Note: Not written for Christmas, per se, but figured I might as well post it around the holidays. :) Um, kind of random... And definitely twists to a darker form near the middle. I hope you enjoy anyway, lol!
Warning: Err, very heavily implied sexual content, but no sex or even kissing within this story, I promise! Rated as T... but I think it's a bit on the heavier side of T, possibly the lighter of M. Anyway, consider yourself warned. ^^
The Gift He Wanted
Gilbert had committed to make use of anything and anyone that was available, but sometimes, things like this made it too simple. He had recently turned seventeen, and throughout these three years, he had attached to the Nightrays in a way that had earlier seemed impossible. It wasn't as difficult to return Vincent's hugs, to speak with Eliot, to do things that brothers might do.
It felt almost normal. And sometimes, he never forgot, but he didn't always remember why he was there in the first place. And it was comforting to know he had that escape.
That was why he felt slightly content in the acceptance of Vincent's invitation to his room. He hadn't known until he got there that Vincent had invited the other younger siblings, as well, and Eliot's recently acquired servant, Leo. He arrived to find Eliot and his slightly older sister Vanessa decorating the Christmas tree in the corner of Vincent's room.
"Vince . . ." Gilbert began uncertainly to his younger brother, who sat on the bench next to the bed, watching gleefully. Vincent smiled questioningly at his brother, and unknowingly interrupted his train of thought. It took several moments for him to regain it. "How'd you manage to get the tree in here, let alone past the servants," he demanded brusquely, and entered. He set his cloak on the bed. Sure, the tree was relatively small, but not that small.
"Ah, Gil, I had a little help," and his tone betrayed the slyness he might have been hiding. "It was for you, after all." Vincent patted the space beside him, but Gilbert shook his head quickly and moved towards the tree to join Eliot and Vanessa decorating it.
A quick scan of the room revealed that Leo was sitting in the other corner, predictably reading. Beside him sat a girl, the youngest one in the room as far as he could tell, who cut and glued seemingly random bits of colored paper into an odd assortment that Gilbert could not identify yet. He didn't recognize the familiar facial traits of the Nightray family on her, but didn't recognize her as a servant either.
Vincent, noticing his gaze—or rather obsessing over it—quickly stepped in. "Sorry, Gil. You've been busy so much lately that I never got the chance to introduce you," he said swiftly, and gestured for the girl to stand and joined him. She quickly did, and stood shyly halfway behind Vincent. "This is Echo. She's my servant now."
A—girl? Gilbert only raised his eyebrows at Vincent's odd choice for a personal servant, before nodding once at Echo in greeting.
"Echo," Vincent said, his face abnormally close to hers, "this is my older brother Gil. The one we talked about."
Gilbert noticed no reaction except a nod from the girl, and after being dismissed, she moved to sit down with the colored paper and Leo again. Vincent smiled pleasantly. "So, Gil, even though it's Christmas, we all decided to celebrate your birthday at the same time, because nii-san is always too busy for celebrations."
Gilbert caught himself before he could blush, but it was too late, as Eliot was already patting him on the shoulder. He turned to find Eliot and Vanessa both staring up at him, as if identical twins. "I—that is, we," Vanessa said. She frowned at the ground stubbornly.
Eliot shuffled his feet. "We talked to father, and he agreed to help us," he forced out. "My sister, servant, and I got a new gun for you," he said.
Gilbert's eyes widened slightly. It was a thoughtful gift, and it had surprised him that these people, whom he was only using, would care enough to do such a thing. His face turning an even deeper shade of red out of guilt, Gilbert took a step backwards. "Th-thanks," he stammered.
An awkward silence followed, broken by Leo, who had stood and approached the conversation, despite Echo's plea for him to return and sit with her. "'Ask the Duke Nightray for it,' is what Eliot would like to say," Leo said, "but he's too nervous."
Eliot glared. "Don't insult your own master!"
"Sorry." Leo smiled.
Gilbert's gaze flickered between the two of them, until Vanessa finally spoke. "Whatever," she said, "the tree's decorated now. So we should leave Vincent and Gilbert alone to celebrate."
Eliot nodded in agreement, and soon the three were gone.
Leaving Gilbert alone with Vincent and his recently appointed servant Echo.
After a few moments of delicate silence which was only filled by the cutting of scissors on paper made by Echo, Vincent began to laugh. "Everyone is so sweet to my older brother," he said. Gilbert faced his brother apathetically. He hadn't asked for the attention. In fact, Vincent had started it. But still Vincent would act childish and clingy and jealous of how much Gilbert had sunk right at home in this place. Gilbert scowled.
"What's wrong, Gil? Upset that I didn't give you a present?"
"No," he answered immediately, "that was the farthest from my mind." He moved over and sat down next to Vincent, in front of the bed, on the decorative bench. Vincent snuggled on his shoulder, but his arms wrapped around Gilbert's waist in a way they never had before. Gilbert fidgeted. "Vince, what's gotten into you?"
Vincent stopped immediately, stood, and backed away. A smile plagued his face. "I know, brother, I know. I'm despicable to you. But . . ." His grin widened. ". . that's okay. Because just seeing you—it's enough."
Gilbert tried to ignore the uneasy feeling crawling up his gut.
"Echo," Vincent suddenly said, and the girl stood immediately, and went over to him. He reached for her wrist, as if she might escape at any moment, even with how obedient she appeared to be. "Gil," Vincent said, "I do have a present for you. Just like everyone else. Except mine is the best, because I care about you the most."
"I'll let you have her for a night, Gil."
His eyes widened. "What? No. Absolutely not," he forced out.
"Why? It'll do a lot of good for your growing body, Gil," Vincent said, his snaky voice penetrating Gilbert's defenses. The words were sending a strange heat into his body, and he still hadn't fully learned how to deal with it yet. His eyes found Echo, who had started to shake. She seemed only eight, nine, ten years old.
"No," Gilbert repeated. He stood, and hoped it conveyed his desire to leave.
Vincent smiled again. "Echo, he thinks it'd be unwilling and unpleasant. Tell him you want to."
Out of morbid curiosity, he watched for Echo's response. She opened her mouth to speak, as if she might do what he asked, but then her eyes closed, and she took a step bringing her closer to Vincent. "Echo doesn't want to lie," she cried. "Vincent-sama, it's not fair."
"What about her, Echo? I think she wouldn't mind. Why do you?" Vincent's arms, nevertheless, wrapped around the crying girl's shoulders and pulled her close, despite his words.
"Echo didn't do anything wrong!" the young girl half-shouted.
Vincent laughed, and as always, a shiver ran down Gilbert's spine. "Of course not. But my dear, dear brother did something right. Go on, Echo. Tell him." The girl faced him, still silently crying.
"That's okay," Gilbert said. He hadn't wanted to interrupt Vincent's conversation with his servant, but now that the focus had returned to him, the discomfort swiftly surrounded him as well. "She doesn't have to say anything."
Vincent put a hand on Echo's shoulder, and Gilbert tried not to think of the several possibilities of what that touch might convey, because immediately the girl stopped crying. Vincent smiled deviously at Gilbert. "My brother . . ." he giggled. ". . . is so pure. So, so innocent. Even now after all this time . . ." His voice lowered to a whisper, as he drew closer. ". . . you haven't changed at all."
Gilbert backed away. "Stop." He clutched his head.
"It's okay, Gil." He turned to Echo. "Take off your clothes." She looked at Vincent blankly. "Do it, Echo."
To Gilbert's horror, she actually started to. "Vince—Ech—Vince, stop her!" he said, almost choking.
Vincent chuckled. "Why, nii-san? I do this all the time. She's used to it."
"Vince . . . that's . . ." How could he respond to that?
Echo had finished unbuttoning, and began to remove her shirt. Gilbert frantically looked away before he saw anything, but he noticed Vincent's eyes remain frozen in place as his servant continued to undress.
"Vince . . . does she realize she can refuse the occupation of being your servant?" he asked, because something was definitely wrong here. Between them.
"Well, Echo?" Vincent said softly. "Answer Gil's question. And don't worry, you can say anything. I won't mind."
Gilbert almost turned his head to see the answer, but he caught himself in time, and moved a hand to further block the sight of her—who was now completely bare, he had inferred from his slight glance at the clothes on the ground.
A baited breath lasted in the silence, before Echo finally spoke. "Yes. Echo realizes. But Echo likes Vincent-sama the best."
"There. You see, Gil? Her service is completely voluntary." He grinned at his brother for a moment, before his gaze returned to Echo. "Isn't it great?"
He didn't know how much more he could take. "I'm leaving," he said. "Bye, Vince." He strode towards the door.
"Wait, Gil, take her with you," Vincent said.
He stopped, and looked back at his brother in shock and frustration. What type of a person did his younger brother think he was? "No."
Vincent tilted his head. "Gil, she really doesn't mind. She's just going through a phase, that's all it was before, when she panicked. She's only nine years old."
Gilbert sighed, a few feet away from the door. "You're right about one thing, Vince. She's only nine years old."
"Hm, I guess my brother," Vincent said, "is just too noble. Merry Christmas and belated happy birthday, Gil." And then he turned and sat down where he had been when Gilbert had first arrived, and beckoned Echo over to sit in his lap. Gilbert watched, again with the morbid curiosity, as Vincent's hands circled around her, in a way that—was—not right.
"Fine," he said suddenly. "I'll take her with me." If just for one night.
A smile spread across Vincent's face, and he gently pushed Echo towards his older brother. "Ah, I knew you would, Gil." He took Gilbert's cloak from the bed, and hung it around Echo's body. She seemed to recoil into it, even if her facial expressions said nothing.
"Be good, Echo," Vincent said, brushing his lips against her hair. "I'll see you in the morning."
Echo approached Gilbert, who tried his best to keep a relaxed and less intimidating posture. Suddenly, she stopped, and glanced furtively behind her at the corner she had sat with Leo. Gilbert didn't understand her actions, but Vincent did. He had already gone over, grabbed what she had been making with the colored paper, and handed it to her.
He smiled one last time, before waving them off.
Gilbert put an arm protectively around the girl's shoulder, and left to go to his own room. As soon as they reached the hallway, away from Vincent's eyes, the girl clung strangely to him, as if afraid of being away from his younger brother, and in need of someone else who would be there consistently.
A few minutes later, they were in his room, and Gilbert had set her on the edge of his bed. She waited patiently for him to make a move. Gilbert sighed. "Echo, I'm not going to do anything. I just didn't want him being strange like that anymore."
Her expression remained the same. "It's not strange. Vincent-sama is like that all the time."
Frustrated, Gilbert groaned. If there was anything she could have said to make things more awkward, that was it. "Listen, Echo," he began slowly, because he couldn't trust anything she had said while his brother had been in the room. "You're a servant to the Nightray house, not Vincent. You can choose to leave him at any time. Actually you could choose to leave the Nightray house, too, at any time. Do you know that?"
"Hai," Echo said.
"I won't tell Vincent. Do you really know that?"
A few moments passed before she nodded slowly.
"Okay," Gilbert said. He hadn't expected an answer like that at all. He had thought maybe Vincent had confused her to the point where she'd agree to anything he wanted her to agree with. But now—Vincent wasn't here—and she still remained steadfastly loyal to him. Whether by choosing or not, Gilbert still wasn't sure.
But still, there was nothing he could do about it, so he turned around to find his night clothes, so he could go change and then sleep.
"Echo . . . likes Vincent-sama," she said amidst the silence.
Gilbert stopped what he was doing, and looked at her. "What?"
The girl curled her arms around her legs, and the cloak slipped accordingly, still hanging on her back. "Vincent-sama protects Echo . . . from bad things," she said, carefully. "Echo doesn't want to explain . . . but . . . Echo appreciates Vincent-sama as a master, because otherwise, Echo—would—be . . ." She trailed off, obviously uncomfortable.
Gilbert sighed. "It's okay. I understand." Not really, but he didn't want her to feel uncomfortable.
He took his clothes, and headed for the bathroom to change, when Echo reached out a hand to stop him.
"What is it?" he asked.
She shyly held out the thing she had made with the colored paper. "Vincent-sama said that people give gifts on people's birthdays . . . and Christmas. So . . . Echo made this. For Gilbert-sama."
Surprised, he took the present and looked at it. They were odd, almost cartoony versions of the people she had been watching, but Gilbert easily recognized Eliot and Leo on one side, Vanessa on the other, and himself and Vincent in the center. His gaze flipped to Echo, who seemed to be anxious about his reaction.
He forced a smile on his face, and Echo instantly relaxed.
Somehow, out of all the other gifts, this girl, whose existence he hadn't even acknowledged until today, had known exactly what he wanted—his family together. And she had figured it out, on her own, while his family had failed to understand.
Gently setting the picture down on his nightstand, Gilbert disappeared into his bathroom to change, and when he returned, he found that Echo had fallen asleep where she had been sitting. Carefully—and it was so much less embarrassing when no one would see—he picked up the girl and slipped her under the covers of his bed. "Merry Christmas," he whispered. Then he quickly moved to the other side, and back to her, he tried to go to sleep.
And it was nice, to know, that at least, he had spared her . . . one night of something he knew she must have hated. Even if she had refused to admit it.