Chapter 1: Black
“Hurry up, Francis, I’d like to be moved in before next year!” Basch Zwingli hefted a carefully taped cardboard box into his arms, using his knee to prop it up as he waited for his friend, who was taking his own sweet time climbing the single flight of stairs that separated them. Of course the elevator in this shitty old building was broken. Just his luck.
“You can’t rush perfection, mon chou!” Came the crystaline response, and an elegant head poked around the corner, sporting a dazzling smile and perfectly styled, honey blond hair. Basch rolled his eyes in response to the little quip, flicking his own messy tresses back from his forehead as he set the box down and wiped his brow clean of any sweat.
“First off, that doesn’t make sense. Second, I’m not your little cabbage, so quit calling me that.”
He ignored the Frenchman’s protests as he dug in his coat pocket for the key the resident assistant Arthur Kirkland had given him, examining the obnoxious heart-shaped plastic key chain attached to it. “24 A” was written on one side in sharpie, and on the other side, faded black letters proclaimed “Don’t Dull My Sparkle, Asshole.” (Francis found it hilarious. Basch had asked for another keychain.)
“This is it,” he murmured, expressive eyes flicking to the rusty and lopsided room number drilled into the door in front of him. With utmost care, as if he was handling a bomb, he slid the key into the doorknob and unlocked it with a satisfying click, wrinkling his nose at the way it creaked open. He would have to oil the hinges later.
The room was empty. The smaller blond let out a sigh of relief, hesitantly placing a foot over the threshhold and wincing at the way the floorboards squealed beneath his weight. Francis, much less apprehensive, stepped immediately into the middle of the room, resting a hand on the curve of his hip. “Wow. This is very…”
“Sad? Decrepit? Pathetic?” Basch supplied, and Francis cleared his throat, patting the smaller blond on the shoulder. “I was going to say cozy. It will build character, oui?”
“I have no character, Francis,” Basch grunted, picking up the box again and carrying it into the vacant room, where he set it on the bed closest to the window. A puff of dust rose from the moth-eaten sheets, floating in the beams of sunlight filtering in from the filthy window like tiny bugs. Casting a quick glance to the other bed to see if it was any better, the Swiss settled on this one. Whoever was coming later would have to deal - first come, first served.
The taller of the two gaped at his words, as if Basch had personally offended him. “Mon ami, that is simply not true! Of course you have character!”
Basch ignored the shock on his friend's face as he brushed past him and sat on the bed next to the box, using the room key to slit open the clear packing tape. “Francis, if I did, I would have found my soulmate by now. Everyone else seems to have found theirs, and I’m still here, alone, and seeing in stupid black and white,” he muttered, pulling out his textbooks and setting them on the desk on his side of the room.
“Oh, be patient,” Francis chided gently, going to help him put his clothes away in the dinky chest of drawers. “You’ll find someone, just you wait! I feel it in my bones.”
“Drama queen,” Basch muttered, and the Frenchman clucked his tongue.
“I heard that.”
They managed to get Basch’s things unpacked relatively quickly - he didn’t have much to start with, and they both worked diligently. Francis played terrible pop music on his phone, and partway through, Arthur, the RA and Francis’ soulmate, brought them lunch from the sandwich shop down the street. The three of them ate in a patch of sunshine on the creaky floor of the dorm room while Katy Perry serenaded them in the background, enjoying the last stress-free days of summer.
“So, Basch,” Arthur began casually, and the Swiss quirked a thin brow in acknowledgement, “do you know who your roommate is going to be yet?”
He shook his head around a mouthful of sandwich, washing it down with a sip of coke and pursing his lips at the sickly sweet taste. He hated coke, but he didn’t trust the yellowish water that came out of the tap, and hadn't yet gotten around to buying a filter.
“I don’t. Hopefully they keep things tidy and leave me alone,” he muttered, and Arthur shook his head.
“The reason I ask is that I finished making the matches today. Do you know Roderich Edelstein?”
Basch took another bite of his sandwich, chewing thoughtfully as he gazed up at the ceiling.
“Roderich Edelstein…” he mused, “Can’t say I do.”
“What about me?”
All three students looked up at the sound of the door squeaking, followed by the trill of a lilting voice.
There, in perfect black and white, stood the most pompous man Basch had ever seen. His hair was elegantly styled, but a wayward strand stood out in an oddly attractive little curl. Full lips were drawn into a frown, and his slender waist tapered down into long legs and perfect hips, like a playboy model.
“Ah, speak of the devil,” Francis crooned, batting his eyelashes at the newcomer, who curled his lip in a sneer of disgust.
“Basch,” stated Arthur, “this is your roommate, Roderich Edelstein.”
Basch didn’t notice he was staring until Francis jabbed him in the ribs, and he croaked out, “You weren’t supposed to arrive until Saturday.”
The dark-haired man stepped into the room, looking around with a disapproving expression as he carefully set a black case that appeared to be for an instrument down on the unoccupied bed.
“I came early. I was hoping for some peace and quiet before the beginning of term, but I suppose that isn’t going to happen,” he stated cooly, casting a glance towards Francis’ phone, which was still playing bubblegum pop. “Besides, it looks like it’s a good thing I got here when I did. This place is filthy. I’ll have to call a maid to come clean it.”
Basch shot Arthur a venomous glare, mouthing “a maid?!” This could not be happening. There was no way this high-nosed asshole was going to be his roommate. He couldn't bear spend a whole year with him - he could barely stand a minute without wanting to get up and kick him in his stupid, pompous shins. "It probably wouldn't matter anyway. I bet his legs are insured for more money than I've had in my lifetime," he thought to himself, looking away to roll his eyes.
Arthur merely shrugged, gathering up the remains of their lunch and taking Francis’ arm, looking over his shoulder as they left. "You two have fun, now. Remember, no unnecessary noises after 11:00 at night!" With those parting words, the two strode out of the room, leaving Basch spluttering.
“We are not hiring a maid to do the cleaning here!” He spat, crossing his arms and getting off the floor. Roderich looked back over his shoulder from where he was unpacking a briefcase filled with what looked to be silk bedclothes.
“And who are you to dictate that?” he asked smoothly, seeming completely unbothered by the Swiss man’s anger.
“I don’t have the money to contribute to some stupid maid service. Besides, that’s just lazy. A waste of money, if you ask me,” the blond stated plainly, going to heave open the filthy window. Several chips of rust flaked from the panes, falling onto his bed where he impatiently brushed them away.
Roderich turned around, perfect lips pursed over his pearly teeth as he met Basch’s challenging gaze, diffusing the heat between them. “I didn’t. Now if you don’t mind, I am going to finish unpacking, and would very much appreciate silence."
It took every ounce of Basch’s willpower not to smother him with that absurd feather pillow.
Chapter 2: Grey
Roderich doesn't get any sleep, and Basch cleans the whole dorm.
Roderich was accustomed to getting a solid eight hours of sleep in a warm feather bed, enveloped by silk sheets and heavy velvet hangings to shield him from the unwelcome light of the morning sun.
The new dorm room got in the way of that for several reasons - one, he could feel each individual spring in the thin, cheap mattress on his bed. Two, there were no curtains on the dingy window, meaning rays of dusty sunlight hit him right across the face at exactly 6:54 AM. Finally, his oh-so- simple roommate insisted on being up at the crack of dawn, opening and closing that godforsaken squealing door, and setting a heavy-sounding box on the floor with a thunk .
“Could you keep it down?” The Austrian grumbled, pulling his oversized comforter over his head in a futile attempt to shut out the light and sound.
“No,” came the muffled response, and the heavy covers were yanked off of his face to reveal a fully-dressed Basch, with a hand on his hip and a frown on his face. “Get up. We’re cleaning this place up before classes start next week.”
“Wha-?! Give me that!” Roderich snatched the covers back from him with a hiss, almond eyes narrowing coldly. “I said I would hire a maid-”
“And I said that was a stupid idea,” Basch stated plainly, grabbing a spray bottle filled with some sort of lemon-scented liquid and an old rag from the box of cleaning supplies Arthur had loaned him. “Now get up and help. You’re not going to get anymore sleep today anyway.”
Roderich, of course, attempted in vain to defy him, but found that his roommate’s clamoring around was making it extremely difficut to nod back off. Reluctantly, and with no small amount of griping and groaning, he hauled himself out of bed and dressed, neatly folding his pajamas and leaving them on top of his comforter once he returned. The brunette wrinkled his nose at the broom his roommate had left by the door, wrapping his slender fingers around the wooden handle and beginning to awkwardly sweep the dust from every corner of the little room, chasing a few spiders out with each little puff he stirred up. Basch had cleaned the dingy window and dusted the desks off, and was crouched on the floor with a can, spraying the hinges of the door when the brunette cleared his throat.
“What...what’s your name?” he asked, and Basch looked up, blinking in surprise as if nobody had ever asked him that.
“Oh. Uh, it’s Sebastian. Everyone calls me Basch.”
“And you’re majoring in…?” Roderich prompted, clearly trying to carry on some sort of conversation - he had never done well with silence.. He hadn’t realized just how attractive the Swiss man was the first day he had met him, too grumpy and tired from a day of hard travel.
“Business and finances. It’s boring, but it’ll earn me a lot,” came the curt response, and Basch stood up, testing the door. It was quiet now, and he shut it carefully as to avoid chipping off more of the paint - that was a job for another day. “You?”
“Music,” Roderich responded, glancing fondly to the sleek violin case propped against the wall. Basch looked at him with both brows raised.
“And what might you plan on doing with that?” he asked, and the man shrugged serenely, sitting down on his bed and examining his nails.
“Play. I’m very good, you know. I conduct, and play six instruments.”
“Yeah, that’ll earn you a living,” he muttered under his breath, earning an apprehensive glance from the Austrian.
“Excuse me? Some of us do what we love, not what will make us rich and suck our souls away.” That melodious voice was tenuous now, a high, quavering note in the gritty air between them.
“Easy for you to say, you’re already rich,” Basch retorted, sharp eyes glinting, wintry as they narrowed.
“What is your obsession with money?! Good god, you act like it’s the only thing that makes the world turn!”
“Clever one, are you?” He snarled, lip curling in a nasty sneer, “people tend to become fixated with what they don’t have.”
Roderich was rendered silent by this response, caught completely off guard. Basch didn’t have any money…? He certainly didn’t look like the poor ruffians he saw in plays, the brunette mused to himself, silently admiring the smaller man’s fierce features before clearing his throat and returning to his stiff self.
“I’m...sorry. I didn’t mean to-”
“‘S fine,” Basch grunted, waving him off. “I don’t need or want your apologies.”
“Are you always so bellicose?” Roderich sighed, completely exasperated with the other man at this point. He sank down onto the plush comforter of his bed, pushing his hair back from his forehead as if he had run a marathon instead of just sweeping.
“Yes,” the blond stated matter-of-factly, going to pack the cleaning supplies away into the battered cardboard box. Roderich knelt to help him, rearranging some bottles and rags so that everything would fit neatly. The Austrian seemed to be struggling with something, teeth worrying at his lower lip.
“Do you have a soulmate?”
Basch’s shoulders tensed minutely, and he turned his back, picking up the box with a grunt and heading towards the door. “No,” he responded after a moment. “Do you?”
Roderich hesitated, opening his mouth and closing it again before he decided on his answer.
“I see.” The petit man didn’t look back over his shoulder as he slipped out the door, using his foot to kick it shut behind him and jarring off several more chips of loose paint..
He didn’t come back for the rest of the day.
Chapter 3: White
Roderich gets lost, calculus sucks, and Basch is seeing things.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
If there was one things Roderich had learned in his first few weeks of university, it was that there was absolutely no privacy permitted. No matter where he tried to retreat to, there always seemed to be someone around, smoking a cigarette against the wall outside the theater, gossiping in hushed tones in the library, or banging on the bathroom doors impatiently.
It was driving him absolutely mad .
It was a particular group of tittering sorority girls that finally drove him over the edge. The calculus exam he was desperately cramming for was not helping his mood, and after the fourth obnoxiously high-pitched giggle, he closed his textbook with a snap. “Do you mind ?” He hissed, taking a brief moment to relish their stunned expressions before whirling out in a huff.
The brisk winter air soothed the Austrian’s burning cheeks and blazing thoughts, and he began to feel guilty about snapping. There was no point in apologizing, though, he decided, they had been terribly rude.
A loud honk tore him from his reverie. Startling, he dashed quickly across the street and offered an apologetic glance to the furious driver who seemed to be screaming expletives that Roderich thankfully couldn’t hear behind the windshield. He glanced over his shoulder to gauge exactly where he was, pausing and pursing his thin lips. The street name on the peeling sign was unfamiliar. Come to think of it, he didn’t recognize any of his surroundings.
“Oh dear…” He was lost. Completely, and totally lost. This wasn’t completely out of the of the ordinary for him, but it was still embarrassing and wholly inconvenient.
“God, that was stupid. So stupid,” he muttered, pressing the heel of his hand to his forehead. How could he let himself zone out like that? He knew very well could never trust his feet to carry him in the right direction - hell, got lost in his own dormitory sometimes.
And of course, his phone had to be low on battery. Just his luck. Swiftly, as fast as his nimble fingers would type, he tapped out a text to his roommate (who had proved to be very reliable and good with directions) with the name of the street he was on. He was just able to hit send when the screen flickered and went dark.
Just great. Perfect. Now he had to wait, and pray that the spirited man wouldn’t be too irritated when - if - he came to retrieve him.
Minutes ticked by, with the brunette leaning anxiously against a graffitied brick wall, eyes following every car that sped down the street in hopes that one might becoming to rescue him. He pressed back against the rough surface, ignoring the chill that seeped through his wool coat as he did his very best to blend in. It was evident that he did not belong here, among dilapated shops and streets littered with broken headlights and smashed beer bottles.
“Roderich, you utter moron !”
He jumped, whipping around towards the sound of his name. Basch was glaring at him from the rolled-down window of an old car, lumnious eyes shot through with fury and annoyance as Roderich’s shoulders slumped with relief.
“Thank God, I thought you were never going to come.” He slipped into the seat beside him, eyes closing a beat longer than a blink as he soaked in the overwhelming feeling of comfort and safety once he shut the car door.
“I almost wasn’t going to,” he muttered, brows drawn as he wrinkled his pert nose. “I have a calculus exam to study for-”
“That’s what I was trying to do,” the Austrian admitted, rubbing the back of his neck under his cashmere scarf. “I...got frustrated.”
“So you got yourself lost and interrupted my day? Seems like an effective study method,” came the sarcastic response as he slammed the heel of his hand onto the horn. “Use your goddamned turn signal-!”
The retort flaked off Roderich’s tongue when he turned to look at his roommate, noticing the dark circles resting under his eyes. He knew for a fact that Basch had been out late working as many jobs as he could handle with studying and the load of classes he was taking. Some nights, he knew the man was only able to get two hours of sleep before his eight o’clock morning class. He would hear him in his own sleepy haze, stumbling in and throwing his bag down at the door before collapsing on his bed in exhaustion.
Very unhealthy, really.
“Sorry,” he murmured honestly, and the smaller of the two grimaced, as if he had a sour taste on his tongue, before sighing deeply and smothering a yawn. His shoulders slumped, and he shrugged, all but defeated.
“Whatever. Just don’t do that again.”
Exhaling in relief at the response, the musician folded his hands in his lap, before unfolding them seconds later to thrum his slender fingertips on his thighs, tapping out a silent symphony. Next to him, Basch could sense his conflict, and wrinkled his pert nose, viridant gaze flickering briefly over to him.
“What’s wrong with you? Quit fidgiting like that, it’s distracting.”
“Would you like to study for calculus together?” Roderich blurted out, and Basch arched a brow, pulling the keys from the ignition and opening the car door. “I mean, you are a business and finance major, surely you’re good at-”
“I am. Good at calculus, I mean.” The blond’s eyes were on the steering wheel, hair flickering along his cheeks in the cool cross breeze. “I’ll help you study.”
Why was he agreeing to this? Every cell in his body was screaming at him to say no, to let his roommate go back to the library and struggle through another set of problems. He himself studied better alone, anyway. But the helpless look on his face, the desperation and breathlessness in his voice… He couldn’t just let him fail .
“Thank you,” Roderich sighed, and Basch gave him a curt nod in response.
“Let’s go, sitting in the car isn’t helping either of us.”
He lifted his head from the dashboard and stepped out into the crisp air, boots crunching on the loose gravel and broken glass in the parking lot. As the pair approached the double doors of their dorm complex, Basch’s eyes caught briefly on Roderich’s, and his mouth was suddenly bone dry. It took all of his willpower not to falter in his steps and risk giving himself away.
Roderich’s eyes were violet.
Hey everyone! Livia here. Sorry this took so long, I had it mostly written, but life got very busy, and I have been away in Germany for most of the summer, so not much writing has been done. ^^' Forgive me! I hope to have more regular updates soon.