arthur would call to wish him a happy holiday before having to hang up when Alfred broke a piece of china.

This year, however, this year will be different, Matthew thought as he watched Gilbert open the door politely for Alfred, his eyes on the silver-haired man the entire time. His brother shuffled his way into the house; the two sharing a quick bout of laughter before Gilbert shut the door firmly, locking the bolt to keep the cold out. He wasn't exactly certain why he stayed at the top of the stairs, watching as the Prussian moved to help Alfred lay presents out under the undecorated tree. The usuals were there of course. Ones from his Papa and ones from Arthur, whom no matter how hard he tried he could never concede to call 'Daddy' even upon insistence. There was then the usual enormous mound from Alfred himself. He always went overboard with presents, especially when it came to Matthew. He watched while trying not to watch too heavily as small items were put into his stocking, the two men below falling into easy conversation.

No, this year. It would be different. This year he had Gilbert. Well, he didn't have him. He was just…with him. Well not with him….oh maple...

Matthew shook his head to rid himself of the thoughts that kept popping into his mind, a light flush spreading across his cheeks. It all seemed to come across wrong. No, this year, Gilbert would be staying at his home and sharing Christmas with him. There. That seemed appropriate.

With a sigh, Matthew left his shell of insecurity on the stairwell and moved down into the living room to greet his guests. These people cared and he would be silly to let the chance at a real holiday with others pass him by because of his routine. No, this year, he vowed, he would break that. This year, he would learn to share his time with someone else. And he couldn't imagine anyone better than Gilbert.

"Hey Alfred."

"MATT! Merry Christmas Bro!" Matthew winced slightly at the booming voice that echoed in his ear as Alfred attached himself to the smaller blonde man, hugging him tightly. Matthew laughed, wrapping his arms around his brother in return and patting the thick padding of his coat. "I can't wait, dude this is going to be great! We can decorate the tree and put lights up outside and sing Christmas carols and-"

"Alfred, Alfred, slow down." He chuckled, pulling away and taking a step back, only to find himself being tackled once again into a bear hug, this time by a silver-haired man. Alfred laughed loudly as he usually did, when Gilbert wrapped himself around Matthew.

"Merry Christmas Birdie!" he chortled, laughing as he pulled away from a severely blushing Canadian. The grin on his face told all, too. He knew exactly what he was doing and the embarrassment he caused. And so, it stood that a few moments later Gilbert was rubbing at the sore spot on his arm and muttering 'so violent' as he moved to pull his own coat on.

"Yeah yeah, let's just get these lights up outside while it's still daytime, eh?" Matthew rolled his eyes, moving to grab his down coat from the closet and wrapping a lovely green scarf that Arthur had gotten him around his neck. "Then we can start on the tree and yes," he looked pointedly at Alfred, who was bouncing on the balls of his feet, eyes wide and mischeivious, "you can put the star on top."

"Yay!"

"Children. I'm surrounded by children." He chuckled, dodging the light swing of Gilbert and Alfred's swatting hands, and darting out the front door.


It had taken nearly an hour to string the lights up around the house. They had dragged three tubs out of the garage, one full of decorations for the tree, the others full of lights and basic decorations to place around the house. Alfred and Gilbert had taken to the roof, nailing the lights in place around the lining of the house and up around the chimney. They'd placed the plastic Santa and reindeer carefully along the slop. The more they worked together, the more the smile on Matthew's face grew. The two would joke with one another, giving a playful shove if they stood on steady ground and offering a helping hand as they scaled their way to the top of the roof. They would make stupid gestures and comments shouted down to him as he placed the lawn decorations out and lined the driveway with lights. Finally, he shook his head and made his way inside as they mocked urinating off the back of the roof. Those two…

They came in not long after him, all of the lighting set up on the exterior of the house and ready for the evening to come. Their coats were hung in the closet (with the exception of Alfred's, which was thrown haphazardly over the back of a chair near the doorway) and their hats and scarves placed up on a shelf for later use. Matthew passed each of them a beer, taking a drink of his own before setting it down and opening up the top of the tub they'd brought in with tree décor inside. The next hour was spent in slow decoration and drinking. Gilbert stood to the side for the first few minutes, feeling a slight bit awkward about invading on their family time, but Matthew and Alfred quickly prodded him into grabbing up some of the ornaments and helping them decorate the tree. Soon the bottom of the tree was covered in ornaments and only the very top of the tree and the star were left. The star, of course, was left for Alfred, but he insisted that Matthew decorate the rest of the top of the tree.

This, of course, in Alfred's mind, was a perfect opportunity. Instead of continuing to help, he pushed over the three tiered step ladder to the tree and waved Matthew upwards. "You go ahead, bro, I think you have a better eye for when stuff should be placed. "

And of course, as he knew he would, Matthew took the compliment. He seemed to beam at the remark, already having taken pride in the way he kept his home. Matthew was nothing if not an organization nut. He liked to have everything in it's place and twice a week went through his home on a cleaning spree. All the while telling himself it had nothing to do with boredom.

As Matthew stretched upwards to place the ornaments on the tree in their specified locations, Alfred glanced from the corner of his eye at Gilbert, a slow smirk making its way across his face. The man's eyes were practically glued to Matthew's back; his head tilted just the slightest, eyebrow twitching upwards as Matthew's shirt did that damn skin-peeking thing again. He hardly noticed when Alfred moved up along side him, hands in his pockets, an innocent look upon his face.

"I think he might need a little help. He can get kinda clumsy and I'm not exactly the best at balance either, otherwise I'd offer." The American shrugged. Gilbert's eyes swiveled to glance at him, narrowing slightly until Alfred shrugged. "Just saying."

Rubbing his palms along the edges of his pants, Gilbert finally moved and just in time. Just as he approached, indeed, Matthew wobbled. "Whoh!"

The anticipated fall and painful as well as embarrassing landing on his backside never came. Instead, when Matthew felt himself hovering, he turned to glance over his shoulder at a smirking Gilbert, who's hands were firmly planted on his waist. Under his shirt. A deep red flush went through the younger man as he was steadied back on the ladder.

"Uh thanks, Gil. I um…I think I'm okay from here."

"Yeah, not likely. I think I'm just gonna stay here and make sure you don't fall." Gilbert retorted, not moving his hands much to the Canadian's growing embarrassment.

"Gilbert, really-"

"He's got a point, Matt! You did almost fall on your ass there. Gilbert's just lookin' out for you dude!"

Both sets of eyes turned a startled gaze on Alfred. One suspicious, the other confused. Alfred of all people should be the one beating Gilbert away from his younger brother, right? Chiding the other man for touching his brother inappropriately. Getting all up-in-arms defensive and protective, right? But at current, he was simply leaning back against the wall sipping happily at his beer. "Just make sure you don't put the star on!"

Gilbert's warm fingers gripping his waist, the room suddenly being hotter and two ornaments later, Matthew decided that the tree had enough decorations and if Alfred wanted to complain that there were not enough on the other side, he could do them himself. Gil finally let go of his waist when Matthew's feet hit solid ground once more. Both immediately went for their respective beers, the atmosphere tingling.

Alfred simply smirked, dashing over and up the ladder to place the star on the top of the tree. "Light it up! Light it up!"

Any awkwardness that had been in the room quickly deflated as the child-like American took the center of attention. Matthew laughed, plugging in the tree and the room suddenly took on an entirely different feel. The tree splintered a glimmering beam of rainbow across the walls and surfaces, the hardwood floors and walls lit up and tinkling in their own way.

"It always looks so pretty." Alfred sighed, wrapping an arm over Matthew's shoulder. After a pause, he turned his gaze to his smaller brother, eyes hopeful. "You sure you won't come this year? We'd love to have you along. You know Pops and Dad would love to see you again. It's been so long.."

Matthew moved away, unconsciously sidling up along side Gilbert. "That's okay Alfred. I'll be here this year. Besides, I'm not alone." He smiled, glancing up at his friend who returned the warm smile, an unfamiliar emotion curling its way in both of their chests. It flittered away as quickly as it came however and he broke the gaze to look back at his brother. "But do tell them I love them and I miss them as well. And I'll see them soon enough at the meetings. No doubt Papa will want me to come visit him afterwards, he always does." He shrugged.

"I'm just glad you have someone with you this year. And uh," he reached up a hand, sheepishly scratching at the back of his neck," I'm kinda glad it's Gil. I mean, ya know, I never really thought about it before cause it was always just bad stuff I heard but…you're a good guy, dude. I mean, we all have our stuff right? But…you guys seem happy and I'm glad Mattie's got a friend." He grinned, reaching out to ruffle said man's hair, who shifted away irritably.

Gilbert smirked, shoving a hand into his pocket and wrapping the other around Matthew's shoulders. "It's cause I'm Awesome! But, yeah, same here…dude." They laughed together. "You can be loud and annoying and shit at the meetings, but you're pretty decent to hang out with. Guess everyone's got a different sides and stuff. Just have to get outside of those damn meetings to see them. Take Mattie here for example. Who knew he was so violent?"

And while both men laughed, Matthew decided that a decently rough fist jab to Gilbert's side was in order. The other man grunted gently, his laughter undeterred as his small companion pursed his lips together irritably.


Christmas morning Matthew jolted awake, a loud bang on the roof disturbing his sleep. He shuffled in the bed for a moment, blinking away the haze of the night and glanced at the bedside alarm clock.

5:58 am

What in the hell? The thud came again and even through the haze of the waking hours, Matthew could hear the muffled curse. Frowning, he slid out of bed, following the sound as it moved around on top of his house. What in the world was going on? Finland would have come hours ago so it couldn't be him could it?

Another muffled curse, this time echoing down through the unlit fireplace. Definitely not Finland, then. He moved towards the opening of the brick fireplace, glancing up blearily through the flume. "Hello?"

The movement on the roof paused for a long moment, then the shuffling started up again. It became clear that whoever had been struggling with the chimney was losing the battle as said person appeared to tug their leg out of the long square tunnel, a darkened figure gazing down at Matthew. "Damnit, Mattie, go back to bed!"

"…Gilbert…?"

Another muffled curse and the figure moved away from the chimney, the shuffling heading down the back of the house. Matthew, completely ignoring the chiding order, continued to pad through the house, following the sound of the movement. Just as he entered the kitchen, a loud squawk resonated outside and seconds later, a figure donned in red and white zipped down off the roof on it's back and into a large pile of snow with a resounding 'oof!'

Matthew's eyebrows shot up on his forehead, frozen as he watched the figure stumble to it's feet, cursing the entire way in a language he was certain was not English before slipping and tumbling back down again. Moments later the figure, now definitely Gilbert trudged their way up to the backdoor. Matthew knew he should help. He should go and open the door, but at this moment he was more interested in WHY his current house guest was dressed up in a Santa Claus outfit stomping around the outside of his house in the cold and snow. So instead, he crossed his arms as the Prussian country attempted to open a window only to find it frozen shut. He tried the backdoor, but could not get it to open under the pressure of the highly driven snow.

With a huffing sigh, he moved around the side of the house and out of sight. Matthew turned slowly, following the noise as the man shuffled his way towards the front of the house. The Canadian padded his way into the living room, arms still crossed over his chest, eyebrows still high on his forehead as the movement came to a halt at his front door. Long seconds of silence passed followed by a distinct thud and the doorknob being rattled. Another few moments of silence and his doorbell went off.

That had been the last straw. Matthew doubled over in laughter, holding his stomach as he stood back up, moving towards the front door, unlocking it and swinging it open. Fresh peels of laughter burst from the younger country's mouth and once again he found himself bending over, holding his stomach. This time, however he could not keep himself afloat and dropped into a squatting position, eyes watering at the sight that greeted him.

There on his doorstep stood Gilbert.

In a suit that was two sizes too large for him.

With a pillow falling out from under the hem of his belted Santa suit.

Soaking wet hair.

Covered in large puffs of snow up to his waist.

Looking utterly and absolutely miserable and defeated.

And there sat Matthew, crouched on the floor, rubbing at his watering eyes and struggling to breathe through his laughter.

"Mattie. Seriously?"

"I'm…I'm S-sorry.." Matthew giggled out, finally finding his way to standing straight again, holding onto the doorknob for good measure. He lift his eyes to the man outside his door again, an irritated frown on his face and burst into laughter again. "Oh, God Gilbert I'm so sorry!" he laughed, hand pressed to his chest.

"You damn well don't sound sorry!" the other man huffed, shivering just the slightest as the cold wet snow began to seep into his skin. "Stop laughing! I was trying to be awesome!"

Biting at his hand to hold back the rest of his laughter, Matthew giggled but managed to reach out and tug Gilbert inside. "Oh my god, get in here. You are going to get so sick. What were you even thinking?" he chortled, taking the soaked Santa hat off of his friend's head and sitting it on a chair. "Let me get you a towel. Better yet, I'll get a trash bag for your wet….clothes," he snickered, wiping his eyes again, "and you go take a hot bath. Then you can tell me what you were doing on my roof at five am."

"I was being awesome is what I was doing!" came the indignant snort. "Until your chimney decided that it wasn't going to cooperate. "

"And why are you dressed as Santa Claus?"

"Gilbertclaus."

A long pause later, another attempt at a subdued smirk was crossing Matthew's mouth. "What?"

"Gilbertclaus. I'm Gilbertclaus." He frowned.

Matthew didn't think then. He didn't weigh his options or think of the possibilities or consequences the way he normally might have. Instead he simply smiled the brightest smile he could manage and flung himself at the unsuspecting Prussian, wrapping him in a hug. He squeezed the taller man to himself and felt Gilbert reciprocate instantly, holding him against him. However, it lasted no more than a few seconds before Matthew jumped away with a squeak, laughing as he brushed the snow off of his thin pajamas. "I completely forgot you are covered in snow." He chuckled.

"Oh yeah." Gilbert shrugged briefly before tugging the large Santa suit top over his head and handing it over as he moved past the smaller man towards the bathroom, grinning madly at him the entire time.

"Thanks Gilbert." Came the soft reply a moment later and the Prussian stopped just outside the bathroom door, smiling back at him.

"Anything for you Birdie." He grinned.

By the time Gilbert returned to the living room in his own set of comfortable flannel pajamas, Matthew had made breakfast and plenty of warm cocoa for the both of them and was seated comfortably on the couch watching as a Christmas parade took place. He pat the seat next to him and held out a cup of the warm liquid joy for the platinum haired country. Gilbert took it gratefully, sitting down next to him until their shoulders were touching. Neither said another word for a few moments as Gilbert leaned forward to roll a pancake up and shove it in his mouth.

Matthew smirked, watching him from the corner of his eye. "Gilbertclaus." He snickered.

At that, Gilbert's eyes shot open and he stumbled to his feet, pancake bits falling from his mouth to which Matthew frowned. "Gilbert, what are you doing?"

"I f'gt!" came the muffled cry. Prussia rushed to the front door, unlocking it and tugging it open to reveal a large red bag sitting, still covered in snow that had only slightly melted away, on his front porch.

Swallowing the food in his mouth, Gilbert grabbed the edge of the bag and tugged it inside onto the carpeted entryway where it promptly started to soak the floor.

"Gilbert! Good lord. You'd think we aren't civilized. Let me get a towel so it doesn't soak too far through." Matthew stated, standing up and rushing to the bathroom. He grabbed the towel, that Gilbert had flung up over the shower curtain rod and set it down on the floor next to the bag while Gilbert lift the bag itself and placed it on the towel. Opening the top, he let out a relieved sigh.

"It looks like they didn't get wet. Good." He smirked and began pulling out gifts and handing them to Matthew, who sputtered as his arms were filled to the brim. "They..they're all for me!" he squeaked.

"Of course they're all for you!"

Matthew's mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water as the weight of the gifts began to press down on his arms. He took a few precarious steps backwards before finally finding his footing and moving to the tree to set the multitudes of packages under the tree. Gilbert followed, setting the remaining few down as well before grinning over at the shorter blonde man.

A deep flush took over Matthew's cheeks before he moved away from the tree towards a closet just inside the hallway. Opening the door, he sheepishly grinned back at Gilbert, who's eyes lit up at the closet full of presents. "Yes, well…I went a little overboard."


Wrapping paper littered the floor around the tree as though a bomb of colored tissue had gone off inside the house. Stacks of unwrapped presents sat in piles against one side of the fireplace; the crackling of the logs background noise against the television. Half eaten plates were scattered across the dining room table as well as the coffee table. Two sets of feet sat propped up on said coffee table, both crossed and nearly blocking James Stewart and Donna Reed in all of their black and white glory. The day was winding down into evening, sun slowly sinking into the horizon and allowing the glimmering of the lights on the tree to take over the living room in a blanket of soft rainbow colors. It was to this that Gilbert's crimson eyes slowly blinked open, a gentle haze of 'It's a Wonderful Life' filtering through to his consciousness. His senses awoke one by one, each taking in his surroundings. The soft voices floating out from the television; the lights of the tree and those reflected from outside; the gentle breathing against his neck…

Awareness crept across him as the last observation settled in. Awareness that the both of them had dozed off on the couch and Matthew now rest comfortably against him, his head cradled in the curve of Gilbert's neck, one of his arms wrapped around the other man's waist and Gilbert's own betraying arm had wrapped itself around Matthew's shoulders as well.

He thought for a long moment of how to move. Should he carefully try to extract himself and allow Matthew to sleep on the couch? Should he pick him up and move him into his own bed?

In the end, Gilbert felt he made the best decision and shuffled slightly in his position to get comfortable, reaching over to click off the television and laying his other arm around the man cradled against him. As he lay them completely down, Matthew shifted just slightly, letting out a soft contented sigh.

Oh yes, best Christmas ever.

Chapter Text

*past*


Gilbert had stayed with Matthew through New Years, celebrating with a simple toasting of beer and, much to Matthew's embarrassment, a purposefully sloppy kiss on the cheek. He'd laughed it off while Matthew had proceeded to turn a shade of crimson the man hadn't seen previously. They hadn't stayed up much longer as Gilbert's flight back to Germany was the next morning, a notion that left them both feeling a little emptier inside, though neither one was quite sure. So instead, they continued their routine, Matthew bidding the Prussian a fond farewell and promising to see him at the next world meeting later that month.

And now they found themselves, once again sitting next to each other in the middle of the meeting, every now and again taking the time to whisper or smile at one another. Most of the members, of course, did not notice a thing. Italy, however, was the exception. Though he knew Germany would be mad at him for not listening, he couldn't help it. He spent most of the meeting with his chin in his palm, watching the two with a goofy smile on his face. He knew exactly how that felt; to look at someone and not be able to hold back your smile; when they set your heart beating a little too fast and your face a little too warm. It happened every day he was alone with his Germany. And sometimes, just sometimes, he would catch the hint of that secret smile on his Ludwig's face as well and his chest would feel like it was bursting with joy. But that was for him and only him. And the more he looked at Gilbert and Matthew (still proud he remembered his name!), the more he saw the same thing in them. He just hoped they'd see it too.

The meeting ended fairly decently, with surprisingly fewer arguments than was normal, though everyone assumed that would be due to the holiday season that had just passed. No one could stay too mad when they'd just spent a lovely holiday with one another. And even if they hadn't, there were presents. No one was mad after presents. Not even Romano.

Arthur appeared from seemingly nowhere in front of Matthew, linking his arm with the other and pulling him down the hallway, leaving a stunned Prussia in their wake. He'd just been ready to ask Matt where he wanted to have dinner when in swooped this Britain and stole him away. Gilbert would be lying if he said he wasn't a little upset, but simply crossed his arms, turning back to bother his brother.

"Matthew," Arthur began, his hand firmly on the younger man's elbow as they walked. "Alfred came this Christmas without you. Again." He said pointedly, nearly reprimanding the Canadian with his eyes. "It's very much starting to bother me that you don't feel the need to come see us for the holidays." And before Matthew could interject, he continued his triad," Now I understand that you are busy during most of the year, we all have our duties, but it was Christmas, Matthew." He sighed, stopping them and finally letting go of the arm in his grasp.

The awkward Canadian shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably, feeling the intense demanding stare of his 'father'. "I know…I just…I had things I had to do this year and…I had a friend over, so I wasn't alone. It's just so weird when I come over and you and Papa are fighting and Alfred is loud and…I love you all, I do but-"

"Matthew. Son, you are part of this family too. I know we don't always get along, but it's Christmas." He sighed, rubbing delicately at the point between his large brows. "Please just promise me that you will be there next year. At least try to come by for the night if nothing else. We missed you."

Matthew simply nodded, allowing himself to be drawn into a warm hug before Arthur let go and backed away a few feet. He finally met his eyes and couldn't help but smile just the slightest at the kindness in his father's eyes. "I'll at least stop by, I promise."

Relief seemed to cross the Britain's face and his shoulders relaxed just the slightest. "Why don't you come by for tea sometime soon, as well. You can tell me how things have been for you and we can have some well deserved time together. I know Francis would like you to come see him as well and as much as that frog can annoy me, he's correct. Your family misses you, Matthew." He smiled kindly, brushing some of the hair from his eyes.

Matt felt a heaviness in his chest, a weight that could have been joy growing and he nodded again. "I will come see you both sometime this year." He promised, allowing himself to sink into another quick hug before Arthur excused himself, patting his son on the should on his way out. Likely to seek out his brother and scold him as well. Though for that he did not need much of an excuse. Alfred always did something to warrant a scolding. At least in their agreed opinions.

He gasped then, realizing that he'd left Gilbert waiting and spun on his heel to dash back to the meeting room. And though worry had curled inside him that his friend had left, he was more than a little relieved to find him leaning against the wall, an expectant smirk on his face.

"Sorry. He gets offended when I don't show up sometimes. Other times he completely forgets. It's give and take." Matthew shrugged, a small smile returning to his face even though the comment made Gilbert's smirk falter just a bit. He hated the idea that anyone forgot about his Birdie even for a little while. How anyone could forget about him he had no idea. Hell, half the time he had a hard time keeping the man off his mind. Though, he was going to keep that little tidbit of information to himself. "Hey, Gilbert?"

Pulling himself out of his thoughts, he turned to look down at the smaller blonde man. "Hm?"

"How about I take you out to dinner tonight? Anywhere you want to go. My treat." The smile on his friend's face could not have gotten larger at that moment.

Gilbert blinked for a moment, a little stunned. "What's the occasion?"

It was Matthew's turn to blink before he laughed, grabbing the Prussian's arm and tugged him along, reminding the older man of a similar scene a few moments earlier. He tugged him effectively out of the doorway and into the hall, unthinkingly wrapping his arm through the taller man's, though there were no complaints. "It's your birthday, silly!"

Again Prussia blinked a few times, easily having fallen into step with Matthew. The revelation seemed to come to him suddenly and he burst out in laughter. "I'd completely forgotten! Wow, I feel like an idiot! With everything going on lately, I hadn't even thought about it." He paused, knowing he hadn't told his little Canadian when his birthday was. "And just how do you know when it is?"

"Italy told me." Came the secretive chuckle and the smaller man glanced up at his friend with a little smirk on his face. "He asked if we was going to do anything. Imagine my surprise when I found out you hadn't even told me your birthday was coming up. For shame, Gil." He nudged the man at his side, arm still comfortably cradled by the other's elbow.

"Ja, ja, if I had remembered I would have given you the list of things you should get me." The older man winked, pulling him along. "So, anywhere I want huh?"

Arthur watched Alfred walk away, shaking his head in disgust. Sometimes that boy drove him completely up a wall. They'd just had yet another spat because the younger man could not keep his loud-mouthed insulting opinions to himself, again embarrassing England even more than he'd thought possible. Sometimes the child was impossible.

Turning away, he began his trek out to the car waiting to take him to the airport. His progress was interrupted, however, by the sound of a very familiar set of voices, laughter floating out to his ears. Curiously, he followed the sound to the end of the corridor, finally spotting the two figures heading towards the exit. One was Matthew, the other Gilbert. Well….that was odd. He'd never thought the two of them got along. Certainly not that loud mouthed, self-important Prussian. With his soft-spoken generous Matthew. Certainly it couldn't be more than a misunderstanding. Maybe-

Any further thoughts were interrupted as a horn alerted him to the vehicle awaiting just to his left. He hadn't even noticed he'd made it to the entrance of the building, watching the other two exit another doorway. Well, there was plenty of time to think of that later. For now, he had his other son to deal with. He supposed it was time to call up Francis again. He did not look forward to speaking with the frog again, but necessity was necessity. And their eldest son needed a good talking to.

*end past*


"Jacques Alexander Beilschmidt! Get your hand out of that pot, mister! You touch that chocolate again and you'll be getting no dessert, do you hear me?"

Said child whipped his hand out of the warming pot of chocolate on the stove, eyes wide and guilty. "Sorry papa!" he muttered, a pink flush crossing his cheeks. The younger of the twins snickered quietly from his seat at the kitchen table, watching as the shorter of their fathers crossed the room with a bag of powdered sugar in hand.

"I swear, I turn away for one second.." he huffed, glaring at the boy in question as he took a seat across from his brother. "This is for daddy when he comes home and I guarantee you that if he finds out you were swirling dirty fingers in it, he's going to have words, eh."

"It's so good though!" Jacques whined, dropping his head onto the kitchen table with an overly dramatic 'thump'. Matthew reached over to lift his head up into the air, sighing when the boy let it drop again once he let go.

"Now stop that, you'll make a bruise." Canada rolled his eyes at the child, stirring the chocolate a little more and bending slightly to check the cake in the oven. It was hard enough to bend with the large bump of a stomach in his way and that damn light had gone out again so seeing the cake was near impossible.

Prussia had gone back to Germany for a couple of days to retrieve the rest of the items he'd left there over the last few years. It wouldn't be much, but it was important to finally close that part of his life and Matthew understood that. He would be home that evening and, to be honest, Matthew was ansty. Since the birth of their twins, he and Gil had never been apart for more than a day or two. This time it was nearly an entire week without one another and he was finding out just how much he missed having his husband around. He'd been alone most his adult life and once Prussia had swept his way into it, he'd taken away any sort of insecurities. Matthew knew he was fine on his own, he could take care of himself, but having to hold a cold pillow that smelled like Gilbert each night was almost too much. Maybe it was the rushing of hormones in his pregnant body or maybe it was putting their children to bed on his own, but each day he was beginning to realize just how much he loved their life. How much he loved their family. How very much he adored his husband. He knew he loved him with all of his heart, but the longer he was gone, the clearer it became to Matthew that Gilbert was everything he'd never known he had.

He'd given him love, a family and a bright guiding light when he woke every morning. Everything that Matthew had never even known he could have and every time he thought his heart was full of love, Gilbert found a way to give him another reason to love him even more completely.

They'd spoken the week before, as Gilbert had been packing his bags to leave for Germany for a week, both with a heavy feeling of dread in their chests.

"Make sure you have the phone charged. And call me when you get there, eh?"

"The minute I land, Birdie." A soft kiss sealed Gilbert's promise, another pair of pants folded into his suitcase.

"And you've got enough clothes right? What about underwear? Did you take that book that Lukas gave you? And Alberta drew that picture for your brother and Feliciano, did you get that packed too?"

Gilbert paused in his movements, setting down the socks he'd been folding together and moving around to Matthew, who was currently preoccupied wringing his hands in the bottom of his hoodie. Gently he pulled the hands away, bringing them up to kiss the man's palms before kissing him softly on the mouth. "Mattie, I promise I've got everything. I know this is going to be hard on both of us, but don't worry. I'll be back before you know it. You know I love you und I'll be thinking of you the whole time, ja?"

Matthew nodded, wrapping his arms around Gilbert's waist and pulling the man to him. His husband's arms wrapped around his shoulders automatically, pulling the smaller man to him. "I know, Gil. It's just going to be strange. I'm glad I'll have the boys and Alberta at least, but I'm going to miss you so much. You haven't even left yet and I miss you already." He breathed, pressing his face into the soft material of Gilbert's shirt, forming himself to his chest comfortably. They had stayed that way for long moments before Gilbert had pulled away and continued to pack as quickly as he could to get it out of the way.

That evening the conversation had turned to their plans for the following month.

"Do you think he'll freak out?"

"Gil." Matthew reprimanded, lightly smacking the bare chest he rest his head upon. "I don't think he'll 'freak'. I don't think he'll be pleased. I'm honestly not sure how he'll react. Arthur has always been a bit bi-polar in my opinion. One minute he's content and happy and the next he's flying off the handle and cursing people left and right. I think if he didn't still love Papa somewhere deep down, he would have truly turned him into a frog long ago."

The chest beneath him rumbled with a quietly laughter and familiar fingers began to stroke their way through his hair. "I just worry about the kids. I don't want them thinking one of their grandparents is a nutcase. Even if he is."

Another smack. "I won't lie about being nervous. Because I am. I've kept so much from him, he has every right to be upset with me. I'm surprised that Papa wasn't more resentful. I know he was hurt, but he's called me every week since they found out, at least twice asking how we are and how the kids are and he always wants to talk to all of them. It makes me really happy. I'm just scared that Arthur won't feel the same."

"Matthew, whatever happens, at least you are being honest with them now rather than never. It may be late, but they have to understand why we kept this to ourselves. Und if they don't, well too bad." Gilbert reassured, running his hand across the Canadian's exposed stomach, relishing in the closeness to his next child.

Matthew turned his gaze up to his husband's face, a dim handsome shadow in the moonlight that grazed through their windows. Gently he pressed a kiss to the man's jaw line, hugging him tighter. "I love you, Gilbert."

"I love you too, Mattie, I love you too."


Gilbert returned later that night once the children had been put to bed. Matthew, however, had refused to fall asleep until he saw him, but was quickly losing the battle as he had begun to doze on the couch. He didn't hear the front door open quietly, or Gilbert hang his coat and set his bags aside. It was the soft hand brushing over his face and the cool slightly chapped lips meeting his own that finally stirred him from half-sleep, eyes blinking open in a haze.

With a soft smile, he pulled Gilbert down to sit with him, quickly settling his warm body against the taller man to share his heat. "Mm, welcome home, Gil." He said softly, kissing at the collarbone closest to him. "I'm so glad you're home."

A soft rumble accompanied his words and arms wrapped around his shoulders, pulling him into the albino man's lap. "Me too, Mattie. I missed you so damned much." Prussia whispered in response, holding the man tightly to him. "Longest week of my life."

Gilbert's hand wandered downward to settle on the heavy curve of Matthew's stomach, tugging the fabric of his shirt up, thumb brushing soothingly over the skin. He pressed his own lips to Matthew's temple, happy to be so close to him once again. As much as Matthew had suffered, Gilbert had as well. He'd barely slept the entire week, often keeping Ludwig or a much more accommodating Feliciano awake as well to talk. The smaller man loved to hear stories about his family and would stay up with him until Gilbert could no longer keep his eyes open, happily settling the sleepy but grateful man into the couch.

Now, he was home, a weight lifting off his shoulders he hadn't even realized was there. Matthew's breathing began to even out once more and Gilbert smirked to himself. The pregnancies always took such energy out of him but he refused to go to bed until Gil was there. Gently, he wrapped the smaller man in his arms and lift them both from the couch with just a small bit of stumbling. Once he had sure footing, he made his way up the stairs towards their bedroom.

Memories welcomed him as he walked the hallway, pictures that Matthew had put up while he was gone to keep busy, he supposed. There were plenty of the kids, birthdays and holidays and some of just the two of them. Just outside the bedroom door, he paused, eyes falling on one framed photo in particular. A small smile couldn't be stopped crossing his face as the memories came flooding back to him. Their first Valentine's Day. Granted, they had not been together at the time, but he knew that they were well on their way. Now that he thought back to it, he wasn't certain exactly how they'd never seen it before. How they hadn't noticed what was happening. He was just grateful they finally did.


*past*

Matthew awoke slowly. Not because the dream he'd been having ended. Not because he normally would have woken up at this time or that his alarm clock had gone off. No. Matthew was stirring from sleep because of a very uneasy feeling settling over him. The sensation that something was off. It was almost like being watched…

A loud yelp resounded through the house, Matthew's eyes wide as dinner plates. "Gilbert!" he protested, smacking the man lightly on the arm. He'd awoken to the sight of a very amused albino leaning over him, his face only a few inches from his own, ever present smirk.

Gilbert simply laughed and plopped down on the bed in front of the frazzled Canadian. "You're kinda cute when you are sleeping." He teased, watching a heavy flush rise on Canada's cheeks. "So, hey, I was thinking. You should get up and make us some pancakes und then we can talk about what we're going to do today. Because I think we should do something for it. Unless you have plans. Didn't think about that." He frowned suddenly.

Matthew stared at him for a few long moments, mind whirling. "What?" he asked quietly, shaking his head to wake up more fully. "What are you talking about?"

The Prussian stared at him for a moment before grinning stupidly, "It's Valentine's Day, Birdie!"


Matthew hadn't been sure exactly what to think when Gilbert dragged him downstairs, rambling on about the Valentine 's Day massacre and how they should celebrate together because they were always together. After taking in the fact that his best friend was recommending they spend one of the most supposedly 'romantic' days of the year together, the bright red flush refused to leave his cheeks. Even as he stood making pancakes, Gilbert hovering over his shoulder and urging him to make them in the shape of hearts.

"I don't understand the silly fascination with having to celebrate the holiday. Isn't it supposed to be for people who love each other?" he huffed, attempting to shape the pancake like a heart, but it came out in more of the shape of an actual heart…

"But I do love you Mattie! " Gilbert cried indignantly, wrapping his arms around his friends shoulders, to which Matthew sputtered. "You're my best! You make the awesome me awesome pancakes! Und we watch awesome movies and hang out! "

Ah. Now why did that make his chest hurt just a little…..Matthew shook his head again.

"Fine. Fine. We can do something. I'm sure that we can find a proper way to spend the day." He chuckled, watching as Gilbert cheered, dipping a finger into the batter, which quickly earned him a swat with the spatula. "You are so odd sometimes."

As the day progressed, Matthew found himself profoundly enjoying the silliness of the entire thing. Gilbert had decided to wear one of Matthew's red hoodies and match his friend to initiate the ridiculousness of the day and Matt had then spent the next ten minutes laughing at how silly Gilbert looked swallowed up by the material before the Prussian gave in and changed back into his own clothing. That hadn't lasted long, however, as the elder man had insisted they must go out and do something 'romantic'.

They'd settled for hitting one of the local arcades in town. They'd spent far too much money for nearly two hours between playing video games, go karts (in which Matthew nearly ran Gilbert off the track) and mini golf. They'd found out fairly quickly that both of them were terrible at it. At first, they could not keep the balls on the small course. Then, they'd had a problem with tapping the balls too lightly. Finally they'd gotten down the hang of the putt, but couldn't seem to figure out how to knock the ball into the hole. They'd finally given up, simply taking turns kicking the ball down the green and into the hole, which brought on much amusement between the two laughing countries.

As they left the amusement center, Gilbert had grabbed Matthew's hand, tugging him into one of the small photo booths situated just inside the entrance to the park. He'd drug the smaller man down beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulders and shaking the younger country until he conceded a few smiles. He hadn't realized then that Matthew would put the precious first photo away into the top drawer of his dresser, keeping the souvenir as a reminder of their friendship.

A late lunch at the diner was filled with laughter and cheesy pickup lines, mostly on Gilbert's part. He'd even recited an on-the-spot poem about Matthew's hair that had peels of laughter spilling out of the younger man, tears welling in the corners of his eyes as he attempted to get a grasp on his breathing. He tried unsuccessfully to hush Gilbert, who was attempting not to laugh as well, finally giving up in lieu of eating their lunch.

"Hey Mattie, do you know where Valentine's day came from?"

"Um…a marketing ploy for candy sales right?" he smirked, earning an eager shake of the other mans' head.

"Nope! It was originally about some martyrs, then about a massacre. I mean, yeah at some point it became about all love und romance und those things, but really there's a lot more bloodshed associated with the day than anything else!"

Matthew wasn't certain what to think at just how excited Gilbert seemed to be at the prospect of the entire massacre thing. "Well that's…interesting."

"Yeah I just think it's funny when holidays are celebrated for some cheesy reason when in fact, there's this whole dark side to it. Makes me laugh."

"Yeah….well…um, you know Halloween is the same right? It's got a completely different meaning and it's actually not even celebrated on the 31st…" well if they were going to share mutual interesting holiday facts…

They'd spent the rest of the afternoon wandering the shops around town, falling into easy conversation, Gilbert insistent that Matthew must have his arm linked with his. It just didn't fit the romance of the day of he didn't! They'd gotten a few stares, most of them little smiles as people passed them and Matthew's cheeks would light up pink each time, trying to pull his hand away, only to have it clenched in Gilbert's elbow.

Finally as the day was settling down, the sun dipping behind the edge of the trees, the two made their way back to Matthew's home. One cheesy steak dinner and four beers later found them both settled on the couch, watching some random movie they'd stumbled upon when searching through the channels. They didn't give it much thought, just content enough to be where they were.

"Hey Birdie. That was fun today right?" Gilbert smirked over at the younger man, his eyes already beginning to dip down with weariness.

Matthew returned the smile, nodding and bringing his legs up to cross them on the edge of the couch. "Yeah it was. I usually just stay home or ignore the holiday, but….but that was much more entertaining. Except when I hit that lady with the mini golf ball…" he winced, watching as Gilbert snickered.

"Yeah, but it was funny!"

"Gil, that's not nice! That poor woman could have had a concussion. I just….didn't think that I hit the ball that hard."

"Yeah you pretty much sliced it up off the ground, huh?" Came the outright laugh and he reached over to ruffle at Matthew's hair. "Eh, she was fine. Und at least now we know it's easier to just kick the ball around than try und obey the rules. I was never one for rules." He snickered.

"Yes, well I think it's best if we avoid that particular park for a little while. I don't think they were any sort of pleased with us after that little stunt." Matthew chided, but couldn't the smirk off his own face.

A comfortable silence fell over them after that. And at that moment, neither man would say a thing about it, but inside each of them a feeling of real contentment and calm had settled; warmth and comfort that grew and curled deep inside their hearts. A continuation of a beginning they didn't even realize they'd had.

It would be nearly an hour later when Matthew would find himself stirring from sleep, his cheek comfortably pressed against Gilbert's shoulder, the other man having dozed off as well, his head dropped back, mouth open in a light snore.

With a gentle smile, Matthew shook his friend gently, watching as he jerked out of his sleep, blinking heavily over at him. It seemed to take him a moment to realize where exactly he was before he returned the smile, leaning over to rest his own head on his Birdie's shoulder. Matt shook his head, shaking the man again. "Come on. I think we're both pretty exhausted."

"Ug. Just throw a blanket over me, I don't want to get up and put all that sheeting stuff on. Just cramps me up more." He complained, still nuzzling into the warm hoodie.

Matthew chewed at his lip for a moment before letting out a heavy sigh. "The couch can't be good for you with all you sleep on it. You're too tall. Just…you can sleep in the bed with me, it's big enough for the both of us to sprawl out, because I'm sure you sprawl." He conceded, tugging the larger man up with him.

Gilbert didn't have the energy to protest, simply scratching the back of his head and nodding wearily as he followed the other man into the bedroom. He tugged off his hoodie, tossing it, much to Matthew's chagrin, into a corner before collapsing on the side of the bed Matthew normally left vacant. The smaller country just shook his head again, clicking off the light before climbing in under the covers. With a heavy smile on his face, he was asleep before his head even hit the pillow.

*end past*

Chapter Text

*past*

Gilbert hit 'ignore' for what must have been the tenth time in the last few hours on his phone, effectively diverting his brother to voicemail. He wasn't in the mood to deal with a needy sibling right now. He'd appeased the man for nearly three months already and his nerves were on edge because of it.

Three months ago, at the end of February, Ludwig had called him, rambling off about how he was shirking what little responsibility he had left and if he had any part in making decisions for Germany as a whole he would spend more time at his brother's home doing paperwork and less time out with his friends getting wasted and trying to pick up women. Prussia scoffed at the thought. He hadn't seen Spain or France in nearly six months, each of them being preoccupied with their own issues; namely Romano and Britain. Not that Gilbert would complain, he'd had his own time occupied by one adorable Canadian.

But his brother would not let off until he came home from 'wherever he'd passed out at' and do some actual work for once. And so, he'd bid his friend a frustrated farewell and flown home. Italy had greeted him at the door with his normal excited smile, hugging the Prussian happily. And it had been nice to see the smaller man, as well. He'd always gotten along with Feliciano more than any of his brother's other acquaintances. Then again, he'd also been trying to help set them up for decades now. He couldn't help it that his brother was as thick as a brick wall.

And so, for three months, he'd been forced into piles of paperwork and meetings, becoming accustomed to donning his uniform once again. His brother would fuss at him before every state meeting, griping at him until he fixed his hair, made his clothes pristine, even freaking tied his shoes the right way and it drove Gilbert up a wall. At least Matthew never demanded those things of him. Shit, he never demanded anything of him. And for his own reasons, that made him want to do more for the younger man in return.

He'd been able to call and text Matthew less and less over the last month and a half as the work load had become nearly over bearing. With his brother hovering over one shoulder and Italy wanting his attention over the other, his time had been consumed by work, food and sleep and he'd found less and less ability to simply call and chat with his best friend, a feeling that left him more agitated that anything.

Finally the work load had lessened, the need for his help had slowed to a slow crawl and Germany found more and more free time to getting back to training Italy; though Italy cooperated less and less, forcing the training time to turn more into recreational annoyance time. Prussia would watch in amusement as his younger brother would practically drag the complaining country around the yard, finally giving up and playing a game of football* with the slender Italian. Watching the two, one reluctant, the other overly excitable, kicking a ball around between the two of them made Gilbert's chest burn just a little. He wouldn't even lie to himself about missing Matthew. He'd grown so accustomed to staying the night or the weekend or sometimes the week there that being away for so long was starting to frustrate him. He knew the other man's house inside and out and it had become a comfort to walk in the front door and smell the ever familiar scent of wood floors and sweet pine trees. Watching the two interact playfully (something his brother would flush heavily if he knew anyone was watching him actually smile at the younger man) made him smirk, hoping that the time would go faster.

The turn in to Matthew's long drive came into view and Gilbert felt as though a heavy weight were lifting off of his chest at the thought of seeing the home once again. Seeing his friend. Every mile he drove found him more and more relaxed. His phone rang again and with a noise of frustration, he tugged off the back cover, shaking the battery out of the phone and tossing the entire thing into his back seat. His brother could huff and puff all he liked about not returning his calls, but he'd given him enough grief when leaving to last a lifetime. The entire time he'd packed his bags, he'd had to deal with an earful of Ludwig talking about responsibility and respect and all that unawesome crap. He took care of the business he needed to take care of when it needed taking care of with his younger brother hovering over him.

Finally, FINALLY the Canadian's home came into view and Gilbert pulled his car up into the slot next to Matthew's car, signally that the younger man was, indeed, home. Though it would not have been a problem either way as he always left a key under the front welcome mat just incase Gilbert showed up when he was out.

A sense of release came with each step up to the door and the smiling face that greeted him in the open doorway brought on a rush of happiness he was entirely unprepared for. He stepped forward without pause and lift the man off his feet, arms held tightly around his waist.

"Gott, it's so good to be home."

Matthew squeaked just the slightest, his body stiff for the barest of moments before he relaxed, wrapping his own arms around the taller man's shoulders. He ignored the awkwardness of his feet dangling in the air, instead hiding the deep blush and smile in the man's shoulder. He couldn't ignore the rush of joy he found came over him at the statement. Gilbert thought of this as his home? That set his heart beating faster than he'd thought physically possible. And he wouldn't be denying anytime soon that having the man around was becoming more and more comfortable.

Gilbert sighed, letting the man down slowly with a wide grin on his face. "Damn bruder wouldn't let me leave, locked up all day and night doing stupid paperwork." He pouted adorably down at the smaller man who simply laughed and pat at the top of his head.

"I'm sure you're dying for some pancakes. Come on, I'll make us some for lunch. We can eat them outside since it's really nice today." Matthew offered, closing the door around the other man and leading him into the kitchen. Gilbert nearly had a bounce to his steps, the adrenaline of joy rushing through him. Matthew glanced over his shoulder, looking him over once. "And...you look good by the way. The uniform and all, I mean! Not that you don't anyways. I'm going to shut up and cook." He sighed and Gilbert snickered, tugging his clothes a little straighter as the smaller of the men flush a deep pink.

God, it really was good to be home.


Matthew, true to his word, had cooked up an entire breakfast for lunch. Not only had he filled a plate stacks high with pancakes, but he'd also made some bratwurst, fried up a few eggs and made some potato wedges. All of the food was spread out on the patio table and the two men settled into their respective seats, enjoying the fresh air.

"Damn, Mattie, if this is the reception I get, maybe I should go away for longer periods of time more often." Gilbert teased, an easy laugh rolling off his tongue. Matthew simply scowled at him, earning a nudge from the elder man. "Ah, you know I could never willingly stay away that long! A man needs his pancakes!" his chuckle continued as he ducked away from Matthew's swatting hand. "You know I'm kidding, Birdie. I come for the company."

Matthew flushed again, shaking his head and taking a bite of his own short stack of pancakes. They ate in silence for a long stretch of minutes, simply enjoying the quiet and the company. The peaceful calm, however, was broken by a series of small whining howls and a few high pitched squeaks.

Both men turned their gaze to the large yard, disbelieving gazes following the path of one stunted fluffy white bear as it chased a raccoon across the green. The bear was grunting and howling pathetically at the smaller creature, who was squealing and attempting to get away.

"What the hell is that bear of yours doing, Mattie?" Gilbert breathed, an eyebrow crawling its way up his forehead.

Matthew seemed to catch up with the events and his body launched from his chair, rushing after the animals. "Oh god, not again. Kuma no! No! Bad bear!"

Gilbert nearly fell out of his own seat with laughter as Matthew ran after the pair in circles around the lawn, attempting to get a hold of Kumajiro before he got a hold of the raccoon. The image in and of itself was overly comical; he'd never imagined the small Canadian hauling ass after his pet of a bear, who in turn, would be chasing a terrified raccoon. "Matt, what the hell!" he snickered as Matthew finally caught up with the animal and lift him into his arms while the creature squirmed.

The heavy sigh that escaped his friend's lungs was one of untold exasperation, indicating that this was not the first time this had happened. "It's mating season. He always does this around this time. There aren't any other like him around here so I guess he decided that raccoons were as close as he was going to get. So every year I get to chase him until they can get away."

"Mating season huh? So your bear was trying to invade the raccoon's vital regions? That's awesome!" Gilbert laughed, patting a poor defeated Matthew on the back as the man locked the bear inside the house.

"It's not awesome when he catches them."

That just brought on another round of laughter from the Prussian, much to the chagrin of his companion.


Something was off. Something….something was going to happen. Matthew could feel it. He just knew. That, and the fact that though his eyes should have been on the movie, Gilbert kept glancing covertly over at him. He was very covert about it, though. That or Matthew was used to paying attention when around his friend. They had decided on an action movie to wind down the late afternoon once all the food had been brought inside and put away. Neither really felt like getting out of the house or doing any chores, and so they found themselves relaxing against the couch in comfortable silence.

That is, until Gilbert began acting suspicious. He'd noticed about half-way through the movie. The silver-haired man would glance over at him with a half a smirk, a look that clearly stated he was deep in thought about something and it likely would not bode well for Matthew.

Finally, as the movie was nearing a climax point, he casually sat back, slinging his arm out over the back of the couch. "Mating season, you say?"

"Eh?" Matthew blinked, turning away from the movie to see a very worrying look on Gilbert's face, the crimson eyes twinkling at him. Matthew frowned as the other man slid just a slight bit closer to him. "..y-yeah?"

The grin that crossed the Prussian's face at that moment was nothing short of feral and the smaller country felt a shiver crawl across his skin. "Gilbert?"

"I'm sorry, Mattie, but as your best friend I must protect you from any unworthy suitors. Which means I'm going to have to claim your vital regions first, in the name of the awesome Prussia." The tone at which the statement was made left a feeling of anxiousness weighing heavily in the air before the man pounced.

Matthew, however, was quick, and in an instant he was on his feet, laughter following as he darted past the other man and through the kitchen. "Gil! What the hell!" he nearly giggled, eyes alight with mirth as he dodged a lunge and easily maneuvered under the other man's arms and back out into the living room.

The mock-chase was all of ten minutes of pouncing and dodging and darting throughout the Canadian's house. At one point, Matthew used the advantage of having the hallway, bathroom and bedroom doors all connected to put multiple pathways between the two of them. Gilbert, however saw through his ruse and simply cut him off at the pass, catching the smaller man as he came out of the bedroom and back into the hallway, having assumed that he was being followed.

He let out a very indignant squeak when Gilbert's arms wrapped around him, spinning the smaller man and disorienting him. All breath left his lungs as he found himself pressed up against the wall of the hallway, Gilbert's hands steady on his waist, his own finding their way to grasp the other man's arms. "Gotcha."

Any other words to be spoken were lost as both tried to catch their breath. The humor of the moment seemed to slip away, lavender eyes unable to move away from the crimson ones hovering above him. The realization that they were moving closer finally entered Matthew's mind when he felt a soft breath on his face. He hadn't even noticed how close Gilbert had moved, how close his face was to his own. His nose was nearly touching his…how close his mouth was…

Prussia's body seemed to jerk just the slightest before he nipped at Matthew's nose with his teeth, pulling away fully with an enormous grin, though his nervous shifting alerted to a more awkward feeling than he was showing.

Matthew felt as though he was deflating inside. What had he been thinking was going to happen? And why was he so disappointed that it hadn't? Instead he just chuckled, shoving his fist into his friend's arm and edging towards the living room again, a hand rushing through his hair. "Yeah, yeah. Property of Prussia and all that." He snickered, shaking his head and hesitantly turning back to the stairs. But no matter how normal the rest of the evening went, the awkwardness and disappointment seemed to linger over the both of them.

*end past*


Matthew rubbed his hands together again, watching through the window as the scenery passed by them, his nerves causing another roll of nausea to wash through him. In the driver's seat beside him, Gilbert navigated them through the outward English countryside, one hand on the wheel, the other gently rubbing at his anxious husband's thigh. In the back seat sat the children, two occupied with looking excitedly out the windows, the third strapped into her car seat, drooling and fast asleep.

Matthew had called Arthur just one week prior, speaking with him for nearly an hour on the phone. He'd explained that he was going to be arriving in England and wanted to speak with him. Arthur, of course, had been ecstatic, having attempted to get his Canadian son to visit him for the longest time. He'd seen him a few times over the last few years, but no more than a handful and each time had been rushed or accompanied by Prussia, a fact which Arthur had been less than accommodating about. He'd explained that it was important that he speak with him and that had set of alarms in his father's head, the questioning following soon after.

It had been hard to keep from saying anything of importance over the phone as his father prodded at him, but Matthew held his ground, simply stating that this was something more important than to be revealed over the line and that Arthur would simply have to wait until he arrived. He hated springing this on him, but none-the-less, the Britain had seemed more than eager to have him. He only hoped that his father would forgive him for keeping this from him for so long.

And so it had gone. They had packed their bags, readying the children for their trip overseas and settling all arrangements. Alfred had promised to take care of the house in their absence and Matthew knew better than to stock their food, lest they have to buy more upon their return. Alfred would eat everything in sight if he did, so best to just let the man scrounge for his own food. He even hid Alberta's snacks just in case.

The flight had been long and tiring; the boys were loud and rambunctious, wanting to jump around and look out the windows; Alberta crying in fear each time her ears popped while her daddy attempted his best to calm her down, looking helplessly at Matthew.

And so it was no wonder that the stress had put physical strain on his body. And now, speeding along in the small rental car, Matthew groaned. His stomach was turning, his back hurt, his feet were throbbing and he could feel a massive headache coming on.

"Birdie, you okay?" Gilbert's soft concern entered his mind and he turned to meet worried red eyes.

He swallowed hard and nodded. "I'm not, but I suppose I could be worse. I'm just scared. And the long plane ride didn't help." He turned to glance into the backseat, eyes drifting over their children, something that always allowed him to relax just the smallest bit more. Just seeing their faces brought a sense of peace to him. He turned to meet his husband's worried gaze and brushed a hand over the Prussian's face. "I'll be fine. I'd just rather this be over and done with. "

A nod answered his statement and a hand met his own, twining their fingers together comfortingly. "Everything will work out, ja? The kids, they're hard to resist und I'm sure he'll be happy to see you, too. Und we'll be going to see bruder and Feliciano in a week, too. That will be relaxing." Gilbert tried to reassure, brushing his thumb over Matthew's knuckles and squeezing just the slightest.

"I know. I just don't want this to go wrong. But I feel like there's nothing we can do to stop it now." And there really wasn't. They were minutes away from his father's home, a place he'd avoided for the majority of the last nine years. And now here he was, dragging not only himself, but his family into what could likely be a volatile situation. He supposed that gave him every right to be nervous and scared. It even gave his hands the right to shake. Not that he wanted them to. They just seemed to want to do it all on their own.

It took them all of ten minutes before they'd pulled into the driveway of Arthur's home, a familiar feeling of dread washing over both the elder men. Arthur's home was a modest house settled just outside the city in a small community area. Well up kept exterior was complimented by wooden shudders and flower beds wrapping around the welcoming porch. The lawn was well trimmed and a bright green as Arthur had always liked it. Everything was just the way he'd remembered it.

Matthew and Gilbert exited the car, making their way up the drive to the door. After a long moment of hesitation, the Canadian pressed the doorbell, eyes narrowing at the welcome mat beneath his feet, feeling as though the pad were mocking him. A decent amount of shuffling from inside the house brought his attention back to the situation at hand. This was it. This was the moment he'd dreaded for nearly a decade. Growing up more under France's care, he'd been far less concerned about what the flamboyant man would think once he'd been told. He'd be lying if he said he hadn't been nervous at all, but Francis was far more forgiving than his other father was known to be, as was shown by their relationship. He still resented the French country for many things from long ago and that strain often took its toll on family gatherings. Telling Arthur was going to be far more stressful than telling Francis could ever have been. But now there could be no turning back.


The excitement that had welled up inside of the Britain ran head first into a brick wall when he opened the door. His mind had been fully prepared to see his younger son on his doorstep, likely dressed in that ever-present red hooded shirt of his and a shy look on his face. What his mind was not prepared for was the tall silver-haired former country standing closely beside him. Nor was his mind able to completely wrap around the three children hovering at their feet. It most certainly wasn't in any sort of state to comprehend the large roundness on Matthew's stomach that was a clear indication of pregnancy. And so it was no surprise that he felt a slight bit of lightheadedness, his vision swimming for a moment before coming back into focus. Once he seemed to catch his footing, hand grasping the doorframe for support, he let his gaze drift. From the little girl clinging to Matthew's leg, up to the set of what he could only assume were twin boys hiding behind Prussia, to the taller man's expression and finally settling on Matthew's worried face. He watched his youngest stand before him, chewing on his bottom lip as though deciding over what would be most appropriate to say in this situation.

Arthur cleared his throat finally, shifting to stand up straight, keeping his eyes on the small Canadian. "Matthew."

"Hello, Arthur." Canada raised his eyebrows expectantly as though he were waiting for the rest of a sentence that seemed to have died on the other man's tongue.

Arthur looked as though he were desperately searching for words he knew he should have but were trapped in his throat. Somewhere in between the state of shock, he found the ability to speak once again. "You'll forgive me if I am at a loss for words. You see, I had expected far less bodies to be standing on my front step."

The words seemed calm enough, but to Matthew, who knew his father well enough, they were clipped and held much unseen emotion in them. Again a snarl of fear trailed its way up his back as Arthur stepped away from the doorframe, an open invitation for them to enter his home.

It was Gilbert that moved first, reaching down to lift Alberta into his arms and giving the Englishman a smirk as he stepped through the doorway, the child's sleep-crusted eyes never leaving the stranger in the doorway. Matthew then ushered each of the boys inside with a hand on the back of their heads, a whispered 'go sit on the couch and don't touch anything' barely heard over their shuffling.

Arthur carefully closed the door, latching the chain in place and moving towards the seating area in the main room. Matthew felt another notch in his heart hearing the chain clink into place. He was trapped now, there was no backing out.

As calmly as could be, Arthur took his seat on the settee across from the family gathered on the large couch. The shorter of the boys had situated himself in between Gilbert and Matthew, the other on one of Gilbert's knees, playing with his hand. The small girl sat kicking her light-up shoes against the coffee table, an action that was quickly halted by a shushing Matthew. All eyes, however, were on Arthur.

Many emotions were racing across his face, none of them clear. And in truth, Matthew was certain he had every right to not know what he was feeling. "I um….I suppose we should explain before you say anything."

"Please do."

Matthew winced at the curt answer, Arthur's hands in his lap in clenched balls of fists. He knew that behind the tightly pursed lips his father's teeth were clenched. Arthur was an easily frustrated man as was seen with Alfred. He often lost his temper, but with his brother that was not a difficult thing to accomplish.

This however, this quiet anger was not something that Matthew had often seen in the British man. He rarely held back unless he had to, likely due to the presence of the children this time. Matthew, too, cleared his throat, "I guess the simplest way would be the best."

"Indeed." Again Matthew winced at the interruption before continuing.

"Well, basically…um…"

"Matthew und I are married, have been for nine years." Gilbert took over, brushing a hand over Matthew's shoulder, then letting it drop onto one of the children's heads. "This is Lukas," his other hand touched the taller twin's shoulder," this is Jacques, und the little kicker over there is Alberta. Yes, Matthew is pregnant. Don't feel especially put out because we kept dis from everyone, not just you." Matthew felt as though he were going to sink into the couch as he watched his father's face slowly turn a deepening shade of red. He wasn't certain if the man was actually holding his breath or not, but the frown on his face was deepening with each word and that did not bode well. There was a slight tremor to his form and Matthew, reached over to touch Gilbert's arm, effectively stopping his defensive triad.

"Arthur…father.." he conceded and though it was a minor infraction, it did seem to help Arthur's posture relax just the slightest. "This was never meant to be kept a secret-"

"Then pray-tell, why was it?"

Matthew bit his lip again, "Because…well…I guess we just didn't think –"

"No, obviously you didn't." Arthur's face was bright red at this point, his anger clearly written on his face. "You did not think at all. It's one thing to become friends with someone like Prussia, but this! And to allow it to continue for so long. I never thought that you of all people would be one to be coerced into something like this-"

"Now wait just one minute!" Gilbert huffed, his own face screwing up in aggravation.

"If you had told me, I would have taken care of you, we could have figured this out-"

"If you are implying that this was an accident-"Gilbert had sat his son aside, standing at this point.

"Are you saying that you planned to impregnate my son? What, did you have some sick delusions that by getting him to help you procreate that you could integrate a new country-" Arthur now stood from his seat as well, fists clenched at his sides, voice raised to meet Gilbert's.

"Of all the ignorant-!"

"I'M ignorant? You're just a self-absorbed-"

"-self-absorbed? You are the self-absorbed arschloch that thinks this is all about him-!"

"-probably drugged his pancakes, the poor-!"

"-never even took the time to drop by to see-!"

"ENOUGH!"

Both Gilbert and Arthur's yelling spats came to an abrupt halt, eyes turning to Matthew. The smallest of the men stood breathing heavily, one of his hands over Alberta's ear, pressing the other into his side. His own face was beat red and he was shaking just the slightest.

"That is quite enough out of the both of you. Here you are yelling over something that is said and done; that I haven't even had the chance to explain; but more importantly you arescaring. my. children." The final words were heavy with threat and both men at least had the nerve to look ashamed.

Gilbert, face stricken as though he'd physically damaged something, turned to look at his sons, who were indeed sitting close to one another, unshed tears in their eyes. Immediately, his face fell and he dropped back into his seat, wrapping arms around them both and muttering German apologies into their hair.

Alfred stood his ground, but his anger had deflated significantly seeing the frightened faces of Matthew's children and the way Gilbert was coddling them.

"Now," the smaller Canadian began, lifting the young girl at his side into his arms, "If you will let me actually explain then maybe you can understand." When no interruption came, he kept his gaze steady with Arthur's and began speaking calmly. "Gilbert and I were friends for nearly two years, though the last year we became a lot closer. Things, as they do, progressed. We realized that we cared for one another and one thing lead to another. He did not coerce me into anything. He never bribed me; he never spoke an ill word or threat to me. This decision was made on my own. Gilbert has treated me with nothing but kindness and love. Even when we were just friends he gave me more attention than my family ever did." He could see the sadness flash through his father's eyes and quickly continued. "But, that's beside the point. Gilbert and I have led a wonderful life these past nine years and even before then. I realize that I should have told at least my family, but you also have to understand the pressure that we were feeling."

Slowly, Matthew took his seat again, pulling his daughter onto his knee, carefully maneuvering her away from his swollen belly. "Gilbert isn't exactly the most popular person and I'm hardly ever seen. At first, I supposed, we felt it was just easier to keep it a secret. The more serious it became the harder it became to see us opening up to others. We were a little afraid. Not just of what people would think or say, but of losing the privacy we had. These last nine years of my life have been the best. I have the most amazing husband and children. Things I didn't even imagine I could be allowed to have. And if I had to do it all over again I wouldn't change a thing. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. Honestly if Papa hadn't found out-"

"The frog knew before me?" Arthur huffed, crossing his arms unhappily over his chest and sitting back against the plush sofa.

"Not by choice." Matthew smirked just the slightest. " He and Germany sort of…followed Gilbert home. He'd been anxious to get back and well…it wasn't like we were exactly trying hard to hide it, but I guess after so many years we just figured no one would notice."

Arthur sighed heavily. "Matthew, you must understand how…frustrated and saddened I am that you thought you could not tell me."

"With the way you acted, are you surprised?" Gilbert frowned, shooting a slight glare at the tweed clad man.

"Shut your trap you git. He's my son and I would have listened to anything he had to say!"

"That's enough you two. Now stop, I won't have you yelling at each other again. I realize this is less than ideal, but this is how it's happening and I cannot change that fact. " Matthew sighed as well, pressing his glasses farther up onto his face.

Arthur shook his head lightly, "And you expect me to just take this all at face value and accept it as it is? To forget that you have not only lied to myself and Francis and denied me years of knowing your children, and god only knows what you brother will say-"

"Boy-wonder knows." Gilbert interjected, smirking just the slightest.

Arthur threw his hands up at the knowledge, another look of disbelieving irritation crossing his face. "And now you are telling me that Alfred knew before me as well?"

Again the Canadian chewed at his lip for a moment, feeling guilt clench at him. "Alfred's known since the beginning, actually."

"What?"

"Look, we can get into that later, please. Please, Arthur, father, I'm begging you, let's get into that later. We're here for a week, if you'll have us, and I'd rather you spend time getting to know your grandchildren and hopefully Gilbert, than spend it fighting over things that can't be changed." Canada pleaded.

Arthur seemed to wallow over the thought for a long moment, studying the silent family in front of him. The boys seemed to have calmed significantly with their father's reassurance and were now huddled closely under his arms. They looked just like him, though bits of Matthew could be seen in them as well. The slightly taller of the two had his eyes, all bright swirls of lavender and filled with the same cautious curiosity while the shorter boy's hair was softer like his, his features a slight bit gentler. The little girl staring him down on Matthew's knee could have been a feminine clone of his son, her long blonde hair and eyes strikingly similar to his own. But the air of self confidence around her could only be the Prussian's. When he did not speak soon enough for her, she struggled her way out of Matthew's grasp and darted from his reach.

The adults in the room watched as the little girl strut her way towards Arthur, a determined stride carrying her to stand in front of him. For a long moment she simply stared up at him, keeping his gaze focused before she huffed, putting her balled up little fists on her hips in a very stately manner and looking up at him chidingly from beneath her lashes.

"You don't yell at my daddy, gram'pa. Cause yelling is bad and if you yell, papa will put you in time out. And if you's in time out, you don't get any cakes." She nodded matter-of-factly and Arthur could see from the corner of his eye Matthew pursing his lips as he tried not to smile, a similar expression on Gilbert's face. Arthur himself was certain that his eyebrows had met his hairline as he listened, stunned, to the child now scolding him. "Now I's not gonna tell you again, do you understand me mister?"

Maybe it was the way she stood, surely a perfect imitation of the way Matthew would stand as he scolded his children for a misdeed. Maybe it was the utter attempted seriousness on her pudgy little four year old face. Or the way she likely used the very same words her papa used on her brothers, but Arthur could not hold onto his anger any longer. With a sigh of defeat, he let the tension in his shoulders drop and smiled sheepishly at the child. "Yes, ma'am. It was out of line of me to yell. I do apologize."

She eyed him skeptically, likely another imitation before nodding firmly. "Okay then. I'm Alberta and since you said you's sorry, I'm let you hold me, kay gram'pa?"

Gilbert barked out a short laugh. "Pretentious little queen isn't she?" he snickered and Arthur found himself smirking as well but taking up the offer, lifting her onto his knee. Gran'pa. He tested the word in his head, finding that he liked it very much, a welling of joy beginning inside his chest as he stared down at the little girl.

"Indeed she is, but you are quite the beauty aren't you." He smiled kindly, very pleased when her face burst into a wide grin of her own, dropping against the man to hug him tightly.

"Daddy?" Arthur glanced up to see the boys looking to their father, who was nodding his head in acquiescence. They both stood and cautiously made their way toward Arthur, cautious as though they were nervous he'd get angered with them.

The guilt he felt, he supposed, was not to be unexpected. He had snapped quite literally at their father and though he may not approve of or even like the man, there was no denying they were his children just as much as they were Matthew's. He could not take it out on them, not when this was opening a new door for the lot of them. He would have a chance to see his Matthew more and though Gilbert now came as a package deal, it would include three…no four grandchildren, something he'd never imagined he'd be able to experience in all his years. Alfred surely had no plans of settling down in any way, shape or form.

He took another long moment to glance at the entire family, noticing that at the boy's absence, Gilbert had moved over next to Matthew, an arm around his waist. The boys stood next to him on his right, worried expressions on their faces and a little girl clung heavily to his waist. He could choose in this moment to push them all away, ask them to leave if he liked, but that would be a bit childish of him, now wouldn't it.

Clearing his throat, he held a hand out towards the two boys shifting nervously beside one another. "Yes, well. Hello you two. I'm Arthur…your, um…grandfather I suppose..and…yes…well…" the words sputtered out of his mouth.

The shorter of the two shifted closer, taking his hand lightly, shaking it in proper form. "I'm Lukas." He said simply, letting go and allowing his brother to take the hand as well as he sat down next to Arthur.

"I'm Jacques. I'm older by three minutes."

Arthur raised an eyebrow smirking at him. "Is that so?"

"Yeah, but I'm faster." Lukas butt in, shuffling slightly closer to the man, a bit of sibling rivalry beginning to show in his tone as he glanced at his brother.

"Nu uh! I'm just as fast as you and I can do handstands too." The taller of the boys huffed, crossing his arms.

Arthur laughed aloud, patting Jacques on the back as Lukas sat on the coffee table in front of him, propping his chin on his grandfather's knee. "I'm certain both of you boys have your equal talents."

"What bout me?" cried an indignant little voice. Arthur turned to answer the little girl just as she crawled from his lap. "I can do stuffs too!" she huffed, and before any of the adults could be alerted to get to their feet, she'd done a perfect little summersault right into one of the side tables, knocking off what looked to be an expensive Faberge egg. It tumbled to the ground with a heavy thud, a small crack forming along the side.

Matthew gasped, knowing that Arthur was highly attached to his priceless items. The man surprised him, however, by standing up quickly and lifting the small girl into his arms. "Oh dear, it didn't hit you did it?" he asked worriedly, checking her once over before cradling her to him. He bent down to pick the egg up, setting it carelessly inside the bin near his desk before taking his seat next to the boys again, ignoring the stunned gaze of his son.

The little girl shook her head, but pouted all the same to which he smirked. "But that was a lovely tumble, wasn't it? You are just as talented as your brothers it seems." And with that comment, the beaming smile was back. The boys had seemed to relax as well, settling back in closer to Arthur and beginning the line of questions they always had for newcomers.

Matthew glanced at Gilbert, leaning back into his touch, a silent communication fluttering between them. Arthur was hard-headed and temperamental, but he loved children. He always had and their children were very hard to dislike. If Jacques and Lukas weren't demanding your attention, Alberta was. And none of them would stand for being ignored. Now, whether they'd learned their charming ways from Matthew or Gilbert was yet to be determined, but they knew exactly how to get their way through smiles and flattery.

This week might just go well enough after all.


Arthur had opened up the older rooms in his home, grudgingly allowing Matthew and Gilbert to take one of the guest rooms down the hall from him, placing the three children in the room next door to his own, Alfred's old room. The boys were to share the full size bed and Alberta would sleep with her parents. Around nine in the evening, the children were put to bed with a small bit of fussing and a gladly given bedtime story from Arthur while Matthew and Gilbert made a light evening snack (Matthew always got hungry right before bed) before retiring for the night.

Arthur had taken the opportunity to spend time with his grandchildren gladly, reciting one of Matthew's favorite stories before turning the light off over the sleeping twins huddled up next to one another. He brushed a gentle hand over each of their brows. It had been quite the while since Matthew and Alfred had been here, many, many years and it grew warmth inside of him to see children once again occupying the far too long empty room.

Quietly he closed the door halfway and moved back down the hall into the living room. He froze in a long pause, hearing the shuffling in the kitchen and padded his way towards the entry, fully intent on having a conversation with Matthew now that the children were no longer there to distract. Just as he was ready to enter the room, however, he noticed that he was not alone and felt a slight bit of frustration. It was going to be impossible to get Matthew alone if that damned Gilbert was always hovering over him.

Arthur stood in the shadows silently, frowning as he watched his son and his companion move through the kitchen. It unnerved him, seeing the self-absorbed asshole of a Prussian so close to Matthew and he felt his irritation level rise. What in the world had ever coerced his son into spending time with this man, let alone…he couldn't even fathom it! Perhaps if he spoke more with Matthew, delved farther into what had started this whole fiasco he could….he could….

Arthur's thought process slowly faded away as he watched the scene unfold before him. A moment he never thought in all his years he would witness between these two countries.

Matthew stood by the sink, opening a bottle of water, one hand pressed heavily to his lower back, wincing as he sat the water back down. Prussia moved up behind him a moment later, careful hands settling on his shoulders, leaning forward to speak to him. Arthur, too, leaned forward, straining to hear the conversation for him self.

Gilbert pressed a soft kiss to the side of Matthew's temple, his hands firm on the other's shoulders. "Your back or hips?" he asked familiarly.

"A little of both, mostly my hips though. I think it was all that sitting in the plane and car, I feel like the muscles are cramping up." The shorter man responded softly with a sigh, leaning back into his husband.

"Lean forward a little." Came the soft response and another kiss, to his cheek this time. Matthew obeyed, pressing his hands against the edge of the counter and letting his head drop forward as Gilbert's well-practiced fingers found the edge of his tailbone.

Arthur watched in amazement from his hidden position as the former-country worked his hands expertly across his son's lower back, massaging (judging by the satisfied groans) just the right spots. Under his ministrations, Matthew's entire body seemed to relax, the tension lessening from his child-heavy frame. Gilbert himself seemed satisfied to be able to alleviate some of the pain his spouse was experiencing by doing what little he could.

Arthur frowned just the slightest, unable to keep up his irritation as the domestic scene took place in his dimly lit kitchen. Perhaps he'd been a bit harsh in his initial judgment. True that the man had shown in the past to be a self-centered idiot, but watching them now…it was hard to see any part of that in this moment. For the Prussian, it seemed, this was all about Matthew's comfort. He watched as a few minutes later, hands still moving, Gilbert leaned in and whispered an offer to massage his legs and feet that night, which produced a grateful noise from his son and a hearty nod. They whispered soft 'I love you's to one another and Arthur found himself moving away from the doorframe quietly so as not to disturb his guests. Yes, perhaps he'd been a bit hasty. Perhaps the country wasn't as bad for his son as he'd originally thought…perhaps.


The week spent at Arthur's seemed to fly by. The British country and Gilbert had their spats throughout that time, but were quickly defused by either the presence of the children or Matthew. Arthur found himself bonding heavily to the three, each night reading them a new bedtime story that Alfred or Matthew had enjoyed when they were little. And when they were all asleep, he would turn the light off and move Alberta into Matthew and Gilbert's shared room.

The boys, much to Gilbert's chagrin had grown an extreme fondness for Arthur's scones and had been allowed to help him make them a few mornings while Alberta watched from the edge of the counter, only able to peer her eyes and nose over the top, little fingers clinging to the lip of the island, eyes wide with wonder as they folded the dough. Arthur would roll her a blueberry and she would promptly gasp, disappearing with her treat behind the granite only to reemerge a few minutes later, retaking her previous position. Arthur, as it had turned out, was also very good with little girls. He had spoiled her rotten; carrying her everywhere and letting her ramble his ears off while he gently brushed her hair up into pigtails.

She'd then run off to Matthew and Gilbert, giggling loudly and jumping up and down to show her new hairstyle off. They'd had a good chuckle of it before the boys had dragged their grandfather off, demanding his attention.

One week since their arrival found them packing their bags into the trunk of the car once again, Gilbert cursing at the bags as they refused to work with him. Arthur hugged his small Canadian son to him, a small smile on his face. "Now remember, next year you are all coming here for Christmas. No excuses this time, Matthew."

His son nodded, stepping back just as the three children attacked Arthur, hugging their small bodies to him. The elder man let out a sigh, kneeling down to gather them properly into his arms. "I shall come see you all very soon, I promise. And I look forward to attending your birthdays in October." He smiled up at the twins who beamed back before turning back to the little girl. "And don't worry Princess, I'll be coming to your birthday as well. I plan on seeing you lot quite the bit." He smiled, giving each of them a kiss on the cheek before they ran off towards the car, nearly attacking their father.

Matthew shifted on his feet, eyes darting back to meet his father's eyes as the man ran his hand over the protruding stomach. "Now you call me the instant you head for a hospital with this one, understood? I'll be there as soon as I can, though I'm certain I'll have to alert the frog as well, so we may arrive together." He frowned just slightly. "Take care of yourself and please do stop being such a stranger, Matthew. I may not like Gilbert much, but you and your children are a treasure."

The smaller blonde man laughed, moving to hug Arthur once more. "Thank you, Arthur. And I will, you'll be the first to know, just don't tell Papa that or he'll have a coronary. And…thank you for being mostly civil with Gilbert."

Arthur cleared his throat, looking the slightest bit sheepish. "Yes well, perhaps we both have misconceptions about the other. He…isn't nearly as terrible as I'd first imagined. Still not my first choice..." he avoided the glare that followed that comment, "but he does seem to love you and the children very much." The statement was mostly a conceedment against his assumptions.

"Yes he does. He really does. And I promise to let you know the minute we get to Germany. And home. You worry wart."

The British man laughed, shaking his head and walking his son to the car, opening the door politely for him. "Yes, well, you boys have always brought that out in me. Do take care. Goodbye children. Gilbert."

The Prussian nodded his response, turning the car over as they all waved their goodbyes, Arthur standing idly by, waving as they pulled down the street and out of view.

As they rounded the corner, Gilbert smirked over at Matthew. "Well…that could have gone worse."


Feliciano stood on the porch to Ludwig's house, waving as hard as he could at the car that was slowly making its way up the long dirt drive to park in front of the house, large grin on his face. Stepping out of the doorway behind him, Ludwig squinted against the sun, shaking his head at his overly excited companion.

Matthew chuckled as the boys nearly fell over themselves out of the car. Moments later, poor Ludwig was nearly on the ground, having been tackled by two very rambunctious six year olds. Gilbert carried the sleeping Alberta up towards the house while the boys were introduced to a very excited Italian, who coaxed them inside with promises of pasta and gelato. They would spend another week in Germany with Gilbert's brother and Feli before heading to France for another week with their Granpapa. Matthew knew if they didn't, he would never hear the end of it for not stopping in to see Francis.

Taking his time traversing the walkway up to the house, he smiled happy at the husband waiting for him on the porch with his precious little daughter. Matthew realized at that point that of all the trouble they'd been through and whatever trouble may still come to be, that it wouldn't matter. Because no matter where they were or what they were going through, as long as he could still look up and see his husband's beautiful scarlet eyes smiling back at him with more love than he thought one person could hold, everything would be just fine.

Chapter Text

Once again Gilbert found himself avoiding the avid questioning of his younger brother, hurrying to throw clothes into a large suitcase on his nearly abandoned bed.

"I'm going on vacation, bruder! Don't worry about it, I know you'll miss me, but I'll be back before you know it!" he teased, giving Ludwig a light shove as the man stood a little too close, arms crossed over his well-muscled chest. Feliciano stood behind him, dancing uncomfortably from foot to foot, looking for all the world like he was trying to come up with something to say.

Ludwig rolled his eyes at the statement, an irritated expression on his face. "You are always on vacation, Gilbert. I thought dat after last time you would have been more serious about taking care of the country matters you are so 'desperate' to be involved in."

Gilbert simply shrugged, tossing another shirt into the bag before zipping it up. "Look Luddy-" an answering growl of irritation made him roll his own eyes, "I've got some important stuff of my own to take care of und you've got little Feli to look after here, so I'm just going to get out of your hair for a few weeks is all!" His cheery answer, however, did not seem to sate his brother in the least and the man followed him out to the front room.

"Two months is hardly a few weeks! It's nine to be exact! Und you haven't even given a date or time in which you will return!" Ludwig's complaints seemed to fall on deaf ears, however, as Gilbert dragged his items out to the backseat of his car.

"Und that will give you two time to get to know each other better!" he grinned, dodging a swing at his head from a heavily blushing Germany. Feli, however, seemed to take this as an opening and clung to Ludwig's arm.

"Ve~ Ludwig, he's right! We can finally go on picnics and go swimming and have lots of fun! I'll make us pasta! You can make wurst if you want, but I won't eat it. "

And once again, Gilbert was ever so grateful for the small Italian man clinging to his brother as the attention was immediately turned away from him to sate the smaller man. As Ludwig chided him about how their time is better spent in training and Feliciano whimpered unhappily, Gilbert took the time to quickly toss the rest of his items into the car and lock himself inside, much to the annoyance of his brother.

Ludwig shook his finger at his brother through the window, trying to yell over the now blaring radio. Gilbert mouthed out his inability to hear the other man due to the music and waved at him cheerefully before pulling away.

He watched in the rear-view mirror as his siblings angered form steamed. He knew he was shirking his responsibility again. He had indeed complained to Ludwig time and again about being unawesomely unimportant in the scheme of their country. It wasn't his fault that the blonde tank decided to break down and allow him to help after the fact. He'd given up on most of the idea of being involved over the last year since he'd become closer with Matthew. And he didn't have time right now to argue with his hot-headed brother about such thing. He had more important places to be.


Nearly a week ago, as he'd been leaving Matthew's house, the younger man had stopped him at the door, a strange expression covering his face. For a long moment he'd simply stood there as though mentally debating whether the following words to come from his mouth were a smart idea or not. Finally, he sighed, his shoulders stiffening up.

"Hey, um, Gil?"

"Hn?" the taller man answered absently, checking his pockets for the keys to his rental car.

"Well I know you might have plans or something, but summer is coming up and Alfred was going to come by but he's super busy so I really won't have much to do and…well, I mean if you don't have anything planned, I'd um…I'd like it if you wanted to stay the summer. Here. With me." He sputtered out, looking for all the world like a teenager that just asked his crush to prom.

Gilbert looked up at him, raising his eyebrows before putting on a teasing smirk. "Oh I see, so I'm your second choice, huh?" Inside however, his heart had begun to pound just a little faster and harder in his chest.

"No! Uh, no." came the quick response, Matthew shaking his head. Once he saw the look on Gilbert's face however, he relaxed and sighed. "Of course not. I'm just saying that he wouldn't be around to bug us as much as he normally would so we could just have time to do whatever. There's some nice places that I haven't shown you yet that I'd like to and I figured since you're here a lot anyways you might want to stay and-"

"Of course I want to!" Gilbert laughed, patting Matthew on the head, which earned him another swat.

"Don't patronize me."

"Yeah yeah. I've got one condition though, birdie."

"What's that?"

The albino took the moment to lean against the doorframe, crossing his arms and nodding towards the couch with a clearly disgusted expression on his face. "That damn thing kills my back. I get to share the bed."

"Okay. I mean….I'm sure we can work out the sleeping arrangement. I mean…I can share….the couch isn't comfortable so…." Matthew's face lit up red when Gilbert's eyebrow twitched upwards. He may have responded to that a little too quickly. Oh and that little self-satisfied smirk wasn't helping any either. Damn Prussian.

"A little eager there, Birdie?"

"No! I'm just…the couch isn't comfortable and…it's my house! I'm offering to share my bed, you utter ass!" Matthew huffed, pretty sure the embarrassment was going to cause him to hyperventilate.

"Now Mattie, I know I've got some wiles of my own, but you're just going to have to resist the temptation of the awesome me when we're in the bed." He chuckled, earning a fairly hard swat to his arm.

"Now see, that could be classified as spousal abuse."

"Oh my god, go home. " Matthew laughed, shoving the man down his porch. "Go pack your bags and get back here before I change my mind, you idiot."

"See you in a week, honey." He teased. "Wait, does that make you the stay-at-home wife?" he laughed, ducking into his car to dodge a flying shoe, laughter following him all the way down the drive.

Matthew wasn't sure how long he stood in the door, a wide grin on his face, his foot getting chilly before he shook himself out his stupor, wondering what was coming over him and going to fetch his shoe.

He wasn't exactly sure why his heart was racing or his cheeks felt flushed. Or why his entire body filled with a rush of energy at the thought of Gilbert spending and entire summer with him. It wasn't as if he'd been planning on asking him for a while. Or planned out places he would take the man. Or gotten a little bit terrified at how his mind went a little too far in imagining Gilbert in swim trunks. Not to mention the shiver that ran up his spine…he was going to stop that thought process right there.

Shaking his head, Matthew turned to reenter his house, ignoring the fluttering in his chest as he remade the bed. The pillow case still smelled like Gilbert.


Gilbert had arrived late in the afternoon in the first week of June. The weather had been beautiful and so before putting his clothes away in a drawer that Matthew had cleared out (which had once again prompted a marriage comment and a slap), they'd taken an early dinner out on the deck again, talking over plans for the summer. Matthew had, of course, notmade a list, but was ready with suggestions. He knew he wanted to take Gilbert to a lake nearby that he'd always been fond of. It was a lovely little spot that was secluded enough to keep away most tourists and would give them the chance to hike the area and see the wildlife in peace.

He planned to show him around a few of the larger towns, take him to a festival if there was one going and maybe to a hockey game, though he almost feared for Gilbert's safety since he'd be sitting next to him. He could get…adamant.

Other than that, they were fairly good at keeping themselves occupied. They would often go for walks in the forested area just past his yard or sit for hours just talking about nothing at all. Sometimes they would venture down into the small town just at the base of the hill and wander through the stores, perhaps having a late lunch at one of the small diners or café's along the way before heading home for the evening. One thing was certain; they were never bored with one another. Even if there was nearly nothing to talk about, they would sit in comfortable silence watching the television. Though neither would comment on how odd it may seem that though the couch was large, they sat so closely. Or how utterly normal it felt to have half of Matthew's chest of drawers now full of Gilbert's haphazardly-folded clothing.

Matthew was severely grateful, as the evening closed in and they began pulling down the bedcovers, that the whole event of settling in for the night was far less awkward than anticipated. Sure Gilbert had stayed in his bed already, but at that point both were too tired to truly appreciate the gravity of the man sleeping next to them. This time they were both wide awake and fully aware that they would be sharing a bed for the next two months. Instead it almost seemed…natural. Not that he was going to tell Gilbert that, but the small smile that their evening together had left on his friends face told him that he was feeling at least comfortable with the entire situation.

Like they'd been doing this their entire lives, they tugged the large blanket down together, settling each of their pillows into place, light conversation flowing between them. Matthew moved to turn the light off; listening in the dark as Gilbert shucked his t-shirt off, dropping it nearby on the floor. Matthew himself opted to leave his own on, knowing it could get chilly in the room at night even in the summer.

The bed dipped on either side as they slid in under the heavy comforter, each pulling their side up respectively. After a bit of shuffling and a few soft comments, they settled in fully.

Matthew sighed, closing his eyes and focusing on drifting off. It was a little warmer than normal and another body breathing next to him was different, the man's physical presence felt even on the opposite side of the mattress. But again, a moment that should have been awkward slipped away and instead, with a sigh and two tired 'good night's, both men drifted off into a comfortable sleep.


Two weeks later found both men with matching smiles on their faces. Neither could remember a time when they'd been so content with their lives. They'd spend the first half of June wandering around the region of the country that Matthew lived in. They'd taken many walks and hikes through the wooded areas, often times spending hours just talking and laughing, tossing sticks off into the distant wilderness or watching the wildlife in quiet appreciation. Each morning they awoke with matching grins, working together to make breakfast and each evening they would sit out on Matthew's deck, watching as the sky shifted through hues of pinks and oranges into nightfall, stars glittering in the darkened horizon when they finally retired for the night. Sleep came easily for both, though a few times they had to laugh off the fact that the morning light found them snuggled up against one another.

And so it was on a mid-June morning that Matthew drove them down the long, narrow dirt road that lead right up to the edge of the water. Gilbert's eyes were wide and glittering with excitement making the smaller blonde man chuckle.

"Birdie, this is awesome!"

A chuckle answered his excited outburst and Matthew pulled the car into a spot just beside a large dock. The well crafted planks laid out across the lake thirty feet or so. Along either side stretched beachfront, the sand a pale beige, small bits of light glimmering off the grains. Trees surrounded the outer edges of the banks, secluding the area from passer bys. The day itself had already begun nicely, the sun warming the air to a cool 65 degrees. They'd arrived just past ten in the morning to give them ample time to enjoy the lake before it became too hot out.

Still, Matthew had bothered Gilbert until he'd put on sunscreen just in case to which Gilbert had laughed, stating that his awesome albino skin would not burn because of some stupid sun. Matt just rolled his eyes, going to pack their picnic lunch as the other man readied the items they would need for the rest of the trip.

Much to Matthew's amusement and slight embarrassment (mostly because his heart beat a little faster), Gilbert shucked his shirt, tossing it in the back of the car. He stretched his arms above his head, allowing Matthew a very unnecessary but silently appreciated view of the man's tall slender torso. And try as he might, he younger country could not help but glance at him from the corner of his vision while he sat the basket full of food on the table. In the bright light of the sun his skin was even paler than usual. But rather than looking strange it gave him a sort of marble air, the lean muscle built underneath stretching. His chest was bare of any hair growth but just below his navel strung a while trail of that continued down-

Matthew's face flushed a bright red and he turned to put the blanket out over the top of the picnic table. His mind had fled straight into the gutter with no pre-warning and he was finding it very difficult to get it back out.

Alfred naked doing the hula in winter. Alfred naked doing the hula in winter. Alfred naked doing the hula in winter.

Bingo. Any libido that had began to rise immediately died down at the thought of his brother in a grass skirt flopping things he did not want to see everywhere. With a sigh, he shed his own shirt, glancing back over where Gilbert stood just at the edge of the dock, staring over at him expectantly.

The walk out on the dock wasn't as precarious as he thought it might have been. In fact it looked as though the caretakers of the lake may have replanked most of the extension, likely to maintain the safety of the few visitors that did come here to swim. Perhaps their children or grandchildren…

The thudding of feet and a loud war cry alerted him only seconds before he was swept up from behind into a pair of pale arms. Moments later he was falling, still wrapped in Gilbert's grasp as the man laughed, launching them off the platform and immersing them into the warm lake with a hefty splash.

Matthew surfaced, sputtering indignantly, and glared from under his soaked bangs at the laughing Prussian now circling him in the water. "That was mean!"

Gilbert only laughed, reaching over to dunk the man again only to be pulled under himself when Matthew latched onto his waist. The two continued in this fashion as the sun rose slowly overhead. One would dunk the other; they would circle each other challengingly; heavy splashing would ensue until one or both would break down into laughing fits. They slowly migrated closer to the beach, eventually finding solace on it's shores. Gilbert had thought it hilarious to chase Matthew around, lifting the smaller man over his shoulder before tossing him back into the lake, following after him with a roar of victory, which sent his smaller friend into a fit of laughter. Matthew thought he'd never laughed so much in all his life. In fact he was pretty sure he'd never even smiled so much either. But the Prussian was good at bringing that out in him.

A few hours later when the sun was well and truly high overhead, they settled on the bench to eat their lunch.

"Man this place is awesome, Mattie, we definitely have got to come out here more! " Gilbert's comment was partially obstructed by the multitude of sandwich stuffed in his face.

Matthew licked the cheese from his chips off of his fingers before replying. "Alfred said he was going to be out here today, too, but he's not exactly punctual. We could all come back again though. And it's open all the time. Once the day cools down the water is still warm, we could come back. Swimming at night is pretty neat too."

The affirmative response was completely muffled this time as Gil shoved a handful of chips in to mingle with his sandwich, Matthew shaking his head. Moments later the loud rumble of an engine broke the silence, a large red truck cresting over the hill.

"Speak of the devil."

Loud, what he could only assume was rock as the windows were up, music thudded from the tinted windows of the truck as it pulled into the spot next to Matthew's own much more economic vehicle. Give it to Alfred to never do anything half-assed and that included driving a car.

His American brother jumped from the driver's side, grabbing a cooler on his way around and waving to the two excitedly. "Hey! The hero is here so the fun can begin now!" The grin split his face widely, arms easily hauling the large container over to the table where he dropped it on the ground with a thud. "I brought beer! Hey Mattie!" he greeted, reaching over to scratch at his younger brother's head, who dodged in favor of ducking to get a beer from the cooler.

Alfred shrugged and turned his attention to Prussia, clapping him on the back. "Hey Gil! You guys look like you got started without me!" he laughed, eyeing Gilbert's face. "Damn dude, you're gonna be burned!" he snickered at the light tinge of pink already having taken shape on Gilbert's cheeks.

The other man shrugged just slightly, grabbing the beer that Matthew tossed his way. "Na, it never stays. I usually just tinge and it fades off by the next day. I'm not too worried. Plus your boy over there made me put on some of that disgusting smelling crème." Again Alfred laughed as Gilbert's face scrunched up.

"Yeah he does that. He always makes me put it on too." Shrugged the American, tugging his own shirt off over his head. And of course, his swim trunks, while Matthew and Gilbert had chosen basic colors and designs, were a large motif of the American flag.

"Speaking of, did you?" Came the mocking response from the smaller country. Alfred sighed exaggeratedly but nodded.

"Yes mom."

"Hey!"

Gilbert snickered, polishing off his first beer and standing to pat Alfred's arm lightly. "Hey, at least he's looking out for us ja?" though the glare that he received told him Matthew was less than happy to be noted as the caretaker of the two.

"I'm just responsible. Because last time Alfred didn't put sunburn on he turned into a giant tomato and I was the one who had to sit there and put lotion on him because it hurt too much to move. He's a big baby when he's in pain. Some hero, huh?" The Canadian snarked, standing from the table as well as the three moved back towards the dock.

"Hey! That's not fair Matt!" Alfred pouted, shoving lightly at Matthew's shoulder, who simply chuckled back at him, the dock creaking under their feet.

The boards felt nice and warm under the afternoon glare of the sun and for a few long moments, the men stood on the deck, idly chatting about Alfred's last row with Arthur and how many burgers the man could, in fact, eat in one sitting. Which was determined to be far less than he claimed to be.

Alfred leaned over the water just the slightest, frowning cautiously. "You sure there's nothing in here like snakes or whatever cause that so wouldn't be cool, dude. I do not want to get bit by a snake. Or a fish."

There was no time to respond, however as a firm hand met with his back and he tumbled forward with a yell into the water, having enough sense to grab onto his glasses as he met the surface.

Behind the fallen man in the lake, Gilbert laughed, eyeing Matthew's satisfied expression with a hearty smirk. "Good job there Birdie! About time someone put him in his place." He snickered.

Matthew felt a rush of pride at the words. He rarely ever did spontaneous unless he was with his brother and then Alfred just seemed to bring it out in him. Alfred was one of the few people (though Gilbert was quickly climbing that ladder) that he was able to let go and fully relax with. He trusted him with everything and knew that no matter what happened, he would always be right behind him. So in turn, he decided he should return the favor. Though, in this case it wasn't quite the same.

He was about to reply with his own snide remark about putting the Prussian in his place when he found himself lifted in the air once again. This time, however, he was facing his assailant and much to his extreme embarrassment, his legs automatically wrapped around the other man's waist. His mouth moved without sound, hands clutching at Gilbert's shoulders, time seeming to stop.

He could see the light flush on the albino's cheeks, though he couldn't be certain as to whether it was due to the sun or the position he currently held him in. Slowly a little smirk, something he might later come to realize was a knowing grin, began to cross the man's face and once again, Matthew found himself falling towards the water, Gilbert's face in his vision the entire time.

He could hear Alfred's laughter as they emerged from the water, another vicious splashing fight soon ensuing. They spent the next few hours enjoying the water and laughing. Gilbert would randomly lift Matthew over his shoulder, running away as Alfred tried to save his younger brother, usually to find themselves thrown back in the water as this seemed to be one of Gilbert's new found favorite pastimes. Matthew would retaliate by jumping on Gilbert's back to chase down his brother together followed by burying Alfred to his head in the sand. All the while the happy flush on the Canadian's cheeks never fading despite the lack of sunburn.


*July 1st*

Matthew's birthday. The day that Matthew himself was least fond of.

Matthew tended to avoid most of the day each year, though he wouldn't turn down Alfred when he demanded to take him out to lunch or dinner. This year, however, he'd managed to wrangle his way out of it andkeep Alfred and Prussia from banding together to throw a surprise party, which both had fully intended to do. The last time Alfred had attempted it a few years back had been a complete disaster. Besides the fact that he'd set his oven on fire trying to bake him a cake and no one but Alfred himself had shown up, the poor man had fallen from a step ladder while trying to hang a banner and broken his arm. And that was the way Matthew had found him, oven smoking, banner fallen and whimpering pathetically from the floor. He'd appreciated the effort, but after that he'd vehemently argued against any more surprise parties.

The usual gifts had come in from Francis, Arthur and of course Alfred (who always sent him more than one gift demanding he be spoiled on his day). This year however, he'd also received a package from Italy. That in and of itself had surprised him. He wasn't too awefully surprised, however, when he opened the paper wrapping to find a box of Italian pasta inside. The man did have a one track mind. But he couldn't deny that it was nice to be thought of by more than his immediate family and he made a mental note to send the little Italian a 'thank you' note.

Gilbert had disappeared into the shower nearly half an hour prior, after cooking him a hearty breakfast. Matthew had woken to the smell of bacon and eggs and surprisingly good pancakes. Though he supposed with as often as he and Gilbert made them, the man was bound to pick up on his skill sooner or later. After wandering into the kitchen, he'd been pleased to see his friend making him a birthday breakfast. He was soon informed that he was being taken out for a birthday dinner as well and the two had eaten peacefully at the breakfast table.

Gilbert had also prodded at him for a gift idea since the smaller man had neglected to tell him that it was his birthday. In fact, the Prussian would go so far as to say he was a little peeved that he had to find out only when Alfred had the evening before, screaming it through the phone.

'HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY MATT! I KNOW IT'S TOMORROW BUT THE HERO WANTED TO BE THE FIRST!' the over-enthusiastic scream had come through the phone and Gilbert had nearly dropped the wurst he was ready to place in his mouth, eyes wide and expression a little hurt.

'Tomorrow is your what?' Needless to say, Gil had been a little put out that he hadn't been told. He'd thank Alfred later.

So he would just have to pay him back the littlest bit for keeping that information from him. He'd get a gift alright, but maybe not one he'd be expecting. If Mattie deemed it important to keep things like that from him, maybe it was time to shake things up a bit.

The only things he'd told him, after he'd argued that breakfast and then dinner were enough, were only small things. A pair of new sunglasses, a new spatula, all items that he really didn't want but gave him an out from giving any sort of real answer. This, of course, wouldn't do. Gilbert had then put him through the embarrassing trial of asking if he wanted to go to a strip club and the other man would buy him a lap dance, to which Matthew had violently shook his head no, deeming he had no interest. He then proceeded to ask if it was the women that he didn't want the dance from or just the dance in general. To Gilbert, the short but red-faced pause that followed that comment answered for him and he smirked to himself, checking away that information. Matthew had rambled on about being in a public place filled with smoke and drunkards with half nude women dancing on him and how it was not on his list of things he wanted to try anytime soon.

And so Gilbert had excused himself from the room to take a shower and get dressed for the day, leaving Matthew to plop down on the couch, reading up on the current events of the week around the world.


He'd been reading an article about an observatory that had reported a new star being found when he heard it. It started low at first, just a light beat in the background, so much so that he figured it was just Gilbert's cell phone. However, the sound of the music soon grew louder and louder. Loud enough for him to realize it was actually moving towards him. Motion from the left of his peripheral vision alerted him to the fact that, yes, indeed, Gilbert had returned to the living room. And he'd brought that cd player with him, placing on the ground next to the hall entryway. The other thing that Matthew noticed, tightly biting his lips together to stop his grin, was that Gilbert was dancing. And by dancing he meant gyrating in an inappropriate and unfortunately for the Albino, hilarious manner.

Now he knew Gilbert could dance, he'd seen him doing it drunkenly on a few occasions at the two or three parties he'd attended over the last couple of decades. But this, this was purposefully cheesy. This was…beyond purposefully cheesy. And by the brightly grinning and mischievous expression on his face, that's exactly what his friend was going for.

Much to Matthew's embarrassment, the elder country continued his gyrations, but decided to move farther into the room, adding a few pelvic thrusts on his way. His grin stayed firm on his face, hands running obscenely over his body and Matt had to clench his teeth together to stop from laughing, taking a deep breath before he could speak.

"Gil, what the hell are you doing, eh?"

"Giving you a birthday gift, Mattie!" Gilbert chuckled, playing with the bottom of his shirt and winking at his friend. "And what better gift than a lap dance from the awesome me!"

Again Matthew had a hard time holding in his laughter as his friend moved closer to him, playfully lifting his shirt. "No, no no no no." Matthew giggled.

The Canadian, himself, reached out to try and keep the shirt down but Gilbert frowned, batting away the hands and shaking a finger. Instead, he turned to face away and began rubbing his butt on Matthew's knees. The smaller man's hands again raised, pushing against his back, Matthew's body shaking with his silent laughter. His face was lit up bright pink, though he'd finally allowed a smile to cross his face. Oh god, of all the things to do!

Gilbert turned back around with the beat, slowly pulling his shirt off and winking down at the other man again, who shook his head, trying desperately not to stare at the newly exposed flesh. He just had to take that damn shirt off, didn't he? He'd already had a hard time not staring at him at the lake and now here he was just a couple feet from him and the thought that he might reach up and unconsciously touch the other man's chest sent his head reeling. Gilbert, however, didn't seem to notice. Instead he slid forward, straddling his friend, chuckling as the other man leaned away in embarrassment before grinding down on his legs. "N-no…"

Unfortunately for Matthew, his friend had no intentions of letting up on his lewd actions. If anything, the expression on his birdie's face was enough to make him continue going. The flush on his cheeks was adorable and the way he futilely attempted to move away back into the cushions of the couch only spurned the albino on further.

Matthew himself was desperately trying to move away as this entire situation, because as silly as it was, it was beginning to give him a problem. A problem he really did not need when his Gilbert was so close. HIS Gilbert? Oh god, don't even go thinking that! Every time the taller man ground down against him, every time he leaned in towards him Matthew's entire body seemed to flush warmer, his cheeks got brighter, his hands sweat a little bit more. And Gilbert, that damned smirk on his face, seemed to take joy in his discomfort.

As physically uncomfortable as the whole thing was, however, Matthew couldn't help but appreciate the humor. Of course Gilbert would take his entire stripper statement to heart. He should have known he wouldn't be able to get away from it so easily. Not with the persistent Prussian around.

Matthew's face was drawn together tightly, lips captured between his teeth to keep the silent chuckles from making their way into the open air. Gilbert settled himself comfortably against Matthew's knees, wiggling against him provocatively though the ridiculous look on his face was anything but serious. Then, tongue between his teeth, the taller man grasped Matthew's hands in his, moving them to the beat before reaching around and slapping them firmly against either side of his jean encased rear.

At that point, Matthew lost it. His head fell back, laughter bubbling up from his lips, loud and unchecked. He laughed so hard that tears began to form at the edges of his clenched eyes. His entire body shook, the house filled with the happy sounds of his amusement. Gilbert's smile, too, widened slowly until he was chuckling.

Finally the older man fell off of his giggling friend, dropping down beside him on the couch, eyes focused on the laughing face of his best friend.

"Oh my god, Gilbert! What the hell!" the younger man exclaimed, hearty laughter still pouring from him, wiping his eyes with the back of his wrist, glasses lifting to his forehead with the motion. Matthew finally cleared the moisture from his eyes enough to glance over at his widely grinning friend. The man was slumped down beside him, laughing quietly as well.

"That was too good, Mattie. You should see your face! It's all bright pink." He chuckled, reaching out to wipe away some of the stray laughter tears that had streaked down Matthew's face. It had been obvious that he'd been trying the entire time to hold it in, but it was a losing battle and Gilbert had used that to his advantage. After all, what were friends for?

Matthew shook his head disbelievingly at the other man. "That was embarrassing is what that was. You are so weird Gil. Sometimes I don't know what goes through your head." He snickered, his chest burning from the intensity of the outburst. With a heavy sigh he relaxed back into the couch, still shaking his head.

A smirk formed on the albino's lips, a quirk of self-satisfaction. "But it was sexy right?" he nudged him teasingly with the corner of an elbow.

A pair of rolling eyes met his question. "Yeah, yeah. So sexy I could hardly contain my laughter." He snickered, earning him a good natured shove. A silver-haired head dropped onto his shoulder and he flushed deeply as Gilbert's bare shoulder brushed his arm. "Thanks Gil."

Gilbert's head rolled to look upwards at the smaller man, smiling genuinely at his friend. "You're welcome, Birdie. Anything to see that beautiful smile of yours."

The sentence seemed to come from his mouth unchecked and in an instant Gilbert wished he could simultaneously take it back and say it again. Matthew blinked, staring down at his friend, his face so close to his own. His cheeks lit up again a bright pink and he bit back the smile. He thought his smile was beautiful? Though he maybe should have been offended at such a feminine statement, he found he just couldn't be. It set his heart fluttering the slightest bit faster. His breathing hitched just a little and it took him a moment to return the smile, seeing the startled and uncomfortable look Gilbert's own face had taken on. And he didn't think he'd ever seen the man blush…

"Thanks Gilbert." He repeated, a little softer this time. "No one has really ever done anything like that for me. Not the stripping thing…not that anyone has!-" he stuttered, watching as the white eyebrows on Gilbert's forehead rose slightly at each word. "I mean..you know, something silly…t-to make me…happy."

Gilbert seemed to allow the words to sink in, eyes never leaving his friend's face. In an instant's decision, his arms engulfed the younger man, pulling him against his bare chest, hugging him tightly. He could feel the Canadian's breathing increase, his heart pounding in his chest against the other man, but he didn't let go. "Yeah well…" he spoke quietly after a long moment, feeling Matthew's arms carefully circle his torso to return the embrace. "You're worth it Matthew. Don't know how everyone else cannot see that." He said quietly, holding his friend against him.

He could feel his own heart thudding beneath his ribcage, threatening to burst. And he honestly could not understand. How could anyone forget this man? He was sweet and funny and a damn good cook to boot. He gave and gave, fought battles that were not his own and stood up to those who would hurt the ones he loved. Gilbert felt things with him that he hadn't with other friends. Gratitude. Appreciation. Things that others would demand from him, Matthew never even thought of asking for. They could spend an entire day talking or walking the small town below and neither would expect more than the other's company. But there was more. A thing Gilbert could not quite yet fathom. Something just within his grasp of understanding that had not yet fully surfaced. He was aware of it, that sensation, that inkling lingering just below the surface. It grew each time he was with the Canadian and even more when he was away, though at those points it was almost a desperate, burning need to return to Canada and be near his warmth. And he was well aware of the fact that the moment he stepped foot onto Matthew's property, his entire body seemed to relax. He knew. He knew exactly what was lying there, just under the friendship he clung to so tightly these days. He just wasn't ready to face it yet…

Matthew let his head drop onto the Prussian's shoulder, ignoring the warmth spreading through his cheeks, hands pressing tightly against the bare skin of the man's back. It took everything in him to bite back the tears that threatened to fall at Gilbert's words. They struck home for him, his heart clenching painful in joy. "You're the best, Gil."

"I know."

Matthew laughed, breaking the spell that had fallen over the friends and pushed back slightly, slapping a hand against a bicep. He glanced into the amused crimson eyes, quickly giving up. A little voice inside his head said to pull away and clear his throat nervously before this got awkward. The rest of him kindly flipped that voice off and launched himself at Gilbert again, hugging him tightly with a soft chuckle.


*July 4th*

As he did every year, Matthew drove down to see Alfred for his birthday. His brother claimed that without him there, it just wasn't the perfect day. They usually grilled out- just the two of them, then joined the large crowds of American's gather on a large green in central park to watch fireworks together. This year, however, Gilbert was accompanying him. He'd been slightly nervous about running it by Alfred as he'd never brought the other man into his country, but his brother had surprised him by being more than accommodating. In fact, he'd damn near insisted that Gilbert join them for his birthday celebration. Not that Matthew would complain, he loved having Gilbert around him. It was just strange of his brother to want the man around. Sure they got along fairly well, but it had always been their day.

Matthew had always secretly been pleased that Alfred's day was also a day put aside for just them. His brother never invited England (for obvious reasons) or France (again for different obvious reasons) but insisted that his birthday be shared with just the two of them. Perhaps Alfred understood how much their friendship meant to him, or perhaps he just wanted to give Matthew a day that he didn't' have to share or feel ignored by the rest of the world. Either way, he was eternally grateful for his normally dense brother's sensitivity. If he could share no other holiday, he was perfectly content with sharing the day of Alfred's independence. He'd always secretly been very proud of his brother for taking that stand against Arthur. Though they both loved their parents, each had a difficult time letting go of their respective children. Arthur more so with Alfred as he'd coddled the man most of his life. Even now he tended to treat him as a child.

But Alfred, for all his faults and egotistical triads still held respect for the elder man. Arthur would never admit it to his face, but he loved that Alfred still turned to him in his greatest times of need. In fact, Matthew was pretty sure that inside he was gloating and relishing in the sub sequential neediness that Alfred would have for him. The younger man clung to him like a life raft and Arthur adored it. Sure, he was rough and rude with the overly confident America, but Matthew had seen them together when Arthur thought no one was looking and Alfred was pressed into a difficult time. His father would clinging to him just as tightly as the taller man would, brushing a hand over his hair lovingly, reassuring him that everything would be alright.

Matthew would be lying if he said he wasn't just the slightest bit jealous. Maybe that Alfred didn't come to him, maybe that he knew he couldn't go to Francis expecting the same reaction were he in the same position, maybe because Arthur would never treat him like that. In fact, it used to make him sad, thinking that he truly had no one to turn to like Alfred did. Someone that would take care of him if he asked; someone that would listen unconditionally to any issue he had and consol him; someone who cared without needing something in return.

Glancing to the man in the passenger seat beside him, currently rambling on about the hockey game they had watched the night prior. Matthew felt any residual jealousy melt away. Here, this most unlikely person rambling on about his own awesomeness and beer and wurst and everything that Matthew would have never imagined he'd find interesting to listen to, this person was the one man he knew, knew he could turn to. Despite all his faults and his loud abrasive behavior, Gilbert never failed to be there, listening intently whenever Matthew spoke of his troubles. He seemed to know the instant something was off with the younger country, prying and prodding at him until he eventually caved. This man brought his walls tumbling down like no one else. And it was in such an unexpected way that it took Matthew's emotions by storm.

He didn't hesitate to speak about the issues he'd had as well; dealing with the loss of his country and the undermining of his role in current German issues. And Matthew was, too, more than happy to listen and consol his friend. They spent hours finding solace in one another's company. When Gilbert left, the world seemed to slow to a painful crawl of boredom and silence. Matthew often found himself wandering into town or cleaning the house simply to make the time go by faster. And when the Prussian returned, the world began to turn normally again. His life became a whirlwind of smiles and laughter, of beer and pancakes and his heart somehow always seemed lighter.

It was then that Matthew realized with startling clarity that he could not imagine the rest of his life without Gilbert Beilschmidt.


Alfred, like every year previously, had gone all out. The refrigerator was stocked full of ribs, hamburger patties, bratwurst (strangely enough he'd thought of Gilbert, too!), hotdogs and chicken. He'd wrapped up ears of fresh corn and kabobs in tin foil and out in the backyard the grill was fired up, flames rising over the bars in preparation. Beer and soda filled a large cooler out by the back screen door, propping it open for the fresh summer air to filter in.

It was a beautiful summer day this time around, the wind just cool enough to take the edge off the heat, a soft humidity left over from a rain storm only days before. Clouds still lingered overhead blocking off any direct sunlight and nicely shading the over sized back yard. One thing that America seemed to take away from his time with Arthur was a well groomed exterior. No matter how cluttered and unorganized the inside of his home got, he always made sure the landscape was perfect. The deep green grass freshly cut and the vines and flowers well groomed. If nothing else, which there was always something else, America took great pride in the appearance of his home.

"Matt!" he crowed, pulling his reluctant brother into a tight embrace. "About time you guys got here! I was getting ready to put everything on the grill! There's a football game on too, it's supposed to be good!" he chuckled, pulling away to pat the smaller man on his head. Matthew swatted at the hand good naturedly, then watched with great amusement as his brother promptly embraced Gilbert as well.

"Gil! Dude, I'm glad you could make it! " Gilbert laughed, returning the hug without hesitation, patting him on the back. He and Alfred had found, over the course of their meetings and holiday gatherings with Matthew, that the two had quite a lot in common. Their personalities were strikingly similar and they often times found themselves sharing stories of the younger country. Alfred would tell Gilbert all about their times as children and Matthew as he grew, a treasure Gil was more than happy to store away inside his head. He found the more he knew about the small country, the more he wanted to know.

"Yeah, well I can't miss all this awesome food, ja?" he teased, pulling away to wrap an arm around Matthew's shoulders, the smaller man not even flinching at the motion. Alfred smiled to himself just the slightest. Well wasn't that interesting. Matthew had a hard time being comfortable with his touches but it seemed Gilbert had broken that barrier fairly easily. He couldn't say he wasn't pleased.

"I know, right? I mean, I've got all this great food and as much as I love to eat, I can't put it all away on my own!" America laughed, nodding for the other two nations to follow him into the backyard.

The afternoon was spent cooking and laughing, sharing stories of past birthdays and plans for upcoming ones. Alfred could honestly say that he was glad Gilbert had become a part of Matthew's rituals. It was about time the man had a break from his life and started actually living. And who better to do it than a former country with more than enough time and motivations on his hands. It was painfully obvious that the two enjoyed their time together and Alfred would be lying if he said he didn't begin enjoying Prussia's company as well.

"Did you guys have a good ride out? I hear the traffic has been killer this year!" Alfred commented, tossing the first few burger patties and a slab of ribs onto the grill. The flames roared to life for a few moments, the seasoning on the meats popping as they began to cook.

"Yeah it wasn't too bad, we just took most of the back highways. Avoided all your interstates. I knew those would be backed up." Matthew nodded, tossing a baby carrot from the vegetable tray in his mouth. He took the offered can of beer from Gilbert, abscently watching his brother do the same. "Any ideas on where we're going this year?"

"Going for what?" the Prussian interjected, sipping at his open can.

"Fireworks dude!" America laughed, taking the offered beverage and poking at the ribs with his spatula. "We always go watch fireworks!"

"It's the big thing that the people do for his birthday every year. They do these huge fireworks shows. We like to go out and sit with them. Alfred always knows the best spots." Gilbert smirked, watching the excited smile light up his friend's face.

"Well, now that you mention it, they're supposed to have this great spot all set up just outside the city limits about seven miles. A bunch of the local dairy farmer families are going to be heading up there so I figured we might join them. It's a pretty decent spot and we can do a few little ones of our own. I even got some sparklers!" Alfred's voice held a distinct note of excitement and looking between the two brothers, it seemed the feeling was mutual.

"That sounds great, Al! Oh Gilbert, you'll love it. It's always a blast. Al's people always know how to throw a party if nothing else."

"Hey, we do other things well too!" Alfred poked, nudging his younger sibling with the handle part of his spatula before turning the ribs over once.

"Yes yes, I've heard it all before." Matthew teased, leaning in to nudge Prussia just the slightest.

"Mattie, you're so mean to me, Bro."

Both Matt and Gilbert chuckled at the put-out tone the American gave off, a false pout on his face. Soon Alfred snickered, dropping his offended act and turned the burgers, an easy conversation starting between the three.

As the afternoon wore on, they ate burgers and barbeque over beer, watched a college American football game (which Gilbert enjoyed very much) and spent the day enjoying one another's company. Before they knew it, the light had begun to sink into the horizon and twilight settled in on the content crowd.


Alfred drove them all up to a large hill just outside the city were a couple dozen people were gathered, many laid out on blankets or in lawn chairs awaiting the arrival of the fireworks in the clear sky above. Children chased one another in circles while parents and grandparents shared happy conversation. Many of them were setting off little fireworks and sparklers, lighting up the evening with color.

"Here, hold this and don't drop it." Matthew commanded as he placed the wooden end of a large sparkler in Gilbert's hand. The taller man's brows dipped together in confusion until the end of the stick met the flame of a lighter and the tip began to spark in a random pattern.

Matt backed away, lighting up his own stick with a wide smile, moving it in circles in the air to initiate the spark. Gilbert watching in fascination as the tip of both of their sparklers began to flicker then burst into life, a wild stream of light and flickering from the end.

"Like this!" Gilbert watched in rapt fascination as Matthew twirled the stick through the air, making patterns and shapes. He spun it swiftly, a circle of light forming in it's wake followed by a few strange symbols and letters.

Carefully the Prussian swung his, slowly at first, then faster, a large grin crossing his face as shapes began to take form in the air before him. Moments later Alfred ran past, circling the two and laughing loudly. In his hands he had what looked to be at least ten of the sparklers, flinging them every which way, his body lit up by the residual light from the fireworks. "This is so cool!"

Gil laughed, moving closer to Matthew. For a few moments they made shapes together, chasing each other's path of light and flicking the sparks towards their feet, sharing quiet chuckles until the sparklers died out.

"Come on, let's get a good seat. Alfred, stop playing with those kids and help us find a spot!" Matthew shouted back at his brother, who had the gall to look at least a little ashamed before he rushed to catch up with his other two companions.

The trio decided on a decent sized open area just on the slope of the hill not more than thirty feet from the truck, Alfred setting their cooler and blanket out on the ground. Excitedly, Matthew dropped to the grass, stretching his legs out and raising his eyes in anticipation. He did love this part of the evening, when the sky lit up in bursts of colors, reminding him of Alfred's well-earned independence.

Gilbert himself had stood, surveying the area and the sky as well, enjoying the evening breeze when he felt a nudge. His eyes turned to meet the crisp blue eyes of the birthday man himself.

He looked as though he wanted to say something, as though the words were on the edge of his tongue but after a moment's pause, he simply smiled and jerked his head towards his preoccupied brother.

Gilbert frowned slightly, uncertain of what the American was gesturing to and the younger man replied with a sigh. "Matt looks a bit lonely by himself over there. I'm just gonna run and get another blanket. Go keep him company will ya?" he urged, nudging the man again.

For being an older country, it sure took the man longer than necessary to understand what was being said. His expression was still one of confusion as he looked from one brother to the next.

Sighing a little heavier, Alfred leaned in close. "Go sit with him, dude! He'd totally appreciate it! He always sits by himself and that's so not awesome right?" he urged again, wagging his eyebrows suggestively at the elder.

This time Prussia received the message loud and clear. His face flushed just slightly and for a long moment it seemed as though he were pondering what to say or do. Protest ran across his face for a long moment. Then, as if he realized exactly what Alfred had implied, his eyes widened just slightly and he grinned over towards his younger friend. With a nod and a reassuring pat on his back, Gilbert rushed over to join Matthew, surprising him when he dropped down behind the younger man, legs bracing on either side of his. He tugged at the Canadian's elbows until he was up flush against his chest.


Alfred noticed, with great amusement, that Matthew blushed heavily and turned to look up at his grinning albino friend, but did not protest the strange physical attention. Instead he gave a soft return smile and after a moment of awkward movement, settled his weight back against him comfortably.

Gilbert's arms settled comfortably over his friend's hips just as the fireworks began, bursting in bright colors in the open sky overhead. Their attention was drawn upwards as the first flash covered their vision in a spray of rainbow light.

Alfred observed the two from a few feet away as he returned, blanket under his arm. Matthew seemed to relax just fine back against the other man, settling against him as the fireworks lit up the sky in honor of America's freedom. Gilbert would lean in to say something, his mouth right up next to the smaller man's ear. Matthew's cheeks would flush just the slightest and he would turn to reply, a smile shining on his face.

These two, they were so stubborn, or maybe they were just oblivious to what should have been glaringly obvious. At least to Alfred it was.

Watching the two of them interact always made him smile. They would get close, blush the slightest or tease one another, then just like that they had backed off into what the American considered the 'friend zone'. He knew by watching their faces that neither wanted to go back there, that they both must have subconsciously known they were teetering on the edge of this wonderful unknown, but maybe it was fear or maybe it was safety that reeled them back in each time.

It was frustrating to watch. The more he'd grown to know Gilbert over the past year, the more he'd realized just how perfect the guy was for his brother.

He stood up for him. He got angry or frustrated on his behalf and even when it baffled his brother, it sent a streak of pride through Alfred himself. Matthew had always been on the back burner, whether by accident or his own choice but with the Prussian, he came first. Gilbert always made certain of that. When they were together for holidays or birthdays or just hanging out, he would always put Matthew first. What did he want to eat. What did he want to watch. What did he think about a certain subject. And for Matthew, who's consideration always came last, it was a strange thing to become used to.

But it wasn't just Gilbert, it was his little blonde brother as well. He made sure that Gil was invited to events, that he was included in their gatherings. He also noticed more than just that. Whenever the albino man was away, Matthew seemed to drag. His interest in much else dimished significantly and he preferred to stay home. The moment that the egotistical albino reappeared, however, he seemed to perk up, coming out of a sort of hibernation and into the world again.

Now Alfred had never been the brightest crayon in the box, even he would attest to that. But it was hard to ignore the sparks that flew between the Prussian and Canadian. Where Matthew was reserved, Gilbert pulled him from his shell. Where Gilbert was loud and sometimes anxious, Matthew calmed him. On their own they seemed oblivious to the signs and signals. The small glances, the pink that flushed on their cheeks when they leaned in close to share a private joke or conversation, the subconscious touches. As much as Alfred hated to be left out, he couldn't help but feel privileged at being left in this time, even if they didn't quite know it yet.

He'd noticed quite a while ago, hell, before Christmas even came around, just how well the two worked together. He'd laid subtle hints here and there, pushing them a little closer together in his secret hero way. Because he'd be damned if the romantic tension in them lead to anything other than their own happy ever after.

Plus they both deserved it. Sure, he had his own nation to worry about but that didn't mean he didn't notice the others as well. Especially family. Matthew deserved more than to be forgotten and ignored. He deserved to feel like he was the center of someone's attention. To be shown just how great he was and to go on adventures he never thought possible. He deserved to be pampered sometimes, to be taken places and have someone who would always be there for him. Someone who would never turn their back on him and give him all the attention and support he needed. Someone that would fight on his behalf and understand all his needs and faults and recognize all the wonderful things about him. Someone that would give anything and everything to see them happy.

In short, Matthew deserved Gilbert.

And Gilbert deserved Matthew.

And Alfred was just the hero to show them that.

Chapter Text

*past*

Two months.

Two long months.

Matthew sat out on the wooden deck in the early hours of the morning, chair pulled away from the small table that he and Gilbert had shared many a breakfast at, absently moving his spoon through the steaming mug of tea. He wasn't actually stirring much any longer and certainly his tea was growing colder by the minute for he'd been stirring it for quite the while now. But that couldn't be helped. He couldn't focus at all. His mind was a whirl of confusion and emotions as he thought of his friend.

The honking of geese migrating overhead brought him from his revelry. Lavender eyes slid skyward to watch as their graceful wings cut through the crisp fall air. The small Canadian pressed the pads of his fingers to the space between his eyes, partially to push his glasses back into place and partially to will away the headache that was prickling near the inside edges of his temples.

Two long, strange, confusing, stressful months.

When Gilbert had first left for his home country, things had continued as normal. He would text or call Matthew every day, rambling on about something his brother was doing or the trouble that Feliciano had gotten into. His voice, Matthew sometimes pondered, was the only thing that kept the loneliness away. They would spend hours chatting through text or voice or sometimes video chat about their days and Gilbert would always groan about how much he couldn't wait to come 'home'. They'd even eaten dinner together via video chat on their phones, cooking together and enjoying a meal with one another from thousands of miles away.

A few weeks ago, though, things changed. Seemingly overnight Gilbert's calls came to a halt. At first, Matthew could blame this and the one word replies through texting on the fact that Gilbert was busy. Perhaps he'd begun to drown in some paperwork that his brother had insisted he do or been dragged along on some political mission in order to feel more involved in his country.

All thoughts that he was simply distracted by work and nothing was wrong, however, flew from Matthew's mind when he'd inquired if Gilbert were busy with work only to receive a short response of 'Not really.'

It was at that point that the gears inside of the smaller country's mind began to turn. Perhaps something was wrong. Had he said something? Done something? Nothing, that he could decipher, had differed in their conversations as of late. It was all the usual. Maybe Gilbert had decided he was too dull, maybe he'd grown tired of him and this was his way of essentially 'letting go' of their friendship. Granted it was not the best way, but no one ever claimed Gilbert had tact. Because he didn't.

For the first week the Canadian had convinced himself that it was nothing, that if it were, Gilbert would tell him. He pushed away his worry and continued with his daily routine, making certain to at least attempt to call or text Gilbert daily. The second week, real worry began to set in. Less and less he heard back. Less and less he was able to get anything from his friend . A nervous tension curled inside his chest, bringing a terrible burning sensation with it. He found it harder to stomach the foods he loved in opt of worrying. The next few weeks brought no resolve, but only served to increase his worry as Gilbert seemed to ignore his messages almost completely.

With another heavy sigh, allowing himself to relish in the crisp breeze that cut through the thin jacket, Matthew flipped his phone open, pressing the 'redial' button for what must have been the hundredth time and lifting the receiver to his ear


.


Feliciano watched from his place on the couch in irritation as Gilbert's feet deemed to stride a hole into Ludwig's wood floor with his pacing. He was circling the same few square feet that he had been for the last hour or so. The Prussian's face was drawn together in a scowl, one hand resting against his back, the other with its fingers pressed tersely against his upper lip. His expression was stressed, taut and frustrated. He paused for a moment as the phone in his hand began vibrating again and with a hitched sigh, hit the ignore button.

For two months he'd put up with the moping albino. Even Ludwig had given up on trying to talk to him a couple of weeks ago. He'd attempted to get him to do some work, to go running with him, something to distract the man but Gilbert would not listen. Instead he would sit by the window, a noise of utter frustration bursting from his throat when his phone rang. At first he seemed to debate answering, nervously turning the phone in his hands before finally hitting the ignore button, head dropping in defeat. He would go drinking with France once or twice and come back to Ludwig's house a stuttering mess until Feliciano escorted him into his room, watching the man collapse on his bed, a sad passed out mess. For two months he'd pestered him, constantly asking what was wrong. Sure, he already knew what was wrong, but it was one thing to know and another to hear it. Besides the fact that it would likely help Gilbert to get it off his chest as he highly doubted he'd told France anything.

Feliciano's lips pursed together in frustration and he frowned up at the elder country who had resumed his furious pacing. "Ve….Gilbert why don't you sit down? Your legs must be tired!" he tried, brows furrowing farther as the other man seemed to ignore him completely in favor of pacing the poor worn flooring again. If there was one thing Feliciano did not like, it was being ignored.

The smaller Italian man sighed from his perch, curling his legs up under him and turning his upper body to face the stressed Albino more fully. He was irritated. Here they were wasting a perfectly good day. It was beautiful outside, the sun high and bright in the sky, the breeze just perfect. They could be sitting out on the grass, chatting up about life and having a big bowl of wonderful pasta, but no. Instead they were stuck inside because Gilbert refused to go out and Feliciano was not about to leave him on his own when he was burning a hole in their floor. So here they were and as the minutes ticked by, his frustration grew.

Now it took a lot to make the calm little Feliciano upset. He withstood quite a lot on a daily basis after all. Being yelled at, berated for being lazy and weak. Teased and usually hit if Romano was around. He wasn't the brightest crayon in the box and he knew this and so it was with a light heart that he took what would have normally frustrated most and let it roll off his shoulder. Watching the pacing Gilbert, however, he felt his own irritation rising.

"Was that Matthew again?" he tried, this time speaking a bit louder. Gilbert seemed to jerk away from his thoughts long enough to look over to his small Italian friend, pausing in his movements.

"Hn?" he blinked briefly before the words seemed to catch up to him and he nodded once, looking away again. It was nearing evening, the sun dancing midway on the horizon to blaze through the open window, settling the living room in a comfortable shade of amber. An emotion too fast for Feli to catch flashed across his face before it was replaced with the same look of frustration and worry.

With a heavy sigh, Feliciano resorted to what he did best. "Ve…Gilbert I'm hungry!" he whined, shifting in his seat, eyes still firmly on Prussia. "I can make us some pasta if you want!"

Shaking his head, Gilbert finally moved away from the window, dropping down heavily next to Italy, eyes focused nowhere in front of him. Sighing heavily yet again, he ran a hand through his hair, the other sitting in his lap, phone still clutched in his palm. The silence stretched for a long series of minutes between them before Feliciano shifted on his knees to face his friend, face stern and full of concern.

"Gilbert. I'm your friend, ve? Talk to me…" the plea seemed, for a moment, to fall on deaf ears before Prussia finally turned to look at him. The look of utter defeat and helplessness that met him was not one that he'd been expecting. He knew what had been bothering his friend; the younger country was not stupid. At least not in this. But perhaps he'd never fully contemplated to what extent it had began to eat away at the man.

With a gentle smile, he slid closer, fingers tugging lightly at the loose ends of the afghan thrown over the back of the couch. He pressed his other hand against Gilbert's shoulder, a sadness crossing his face at the hopeless look he received. With a soft smile, he leaned closer, speaking in hushed tones. He would sort this if it was the last thing he did.


.


The day that Gilbert returned was a beautiful autumn day. It was nearly late afternoon, a sharp chill beginning to form in the air, just the type of weather that Matthew loved. The leaves on the trees had begun to turn darkened shades of red and gold, painting the woods in a palette of beautiful shades of fall. If there was one thing that he loved about the fall, it was taking walks. Being situated so far from the town had its perks.

While in winter it was true that he would oftentimes be trapped indoors by the heavy fall of snow, he was secluded enough that the rest of the year round, he was able to enjoy the silence of the forest without interruption. No distant sound of vehicles or other Canadian inhabitants. In fact, the road to his home was nearly an hour's walk to the nearest mainstream exit. Sure he had a few neighbors, but none closer than five or six miles away. And he often relished in the privacy.

Taking afternoon walks, then, had become a loving past time of his. Especially when accompanied by his silver-haired best friend. They would often take strolls for hours at a time, laughing and talking about nothing in particular. Gilbert would make an inappropriate joke and Matthew would shove him lightly, laughing. Sometimes he would stop and stoop low, picking a flustered and arguing Matthew up on his back and carrying him down one of the many downward slopes of the road in a jog, both chuckling at their childish absurdity. And sometimes, if it was chilly as they walked back, the sun having set deep below the trees, Gilbert would silently drop his jacket over Matthew's shoulders, having seen him quietly shivering in the darkness.

Shaking his head to bring himself out of the memories and scrubbing at his eyes (because they were tired of course, for no other reason at all), the Canadian zipped up the light brown jacket and tugged the door open, prepared to clear his mind of the emotional fog.

His entire body stiffened, standing perfectly still, eyes widened just slightly at the sight that greeted him. Instead of a starch wind tossing the fall leaves across his yard, there stood Gilbert, usual small suitcase in hand, a startlingly serious expression on his face. Matthew took an unexpected step back, blinking once hard to make certain that he was not hallucinating.

The crease in Gilbert's brow seemed to deepen for an instant before he spoke. "Hey."

"Hey.." Matthew breathed, staring up at his friend before he caught himself and moved aside, swinging the door open fully and clearing his throat, offering entrance to his home.

Gilbert moved through the doorway easily, feeling his friend's expectant eyes on him the entire time. The suitcase was discarded beside the closet door and he turned on his heel to face the other man, hands sliding into the shallow pockets of his dark wash jeans. His eyes lift to find Matthew's, the crimson pair darting from one to the other, boring holes into his gaze.

Another long, uncomfortable moment stretched between them before words were once again spoken. Gilbert nodded once towards the still open door, then glanced down to the light jacket Matthew had donned. "Were you going for a walk?"

Matthew seemed to snap out of a sort of trance, swallowing hard before nodding his affirmation. He couldn't seem to find his voice, his mouth drying to the point where words seemed to be stuck thickly in his throat. Not trusting himself with words, he nodded once more, glancing out behind him into the slowly dimming light of the late afternoon, eyes drifting across the trees before turning back to meet the eyes drilling into his own.

"I'll come with you. Hang on." And in an instant, Gilbert had retreated into the back, returning a few tense minutes later, his own black leather jacket draped over his shoulders, arms taking their turns slipping in.

They walked together in silence, neither glancing at the other, their eyes either on the road before them or glancing into the woods surrounding the gravel worn path to catch wildlife darting through the trees. Only the sound of their shoes broke through the calm of the world, grating against the loose rocks and pumice beneath their feet. Both men's hands were deep within their respective pockets, their stance a few feet apart. That alone, for Matthew, was awkward. Gilbert always chose to walk close to him and he'd slowly gotten used to the man's invasion of his space. Sometimes he feared the taller country would have knocked him over as close as he chose to stride to him. This time, however, he stood a good few feet away, eyes anywhere but on him.

Dinner and nightly television afterwards were just as awkward. Gilbert said nothing as Matthew sat the plate of bratwurst and kraut down in front of him. He knew what his friend was doing, cooking his favorite meal, bringing him a beer to go with it. He wanted him to talk, wanted him to say something. Anything to end this wretched silence. But even as Gilbert paused, dying to open his mouth and be out with it, he choked on the words, swallowing hard to rid himself of the lump before shoving a fork-full of food in his mouth, trying his hardest to ignore the crestfallen look on Matthew's face. Soon the other man joined him, both eating their dinner in saddened silence.

After dinner they sat apart on the couch. Matthew found himself biting back the heavy pain in his chest when the Prussian took his seat a few feet away on the couch. He'd always plopped down right beside Matthew, nearly suffocating him with his presence, leaning against the other man or putting an arm comfortably around his shoulders. Now, however, he sat a whole cushion away and Matt found himself nearly scoffing at the absurdity of it all. Feeling so put out because he wasn't being sat upon…

Bedtime, however, was the most awkward of all. Where they would usually slide into the bed, chuckling over events of the day, they moved in silence. Matthew felt as though ice were being drug along his skin as Gilbert watched his every movement, eyes firm, burning cold through him. He didn't look at him directly, though, instead busying himself with tugging on his pajama pants over his boxers, losing the red tshirt in favor of the usual white tank he slept in. Carefully he slid into the bed next to the albino, feeling the warmth radiating off of Gilbert's body. For a long uncomfortable moment, Prussia simply stared at him as though willing him to hear his thoughts, his intense gaze sending a shiver of worry down Matthew's spine. Finally, he turned away, clicking off the bedside lamp on his side and leaving the confused country in darkness.

Matthew turned over, biting back a heavy dose of sadness. His gaze settled heavily on the shadows dancing across the wall. He missed the familiarity of their evenings together. Prussia tugging at strands of his hair to irritate him, tickling the spot just below his ribs to watch him jerk away or squeak, their laughter filling the room until both were too tired to continue talking. Sometimes they would stay up for hours just laughing, sharing stupid jokes or laying face to face, speaking quietly over the past or the future until the first rays of sun came streaming through the window. Matthew couldn't stop the smile that crossed his face, remembering the first time they'd done so.

It was after one of Prussia's longer periods away. He'd returned late that night, tired and hungry. Matthew had been more than happy to feed him, cooking up a large stack of pancakes and bacon for him, laughing while he nearly inhaled the meal. They'd retired for the night, chatting comfortably before sliding into the bed. It was the one night that he'd allowed Gilbert the luxury of sleeping in just his boxers since the man was 'too tired und too lazy' to put on any real pajama pants. He'd blushed heavily and Gil had teased him for it for a good half hour before finally giving in. Hours later found them in the darkness of the room, light from the moon filtering in through the open window, both chuckling . The covers had been pulled up to their necks, matching smirks on their faces as they laughed about one thing or another. Feliciano annoying Germany or Matthew's run-in with a rogue grocery cart. They could spend hours talking about nothing at all, topics of no importance whatsoever, but it didn't matter, so long as they were talking. Each could tell the other was exhausted, heavy bags settled under their eyes, but neither was willing to fall asleep, not wanting to lose the moment. And so they continued to talk in hushed tones, quiet voices and snickers passing between them like two children sneakily giggling in the night until the sun began to rise over the horizon. Finally, somewhere between one sentence and another, the two had drifted off, heads a little closer than they needed to be, smiles heavy on their faces.

Now here they were, on opposite sides of the bed as though some great quarry had opened up between them. A large precipice pushing them farther and farther away from one another and Matthew wasn't even sure why.

Swallowing hard again and closing his eyes against the moonlight stretched across the walls of his bedroom, Canada released a breath to rid his chest of the clenching pain, willing his body to relax. He didn't bother to brush away the single string of moisture that dropped to his pillow.


.


The next week that went by was just as awkward and uncomfortable as the first day. Neither would talk to the either very much. Gilbert busied himself helping winterize the house, cleaning out the gutters as Matthew raked up the fallen leaves into large piles throughout the yard. They ate their meals in silence. Now and again, it seemed almost as though the silver-haired country were going to say something, as though the words were desperate to come out but he'd turn away just as quickly, going to find something to do, some excuse to keep from speaking.

As the week rounded off into day six, Matthew felt as though his chest were going to burst with the pain. It was a constant throbbing in his abdomen that no longer came and went, but stayed, a dulling reminder of the nerve wracking place they'd come to be in. He knew he should say something. Ask Gilbert why. Demand an explanation for what was going on, but he just couldn't. He was too afraid. Afraid that he was losing his friend. And if he was going to lose his friend, he wasn't going to do it any faster than he already was. He knew it was selfish, but he would take every moment he could get.

The end of the week, sometime in the early afternoon, found Gilbert seated on the edge of the couch, rubbing his hands together for what must have been the twentieth time in the last ten minutes. He was listening carefully to the movements in the back room as Matthew shuffled around, tugging the linen sheets from the bed, readying them for laundry. Sweat tinged at the edges of his palms, forcing him to brush them together again, drying the skin. In the background, the sound of the clock ticking methodically seemed to drill a hole into the back of his head, making his brow twitch with irritation.

A moment later, Matthew emerged from the hallway, dropping off the last of the wooden stairway. His bare feet pad in quiet steps across the hardwood floor, moving past Gilbert without glancing to him, though his shoulders were stiff with nervousness.

Letting out a deep breath from his lungs, Gilbert watched the man move across the room for a moment before wiping his hands off on his jeans. "Matt, wait." His voice came out in a rush, shaking just the slightest.

Matthew halted in his tracks, turning to look at the albino seated on his couch. Their eyes bore into one another for a long moment before Gilbert stood, brushing his hands on his jeans again. This time when he spoke his voice was louder and had a tone of determination in it. "Look, I'm not going to beat around the bush anymore. This is getting old. We need to talk." He said sternly. "Come here."

Matthew stood where he was however, like a deer caught in headlights, clutching the bundle of soiled sheets to his abdomen as though they would provide him some sort of emotional shield. He opened his mouth once but only a soft breath came out and he quickly gave up, shutting it once more.

Gilbert's brow furrowed a bit and he pointed to the spot in front of him. "Damn it, Matt, come here, I'm not gonna bite." He practically growled and Matthew could feel the tension and irritation flooding off of him. Anxiously, hesitating only once more, the smaller country turned, moving over to stand before Gilbert, eyes darting away before lifting to meet the crimson ones staring a hole through him. If the ground would open up and eat him now, that would be great. Save him the embarrassment of crying like a little girl when Gilbert broke his heart.

Broke his heart…..?

Yes, broke his heart. Because losing Gilbert would do just that. He supposed that's why his hands were shaking, knuckles bruising white from clutching at the only physical lifeline he had near him, which happened to be dirty laundry.

A pale hand slid through silver hair, red iris' never wavering in their gaze on the small Canadian's face. "Look I've got to say this so…just…close your eyes. I can't do this if you are looking at me like that." Gilbert breathed, brow creased heavily, worry and frustration.

Again Matthew paused, blinking owlishly up at his friend, fear spreading across his face. But if he closed his eyes, what then? Why should he make it easier for Gilbert to hurt him. His head shook lightly, the defiance dropping away as Gil scowled yet again, an angry huff exiting his lungs. Tearing the dirty sheeting from Matthew's grasp, he tossed it to the couch behind him, leaving shaking hands in their wake. Behind him the linen slid to the floor, but neither man gave it a second glace.

That gesture broke Matthew's firm grasp on any sort of composure he may have been able to maintain. His face broke down into panic, eyes wide. He could feel his heart throbbing painfully, clenching in his chest and his breathing became harder to control. "Gilbert, please I have no idea what is going on, but you are scaring me! " his voice wavered, speaking quickly and raising in pitch as he stumbled over the words. "I don't know what I did or why you aren't talk to me, but if you are going to end the friendship, just leave because I don't think I can take much more of-"

The small blonde man's voice trailed off as two soft palms slid across his cheeks, cupping his face between them, tilting his head upwards to meet a softened crimson gaze. Gilbert's fingers brushed across the tops of Matthew's eyes, a small smirk on his face, his expression calmer, gentler. "Close your eyes, Mattie." He breathed.

Matthew felt the nervous tension in him unwind, fizzling away just the slightest at the familiar touch. He hadn't realized just how much he'd needed it. Needed to feel close to Gilbert again, to know he wasn't alone. The fear still coiled deep in his chest, but staring up at his best friend's face, heart thudding rapidly, he felt a twinge of hope rush through him.

Trustingly, he let his eyelids drop closed, the pads of Gilbert's thumbs following, brushing the untapped moisture from the corners of his eyes before stroking his cheeks, then dropping away. An instant later, the taller man's palms slid into his own, gripping his hands tightly and a forehead dropped to press against his. Absently he realized Gilbert's own nervousness, the slight dampness on his forehead giving him away. Breath puffed against his face, a sweet mixture of beer and maple syrup from that morning's breakfast.

A long stretch of moments moved between them before Gilbert's voice broke the silence, soft but certain. "Birdie, I've spent the last two months trying to figure out how to tell you this. Und it's driving me mad. I've gone over it in my head again und again und no matter how I say it, it never seems to come out just right. So I'm going to take the advice I should have listened to months ago and just say it." A heavy pause weighed in the air before he spoke again, his voice just a note softer; gentle and firm. "Ich Liebe Dich, Matthew."

Matthew's eyes snapped open, his body jerking away just the slightest, staring disbelievingly up at the Prussian standing before him, now looking for all the world like the entirety of his life rest on Matthew's reaction. In an instant, sadness flashed behind Gilbert's eyes, watching nervously as Matthew twitched away from him, losing grip on his hands.

The Canadian stood in shock, mouth opening and closing a few times, the pain in Gilbert's own chest rising anew. "Ma-"

Gilberts words, however, never left his throat. In fact, they were forced down rather effectively as the nervous man found his arms suddenly very full of a small blonde Canadian. A pair of arms clutched around his shoulders, chest flush against his and most miraculously of all, a pair of warm, wonderful lips pressed desperately against his own.

Fairly certain his heart had stopped its beating in his chest, it took only the fraction of a second before everything caught up to him. The tight heat in his chest burst outward, his entire body seeming to take the waves of heat that rolled away from the now uncoiled tension and spread throughout his extremities, warming his entire being. All the fear, all the nervousness, all the worry seemed to dissolve within him and his arms found themselves clinging back, wrapped tightly around Matthew's waist. He wasted no time in returning the impromptu kiss, keeping the other's body as tight against his as possible. His mouth moved just the slightest, lips settling and resettling. His head was spinning, his palms were warm, his entire body felt like it was on fire and he couldn't imagine this moment being any more perfect.

After what could have been minutes or hours or only seconds, Matthew pulled away, just a few inches, body still firmly pressed up against Gilbert's. His eyes lift to find the crimson ones he adored so much staring back at him, a smile on both of their faces, Matthew's fingers curling into the material of Gilbert's shirt only to realize that he, too, was clinging fairly tightly to the hoodie he wore. A small burst of laughter, just a light tinkling, escaped his throat and he shook his head, the smile growing on his face.

"Je t'aime, Gilbert. So much." He whispered, his face nearly split in two by his smile. He didn't mind though, Gilbert's must have matched his exactly, both their faces flushed pink.

Red eyes full of laughter and peace, Gilbert let out a bark of laughter, a joyous sound from his diaphragm before his mouth came crashing back down, one hand abandoning its position against Matthew's back in favor of cupping the back of his head. He was going nowhere if the silver-haired man had anything to say about it. Their lips moved in sync, a heated mesh releasing the tension that had built over the last few months between them. Though, if they were honest with themselves, it stretched much farther back in their friendship, the tension building until it had to break. They would have time to think of that later, however. Right now breathing was far less important than the connection their mouths had, fingers clutching to one another, unwilling to break away from the contact so soon. And for as long as they'd waited it couldn't have been more perfect; heavy pressing of lips together, soft gasps of breath in through nostrils, hearts beating in tandem. Perfection.


.


Matthew chewed on his bottom lip for the fifth time in the last few minutes, attempting wearily to hold back the smile that threatened to take over his face again. His cheeks already hurt, for the love of pete! The fingers tickling across his ankle, however, begged to tell a different story. They were asking for that smile, one to match the owner's. Matt glanced across the couch at Gilbert, pursing his lips tightly as the albino man raised an eyebrow at him, fingers scratching along the skin of his calf. His leg jerked and he gave a small snort.

"Stop that, I'm trying to watch the movie."

"No you're not." The confident reply came, a snicker following, fingers still moving along Matthew's leg, tugging lightly at the hair, scratching gently at the skin.

"Yes I am, now stop." He smirked, turning his eyes back to the screen, determined to at least look like he was paying attention to the television.

"No."

Matthew let out a squawk and giggled when Gilbert's hands wrapped around said ankle, dragging him across the couch until he was seated next to him, leg stretched across his own. Giving in, the Canadian laughed, pulling his leg away and leaning into the Prussian's side, a light blush crossing his cheeks as an arm automatically wrapped around his shoulders.

Though it was all so familiar, somehow it still felt a bit foreign. He wasn't positive how to react to each touch, each kiss, trying desperately not to seem too giddy, but knowing he was failing miserably.

"So…I….um…" Matthew began, clearing his throat and tilting his head back to glance up at Gilbert, who raised an eyebrow and leaned in to steal a quick kiss. "I can't think when you do that." Matthew whispered softly, embarrassment crossing his face.

"Sorry, go on." The taller country snickered, fingers playing with the material of Matthew's shirt.

"I just wondered…I mean obviously this changes something things…but…and stop me if this is stupid, which I'm sure it already is….what does this make us?" the last sentence was rushed, nearly muttered out in an attempt to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Gilbert seemed to muse over the question for a long moment, the fingers of his other hand finding one of Matthew's and twining them together, eyebrows moving in thought. "Well, I love you." He said, directing a meaningful stare at the blushing Matthew. "And you love me." A nod accompanied that statement. "So…I guess….we're boyfriends?"

Matthew flushed at that, letting out a slight snicker. "It sounds so…juvenile." He mumbled, nuzzling in closer to Gilbert's shoulder, eyes still locked on the red ones watching his own, movie forgotten.

"Well, I don't know, what else would you call us? I wouldn't say lovers…that just sounds.."

"Cheesy."

"Not to mention we're not exactly 'lovers'. Yet." Came the wink and the Canadian country flushed in response, deeming to not answer that.

"Partners?"

"What're we in a law firm?" Gilbert snickered, rolling his eyes skyward to think for a moment. "Suitor?" after a moment however, he laughed at his own suggestion. "So far, 'boyfriends' is winning."

"Soul mates?"

Gilbert's laughter went quiet at that, eyes dropping back down to meet his little Canadian's, a slow smile spreading on his face. The hand clutching Matthew's tightened and he soon found a pair of lips against his own for the suggestion. "I like that one." Gil whispered against the others mouth before leaning in to steal away more of his love's breath.

Chapter Text

For the last week, there had been multitudes of nervous pacing, a few episodes of near hyperventilation and a brief argument or two. God knew that both Matthew and Gilbert were stressing and for good reason.

Saturday was Lukas and Jacques seventh birthday party.

And all of the nations were coming.

For years they had prepared themselves that eventually the entirety of the worlds nations would know of what had transpired between them. They would have to spill the proverbial beans about their quiet little life together and, of course, their children. And so it had seemed a perfectly logical idea to allow Arthur and Francis the privilege as grandparents to inform the remainder of the facts at the next G8 meeting. And since it seemed to have gone over "very well" according to the elder men, they had gone so far as to leave an open invitation to the nations to attend their son's birthday celebration.

They just didn't expect all of them to actually attend.

And so the next two weeks, after being notified by an overly-excited Arthur that every nation had put in an rsvp, were spent running around buying extra lawn chairs, cleaning the house and getting the children ready to be seen. Gilbert had cleared out some of the extended driveway and roadway in front of their house to make more room for the mass of cars that would likely be taking up the space. If need be, they could park up on the lawn, though they really hoped to avoid that considering how hard they worked on their landscape.

The children, however, only seemed excited. This, of course, meant more presents for them. And a bigger cake. And neither could complain about such an excuse for both. Instead, they extended their list of gifts they would like much to their parents chagrin. Matthew hadn't thought it proper etiquette to ask the newly informed nations to bring anything, but apparently Arthur had insisted in the form of a threat. And Francis, for once, had backed him up, politely of course.

Which lead to their current predicament.


Matthew sighed, forcing a half smile across his face, watching as Arthur traipsed through the kitchen again (shooting him a winning smile on the way), heading towards the pantry to retrieve yet another of the backup table cloths. Apparently the other two fold out tables were full of presents already. Glancing out the window, his suspicions were confirmed as the brightly wrapped boxes rose over the edge of the window pane.

Outside, beyond the mass of gifts, a couple dozen nations stood, conversing in the crisp September air. Well at least they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most of them had smiles on their faces and were laughing and talking easily while the wild children of the Beilschmidt household ran amuck, screaming and chasing each other.

A thud from the doorway behind him caught Matthew's attention and he spun to greet the noise. Alfred shuffled his way into the kitchen, grinning widely at his younger brother and setting the arm full of cake down on the counter in front of Matthew, who stared down in disbelief. Behind him Gilbert swept into the house, grinning like an idiot as he headed for the fridge, likely for more food for the grill, brushing an absent hand across his husband's hip as he passed.

Matthew frowned, glancing from the cakes back up to Alfred. "Really Alfred? Really?" he huffed, glancing down at the American flag cake glaring back at him.

Alfred only grinned even wider. "Yeah! I wanted to remind them that their Uncle Al loves them tons so I needed something appropriate! Why not a flag? Show my American spirit and all that."

"Alfred, they are Prussian and Canadian. Not American."

Alfred's face fell a little and he pouted, glancing at the cake forlornly. "Well I thought it was a good idea…besides I brought a cheeseburger one too just in case…."

"Al, the last 'good idea' you had end up with Arthur not speaking to you for almost a hundred years." Matthew commented, eyebrow quirking at the other man.

"Why did you have to go and bring up the tea party, Mattie? Why?" The irritated American countered, crossing his arms in a huff.

"Because I can Alfred."

"You have been around Prussia too long, he's a bad influence." Alfred chided, looking past Matthew at the silver haired man squeezing his way out the back door, arms full of uncooked foods. "Gil you're a bad influence."

Gilbert glanced up as he pushed his way out the door backwards, frowning in confusion at the other man. Before he could speak, however, both brothers burst into laughter and Matthew waved him out the door. "Don't worry about it Gil, he's just teasing."

The taller of the men shook his head, finally making his escape from the household and out into the large yard with the rest of the gathered nations. Ludwig had taken up the position at the grill in his absence, though keeping Feliciano from getting burned seemed to be priority over the cooking meat. It took a few moments to weave in-between the mass of countries gathered in their backyard before he finally reached the grill.

"Gah, I didn't realize so many countries would come." The Prussian huffed, glancing sideways at his equally exasperated brother.

"Considering you two are the only two countries to produce physical offspring in over a thousand years, I'm not surprised. They are all curious." Ludwig shrugged, again pushing at Feliciano's shoulder as he attempted to lean over the open flame to get a look at the food.

Gilbert shoot his head, flopping a few more pieces of chicken down on the grill, watching as they sizzled and popped against the heat of the fire. "Ja, well it's still a bit overwhelming." He paused, glancing over his shoulder as though concerned other nations were listening in. "Und I worry about Mattie. He's two months from his due date. I don't like stressing him more than he has to be." He sighed softly, turning back to flip pieces of already cooking chicken over as well as the…hot dogs…that America had insisted upon.

Ludwig silently observed his brother's expression, watching the lines crinkle in his brow. It never ceased to amazing him, the amount of caring that had grown within his brother for the shy little Canadian country and their children. He was fiercely protective and loving, something that still stunned his brother each time he saw it. After a long thoughtful moment, he responded to the comment. "As much as the two of you have been through, I'm certain that one birthday will be alright. Canada is strong und has gone through this pregnancy issue twice already. Und you would not allow anything to happen to him. I do believe he will be able to handle this day just fine."

The reassurance was almost awkward, but not unwelcome and the Prussian smiled up at his younger brother. "Thank you." He smirked, patting the other man on his shoulder, glancing behind them at the yard filled with bodies.

Francis and Arthur stood near the back door entry way talking, Lukas glued to Arthur's side as the new grandparents ran his hand easily through his grandson's hair. A few feet away, Jacques leaned anxiously over the edge of one of the present tables to watch Hungary place the gifts in some semblance of an order. He'd taken a liking to her instantly as she'd swept in, prattling off about helping to organize the event and talking babies with Matthew. It unnerved Gilbert in the slightest, but Matt seemed happy enough, so he'd leave it alone.

Her Austrian idiot stood not far off the other side, handing her the presents one by one and eyeing the child as though he would suddenly grow a second head. Which in his own way would be considered 'mild interest'.

Around the patio and grassy yard, the other countries had taken up groups of two to four, chatting about…well whatever they were talking about. Ivan and that China country were creeping a few people out with their silent observation routine. The Nordic group was standing a little closer to the house, talking fairly loudly in their native languages about something that was apparently funny.

On the other side of the lawn, closer to Gilbert and Ludwig stood Japan and Greece, politely keeping conversation with an excitable Spain.

Spain. Now there had been a reaction he'd been expecting. Of course, his old friend had arrived fairly early in the day, cheeks flushed happily as he embraced first Gilbert, spouting off some Spanish crap about mi amigo and amore and things Gilbert just rolled his eyes at usually. After that, he'd nearly attacked Matthew, rambling on in a mixture of his native tongue and English for Matthew's sake, touching the large protrusion of his belly and grinning like a madman. Matthew, thankfully, must have been expecting the behavior from his guests because he simply smiled politely and allowed Antonio to practically feel him up. "Roma look!"

Behind him dragged in the elder of the Italy's, Romano. Or as Antonio preferred to call him, Lovi. From him, Gilbert had received a glare, which had quickly dissolved as he glanced around the silver-haired man, eyes wide and curious. He hadn't put up much of a protest when his Spaniard grabbed his wrist gently, tugging him over and placing his hand on Matthew's stomach, forcing him to feel the kicking of the unborn child within. He politely asked quiet questions once Antonio had abandoned him for Gilbert, slapping his friend on the back heartily and congratulating him.

"Ve~ Where's Alberta?"

Feliciano's high pitched inquiry shook him from his thoughts and he quickly began scanning the grounds. Usually she was tucked away in either Francis or Arthur's grasp, but she was nowhere to be seen with them. Panic quickly began to set in before a hand clamped on his shoulder, Ludwig nodding towards the direction of Spain again.

A few feet behind the Spaniard and his conversational companions stood Alberta, her hair up in high pigtails, bouncing wildly as she rambled on, her hands waving here and there to her captive audience. Lovino Vargas.

Gilbert's eyebrows nearly hit his hairline as he observed the two. She would get excited and begin bouncing around as she chatted at the tolerant Italian, swaying from left to right and fluffing her little dress (sometimes a little too high and Romano would promptly pull her hands back down gently, shaking his head). He, in turn, would put a hand up to steady her waist when she'd begin to teeter to the side or put her shoe back on when she kicked it off, muttering back to her quietly.

"My Lovi! He'll make such a good mama!" Antonio swooned, joining Gilbert, Ludwig and Feliciano by the grill. Ludwig took the tongs from his dumbstruck brother and went back to tending the food threatening to burn. The Spaniard swooned, leaning on Gilbert's shoulder, who smirked, shoving him off. "You see him over there with this little girl? So cute! We'll make such beautiful babies, si! So precious! Such a good mama-"

His triad was promptly brought to a halt by a firm hand striking him over the back of the head. He seemed dazed for a moment, turning his gaze to meet a frowning Romano, Alberta settled in his arms on one hip. "Shut up, stupid! I'm not going to be a mother, idiota!" he grumbled, smacking the taller country yet again. This time Alberta laughed, reaching out to smack Spain on the shoulder as well, earning a pout.

"Hey now, we don't hit Berta. You know better." Gilbert chided, rolling his eyes when she buried her face in her new friend's neck with a thud. Before he could respond, however, Romano took the lead, speaking up again.

"Alberta. No hitting, si? Except Spain. So when you get mad, you hit him. But no one else, si? Otherwise you will get in much trouble. And that's not fun. Because then you cannot play your games or with your toys. So don't hit anyone else, especially your family. But you can hit Spain." he said firmly, Alberta leaning back in rapt attention to his words. After a long moment of what could have been silent reflection or zoning out of listening, the small girl nodded, her blonde hair bobbing with the motion. "Good." He agreed, shooting a meaningful stare at Gilbert before turning and striding away, the Prussian's daughter still in his arms.


"Well, I sink zis is going well, non?" Francis commented, sliding his eyes from the yard filled with people over to Arthur, eyeing the man carefully with just the slightest smirk.

Arthur let out a long breath, still running his hand through the longer threading of curls on Lukas' head, the boy's temple pressed into his side. The child had one hand clasped into onto the side of his grandfather's pocket and the other picking at one of his buttons. Though he was usually the braver of the two, he was also the shyer around large crowds of people and so stuck by those he was most comfortable with. While his brother was the more skeptical of the two, he found his place in a crowd fairly quickly, smiling and laughing while Lukas preferred to stay behind with a smaller grouping of two or three people.

"I must admit, I'd thought that this would not be so easy as it has been. To be honest, I'm still waiting for some sort of disaster or drama to take place. It does seem to follow us, does it not?" he smirked back over at the French man.

"Oui, it does. Perhaps because it is such an…unusual occasion everyone is acting accordingly. Zey are afraid zat zey will make a bad impression upon such small shildren."

"Likely so." Arthur answered shortly, glancing down once again at the boy against his side with a soft smile, his hand pushing the strands of hair out of his face and behind his ear. Just months ago he hadn't even known about these children and now here he was, a soon to be seven year old child clinging to his side and calling him 'grandpa'. He loved all of his newfound grandchildren, but of all of them felt he had a special connection to Lukas. While Jacques clung to Francis, rambling on in French to him or wanted to bounce around in his hyper way, Lukas preferred to stay close to his English grandparent, sitting with him while he read or watching him make scones over the top of the tall counter. He always wanted an extra hug before he left. Always had a special smile for his grandpa.

And then there was Alberta. Dear little Alberta. Hyper, wild thing she was. Demanding princess and ruler of the household. Even her brothers bowed before her whim. She had the entire world wrapped around her fingers, even Romano, who was currently busied carrying her around in whichever direction she pointed.

"I suppose zis must be quite ze shock for zem."

Arthur turned his attention back to the Frenchman across from him, quirking his lips just the slightest. "Yes, well, it has been quite some time since a country has produced offspring. And I doubt there's ever been so many produced by one coupling." his shoulders shrugged upwards once, hand still brushing through Lukas' hair.

"Zis is true. I sink only one 'as ever been had. Possibly two, but that would be centuries ago." Francis agreed, smiling softly down at the child before movement caught his attention in the kitchen. "If you'll excuse moi, I sink zat Mattieu needs a bit of 'elp escaping 'is brozer. Alfred is far too enthralled with 'is pregnancies." he snickered, moving in past the screen door and leaving Arthur to entertain his grandson.


After the group of countries consumed their first round of hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and bratwurst, the boys were rounded up by Feliciano (Alberta still clinging to Romano's side). Alfred held the door open with his body, his two cakes in his hands as Matthew exited the house, both hands full of a large cake with two hockey sticks criss-crossing the front, seven candles lit up, sparking just the slightest.

Gilbert moved to his side to steady him as he made his way down the steps to head towards the designated table just below the porch. He was going to kill Alfred later because that, too, was decorated in red, white and blue. A large smile on his face, Matthew grinned at the bouncing twins and began to sing. "Happy birthday to you-"

Soon the chorus was joined by the rest of the attending countries, all singing together for the boy's birthday. Both leaned over the edge of the table as the cake was sat down, matching grins on their faces, arms around one another's shoulders. The song drew to a quick close and their fathers moved around behind them, hands on their shoulders. "Make a wish and blow out the candles!" Matthew chuckled, loving the bubbly look on his children's faces.

Together the boys leaned in, blowing as hard as they could, the flames flickering before they blew out completely. The adults settled into an easy round of applause that quickly dissipated into laughter as the candles sparked back to life before the boys' eyes. The next five minutes were spent full of laughter and friendly jeers as the boys attempted to get the candles to go out.

"Oh my lord, well at least we know we got our money's worth." the blonde Canadian man snickered as the candles sparked once again to life. Finally Matthew pulled them out of the frosting, taking the still sparking stick inside to douse them in water.

Gilbert began cutting each of the cakes into different slices to pass out amongst the guests, giving the boys, of course, first pick. And of course, they wanted a piece from each of the cakes, which meant that getting them to bed at a decent time was not going to be an easy task. Not to mention Alberta, who would roll around in her bed for hours if she was on a sugar high. So she'd only get a small piece.

The boys demolished their pieces of cake fairly quickly, the sugar rushing through their veins like a wild fire. They soon pulled Ludwig and Feliciano into their games, tugging the adults out into the larger part of the yard, throwing the newest of the fallen leaves at one another.

Matthew settled himself in one of the cozy outdoor lawn chairs, his feet beginning to swell up under the weight of the baby and standing all day. Gilbert took up location behind him, fingers working against the knots built up in his neck. Francis and Arthur flanked his sides, sharing commentary about the birthday and the upcoming holidays.

They all agreed to have Alfred's Thanksgiving at Matthew and Gilbert's home and Christmas at Arthur's. Francis insisted they stay in Paris for New Years, the fireworks this coming year to be the best yet. After a little arguing, Arthur finally agreed. Not that he wanted to spend time in France, he pointed out, but he wanted as much time with the children as possible, so he was willing to compromise.

Holidays would be a new excursion for all of them after this point. Not only would Matthew be unable to avoid going to see his 'parents' for the holiday seasons, but likely Gilbert would be inviting his brother along as well. And if Ludwig came, Feliciano came. That's just how they were. A package deal. There would be plenty of travel accrued between the lot of them to make certain that they split the holidays evenly. The children would be excited for sure, though, being able to spend plenty of time with their grandparents and uncle Ludwig. And it would give Matthew and Gilbert an easier mindset when it came to having their next child, knowing that they now had plenty of family to watch their children.

Their conversation, however, was interrupted by a very loud, very high pitched scream. Matthew immediately grasped Gilbert's arm, yanking himself upward, fearful that it may be one of his children.

However, much to his relief and surprise, it was not his children that had screamed. In fact, they were laughing, running circles and tossing leaves at each other around Feliciano, who had firmly attached himself to Ludwig, arms and legs both wrapped around the taller man. Ludwig looked as though he were attempting to keep his balance, arms tight around the little Italian as well.

Oh yes, and Feliciano's mouth seemed permanently welded to the German's.

Shock seemed to radiate through the crowd of nations, Antonio having a difficult time keeping a hold on Romano, who was cursing at the 'potato bastard' to get his mouth away from his brothers, though it didn't seem as though it were the elder man who initiated it. The rest of the nations stood either murmuring in surprise to one another or simply staring at the couple, stunned before a few of them broke out in wolf whistles and cheers.

Gilbert, however, burst out laughing, wrapping a warm arm around his husband's shoulders and pressing a kiss to his forehead. "Looks like Luddy finally proposed." He commented lightly, earning him a few confused looks from the others. The silver-haired Prussia rolled his crimson eyes skyward. "Are you seriously telling me that you did not see that coming?" he asked incredulously, turning his eyes back to the couple still firmly glued to one another, the effeminate ring glittering on the little Italian man's hand confirming his statement. "They've been dancing around each other for centuries now. Lud could only resist the cute little Feli so long. Guess he finally gathered up his courage to take it forward.

Matthew shifted his gaze as well. "I guess it should have been obvious, but your brother is so uptight about everything it's hard to know…" he shrugged, then let a slow smile spread across his face. "It is sweet though. Congratulations to them." He leaned his head against his husband's shoulder, rubbing the other hand across his heavily pregnant stomach. The smile on Ludwig's face was now apparent, flushed a bright pink with embarrassment, but his lips were tilted in a definite upward angle, his own hands clutching the younger man that had finally released his mouth to hug him tightly, tears of joy streaming down his face.

The boys finally gave up on trying to get their attention and rushed back over to their parents with matching grins on their faces. Gilbert caught them easily enough, lifting them into his arms just as Antonio joined them, Alberta in his arms. "Well Amigos, I think this party turned out good, si?" he smirked.


Just as the sun was setting in the western horizon, the last of the guest cars pulled away, leaving the small family nearly on their own once again. Francis, Arthur and Alfred had stayed behind, of course, to help clean up the house and put the left over food away. Wrapping paper was scattered all across the yard in a variety of colors and tinsel bows, some strewn across the large half-dome play pen they'd gotten the boys at Christmas; Gilbert was shoving the remaining torn pieces into a large black trash bag. Francis and Arthur placed the remaining food into Tupperware containers in the kitchen, cleaning off the counters and tables while Matthew tried to get Alberta to settle into her bed for the night despite the raucous behavior of the twins in the room next door. They had all of their toys migrated up into their room and were currently testing the durability of each.

After nearly fifteen minutes of up and down fussing, Alberta finally crashed into sleep, allowing her heavily pregnant father to move on to his next targets, the boys. She'd chattered on and on about cake and dolls and her new best friend Romano (who had received no less than five hugs, all of which he had to kneel down to accept). As adorable as it was, Matthew knew that sleep would soon be calling him.

As he moved into the bedroom of his eldest children, he clapped his hands together to get their attention, which was currently focused on a set of walkie talkies (from Ivan) and the pair of moon shoes they were each wearing while talking to one another (those were from Japan). "Alright boys, it's time for bed. Let's put everything away and get ready for sleep."

"Daaaad!" the complaint came in surround sound and Matthew found himself pausing in laughter.

"Now, none of that. You two had a very busy day and growing boys need their sleep." He chided, smirking as the boys sighed, but didn't protest anymore, putting their toys away dutifully. He pulled the covers back on both of their beds, moving to tug out a pair of pajamas for each of them that Francis had brought over as an early gift.

"Into pajamas and brush your teeth before bed. Lights out in twenty minutes, no exceptions and no walkie talkies in bed." He stated, shooting a pointed look at twin before heading out of the room, knowing they would follow his directions.

He found Arthur and Francis in the kitchen sitting at the table with Gilbert, all three talking quietly over the events of the day. Gilbert had cleaned up the yard before the night fell completely and locked up the back before joining the two elder men at the kitchen table. Matthew took a careful seat, pushing his glasses farther up his nose and leaning back into the chair, happy to have the pressure off his feet.

Lately his feet had begun to swell even more, the weight of the pregnancy taking its toll on him as it usually did. Without question, Gilbert reached down, tugging the man's feet into his lap and tugging off the shoe, his fingers working their magic on his ankles. Matthew immediately let out a grown, earning him an amused look from both of his fathers.

"Well, Matthieu it is good to see zat Gilbert 'ere is taking good care of you. I must admit, I thought at first 'e would not be up to ze task. " he continued, ignoring the irritated look that the Prussian man sent him, "but now I see zat 'e eez the best thing that could 'appen for you." He finished, a satisfied smile on his face, watching happily as his friend took such lovely care of his son.

Arthur seemed to pause as though pondering whether or not he should comment before putting his own two cents in, chin propped up on his palm on the table, eyes also on the loving couple. "I must agree with Francis on this. I've never been a fan of you-" that received him two matching glares across the table and his hands flew up in defense," I'll admit I was judging on rumor! But seeing the way you two interact; your lovely children and the happiness that surrounds this house…I'm glad you finally decided to share your lives. Besides, this means that we will not only finally have Matthew at our holiday gatherings, but more family as well. I think it will liven up the seasons." He smiled softly.

"I guess so.." Matthew breathed softly, glancing up to find the understanding look he knew would be on his husband's face. "It's just going to take some getting used to. We've had our own for so long that it's…difficult to imagine it changing. I guess we're worried that we'll lose what we had."

Two pairs of eyes watched the couple carefully, glancing at each other for a brief moment of understanding. True that things would never be the same, but in another sense, they were also aware they had gained a closer family life. Alfred had always been the fallback and now he would not be the only one they could turn to. Matthew was certain that Alfred was feeling the same as they were. It would be nice to have the extra a help and the weight off their shoulders, but at the same time…the happy little secret they all shared would forever be gone.

 

Chapter Text

*past*

He knew he shouldn't be nervous. Why should he be? They'd been together for nearly two months now. Two months. Two whole, long, wonderful, perfect months. Surely this was inevitable. At least, for Matthew it was. Not that he'd been thinking about it for longer than the two months they'd been together. Of course not.

Rubbing his hands together to ward away the chill that was beginning to settle in, Matthew padded his way to the fireplace, gripping another small brick of wood and tossing it into the roaring flames warming the living room. The fire itself lit up most of the room, the walls tingling with the flickering light. It really was a good setting for such a question, he supposed.

And really, they'd been together longer than just the couple months. At least…the way he figured it they had. They'd been skittering around this for months prior, both of them knew it. Both of them felt it. Both of them desperately wished to find a way to make it happen and now that it had….well…it was everything Matthew had hoped it would be.

They were together almost constantly, except when Ludwig insisted that Gilbert come back to Germany in order to sort out paperwork or go to political meetings. It just…seemed pointless for the man to be going back and forth all of the time to get things he left at home or to get another change of clothes or to take his things back home. It all just seemed…pointless. Especially when he should be there with Matthew.


Gilbert shook the snow off of his heavy navy coat as he stepped his way up to the porch of Matthew's house, pulling out his keys to open the door. The day they'd gotten together officially, Matthew had tossed a set of keys he'd apparently been 'debating on giving to Gilbert' for the last few months. One to the front door, one to the back, one to the garage and one to his car. To Gilbert, he simply took it as one large key to Matthew's heart. But then, Mattie always made him a sap like that.

He kicked his shoes against the wood beams of the house, glancing over his shoulder at the landscape. By the time morning came, the top of his rental car would be covered in nearly two more feet of snow, he was sure of it. The snow fell here as though it would never snow again, blanketing the ground each year in a thick cloud of white so deceiving you'd never realize just how far down the grass really was until you stepped out into it and found yourself waist deep in the stuff. Not that he minded. They'd had plenty of great memories already playing in the snow, pushing each other down and chasing one another through the yard.

And now that they'd moved past that awkward attraction, he had a feeling that playing in the snow with his Mattie would be a lot more awesome. A grin began to form across his lips as he watched the large flakes of snow drift downward, imagining dragging his Birdie down into a drift of snow somewhere and kissing him breathless. After a long moment, the chill began to set in and he shook off again, making certain that the snow was cleaned from his shoes before tugging out his keys, swinging them around on the ring to find the correct one, one Matthew had given him months ago.

He suffered with the cold stiffened lock for only a few moments before it gave and he shuffled his way inside, shaking off the cold of the November wind and tugging off his coat. Only once he'd hung the dripping material on the coat rack did he notice the lack of boyfriend in the room. The fire near the kitchen entrance was lit, crackling brightly in the darkness of the living room. A soft frown covered his face in worry and he glanced up the stairwell to the right before a gentle clinking noise caught his attention from the kitchen. Turning away from the door and brushing his chilled hands against his darkwash jeans, he moved towards the sound.

A smile crooked on his lips at the sight that greeted him. Matthew moved about the kitchen quietly, setting down two plates of steaming food on the table, a few candles lit on the countertops. The kitchen itself radiated warmth, likely from the still heated oven, the main lights dimmed to allow the candles to light the room. He leaned against the entryway, sliding his hands into his pockets to watch his boyfriend's oblivious movements.

After a few moments, once the second plate was set down on the table, he cleared his throat, watching as Matthew's head shot up, obviously startled.

"Gilbert!" the smile that lit up his face, that genuine joy at seeing him, Gilbert was certain was the most beautiful thing he'd seen in a long time. He was going to have to make that smile come out as often as possible.

"Hey Birdie, what you got going on here?" he chuckled, pushing away from the wall. Matthew met him halfway, his face still flushing a bit as Gilbert didn't hesitate to lean down and press chilly lips against the younger country's almost anxiously. A slowly warming pair of arms slid around his waist, keeping him pressed close and soon Matthew found himself melting into the kiss. After so long of orbiting around one another, to finally collide into something much better; it was still so surreal. And Gilbert was never one to do anything half-assed. Every kiss he gave Matthew was full of raw emotion, sometimes desperate, sometimes slow, but always lingering. As though he wanted to make certain Matthew remembered each and every kiss. Which he did.

After a few moments, the shorter blonde pulled away carefully, his hands firm on Gilbert's biceps. "I made dinner. I thought it would be nice to sit down and have a…a..r-romantic dinner. Together." He breathed, watching in embarrassment as the smile on the Prussian's face only deepened.

"That sounds awesome Birdie." Gilbert's eyes roved over the simply set table, pulling away to take a seat on one side, quickly joined by his still skittish boyfriend. 'Soul mate', Gilbert corrected himself, smirking across the table at the light flush still present on the face of his companion. "It looks awesome, too. You made wurst? Und fried potatoes! Und greens…" he picked up the small bottle of maple syrup set between them and raised a brow. "You know I love this stuff on everything." He chuckled, pouring a generous amount on his plate.

Matthew began cutting at his food, eyes focused down ward. His knees were shaking. He could just feel it. Why was he so damn nervous? This shouldn't be that hard…

"Hey Gil." Best get it over with.

"Hn?" came the response, mumbled around a mouthful of potatoes, his focus completely on the food before him.

Once he swallowed, Matthew chose to speak again. "I want you to move in with me."

Gilbert's hand paused in mid-motion, mouth open in anticipation for another bite, eyes darting up to meet Matthew's own lavender ones. Slowly he placed his fork back down on his plate, an unreadable expression on his face.

Immediately Matthew began to stutter, brushing a chunk of his blonde hair from his face and behind his ear, eyes dropping away from the intense gaze. "I- I mean, you practically live here anyways. You are always here and that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing and I really love having you around cause well, I mean, I love you, so of course I love having you around and we're together now so that's even better, but this would just be much more convenient, you know, having you stay here instead of going back and forth all th-

Anything else that the Canadian may have attempted to say was successfully silenced. Gilbert's palms cupped his cheeks, the tall man leaning over the plates on the table to capture his love's mouth with his own. It didn't take a long moment for Matthew to lose himself once again to the kiss. One of the many talents this man possessed. His head was spinning when Gil finally pulled away, thumb brushing across his lower lip. The crimson eyes shone with mirth, a smirk creeping up on his face.

"I'll head back tomorrow morning und be back in the evening, ja? Bring the rest of my important things back."

Matthew nodded slowly, "And we can go into town and get anything else you want. I'll clear out half the closet and the chest of drawers so you'll have plenty of space."

"You're not going to make me buy another bed are you?" Gilbert snickered, raising an eyebrow, his thumb still tracing down along the line of Matthew's chin.

Instead of answering, however, the smaller man reached up, tugging his Prussian forward again (who found himself dropping one hand to keep steady over the plates of food) and into another heated kiss.


They really weren't getting any work done. Not that either would admit that.

They'd spent the better part of the last half hour goofing off with one another. All of four shirts had found their way, folded, into the top drawer of Matthew's dresser. The rest lay skewed on the floor, still in the luggage case or like the current two, wrapped around Gilbert's head. It had gone easily enough at first. They'd put a few shirts away, until Matthew had made a comment about one he liked in particular. This prompted Gilbert to make him try it on. It was too long for him, of course and a little wide, but felt nice nonetheless. The next half hour was unproductively spent between trying on Gilbert's clothing, teasingly shoving each other or sharing an impromptu kiss or two. The latter of which Matthew was more than happy to give in to.

It was something that still took him by surprise; Gilbert initiating most of their short list of intimacies. He was usually the first one to initiate the hug or the kiss. Matthew supposed it was likely just the leftover anxiety that came with the life he'd lead, the fear of rejection even though he knew he would never receive that from his Prussian.

Finally, all of Gilbert's items had been put away, clothing spread out between the dresser and the closet, shoes overlapping some of Matthew's. He found it strange, as he stood facing the bathroom mirror the next morning brushing his teeth, glancing around at all the small changes, at how normal it all felt.

Gilbert had brought plenty of his own things that seemed to integrate just fine with his. The book, reading glasses and small alarm clock that now sat beside his solitary lamp on the bedside table. The winter coats that hung mingled in with his own; the utensils that shared his kitchen drawers; the toothbrush that leaned up intimately against his in the tin; the shampoo that left a lovely lingering scent of Gilbert everywhere. Everything just felt right.

Matthew's brushes slowed to a crawl as he glanced over at the occupied bed. In the early glimmers of morning light that crept across the floor and over the thick down comforter lay his silver-haired boyfriend. The man was settled on his stomach, one arm stretched out on his own side of the bed, the other curled tightly around Matthew's pillow. His hair was askew against the olive of the pillow case, one foot dangling out from the bottom of the bed; that lovely back exposed down to his waist, a light tinkling snore drifting through the room indicating his continued deep sleep even once Matthew left his embrace.

The Canadian shook his head, a light flush crossing his cheeks and he found himself frowning at the reflection in the mirror. He was wearing one of Gilbert's larger shirts over his pajama pants, the clothing smelling strongly of the shampoo he used and a little tousled from their 'cuddling' the night before. He flushed even deeper, glancing out at the bed once again. He knew what road those thoughts led to and he wasn't certain he was ready to pursue it quite yet. However, that didn't mean that it did not affect him. He quickly found that, once they'd settled into a routine of sleeping in the same bed, whether they started on opposite sides of the bed or facing each other, Matthew always awoke to find Gilbert wrapped around him, one arm cradling underneath his pillow, the other curled tightly around his waist. Warm puffs of breath brushed his neck where Gilbert usually settled his head in the crook of his shoulder, as though needing to be as close to him as possible. Not that Matthew minded in the least, but he was a man, after all, and his boyfriend's close proximity and warmth didn't leave him unaffected.

Finishing up his morning routine, Matthew dropped the toothbrush back into the holder, watching with a satisfied smile as it leaned against Gilbert's, knowing that it was silly to enjoy such a thing, but allowing himself the feeling all the same.

He moved from the room, picking up the Prussian's discarded shirt and dropping it into the laundry on his way towards the kitchen. He had every intention of waking his love up with the best breakfast he'd ever had.


*end past*

"Now you boys behave. I don't want to hear any reports of you breaking things or getting into trouble, understand?" Matthew fussed, brushing the thick lock of bright blonde hair from Lukas's face, twining it around behind his ear.

"Yes, Papa." Came the twin groans and a set of rolling eyes.

"Don't give me that. You behave and listen to your uncle. Unless he wants you to play with fireworks or sharp weaponry and then you call me immediately."

"Hey!" Over Alberta's head (the little girl was nearly asleep in his arms), Alfred shot his brother a glare. "I am not a bad uncle. You are just picking on me now, Matt. And they'll behave. We'll have lots of fun, promise." He grinned, watching as his brother embraced the smaller of the twins, who pressed his ear to his father's heavily pregnant stomach. Jacques watched in nearly boredom from his uncle's side, hand clutched in the elder man's.

"We'll call you the minute anything happens, ja? And if you need us, you've got our numbers." Gilbert added, moving towards Alfred's car with a handful of bags. "I put some extra vitamin in for Alberta; it's in the side bag of the pink case. If she gets restless just give her one."

"Sure thing! Uncle Al's got this!" he chuckled, watching Gilbert put the last of the bags in his trunk before turning back to his overly nervous brother. "It'll be fine Matt, just relax, enjoy this time and call me the minute you go into labor, okay? We'll be there in a jiffy."

Matthew nodded, moving forward to embrace his children and brother in a tight hug. "You guys take care. I love you guys."

A murmured round of responses followed as he pulled away and Gilbert replaced Matthew's spot, patting Alfred on the back heavily and brushing a hand over his children's heads. "We'll let you know the minute anything happens." He reassured his brother-in-law with a grin, moving to wrap his arms around Matthew.

Herding the children towards his car, the elder of the North American twins glanced over his shoulder. "I'll have them call every night before bed, ok?" The tension that left his brother's frame brought a small smile across his face.

Alfred loaded the children into the Aveo, making certain that each of them were buckled in properly before moving around to his own side and climbing in. With a wave to their parents, the children drove away with their uncle, leaving Gilbert and Matthew to finish preparations for the birth of their next child. It would be nerve wracking, not having the children around, but there was not much time left and they needed all the relaxation they could get in order to concentrate on the upcoming addition to their family.

Chapter Text

Matthew was certain he'd never been more comfortable in his life. And lately, he'd been comfortable quite often. But never like this.

The morning had started off wonderful. Gilbert had woke him up with pancakes in bed and a good morning kiss, something he was starting to absolutely cherish. And the pancakes weren't half bad either considering he'd been teaching the man his recipe for nearly a year now. Granted the Prussian always had his own twist on them, such as chocolate chips or a berry of some sort if one was stocked in the house, but they were always delicious. He'd joined Matthew, then, both eating from the same plate and quietly discussing their dreams from the night previously.

Once the dishes had been put away, they'd gone for a walk in the snow, throwing large tufts of white at one another, their laughter echoing in the peaceful silence of the woods. They strode just a little ways into the trees, hand in hand talking about nothing in particular. The weather, the plans for the upcoming spring, family, world meetings…nothing important and nothing strenuous, just a reason to hear one another's voices, really, even sharing memories of the last year they'd spent together. They spent a while longer outdoors, enjoying the calm cold air and the beauty that always came with Canadian winters before heading back inside the house. Gilbert tossed a few hefty logs into the brick fireplace, setting it alight as Matthew moved to make them hot chocolate to warm the cold from their skin.

They'd sat on the couch for nearly half an hour after kicking off their shoes and socks, the smaller country snuggled up against his Prussian's side, sharing a large mug of the concoction and watching the snow fall through one of the side windows. Once the bottom of the cup sat with only tiny traces of unmixed chocolate powder and the gleam of moisture, they'd shifted bit by bit until they lay side by side on the large plush couch.

And that's where Matthew found himself waking, slowly drifting back into the light of the fading afternoon, his head cradled against Gilbert's chest, comfortably set in the crook between his shoulder and elbow, the remainder of the arm bent to support the taller man's head. The other pale arm of his companion was snugly wrapped around his waist, palm set between the couch and the skin of his side where his shirt had ridden up. Their legs were a tangled mess, jeans twisted between them. Matthew's own arm was slung over Gilbert's waist, underneath the other man's grasp, fingers clutched at the thick material of his green sweater.

Blinking his eyes open slowly, Matthew trained them upwards, smiling slightly as he met an equally drowsed crimson gaze and smirking pale lips. His entire body was relaxed and warm and he was the most comfortable he could ever remember being.

"Hey." Gilbert's sleep-worn voice breathed over him, his breath warm and sweet from the scent of chocolate. Matthew felt the hand under his side twitch just the slightest, the fingers picking up a soothing circular motion against his skin.

Matthew's own mouth tilted up into a soft smile, pulling his arm free from around his boyfriend's side, fingers trailing up to brush over the barely grown in silver stubble on his chin, tracing up around to his ear and pushing the hair back there. "Hey." He breathed, relishing in the feeling of complete contentment that surrounded him like a warm blanket. Slowly, carefully, he tilt his chin up, nudging against Gilbert's jaw with his nose. His own cocoa softened lips brushed against the lightly stubbled skin, leaving a slow trail of barely touching kisses. Through his slit eyes, he watched Prussia's lids drop slowly, a low rumbling sigh escaping through his parted lips.

Finally his lips settled against Gilbert's, just a firm pressing at first. He knew, however, that would not last long. His albino boyfriend had a habit of making every kiss as intense as possible in some way, shape or form. And indeed he did not have to wait long, the sharp inhalation of air his warning of sorts before Gilbert had tightened his grip on the skin of his back and tugged the smaller man against him firmly. He deepened the kiss slowly, a gentle brush of his tongue against Matthew's lower lip. With a gentle release of breath, the smaller man parted his lips just the slightest, an almost hesitance in the motion. Gilbert, however, continued forward without pause, pressing his way into the other man's mouth, elicting a slight groan as he explored the space possessively.

Matthew slid his hand back around under Gilbert's arm, gripping at the man's shirt once again; his head tilt back, beginning to return the kiss with fervor, his own tongue moving to greet the other's to which he earned his own groan. The vibration moved through his entire body, sending a shockwave of emotion and before he could put too much thought into the action, he had gripped both sides of the Prussian's shirt and maneuvered himself beneath the taller man, tugging the other on top of him in the process.

It wasn't a completely unfamiliar position for the two; they'd end up here quite a few times before only to pull away after a few moments, trying to shake off a sensation neither were quite ready to follow through with.

This time, however, Matthew found himself far more hesitant to push the other man away. The warm sensation rushing through his veins was intoxicating, his head feeling just the slightest bit light and when Gilbert pulled away, hands on either side of Matthew's back, eyes just the slightest bit concerned and uncertain, his decision was made.

Gripping the unsure Prussian by either side of his face, he pulled him back down, meeting him head on in one of the deepest, most wonderful kisses Matthew felt they'd ever shared. When he let his hesitation, his fear go, let it float away with the winter wind, he was left with the raw emotion that coursed through him. Love.

And Matthew loved Gilbert. He loved him more than anything he'd ever loved; more than he'd ever thought possible. His heart raced a little faster, his palms feeling just the slightest clammier. Everything in his mind was spinning with the thoughts. As though realizing it for the first time, the feeling nearly made him break away, his breathing hitching in his throat. He knew he'd loved Gilbert, he'd known for quite a while, but never how much. His entire world seemed to pivot on this one man's actions. His presence, his words, his smile. Every word, every emotion he gave, in turn, opened a new world of feeling to the Canadian as well, forcing him to realize just how deep his love ran for him.

He wasn't letting anything come between them. Ever. If Matthew had anything to say about it, he'd never leave Gilbert's side and he'd stick with him through whatever came their way. He'd give anything to keep what they had and he wanted to share that with Gilbert. Share everything he felt, everything he thought and dreamed and with Gilbert; he was never worried about that rejection. He'd always listen to him. Always want to be involved. Gilbert would never ignore him or walk away from him, of that he had no doubts. That in mind, Matthew made his decision and his move.

A low groan echoed through the quiet of their house, Gilbert's hands tightening on his boyfriend's sides, taking in the startling action before he began to reciprocate, his own hips sliding down against Matthews. A slow rhythm began between them, an unrushed rocking of hip against hip, their mouths connected in a constant attempt to become closer and closer. One of Matthew's legs slid up along the side of Gilbert's, wrapping around the calf carefully.

With the extra leverage in his grasp, the smaller Canadian egged their movements on a little rougher, grinding up against a hard pelvis, willingly meeting his eager motions with its own. Through their heated kiss, teeth clattering together and tongues sliding across one another, their breathing became a little rougher. Matthew felt as though he were drowning, inhaling all the air he needed through his nose, hearing Gilbert doing the same, neither willing to break apart lest they chance losing the moment. His hands grasped at Gilbert's shirt, sliding down his back to the hemline of the sweater, daring to play along the edges tentatively.

Gilbert, however, was not so hesitant. With a slight shiver, partially from the cold of his skin, the smaller country arched up against the hands sliding up against the skin of his sides, his shirt catching on the elder man's wrists, dragging it upwards with them. He nearly let out a whimper, desperately panting out a complaint when the kiss was broken. However, his shirt was quickly whipped away from his body and dropped to the floor and before he could make a sound, Gilbert's mouth was back against his, their lips sealed together firmly.

Feeling a little bolder, he, in turn ran his hands up under Gilbert's sweater, dragging his fingers up and down along the skin for a few long moments, tilting his head to deepen the kiss as much as he could in his position. To his relief, the other man took the hint, lifting away to tug his own sweater away from his body and dropping it to the side of the couch as well. One of Gilbert's hands moved up along his side, catching itself on the underside of his jawline, fingers tangling in the longer hair along his neck. Carefully, the taller man slid his leg a little farther between the other's, his free hand brushing along the bare skin of Matthew's side, angling himself purposefully. On the next imitation thrust, Matthew broke away from the kiss with a gasp, pressing his forehead hard into Gilbert's. At this angle, each of them could feel everything, the warmth of their chests and stomach's pressed flatly to one another and every inch of the hard sensation that was now sliding up against one another through the material of their jeans.

"Gilbert.." Matthew's voice broke, his breathing heavy and difficult as the other man moved against him. Instead of hesitating or questioning the forward movement of their actions, Gilbert's mouth aggressively met with the juncture of his love's neck, teeth nipping gently at the skin, the idle hand on his side sliding lower, daring to dip between them and brush a line up the now full hardness beneath the smaller man's zipper.

Instantly, Matthew's hips hitched forwards, his hands grasping at the beautiful contours of Gilbert's bare shoulders, forcing him up and into another rough, desperate kiss.

The reaction from Gilbert was instantaneous. His own hips arched forward, hand wrapping firmly around what he was able to grasp through the denim, stroking firmly twice downward. The fingers of one hand wrapped into Prussia's hair, tugging him impossibly closer into the kiss. In retaliation to the nails lightly scraping at his scalp, his own hand moved away from its current task in favor of tugging at the button at the edge of Matthew's jeans, letting out a satisfied half-sigh when it gave way. His fingers wiggled into underside of the fabric, nudging just the slightest, the zipper slipping a few notches as his hand worked its way inside.

Matthew broke the kiss, this time to press his face into the crook of Gilbert's shoulder with a heavy groan that nearly dissolved into a choked sob, his hips rocking up against the hand once more wrapped around him, this time with only the thin material of the cotton boxers he wore separating them. His breath grew hot and fast against Gilbert's shoulder as the man stroked him torturously slow beneath his jeans, teeth capturing the edge of Matthew's earlobe, breathing his own heightened breaths into the shell.

"Please.." came the whispered gasp, unchecked from Matthew's lips and he nearly wished he could take it back when Gilbert pulled his hand away completely and began to lift himself off. Matthew felt only the slightest bit childish at the snicker his boyfriend gave when he reached out for him nearly desperately, gaze begging him to come back. Gilbert, however, had another plan for his small love.

Matthew found his hands grasped in larger ones and almost instantly he was hauled to his feet and pressed against the Prussian's warm body. One hand moved to grasp the man's shoulder for support, the other holding up his jeans as he gazed up into the heavy crimson eyes. He watched as the near white brows furrowed just the slightest, the thoughts easy to read on Gilbert's face. "Matt-"

Pushing up on his toes, Matthew captured the stunned man in another kiss, this one just brief, but reassuring. "Yes, Gilbert."

In an instant, he was swept up, Gilbert dropping down into a squat to lift his boyfriend into his grasp, forcing the smaller man to wrap his legs around his waist, his arms clutching at his cooled bare shoulders. Matthew gasped slightly, then let out a soft chuckle, wrapping his arms tighter around the toned muscles under his grasp, leaning down to meet him in another kiss.

It took Gilbert nearly five minutes to maneuver his way up the stairs and down the hallway into their bedroom. Between nearly toppling off of the landing, slamming back into the wall when he lost his balance once and the mass of groping and kissing that his small Canadian was doing, it took all his concentration to make it the entire way without tossing the man down to the wood floor and climbing on top of him right then and there. He nearly said screw the bed. But they would regret that later, he was positive of that, so he'd deal with the strain of waiting, but damnit if it wasn't getting more and more difficult to do. Especially when Matthew's mouth was attached to his ear doing very inappropriate things like he was.

Finally, finally, he made it to the bedroom, nudging the door open with his foot and shuffling them in, just as Matthew reattached their mouths. However, instead of making it to the bed as Gilbert had been aiming, he end up falling back against the wall, hearing the glass of the pictures hanging in their frames rattle with the impact. Slowly, Matthew's legs dropped away to stand on his own, hands still tangled in his hair, tongue moving in teasing circles around his. Once the bare feet had hit the floor, however, Gilbert's hands regretfully left their post at a very lovely and firm ass (that he, of course, never fantasized about), sliding around to resume their previous duty. Delicate pale fingers wormed their way back into the hemline of Matthew's jeans, giving them little nudges until they dropped away to the ground. The smaller man took the hint and kicked them away towards the bed, never losing their kiss or his now dominance over it.

The hands continued their quest, dipping along the edge of the band of the boxers that were already hard-pressed to stay on his body. He teased the skin of his hip for a long moment until Matthew's ever errant tongue flickered against his own. Shuddering at the heated arousal it sent through him, Gilbert's hand slipped fully inside the plaid cotton, wrapping the hardened shaft in a tense grip, again stroking once downward.

The blonde pulled away again, gasped harshly and dropped his head to Gilbert's chest as the other man stroked him, tormenting him with his slow pace. His own hands moved around, eyes locked downward on his task as he pulled the belt open, knocking the buckle aside to get to the button and zipper, both of which he took care of simultaneously, all the while moving his hips just the slightest with the motion of Gilbert's strokes.

Gilbert was paying little heed to what Matthew was doing, his entire focus on the length he held in his grasp and the heat rolling off of it. Touching him like this, feeling him shiver with each stroke made his own arousal shoot through the roof. So distracted was he that when Matthew's weight disappeared from his chest, he was startled, watching in silent shock as the other man dropped to his knees before him.

The Prussian's head slammed back against the wall and he had to wince against the pain for a moment before his distraction successfully took it off his mind. He didn't bother to hold back the low moan that issued from his throat, the burning heat of Matthew's tongue against his now exposed self nearly too much to handle. Carefully he slid his fingers through the strands of hair within his grasp, chest heaving with effort. A slick tongue ran around the head of his arousal slowly, teasingly, before easing him into the moist warmth of Matthew's mouth. A sucking pressure nearly drove him insane, hands moving with the lewd motions of the Canadian's head.

For Matthew's part, he was thoroughly enjoying the sounds his lover was making above him. The soft unconscious jerk of his hips, the gentle shaking when he sucked or licked a certain way, the intake of air as his fingers brushed against the level of skin below where his mouth worked. The texture was soft and smooth with the underlying sensation of firm and he tasted clean and plain, not wholly unpleasant. The head against the back of his tongue was spongy and pliable and when he flicked just on the underside where it met the shaft, it caused a wonderful shudder to run through the man above him.

Gilbert's hands gripped against his head a little tighter as the tongue around him twisted a little rougher, a tight burning growing deep inside of his abdomen. "Matt…." He panted, squeezing the strands just barely in a slight warning. He knew he wouldn't last long and as much as he wanted to make this stretch out, it had been a while for the both of them, he was certain, and the way Matthew was sucking him down like that was leaving him little choice but to let go. He squeezed gently again, pulling one hand away to tap gently at his shoulder in case he hadn't heard.

Matthew, however, simply swatted away his hand, wrapping the free one he'd had against Gilbert's hip around his thighs and pulling him farther into his mouth, the suction increasing in strength, the tongue tormenting him beginning to flick and circle faster around the head and then down, only to swoop back up.

"Matt..oh gott…Matthew…" he panted, fingers digging into the shoulder angled below him, the other hand still on the now furiously bobbing head. "Matthew!" the cry rang from his throat, a strangled grasping of his lover's name as he came, the thick opaque liquid surging from the swollen crease onto the back of Matthew's tongue and down his throat. Ignoring any taste, he swallowed dutifully; hands still worked the heavily panting man above him.

Gilbert was certain he was going to drop to the ground if Matthew continued any longer with his torturous suckling, gently urging the man away from him and lifting him to his feet. Uncaring about where it had just been, Gilbert leaned forward to kiss him harshly, shoving his tongue deep within Matthew's mouth, backing him up in the process. Half-attentively he shoved the jeans and boxers off of his own body, leaving him completely nude. His hand then returned to aid in tugging Matthew's own boxers off, tugging at the cotton insistently.

With a gentle urging, he led Matthew to sit on the bed, pushing him back just the slightest. However, as the smaller man moved to slide backwards on the mattress, Gilbert simply smirked, shaking his head and grasped his ankle. In one smooth motion, it was now the silver-haired Prussian on his knees at the foot of the bed, hands hauling both Matthew's legs over his shoulders by the ankles.

With a startled cry, the Canadian fell onto his elbows, face flushing a deep pink when his thighs met with Gilbert's chest. Sparing him only a sideways intrigue, the Prussian wasted no time in dipping his head down, darting his own tongue out to sweep around the thick head of Matthew's cock, standing prominent for him. It twitched just the slightest, accompanied by a helpless whimper from the man above. Unexpectedly, crimson eyes rose to meet lavender, which widened in aroused surprise when Gilbert's tongue slid out once again. He made a show of keeping their eyes locked as he ran the slick organ around the shaft below him, flicking against the underside.

Matthew's body shook gently, though he wasn't chilled in the least. In fact, he was fairly certain he was ready to burst into flames. Eyes still trained on one another, Gilbert's mouth slowly sank over him. And sank…and sank. With a curse in what may have been French or perhaps even German he'd picked up from Gilbert, or maybe some version of twisted English, Matthew panted loudly when that sinful mouth settled fully against the skin of his groin, the entirety of his shaft within a very hot, very moist throat that was currently swallowinghim whole.

His mouth dropped open, a soft cry echoing through the room as Gilbert began to move. Soon the air was filled with the sounds of gentle moans and grunts to accompany the extremely lewd sound of wet sucking that only served to turn him on even more.

Having him settled inside of his mouth, Gilbert pondered, was one of the most intensely arousing situations he'd ever been in. He was fairly certain that, to date, it was one of the only things he'd ever done that would cause him to become hard so quickly again. But every noise Matthew made as he suckled at the tense flesh, every twitch and gasp and groan and cry (especially when he flickered his tongue against the opening like that) brought his own arousal back full force. He groaned around the stiffened cock when it twitched hard in his mouth and broke his gaze from Matthew, who allowed himself to drop back fully on the bed.

"Oh god, Gilbert…oh maple…." Matthew breathed, having to keep his mouth open to get enough oxygen to last through this. Giving this to Gilbert had been one thing, receiving it from him, knowing it was him down there, it all made it a completely different experience.

With almost no warning, it came, the sensation he knew well. "Gilbert!" he cried, pushing at the man, giving him the option as well. But Gilbert, not to be outdone, stayed his course, linking their fingers together and wrapping an arm across Matthew's hips to hold him down as he took him deep within his throat once more, swallowing harshly on the head, squeezing it within the confines of his mouth.

Instantaneously Matthew cried out loudly, shouting his name to the white washed ceiling as he came, forceful bursts of his orgasm swallowed heavily. His fists clenched white against the sheets and in Gilbert's own hand, likely leaving half-moon marks on the skin there. And, just as he had done, the favor was returned as the silver-haired man did not pull away, but continued to suck heavily against the quivering shaft. Finally the sensations became overwhelming and he bucked gently against him. "stop..stop..please…" the pants escaped his lips, a light sheen of moisture gathered at the crease of his chest, neck and forehead.

Still shaking with the intensity of his orgasm, Matthew reached out for his love, their hands twining together as Gilbert scaled the mattress towards him. The elder man crawled over him, half lying on the mattress, half covering Matthew as their lips met again, this kiss softer and sweeter than the last, a lingering touch filled with the love coursing through them both.

Hands moved languidly across skin, touching each crevice, simply enjoying the tingling left on their skin. Their kisses never broke away, slow and sensual to match each touch.

Carefully, Gilbert's hand slid down Matthew's stomach once more, fingers tickling along the line of his hipbone, elicting a slight giggle from the smaller man. He pulled away slowly, brushing his forehead down against the Canadian's, red eyes meeting his lovers steadily.

A hand gripped Gilbert's, lavender eyes training on his. "Um..I don't have any...um..." Matthew blurted out, clearing his throat nervously. "I...we could use something else or-"

"Hang on." The words interrupted the Canadian's embarrassed triad and he shivered slightly at the loss of the other man's body as he moved away, jogging from the room. Matthew's face flushed lightly and he held in a snicker as the lithe pale body darted down the hall, parts bobbing a bit hilariously, the Prussian's white bottom a bright streak against the deep tan of the walls.

After a long pause and a shuffling of material, the swift padding of feet signaled his return. Matthew again felt his face glowing red as the taller man returned to the room, not bothering to cover any portion of himself, and dropped onto the bed beside his boyfriend once more. Lavender eyes dropped to the object clutched in his hand and a delicate blonde eyebrow rose in question.

Gilbert paused at the look, shrugging. "What? I have a high sex drive." It was the elder man's turn to flush the slightest, the pink on his cheeks making him resemble a nervous teenager. "Especially when you're around und you bend over or something. It's an un-helpable reaction-"

He was cut off when a pair of slightly shaking hands pulled him down by his face, pressing their lips together warmly. After a long moment, he released the other man, pulling away just slightly, a bright smile on his face. "I'm just glad you find me attractive...it's flattering."

A burst of air from between Gilbert's lips preceded a soft chuckle and he leaned down to kiss his Birdie once more. "You have no idea what you do to me Mattie. No fucking clue." he nearly hissed, kissing him hard once again, dropping the small bottle near his thigh in favor of running his hands along his boyfriend's body heatedly. His lips brushed across flushed cheeks, pressing kisses all along the way, nipping at the skin of his neck and ear. He could hear Matthew's breathing increase once against, soft hands grasping at the skin of his arm and back again, holding him close.

"I love you." he breathed softly against the curve of Matthew's neck, kissing down around his jaw and back up to the other side. "I love you so damn much, Matt." He couldn't seem to get enough of the other man, his clean, slightly sweet smell, the taste of his skin, the wonderful touches of him grasping at him just as desperately as he was. Everything between them felt right, so warm, so perfect. It was cliché and Gilbert wouldn't have it any other way. Soon Matthew was panting again, fully erect once more, whispering his own love back to Gilbert through his attempts to breath.

The albino's fingers moved lightly across the heavy weight of the once again pulsing cock resting against Matthew's flat stomach, brushing downward to gently cup the loose skin below, rolling the orbs within carefully in his palm. A soft cry echoed in his ears and he felt his own arousal shoot through him in a stream of tension. The small bottle joined his hand, one of his own silver-hair peppered legs gently nudging at the back of Matthew's thigh, urging him to lift his leg up and over the side of Gilbert's hip, toes curling in and out with each teasing movement.

Matthew heard the soft click of the plastic cap followed by a light touch moments later. Careful fingers, slick with the lubrication brushed against him and he tried to force his body to relax the reactive clenching. This was by no means either of their first times doing something so intimate. Certainly over centuries of living they'd had their share of lovers. Whether for political gain or frustration upheaval, each country knew the other was no innocent. But he was certain it had been a while for the both of them. At least for him, he knew, it had been quite a long while. This, however, this was not political gain. This was not frustration or anger or any other reason that at the time might have seemed appropriate. This was for love. Only for love, each touch, each gasp, each kiss, none of it had anything to do with their statuses as countries. Just the way they felt for one another.

He sucked in a soft breath when the first finger slid inside of him, the other fingers (he couldn't even focus enough to tell how many now), still brushing wonderful teasing touches around the outside of his skin. Gilbert's mouth grew a little more adamant, kissing fervently along his neck and collarbone, sweeping down to draw another small gasp out of him when he teased a nipple. The motion helped relax him again and soon the first finger was joined by a second.

Gilbert paused until he felt Matthew loosen around the intruding fingers, careful to pull them back out slowly before pushing back in, just as leisurely. He wouldn't rush this, not when it had obviously been so long for them both. Slowly he began an in and out movement, listening to his Canadian's breathing, eyes slitting open as he kissed along his skin to watch the lovely barely tanned chest rise and fall. Gently nipping, he twist his fingers upwards, dragging them along in search of a particular point.

His face split into a grin against Matthew's collarbone as the man arched up into the hand, letting out a low groan of his name. "There..there..." he panted gently, fingers gripping at the wrist of the devious hand. Again Gilbert brushed the spot, listening to the gentle moaning the parted lips offered him. Carefully, keeping that spot in mind, he introduced yet another fingers, spreading them slightly and kissing away the slight frowning wince on the smaller man's face. He began his assault once more on the low drop of Matthew's prostrate, listening to the growing moans that came with each stroke. Watching his face, hearing his voice, every movement he made sent Gilbert's own heat spiraling through him, twitching roughly against the soft skin of Matthew's raised hip.

Fingernails of the hand gripping him dug in and violet eyes bore down into his startled red ones. "Gilbert, stop teasing me, damnit and get up here." Matthew nearly growled, grabbing at his shoulders and pulling him in for another deep kiss, an adamant tongue forcing its way into his mouth. Cautious of his movements, Gilbert complied, slowly removing his hand from Matthew and allowing himself to be tugged on top of the smaller man. Almost immediately, slim toned legs wrapped their way over his white hips, tugging him closer, accompanied by a whine.

With a soft chuckle, he pulled away, brushing his lips against the other's gently. "Hang on a second." It only took him a moment to click the cap open once more, a sigh issuing from his throat as he spread the cool lubricant over himself, brushing the tip against Matthew, who let out yet another whimper at the motion. Once he'd set himself straight, he moved both hands back up the smaller man's body, tracing each contour as he went. They were going to take this slow by god, and there would be no other way about it. There was time for fast and desperate later. Now was for them and all the time they had in the world.

Matthew's eyes blinked open slowly, watching the beautiful form of his Prussian lean in, hands braced on either side of his head, hovering closer and closer until he met him in one of the sweetest kisses he was certain they'd ever shared. It was slow, almost chaste and firm. He arched up into the kiss, arms moving to wrap around Gilbert's shoulders. Slowly, the taller country lowered himself, pressing forward as he did. The first two inches were the hardest, the head a little wider than the rest, causing the Canadian to hiss an intake of breath. The next few were better, the progression made easier by the slick medium. The last few, however, were what they'd both been waiting for. Once again, the sensitive spot inside of Matthew was brushed, elicting a sharp gasp from the man that slowly evolved into a deep groan.

Seated deep inside of the Canadian, Gilbert felt as though all breath had left him. They could get no closer at this point, nothing left between them. He could feel every tight contour squeezing around him, nearly painfully and found it difficult to hold himself up. The sheets beneath his tightened palms seemed no more an anchor than the bed they lay on. It took him a long moment to catch his breath, dropping the rest of the way down to brush his chest against Matthew's, his forehead brushing the other's, kissing him softly. The firm weight of legs across the bones of his hips shifted just subtly, urging him on just the slightest.

Ever so slowly, the Prussian pulled away, mouth still attached to Matthew's, before pushing back in. A soft whimper accompanied the end of the motion, only to find it repeated, just as slowly. His arms wormed their way under his companion, holding him close as he began to move, sliding forward, only to retreat and return again and again, his pace ever cautious. His entire body shivered with the heat that surrounded him, his thrusts slow and calculated.

Matthew's legs gripped harder at Gilbert's hips as he shifted inside of him. It was only slightly painful now. The fit between them felt right, full and perfect. Every movement was like peeling away another layer of tension and uncertainty between them. Any fear, any worry that may have been left there was being torn away, replaced with the pleasure of their actions and love. Deepening the kiss, Matthew shifted once more against him, tightening his legs and moving his hips to meet the downward thrusts into him.

The breath Gilbert had been holding hitched in his chest. Immediately he returned the kiss, pressing Matthew down into the mattress and picking up his pace just slightly. The now smooth glide in and out was incredible, the tightening sensation around his cock nearly too much to bear, especially knowing who he was inside of at that moment. One hand left his love's back, maneuvering down the slope of the hip lifted off the bed to grip at his waist. It hooked against the curve of the underside of that soft knee, lifting it even higher to change the angle of his thrusts just slightly. He pulled back most of the way, gathering his confidence and thrust forward rather roughly.

The reaction he received was immediate. Matthew broke away from the kiss, neck arching backward as Gilbert rammed directly against his prostate, causing a sharp spark of pleasure to surge through his body. The loud cry that resulted from that move echoed through the room the quiet of the moment and Gilbert paused, uncertain if the sound was made in pain or pleasure or shock. "Ma-"

"MOVE. Do that again, please Gilbert, just do that again!" Matthew nearly growled, nails digging roughly into the shoulders of the Prussian above him, the skin close to giving way.

Needing no more encouragement, Gilbert smirked, dropping his head back to the protruding neck below him and sucking harshly, pulling his hips away before slamming in again. He set a pace, hard but steady, not speeding up only the slightest, his own body shaking with the effort of holding back at the continued loud cries that his lover was making.

For his part, Matthew wasn't certain how much longer he was going to be able to breathe, so intense was the pleasure. Each time Gilbert moved inside of him, he was certain the dam was going to break, so soon, so quickly and he desperately wanted to hold on. Wanted to hang on that edge forever, but it was so very difficult. Those hard thrusts were bringing him towards an inevitable edge once again, this time so much more intense.

Gilbert, however, was not satisfied by the cries, the slight quivering of the body beneath him as he assaulted Matthew's senses. He wanted more, wanted everything he could drag out of the man, wanted to hear his voice go hoarse from effort. He wanted to know that every move he was making was satisfying him to the fullest. Smirking against the now lightly abused nipple he had between his teeth, the hand not holding up Matthew's leg slid away from his shoulder, dipping in between them to grasp at the rock solid arousal rubbing very lightly against his stomach. Giving it a tight stroke downward, he watched in satisfaction as Matthew let out what sounded to be a strangled sob, arching up into the touch. His thrusts never lost their strength, though they did finally speed up, catching Matthew off guard.

"Gilbert! I-I-aah!" The blonde Canadian cried loudly, grasping at the muscles on his Prussian's back, body shaking harder with the effort to hold back.

"Let go, Mattie, let go for me babe." Came the harsh, hot whisper against his ear, the breath moist and warm and just enough.

A small streak of frustration rushed through Matthew before it was forgotten, his body letting go of its own accord. His spine nearly cramped up at the angle with which he arched into the man above him, fingernails leaving deep imprints into the albino skin as he came with a loud cry of Gilbert's name, their stomachs slick with semen.

Gilbert grit his teeth against the sensation of Matthew's body tightening almost unbearably around him. Watching his boyfriend lose control, experiencing such pleasure because of him; he nearly lost it himself, but managed to hang on to the little control he retained, slowing his pace to gentle thrusts as Matthew began to come down from his high, panting so hard that his lungs rasped. The hands gripping him so tightly loosened, dropping away to grasp at his biceps.

Making certain that Matthew's eyes had slit back open, refocusing on his face, Gilbert raised an eyebrow just slightly, lifting the stained hand to his lips and making a show of licking it clean. With a groan, Matthew pushed himself upwards, knocking the hand away to kiss the pale man harshly, tongue brushing across his lower lip teasingly. He took control of the kiss for a long moment, still clutching the man to him as he began to push, rolling them out of their current position.

A startled noise sounded from the Prussian's lips, body falling away to the side. Matthew controlled their movements however, legs still encasing the taller man's hips between them, the still hard shaft wedged within him. Gilbert found himself most unexpectedly on his back, staring up at the beautiful sight of his lover, blonde hair askew, the curl a wisp to the side, seated firmly in his lap.

The smaller country bit his lip tightly, a deep flush permanent on his cheeks by this point. At the shocked look of the man below him though, his confidence rose and he smirked, running his fingers down the length of the pale torso beneath him, taking the time to pinch the skin here and there. He really was beautiful. All that long stretch of skin over the lithe muscle. Matthew couldn't imagine ever growing tired of looking at him. "That wasn't fair Gilbert. It's my turn now." He said quietly.

Before any response could usher from his lips, however, Matthew began rocking atop him and Gilbert found the only noise he could make was a deep groan. He kept his eyes trained on the man currently riding him at a slow pace, not wanting to forget one moment of this. Instead, he propped his knees up, giving a small amount of back support to his companion, hips lifting to meet the downward motion of Matthew's thrusts.

If he had thought for one instant, however, that this would be a slow crawl to his end, he was sorely mistaken. Instead, he found he had to brace himself against the almost rough movements, the tension in his abdomen already curling tightly as he watched himself move in and out of Matthew's body. That image, the knowledge of where he was, what his amazing boyfriend was doing, what this all meant, sent him spiraling all too quickly towards his doom and he leaned upwards, finding it near impossible to sit up completely. He could only grasp out towards Matthew's waist, clutching it tightly for support.

"Matthew! Gott, Matt, I can't….Mattie, I'm close, I can't-" the grunted words slid out in an effort to warn the other. The movements increased at his words, however and Gilbert found himself slipping quickly off the edge, fingers digging into those beautiful pink hips moving over him at a too fast, too wonderful pace.

With a low exhalation and a long groan, Gilbert flew into euphoria, eyes clenching shut. The intensity of his orgasm was one he'd never before experienced in all his years, a new level of amazement that rushed through him, filling the awestruck man still moving wonderfully above him, drawing out every bit that he could, dragging the pleasure out until it was nearly unbearable.

Matthew found himself nearly out of breath as well at the sensation that came with Gilbert's orgasm. It was a feeling he could quickly get addicted to. Both the physical and the emotion fulfillment of knowing what he'd done to make him feel so wonderful. His movements slowed not a few moments later and as though his muscles had been waiting for the right moment, his arms seemed to give out. He caught himself enough so that his fall was not a rough one, but rather a sliding of skin against skin as he came to rest against the Prussian's chest, feeling arms automatically wrap themselves around him.

"God Matt, I love you so much."

The tired smile on Matthew's face as he began to feel the vestiges of sleep crawl over him like a warm blanket could have lit up the dimming evening sky. "I love you, Gilbert. "

It took them nearly ten minutes to catch their breath enough to move, only to give up shortly after and crawl under the covers of the bed, leaving the clothes strewn about the room for the night. Once under the warmth of the down blanket, Gilbert tugged his boyfriend tightly against him, brushing his lips across his forehead and cheeks sweetly. Gentle fingers settled on the lower dip of his spine, holding the smaller man close against him.

"So…do I get pancakes in the morning?"

Matthew, who was close to drifting off shook himself awake at the lowly rumbled words before letting a small chuckle burst from his lips. "We just did all that and you are thinking about pancakes?"

"Hey, I love your pancakes. Plus, I was thinking I could persuade you to make them wearing just that apron. Get some use out of the counter."

Matthew startled at that suggested, leaning away just slightly to glance up at Gilbert's face, but his eyes were already closed and his breathing slowing down. "Very funny Gilbert."

"Hnn.." was the only response he got and Matthew pressed his smirking lips against the skin of Gilbert's chest, closing his own eyes and allowing the heavy blanket of warmth to take him deeper towards unconsciousness. "We'll see…"


Matthew awoke the next morning to the glaring rays of sunlight filtering through the uncovered window, shining a cool warmth down on their exposed skin. His head was buried in the crook of Gilbert's shoulder, both of the taller man's arms wrapped around his waist, a soft snoring breaking the gentle silence of the morning.

Carefully extracting himself so not to awaken his sleeping companion, Matthew brushed a soft kiss across the pale man's brow, taking him in in the light of the morning. He looked almost innocent laying there, mouth parted, grumbling noises rolling quietly from his nose, chest rising and falling with each calm breath. His pale lashes fluttered just lightly against his cheeks, the only sign that he was in a dream state. He was indeed a beautiful sight to see first thing in the morning and as the Canadian stood, he found himself looking forward to many, many mornings of waking to the same sight.

As it was however, he had every intension of cleaning up properly before making his way downstairs and whipping up a batch of the best pancakes Gilbert had ever eaten. Wearing the apron of course. And maybe just the apron, he smirked to himself, padding quietly from the room.

 

Chapter Text

Two sets of expressions, both torn between confusion and amusement watched as the American jumped around, fists pumping in the air, a chorus of 'yes's flowing from his mouth.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say he approves." Matthew smirked just the slightest, unconsciously leaning into Gilbert as the two watched while Alfred danced around the Canadian's living room. They'd finally decided to let Alfred in on their relationship status, provided he kept the information to himself. After much debate about his reaction, Gilbert had simply blurted out that they were dating and Alfred could either deal with it or go home.

To which Alfred had responded with his current state of being. A man-child dancing around happily in his brother's house, nearly knocking Kumajiro over in his excitement. He spun around once he'd sufficiently worn himself out, a large grin plastered on his face. "It's about freakin time!" he chuckled, moving forward to fling his arms around Matthew's shoulders. His stunned brother had only a moment to pat his back before the overly excited man had pulled away, quick to attach himself to Gilbert, who looked even more stunned.

"Well, er...we're glad you approve..?" the Prussian studdered, glancing over at his highly amused boyfriend for any sort of help.

"Al, let the guy breathe." Matthew chuckled, tugging at his brother's sleeve until the man let go, the grin on his face seemingly permenant.

"Oh man, this is great! You know what, let's go out. I want to treat you guys to dinner! We'll celebrate! Get some wine or beer or something alcoholic." he was nearly bouncing again and Matthew felt the sudden urge to tie him down to the chair. Or the floor. Some surface where he could no longer threaten either of them with hug attacks.

With just a bit more nudging and a heavy sigh, they finally gave him the benifit of the doubt and, much to both their surprises, had a good time. Alfred took them to a fairly nice restraunt on the outskirts of Seattle, eating on a balcony overlooking the city. The food was nice and though Alfred's questions were often invasive and sometimes rude, but his company wasn't all that unwelcome. They laughed and joked and talked for quite a few hours before Alfred returned them home, giving Gilbert a half-assed 'hurt my brother, i kill you' speech, stating that he knew Gilbert wouldn't hurt Matthew, but it was mandatory, these things.

Later that night, as Gilbert fell against Matthew's chest, both of their breaths ragged and loud in the quiet of the room, he couldn't help but relish in the thrill of finally having him so close. They'd been together nearly three months and still a thrill went through him each time they touched, kissed or spoke those wonderful words. His arms wrapped around the smaller man cradling him close as his body vibrated just slightly against his skin. Gilbert turned his head to press soft kisses along the skin of his Canadian's neck, grip on the smaller body tight.

Everything else in his life had always been such a blur, such a fast stretch of war and violence, then dissaray and chaos and then...Matthew. When Matthew entered his life, everything seemed to slow to a crawl. And it wasn't a bad thing. In fact, it was the best thing he'd had happen to him.

Before Matthew, months, years, centuries flew by with barely a blink. Wars came and went, countries whether ally or enemy were here and there. And then the wall fell and he was left in a slur of chaos, watching as everything around him moved forward. Still his brother, determined Ludwig, had insisted he stay involved in his country's affairs. He still claimed him, as fully as though nothing had ever changed between them. But then again, to Ludwig, they'd never truely been East or West, but Germany as a whole. And though his brother could be stubborn and firm, they were family.

Matthew, though, Matthew changed everything in him. From the first bite of pancake, down to the slightly panting man beneath him now, everything had slowed. It was no longer centuries or years or months, sometimes it wasn't even weeks or days, it was hour by hour, minute by minute of their time spent together. And even slower were the times he was forced away from him, especially now. Thankfully, with his brother, he had dear little Feliciano on his side effectively distracting the man for weeks on end so that he was rarely forced to leave his newfound home.

Dropping off to the side, he tugged the blonde against him, pushing the glasses still on his face back up his nose with a smirk. An inpromptu romp left them still half clothed, shirts simply pushed out of the way, pants at the end of the bed and hair askew. In all the fuss, Matthew hadn't even bothered to drop his glasses on the side table. "You alright?" he chuckled at his companion, who couldn't seem to catch his breath.

Matthew nodded, snickering a moment later and letting out a heaving sigh. "You sure can be aggressive." he commented, a blush following the words up the sides of his cheeks and neckline before he rolled over, settling his arm around Gilbert's waist, feeling the man chuckle beneath his touch. "And not to burst any bubble you may have growing, but we can't stay in bed the rest of the day.

The response he received of a groan and a slightly flailing man only served to widen his smile. "Now stop, there's lots to do today and we can't just lay here with no pants forever."

"And why not?" Gilbert grumbled, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend's waist and tugging him closer, taking the moment to bury his face against the curve of the other man's neck, one of his favorite spots.

Matthew flushed just the slightest, pressing a kiss to the top of Gilbert's head before pushing him away and moving from the bed to find his pants. "Because, there is another meeting coming up and for once they are actually having it in Canada. I have to talk to my government heads and get everything set up." He explained, tugging the pants back up over his hips and buttoning them in place. After a moment, he sighed, tilting his head at the man still sprawled across his bed, a slow smile slipping it's way across his face before he gave in, crawling back onto the bed and dropping down on top of the lazy Albino.

Crossing his arms, Matthew dropped his chin into the crease they created, staring up at Gilbert, who was very close to dozing off, red eyes peeking through barely slit eyelids at him, his own lips quirking. Neither said a word for a long moment before leaning to meet in a slow kiss. Once they'd separated, the Canadian slid off the side of the bed again, righting his clothes.

"Why don't you take a nap. It will probably take me a little while anyways and you look exhausted."

"Ja, I wonder why." Came the snarky reply, dulled down by the smirk that accompanied it. Slinging his arm over his eyes, Gilbert nodded his agreement, however, already feeling the heavy weight of sleep encompassing him.

Matthew chuckled to himself, slipping on a pair of shoes before exiting the room. Gilbert would likely sleep the rest of the afternoon away while he took care of governmental business.


Rubbing at his temples, Matthew tried desperately to ward away the severe headache that was oncoming. The voices booming around him were migraine inducing and it took everything in him not to just kick them all out of his country.

Not that most of them would even hear him. But that's what he had Gilbert for. Gilbert, his life savior in these situations. He could stand up for him when Matthew was unseen and unheard. And it didn't matter why the Prussian was yelling; it just mattered that he could be intimidating when the need arose. Even Germany listened when Gilbert had something loud and important to say. Normally, most just tuned out his loud ramblings about how awesome he was or times past, but when something truly important came up, he still held that respect. In that aspect, Matthew envied his boyfriend greatly.

As it was, they were all going on and on. Once again, Francis would not stop touching Arthur while Alfred was trying to convince Japan to build him a new space ship shaped like a burger or some nonsense like that. Italy was 'veee'ing all over the room and Germany, who was attempting to keep his cool, whilst yelling at America to kindly shut the hell up. Antonio had disappeared half an hour ago with his southern Italian man and Ivan was sliding every few minutes closer and closer to a very nervous Chinese country. All in all, it was a usual session.

"HEY! Shut the hell up! All of you!" Gilbert growled, slamming his hands down on the table. Almost instantly, the noise and action in the room began to slow down until most all of the other countries were staring up at the ex-country, some in disbelief, some in curiosity. "Gott…" he huffed, glancing to his brother, who cleared his throat to gain the attention of the now quiet nations.

Once Ludwig had begun his speech, Gilbert flopped back down in his chair, glancing back at Matthew. "These idiots are always too loud. No wonder the world is in chaos half the time, no one listens." He huffed, earning him a small smirk and pat on the hand from his calm boyfriend.

"You should see Christmas at Arthur's. It's worse." He chuckled, catching the sideways frown that Arthur sent his way at the quiet comment. Of course, of all of the people to hear him make a comment, it would be his critical father. He simply sent the man an apologenic half-smile, which again earned him a chastising head shake before the man's attention was back on the German leading the meeting.

"Glad I don't have to endure that…" Gilbert snickered, then frowned at the expression his boyfriend's face took on, leaning back and covering their conversation by leaning on one hand. "What?"

"I don't know…" Matt near whispered, doing the same motion so that they could speak with their heads close without drawing too much suspicion, save Alfred and Feli, who both snuck secret little smiles their direction, to which they promptly ignored. "I just….I guess I figured maybe eventually…?" he blinked, glancing up into Gilbert's swirling red eyes.

The taller man didn't answer for a long moment. "Well…I mean…I guess if we had to…" he winced, but found himself relaxing as the other man smiled just the slightest.

"Then again…I kind of like this being our thing. I mean, it's nice. Having time without worrying." Matthew admitted, letting his fingers graze against Gilbert's knee, tugging gently at the material of his pants. He bit his lip just the slightest, glancing away in thought. He did miss his family now and then and did wish that he could see them more often, but his time with Gilbert was so precious. Maybe…maybe if they just kept it for themselves a little longer. After all, Alfred knew, so it couldn't stay a secret that long.

"Maybe we could keep it a bit longer…I mean…it's not really as if they notice anyways, right?" he mumbled, biting at his lip.

Gilbert had to hold back the urge to lean forward and take the lip for himself, instead holding himself back with the hand on his cheek, instead smirking just the slightest back at the worrisome blonde beside him. "Hey, don't worry. Things will come out when they come out. Until then, we can just...go with it. Enjoy our time together."

Matthew nodded, smiling slowly after a moment and sitting back, his hand still on the Prussian's knee, hidden well under the meeting table.

After another two hours of screaming and whispered conversation, Ludwig called a break to the meeting to re-adjourn in half an hour. Almost immediately, Matthew found himself nearly bowled over by the countries eager to exit the tension of the room, the only saving grace being Gilbert, who grabbed his arm to yank him out of the way of the herd.


He really got tired of the selection in these stupid machines. They were never enough and when it said they had one thing, it was either gone or something completely different.

Sighing, Alfred shifted his stance again, tapping a glove covered hand against his chin thoughtfully. Fritos or Cheetos. Both sounded equally cool. Shrugging, he tapped both buttons at once, waiting to see what his surprise selection was.

The bag opened easily, though he knew Arthur would yell at him for getting cheese on those expensive gloves he'd bought him, Alfred couldn't seem to bring himself to really care. Right now he just wanted a snack. And cheetos…cheetos were perfect.

Turning the corridor leading in the direction of the meeting room, Alfred stopped in his tracks, cheeto between his lips at the sound of a heavy thud and shuffle from the closet just to his left. Immediately, his mind whirled. It could be a ghost. It could be a monster. Oh god, those were goosebumps making their way up his arms. Maybe it was his sixth sense telling him that something awful was about to-

Both eyebrows shot up on the American's forhead, followed by a slow smirk. Oh wait, he knew those sounds. It only took him a moment of quiet shuffling until he had his ear pressed up against the door, listening intently.

After another thumb, Alfred had to slap a hand over his mouth to stop from laughing out loud. He stood up straight, clearing his throat, grin still firm on his lips before knocking hard against the wood of the door. "HEY. SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN IS OVER KIDS. BACK TO THE MEETING!" he barked in the deepest voice he could muster, bursting into outright laughter as a crash and a few yelled curses followed.

The last thing he saw as he dodged around the corner into the meeting room was Matthew's finger flipping him the bird from the doorway, a string of French curse words echoing into the empty hall.

Chapter Text

It was a few days before his birthday, something that Gilbert had been going on and on about for a while. He and Alfred were plotting behind his back, he was certain of it and Matthew wasn't quite certain if he should be flattered or nervous. Perhaps both. His brother finally had an accomplice to try and 'embarrass' him as much as possible on his day. Though, gratefully, while he'd heard Alfred and Gilbert plotting in the kitchen, his boyfriend had suggested far more muted ideas than his brother, who had attempted on more than one occasion to convince Gilbert that they should rent a carnival for his brother's birthday.

But this day, this day in particular, a few days before his birthday was nothing special, nothing out of the ordinary. Matthew and Gilbert had fallen into a typical routine of a couple living together, though they kept their days filled with road trips or adventures, sometimes substituting just sitting down for a movie to keep themselves entertained. This day was just like any other day. At least...that's how Matthew assumed it would be when he woke.

However, the first thing he noticed was the lack of Gilbert. A frown settled against Matthew's brow as he gazed at the empty bedside, the warmth nearly completely gone from the bed, signaling that the warm body he'd been snuggled up against was long away. The second thing he noticed, however, was the small piece of white paper, almost unnoticeable against the white of the sheets, nestled comfortably against the pillow beside his where Gilbert's head would have been.

Curiously, the blond blinked away the sleep from his eyes, rubbing at them until the last vestiges were wiped away. He turned to the small wooden bedside table, slipping his glasses onto the bridge of his nose and paused a moment, smiling at the light coming into the room.

Quickly remembering the note, Matthew turned back around, the sheets and blanket falling into his lap. Lifting the note carefully, he unfolded the paper, a slight tinge of worry curling in his stomach. Gilbert had never left him without waking him first, letting him know that he was going to make food or that he had to make a run back to Germany for a day or two for an emergency.

'There's a robe in the bathroom when you are done with your morning thing. Put it on and come downstairs. ~Gil'

Matthew smiled gently, loving the idea that Gilbert knew his morning routine so well. Setting the note back on the bed, he moved through his routine with a sense of urgency. After a shower and brushing his teeth, he tugged on the fluffy blue, Prussian blue, of course, robe and made his way down the short flight of steps. Silence greeted him and for a moment he pondered calling out Gilbert's name, only to be met with another note, this one held with beige masking tape against the entryway to their kitchen. His feet seemed to move of their own accord, tugging the piece of paper off the wall.

'Breakfast is on the patio. Come on out, baby, I'll be waiting.'

The grin on his face widened at the words and the sweetened endearment. Once again, he placed the note back where he'd found it and turned, tying the robe around his waist on his way to the back door. The main door was left open and the screen door had been propped just slightly so that the cool summer breeze blew in through the crack. He did notice, much to his surprise, that the kitchen was nearly spotless. If Gilbert had cooked or prepared anything, he'd cleaned up very well.

He paused for a long moment in the doorway, a confused smile on his lips as he observed the scene before him. With the screen door pushed out of his way, he could see everything. To his right, the deck table had been decorated with a few candles, flickering in the light breeze that accompanied the slightly overcast morning. In the center of the table sat a bowl of various fruits, cold yogurts and breads on smaller plates surrounding it. Two chairs were sat openly, as though waiting for their occupants.

He only gave this a glance however, as he quickly spotted the stark white locks of his lover standing a couple dozen feet out in the yard. His brows furrowed at the sight that met him, thoroughly confused. Gilbert stood with his ever-present smirk, his old black military uniform pressed and starch straight; form-fitted against his skin. His hands were held stiffly behind his back, some large white squares in his hands. In front of his perfectly shined military shoes (Matthew found that fairly impressive considering how unkempt the man's clothes usually were) started a line that stretched all the way up towards the base of the deck stairs, made entirely up of squares. Each was made of white poster board and blanket, perfectly cut into one foot measurements.

The Canadian made to move forward, but stopped at the base of the steps when Gilbert raised a hand, signaling him to stop where he was. Matthew raised his eyebrows on his forehead, completely baffled by this strange act his boyfriend was taking on. Instead of speaking however, he waited patiently as the Prussian raised a finger, indicating that he should wait.

It seemed like long moments later when another move was finally made and Gilbert pulled the much larger pieces of poster board from behind his back, flipping them up in front of him. This time, however, the paper was not blank, but had bold black writing on it.

In a stack, he held the cards up in front of him, dropping them one by one to the ground as Matthew finished mouthing them silently.

Today I woke up realizing '

The first card dropped away to the right side, forgotten in the soft green of the grass in favor of the second.

I do not have words'

Another card dropped away, one by one, Matthew's smile slowly growing with each one, the confusion still written on his face.

'To express what you mean to me.'

On that card, Gilbert paused, smirking and winking up at his lightly flushed boyfriend, who simply shook his head before waving his hand for the smug Prussian to continue. With a little self-satisfied shrug, Gilbert dropped the card in his hand for the next, eyes never leaving Matthew's face.

'And there are not'

'Enough words in your'

'English alphabet to do justice'

'But I tried my best.'

He dropped that card as well, putting the rest behind his back once more with one hand, standing in what could only be described as a military pose before nodding and motioning towards the row of smaller cards at Matthew's feet.

After a moment's hesitation, Matthew knelt down to pick up the first card, its shocking white a stark contrast to the green of the summer grass. Lifting the paper, he stared at the blank sheet before realizing that there was writing on the other side. Flipping the sheet over, the letters were bold and bright against the white of the paper, the lettering written in a careful, beautiful script.

Z. Oh forget z, it's lame anyways. '

Matthew laughed, glancing up at Gilbert, who had a snarky smirk on his lips before taking the nodded cue to pick up the next card.

'Young at heart. Yeah, this one is lame too. '

Matthew chuckled again, shaking his head and slipping the card into line beside its predecessor before moving on to the next, each time glancing up at Gilbert. One by one, the cards were raised and read, each evoking a different reaction from the smaller blond Canadian, who seemed to be having a more and more difficult time of keeping his emotions in check. Each card brought him closer and closer to what he assumed was the goal. Gilbert. Who's smile grew and grew and who tried to stay steady though he was caught shifting on his feet every few moments.

Wonderful '

Underestimated '

Tempting'

Sweet '

Some of the cards were silly, some were sweet but all were perfect in Matthew's opinion. Because he knew that each of them came from the heart. How long had it taken his wonderful albino to do all this? Did he get up early or was he hiding this from him for a few days? The questions whirled through his mind, but the biggest one of all was the one plaguing him.

Polite '

Original '

Never Alone '

Mine ' a smirk accompanied this one as Matthew's cheeks flushed, that question tempting as he continued forward.

Why?

Irreplaceable '

Great kisser '

Fantastic Lover '

Closer and closer he approached, the smile on his face having faded just slightly as the emotion began to take over. Gilbert had a way; he knew just what to say, just what to do to break those walls down that he'd built so carefully until there was nothing left but himself, bared for all the world, or at least Gilbert, to see. The last few cards, however, those were the ones that nearly broke the dam. He had to take a moment to adjust his glasses, scrubbing at one eye irritably before continuing forward, his hand full of the cards he'd picked up along the way.

Everything I did not know I was missing '

Deceptively Tough '

Courageous '

Beautiful '

Matthew bit his lip tightly between his teeth to stop the moisture from swelling in the corners of his eyes once more as he lift the last of the pieces of poster board, turning it over to read the one word that he had a sneaking suspicion would be there. He laughed, holding the card against his chest for a moment and lift his head to glance up at Gilbert, who was now only a couple of feet from him.

Awesome. '

The period at the end of the word was purposeful, he knew. A statement, a fact, something that Gilbert wanted him to know he meant. Though he threw the word around from time to time, the meaning behind it was important to him. However, when Matthew made to move forward again, this time to embrace his wonderful idiot of a boyfriend, a hand was raised once again, urging him to stay in place. At least for a bit longer.

Dutifully, he stayed the course, holding the cards against his chest with both hands. Again, Gilbert pulled the cards up from behind him, flipping them up once more to present Matthew with another set of words, this time in that same beautiful cursive and slightly smaller since he was expected closer. As he read the words, each card moving away as he finished the one prior, Gilbert's eyes never left his face.

And even after all of those letters '

None of them seemed good enough to say '

What I feel for you '

With a pause and a deep breath, one that made a gentle warmth rush through Matthew's veins at the possible realization, Gilbert continued, turning the next few sheets before only the last one stood in his hands.

So I thought hard and decided '

'There are only five words that can'

Possibly express what you mean to me '

Whatever thought train had been going through Matthew's mind seemed to come to a halt, his entire being freezing in time, his heart feeling as though it would burst from his chest at any moment. He felt as though all of the air was sucked from the world and he was left in this one warm, shining moment, watching Gilbert drop the last card to the ground beside him, even the sound of the crisp board echoing over the suddenly silent wind.

His beautiful, wonderful Prussian boyfriend shuffled a bit, his hand struggling in his pocket for only a moment before returning, crimson eyes never leaving the watered lavender ones. Gilbert's own orbs were filled with a determination and seriousness that Matthew had rarely seen outside of their love making, when the taller man sought to find every inch of Matthew, both physical and mental.

Matthew's eyes flashed down to glance at the slightly shaking hands, something that he was trying desperately to contain, before moving back up to Gilbert's face, full realization hitting him. His world went from a dead pause into frenzy all at once, heart racing a million miles an hour, breathing hitched, watching as the silver haired man knelt down in front of him, clicking the box up and open to reveal a single banded silver ring, two smooth bands of black engraved down the middle.

"Matthew, will you marry me?"

Gilbert was unprepared for the body that collided with him, his arms suddenly full of a sobbing man, whose entire body was shaking. Sheets of white paper with words on them went fluttering around the couple like a mid-summer snow. Matthew's arms were tight around Gilbert's shoulders, holding him tightly, his face buried in the other man's neck. Fortunately, he left enough room so that the words he uttered were loud and clear.

"Yes, oh god yes."

And Gilbert, for all the strength and sturdiness he'd shown throughout the entire ordeal, let out a breath he hadn't know he was holding. He pressed his own face into the material of the robe that Matthew was wearing to force away the heavy tears beginning to gather in his own eyes. He tried to keep stern, but feeling the younger man shaking happily against him was too much for his heart. Instead he clung to his love, realizing a moment later that the box was still held tightly in his hand.

Kissing the peak of Matthew's ear, Gilbert pulled away just slightly, one hand still buried in the thick cushion of the robe, the other pulling around to present the ring once again. The sniffling Canadian man slid his own hands away to wipe at his eyes, giving a gasping laugh before taking the box. He held it open for Gilbert to wiggle the silver band from its nestled position. The smile on his face was a bright light, flushing his cheek into a deep pink.

With a matching grin, Gilbert slid the band onto the presented left ring finger, happy when it sat perfectly against the soft skin. He'd tried for weeks to find reasons to touch his boyfriend's fingers. From holding his hand, to kissing his fingers, he finally gave up and forced himself awake in the wee hours of the morning, measuring the size when he got a chance to make certain everything was perfect. God forbid they got to this perfect moment and the ring be too small or too big. It needed to be just right. Perfect. And it was.

Matthew glanced down, watching the metal gleam against his skin and relishing at how right the weight felt against his hand. Smiling brightly through the haze in his eyes, he turned his gaze upwards, bringing both of his hands up to brush away the errant tears that had stained Gilbert's cheeks. "I love you so much." He breathed, breaking the moment to lean in and press his lips against the other man's.


They'd eaten the chilled breakfast, hands linked together the entire time, laughing and talking lightly throughout the rest of the morning hours. Between tossing pieces of fruit at each others' mouths in not-so-well-aimed attempts, the conversation flowed easily. They spoke of plans for the afternoon and evening, discussed taking a trip to see Niagara over the late summer and of plans for the upcoming winter.

Throughout the entire breakfast, Gilbert's fingers brushed constantly across the silver ring settled perfectly against the curve of Matthew's finger, as though making certain it were truly there, that he'd truly agreed to be with him forever. And with each stroke, his heart swelled at the prospect of living the remainder of existence with the man he'd grown to love so deeply.

Chapter Text

Matthew reclined back in his chair, eyes focused on the gleam of light bouncing off the silver of the ring settled on his finger. The weight still felt foreign even two weeks later, but not unpleasant. In fact, it was a welcome addition to his normal self. It felt right, as though he hadn't realized that he'd been missing it until it was there. Just like Gilbert.

Gilbert was a hole that had been hidden away, a place he'd always felt was empty but had never been certain of what would fill the void. And so, Matthew had lived most of his life before not knowing what was missing, Not realizing that all this time, another lost and broken country was right before his eyes. That that same country would become the missing puzzle piece his heart needed to feel complete. He'd felt it once upon a time. When living with France at a very young age, he'd felt much love and kindness, but as he'd grown, became the underling for many other nations, that emptiness was left to fester.

Then came Gilbert.

Matthew sighed, glancing up when a steaming cup of tea was placed before him. He happily accepted the kiss as a morning greeting, smiling as the very object of his thoughts sat across from him at the table, taking a sip of his own tea.

"You alright? Spaced out there, birdie." Gilbert commented, crimson eyes focused and a little concerned.

The Canadian man smiled over at his worried boyf…fiancé and shook his head. "I'm fine. Just lost in my own little blissful world I suppose." He chuckled, giving a purposeful grin the other man's way. The taller silver-haired man smirked back, a light flush crossing his cheeks.

"Ja, I know the feeling." He sighed, leaning back into his own chair, eyes never leaving the younger man's face. After a long contemplative moment of sipping from his cup, he spoke again. "So. How're we going to do this?"

Matthew seemed to snap from his thoughts, face crunching up in thought. "Well…I mean, no one really knows about us, except for Alfred. I guess… I guess we could call a couple of people, the important ones of course, and let them know…"

"Just send invitations, see who shows up." Gilbert snarked, earning him a light glare from his lover.

"Maybe at the next meeting. We could announce it to everyone so they know…though I'm not sure what kind of reaction we'll be getting…that could be messy." Matthew sighed, shaking his head and taking another sip from his cup. His eyes wandered away as a contemplative silence fell between them, his gaze falling on two spring birds outside. They were putting small repairs onto their nest already full of small cheeping baby birds, a couple hopping around as they learned their first movements.

For whatever reason, Matthew felt jealous of them. In their own little world, they had no one to answer to but themselves. Their family grew each year, children growing and making more children. Their complications were restricted to what types of material they needed to nest with and how many worms were near the surface of the ground each day.

"What if we just did it when we wanted. Really, we don't need anyone but Alfred there to verify us, right?"

Gilbert blinked over at the smaller blonde man, eyebrows high on his forehead. Truth be told, he'd not wanted any sort of confrontation, but felt that Matthew would want his family to know before anything went further than it already had. "You sure, Matt? I know I'd be fine with that. But I don't want you to regret anything…"

"Gilbert, I wouldn't regret it. Yes, I know we will have to tell them eventually but…this is my life. And your life; this is our life. Not theirs. We have come so far on our own and it's been wonderful, I just.. I guess I don't see the point in possibly ruining that now. I know what I want." He sighed heavily, meeting Gilbert's eyes head on. "I want you. I want us. I don't need anything else right now. I do want to tell them eventually, but right now is for us. I know that may sound bad, but they all have their own lives. And I want mine. With you."

The flush that rose on Matthew's cheeks at his bold words made Gilbert think that he couldn't possibly love this man any more than he already did. "Then that's what we'll do. Just us and your brother." He nodded, reaffirming Matthew's choice.

"So, I guess we just need a date or whatever. I mean, how long do you want to wait, eh?" Matthew sipped at his drink, trying to force away the almost nervous blush that had spread over his skin. Since Gilbert had come into his life, he'd been far more protective of their relationship than anything else besides his country and people.

The taller man shrugged, standing to place his now empty mug in the sink. He turned to lean back against the counter, crossing his arms over a bare chest. "Doesn't matter to me, babe. We could do a small wedding in fall or something. Go wherever you want."

Matthew hesitated for a long moment, silence falling on the kitchen morning as the two men stared at one another. Carefully, Matthew spoke, his words careful and decided. "Or we could always just go to the courthouse."

Gilbert's face was the definition of calm, his mouth twitching just the slightest at the other man's words. He, too, paused before speaking, eyes never leaving Matthew's lavender gaze. "We could. We could do that…anytime really."

Matthew took a deep breath, biting at his lower lip before letting the words burst from his throat, an anxiety burning deep in his stomach. "We could go today."

"We could."

In an instant, both men had smiles pasted on their faces, their hands moving anxiously at their sides, knowing they felt the same. After a long moment of staring at one another,

Matthew stood, moving to lean into his lover's automatic embrace. "Is that what you want?" he asked gently, not wanting to push any farther than was welcome. His hands rose, clasping carefully around Gilbert's arms, the hands on his own waist a weight to keep him standing upright.

Gilbert was quiet for a long moment, only searching Matthew's eyes as though looking for something. The smirk, however, never left his face and instead grew just the slightest bit wider. "Matt," he finally spoke through the quiet of the morning, "I want you. And honestly, the sooner I can call you mine, the better. So tell me, Matthew, what're we waiting for?"

The smile that broke across Matthew's face, Gilbert thought, could have rivaled the sunlight.

Not that he hated mornings. Oh no, that was never the case! Mornings were great. They were for a good hot cup of coffee, sitting out on the porch and watching the sunrise. Or riding around in an old beat up truck and hitting up garage sales before all the good items were gone.

Alfred loved waking up for all of these reasons and more. However, there were days for sleeping in. And this was one of them. So when he'd received the call at eight Am his time, he'd all but thrown the phone across the room. However, the urgency in his brother's voice had quickly calmed him of his tempter and now, two hours later he stood, tapping his foot impatiently.

For a Wednesday morning, the courthouse was fairly empty. The hallways were quiet save for a few footsteps echoing on the shining tile floors. Checking his watch once more, Alfred looked up just in time to see Gilbert and Matthew enter through the front double doors, both wearing suspicious smiles.

"Mind telling me what we're doing here and why you guys are dressed up like your going to a conference or something?" Alfred huffed, feeling severely underdressed next to the nicely pressed suits and ties the other two wore.

"You'll see, Al, just come on, we have an appointment and we're going to be late. " his younger brother breathed, tugging at the sleeve of his flannel to urge him along.

The three quickly moved their way through the halls, Alfred hanging back with a widely grinning Gilbert, who only wiggled his eyebrows at the other man's confused look as

Matthew talked quietly with a receptionist at a desk just outside a courtroom, taking a few papers from her. A few moments later, the double doors opened and an officer welcomed them into the small room.

At the front of the room sat a large wooden table on a slightly raised platform behind which sat an elder man in a black robe. He glanced up from his paperwork, smiling down over his glasses at the men.

Alfred quickly found himself steered towards the front row by his brother's insistent grip, being sat on the wooden pew and told to hush when he began bickering about wanting to know what was going on. Ignoring his protests, the two other men moved towards the bench, talking quietly with the man, who was nodding and smiling at the two as they handed him the paperwork.

The elder man in black stood, clearing his throat before sending a pointed look at Alfred and waving him towards the bench. Hesitantly, the American stood, shooting Matthew a highly confused look as a paper was slid in front of him, his signature obviously expected.

"Matt, Gil, what the heck is going on? Why are we here?" he whined again, glancing between the two grinning idiots. To his surprise, it was a beaming Matthew that responded, patting a hand on his shoulder.

"We're getting married and you're the witness. Now hurry up and sign that paper!" he chuckled.

Alfred's facial expression was perfect. One moment he blinked in confusion, the next he was letting out a whooping cheer, jumping up and down and hugging a laughing Matthew and Gilbert. Finally, the clearing of a throat caught his attention and he quickly scribbled his signature on the paper before bounding back over to his seat and plopping down, an enormous, almost annoying grin plastered on his face.

The grey-haired man cleared his throat, glancing between the two before opening his mouth to begin. "Yes, well, we are ready to start. Dear friend, we meet here for the joyful purpose of joining Gilbert...Bei...Beilschmidt?" he glanced at Gilbert, who smirked, but nodded, "Right, and Matthew Williams. As you begin your journey, may I offer for your consideration, some very important virtues? Among these are; love, loyalty, respect. The marriage contract is most solemn and should not be approached lightly, but rather respectfully."

Matthew wasn't certain, as he could barely keep his focus on the judge speaking to them, his hands slightly shaking in Gilbert's, but he could have sworn there was a slight sniffle from the pews behind where they stood.

"Gilbert, do you take Matthew to be your lawfully wedded husband, do you promise to love and protect him, to honor and respect him, to keep him in sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad, forsaking all others so long as you both shall live?"

Matthew turned his gaze back to Gilbert, stunned to find the man pursing his lips together, a thick sheet glinting over his eyes, but he did not hesitate to speak. "I do." The rush that ran through the small Canadian's heart settled on the fact that they were actually here, actually doing this. And in that moment, he doubted he could have been happier, or that it could have been more perfect.

The man's voice broke their gaze, again cutting into the minds of the pre-occupied men, both spilling over with emotion. "Matthew, do you take Gilbert to be your lawfully wedded husband, do you promise to love and protect him, to honor and respect him, to keep him in sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad, forsaking all others so long as you both shall live?"

Matthew was certain later that he had nearly belted out his 'I do' in his excitement and this time the heavy sob that came from Alfred, who at the moment sounded like a weepy elderly woman, breaking down it the pews behind them. That brief image brought for a bubbling giggle from the small blonde's lips and a matching chuckled from Gilbert, who took a moment to glance in disbelief over at Alfred before the elderly man continued, apparently used to outbursts of emotion.

"You are now about to give each other your solemn vow that you will love and honor each other for an eternity. Gilbert, I will start with you, just repeat after me." And with each line, Gilbert's voice, shaking and full of joy echoed the words the judge spoke, Matthew following the same procedure to bind them together. "I take you to be my lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, to love and cherish, always. "

The exchange of rings would later be seen as a little bit ridiculous. Not having thought it through, they both chuckled, pulling the ring off of Matthew's finger only to replace it and 'borrowing' a ring that Alfred had been wearing on his thumb for Gilbert. Later Gilbert would question Alfred as to why he was wearing a thumb ring, only to be smacked on the shoulder by his new husband.

Matthew felt the moisture in his own eyes welling up, though his heart was not filled with sadness, but with absolute love for the man in front of him. The judge's voice finally broke into his thoughts and he felt his heart beating heavy in his ears. "Now that you have been joined, may your lives be filled with love and devotion. By my authority as civil councilor, I now pronounce that from this day forward you are legally bound as husbands. Congratulations."

In an instant, Matthew had grabbed Gilbert by his lapels and tugged him down, both enthusiastic to share in their first kiss as husbands. The judge gave a polite clap, tight lips pulling into the smallest of honest smiles. Behind them, Alfred had stood, attempting to shuffle his way around the small cramped pews. He embraced the two, breaking their kiss prematurely and the three burst into laughter.

After a long moment, the robed elder cleared his throat, sliding more paperwork over the edge of the desk. "If you will just fill these out and sign, then we will be done." He smiled gently, settling a pen down on the papers.

Matthew filled out the first portion, handing it to Gilbert once he was done. Gilbert's eyes glanced over the writing, darting up to meet his new husbands. "Mattie…are you sure?"

Matthew chuckled, leaning to press his lips against the taller man's cheek. "Gilbert, you've already given me so much. You should have something you can really call yours." He muttered softly, smiling down at the paper, the 'last name' slot filled in with the beautiful script of Beilschmidt. Gilbert gave him everything. All of himself, everything he had; his love, his time; brought him more joy than he'd thought possible and Matthew could think of nothing more he wanted than to have his husband's last name as his own.

The smile that spread over Gilbert's face was one that Matthew would not forget for the rest of their days. Years later, he would recall that smile and sometimes just write his name down again and again on a sheet of paper to see it. To know that that last name was his as well and that it made him completely his husband's.


*present day*

"Gilbert, have you seen the wok?" Matthew called through the house, struggling to stretch high enough to reach into the top cabinet, but having issues with the large belly blocking him. "I can't find it and I want Chinese food."

A yell echoed back at him, but it was too far back in the house to be clear. With a sigh, he turned, placing his hands on the cabinet. "What?" he called back.

Again a muffled yell came from back, likely in the new baby's room and he sighed, turning to reach up again.

Before he could open his mouth to yell at the other man to simply come in the room and reply to his question, a sharp pain went through his abdomen, shooting down his spine and the top of his hips. In an instant he was leaning against the cabinet heavily, breathing roughly through the pain. "GILBERT!" he yelled, wincing as another throb shot through him.

He heard the thudding of his husband's footsteps as the Prussian neared, skidding into the kitchen, eyes wide. "Matt? Matt what's wrong?"

Panting, he glanced up, frowning at the new but still familiar sensation; the uncomfortable slick feeling between his legs. "We need to go. We need to go now. It's time, we need to go, let's go, now." He huffed. Before he could ponder another action, another thought or word, Gilbert had wrapped an arm around his waist and began to usher him to the car, urging him to breathe through the sudden contractions.

Their baby was coming.

Chapter Text

Oh god, what was he going to do? What would Gilbert say? What would Gilbert do? Not that he ever thought the man would hurt him, god no, never. But would he leave? Would he get angry or scared or nervous? Would he decide this all wasn't worth the trouble once he knew?

Sure, Matthew could keep it a secret for a while if he wanted, but how smart would that be? Because one day he wouldn't be able to keep it to himself any longer and not of his own choice. He would be forced to tell Gilbert. Better to get it over with first thing. Rip the proverbial band aid from the wound as it were.

Not that Matthew thought it was a bad thing. In fact, he was quite happy. Just another flower to the bouquet that life seemed to be handing him these last few years. But would Gilbert see it as a weed.

Then again, would Gilbert really have a choice in the matter? He could just tell him what was what and leave it at that, but that's not how marriages work. No, you work together when you are married. You give and take equally. Share and share alike. You work through your problems together as a couple. And that's what he planned to do.

That didn't stop him from worrying his head off. Or pacing the hour prior to Gilbert's arrival. He'd asked him to go do the shopping while he'd been at the doctor's office. Get more out of the way at one time. Now he was starting to regret it. When it came to shopping, Gilbert had a tendency to go overboard.

And so it was no surprise that when he strolled into the living room, it was with more than a dozen bags attached to his arms. Gilbert grinned brightly at his husband, sauntering past his position on the couch to drop the heavy load of sacks on the modest kitchen table. Once he'd deposited the mass of bags, he returned to the living room, set on going to get more when he realized that Matthew was still sitting on the couch, mouth hidden behind his clasped hands, leaning forward over his knees.

"Matt? Babe, what's wrong? What did the doctor say?" he asked gently, worry creeping into his voice as all thought of the open door and the remaining groceries fled his mind. Instead he moved to squat in front of his husband, hands brushing over the obviously worried man's arms.

Countries didn't get sick often, but when they did it was either very minor or very serious. And the look on Matthew's face didn't make him think kindly of the former. Two weeks prior, the sickness had begun. It had started as a simple light fever, nothing unusual for seasonal changes with Matthew, but then the exhaustion had begun. He'd slept in longer, complained of a few body aches and headaches. It wasn't until three days ago that the nausea and often early morning vomiting had begun that Gilbert had started to take the sickness serious. And it took those three days for him to convince Matthew that it might be as well. That he should visit the doctor's just in case. Even as countries they were not immune to all things.

"Matt, come on, answer me, you're scaring me." He said softly, leaning forward to brush a kiss against the smaller man's forehead.

Matthew pulled away and stood, pacing for a moment before turning to face his husband with a resolved expression. "Gilbert. I…I did go to the doctor. And I know what's wrong. Well, I mean it's nothing wrong. It's just…a condition. A thing that's going to last a while." At his husband's confused frown, he continued, wringing his hands together. "I'm scared to tell you."

Gilbert seemed taken aback by the bold statement, his eyes shining with hurt before Matthew continued. "I don't know how you will take it. If you'll be angry or upset or…or something else, I just don't know. But I'm nervous. So….so I guess I just don't know how to tell you."

"Matthew, just say it. Whatever it is, we will work through it, alright? Trust me und just say it." Gilbert said softly, a nervous fear growing in his own eyes.

A deep sighed echoed through the silence of their house for a long moment as Matthew gathered his courage. "I'm pregnant."

Silence.

Gilbert blinked, staring at the man standing away from him, still wringing his hands together. For a long moment he didn't move, didn't say anything, only stared as though trying to decide whether Matthew was joking with him or not. However, the look on his husbands face made it all very apparent that the man was far from kidding. He was scared, he was nervous and all of the symptoms of his sickness suddenly seemed to make sense.

The vomiting and nausea.

The body aches and headaches.

The strange mood swings that had come over him lately.

The exhaustion, everything.

It all made sense.

Matthew stood still as well, frowning just slightly as his husband froze, eyes just a little wide at the statement. "Gil-"

The smile that broke across the Prussian's face was nothing short of brilliant. In an instant he was swept up against the taller man's body, arms tight around him and laughter ringing in his ears. He hoped, but didn't dare to hope too much as he pulled back just slightly. "Are..are you okay? I mean with this?"

Gilbert stared down at him in disbelief. "I'm going to have a family! Of course I'm okay!" he laughed, hugging the other man again, feeling the tension ebb from his body. "My husband is going to have a baby. This is…this is crazy! But great! I'm going to be a dad!"

Matthew laughed. He'd expected resignation, never excitement, but the thought of Gilbert's thrill rushed through him like a drug and soon he was laughing as well, relishing in the idea of being a father to a son or daughter. "It's exciting. Granted a bit weird, but Doctor Kinsler explained it to me…" He chuckled, falling easily onto Gilbert's lap when he steered them towards the couch.

A moment later a hand was on his flat stomach and he raised an eyebrow down at the albino, who began speaking a mile a minute. "Is it a boy or a girl? Do we know? We need to make a baby room. And get toys! And a crib! And clothes!"

The Canadian's laughter filled the room, his own hand joining Prussia's. Well…at least he was happy about it. That would make breaking the news of twins much easier.


Gilbert's hand wrapped around his was a steady reminder that there was more than just the pain. He'd done this twice, well three times really, already. He thought he may have been used to it by now, but it appeared that was not the case. Matthew glanced to his husband, inhaling through another contraction. He studied the tired, worried face of his husband. The man had one hand tightened on the grip of the steering wheel, speeding through the winding back roads of the small town, determined to get to the hospital as son a possible. His other hand was twined tightly with the nearly white one of his husbands, the Canadian's ring digging roughly into the callous' on his palm.

"They seem stronger than last time. Are they?" the Prussian asked, forcing Matthew into the conscious conversation, just as he'd been drifting away from the pain. A short nod was his answer first, followed by words when he realized that Gilbert likely hadn't seen the motion. "Yeah. They're pretty bad this time around. The baby is coming quickly I think. They are close together too. And sharper. Doctor Kinsler said that might be normal if the baby is pushing upwards with its feet though." He ground out, attempting to distract himself with words.

"That's good though. Facing the right way. And strong." Came the response, accompanied by a beautifully bright smile.

The cell in his pocket buzzed loudly, La Marseillaise filtering through the speakers. Matthew was quick to click the phone open, pressing it against his ear. "Qui. Nous y sommes Presque. Vous êtes? Oui, je vous remercie. Un fauteuil roulant va être sympa. Merci, papa. Je t'aime aussi. " he panted, closing the phone when the line went dead on the other end.

"Papa and Arthur are already there. Alfred is on his way with the kids."

"Good, good. We'll be there soon, okay? Just breathe, you know this routine." Gilbert smirked, squeezing the hand in his.

The drive had seemed so long by the time they got there that Matthew was certain this baby was coming with or without a hospital. The others had been relatively slow births. The boys had taken nearly ten hours from the time they got to the hospital and Alberta had taken almost twenty-four. This time, the baby wasn't taking no for an answer, it seemed.

Arthur was already outside with Francis when they arrived, a wheelchair and a nurse at the ready. The two elder men's eyes shone with excitement and concern, both ushering him into the wheelchair, France yelling at Gilbert to hurry up and park the car so that he didn't' miss anything.

Matthew laughed as they wheeled him in, chiding loudly at Gilbert for the horrible parking job on the curb, the man running in after them, his hair a complete mess. He'd likely tugged at it as he tried to escape the confines of the vehicle. Births always did that to him.

Soon enough, he was again at Matthew's side; hand in his hair and brushing it back as another rough wave of contractions flooded through his body. He shuddered at the sharp pain, still unused to the severity.

Dr Kinsler was already waiting in the delivery room, gloves on his arms. "Welcome back, Matthew; Gilbert. I'm sure you're both ready for this to be done with." He chuckled lightly, receiving two welcoming grins. The Doctor busied himself with quickly laying out a blanket and forceps while Gilbert rid his husband of the remainder of his clothing, slipping one of the starched hospital gowns up his arms.

"Hey doc, he's been ready since about Fourth Street." Matthew laughed, ignoring the indignant glare he received from his husband in favor of pulling himself up on the table, automatically propping his legs up into the ever familiar stirrups. Anyone else, anyone who may have not given birth would have found the quick action a bit strange or disconcerting. But after having ever so many exams and birthing three children already, Matthew was beyond formalities with the bed. In fact, he and this bed had quite the intimacy going. He was very certain at any moment Gilbert may break out in a jealous rage.

That thought brought an amused smirk to his face before he grit down again, the pain pushing downward inside his hips. Immediately he found the room a bustle with activity. The doctor and three nurses were at the base of the bed, settling the stirrups a bit higher and placing a dressing gown up and over his knees. "There's not going to be time for an epidural, Matthew, we're going to have to bear through this, alright?" Dr Kinsler warned, glancing up to meet the other man's eyes.

Gilbert felt a bit stunned at how quickly everything was moving, but Matthew's resigned nod made him feel just a bit more assured about it all. If his husband was willing to push through, that meant that the baby was coming a lot sooner than the others. As if to confirm his words, the doctor glanced to him, smirking. "This is going to be quick Gilbert; I suggest you get ready to meet your new son or daughter."

A thrill rushed through his veins and he gripped at Matthew's outstretched hand again, lifting him up just slightly as another nurse pushed two long pillows under his back, arching him forward and forcing a hiss from his lips.

At that very moment, Arthur and Francis had successfully argued their way into the room, shuffling around the other side of Gilbert to stand at the head of the bed beside Matthew. Dr Kinsler only gave them a glance before another contraction distracted him and he bent to check the progress of his patient's dilation. Matthew turned his head upwards, smiling brightly at his two fathers and reaching up to combine their hands together in a solid grasp. "I'm glad you came." He breathed, his other hand squeezing Gilbert's to assure him he wasn't forgotten. "You should be here for your grandchild's next birth." He added, leaning forward with another contraction, of which were coming sooner and sooner.

"We would not miss this for the world, I already told you that. Thank you for calling us, it's fortunate we were able to get here so quickly." Arthur added, clenching the hand twined with Matthew and Francis', the other brushing some of the errant blonde strands from his son's face.

Gilbert seemed to pause at the statement for a moment before piping in his own commentary. "Just how did you both get here so quickly? I know there are direct flights from England, but France usually takes a four to five hours layover."

The brief silence that filled the room could have been deafening as Matthew and Gilbert's eyes both turned on the other two men, their faces only slightly flushed. Francis coughed and pat the combined hand hold that Matthew didn't seem to be loosening anytime soon, chuckling just lightly. "Ah, not to worry yourself, Mathieu, it was luck, oui. We jus…we 'appen to 'ave been in ze same place at ze same time."

Arthur seemed to relax at the statement, what could be interpreted as a grateful glance shot towards the Frenchman. "Yes, yes, indeed. And the flight we caught was a private international, so no problems getting here quickly."

Matthew frowned just a little, quirking a brow at the two. "But even coming from England ga-!" he choked, leaning forward with a fresh wave of pain. "Oh god, there it is."

"Yes, Matthew, you would be right." Doctor Kinsler chuckled, settled on a small stool in front of Matthew's spread legs, his hands beyond the curtain of material. "You are fully dilated so this is going to be fast. I'll let you know when I see the head. For now I just need you to push slowly, get the baby to come down this way." He urged.

Matthew nodded, gripping the hands in his own before pushing himself upwards, forcing his stomach to compress and push at the child within him. A fresh wave of sharp pain swept through him and he whimpered, clutching at his family. "Oh god, that hurts. The baby has to be kicking me or something." With a grunt, he relaxed back, knowing the proper amount of minutes to push at his body before he needed to take a break. A few moments later, he repeated the process, groaning as he pushed just a little bit harder, trying to feel the baby push through the canal, but to no avail.

Doctor Kinsler's face screwed up momentarily before he leaned forward. "Matthew, I'm going to try and feel for the baby, alright? I need you to relax while I do this. I want to see where it's at."

At Matthew's nod, a hand began probing. He winced, turning into the hand, which one he wasn't exactly sure of, that was brushing away the slightly sweat stained hair from his face. He thought of his boys, his little girl and the baby inside him and relaxed just a little more. He was ready, so ready to meet his newest child. To bring them into the world, into the family and show them all the gifts that he and Gilbert had gotten. Ready for Alberta and Jacques and Lukas to beg to hold their new sibling. Ready to be a papa to another wonderful baby. One that, this time, they could share with everyone. He glanced up, feeling the warmth explode in his chest at the thought of Arthur and Francis holding their newest grandchild. Finally able to be there for the birth, to grow with them and dote on them as he and his husband had done their children before. Ready for the diapers and the feedings and the baby songs.

"Matthew, I need to you push as hard as you can and as quick as you can. And I need you to do it now. We don't have time to get to a c-section, but I need you to breathe and push." Doctor Kinsler's voice cut into his thoughts, bringing him back to the present and he frowned down at the concern etched on the human man's face.

"What-" his face screwed up in pain again and this time, he pushed with the contraction, gasping at each wave of pain that rolled through him. That wasn't right. This wasn't right. Something was wrong. Something was-

Arthur's voice cut through the air, followed by Francis and Prussia, all speaking at once in their state of panic.

"What's happening? What's wrong?"

"Is something wrong with the baby-"

"Matt! It's okay baby, just listen and do what he says."

"I need you all to take a moment and stop talking! I need Matthew's full attention!" Doctor Kinsler shouted, successfully ceasing the rapid succession of shouting that had begun in the room before calming his voice and directing the next sentence at the man giving birth.

"Matthew, I need you to concentrate on me and on pushing. I need the rest of you to please keep quiet so we can get through this. The umbilical cord is wrapped around the baby's neck. I don't know how long it's been there, but you need to push for me so I can get to it."

The man's voice was firm and steady, a command not a question and Matthew could only nod, feeling worried tears building up in the corners of his eyes. Instead of giving in, however, he lay back again, gathering his strength and pushed himself upwards once more. His teeth grit together with effort as he pushed with all of his might, taking strength in the hands that held his steadily, in the thought that he had to hurry, had to get the baby to move, the doctor had to be able to reach it.

The pain was nearly overwhelming. His voice was hoarse with effort, his body weakening with each rough push until finally, blessedly, the pressure released and in an instant, the pain began to wane into a throbbing ache. Beside him, Arthur and Francis were sighing in relief, each of them touching his head softly and calmingly. At his other side, Gilbert was glancing down, a look of concentration on his face as he watched the doctor work.

A few clinks and clips later and still no sound came from below, prompting Matthew to raise his head. "Doctor Kinsler?"

His hands shook slightly in their captivation as he watched the nurses wipe the baby's body off rapidly to clean away the brunt of the mess while the doctor suctioned out the tiny little lungs. Smaller than the rest, Matthew worried for its warmth, clutching at Gilbert's hand as the man stretched to watch as well. Long moments passed and still silence. Doctor Kinsler's hands worked quickly, rubbing at the baby's legs and stomach and Matthew could only see enough.

A little girl.

He swallowed hard. His little girl. His quiet little girl. Almost as though she'd come sleeping and demure, ready to be the little princess his eldest daughter would teach her to be. All demanding and big eyed. Any moment she would open those eyes. Those red or lavender eyes and look over at him, seeing her papa and her daddy for the first time after her close call.

Any minute she would wake up.

But the sound never came.

The cries never began. She did not move and she did not scream and she did not huff and puff as his other children had. Instead she lay silently on the cushioned table, being stroked and jostled for long moments before the doctor above her finally slowed, stopped. A deep sigh pressed from his lips and the human man looked down at the child before him, a sadness evident. One of the nurses cradled a blanket around the baby carefully, wrapping her in swathing as though she were only dreaming. Her small head, smaller than the other's had been, cradled by the curl of the blanket.

In a rush, reality set in, a heavy hit brought on by the sob that took place to his left. Arthur.

And in an instant, Matthew lost his ability to breathe, to feel, to hope. His little girl was gone. She lay silent below him and he could do nothing to reach for her now. His own lips parted in a gasp and in an instant, he was cradled against the two warm bodies of his parents, all of them weeping quietly together. Arthur's sniffled sobs echoed into his hair and in disbelief, he turned his head against their stomachs to seek his husband's gaze. Instead, he watched through bleary vision as Gilbert's hand dropped away, the man moving towards the table in slow steps. His face was calm, but disbelieving, his own eyes glistening just lightly as he watched the nurses move away quietly, exiting the room with some equipment and soiled blankets. The doctor pressed a gentle hand to his shoulder, whispering soft words at Gilbert before turning his attention to Matthew, moving to speak calmly to them as well.

Gilbert didn't look back though. Instead he moved forward, glancing down at the pale baby swaddled in blanketry. Ignoring any chiding that he may have gotten, though none ever came, Gilbert gently reached down, lifting the child into his hands, cradling her against his chest. For a long moment he just gazed down at her, then turned and took a few steps as to sit in a chair a few feet away. His hands were shaking when he placed the wrapped little bundle on his lap, staring down at her. He memorized every feature of her face, every little curve of her pouty little mouth and the scrunch of her pudgy cheeks. Slowly, he brushed away the sides of the blanket and began rubbing at her chest gently. He could hear his husband's cries start anew at his motions, a strangled groan of emotional pain from Francis following. He ignored them. As much as he loved them, he couldn't look away. He had to see her, his little girl. He couldn't give up on her so quickly, not when they had worked so hard for everything they had. And Matthew's heart-wrenching sobs only served to enforce his actions further.

"Dresden, come on baby. Open your eyes for daddy. Come on sweetheart, it's daddy, you need to open your eyes now. It's time to wake up." he spoke softly to the still child in his lap, his face a stoic calm despite the tidal wave of emotions racing through the room. Doctor Kinsler began to speak, his voice cracking before he simply shook his head, moving back to the table to wrap up a few more of the remaining blankets before glancing up and shooing at the two nurses glancing into the plastic window of the door behind Matthew's bed.

He knew what the nurses outside must be whispering; their saddened comments of the father attempting futilely to wake his little daughter. He heard Matthew's cries and Arthur's whispered reassurances, knowing that he was taking care of his husband as best he could. The sounds of the rooms, the people, the voices, the steady beeping of the monitors; all sound faded away into the background as Gilbert focused solely on the precious little face quietly sleeping before him. His hand continued to move in a rhythmic motion on the child's chest and stomach, a soothing back and forth motion.

"You need to wake up now, my sweet engel. Your papa wants to see what color those pretty little eyes of yours are. Und your brothers and sister want to hold you. Come now, baby, wake up for daddy. Wake up, Dresden love, open your eyes..." he murmured softly.

Matthew turned away from the scene, pressing his tear soaked face into Arthur's chest, feeling his father's sobbing as well. He could hear his Papa as well, biting on his knuckles to keep from making a sound. Arthur turned his head upwards, meeting the bloodshot eyes of the French man and his face fell, his hand reaching out. In the next instant, Francis was pressed up against him, wrapping an arm around each of them and quietly weeping into Arthur's shoulder.

The sudden piercing cry echoed through the room, sending a shock wave of silence across each person. Matthew's head shot up, eyes falling on his husband, still seated in the cold plastic chair, the brightest smile on his tear stained face. Streaks of liquid were dripping from his eyes, but the smile on his mouth stretched from ear to ear as the baby in his hands wallowed and screamed out it's lungs for all to hear.

The realization of what had just happened finally hit the occupants of the small birthing room and a fresh wave of tears took them all over. Gilbert moved to is feet, pushing past an onslaught of nurses to lay the screaming Dresden on Matthew's chest. "There we go. She just needed a little encouragement from her daddy is all." he smirked softly, leaning down to meet his husbands chapped lips in a sweet kiss. The kiss was salty and bitter but full of love and hope. Between them the baby squalled out its dismay, little chubby arms flailing and shaking heartily.

"Well I'll be damned." Doctor Kinsler breathed, shocked and standing beside the small table at the end of the bed, his own eyes wet with tears. "Gilbert, you've got some touch there. That's a miracle baby on your hands." He chuckled, moving towards the couple's side.

In an instant, Gilbert had spun around and tugged the man into a hug, one that was heartily returned. After birthing the first three children, his heart was full and well into the family now and Gilbert would have it no other way. He knew that the near-loss had been just as hard on the human man as it had been on them. "Thank you. She's definitely going to be a daddy's girl." He chuckled, turning back to his husband.

Matthew's lungs felt full of fresh air, as though a breeze had crossed the room as he gazed down with his parents at his new daughter. She screamed and shivered as every newborn does, her face a bright red with her squeals, but he could not have smiled wider or felt happier than he did in that moment.

Glancing over at his husband, he sniffled wiping at his eyes and nose with the back of an arm. "Dresden. It's perfect." He breathed, watching Gilbert's face break into another wide smile at the approval. Everything would be alright now. That was just Gilbert, though, if it wasn't right, he made it right. For his family, come hell or high water, he would protect them, love them and keep them safe and Matthew had never been more grateful in his life.

Chapter Text

"How is her fever?"

The gentle tone of Matthew's voice gave away the caution he held as he approached; a cool wash cloth in one hand and a cup of water in the other. Gilbert glanced up from his position in the reclining chair, eyes tired and worn, but smile still in place. "Papa and daddy are on their way over; they should be here by tomorrow morning."

"It's just a cold." Was the gruff response, voice quiet so not to wake the precious cargo he held. The Prussian was settled in their newest recliner, a sleeping and quite sick eight-year-old curled up on her side across the length of his lap. She was wrapped in a mass of blankets, her flush face pressed into the crook of her father's arm. The chair rocked gently forward as Matthew leaned over them, pressing a kiss to his husband's forehead before nudging the blankets away from his daughter's face.

"Berta sweetie, I need you to wake up for just a second and drink this." His soft voice roused the sleeping child from her comfortable nap and she sighed before wiggling around on the only-slightly-put-out-Gilbert's lap. He grunted, grasping at her sides to keep her from sitting uncomfortably on his leg while she dutifully took the cup between her palms, swallowing the pills her shorter father handed to her. After all, she wasn't such a little girl anymore, but Gilbert would never have the heart to turn her away, especially when she just wanted to cuddle up to him for comfort. Later he would admit only to Matthew that even were she a grown adult, she would still be welcome to curl up on him when she wasn't feeling well.

Tilting his eyes up to the clock on the wall, Matthew frowned. It was nearly 3 am and the cold was still going strong. Their eldest daughter had woken them up early the morning before complaining of chills and a sore throat. They'd quickly learned in their time raising their children that though the personifications they were rarely got sick, their children were not so immune. And though Matthew and Gilbert had both tried home remedies and eventually prescription medication, the cold stuck. They'd been less than thrilled when the doctor had recommended they continue with medication and let it run it's course, but nothing more could be done. And so Gilbert had coddled her through the day while Matthew took care of the rest of the household. Which lead him to his current position, stuffed into the recliner with their growing daughter curled up around her father for warmth.

With a sigh of resignation, the Canadian brushed the hair from her eyes, watching as she drank down the glass of water before turning his gaze to his husband's exhausted form. "Gilbert, why don't you put her in her bed or she can sleep with us…" he offered softly, but Gilbert's head shook.

"Na, I'm okay here, babe. 'Sides, makes her feel better to have daddy hold her, right Bertie?" he mumbled quietly, patting the young girls' back when she flopped back down against his chest. He received no response but she nuzzled into him all the same, already mostly asleep.

Matthew smiled softly, his own eyes blinking tiredly. After a moments observance he stood and turned to leave the room. "I'm going to go check on the others and then lay down for a few hours. If you need anything just send me a text so she doesn't wake up. I'll have my phone beside me. And let me know if her fever worsens. You get some sleep too." He ordered, though the chiding words were soft and far less stern than they were meant to sound. He only shook his head at the silly half-asleep kissy faces his albino husband sent him before moving back into the hallway towards Dresden's room.

The now four year old girl was sprawled out across her new 'big girl bed', lightly snoring just like her Prussian father. Matthew only took a moment to turn off the nightlight and cover her toes with the strewn about blanket before he moved back down the hallway, glancing in at the twins, both fast asleep in their respective beds. He made a mental note to take them shopping soon. Their legs nearly slumped off the edges of their mattresses and at the rate they were growing, they would not be able to sleep in them comfortably very much longer. Moments later, the comforting warmth of his bed welcomed him back in and his eyes began to droop before he'd even hit the pillow. Parenting was certainly exhausting. But, Matthew would always defend, worth every minute.


*past*

Gilbert groaned, rolling onto his stomach to shuffle his head beneath the plush of his pillow. He'd hoped that the layers of goose down would drown out the noise penetrating into his ears, but it was to no avail. Beside him, Matthew grumbled under his breath but slid from the bed all the same. After a moment, Gilbert's head, hair skewed about and eyes stinging, peeked out from his pillow only to be greeted by a very frustrated vision of his husband, arms crossed, frowning down at him expectantly.

"Do I have to really? Can't we just….take turns?" he grumbled, but drug himself from the comfort of the mattress all the same. The cold wood of the floor was almost painful but worked to shake him awake if just the slightest more. With a heavy sigh, the Prussian followed his husband into the room across the hall, the wailing of their children greeting them when the sun refused to.

Routine set in and each man took up a child, both babies red and screaming, their tiny fists shaking as they squealed out their discontent. Half an hour later found the men settled into their plush couch, leaning on one another, both babies eagerly drinking down the milk from the pre-made bottles the new fathers had warmed for them. Matthew let his head drop against Gilbert's shoulder, watching the faces of his sons in the dim light of the moon shining through the front window. The house was silent other than their breathing and the suckling sounds of the feeding children. The red had all but faded, leaving a light pink tinge on their pudgy cheeks. Two sets of eyes, one lavender, one red watched the two men above them, the proud father's sporting matching smiles.

Though the nightly feeding and changing were exhausting, neither man would ever complain for these quiet moments together, enjoying being close to one another as well as their newborn children. It had taken a couple of weeks to grow used to the new additions in their lives. Gilberts first time changing a diaper would forever make Matthew snicker, while his husband would cheerfully recall the first burping that his Canadian husband had endured. That had been one of his favorite shirts.


It happened a little over six months after the children's birth. Any new parent would have told you that it was coming; that it was normal. But for Gilbert and Matthew, the new development of an argument was unnatural and disconcerting. It had begun over the milk not being warm enough and spurned on by a stubbed toe and the screams of teething babies.

"Alfred said it would be fine. It's a normal solution to the ache!" Matthew huffed, rocking Jacques within the circle of his arms, though it did nothing to sate the wailing child. Little flailing arms and feet kicked out at him and his head was far past the beginnings of a migraine.

"We're not putting that in their mouths, Matt, it's just not happening! How can that be safe in any way?" Gilbert responded, the baby cradled over his shoulder crying out its own discomfort and frustration right next to his ear.

Matthew grumbled, shooting a glare towards his frowning husband. "I'm not saying we pour the whiskey down their throats! For the love of God, Gil. Just a drop rubbed along their gums. It'll numb the pain long enough for them to eat and get some sleep so we can get some sleep."

Gilbert only shook his head, turning away from the other man, hand patting steadily on the child's back. They had tried the smallest recommended dose of baby aspirin from Dr. Kinsler's PA but it had nearly no effect on the children's discomfort. They would feed for a few minutes before becoming agitated once again and pushing the bottle from their mouths.

"Well we can't take them to the doctor until Monday, so we're just going to have to figure something out here. And I'm not going to stand around and listen to them cry their poor eyes out if I can do something about it."

With those words, Matthew swept his way past his husband, dipping the tip of his finger into the small dish of whiskey he'd poured a short while ago before the argument had broken out. Gilbert watched dumbstruck as the Canadian ignored his concerns, brushing a light coating of the amber liquid into the child's mouth, all the while cooing at him. The Prussian sputtered, his face flushing red in anger. "What the fuck Matthew! If I didn't' know better I'd think you wanted to kill him just to shut him up! "

The tight, hurt glare that shot his way made an ache tap at his heart and he instantly regretted his words. They stood there for a long moment, Lukas still screaming on his shoulder, Jacques cries beginning to quiet down. Finally Gilbert swallowed the hard lump in his throat and opened his mouth to speak. "Matt-"

"No. How dare you. How can…how can you even suggest that?" came the whispered reply, the younger man's voice tinged with obvious pain.

"I didn't mean-"

"Then why say it at all? I am doing my best to make my children's pain go away. So I'm willing to try something a little unconventional. So I just want my babies happy and smiling and laughing, what is so wrong with that?"

Gilbert didn't respond to that, instead closing his eyes and choking back the hard knot growing in his chest, cradling their other, still screaming son, against him. He only took a deep breath before opening his eyes again, once more meeting the gaze of his saddened husband. "I love my children. And I love you. And I would never do anything to purposefully hurt any of you. I would go to the ends of the earth to protect all of you. So how can you even think for one moment that I'd-" Matthew's words broke and he turned his head away to squeeze the tears from his eyes before they could fall. With a deep breath, he turned to glance back at Gilbert, seeing the hurt echoing in his eyes.

The albino man could only stand there as his husband moved forward, taking their second child from him carefully and muttering about changing their diapers. Even after he'd moved from the room and down the darkened hallway, the elder couldn't find it in him to follow, instead slipping into the nearest dining room chair, head falling into his hands, elbows propped on the wood of the table.

He didn't actually feel that way. He knew Matthew would never hurt his children. That he would never even think it, even if they cried for years, he would never be able to bring himself to do anything like that. But the words had just come out unchecked, rolling off his tongue before he could shut his mouth.

Gilbert wasn't certain how long he sat there, nursing the headache as his punishment before he heard his husband's soft voice. It couldn't have been that long, though, only minutes. At the voice, his eyes shot up, regret still evident. However, the look on Matthew's face nearly made him forget their conversation only moments before.

"Gilbert, please, we can be mad later. I think Jacques is sick." The younger man sniffled, his eyes dark with worry and guilt. In an instant, Gilbert was on his feet, a hand pressing against the other's back as he followed him into their baby's bedrooms. Lukas was still screaming, flailing away in his crib. On the changing table, Jacques was once again crying, though this time much quieter than the other. Beside the table, Kumajiro stood on his small bear toes, trying his best to see the crying children, the small puff of a bird on his head peeping quietly in concern.

"His diaper is really watery and he feels really warm." Matthew said quietly, standing to the side as Gilbert leaned over the baby, pressing his cheek to the infant's for a long moment. Indeed he felt much warmer than normal and the soiled cloth seemed off. A sniffle brought the red-eyed man's attention back to his husband.

Matthew's eyes were watering, his lips clenched between his teeth, which were obviously chattering. He met his husband's gaze, swallowing hard. "What if I really did make him sick, Gilbert? What if I hurt-"

The rest of his sentence was cut off by a soft sob and instantly he found himself pulled into a warm grasp and a comforting hush. "Matthew, you didn't make him sick, you barely gave him anything at all. Und it wouldn't have done that so fast. Stay with him for a second, I'm gonna check Luk." He offered quietly, pressing a kiss to his forehead before turning towards the other crib.

Careful hands finished changing Jacques diaper before a voice interrupted his nervous thoughts once more. "Matt, Luk's got a temp too. Und looks like he needs the same change. You didn't do anything, babe, I think they're actually sick."

And though in a way the thought should have been more comforting, it wasn't. Instead Matthew found his heart beating so hard in his chest he felt it would jump right out. Without hesitation, he picked up the phone and dialed the number he knew by heart.

Though Dr Kinsler didn't traditionally treat children, he'd been schooled in Pediatrics as well and since the situation between the countries' marriage was so delicate, he'd offered to take on their doctoring as well as the children's'. The phone rang twice before he heard the handset on the other end lift and a bit of fumbling around. It was another quiet moment before there was a voice on the other line.

"Matthew? Gilbert? What's wrong?" the doctor's voice was groggy and Matthew all but felt bad that the human knew it was them. He could hear a bit of shuffling around on the line and the clearing of a throat.

"I'm sorry to wake you up, Doctor Kinsler, I'm just so worried." He breathed, voice shaking just slightly. Pressing a hand against his chest, he stepped a few feet away from the loudly crying children. "They've been crying for hours and now they have a fever and they won't eat and I think they have diarrhea…"

On the other end of the line, the doctor made a thoughtful noise, shuffling around a bit more. "Are they teething yet Matthew? What about white spots in their mouth or vomiting?"

"They're teething but they don't have either of those."

A slight chuckle on the other end of the line set Matthew's shoulders to ease just the slightest. If the doctor was confident enough to laugh then he was likely exaggerating, but none-the-less… "I…I also put a little bit of alcohol..um..whiskey…on Jacques gums. I thought maybe I hurt him with that. I just..I'd heard that it helped and I didn't think-"

"Matthew, Matthew, it's fine. That's actually a very common practice. It sounds like the boys are just having some difficulty with teething. Give me half and hour and I'll be by, alright?" again, there was more shuffling as though the man were already dressing himself.

"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry, I don't want you to come all the way out here if we are just overreacting. I just got so scared that something was really wrong."

Again the doctor chuckled and the sound of a coat zipper came through the earpiece. "Matthew that is what I'm here for. You know I'm proud to be able to care for you and your family, especially in your circumstances. I don't mind coming out, I would have been up in half-hour anyways, so it's really no trouble at all. Now go make yourself and Gilbert some coffee or tea and just relax until I get there." He offered quietly, the keys jingling in his hand, door closing as he moved out of the house.

"Thank you, Doctor…"


True to his word, just over half an hour later a knock came on their front door. Gilbert was quick to open it, greeting the man who, much to his surprise, had a bag in either hand and a kind smile on his face. "Gilbert, you look exhausted." He teased good-naturedly. "And listen to them go! They've got a set of lungs on them for sure. That's good!"

Setting the bags down on the entry side table, he reached into the one on the left and pulled out a caddy with three cups of steaming liquid and a medium sized box of Donuts. "I figured we could all use a little wake up call. Now let's take a look at those boys of yours." He smiled, setting down the food to pick up the second bag, following the anxious albino into the back room.

A very nervous set of husbands stood aside as the doctor examined their children. The boys wailed their frustration at the doctor, who simply chuckled and cooed at them. The gesture in and of itself eased their parents.

Reaching into the second bag, the doctor pulled out two rings, one blue and one green. Almost instantly once they were offered, the babies tugged them into their mouths, their screaming silenced in favor of contented chewing. Doctor Kinsler brushed the fluff of white hair from either of their faces with a smile, turning towards the two men watching in stunned silence.

"It's not uncommon for babies who are teething to develop a fever, different stool types and even digestion problems. It makes them pretty fussy, of course, but it's easily managed." The doctor offered, reaching into the bag again. "I brought you some antibiotics to fight the fever and menthol rub for their chests. The teething rings can be refrigerated, just don't freeze them. The cold numbs out the pain as well as giving them a way for their teeth to break through the gums."

Matthew found himself unable to contain his gratitude, pulling the shorter man easily into a hug. "Thank you so much." He breathed, feeling relief flood through him as his babies watched him contently over the gumming of their new toys.


Once the boys had finally fallen asleep, new teething rings lodged against their mouths, the three men sat down to enjoy the morning, sharing laughter and stories over coffee and donuts. It was nearly ten am when Matthew and Gilbert slid into their bed, immediately curling up against one another. Gilbert cradled his husband against his chest, pressing a kiss against his forehead. "I'm sorry about earlier…" he whispered, free hand moving to trace the smaller man's spine.

A soft sigh and a slight smile against the skin of his chest brought the first flush of reassurance. "I'm not mad anymore, Gilbert. I forgive you, I just don't….I don't want to hold on to things we say when we are mad. Our babies are hurting and that's far more important. This family is far more important. Let's just.." he paused, taking another deep breath," let's just take a second next time we're getting mad and think things through. And I promise not to make a rash move like that again until we're positive."

Gilbert shook his own head, nuzzling against the other man's forehead. "Und I'll make sure of my words next time. Gott, I hate fighting, let's not do that again."

That statement earned him a light chuckle and a tighter hug. "I can stand behind that. Next time let's keep our heads." Came the sigh from Matthew, his breathing already beginning to slow as exhaustion took over.

Grateful relief flooded through Gilbert. His heart seemed multitudes lighter and sleep found him far easier than he would have believed.


*end past*

The smell of fresh crepes and tea filtered through the house, invading the senses of those sleeping comfortably in their beds. Soft male voices brought Matthew from his sleep, stirring into the waking world to the light of the morning sun. Stretching, he slid from the bed, searching the floor for his favorite robe and slippers before groggily shuffling down the stairs.

The twins sat on the couch, watching some cartoon and spooning mouthfuls of cereal past their lips. It took them a moment to each pull away from the thrall of the show to greet their father.

"Hi papa; good morning papa." The twins answered, nearly in unison and Matthew chuckled just the slightest, moving forward to press a kiss to the top of each of their heads. The eleven year olds leaned into the touch familiarly before turning their gaze back to the television.

The Canadian man smiled, moving past them towards the kitchen. What greeted him was a sight he would never grow tired of. Though he'd been certain that the knowledge of their family would bring distress, he'd failed to see the joy and possibility of introducing more family into the mix. Where there had been discord and frustration there was now calm and content. They were closer than ever before. They had family functions. Birthdays, holidays and sometimes for no reason at all they would gather, the houses finally filled with laughter. Today was no different.

His fathers stood in his kitchen, Francis cooking over the stove while Arthur set the table and pet the hair of his eldest granddaughter. Even more wonderfully startling was the soft laughter he was sharing with Gilbert, who stood on the opposite side of the table, their four year old daughter clinging to his pants. She was the most surprising miracle of them all. Her brush with death had done nothing to dissuade her vibrance for life nor her stubborn attitude. Standing in her footed jammies, a sippie cup in her hand, her unruly white hair sticking in all directions and clinging to her father's leg, one would assume her shy. That was not the case in the slightest. In fact, it was their daughters above their sons who were far more daring and adventurous. Jacques could keep up while Lukas still preferred to stay behind and enjoy the quiet of an afternoon. Their girls, however, were better found climbing trees or doing summersaults and flips on the wide open lawn, their daring far more Prussian blood than the Canadian that ran through them. Both were intelligent too, just like their brothers. They took quickly to both German and French, fluent in all three languages the spoke.

"Matthew, you look tired, did you get any sleep at all?"

Arthur's slightly chiding tone startled the younger man from his thoughts, a smile slipping easily into place. "I did. Not enough, but it will do. I was just worried for Alberta. How's her fever?" he asked, glancing down at his eldest daughter, who in the light of day looked much better than she had the night before. Her eyes were still tired and her cheeks a bit flush, but aside from that she seemed in much better spirits.

"Nearly gone, she's barely over one hundred now, so I'm certain she'll soon be back to good health." His shorter father replied. It also helped that the smile she sent him reassured that fact. Alberta had grown so quickly and though she preferred to take charge and handle situations, she still leaned heavily on her fathers for support when sick. Matthew never minded and neither did Gilbert. In fact, he wouldn't quite admit to anyone other than his husband, he greatly enjoyed when their children needed them.

"And she will be better once she tastes zees wonderful crepes I'm making for you all. I let ze boys eat a bowl of zat cereal you 'ave before 'and. Ze are growing, so no 'arm. " Francis grinned over his shoulder at his son, winking at the two girls before going back to his cooking.

Matthew chuckled, moving to Gilbert's side, who welcomed him with a warm arm around his shoulders and a soft kiss to his head.

They ate in relative silence, the table full of family and food. It was something that Matthew hoped he would never get used to, the feeling of warmth that flooded through him at seeing them all together. All they were missing was Alfred from his side and Ludwig from Gilbert's and their table would nearly look like a holiday. Though more and more their household was filled with extended family. Arthur had made it a habit to show up at their home nearly every weekend with some sort of gift for the children. And ever since the birth of their latest edition, Francis had more often than not either shown up with him or just after. Anyone else would have been suspicious, but Matthew and Gilbert were far past that point. Especially with the incident last Christmas. After that point, Arthur had locked his bedroom door in the evenings and Matthew hadn't spoke of it since. It had taken Gilbert a bit longer to let go of the incident, often commenting to Francis about the full moon. Francis, in turn, would simply chuckle and withstand the hearty smack to his shoulder from his Britain.

At length, they spoke of renovations to the house, expanding the garage and a workroom downstairs and adding on another bedroom or two upstairs. Though Matthew was still uncertain given the amount of space they had, he couldn't help but smile when his Prussian husband insist they make more room for not only their existing children, but those to come. Any jealousy that had ever existed in the household had always quickly dissolved. Matthew and Gilbert, as well as the extended family and friends, always ensured that none of the children were ever left feeling unloved or unattended to. Watching their family interact, the bond between their children and the bond between the entirety of their family only made their own stronger.

It was in these moments Matthew's heart felt fuller than it ever had before. In these moments, he could not feel more grateful that so many years ago, the amazing man at his side, laughing and sharing memories with his family, had taken a chance to toss that paperclip at him. A chance to come home and try his pancakes. To watch movies and drink beer. To show him friendship and fun he'd never thought would be his. To be his companion and eventually his lover. Finally, to be his husband and his partner in life and give him one of the most precious things he'd never in his life dreamed he would have, his children. Life had a funny way of working things out and though they had faced many problems including adversity from those who doubted their relationship, they had still emerged on top.

After all, Matthew thought, we don't need anyone else to decide our fate or tell us which path our life will take. In the end, we make our own.

Chapter Text

              The cold, frozen ground crunched loudly under Alberta’s shoes, signaling the beginnings of the heavy winter to come. Come a month from now, it would be thick with snow and familiar smoke would billow from the brick stacked chimney towering over the fireplace in the living room.  She could already taste the warm slide of homemade hot chocolate on her palate, sending a shiver of delight and anticipation down her spine.   Seeing the house tower above her, Alberta’s lips quirked in a nostalgic smile.   She could almost hear the echoing laughter of her brothers and sisters throughout the house, the chatter of her parents bickering or talking over the events of their days. She’d never let any of the wonderful memories of her childhood here escape her, not one, nor the amazing parents she’d been blessed with.

 

                She let herself in, taking time to shake off her coat and stomp her shoes on the entryway doormat before making her way through the living room and den.  Over the years, the house had changed little. New pictures were added to the walls, every few years a new coat of paint, usually in a color so similar to the last that it nearly made no difference. Though she could remember, one year, her father attempting to paint the walls in a very bright, sharp blue, the color streaked through his hair by the time her papa had gotten home to yell at him for nearly an hour. The next morning, she remembered giggling at the both of them attempting to get the color off of their skin throughout the day, looking for all the world like a smurf had exploded in their house.   The next week, their walls had been back to the usual beige they tended to stick to, though now and then, when furniture scraped against the wall, a bit of blue would show through only to be tended to quickly enough that it may have just been imagined.

 

                A sound from the back yard drew her attention and, flipping her blonde hair back across her shoulders, the young woman made her way through the kitchen, bee-lining towards the back door. Making certain to close the screen door firmly behind her, Alberta scrubbed at her arms through the thick coral sweater, letting the rhythmic clapping of metal on wood guide her across the yard and around to the backside of the garage.  Standing high on a ladder and hammering at the rain gutters was the shorter of her fathers, his face drown in a frown of concentration. She waited long enough until he pulled his hands away to steady on the ladder before clearing her throat. 

 

                Matthew’s head whipped around at the sound, his eyes widening in stunned joy. “Bertie!” he crowed, descending the metal rungs as quickly as possible without tipping the tall ladder over.   Once his feet were firmly planted on the ground, his eldest daughter met him halfway into a hug, arm tight around one another. “We didn’t expect you in for another four days!”

 

                Though their eldest children had been out on their own for nearly three decades, it was just a hard watching them leave again as it had been the first time and their return always prompted such a rush of emotion that Matthew and oftentimes Gilbert had trouble keeping their eyes dry, dabbing at the corners like simpering old biddies, as his husband would say.  He didn’t mind at all though. He loved each of his children equally and would cry a river of tears if that meant they knew just how much.

 

                He was brought back from his thoughts when Alberta spoke up.  “That’s the great thing about working under a government in the know. I can pretty much take time whenever I like.” She grinned, all Gilbert, and wrapped an arm around tightly across his shoulders, “I thought I would fly in early and surprise you guys.  I figured I could help around the house a bit before everyone got here. Have you heard from Lukas, yet?”

 

                Matthew rolled his eyes with a heavy sigh, enjoying the grin it brought his daughter. “They should be in the day after tomorrow.  He’s bringing Lana with him this time, apparently they are back on this year.” He chuckled, shaking his head. “I swear one of these days he’ll just bring her along, married and pregnant and we won’t even have been able to have the wedding we’ve planned since he was four.”

 

                Alberta burst into laughter, hugging her father tight again. “Hey at least you married off one kid, the one thatdoesn’t owe me any money, may I remind you.  Jacques always was my favorite.” She smirked, earning a light slap on the arm from her papa in chastization, though he knew it was only in jest.  “Speaking of which, I spoke to him last night, they’ll be arriving a bit late in the week.  Something about teacher/parent conferences on Thursday so they had to postpone the flight until Friday.” She shrugged, taking a step back and scrubbing the cold from her hands on her jeans.   

 

                It wasn’t rare for either of her older brothers to be extremely busy with their respective lives. Though they were all still close, the twins lived on opposite sides of the country invested in two completely different lives, both fast paced. Though Lukas had taken to being a work-a-holic and perhaps a little bit of a womanizer, his twin had settled down at only twenty-two and popped out three children of his own, making their father’s the happiest grandparents in the world.   Alberta had taken to working with the government in smaller matters, working with local mayors and office holders on the political workings of the people, making very little time for much else but her work.  Her other sisters, Dresden (who was only a few years her junior) and Malissa (nearly fifteen years younger than her), had both stayed rather close to home, choosing to move less than an hour away from their parent’s home town. 

 

                “Where’s dad?” the blonde questioned, tucking her hair back behind her ear and rubbing her arms again against the cold whip of the incoming front. 

 

                “He’s upstairs with Thomas taking a nap. Why don’t you go back inside and get warm.  He should be waking up soon, anyways. They’ve been asleep for nearly two hours but you know how your dad is, he’ll sleep for days if you let him.” Matthew snorted, wandering back in the direction of the ladder. “Let him know I’ll be in as soon as I get these gutters ready for the first snow. We’re supposed to get a heavy one coming in next week!” he called, watching from his way up the ladder as his daughter trotted back into the house.

 

                Alberta shook her head with a grin, making her way back inside and sweeping around to ascend the stairs. Indeed, two snores, one soft and one deep and grumbly, greeted her from the hallway, the door slightly ajar. Pushing the door open quietly, she tipped her head over her brother’s head, grinning as the six year old stirred in his sleep, turning into his father, who was curled up rather uncomfortably in the small twin bed, white hair askew and mouth open.

 

                Laughing softly to herself, she shook his shoulder gently, watching the older man rouse from his slumber into the waking world with a lagged sense of self. “Daddy, wake up.  You’ve been napping forever and your eldest daughter demands your attention.”  His eyes rolled around the room, groggy, before they settled on her face. In an instant, he was tumbling off the bed in his haste to stand, dragging her into his arms with a surprised gasp of her name, lifting the woman off her feet and into the air. He held her for long moments, finally letting her stand on her own again when Thomas shifted behind them.

 

                “I thought you weren’t going to be in for another few days!” he laughed, brushing his hands along her hair, excited to have her back.  Behind him, a blur of blonde hair bounced from the bed, sweeping around his legs and colliding with Alberta’s.

 

                “BERTA!”

 

                “Hey Tom-tom!” she laughed, tugging him up onto her hip and planting a kiss on his cheek that was quickly wiped away. She knew he wasn’t all that upset, though, if the grin on his face was to be believed. Turning her attention back to the taller of her two fathers, she appraised the happy smirk on his face. “I got off a few days early. I told Papa as well. He looked like he should be done with the garage soon. I thought maybe we could make lasagna tonight?”

 

                Over the course of the years, lasagna had become a dish celebrated in the family as it was a chance for everyone to participate. Her fondest memories sometimes consisted of everyone crowded together in the kitchen, laying out the long strips of pasta or pouring just the right amount of meat sauce only to be smothered in three bags of cheese.  Everything was homemade with every meal they put together but lasagna was always the most fun and rewarding of all the meals. Something about the smell of the pasta dish baking in the oven reminded her of the wonderful times they spent with their uncle Feli, Ludwig, Toni and Lovi and their cousins. The house would always be filled with the high pitched squeals and laughter of children playing together and the kind chuckles of the adults as they shared stories in the den.

 

                “Sounds great to me, Bertie. I’m sure your Papa has enough of the ingredients around here to make it and if not we’ll just run into town. Maybe get some ice cream.” He chuckled, sweeping his son up and into his arms from Alberta’s grasp. 

 

                The three of them made their way down the hall and back into the living room just as Matthew emerged from the back yard, sweeping his coat off and onto the back of one of the kitchen table chairs. He smiled happily, brushing a hand across her shoulders in welcome.  “We don’t see you guys often enough. It’ll be nice to have everyone home come Christmas. Uncle Alfred will be coming this time too. His boss agreed to give him two weeks ago after he caught up on all that backwork.  Dad and I are thinking of building another extra room on the back of the house for a family room since everyone’s families are getting so large. Grandpapa and granpa will both be here as well and I’ve yet to hear from Ludwig about Feli or Lovino and Toni but I’m pretty certain they’ll be coming as well since they’ve yet to miss a Christmas.” He smiled kindly, leaning to peck Thomas’ cheek as Gilbert passed them into the kitchen.

 

                “That’ll be a lot of people in the house, you sure you can handle that many Beilschmits running around?” Alberta chuckled, tugging her father to sit down on the couch and falling into place under his arm beside him.

 

                “You know I love having everyone around. It took a long time to get here and now that we are I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are all a blessing, Bertie and I couldn’t imagine not having you around, especially during the holidays.” Her father replied softly, brushing his lips over the crest of her head as she settled into the crook of his neck, inhaling the wonderful scent of pine and vanilla that always radiated from her father’s thick sweaters. She felt his arms wrap around her, pulling her into the firm warmth of his adoration, her eyes grazing the corner of the room and already anticipating the large tree that would rise from the floor lit up in florescent lights and sparkling tinsel. There would be mounds and mounds of presents since everyone would gather there. So many that they would sprawl across the floor and around the edges of the love seat and oversized armchair.  Afterwards, wrapping paper would line the floor in a pool of bright colors, ribbons like waves rising over the edges of the couch.

 

                Listening to her father move around the kitchen, clanging together the pots and pans and talking to Thomas about which ingredients they needed and leaning against the comfort of her Papa, Alberta sometimes wondered why she left at all. She loved being on her own, loved her independence, but coming home was always a ritual she would never miss, not for the world. Seeing the loving smiles of her parents as they watched with pride as their children took to the world, making their own path, returning to share their stories and new found wonders. Not one day went by that she took for granted the life that she’d been given, the parents that loved her, the siblings that made her life both a living hell and a wondrous adventure. 

 

                Smiling up at Matthew, Alberta felt the swelling in her chest.  Her fathers loved her just as they loved each other, just as they loved the rest of their family, blood or not. That would never change. But maybe, just maybe, once in a while, she could imagine being that five year old little girl again, curl up in her Papa’s lap and watch the wonder grow in his own eyes, knowing her and her siblings were part of the reason his eyes would always sparkle with joy and her daddy’s laughter would echo in her ears.

 

 


 

 

                Good. God. It took a freakin year right?

                So there we have it. I know it isn’t much but I sure hope you guys enjoyed it and I just want to throw out an ENORMOUS

THANK YOU!!!!

A couple of people especially I feel like I need to prod at are those people I started such amazing friendships with. Josey, Steph, Maddy, Olivia, Mary, Lady, Blue, Reo, god I can’t even name everyone.

To all of you AMAZING people who left me reviews whether long (omg I cried I love you guys) or short, each and EVERY one made my year!

To everyone who has stuck with me even after all this time and given me so much cause to keep going in my writing whether it’s this story or another. You guys have made my days so much brighter and I’ve made so many new friends that it’s hard to imagine this is over.  This is the longest story  undertaking I’ve ever achieved and I feel like it would never have happened without ya’lls support and kindness so from the bottom of my heart, I love you all and thanks so much for following this journey!

Last but not least, another Thank You to every single one of you who stood with me during these last couple of years. With your love and support I’ve faced more than I ever thought possible and came out on the top side of it. Through loss and births and changes so scary they were like mountains to scale. So this fic is dedicated to you all. To you and to my sister, Angel, in heaven, and to my father, Mace, facing dementia, who I now write for. Two beautiful souls who can no longer write for themselves but whom you guys have so graciously help me support with your perfect words and gestures.

I love EVERY. DAMN. ONE. OF. YOU.

Thank. You.

<3  Anya