Disclaimer: Pandora Hearts belongs to Mochizuki Jun.
Author's Note: After seeing Mochizuki turn Gil's ninth attempt to quit into such an interesting story, I could not help but try my hand at it.
He slams the door to his bedroom shut behind him, and he doesn't feel guilty about any possible damage the maids will have to later fix because it might be his bad temper, but it's not his fault, it's the fault of that one-eyed smirking bastard and if Nightray has a problem then they can take it up with the Hatter. Preferably in the form of a bullet straight through that stupid hat of his, and that might be one mission Gilbert would be happy to undertake.
Stupid Break and his stupid tricks, and he doesn't even know why he listens to him anymore. What possessed him to do what was suggested? It's not as though he ever gets anything out of it; nothing except exile and a life sentence and a stupid pack of cigarettes clenched in his fist.
He glares down at it. It is only a crumpled cardboard box, but it might as well be a badge that reads 'pawn'.
It takes three stomped steps to reach the window, one quick move to fling it open, and one violent jerk of his arm to send the cigarettes soaring out into the grounds. As he watches the cigarettes vanish into the dimness of the approaching evening, he can feel the anger slowly starting to fade with it. There. Done. A five-step defeat, worthy of any of his brother's chess victories. The thought of Break's face when he finds out that this little game has failed is almost enough to make him smile.
When dawn breaks over the Nightray estate, it finds no trace of a smile at all, but one young man rummaging in the bushes and cursing the strength of the throw.
The first time was a fluke. An accident. He hadn't been expecting the strength of the craving, or that it would hit so quickly, that was all. Anyone could be taken by surprise by that sort of thing. But he knows what it feels like now. He's done his reading; he knows all the reasons why he should quit, just as he knows why he should hate Break for almost making him ruin his lungs. He's prepared this time.
He lasts two days.
It isn't worth mentioning. He's not sure anyone even notices that he tries.
It's been five days and he hates the world and every single person in it, but it's been five entire days and he hasn't cracked.
And then Duke Nightray requests—orders—that he attend a function in the capital.
He can't avoid it, because he excused himself from the last two before this, and even if one of those really was for a legitimate reason it doesn't change the fact that as a child of Nightray he needs to bear that title in a public place every now and then. So he takes out the finery, ties his hair back with the blue ribbon, and hates the world a little more deeply.
The elder brothers peel away from he and Vincent as soon as they are able to without causing a scandal, which is nothing surprising, but somehow he ends up separated from his blood-brother as well. It is a dangerous thing to be a nobleman standing alone, and sure enough, he finds himself corralled by a group of lesser nobles with grey beards and hunched backs and a great many things to say on the state of the country and taxation laws.
And every single one of them is smoking.
He barely hears a third of what is said, too busy wrestling with the urge to gulp at the air, and it is like slowly drowning, steadily suffocating, trying to breathe with only one functioning lung. He knows he excuses himself too early, but he does not run for the door and the Duke will have to be satisfied with that.
The street vendor outside is the final straw, and Gil sucks half the packet dry by the time he gets back to the estate.
He can still hear the echo of Oz's voice, pleading and weeping and breaking in the darkness of the Abyss, and his hands shake so badly that it takes several tries to keep the flame steady enough to light up.
"Well," the man says, fishing around in one pocket as he arches an eyebrow at the scene. "You made quite a mess."
Gil hasn't slept solidly in five days and hasn't had a cigarette in six, and a level stare is about all he can manage. The contractor is dead. It wasn't easy, and it wasn't clean, but he has done his duty and all he wants is to be dismissed so he can find a warm bath and bed and get the blood out of his hair.
So of course the other Pandora agent continues appraising the grisly tableau, taking a cigarette with agonising slowness out of one pocket and a box of matches out of the other, shaking his head like he is facing a sullen child and not someone's brains spread out against the wall. He tsks and mutters about the cleaning service and Gil tries not to regret that his gun is empty.
Finally, he pulls the cigarette away from his mouth and breathes out a thin stream of smoke, then flicks his eyes at Gil as if he is only just noticing that the younger man is beginning to sag sideways. "Very well. I don't suppose there is much more you can do here-"
He breaks off with a started squawk as Gil lurches forward and snatches the cigarette out of his fingers, but Gil doesn't pause long enough for him to retaliate. The outraged sounds follow him down the street, and that first inhale makes it entirely worth it.
He spends a week in bed, sweating and gasping and dying. The poison coursing through his veins cramps his muscles, and he arches his back against dampened sheets and desperate hands. Dark phantasms lurk on the edges of his vision, straight from the Abyss itself. There is fresh blood sliding down a blade, there is Elliot pressing a cloth against his head, there is an emerald sleeve soaking in a crimson pool. Oz screams, Raven shrieks, and Vincent whispers promises of vengeance in his ear.
When he is better—not fully recovered, but able to hold a coherent conversation—they tell him it was the Headhunter. The same contractor who killed Fred and Richard Nightray by severing them at the neck. He finds that he keeps lifting a hand to his throat, as if needing to check it does not end in a dripping stump.
They also tell him that the servants are dead. The fever has blurred his memory of the exact moment, but he remembers enough. He remembers blood and strewn limbs, shredded clothing and gaping mouths; the aftermath of innocent people brutalised for no other reason than associating with the wrong house.
With that sort of hatred stalking behind you, it is difficult to feel concerned about the ill-effects of cigarettes.
"We're almost ready," Break says, and he has heard those words so many times, from Break, from Sharon, from the depths of his dreams, but then Break gives him a date and time stops.
There is joy and bone-deep relief, but hard on its heels comes the fear. It is not that he has given up hope—never given up, never allowed that betrayal—but the weight of ten years is suddenly heavier than it has ever been and something deep inside starts to buckle. He finds himself in front of a mirror, staring into his own eyes. He still remembers the boy, preserved forever in those golden years alongside Oz, the only place he ever truly belonged. He stares into his eyes, silently searching, begging, for what feels like hours, and only Raven stares back.
Noble. Contractor. Traitor. Killer. He is twenty-four and six feet. Gold glitters from one ear, and a black coat is hung over one chair. He can fire a gun at someone begging for their life. He smokes at least two packs a week. He is not Gilbert.
If he can't see himself, how will Oz be able to?
The small apartment undergoes a violent spring-cleaning in the middle of summer, which is impressive because it has never been unclean. He rearranges everything, then changes his mind and rearranges it all back. Corners that can't even be reached without back-breaking contortions are scrubbed hard enough to chip away flecks of paint, and the windows remain open, heedless of wind or rain, because the smell of smoke has drifted into the very foundations of the room and it needs to go. Every night, the ceiling greets his sleepless vigil with the same mocking silence.
Two days before he is due to meet them at the designated place, he curls up against the wall, knees to his chest, and watches his hands tremble.
Stupid. He closes his eyes, presses the heels of his palms against them, feels them still shake against his eyelids. Stupid, always so stupid. Ten years he waits, and it is in the final days that he starts to lose sight of what is most important. So much has changed, why isn't his uselessness one of those things? He is no good to anyone like this, let alone Oz, and Oz is all that matters. Nothing else. Nothing.
He lights up, breathes in deeply, and waits for his hands to still.