A.N. I'm back, and have been bitten by the Pandora Hearts bug. Also by the flu. Ick.
Hope you enjoy this sequel to Undone by Starlit Skyline. Normally I'm not into writing sequels to other people's stories...too many potential problems (I mean, what if they hate what you've done to their ideas?) But this one kinda grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go. Blame Starlit for writing such beautiful stuff that it's inspirational.
Xerxes woke with a start. He felt like something had changed and he couldn't tell what. He wished he could still see so he could tell what was going on. He could feel a tangle of magic in the air and a general feeling that something was different. All his ability to tell about his surroundings was telling him was that there was something extra on his bed, like a pillow or a stuffed animal. He wondered if the sewer rat had dropped something there, one of his mutilated stuffed animals. At that thought he found himself remembering again the Intention's playroom and the toys there. Was there another one there now? Or was there one less? A black plush rabbit in a red and white coat, more human than many he'd known, with a smile like the sun.
"You know, Break, I don't blame you," said the voice of that dead sun. "You saved me."
"I killed you." He really was going mad, arguing with a ghost over whether he was to blame for the ghost's death. Why would he dream this? His conscience dragging up the last dregs of his humanity for some imagined absolution for the death of Oz?
"You saved me from being the weapon used to kill everyone I love, and destroy the world. You broke my Contract. You saved me." Something small and soft brushed his face.
"You're still dead. And I killed you."
"You and Gil have the same guilt issues. It's always the worst option, the most depressing way to look at things, and the same self-blame with you two." He abruptly realized this wasn't all in his head. Nothing his twisted imagination could come up with would compare him to the wreck that was Gilbert. "But I'm not that easy to get rid of." The tone was lighter now. He knew the boy had that smile on. That all too sincere 'I know something you don't' look, that wasn't at all cute.
The silence returned, but he felt slightly lighter.
The next morning he was awakened by an undignified Gilbert-ish yelp from three rooms down. Lovely. The Seaweed Head was determined to make things even harder on everybody else than they already were. He considered getting up to chide the raven for it, but decided otherwise. Irritating Seaweed Heads who find out that they can get to him will do it on a regular basis, and he doesn't want the seaweed head in question to make things any worse than they already are, what with the sun gone.
"Xerx," Reim said from the door, sounding as if he wasn't sure about Xerxes' state of mind. Fair enough. Break wasn't all that sure either. "Why is there a stuffed rabbit on your bed?"
His thoughts fell out of his head like water out of cupped hands at the question, as he remembered the dream of Oz, and what he knew of the boy's origin.
"What does it look like?" he tried to suppress the hope suddenly kindling. He should know better than to hope for anything like a miracle.
Reim's tone was very puzzled when he answered. "It's black, in a red and white coat, with a white ribbon in a bow around its neck." It couldn't be. There was just no way. And yet— the description fit. "I'm not that easy to get rid of," Oz had said in the night. Before he had time to think any farther on this path, Gilbert squawked again, and there was the sudden sound of running feet, followed by an 'oof' from Reim as a high velocity Gilbert impacted him.
"Is there something about stuffed rabbits I need to know?" Break heard Reim inquire plaintively. Plural rabbits? Did Gil have one too? In which case… He knew it would be too much to hope for a miracle. He, of all people, ought to know better by now.
Gil stammered, "Oz, Break, Oz, rabbit…" Apparently pulling himself together, he continued, "Break, where did you get that rabbit? And why does yours look like B-rabbit as a plush toy?"
Before Xerxes could answer, a very familiar voice interrupted, "Because I am!"
There was a sound like someone sitting down hard, and another yelp from a certain Seaweed Head. "Gil, if you're going to react like that every time I say something, I'll start wondering if you really want me around." The voice paused. "If you don't, I wouldn't blame you," it finished softly.
While Seaweed Head gasped, Break heard Reim carefully articulate, "Are you truly Oz? Are you speaking to us through the plush rabbits, as Lady Sharon speaks through Equus?"
Probably-Oz gave a put upon sigh. "It's complicated."
"I imagine so," Break said dryly. "Just how exactly are you communicating through a stuffed rabbit?
"I am two stuffed rabbits. With my contract broken, I sort of – reverted. Besides, it was the only way I could get here. And to do even that much, I had to ask Alice to get her sister to let me come."
It sounded like listening to Oz. Besides, if he were a Chain trying to trick them, he wouldn't be talking about Alice and her sister.
"How is Alice?" Gil sounded actually concerned for the girl he'd always called 'stupid rabbit,' and dazed, as if he were trying to hold onto something concrete while reality broke around him.
"Fine. She's with her sister. They were getting as scary as when Lady Sharon has been reading romance novels, so I escaped."
The thought of the Intention and romance novels left even Xerxes Break stunned. He'd met the Intention. The Intention, Alice, and romance novels?
Suddenly Oz's voice was coming from right next to him. "I know I nearly broke the world for Jack, but that contract is over now, and I'd like to stay, if you'll let me."
There was a distinctly Gilbert-ish sob. Then Oz said conspiratorially beside him, "I give it five minutes before he's done crying into the fur of the me he's holding."
"Do you need a contract?" Reim asked.
"I'm here, now."
"That's not an answer," Break thought. Although, if Oz was indeed two plush rabbits, how could he make a contract anyway? Oh well, they could deal with it later. He had the Intention's permission to be here, it wasn't like the normal uncontracted Chains. And the world was mostly back to normal. He wanted to savor a certain Seaweed Head crying in his room, so he could tease him about it later.
Because Chains don't die easily, when the body that originally belonged to Jack was killed, Oz returned to the Abyss.