'You have reached Ivan Braginsky's voicemail. Please leave a message after the beep.'
The beep following the words Gilbert had once found endearing when said in that lovely Russian accent is almost enough to make him cringe - just how many times has he heard them in the last couple hours, anyway? He's lost count - and for a moment he considers just hanging up. He's started to hate leaving messages. Has started to hate speaking to a machine, knowing that he's not going to hear Ivan's voice until the Russian gets around to calling him back. It's a hate he's only recently developed today, a hate that's the result of every single one of his countless calls going straight to that fucking recording. There are no words to properly describe just how much he hates it. He forces himself to try and forget that for the moment, though, and quickly leaves yet another message.
"Hey, Ivan, it's me. You must be busy, huh? Totally understandable, I guess. Your family's probably keeping you, or something. Uh... I'm sorry that I couldn't get down to Moscow for the holidays. I really did think West was going to Italy. I had just as little warning as you, you know, and I can hardly leave him all alone. What kind of a shitty brother would that make me?" He pauses for a moment, almost instinctually, to wait for his partner's response. When it doesn't come - of course he's not going to respond, dumbass, it's his fucking voicemail - he takes a deep breath and continues. "Look, I'm sorry. About the fight, I mean. It was totally my fault; I take all the blame, all right? I can't even fucking remember what we were fighting about now, so it can't have been that important. So if you're ignoring my calls because of that, just... Please, stop. I'm really sorry. I am. I miss you. Okay? So... Yeah, just, call me back when you can. And, uh, happy holidays. Bye."
Gilbert rams the 'end call' button hard once he's finished his message, and he stares at the phone for a long moment afterwards, silently willing it to ring, thinking that maybe, hopefully, this message will catch his partner's attention. Maybe this one will convey just how sorry he is for his stupid temper, and for blowing up at the Russian just before he'd left Berlin a couple days earlier. A small part of him wishes that he could remember what they'd be arguing about; conflictingly, he supposes it's better that he not know. He's beating himself up enough over the fight as it is, he doesn't need to know just how petty the problem they fought over was. It'll only serve to make him feel worse.
The faint sound of a car pulling into the driveway outside catches Gilbert's attention, and despite his common sense the German immediately rushes towards the front door, hoping that maybe, just maybe it's Ivan, back in Germany for whatever reason. He's quickly disappointed when he opens the door and sees his younger brother trudging up the front path, and with a groan he turns on his heel and heads back into the house, leaving the door open for Ludwig and ignoring the younger's call of 'Bruder?'. He sits himself in the living room, clicking on the television and hugging a cushion tight to his chest as he resists the urge to try Ivan again. It never takes him this long to call me back, what the hell is going on? Did I piss him off that much?
"Bruder?" Gilbert glances over his shoulder at his sibling when the younger man speaks to him again, now standing behind the sofa, and his brow rises inquiringly at the young blonde. Ludwig opens his mouth to say something, his brow furrowing slightly as he seemingly changes his mind and shakes his head, leaving the room momentarily before returning with the absence of his coat. "How was your evening?" The question - why does he sound so hesitant? He acting like someone's died, yeesh - is met with a shrug as Gilbert glances over at the phone again, briefly, before he pats the spot beside him, inviting his sibling to sit with him. Ludwig complies with the silent invitation, taking his place beside his brother as he waits for a verbal response. Gilbert remains silent for several moments, which seem to bring a dark frown to the blonde's face, and he only speaks when Ludwig makes a point of clearing his throat.
"My evening was awesome. Just sat here, drinking beer, watching TV. Tried calling Ivan a few times, but he didn't answer. Must be busy with family, I guess." The first portion of Gilbert's answer is a lie; he hasn't touched a single bottle or can of beer since Ivan left for the airport, and he only just turned the television on moments before his brother walked into the house. But he wasn't about to admit that he'd spent the entire evening calling Ivan, and waiting for Ivan to call back before growing impatient and calling again. He still had his pride, thank you very much. "What about your night? How was work?" He examines his brother carefully as he waits for the blonde's response, brow furrowing slightly as he notices that his sibling's lips are pressed in a tight line, like he's trying his very hardest to refrain from yelling. Perhaps something happened at work that angered him? Gilbert can't possibly imagine what specifically, though, as he's sure many aspects of the younger German's job irritate him.
"My evening was fine, thank you. Have you eaten at all?"
"Ja, of course." Another lie. Gilbert almost feels guilty for lying to his brother so much, but he's too concerned about Ivan not having phoned back yet to deal with the lectures Ludwig is sure to give if he learns that the albino hasn't eaten. Gilbert's not too sure he can stomach any food at the moment, anyway. He feels a little ill; he doesn't really want to risk being sick and needlessly concerning Ludwig. It'll leave him unwillingly stuck in bed for the next two days, at least, if he does. He can see in Ludwig's expression that the blonde doubts him so he offers him a smile, one he hopes is convincing enough to make the younger believe him. He figures it must do the trick, because moments later the blonde sighs and stands up again. "Hey, where are you going?"
"It's late, and I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. I think you should, too." Ludwig picks up the phone from the coffee tables as he passes it to go turn the television off, and it takes a fair bit of Gilbert's willpower not to object. He forces another smile on his face in response instead, does his very best to make sure it doesn't look forced, and follows his brother out of the living room when the younger flicks the light off. After checking all lights in the house are off, save for the hall light illuminating both sets of stairs the brothers need to use to get to their individual rooms, the blonde stands by the staircase leading down to Gilbert's bedroom, his arms crossed over his chest as he waits for the elder to go down. Gilbert resists the urge to roll his eyes and begins walking down to his room, sparing the phone still grasped tightly in his brother's hand a quick glance before he waves goodnight to his sibling, calling out a quick 'gute Nacht' before closing his door. There are a couple moments of silence before he can hear his brother walking up the stairs to his own room, and he lets out a soft sigh when he hears Ludwig's door close.
"Damn it, he took the phone..." Gilbert groans, rubbing the lids of his eyes before he realises just how exhausted he is. He supposes a couple hours of sleep won't hurt. It's not like he'll be able to answer the phone with it in his brother's possession, even if Ivan does phone back. With a sigh and a speed that makes him feel like he's elderly, much to his distaste, he navigates his way through the dark to his bed, plopping down on the surface and curling up in the blankets immediately. His hand automatically goes to grasp the blanket Ivan accidentally left behind - how he accidentally forgot it, Gilbert's unsure; he's never known the Russian to sleep without it - that he's recently taken to using as a comforter, and he quickly buries his face into the fabric, inhaling the faint scent of his lover.
He feels a small sting of loneliness when he notices that the blanket is starting to smell less like the Russian with each passing day, although he quickly tries to push that thought away in favour of losing himself in the scent that does remain, shutting his eyes tight and wrapping the blankets tighter around his frame in an attempt to strike up the illusion that the taller man is there with him. It must work, he concludes, as he nods off minutes later, into a deep, dreamless sleep with the fantasy of Ivan embracing him easing his mind.
Gilbert shivers ever so slightly against the harsh winter wind of Moscow, pulling his scarf up higher around his face as he makes his way up the front walk of the house before him. It's well into the New Year now, and after a couple months of no calls from his partner he's decided to come and see him himself. He doesn't want their relationship - which was, for the most part, the best relationship he's ever been in - to end on the horrid note that it did, and if Ivan isn't willing to discuss their problems over the phone, Gilbert will make him discuss them in person. He removes his right hand from where it was rubbing insistently against his arm in a futile attempt to warm himself up - why the hell did you forget to bring the coat Ivan bought you, you idiot? It's the only one you own thick enough to keep you warm here, how stupid can you get? - so he can knock on the door, and he waits rather impatiently until someone finally answers. He's more than a little disappointed, and just the slightest bit surprised, when the person who opens the door is not Ivan, but rather his younger sibling. Still, he offers her a smile, despite the uncharacteristic look of confusion - why confusion? She normally looks like she wants to slit my throat whenever I'm around, what's the difference now? - on her face when she sees him.
"Hallo, Natalya! How are you? It's been a while since we've last seen each other."
"What are you doing here?" Her voice is as icy as he remembers it, and he finds himself surprisingly pleased to see that the disgust she seems to hold for him is now prominent in her features, just like he remembers, almost all traces of confusion carefully masked behind her irritation. "I thought you would get the message when we ignored your phone calls, why the hell are you here?" Gilbert's attention is immediately caught when she mentions his phone calls, and he finds himself feeling a bit hurt, despite himself. So either Ivan knew he'd been calling, and had just chosen to ignore him, or Natalya had been deleting his messages and failed to tell her brother he'd been calling. Either way, he's here now, so the calls no longer matter.
"I'm here to see Ivan. Is he in?" There is a flash of absolute fury, mixed with the faintest hint of an emotion Gilbert can't identify in Natalya's eyes, and she looks like she's prepared to slaughter him when a familiar voice draws both hers and Gilbert's attention behind her. The voice still isn't the one Gilbert wants to hear, and he's sure his disappointment is obvious in his features now, but he still allows himself a fond smile when Natalya and Ivan's elder sister appears in the doorway. Her surprise upon noticing Gilbert matches Natalya's initial response to him, but she returns the smile he's giving her faintly before she speaks.
"Gilbert, what a pleasant surprise! What can we help you with, dear?"
"He wants to know where брат is." Natalya answers Kateryna's question before Gilbert has the chance to open his mouth, and he's left a bit baffled by the infuriated tone of voice she uses. He can't recall a time she's ever sounded that angry, despite how much she detests him, and he briefly wonders if maybe his fight with Ivan was more damaging than he thought. Kateryna's brow furrow slightly as she casts Gilbert a look that bears an unnerving resemblance to the one Ludwig had been wearing when he'd tried to talk the albino out of going to Russia, and she says something quickly to Natalya in Russian that Gilbert doesn't quite manage to catch, although he assumes she was shooing her inside as the younger girl disappears into the house immediately after.
"Gilbert, dear, perhaps we should talk..?" Kateryna seems uncertain as she steps outside and closes the front door, her eyes examining Gilbert's face carefully with the same motherly concern she'd always expressed for him. But it's different now, more intense, and Gilbert finds himself frowning as well as he nods slightly, waiting for her to speak, despite how much he really wishes to see Ivan right now. "Gilbert, you do know that Ivan's..." Gilbert blinks several times when Kateryna falls silent, his brow furrowing in confusion as he watches her mouth continue to move. It looks like she's talking, and she doesn't seem to notice her own silence, but Gilbert can't hear a thing she's saying. He briefly tries to read her lips, but he's never really excelled at lip-reading and can't make out any of her words, so he quickly gives up on that and merely waits until she finishes 'talking'.
"I really hope you can move on, dear. I don't want this hindering you for the remainder of your life." Gilbert starts when Kateryna's voice is suddenly audible again, and he blinks several times in confusion. Why should he be moving on? Does Ivan not want to try and fix their relationship? He opens his mouth to ask, but Kateryna shakes her head to silence him and presses a gentle kiss to each of his cheeks before stepping back, and for the first time he notices she's crying. "I know it's hard, but please try and forget about him. I don't want his memory to be a constant source of pain for you." She offers him a small, weak smile through her tears before she bids him farewell and disappears back into the house, leaving the baffled German alone in front of her house to contemplate her words.
'You have reached Ivan Braginsky's voicemail. Please leave a message after the beep.'
That damn voicemail will be the fucking death of him, Gilbert's sure. He's had to listen to it almost every single day for the past five months, and it's starting to grate on his last nerves. But a small, very small part of him almost like it, although he's not about to admit that to himself, or anyone else, any time soon. It allows him to hear Ivan's voice, though, even if it's only for a brief moment, and he's sure it's the only thing that's been keeping him sane for the past half year. But he doesn't have time to contemplate that. It's a very important day, and even if Ivan is going to be an ignorant prat and ignore him Gilbert won't let it go to waste.
"Hey Ivan, it's me again. I wonder if you're even getting any of these messages. Has Natalya been deleting them from your voicemail before you hear them? That sounds like something she'd do. Although, she must be at your house constantly if she's managing to catch them all before you do. Maybe that's why you haven't called me back? I'm going to go with that. But, hey, I actually have a purpose for calling you today! I mean a better purpose than desperately trying to get in touch with you. It's the second of June today! You remember what today is, right?" He pauses, for only a short second, to allow himself the brief illusion of Ivan responding to him before he continues, trying to ignore the dull throb in his heart at the lack of a reply. "It's our anniversary! Three years today. I wonder if we're supposed to take off the past five months, though, considering we haven't seen or spoken to each other at all. What do you think? I think we should, simply as punishment to you for ignoring me this long. But whatever, I won't take them off. But only if you promise to contact me soon, okay?" Another pause, and he waits a full thirty seconds this time before speaking again.
"Well, uh, I guess that's really all I had to call you about. I wish you were here. It doesn't really feel like an anniversary when we're not snuggled up on the couch watching one of those cheesy chick-flicks you like so much. I hope you don't mind, I watched a couple of them earlier without you. It wasn't the same, though. They lose their charm when you're not here to tease about them. But whatever, I'll watch them again with you when you come back, okay? So... I guess that's it. Ich liebe dich. Talk to you soon, okay?" He doesn't bother waiting for a response he knows will never come this time as he hangs up, dropping the phone on the floor beside the sofa before lying on his back to stare up at the ceiling. Their anniversary really isn't the same without the Russian by his side. "Asshole, I can't believe you're even ignoring me today..." He sighs, allowing his eyes to drift shut as he recalls their former anniversaries, allowing the happy memories to distract him from his miserable day and let him pretend that the Russian is there with him, for a brief moment.
"Mon ami, it has been so long since we saw you last!" Gilbert stares, long and hard and almost unseeing at the pair standing on his doorstep, his brow furrowing in confusion; he doesn't recall either of them saying they were coming to visit. He can't even remember the last time he saw or spoke to them. If he's being honest, he's not entirely sure he wants to see either of them - or Ludwig, or Matthew, or anyone who isn't Ivan; don't kid yourself, none of them matter when he's still ignoring you - at the moment, and it must be obvious on his face, if the expression Antonio is wearing is anything to go by.
"What are you guys doing here?" Francis casts a quick look at his companion, a small frown creasing his forehead as he looks back at Gilbert, evidently confused by the German's question.
"Did Ludwig not tell you we were coming..?" Gilbert almost shakes his head, but stops himself, because to be honest he can't remember if Ludwig told him or not. He can't remember any of the conversations he's had with his brother, or any of his friends, actually, for the past several weeks, and a small part of him feels like he should be concerned about that. But he brushes it off, because he really can't bring himself to care at the moment, and merely shrugs in response, stepping aside to allow his friends inside. They exchange looks again before walking into the house, thanking him as they pass. He closes the door once they're in and walks back to the living room, assuming they'll follow. They do, and he can feel their eyes on him as he collapses on the sofa.
"Amigo! How are you? Ludwig seemed really concerned when we spoke to him on the- Aye!" Whatever Antonio had been going to say is cut off with a sharp yelp, and he can hear Francis mumbling to the Spaniard quickly in one of their own languages - he doesn't know which, he stopped learning Spanish and French in favour of studying Russian not long after he met Ivan - before the blonde sits beside him. Antonio follows moments later, rubbing his arms and pouting softly as he takes his place on Gilbert's other side, repeating his earlier question. "How are you?"
"Fine. Awesome. Never better." Gilbert realises only after he's spoken just how defensive he sounds, and he clears his throat awkwardly, frowning slightly as he tries to remember how he used to behave around these two. He can't remember, though. Every memory he tries to sift through is full of Ivan, regardless of how much he tries to push the Russian out for once, and in every memory he can recall he's laughing, and joking, and happy, and he quickly concludes that even if he could remember how he behaved around his friends he wouldn't be able to pull it off. Not without it appearing force, at least. There's a small seed of guilt burrowing in his heart now, but neither of his friends comments on his odd behaviour, so he doesn't let himself linger on it too long. Instead he does his very best to ignore the concerned looks his friends are trying to paralyse him with, offering them both a beer to break the silence.
"Ah, non, thank you Gilbert. We don't need anything to drink." Gilbert nods slightly, slumping against the back of the sofa with his eyes fixed on his lap blankly. He can feel Antonio fidgeting uncomfortably to his right, and notices Francis clasping his hands on his lap to his left, and he's sure they both want to say something but he's really not up to giving them an opening to do so. If they want to say something that badly they'll say it, he concludes, regardless of whether or not he gives them permission.
The trio stays silent for several minutes, and Gilbert is starting to find himself wishing they would just go home if all they're going to do is sit there when Francis suddenly grasps his hand. He almost jerks away out of instinct, it's been so long since he's had physical contact with someone else, even his brother, but Francis' hand is warm - almost like Ivan's, if it was just a bit bigger and not so fucking soft - and he squeezes the offered hand softly instead. Antonio wraps his arms around Gilbert moments later, and he's squeezing the German so hard Gilbert's sure he's going to suffocate, but he doesn't have the heart to say so, so he just sits there and allows his friends to do whatever the hell it is they're trying to do. They're silent for a few moments more before Francis finally speaks, his voice low and words slow, as though he's uncertain about what to say.
"Gilbert, about... About Ivan... You... Don't you think..?" Gilbert's attention is snagged the moment Francis mentions his partner, and he turns to him with wide eyes, excitement flaring up deep within him because maybe, just maybe Francis knows how the Russian is, and why he hasn't contacted Gilbert. The logic going against that answer - why the hell would Ivan contact Francis, but not you? They met once, and Francis was so intoxicated at the time that he was anything but charming - evades Gilbert as he grasps Francis' hand with both his own, eager for answers.
"What about Ivan? Do you know why he hasn't contacted me?" There's a flash of something similar, although still unidentifiable to Gilbert, in Francis' eyes at the albino's questions, and he looks over Gilbert's shoulder to Antonio quickly with a confusing, conflicting emotion marring his expression. He's silent for a long moment, his gaze returning to Gilbert's as he frowns slightly, opening and closing his mouth several times before he sighs.
"N... No... I'm sorry, I don't... Don't know why he hasn't contacted you... I was just going to say that... Well... It's been more than half a year so you should just... Just forget him, all right?" Gilbert blinks, slowly, and releases Francis' hand, his brow furrowing slightly in confusion. He doesn't understand; why should he forget Ivan? Sure, the Russian hasn't contacted him for several months, but that doesn't mean he should forget him, just like that. He can't. He wishes people would stop telling him to, because it's simply not a possibility.
"Right... Okay. Well, it was great seeing you guys, but I think I'm going to go to bed. Feel free to let yourselves out whenever." Gilbert stands, pulling out of Antonio's hug and heading towards his room, ignoring his friends as they call out to him, and ignoring the fact that it's only four in the afternoon, so his excuse really isn't that liable. He can't deal with this, though. He can't deal with people. Everyone he talks to tells him he should 'forget' Ivan, and he can't understand why. He can't remember his conversations, aside from that one comment, and it frustrates and confuses him to no end. He's too tired to try and understand right now, though, and he locks his bedroom door before collapsing on his bed, squeezing his eyes shut to try and block out everything about his life and maybe try to remember what Ivan's voice sounds like. He briefly considers phoning him, just to listen to his voicemail, but the phone is upstairs, and he's suddenly too exhausted to try and consider moving, so he lets that idea go and closes his eyes, allowing himself to slip into a deep sleep rather quickly.
'You have reached the Braginskaya household. We're sorry that we missed your call, but if you'd like to leave your name and number at the beep we'll get back to you shortly. Thank you.'
Gilbert purses his lips slightly when he gets the voicemail - why is it always, always the fucking voicemail? Surely even I don't deserve to be ignored this much, regardless of how irrational I may have behaved last year - and he's tries not to think too much about the fact that's it's changed from the masculine Russian accent he loves so much to the very feminine accent of his elder sister. So Ivan's siblings have moved in with him, and apparently taken over his voicemail; nothing to be concerned about. He still has a chance of getting through to his partner, surely. There has to be a chance of getting through to him. Of course there is. Gilbert wishes he would just hurry up and forgive him so he can hear his voice and not that damned answering machine, though; his hate for leaving messages has developed to the point where he almost feels ill at the mere thought of leaving one. But he does, because if he doesn't how will he ever get in touch with Ivan?
"Hey, babe, it's me again. Gilbert, if you forgot. Not to say that your memory is bad or anything, it's just we haven't spoken in, like, a year. Did you know that it's Christmas again? Lovino was telling me today. Did you know that Lovino and Feliciano have moved in with us now, on that note? I can't remember if I told you or not. Lovino's surprisingly cute, you know, even if he was a bit of an asshole when I first met him. If you don't hurry up and call me a might leave you for him, he's that cute." He laughs, although it's weak, and presses the phone closer to his ear. "I'm kidding, I hope you know that. I'd never do that. But... Fuck, it's kind of hard, you know? It's been a year since I last had any contact with you. I didn't know you had it in you to hold a grudge for so long. I better have done something really fucking bad if you're going to insist on ignoring me for this amount of time."
Gilbert takes a shaky breath as his voice breaks on his last sentence, and he forces a smile onto his face, despite the fact the Russian can't see it, as he continues talking. "You know, West yelled at me earlier. It was pretty interesting; he's been treating me like I'm made out of glass or something all year. But he totally lost it this morning. He said I need to accept the fact you're gone, or some bullshit like that. Apparently I'm making myself sick chasing after the 'memory' of you. Honestly, I don't know what he's talking about. Your sister said something similar to me when I came to see you in Moscow. Did she tell you I came to Moscow? She probably didn't. But I did. I went all the way there from Berlin just to see you, and you didn't even show your face. Talk about rude. I have a good mind to dump you." He lets out another weak laugh, although it's a lot shakier now, and he hugs his legs to his chest while he continues talking.
"Everyone's insisting you're not coming back; did you know that? Bigger fool them, right? You'll prove them wrong soon, won't you? Really, the only reason you wouldn't come back is if you were d... Dead, and I know you're not. I would know if you'd died. A part of me would be dead if you were. Although, I feel dead, so you're doing a pretty damn convincing job of acting it. But I know you're not, because then you'd be breaking your promise, and you never break promises. Do you remember your promise?" Gilbert pauses for a moment, as if waiting for a response that will never come, before he continues slowly. "You promised that you would never leave me alone... You promised me you would always be here for me. So where the fucking hell are you, you selfish bastard? Where have you been for the past fucking year? Why won't you talk to me, damn it? I'm done playing this stupid game with you. You've won, whatever the hell it is you were trying to win, so congratulations. Now stop, okay? Talk to me, for fuck's sake. I am so done with this. I need you; I can't deal with this anymore. I'm begging you, fucking talk to me. Please. Please, please, please, fucking stop this. You've had your fun, now get your ass back here and keep your promise."
Gilbert is choking on his words now as he tries to hold back the tears that have begun cascading down his cheeks, doing his best to hold on to what little pride he has left as he forces back sobs to continue talking. "I love you. Ivan, I love you. I've never loved anyone like I do you, so you need to come back to me. Otherwise you'll be leaving me alone for the remainder of my life, and that's not really a decent thing to do, is it?" He pauses momentarily to try and calm down a bit, cradling the phone carefully as his hands tremble uncontrollably. "Just... Please, come back. Please." On that note he hangs up, dropping the phone on the ground and burying his face in his legs so he can sob freely, his frail body - when the hell did I get so thin? Maybe West has a reason to be concerned, after all - shaking violently. He faintly wonders if this means he's given up on the Russian; if the fact that he's finally crying over him means he's accepted that he's not coming back, and he suddenly realises that the fact he's even contemplating that at all probably means he's already accepted it.
The realisation only makes him sob harder, and he hardly responds when he feels warm arms circle around him, too upset to wonder how the other German managed to enter the living room without him noticing. Instead he wraps his own arms around the body of his sibling, practically throwing himself at the younger male as he allows Ludwig to comfort him, squeezing the blonde tight until he's exhausted himself so much he feels ready to pass out at any second. Through the drowsiness clouding his mind he can faintly process Ludwig picking him up, cradling his body carefully at the younger German carries him to a bed - whose bed, Gilbert's not sure, and he really can't bring himself to care - and the last thing he feels before falling unconscious is the soft feeling of lips - nothing like Ivan's, why couldn't they be more like Ivan's? - against his forehead as Ludwig covers him with a blanket and settles down beside his bed, his warm hand stroking Gilbert hair comfortingly until the elder man's asleep, away from the realisations and grief he'll have to deal with when he wakens for just a short while.