*Cheep, cheep, CHEEP!*
What the heck? Was that
Agonisingly you managed to open your sleep-glued eyes, and attempted to feebly lift your head. A dull throbbing pain crept through your head, but it wasn't half as bad as you had feared.
You tried to ignore the canary's outburst and roll onto your side, but were instantly barred by something soft and warm. You pushed against it, confused, then realised with a jolt what, or rather, WHO, the second body in bed was.
Toni lay face down, hair tousled in messy curls about his angelic face. A small smile tugged at his lips, giving an expression that looked handsome yet cute at the same time, even in sleep.
Toni? What was he doing here?
THEN you remembered with horror the acts of last night. You double checked under the duvet with a sinking feeling which confirmed you were both naked. Your heart sank with overwhelming guilt and betrayal
. What now!?
Your semi-conscious brain grappled with various schemes to get Toni out of there before the others woke up. There was no way either of them, Francis in particular, could find out about this. The Spaniard needed to go, NOW. But he was so deep in slumber you doubted waking him would be an easy task.
"Toni." You whispered in his ear, giving his half-exposed face a stubborn prod.
"Toni, please! Wake up!" You urged louder, this time shaking his shoulder, almost violently as panic began to set in.
"Right, if that's how he wants to play it!"
You raised both arms and brought your pillow straight down onto his head, certain that if that didn't retrieve his consciousness, then nothing would. Finally a sleepy eye snicked open, and your companion sat up, looking dishevelled and alarmed.
"______? What's up?"
"Toni, listen, I'm so sorry but you need to go, now! We'll tell the others what happened eventually, but seeing us like this would be the worst possible way to do it! Please go before they find out!"
"Oh, it's FAR too late for that." Sneered a third voice from the doorway.
You gasped, pulling the bed sheets around yourself and spinning to face the sound.
Francis was poised, fingers digging into the wood of the doorframe, eyes a torrent of blue-ice fire. Every muscle was tensed close to breaking point as he struggled to control his pain and anger.
You shrank back, terrified. You had never seen Francis this angry, ever. Toni wrapped a protective arm around your shoulders despite the fact he too was shaking a little.
There was an awkward pause which stretched the next few seconds out until they seemed to go on forever. You tried desperately to think of some cover, or apology, or SOMETHING at least to ease the tension. Finally, Francis spoke.
"So, after all this, you made your choice. Ha, I should have known! Why should I have any chance with you, with that 'friend' of ours around? It was stupid to even try."
His voice was agonisingly strained, but with a cold undertone which chilled you inside.
"Francis, please it's not like that, you weren't stupid to try, I mean I don't even know how this happened!!" You pleaded.
"Well that's not what you told him last night!" Francis snapped, struggling to keep composure.
. You heard?"
Damn! How did he hear that!? You never meant to hurt anyone, let alone one of your closest friends who even now your feelings towards weren't clear. Was he still just a friend?
Francis rolled his eyes, as if the fact had been obvious. He said nothing more and stalked out of your room, slamming the door despite your calling for him to return. Behind you Toni, who had sat protectively by you the whole time, relaxed against the wall.
"Don't worry yourself ______, he'll come around."
"He'll come around!? I doubt this will fix itself so easily, I mean what was I thinking!?"
You yelled as tears that had been held back finally escaped your eyes. You were confused and tormented and frustrated at how the Spaniard could act so calm when his best friend was so upset.
Even now, as he pulled you into an embrace, you felt ashamed. A few minutes and all your tears and raw emotion had run dry. You tried to pull yourself together and think of a solution to the mess but nothing came to mind. As you thought to yourself Toni got up and dressed himself, bidding you goodbye and softly pulling the door to once more.
Since no helpful ideas were springing to mind, you decided to get dressed also. However, on reaching the door-handle you found yourself unable to leave. You were lacking a little courage to face the music. Until
The shout made you jump bolt upright, fling open the door and race downstairs as more loud crashing ensued. As you reached the lounge there was no breath left to yell with as the scene in front of your eyes had stolen it away.
Antonio was completely helpless on the floor, one eye partially closed and starting to bruise, a small lick of blood trickling from his split lip. An enraged Gilbert crouched over him, holding him tightly by the collar of his shirt, red eyes piercing into his soul. The small table in the centre of the room was overturned, as well as a few more articles of furniture which suggested a brief chase had taken place. Francis meanwhile was ensconced in the kitchen, completely ignoring the whole affair.
"I told you, it wasn't meant to happen!" Toni croaked.
"That's not the point, you still did it with her jerk! WHY DON'T YOU THINK ABOUT US FOR A CHANGE." Gilbert cried, shaking his victim violently.
"Gilbert STOP IT!" You cried, leaping forward and pulling desperately on his shoulder, anything you could do to distract his full-blown rage.
Suddenly Gilbert raised his arm; the unexpected force sending you sliding clean backwards across the floor. You narrowly missed smacking your head on the closest wall. Unfazed, you scrambled to your feet, ready for a second defence strategy. Toni needed the help, and quickly, before this fight got really ugly.
Soon it became apparent that that wouldn't be necessary, as both men had got to their feet, and though still breathing heavily it seemed the tension was gradually easing. For now at least. Finally, Gilbert drew himself up to full height and shrugged, a melancholy smile appearing on his face and his dusted off his clothes.
"Fine. Well I guess I was wrong. I never have a chance in the end, do I? This is the furthest thing from awesome." He self-mocked in a sing-song voice, treading softly towards the door and pulling on his coat.
"Gilbert where are you going? Come back and sort out the mess you've made!" You called after him as he yanked open the door, revealing a crisp layer of fresh snow that blanketed the earth.
"I should say the same to you." Was his stinging reply, as he threw back the door and disappeared into the cold.
You tried to ignore it and focused on Toni, whose eye left was now completely swollen shut. You fetched an ice-pack from the kitchen whilst Francis continued to ignore the scene. Antonio accepted the relief gratefully and motioned to the door.
"_______, you need to go after him, before someone else gets hurt." He said, face muscles contracting in pain and seriousness.
Oh no. You hadn't considered that.
"Right, good point. I'll bring him back soon, just try rest until I'm back!" you whispered, apprehension raising your voice.
You raced for the door, pulling on the closest jacket (which thankfully was yours) and crunched off into the fresh snow, following the footsteps of your friend. They began to spread out a little more evenly and you realised that Gilbert had been running soon after he left the house. You hurried on yourself, eager to catch him but unsure why his reaction had been so severe. To argue was one thing, but to beat Antonio half to death was quite another.
I mean, you and him were friends, but Gilbert was always making fun of you. He didn't react at all like Francis or Toni did towards you, so there was no way he loved you like they did. Right?
Things weren't making sense any more, but you did know one thing, and that was to make amends with Gilbert and quickly. His outline became visible at the end of the street and you pressed on, calling out to him.
"GILBERT! WAIT! I NEED TO EXPLAIN! STOP!!!"
He ignored you and kept walking. You began to run towards him, now close enough so that reaching out an arm would grab his shoulder and
"GIL PLEASE! I can't let you go off when I don't even know what's going on!"
Gilbert stopped so abruptly you almost crashed into him. When he faced you again, every muscle was so tense that a single tremor seemed cause enough for them to snap. He began to shake uncontrollably all over.
"HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US _____!? AFTER EVERYTHING WE'VE BEEN THROUGH!?" His voice was a strangled shout, pain etched into every line of his face.
. I thought you didn't care
" you replied, completely taken aback.
"PFFT! DON'T MAKE ME LAUGH. ALL THIS TIME AND YOU STILL DON'T GET IT!?"
"Get WHAT!?" You yelled, mirroring the anger in his voice.
Suddenly Gilbert's face changed, and was as smooth and rigid of that of a carved statue. It was expressionless other than the torment raging like a hurricane in his deep crimson eyes which fixed you in their glare, unfaltering. His next words came like bullets to the heart.
"I love you _____."
"ICH. LIEBE. DICH!"
You blinked, open-mouthed. Gilbert's brow crinkled angrily, as if he thought you were mocking him. In an instant he wrapped one arm around your waist, pulling you against him. Then he raised your head, bending his, and crushed his lips against yours.
You were too shocked by his revelation to resist, and somehow you didn't want to. Newfound guilt pierced your racing heart and a single tear rolled mournfully down your cheek. Gilbert pulled away almost as instantly as he had grabbed you, as if burnt by his uncontrollable emotions. Your tongue grappled uselessly, trying to find the right thing to say.
I-I.. I'm.." you blurted helplessly.
"Forget it. There's nothing you can do." He murmured, looking you once in the eyes before turning heel and pacing away.
You made no move to chase him. You felt colder and more alone than at any point that day, beyond any point you thought was possible. It all made perfect sense. Why he had stayed with you at the pool. Why he had taken you ice skating. Why he had protected you from the attacker.
Why was this happening!? Hadn't Francis told you, the first time you met, how terrible Gilbert was at expressing himself!?
You kicked icy pebbles angrily, before turning away and heading back up the street. You reached the house once more but no noise other than Gilbird's enthusiastic cheeping came from inside. It was silent, almost ghostly.
Maybe it would be better not to go back at all? You had already caused FAR more grief than was necessary for these poor men, they were probably better off without you anyway. And then a new thought, more daunting than any other hit you.
It was like being with Arthur all over again. Except this time, the roles were reversed.
Giving in to guilt, you span on your heels and bolted. You ran and ran, not caring where or how far you went. The burning sensation in your lungs was far less to contend with than the ache your heart provided. After ten minutes you could run no more and finally halted, doubled over and heaved, the icy air piercing your lungs.
Upon regaining your bearings you looked up to find yourself leaning on a lamppost at the gates of the park, the very same place Francis had brought you on your first idyllic date. How ironic.
Bittersweet memories flooded your mind once more as a faint rumbling made itself apparent down the street. Just another car. You listened to it growl closer, anticipating the cold air it would drive up upon whooshing past. However, the noise continued to grow and only when you heard the brakes screech to a stop did you finally turn around.
The small black taxi from last night contrasted sharply with the snowy pavement, like a blot of ink, or a squashed beetle. It's driver was equally stand-outish, swathed in the same shade of dark, right down to his ebony sunglasses. Why on Earth would he be here? Did the others get worried already and call for collection? It seemed unlikely.
Confused, you stepped towards the car and peered through the window as the vehicle's occupant wound it down.
"Can I help you?" you asked suspiciously.
"Ahhh good, it is you!"
The driver grinned widely, ignoring your question. He motioned for you to wait and slowly opened the cab door, stepping outside and leaning against the front of the bonnet. His sudden closeness was a little intimidating, but you tried to cover your emotions with a blank expression.
"When I rocked up at your place seemed like no-one was in, just lucky I found you so quick!" He said.
That accent again, where did you know it from!?
"Okay that's great, but what's going on?" You replied nervously.
"Just a little job I gotta' get done with." He muttered, pulling off his cap to reveal a head full of thick dirty blonde hair, with an unmistakable cowlick. The glasses came off next, as two bright blue eyes gazed down at your now horrified face, narrowing in grim pleasure.
Your heart lurched.
"Alfred F Jones
" you whispered as he leant forward, completely eye-to-eye.
"It's time for us to play a little game."