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he sees roderich from across the room, eternally overdressed and unfairly attractive. the room is warm and hazy, and someone is smoking weed somewhere.

the glass in gilbert’s hand is wet, condensation making it slippery, and so he chugs the dregs of whatever he’s been handed and sets the glass on the closest flat surface- a coffee table, covered in other empty cups and assorted trash.

he makes his way through the crowd of people, making use of his talent for going unseen when he wants to be. it’s nothing like matthew, who people seem to actively forget even exists, but there’s something to be said for being able to almost disappear when he wants.

halfway there he catches sight of roderich again, now with elizabeta next to him. gilbert tries to turn tail and find more alcohol, but just as he tries to push his way back into the mass of people he hears his name being called.

elizabeta waves him over, and in fairness gilbert’s hesitation is at least in part motivated by the fact that she is not particularly fond of him.

they’re civil, for the short conversation that she prompts, before mumbling something about one of her other friends and darting off. roderich shifts uncomfortably where he stands, leaning against a door frame and fidgeting.

“we can go outside,” gilbert offers, half-turned away and assuming his suggestion will be shot down. “you smoke?”

he’s not expecting roderich to grab a fistful of his hoodie, twisting his hand in the fabric like a lifeline. “yes, unfortunately,” he says quietly, and gilbert takes this a his cue to start for the door. he debates, internally where to go, and decides on the back porch that he knows will be empty.

when they’ve made it through the crowd roderich finally lets go, audibly sighing in relief and letting himself out.

despite it being june, it’s several degrees cooler outside, and the air doesn’t taste like smoke. gilbert laughs as he pulls out two cigarettes, and then digs around for a lighter.

roderich hands him one, one of those fancy metal ones that flick open, and gilbert whistles. “for someone who dislikes smoking you sure do embrace it.”

“it was a birthday present, actually,” roderich explains, taking one of the cigarettes but not doing anything to light it. he watches as gilbert lights his own, using roderich’s lighter, and then lights roderich’s for him.

“nothing like cancer smoke, amirite?” gilbert elbows roderich lightly, jostling him for attention before realizing his efforts are futile. “so how’d you end up here?”

roderich takes a moment to reply, focused on the way the smoke drifts away, and gilbert takes the moment to lean over the railing.

the yard around them is empty, and it’s quiet, except for the muffled sounds of the party and crickets chirping.

“eliza needed a ‘wingman’,” roderich says, the air quotes practically audible. “i don’t know why, she could have any woman here if she wanted, i think she just wanted to get me out of the house.”

in his buzzed and maybe a little high state, gilbert doesn’t actually realize that he’s supposed to respond until silence falls over them. he’s too busy look up at the way the rising moon makes roderich glow, haloing him every time he exhales a cloud of smoke.

“if you’re going to stare at least try to be subtle,” roderich says a little smugly, and he knows he’s timed it just right by the way gilbert chokes on the lungful of smoke that he promptly coughs up.

“so conceited, prinzessin,” gilbert rasps after a moment. “who said i was starin’ at you?”

roderich laughs then, not darkly but also not genuinely amused. it’s somewhere in between, in the dangerous gray area that is so tempting to exploit. “denial, gilbert,” and here roderich’s eyes meet gilbert’s, pinning him with the intensity of roderich’s stare, “is a very powerful force, and you’ve always been so easily tempted.”

gilbert lets quiet fall again, not sure where he stands and unsure he even wants to know.

roderich isn’t wrong, and maybe that’s where the hesitation is coming from. gilbert is painfully aware of how attractive everyone thinks roderich is, even if roderich doesn’t like to admit it. it would ruin his reputation as a musician, gilbert thinks, if he were anything but a socially awkward fool.

for those who know roderich, though, there’s an entirely separate side to him that is hidden behind his inhibitions, only freed when there’s intoxication involved.

“mmm,” gilbert comments, twisting ideas over in his head. “perhaps i just need the right… motivation.” he lets his voice catch on the r, and then it goes a bit deep as he trails off, but even from the corner of his eye he can see the way roderich goes half a shade darker, and that seems fair.

“perhaps,” roderich concedes then, and that’s when gilbert knows they’re playing this game again.

it’s an odd little game they play, where they each drag the other closer and closer to the line but never cross. sometimes gilbert wonders if he’s a masochist, and that’s why he’d so apt to let this happen without some kind of resolution.

“isn’t it romantic, specs, the way the smoke burns your lungs but you let it, you like it? like a lover you’ll never see again,” it’s nonsense, and they both know it, but ah, that’s the fun of the game, communicating through a winding path of sentences that mean nothing but somehow express so much.

he’s halfway through his cigarette now, tasting ash even when he’s not taking a drag, and he thinks to slow down so they can drag this out, the exquisite torture of roderich’s company.

and torture roderich does, humming in response before he shuffles bit closer to gilbert, voice pitching lower and rougher, more private than before. “only if you’re in love with the danger of it,” he says, and gilbert can feel warm breath on his ear.

he fights down a shiver, refusing to break first, refusing to let this end before he’s gotten roderich good and flustered. “but aren’t we all, a little? chasing the high of it, escaping the bit that comes next? it’s all just a balancing act.”

“oh, and what an act it is, when one is so desperate to get what they want.” roderich straightens up, pulling away and leaving gilbert that much colder in the light chill of the air, and it dawns on him that he might not win this battle.

there’s something about the way roderich holds himself tonight, less tense and a bit looser, like he’s not on the verge of panic. it’s good, gilbert thinks, but it’s also infuriating when he’s so used to being in control here.

he says as much, offering a shrug as he says, “self-control is an art form, one that few have mastered, after all.”

there’s barely a quarter of the cigarette left, so gilbert straightens up too, tapping the embers off the end before letting the unlit end fall onto the deck. he stomps it out, foot twisting, and then turns to lean against the railing while still facing roderich.

the moon is high now, just a little, but it somehow makes all the difference as their eyes meet. roderich’s eyes seem to glow violet in the dim light.

gilbert watches him finish off his own cigarette, waiting for the final response and the game to end. he knows he’s lost tonight, although it feels like more a draw than anything, but roderich isn’t done yet. his glasses are halfway done the bridge of his nose, and gilbert stifles a laugh because he knows the glasses are fake.

when roderich does finally respond, gilbert almost misses it.

“self-control is much more difficult than most people think, gilbert. everyone has their, shall we say, limits?”

it’s his eyes, it always is with roderich. framed with long lashes and such a beautiful shade of blue, so blue that sometimes, like now, they look lavender, and gilbert is so painfully weak to whatever he sees in them.

he doesn’t move immediately, waiting until roderich gives him the slightest nod, one imperceptible if he didn’t feel like every nerve in his body was buzzing with electricity, and then he almost throws himself at roderich.

it’s a little painful, the way their lips crash together, but gilbert pulls back to breathe an apology and then they’re kissing again. his hands end up cupping roderich’s face, thumbs brushing over his cheekbones, and he feels roderich’s hand fisted in the back of his own t-shirt, under his jacket.  

“god,” gilbert says between kisses, out of breath and almost silent, “you’re fuckin’ beautiful.”

despite everything, roderich blushes at that, and then he pulls away entirely. he’s far too composed for gilbert’s liking, but he supposes there’s plenty of time to fix that now.

“so impulsive,” roderich says, and he’s doing the thing again, the one where gilbert feels the words more than he hears them, murmured into his skin. “let’s see just how far you’ll bend before you break.”