Pandora Hearts © Jun Mochizuki

... ... ...

This was embarrassing.

Oz sighed in thinly veiled frustration as he ran his hands through his messy blonde hair - already ruffled from the replaying of this action quite a few times now - and then plopped his face in his hands with another sigh.

This was beyond embarrassing.

Oz Bezarius had a problem, and he didn't know how to fix it. Unfortunately, Gil was nowhere handy and that irritated Oz immensely. He tried to distract himself - twiddling his thumbs, killing some time, patiently awaiting the return of his errant servant - but there wasn't much he could do except dwell on his misfortune, and that only served to irritate him further.

... ... ...

Barely under his breath, Gilbert gave a feeble moan as he unhappily eyed the mess the young master had trekked in earlier that morning. Gilbert, ever the conscientious one, had discarded his muddy boots by the door upon entering the house - but no, not master Oz. Oz had scampered right through the entry, skidding along the linoleum tiles in his haste, and took off at a sprint, embedding his messy bootprints into the formerly pristine carpet beyond the entryway, bounding up the stairs to (the extent of the mess was already causing Gil to shake) his room. The mud went through the snowy-white halls to Oz's room, and Gil was never going to get it all cleaned up before Ms. Kate found out!

Rubbing his face with small, clenched hands, Gilbert let out a whine, much like that of a forgotten, frightened puppy. With a slight hiccup of despair, he sank to his knees and began scrubbing at the muddy floor.

...

Gilbert reached Oz's room by midday, quite the while after he and his young master had separated. Sweating, red-faced, and tired, Gil leaned his weary head against the oak door separating Oz's personal space from the rest of the estate. He was breathing hard and his arms hurt, but there wasn't much he could do about that until his job was finished in its entirety, and he still had Oz's room left to clean. By some miraculous happenstance, serendipitous stroke of fortune, or just plain dumb luck, Ms. Kate had yet to return to the Bezarius mansion; as far as Gilbert was concerned, she could stay out another few years and he'd be just as happy.

After resting his tired, red-rimmed, teary eyes for a moment, Gil reluctantly picked up his brush (somewhat less enthusiastically than when he had first started) and resumed his duties, glancing once at the carpet before reaching up to swat at the golden handle leading into Oz's personal chambers. The door gave way without so much as a creak, letting him enter the room with silent acquiescence.

Gilbert peered in timidly, thoroughly scanning the interior, but found no traces of his young master waiting to ambush or otherwise sabotage him. Smiling in relief, Gilbert entered the room dragging bucket and brush, shut the door behind him, and resumed his furious scrubbing of the dried carpet. There wasn't much for him to clean up here, as most of the mud had stayed in the well-lit hallways and along the main staircase, but Gilbert wasn't one to not be thorough: If there was so much as a single speck of dirt left in his master's room, he was going to find it. Nodding in determination, yellow eyes steeled for the task at hand, he did his best to clean his master's room with renewed vigor while his thoughts drifted to the glittering laughter of two friends playing outside in the heat of the summer sun.

A few labor-intensive moments later, Gilbert was startled out of his task by a muffled but unmistakably dissatisfied noise. His head snapped up immediately. Golden eyes darted hither and thither, desperately trying to find the source of the discontent before he was admonished by either Ms. Kate or worse: If he was found displeasing to the young master...well, nobody else was cruel enough to sic Dinah on him anymore.

Gilbert shuddered at the thought, but quickly regained control of himself. Obviously the noise wasn't directed at him, as it seemed to be coming from another area of the vast, empty room. Listening intently, Gilbert placed his scrub-brush in the wash bucket and rose to his feet. He closed his eyes to better focus on the sounds of the room, and was rewarded with another distant noise.

"ARGH! I can't believe this!"

Startled, Gilbert opened his eyes and blinked in confusion. What in the world had upset his master so much? Approaching slowly, quietly, Gilbert crossed the room and stood before the doors leading to Oz's large walk-in closets, trying to better understand the situation before he faced a possible confrontation with his angry master.

Gilbert was surprised to hear Oz's normally cheerful voice issuing from behind the bathroom door. Momentarily embarrassed, Gilbert faltered in his decision of what to do next. Upon hearing another shout, however, he quietly made up his mind. He knocked thrice upon the bathroom door - fearing for his master's wellbeing - but also fearing for himself, afraid that perhaps Oz was trying to give Dinah a bath and he would be subject to finishing the task.

"Who is it?" Oz growled.

"Me, Young Master," Gilbert called softly, hoping not to offend.

"Gil!" came Oz's excited voice, no longer vexed. "That's great! I've been waiting for you!"

"You have?" Gilbert paled, not certain if that was a good thing or not. If he could be of assistance to his treasured master, that was one thing, but if the assisting required him to bathe a cat...

"Yes! Hey, Gil, I need a favor. Desperately." Oz's voice was nearly pleading.

"Anything, Young Master!" Gilbert called back, trying his best to sound more helpful and less terrified.

"Listen carefully."

"I understand," Gilbert replied, listening with faithful attentiveness, hands on the door in front of him as he leaned forward to better hear his master.

"In the back of my closet is a black bag. It's lying underneath the shoeboxes. I need you to get it for me."

"Yes, Young Master," came the reply, and Gilbert scurried off. A few moments of dutiful searching were rewarded as Gilbert located the bag, tugging it free of its hiding place. A shoebox fell and bounced off the floor, momentarily startling him. He quickly replaced the fallen item, careful to disturb nothing else, and returned to his impatiently waiting master.

"I have it h-here, Young M-master," Gilbert stuttered distractedly as he fumbled to keep his hands on the bag. It wasn't large, but it was much heavier than it looked.

"Good," Oz said, breathing an internal sigh of relief. "Now, Gil, I need you to open the bag and extract the lock picks."

Lock picks? Gil wondered. Why would the young master have that kind of thing? No...I guess I already know why. He's always finding new ways to get into trouble. But where did he get them from? Master Oscar? Puzzled, Gilbert pulled the bag's zipper open and peeked inside. He wasn't sure what he was looking at exactly, but he had a guess that he'd be better off remaining ignorant for as long as possible. "Young Master?" he questioned.

"You need the one with the bend at the end, and the one that looks like something a dentist would use on your teeth."

"Is this really all right?" Gilbert worried. "Teaching me to break in?"

"It's fine, it's fine," Oz said as he waved his servant's concerns away. "I just locked myself in here, is all, and need you to help me out."

"Yes, Young Master," Gilbert replied, not entirely sure how Oz had managed to do as he said. Couldn't he just unlock the door himself?

Gilbert's brow furrowed in concentration as his small hands clumsily tried to follow his master's subsequent instructions. It bothered him to hear how easily the details rolled off Oz's tongue, fluidly like water, with no resistance caused by shame or guilt whatsoever. With a sigh, Gilbert decided it really didn't matter: His young master was the master, and therefore could engage in whatever dubious activities he wanted, given he didn't get caught. It wasn't Gilbert's place as a servant to tell Oz what was right or wrong.

"...until they give."

Gilbert snapped out of his thoughts with a flush of rosy pink adorning his cheeks. "I'm sorry, Master," he began, "I m-missed what you just said."

"It's okay," Oz said. "This is the tricky part. Just keep the pick in the lock, pressure on the bar, and poke at the pins until they give."

It took Gilbert a couple of tries before he managed to successfully pick the lock. Hands shaking, he sometimes dropped one or both of his tools, nervously apologizing to his master whenever he did so. He also had to pause a few times to wipe the beading sweat from his brow and hands, but finally managed to succeed. Feeling triumphant, yet strangely guilty as he realized he had basically learned how to break into any room within Master Bezarius' mansion, he twisted the handle to make certain the lock was no longer engaged. It obediently popped free.

"Great, Gil! Now-" Oz started, but in his triumphant relief he had forgotten to tell Gilbert to stay out. As it was, Gil was already standing in the doorway, one hand still attached to the knob, the other dangling tools uselessly at his side as he stared at his master awkwardly. Oz quickly moved to cover himself more decently, blushing, but noticed with some mischievous satisfaction that Gil's face was much, much redder.

"Thanks, Gil," Oz started, breaking the silence. "I kinda locked myself in here, and, well, you know...," he finished lamely, gesturing to the wall beside him.

Gil nodded mutely before backing out of the bathroom and shutting the door, leaving his master with some semblance of privacy. Gil leaned against the door, lightly chewing upon a knuckle as he faltered between the decision to either help his master or bury his head beneath a pillow.

Finally, he set his golden eyes with a fierce determination. Taking a deep breath to squash any remaining feelings of discomfort, Gil rifled through the linen closet. Face burning red, he knocked twice to let Oz know he was entering. Keeping his mortified eyes to the ground (and thus averted from his master) Gilbert nonetheless strode purposefully enough to his destination and gave Oz his missing necessities.

"Thanks, Gil," Oz said gratefully, but Gil was already gone, hurrying to collect his abandoned cleaning supplies.

Devotion newly resolved, Gilbert vowed to never again leave Oz's side. After all, a good servant would have never let something like this happen in the first place. But seeing as it did, a good servant would then take that lesson to heart and learn from it to better aid and protect those he served in the future.

Oz, meanwhile, was finally able to leave the bathroom in peace, his only issue being that his derrière was rather sore, but that was to be expected from having been stranded on the uncomfortable seat with no toilet paper for the entirety of an afternoon.