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With your smile I am undone

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Ludwig scrubbed a hand over his face, staring blearily into his morning coffee as he listened to the idle chatter of Kanae and Liszt, the half-hearted arguing between Schubert and Mozart. One minute it would be overbearingly loud and cause his head to bang and frown lines to appear on his forehead; the next it would be disconcertingly muffled, fading in and out. He was unsure which was more terrifying to him.

He wished he had been able to leave early before any of the others were around, to clear his head on a morning walk - but he had awoken when the sun was well into rising in the sky, having dreamt of whirling colours and panicked voices and the sickening, final sound of a gunshot. He woke covered in sweat, panting, still with phantom traces of tears on his cheeks. As well as that, he had an inexplicable, churning feeling of guilt. The reason was lingering in the remaining recesses of his memory - one of the only things he had not yet dared to let himself remember.

Now he rose, stretching as he did so and pouring the coffee dregs from the jug into his flask - pale blue with penguins on it, a rather confusing gift from Wolfgang. Assuming the others were still busy talking, he turned and headed for the door, only looking back right as he was stepping out. That was when he saw that Schubert had abandoned the conversation momentarily, looking up at him no longer with that infernal sense of hero-worship (thank gott, he had certainly done nothing to deserve it.) but with such pure concern it made something in his chest waver slightly. Ludwig worried at his lip, wondering if he should speak, when Franz gave a small, sad smile and a gentle nod. Returning the look, Ludwig took that as a goodbye and stepped out.

He just couldn't put his finger on what was trying to breach the surface of his black, black sea of memories. And he wasn't entirely sure he wanted to. He headed to the park, resuming his seat on the panda and taking a deep swig of coffee, letting the liquid scorch his tongue and blister his throat. Then, he turned to watch as he noticed a young boy sitting on a bench - he appeared to be alone, and considering he looked about six or seven that was concerning to say the least. Ludwig contemplated going over, just to make sure he wasn't lost, when a look of excitement overtook the child. Leaping to his feet, he sprinted over to a tall man with long dark hair waiting at the gates.

"Uncle, uncle!"

That was when Beethoven's heart froze, his breath locked in his chest and his eyes glazed over. He was blind to the two relatives embracing, deaf to their words of affection. All he heard and saw was his own memory.

"Onkle! Onkle Ludwig!"

The little boy ran over to the composer, overjoyed at finding he had come to visit. Ludwig gave him a rare, genuine smile - his normally thunderous face lit up like the sun had chased off the stormclouds. He bent down to the child hugging his leg and lifted him onto his shoulders, noting that the house smelled of alcohol... again. He walked to the kitchen doorway and stopped short - his brother's wife was at the kitchen table, shoulders heaving with bitter sobs. When he cleared his throat she looked up, fixing him with a stony stare.

"Carl is dead, Herr van Beethoven." She spoke the words with mockery underlying in them. Ludwig had never approved of the woman, and had pushed her away in the process. His face became grave once again, and his nephew looked down at him in concern and confuson.

"Mama? Onkle Ludwig?"

The child's face as he began to comprehend what his mother had said was the final thing needed to persuade Ludwig to do it.

The legal battle for guardianship of his nephew was a grisly battle, fought over several years. By the time the boy finally came to live with him he was a sullen lad of fourteen, and he no longer squealed with delight at the sight of Ludwig, no longer dashed over into an embrace. He simply refused to accept that Ludwig was something of a surrogate father to him - he ran off to see his mother more often than he was at home.

More memories. Karl being dragged home by a constable, scowling rebelliously up at Ludwig. Something akin to hatred burning in his eyes.

Karl yelling at him and Ludwig yelling back. The boy - almost a man - storming off to gott only knew where, running and running where Ludwig could not follow.

Karl returning from school in disgrace, walking straight past his uncle and heading upstairs.

Karl telling him with a blank, uncaring expression that he was going to join the military.

Being told by his landlord that his nephew had bought a pistol.

Seeing him once more, waiting to leave for the army. Hair combed over to hide an ugly gash across one temple. A gash caused more by Ludwig's own actions than a pistol.

Had he gone to Ludwig's funeral?

I'm sorry, Karl. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm-

 Ludwig snapped back to the present with a choked gasp, as if coming up for air. How did things all go so terribly wrong?

What did he do?

He slowly lowered himself from the seat, picking the flask back up. The boy and his uncle were long gone. He tried a sip of coffee to comfort himself; it was cold now, and bitter - much like the memories. He knew there was nothing, absolutely nothing he could do for his nephew now. But that wouldn't make it stop hurting.

 He'd better get back home.

 

Kanae peered out of the window for the sixth time, making furious gestures to Mozart to shut up, for heaven's sake. She had been doing the dishes and gazing out the window when she had suddenly seen a familiar face - her father had appeared seemingly out of nowhere, leaving an almost aggravatingly familiar young man on the patio before disappearing agin - she already knew there was no use chasing after the man in such situations. In all honesty she didn't want to deal with yet another ClassicaLoid or stray or homeless waif or whatever he probably was knowing Kyougo. 

As she waited for him to hopefully go away, she squinted again at his features.

That face... I know that face...

 

Ludwig swung the gate open and headed up the path, weariness still weighing down on his shoulders. He just wanted to take back what he had done. He could still have been there for Karl if he had let him stay with his mother. He could have avoided all of this. He could have-

Ludwig stopped short. There was a young man sitting on the patio - younger than him, he could have been described as perhaps no older than eighteen. And that face...

He knew that face. He knew that face painfully well, though it had changed in more than one way to fit in with a new body.

Ludwig stepped forward on trembling legs, each step to the porch feeling excruciatingly slow. He was scared, he'd a it that much. Scared that one of two things would happen - he would immediately be rejected, or it would turn out that he was very much mistaken.

The boy looked up at last, and upon meeting his eyes Ludwig let the word slip unbidden from his tongue.

"Karl."

At that he rose, approaching Beethoven in kind. As Ludwig felt the beginnings of a long-missed embrace around him, he heard the voice by his ear as barely a whisper.

"Onkle."