“A ball?” Ludwig said as he examined the invitation Gilbert and just handed him.
His friends Eliza and Roderich were there also. They had stopped by to see how Gilbert and he were doing.
“Yes, ve just the invitation today in the mail. It sounds likes a party to celebrate the peace in the European Union and Russia is hosting it.” Eliza said.
“Hmm, sounds a little strange... It's a bit last minute, says it's tomorrow night.” he said trailing off staring at the invitation.
Russia was up to something, he thought. He wondered if ____ would be there. She probably would be wooing some other country into revealing their secrets. Or with Ivan.
“Vell as long as there is beer there and pretty ladies I'll be going.” Gilbert said with a smirk.
“Vell you'll be representing Germany then. I'm not going.” he told Gilbert.
“Uh uh, bruder. I'm not allowed to due that. Sure I'm more awesome than you, but you are Germany. The awesome Prussia can not take your place, as better as it would be.” Gilbert told him, that stupid smirk of his on his face.
“Plus,” he continued, “You're boss called me and told me to make sure you go. After all you're one of the founding countries of the European Union. It vouldn't look right if you didn't go.”
Ludwig sighed, “Fine, but I von't enjoy it.”
“Neither will I. I'm only going because of Eliza.” Roderich said glancing over at her.
Eliza blushed, but then smiled at Roderich.
Ludwig looked over at Gilbert to see his smirk had faded and had a serious expression on his face. He had almost forgotten that Gilbert had feelings for Eliza. He hid them quite well, but Ludwig had discovered that when Gilbert had gotten extremely drunk one night, the night she and Roderich had started dating. He never considered that Gilbert did understand somewhat how he felt about _____.
The pair were oblivious to his change in mood, but before they could noticed his smirk returned and he went and put an arm around Roderich's neck.
“Good man, just going for the ladies, huh?” Gilbert said with a laugh.
“Please get off of me...” Roderich said.
Ludwig stood to go grab a drink from the mini-bar. He didn't noticed that Eliza had followed him till he felt her tap him on the shoulder.
“Gilbert told me what happened vith _____.” she said.
Ludwig set down the bottle of schnapps he was about to pour and took a deep breath.
“I don't know vhy he felt the need to tell you. It doesn't matter anymore.” he said to her.
“He's just vorried about you. He also told me cause he has doubts about what Francis told you.” she said, “After all Francis isn't usually the most honest person. I regret not hitting him vith my frying pan...”
Ludwig briefly smiled at the thought of Eliza smacking Francis, but them became solemn again.
“I don't know vhat to think honestly... I don't vant to think somehow she's innocent because I don't vant to be disappointed again, but I appreciate your concern.” he told her.
He lifted the bottle to pour it when Eliza put her hand on her arm.
“Maybe you can talk to her. She'll probably be at the ball. So far all you've heard is what others say happened. Vhy don't you ask her what happened?” she paused and smiled, “I got to meet her and talk to her. She seemed to genuinely care for you. I could tell she did. Gilbert told me she was trying to get away so you vouldn't get hurt. Vhy would she do that if she was just playing you? If her mission was over and she was trying to leave vouldn't she just break up with you?”
Ludwig stayed quiet and stared at the ice in his glass. Eliza had a point. He had spent too much time these last months dwelling on that she had been spying on him. He had a feeling that part was true, but perhaps she did develop feelings for him and that's why things went bad. She had distracted him, but perhaps she was just as distracted as he was. He needed to talk to her. He needed to know.
“If she's there, I will talk to her.” he finally said.
Eliza smiled, “Okay.”
She turned and returned to the couch.
Ludwig didn't want to have false hope, but part of him was still hopeful. Hopeful that maybe _____ truly did love him. He would have to wait and see.
Ivan straitened his bow tie and smoothed out his jacket, as he looked himself over in the mirror. He put a white scarf on draped over each shoulder and a long over coat.
He sighed. He wasn't very excited for tonight. He wanted so bad to go with _____, but if Ludwig was there, which he mostly likely would be, he couldn't risk having the two see each other. He was going to go see her before he left.
After one last look over, he turned and headed for the basement door. He unlocked the door and walked down the stairs. ______ was sitting in a chair reading a book, but looked up when he came down.
“I'll be leaving in a minute.” he told her. “Wish you were coming with me.”
“Well I don't.” she said setting her book down.
He walked over to her and set his hands on the armrests. He smiled at her.
“Whether you like it or not you're mine and if it weren't for the circumstances of tonight, you would go with me. My men would watch your every move and you wouldn't be able to run or say anything. Not unless you want your friends to get hurt. But just in case, you'll stay here, safe and sound.” he told her.
She looked away from him. He grabbed her chin, turning her head back, and kissed her. It was a quick light kiss. He wanted it to linger, wanted her to remember it.
She pulled her head away, and gave him a glare.
“Glare all you want.” he said straitening, “Toris will bring you dinner as usual. I'll be home late, but I'll come see you when I get back.”
He climbed the stairs and locked the door behind him.
You watched him leave. Toris arrived about fifteen minutes later with a tray of food.
“Is he gone?” you asked him.
“His car just left. Here eat first while I get the supplies.” he told you before heading back upstairs.
You took a few bites of the food, but then set the fork down. You couldn't eat, you were too nervous. You hope this idea would work.
Toris returned with Raivis, both of them carrying supplies. On one arm Toris carried what looked like a large plastic bag, you could only assume it was a dress. Toris pulled it out and showed it to you.
“Isn't it beautiful?” he asked.
It most definitely was. It was an elegant dress, long and flowy. A brilliant (your favorite color) and decorated with small designs woven into the fabric, some that sparkled when the light hit it. The top was slightly sweet-heart style and had off the shoulder sleeves.
“It's amazing! Where did you get it?” you asked.
“I had it made. I have a friend that designs dresses.” Toris said. “Lets get your hair and make up done first. Then you can try it on.”
“I'm afraid we'll have to cut your hair short,” Raivis chimed in. “You have a lot of hair to hide under a wig.”
“Whatever you need to do guys, just get me into that ball without Ivan noticing.” you told them.
They nodded and got to work. Raivis worked on your hair while Toris did your make up. You were used to this. Every performance night you had your hair pulled and your face poked and prodded so that you would stand out under the bright stage lights. Fortunately Toris and Raivis were much gentler than the ladies that usually did your hair and make-up.
Your hair tickled your back as it was severed from your head. Keeping your eyes close so Toris could do your make-up you listened to the snipping of the scissors. A few months ago you would have been furious if you had to chop all your hair off, but you couldn't care less now. Not if it meant keeping your friends safe.
Your life had changed so dramatically this past year. You found out your life had been a lie. Those that cared about you really didn't and were obsessive and manipulative. You fell in love. With someone so wonderful. You didn't feel that you deserved him. You had lied to him. He probably would be angry, but you hoped that he would believe that your feelings were real.
“I really feel stupid.” you said aloud.
“Why?” Toris asked you.
“For getting involved with Ivan in the first place.” you said.
“You were just a child, a lost one, no one can blame you for the decisions you made then. Plus Ivan can seem warm and caring on the outside, to some degree he is, but his darker side shows when things don't go his way. You're not the first one to be drawn by his sweet innocent demeanor.”
You nodded and then looked up a the pair, “You two should come with me. If I can get Ludwig to take me back with him, you should come too.”
“I don't know...” Raivis said, “Ivan will be mad...”
“Well he's going to be mad if he finds out we helped _____ in the first place.” Toris said. “We have to go.”
Raivis still looked nervous, but after a moment nodded.
“Let's get your wig on.” Raivis said.
He placed the wig over your now boy short hair. It was a (opposite of your hair color) wig and styled into a sharp cut bob (or whatever style you'd like to imagine). He clipped it to your real hair so it wouldn't fall off.
Toris held a mirror up so you could see. It really looked like there was a different person looking back at you. Toris did the make up on your nose to make it look shaped differently. The hair made your face shape look a bit different.
“Wow, you guys do a good job!” you exclaimed.
“Thank you, now lets get you into the dress.” Toris said.
He pulled it out of the plastic bag it was in and handed it to you.
“We'll let you change into it, let us know when your done.” he said and they left the basement.
You unzipped the back and slipped into the dress. It fit perfectly. You weren't sure how Toris got your measurements, but you really didn't care.
“Guys I'm done! I'm going to come up so I can look in the mirror.” you called.
You climbed the basement steps and opened the door. A small smile crept onto your face. You were so glad to be out of there. You went to the tall mirror over in the hallway and gave yourself a look over. You looked stunning, but not too flashy where you would draw attention. Toris returned and smiled at you.
“You look beautiful, ______.” he said.
You surprised him with a hug.
“Thank you so much, Toris. I will forever be grateful to you.” you said and then laughed, “You're like my fairy godmother.”
“I suppose I am.” he said, “Oh, I have one more thing for you.”
He pulled out a long jewelry box and opened it up; inside a simple silver chain necklace with a starburst pendant.
“To complete the look.” he said putting it on you.
“Thank you.” you smiled.
“We better hurry and get you to that ball. Here's your coat, it's cold outside.” he said handing it to you before taking your hand. “We can take my car. Raivis come on!”
You both hurried out to the outside garage. Ivan made Toris and the other staff in the house park in a separate garage. Raivis joined you a minute later. A light powder covered the ground and continued to drift down. It wouldn't be long before you had several inches.
Raivis opened the back car door and you got in. He then climbed up front with Toris, who took off as soon as you both were buckled.
The ball was being held at the Grand Kremlin Palace. Though not as old as some of Russia's other palaces, it was one of the grandest. You had been there several times with Ivan, so you could find your way around.
It took you about ten minutes to get there. There were still several cars waiting to let their passengers out a the main entrance. Toris pulled into the line and waited till it was your turn. He turned back and handed you a envelope.
“Here's a invitation. You'll need it to get in. It's just a standard invite for non-delegates, so they won't bug you about where you're coming from. Take this phone too, my number is the first one.” Toris said.
“Thank you, Toris.” you said.
Your car finally reached the main entrance. A usher was there to open the door for you, you thanked him and climbed out. You looked back and gave Toris and Raivis a reassuring smile before heading to the doors. You handed your invite to a second usher, who merely glanced at it and gestured you inside. You were directed up the stairs to the Georgievsky Hall were the ball was mainly being held, but some people were lingering outside in the Aleksandrovsky Hall and the inter-room. You made your way along the outside of the crowd where some were sitting down, so it was a little easier to move. You looked around constantly for any glimpse of Ludwig or even Gilbert. At least both of them easily stood out. Even then there were so many people, you knew you were going to have a hard time finding them. You also had to keep an eye out for Ivan, just in case he might recognize you.
You finally caught a glimpse of messy silver hair only a few feet away from you. Gilbert. You were so grateful to see that he was okay. The last time you saw him he was on the ground bleeding.
You slipped through the crowd and stopped right next to him. Gilbert noticed you before you could say anything.
“Guten tag, Fraulein!” he said with a smirk.
He didn't recognize you. So you decided to play along for a moment.
“Oh hello,” you said with a smile, “You must be one of the handsome German delegates I've heard so much talk about.”
Gilbert smirked even bigger at this.
“Ja, that's me. Vell I'm actually Prussian and awesome. You're pretty awesome yourself, perhaps you require an awesome escort this evening?” he said with a wink.
“You know I think I might, but first I'd like to talk to your brother.” you said.
Gilbert suddenly became confused, “Ludvig? How do you know my brother?”
“Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm ______.” you said.
Gilbert's eyes widened, “I didn't recognize you ______! You're okay!”
“Please Gilbert, not so loud.” you said looking around.
No sign of Ivan anywhere, but he could have others watching.
“I need to talk to Ludwig, can you take me to him.” you asked.
“Of course. He needs to talk to you too, but vhy are you disguised?” Gilbert asked taking your arm and walking you to where Ludwig was.
“It's a long story, but let's just say I can't have Ivan see me.” you said.
Gilbert just nodded and the two of you kept walking.
He led you over to the other side of the hall. Ludwig was there with Eliza and Roderich.
You felt your heart start beating faster when you saw him. You had missed him. You wondered how he would feel when he saw you.
“Ludvig!” Gilbert said. “There's someone who needs to talk to you.”
He turned and looked over at you. His eyes widened when he saw you. He did recognize you.
“______? Is that you?” he asked.
“Yes it is. I'm sure you really don't want to see me, let alone talk to me, but maybe, if you'll let me, I can explain.” you told him.
“Let's talk somewhere else.” Ludwig said pulling you away from the crowd.
You moved out of the Georgievsky Hall and out into the one of Aleksandrovsky's sections; Gilbert, Eliza, and Roderich followed.
Once out of earshot of the crowd Ludwig stopped and faced you.
“Vhy?” was all he said.
Though a simple question you knew what he meant.
“Well Ivan took care of me when I thought I was abandoned. He found me a long time ago, near death. I felt I owed him something, especially since I cared for him. Yet he lied to me, deceived me, just as I have deceived you. I thought I was abandoned by my parents, that they didn't want me, but I couldn't have been farther from the truth. The truth was that they were scientists who worked for the Russian government, during the cold war. They specialized in weapon research. Long story short they created a super weapon, even more dangerous than the bomb. I think they're the conciousness kicked in and so they fled, taking they're research with them. Of course the Russian government followed. They couldn't go far, the wall made sure of that. Tortured till death, they yielded most of the information, including the location of a secret lab in Germany. The one in the file report I found in your desk.”
Ludwig's brow creased and you looked down, but continued.
“The one secret they didn't give up was how to get in. Their DNA... my DNA. Living tissue though. By the time the Russian's discovered that, they had already killed my parents. So of course they had to find me. My parents had sent me away, perhaps sensing their impending capture. And that's how I ended up in Russian, becoming a spy out of gratitude.” you paused again and looked back up at Ludwig.
“I was deceived too. I didn't know about that lab or the fact that I was meant as a mere distraction. But I'm still sorry, Ludwig... I'm so so sorry... And you may still not want to forgive me and it's okay, I understand, but will you at least grant me an asylum? I can't stay here.” you asked.
He stayed silent for a moment, looking off to side.
You wondered what he was going to say. Your heart pounding in your chest. Ludwig's decision would decide your fate.
Ludwig stayed quiet as he thought over what ______ had told him.
What she said was true, she was the daughter of those scientists, whose lab was broken into. She matched the description and age. Plus there was the fact that Russia now had access to new weapon technology.
He honestly didn't know what to say. He couldn't help but stare at her. She looked beautiful. He had missed her. Despite all the hurt she had cause he still cared for her. He loved her and seeing her with fear and sadness in her eyes was killing him.
If she was telling the truth, then she was just as much a victim as he was. There was certainly things he had done in the past that he regreted.
He looked over at Gilbert and the others.
“Could you give us a moment?” he asked.
Eliza and Roderich nodded and left, but Gilbert stayed.
“Bruder...” Ludwig said with a bit of annoyance, but Gilbert gestured him over.
He walked over to him.
“Vhat?” he asked softly.
“I believe her. And I think she still cares for you, as much as you do for her.” Gilbert said. “I don't know vhat you've decided, but she is taking a risk giving you this information. And...” Gilbert told him.
He stopped him, “Gilbert, I know.”
He then turned and went back to _____. He looked her right the eyes. Swiftly he took her face and kissed her. He could feel her surprise. She definitely wasn't expecting it. After a moment he stopped and looked down at her.
“I believe you.”
You definitely weren't expecting Ludwig to kiss you. Not that you'd complain about it. It felt so nice to feel his warm hands on your face and his lips pressing gently into yours.
“I believe you.”
Those words made you more happy than the kiss did. Tears started brimming in your eyes a bit.
“I really am so sorry Ludwig...” you said.
“I know. And I'm sorry too... for all that you've been through.” Ludwig said as he pulled you into a hug.
“Thank you...” you said and then looked over at Gilbert, who hadn't left.
“Gilbert...” you said with a smile.
He smiled and walked over, “Did you miss the awesome me?”
“Yeah. I'm just glad you're okay.” you said pulling away from Ludwig. “But we should get out of here. I had to disguise myself to hide from Ivan.”
“So were you and Ivan?” Ludwig asked.
“Yes... but he's become obsessive and manipulative. He's not the man I knew or at least thought I knew. He's kept me locked up in the basement of his house these last few months. If he discovers I'm here I may never get another chance to get away again.” you said.
“Then let's go.” Ludwig said, “I'm not going to let him take you again.”
The three of you returned to the main hall and met up with Eliza and Roderich.
“We're leaving.” was all that Ludwig told them.
Ludwig took your hand and you headed for the entrance, with the others following. You were almost free. All of you quickly left, hurrying down the stairs before you got to the exit you noticed a man leaning against the wall watching you. He definitely wasn't one of the ushers.
“Ludwig,” you said softly, “We're being followed.”
He didn't glance back, just nodded and calmly led you to the exit. You got your coats and headed out the doors. Ludwig had his car come around, you needed to call Toris.
“My friends who brought me here, I need to call them.” you told him.
“Ve'll get in my car and then you can call them. They can follow us. As long as ve stay in the open ve'll be okay. I doubt Ivan's boss vould vant him to create a spectacle and draw attention.” he told you.
His car came around and all of you climbed in, with Ludwig taking the wheel. He pulled out steadily and headed for the exit. You called Toris.
“Hello, _____?” Toris said on the other end.
“Toris, I'm with Ludwig now, we're the only car leaving now.” you said.
“I can see you. We'll follow.” Toris said.
“Okay.” you said and hung up.
You drove to the other side of the palace and around the back to the exit gate. A car appeared behind yours; you assumed it was Toris, but you looked back to make sure. It was, but when you looked back you noticed something even farther back. A black car, with it's lights off was following you at a distance.
“Still following us.” you said.
“I'll try to lose them once ve're in the city.” Ludwig said, “Tell your friends ve'll meet at the airport. Ve came in a private jet.”
You texted Toris to let him know.
You finally got out the gate and Ludwig turned left, driving nonchalantly. It wasn't till he got to the main road that he sped up. He first followed the typical route you would take to get to the airport, but entering the city he made a sudden turn. Toris followed and so did the other car. It was a full on car chase. Ludwig turned where ever he could, doing it suddenly so that the other car wouldn't have time. Toris ended up going a different direction and got a text from him.
“See you at the airport.” was all it said.
After a couple more turns and winding steets you couldn't see that silhouette of the other car.
“We lost them.” you said.
“Gut.” Ludwig said.
He returned to the main road and they continued to the airport.