Hare and Hatter
This is it, this is the very last chapter! It's taken about four years to get to this point, which is the longest I've ever worked on a fanic and I want to thank every one of you who have hopped onto this crazy train to ride until the end. You are the best and your support gave me motivation to keep going when real life threw things in the way. We've come a long way together and I'm so thankful you all stuck with me!
Now, before we finish, a quick word about a sequel. Yes, I do want to do one, that's one of the reasons these last couple of chapters took so long, I had to redo some of my notes to accommodate. It would be a continuing AU about Break and Liam dealing with their new connection and the very big things that are going to be happening in their world. However this story may be be a bit in coming, I need to take a break from this story for a bit and work on some other fics and some personal stories. I also want Pandora Hearts to wrap up (or get close to it) because the sequel is going to draw from canon quite a bit as well and PH has a bad habit of doing the things you least expect. So… yeah. There's that coming eventually. Look forward to seeing you all there.
So, now, to the end!
There was no precedent for being able to hear another contractor's Chain while they where not actively using it, but Liam could have sworn he could hear the faint rumble of Mad Hatter's voice as Break sat on the edge of his bed. There was the hum of his own Chain responding, then both Chains settled into silence, leaving their contractors staring at each other with great surprise.
"Do you think you're going to keep doing that?" Liam asked.
"I don't think we're going to be able to stop them now that they've found each other." Break replied. "Do you… have a problem with that?"
"No." Liam found himself tightening his fingers around Break's hand when he tried to take it away. "No. I… don't mind it at all. It's like having something missing back to where it should be."
A bit of tension Liam hadn't noticed in Break's shoulder went away. "Having your Chain sealed away might have had something to do with that."
"Yes, it likely did." A thought occurred to Liam and he frowned, "I wonder… if the reason that your Chain made you so sick was not completely for… the reasons we thought. Maybe the power was never supposed to all come from you."
"Hatter did once tell me he that he couldn't use his full power without the affect on me being quite bad." Break mused. "He failed to mention that the power would come from someone else completely. It does explain why he was quite adamant about find the March Hare."
"I think Hare wanted to find the Mad Hatter for a while," Liam rubbed the side of his head with his free hand, "I have some vague memories of before I had the earrings, Hare used to call for Hatter."
"Who gave you those?" Break asked.
"Lord Barma." he told him. "He gave them to me…" he could feel his frown deepening, "Right after you contracted with Mad Hatter. He told me to wear them and never taken them off, at the time I didn't question it. Then after I put them on… asking what they were for never occurred to me."
"I broke them." Break blurted and looked mildly mortified. "I mean, I hope you didn't want to keep them because I had the rings smashed and burned the ribbons."
"That seems a bit extreme."
"Liam," Miss Sharon spoke up from her chair, causing them both to glance over at her, "They held power over your mind, that isn't something to underestimate. Even when you were wearing only one they had enough influence to make you forget things you had just said. We wanted to be sure they couldn't have any residual hold over you." She wrinkled her nose. "The hammer we used to break the rings cracked all the way through and the flames of the fire we threw the ribbons into burned purple for hours."
"Someone went to a great deal of trouble to ensure that we never met." Liam said. "Our Chains are clearly more effective together, it seems counter-intuitive to keep us apart. We could have been much more useful to Pandora together."
"That is until you take into account the fact that almost every other pairing of a Mad Hatter contractor and a March Hare contractor has seen the March Hare contractor die young." Lord Barma stood in the doorway, flanked by two men in Pandora uniform who Liam could clearly tell were illusionary. "They all died drained down to nothing, mere husks of what they had once been."
"It would be difficult for us to know that considering the removal of all records pertaining to the March Hare Chain and it's contractors." Miss Sharon had risen from her chair and moved to stand between the two men by the bed and the duke. "One would think you were hiding something."
"I have no need to justify my actions to you." Duke Barma told her, looking at her with cold eyes. "Now I am going to have to ask you to order your servant to leave."
"No." Miss Sharon said, her voice going serious. "I will do no such thing."
"Very well," Duke Barma took a step to the side and addressed Break directly. "Xerxes Break, get away from my servant or there will be serious consequences."
Break's hand clenched hard enough on Liam's that Liam's fingers to ache, "No." he said.
"Liam," Duke Barma's voice snapped out like a whip. "Tell him to leave."
"No." Liam said quietly.
"What was that?" the other man demanded.
"No." Liam said more loudly. He swallowed and sat up straighter. "I'm done with this. With all of it. The anger and the abuse, I've put up with this long enough and now that I know what you've been working to do… that's it."
"What are you talking about?" Duke Barma snapped.
Liam squeezed Break's hand reassuringly and made his tone flat and level. "Lord Barma, this is my formal notification of my cessation of contract."
"What?" Duke Barma blinked at him.
"I quit." Liam said. "Pandora, servitude, all of it. I'm done. My contract of employment is not absolute, I can leave and I am."
There was a long moment where everyone stared at him, seeming to need that time to process the enormity of what he'd just said.
Then Lord Barma sighed and seemed to deflate. He made a careless gesture that had the two Pandora men illusions behind him disappear then walked into the room and shooed Miss Sharon away from the chair so he could ease into it in a manner that suggested that his body did actually remember that it was quite old, even if it didn't show it.
"That wasn't what I wanted." He said. "You don't have to leave Pandora."
"Yes." Liam replied. "It appears I do. I'm tired of being manipulated for reasons that no one has bothered to explain to me and it looks like I'm going to have to leave Pandora if I want to be free from it."
"Where exactly would you go without the Barma household to call a home?" Lord Barma asked. "You are still a contractor and without any connection to the Four Houses Pandora would be forced to consider you a rouge agent."
Miss Sharon cleared her throat, delicately. "Mister Liam would find that he has a place ready and waiting for him in the Rainsworth household. Should he wish to join a household that is." She arched an eyebrow at Lord Barma. "Whether or not he takes a formal place in the household he has our protection as a honorary member."
"That was enquiry, not a threat." Lord Barma said, he took in the frowns on Miss Sharon and Break's faces and shook his head. "I do suppose I have no right to ask you to believe."
"No, you don't." Liam said. "Not considering the circumstances. Since there's no hope you continuing the keep up the presence that you haven't been trying to keep my Chain away from Break's I believe an explanation is in order. I assume there was a reason for the fact so much effort was put into it."
"Precedent suggested that the moment you contracted with the March Hare your life was going to end prematurely." Lord Barma said, he made a movement as if to reach for his fan, probably wanting something for his hands to do, and then seemed to think better of it. "We had intended for you to contract with Yamane, instead you contracted with a Chain that was am active risk to your life. So measures were put into place to protect you when someone contracted with the Mad Hatter."
"Those Chains are clearly meant to work together. Why separate them? Why keep their connection secret?" Miss Sharon asked.
"There have been five different contractors of both Hare and Hatter." Lord Barma told them. "Each pair worked together, which seemed only sensible as the Mad Hatter Chain works to full potential by using power from the March Hare. The other Chain acts as a power well and a spotter for Mad Hatter. Unfortunately the power drawn from March Hare also comes from March Hare's contractor. Every single March Hare contractor died young, most faded to a husk or were killed in the line of duty when their Chain left them too weak to defend themselves."
"So you sought to keep them apart?" Miss Sharon glared at him, "Xerxes' Chain took a huge toll on his body, with Liam's power that could have been avoided."
Liam looked at Break with surprise, he hadn't thought of that, hadn't realized that Break had unknowingly paid such a harsh price for their separation.
"When Xerxes Break contracted with the Mad Hatter my only thought was to preserve the life of my own servant." Lord Barma replied, glaring back at Miss Sharon. "That was also the wish of the council of house heads that Liam be given priority."
The fact that Pandora's upper ranks as a whole hadn't liked or particular trusted Break went without saying. It made sense, a terrible, painful kind of sense, that they had acted to keep this a secret from Break and let him get weaker and weaker every time he used his Chain. This entire time Liam had been protected it had been to Break's detriment.
"The earrings," Liam's free hand went up to touch his bare earlobe, "They made me forget event the name of my Chain. Why keep me ignorant if I was in so much danger?"
"There was a belief among the council that if you knew of the connection between your Chains there would be little chance of keeping the both of you apart." Lord Barma said.
"Was that what you believed?" Liam asked him.
"Yes." he said flatly. "I did everything in my effort to keep you apart but it appears not to have made a difference. You have already used your Chains together and started the cycle again."
"So now it would be impossible to separate them?" Miss Sharon asked and both Break and Liam gave her surprised looks at her question.
"Not now that their Chains have hunted together." Lord Barma said, "It was attempted with the last pair and they did not go long before their Chains drove them back together."
"Well then," Miss Sharon smiled slightly, "That is for the best then. I believe the choice about what to with these Chains should lie with the people who hold them. You have stripped them of this right for too long."
"You are very casual about the death of two people you claim to have affection for." Lord Barma said.
"You will find I am a great deal less casual about my friends having their minds tampered with 'for their own good'." she said cooly.
"Very well then." Lord Barma said. "It appears that none of you are intent on changing your minds."
"You had to know that coming here." Break openly scowled in Lord Barma's direction, still holding fast to Liam's hand.
"I did." rising, Lord Barma smoothed out his robes. "Liam, are you sure you wish to leave my service?"
"Yes." Liam said. "I do."
"Will you at least consider staying with Pandora?" Lord Barma asked. "We do need you here, even if you do not wish to remain among the Four Houses."
"I'll… think about it." Liam said. "There a lot of things for me to consider. And a lot more factors than there was before."
"Of course. Do let me know when you decide. I will have my secretary- a secretary," he corrected himself when he apparently remembered that Liam did most of his important paperwork, "Draw up the correct paperwork for the end of your service to my household."
He headed to the door, only to pause just before he went through it. "Oh, and, Liam?"
"There were… certain actions I have taken toward you, aside the the March Hare issue. Actions taken in temper or in a moment of poor decision… that I would wish to apologize for, if you would accept such a thing."
Liam looked at his former master's back, at the way he couldn't even face him to say the words and found the reply already on his lips. "I think an apology does not even begin to justify or forgive your actions."
Lord Barma glanced over his shoulder, his face completely unreadable. "Yes, I had a feeling you would say that."
And, without another word to the rest of them he left.
Without speaking Miss Sharon went to close the door, the click of it very loud in the silence between them. She took the seat Lord Barma had just vacated and turned to the two men.
"So… what do we do now?"
Their hands were still locked together, their Chains murmuring quietly with contentment as a new and very different future stretched out ahead of them.
Liam covered Break's hand with his own and smiled at both of them. "I have no idea. But I definitely want to find out."
"Ah, there you are."
"Yes, here I am. And here I intend to stay."