Hmm… it's been quite a while, I wonder if anyone is still interested ^_^; Sorry everyone! I haven't really felt like writing in a long time but a friend of mine got me really inspired to get back to work on my fics, so thank you girl! :)

Best get on with the story; it's been a while so I'm sorry if it's not very good. The next two chapters are a bit of a transition, so I hope you'll bear with me ^_^; We need to get through Gil's past before the fluff can start (Though I just can't help myself and tried to shoehorn in a bit anyway~)

Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed this fic so far! And since people seemed to like the last song mention, my two current songs for this story are 'Find Me' by Boyce Avenue and 'Iris' by the Goo Goo Dolls (Suggested by MrsTwisted; thank you so much! ^_^).

Alright, enough rambling :) On to the story!


Chapter 6


Ten… It didn't seem like a very big number. Ten ones, five twos, two fives, et cetera…

But ten years?

Though part of his mind had grown accustomed to the revelation, it was hard to accept overall... Even after seeing his best friend as an adult, or his baby sister as young woman, the idea just didn't settle comfortably in his mind. He knew he had been in a coma, and yet there was still a tiny part of him that expected to wake up and find out that this was all some sort of crazy dream, that he had simply overslept and was going to be late for school or something.

It was strange… he remembered the day of the accident so clearly… He had woken up early that day, but still managed to hang around long enough to drive the ever punctual Gilbert half-way mad with panic. They had to cycle, which Gilbert hated because Oz always made him cycle while he sat at the back and poked his friend's sides, terrorizing him the whole way to school. He remembered the daily confrontation between Gilbert and Alice – it had been about copying homework that time, right? – the usual boring lessons, the fact he damp weather forced them to stay inside during lunch. He remembered the rain getting worse, how excited he had been to get home and tell Gil the good news, the frustration waiting for the bus, the taxi… Hell, he even remembered stupid things like the fact he'd had fried chicken for lunch, and that Mr. Harrison had been a whole twenty minutes late for class, and even that Gil had been wearing that dark blue shirt he bought him for his birthday…

It just seemed strange that he could remember it all so clearly when, in reality, this had all happened over three and a half thousand days ago…

… What was he doing? This didn't help… Why was he even thinking about all this, anyway?

The sound of a door opening told him that his uncle had finished talking to the nurse who had just given him a check up, his mind undoubtedly laden with every kind of tip and trick the doctors had come up with to try and get Oz to act or think a certain way in order to make the healing process 'easier'. He tried his best to ignore the twist in his chest that accompanied his uncles arrival; taking a deep breath he feigned a tired stretch, sighing loudly and turning his head to face his uncle, smiling softly, "Damage re-port?"

Oscar took just a moment to respond, and that alone was evidence enough that, despite the smile on his face, something was on the elder Vessalius' mind. "Laziness, apparently," he answered as he moved across the room to the younger man's bedside, reaching out and snatching his coat from the end of Oz's bed, "she thinks you're lying about doing your weight routines because your muscles aren't developing as much as they should. I'm supposed to find a subtle way to get you to exercise more."

"Mmm," Oz hummed with exaggerated understanding, "I see… and this 's subtle, uncle?"

"Is there ever any point trying with you?" Oscar asked with a doubtful smile.

The younger man chuckled quietly and shook his head in answer to his uncle's question, eyes falling to his hands for a moment, flexing his fingers distractedly. He really was a nuisance to his poor uncle, stuck in a hospital bed, a constant financial burden and source of stress. He had always intended to skip college and beginning working in the family company as soon as he was old enough in an attempt to pay the man back for everything he had done for him and Ada, but…

He had to try harder… He had to stop making excuses for himself. Maybe he couldn't set his pride aside and do those stupid routines when others were around, but there were plenty of hours in the day when everyone was working or at school. He would just have to sleep a little less and work for longer periods, that's all there was to it. "I'll try ha-r-der," he said, looking up at his uncle with an apologetic smile, "Sorry."

Something flashed across his uncle's eyes, something far too close to understanding for Oz's liking, but in a moment it was gone and the man was grinning, his hand clamping down on the younger Vessalius' shoulder and shaking him slightly, "Hey, don't worry about it, just do your best and you'll be out of here in no time, alright?"

There was just something about his uncle's boundless optimism that forced a laugh from Oz's mouth, his smile coming much easier when the man ruffled his hair, as was his usual habit. Really, he wasn't a child anymore, but more often than not his uncle still treated him like he did when he was five. Not that it bothered Oz in the slightest… "Okay, I will," he said, eyes falling to the coat in the man's arms, "You g-going now?"

"I'm afraid so," Oscar said with an apologetic smile of his own, "I've got to get back to the office, and visiting hours were over twenty minutes ago."

"It's fine," Oz grinned, "I need sleep~"

"Exercise," Oscar said, "then sleep."

The younger Vessalius stuck out his tongue, "Bos-sy." He smiled as his uncle chuckled and playfully knocked his fist against the side of his head, bidding him farewell and promising he would see him tomorrow. It took a moment for those words to register properly, and when they did Oz frowned. Just as Oscar was reaching for the door handle he said, "Wait, uncle?" The man paused and didn't turn around, making Oz huff. Had he hoped the boy had forgotten? "You s-said you'd tell me."

Oscar sighed, placing his hand on the door handle but turning to face his nephew instead. "Yes, I know, I remember," he said, the tone in his voice making it clear that he wished he had never made such a promise, "Oz, are you sure?" The blonde in question nodded without a moment's hesitation, causing the elder man to shake his head and smile, "Ask a stupid question, hmm? Alright… I'll see you later, then."

"Thanks… S-See you," Oz said, waving slightly as he uncle turned and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him. He could hear Oscar pausing to talk and laugh with a woman outside, but was relieved when the man's voice faded and the nurse did not reenter his room. He really did just want to be alone right now… Taking a deep breath Oz let himself sink into the pillows behind him, eyes closing as he released a long, heavy sigh, trying to dispel the uncomfortable feelings in his body. Uncomfortable? Why would he feel…?

Within moments, thoughts returned to that amber-eyed, dark-haired man whose face appeared in his mind whenever it seemed to be idle, a twin thread of worry and… something… wrapping around his heart in the same instance.

"Tonight, huh?" he thought with a frown as he reached out and lifted the dumbbell from the bedside table to begin his session. It had taken a little convincing on his part, and Oscar had to ignore the doctor's advice in order to go through with it, but tonight, when Gilbert and Ada had gone home, Oscar was finally going to tell him everything, absolutely everything, that he wanted to know about what had happened to his best friend since the accident. The thought made him excited and fearful all at once, swirling in his stomach and causing him to feel slightly ill. That would not change his mind, however. He needed to know what had happened to Gilbert or he would never be able to help him…

"Such a troublesome kid…" he thought to himself, "Ah… wait, he's a man now… Strange…"

Strange… because Gilbert didn't act like a man at all...

Oz did not believe that an adult needed to be any more than a big child with a greater sense of responsibility and enough knowledge in their brains to properly care for those that were younger than them, but Gilbert just… There was just something not right about the way he behaved; disregarding the strange things he did, his personality and his body just did not match at all… It had been ten years, and yet Gilbert acted shockingly similar to the fourteen-year-old that Oz had left behind that day...

Had he grown up at all? Other than getting a job and living alone, had he changed? From what he had learned in the short time that the two had been reunited, Oz could only assume that the progress they had made together between their first encounter and the accident had gone backwards

Oz had really hoped that after ten years Gilbert would have opened up enough to have made some new friends, but that didn't seem to be the case. Every day he came to the hospital and stayed until it was time to go home. He never really talked about the people at work unless he was asked, he never mentioned any other friends, and he never seemed to have anywhere else to be. At least when they were younger Gilbert had the other children at the orphanage and some people in class that he spoke to and appeared quite content to stay with when he was apart from Oz, but now his only interest in human contact seemed to be with the Vessalius family. Maybe Oz's information was a bit limited, but that was the impression he had.

There was also the issue of how upset he got when Oz's attention wavered. Yes, Gilbert had always been more than a little clingy when they had been young, but if Oz stopped paying attention to him in favor of someone else he would simply wait for the conversation to end, sulk quietly if he was in a bad mood, or try to not-so-subtly cut in on whatever conversation Oz was having with the other person (more often than not, this was Alice). Now, however, Gilbert almost looked distraught if Oz ignored him or his attention switched from him too quickly. He became quiet and sad, and sometimes it was actually quite a struggle to get him to become actively involved in the conversation again. It wasn't as though he didn't want to speak to them, either. It was more like… he suddenly didn't think his opinion mattered, and so he didn't see the point in trying to contribute to the conversation. A few kind or teasing words from Oz seemed to pull him out of it, but there was always that lingering uncertainty in his eyes for the rest of the visit.

Even with all of that, one of the strangest things that Oz had noticed about Gil was actually the fact that he had become very… touchy. Most of the time he took no notice, because it was often no more than a gentle brush of fingertips along his forearm, a ruffle of his hair or squeeze of his shoulder. Those were normal gestures, ones that didn't bother him in the slightest unless they persisted over a long period… but one day Gilbert, mid-way through their conversation, had reached out and gently taken Oz's hand in his own, rubbing his thumb over the still sensitive skin on the back of the blonde's hand and continuing to talk and listen as though it were the most natural thing in the world, his eyes on their hands and a soft smile on his face.

Oz, embarrassed after a minute or two of this strange contact, he had quietly questioned his friend what he was doing, and the reaction had been just as strange as the act itself. At first, Gil merely looked confused, glancing up towards Oz's face, then down to their joined hands and back up again. It took a good five seconds after that for his face to color and his body to react as the blonde had expected it to right away, releasing Oz's hand as though it were something scalding, apologizing quietly and lowering his eyes to the floor. He was so embarrassed that he hardly spoke for the rest of the visit, despite being quite comfortable to speak beforehand.

That would have been strange enough if it had been an isolated event… but just three days later Gilbert did it again, and his reaction had been almost identical.

Certainly, if Gilbert had done that ten years ago, Oz may have teased him for it and, in all honesty, he probably would have enjoyed it… a little… maybe… But things were different now, and he didn't know how he was supposed to react to Gilbert's actions or how he should feel about them because… Gil wasn't all there yet. There was something clouding his vision, suffocating him, whether the man was aware of it or not. Oz wanted to be sure… he needed to know which of his friend's actions and feelings were real and which ones were an illusion before he could even consider he own emotions.

Those would have to wait.

He sighed, tightening his grip on the weight in his hand and lifting slightly. He really did spend a lot of his time thinking about Gilbert, but that was not exactly new… Right before the accident, Gilbert had been on his mind a lot, actually. In fact, Gilbert was the only thing on his mind that day, because that was the day that…

"Geez," he grumbled, annoyed with his own inability to control his thoughts. He had to use that energy to build his muscles, not think about the past or worry about how he feels in the present. Neither of those were important right now; tonight, he would find out everything, and then he would be able to figure out how to help his friend come back out of his shell and stop being so afraid of the world. He took a deep break and lifted the weight again, frowning at the ceiling. He was relieved to finally be getting some real information, of course, but getting a clearer picture of the magnitude of the task ahead was a little daunting. Still, he would do everything in his power to aid in his friend's recovery, and since knowledge was the key to his success he would ask every question he could possibly think of.

Before that, though, he had to do some exercises and get some rest so that he was fresh and ready for visitors when his best friend and sister would come to see him later. With that thought in mind he pushed himself into a more upright position, tightened his hold on the weight in his hand, and begin to lift and lower it as steadily a possibly, mentally cursing when he lost rhythm after merely two reps.

He continued to work, doing five reps more on each arm that his doctor suggested and two sessions end to end before taking a break and trying again. It had been a real struggle to finish that third session, but he did it, and hated every aching moment.

A glance at the clock. 3:30. "Gil will be here in two hours," he thought to himself, his arms aching as he moved the weights to the bedside table and slide down beneath the covers. It was an idle thought, one that should have stirred nothing but quiet curiosity or a mild sense of excitement or happiness at the prospect of his friend's arrival.

But there was certainly nothing mild about the way his heart ached, painful, yet pulling his lips into a small, fleeting smile.

Apparently there was a part of him that was still beating strong, even after all these years, and it was not willing to wait until Oz himself had completely figured out his situation before it started to react to the mere thought of Gilbert. Well, he was not going to get it control him; he had a job to do. Everything else had to wait.

With a huff, he pulled the blanket over his head. Two hours. He wouldn't sleep that long. He'd be awake before Gil came…


"Stupid Gil…"


Gilbert was having a particularly horrible day.

He left his home a few minutes later than usual and missed the bus to work. Refusing to be late on a day when Eliot was supposed to be in the office, he had reluctantly hired a taxi in hopes of making it there on time, but morning traffic and a rather incompetent taxi driver (who took him down a countless number of back roads just to tot up the price of the trip) meant that he arrived late regardless of his good intentions. Eliot had given him an earful, Reo had insisted that his friend would have covered for Gilbert anyway, prompting the youngest Nightray to become even angrier and much, much louder, and Gilbert had been left with one hell of a migraine.

Then, to make matter worse, Claude had decided to choose that very moment to show his face in the office for the first time in weeks. The moment he realized Gilbert had been late, he took far too much pleasure in verbally abusing the man in front of the rest of the staff before telling Gilbert this was his 'final warning' and leaving, a confident smirk on his face. It took all Gil's strength not to quit then and there, and the only thing that really stopped him was the guilty look on Eliot's face as he watched his brother leave. The teen often yelled at Gil, insulted him and claimed he was useless and would be fired in no time, but he never actually wanted the man to get in trouble. That was why he had covered for him so many times, staying late and fulfill tasks he had no obligation to do just so Gil wouldn't get into trouble, though he constantly denied that he did such things.

Eliot was the only member of his family that wanted anything to do with him, so he didn't want to put all the boy's effort to waste by simply giving up. Grit his teeth, swallow his rage, and get to work; that's all there was to it.

The phones didn't stopped ringing all day, the paperwork never seemed to end (as it often did on the days his elder relatives were around), and the two or three customers he had be sent to deal with had to have been some of the noisiest, rudest, most stubborn people he had ever met in his life. None of this did his steadily growing headache any favors, and by lunch he just wanted to curl up under his desk and wait for the work day to end. Thankfully, Reo brought him some medicine that lessened the pain steadily throughout the day, but the workload and people were still as infuriating as ever. People kept asking him if he was alright, too, and that only made him even more frustrated. He knew they were trying to be nice, but he just wanted to be left alone and not be reminded of how not 'alright' he was.

So he was more than happy to punch out at five o' clock without a second thought, practically running from the building just in case he would be asked to do something else. Then, of course, it started raining. He had a coat, but it had no hood, and he'd left his umbrella at home. He missed the bus again, and was forced to make his way to the hospital on foot. By the time he entered through the front door he was soaked from head to toe, tired, hungry, and physically ill as a result of all the pent up rage gathered in his chest, pressing down on his weak stomach.

Overall… It had been a really, really bad day, the kind that made him want to go home, eat something fattening, lounge in front of the television and sulk. Maybe have a smoke. Or two. Or three…

Not that he ever did.

He had somewhere to be, after all.

He stopped only to try and dry off a little in one of the men's public toilets on the first floor, squeezing water from his hair and clothes and even holding his shoes beneath the hand dryer. It didn't really help much, and there was still an uncomfortable dampness in his sneakers when he slipped them back on his now bare feet, his socks and jacket having been shoved in his backpack simply because he was not bothered to correctly dry either of them. Slinging the bag over his shoulder he tried his best to finger-comb his semi-dry hair into some semblance of order before deciding it was a lost cause and near-stomping his way out of the bathroom and down the hall. Even after all that, he was still cold, wet and uncomfortable… and he felt like crap.

He did not even pause to knock when he finally reached room 115, butterflies fluttering in his already unsettled stomach in excited anticipation as he reached out and pushed the handle down, stepping into the hospital room without a second thought.

He froze, however, when his eyes fell on the completely still figure lying in the bed before him, his hot, racing heart leaping up into his throat, because it was still there… that quiet fear, that cold shard of ice that always made itself present whenever he saw the boy with his eyes closed just a little too long. It was stupid, he knew, but he just couldn't help but worry. He had grown accustomed to his best friend being comatose, but after he finally woke up the thought of it happening again just…

"Oz?" Gilbert asked quietly, uncertain as to whether or not the blonde was asleep or merely resting his eyes. The lack of a response would have been answer enough, but when he paused and actually listened, Gilbert could hear the blonde snoring gently, something that pulled the dark-hard man's lips into a gentle smile. For some reason the sound was both amusing and endearing at once, and it worked like a balm that warmed and loosened that tight knot of worry in his chest. Placing his backpack down next to the door and making his way across the room, he actually felt a small chuckle make its way from his stomach to his throat, warming his insides along the way and making him forget the anger that had been shaking him mere moments ago. Really, Oz must have been in a deep sleep to be drooling all over his pillow like that.

"Well, aren't you charming?" he whispered quietly, his hand automatically pulling a tissue from the box set upon the cupboard beside Oz's bed, which he folded and used to carefully remove the line of saliva from the boy's cheek, knowing that Oz would have been embarrassed if he knew Gilbert had found him in such a state. "There…" he whispered when his sleeping friend's face was clean, dropping the tissue in the trash and turning his attention back to Oz, smiling warmly.

He had looked upon this face for so many years, but this was the first time since they had been reunited that he had actually seen the boy sleeping. It was a heartwarming sight… Unlike before, unlike those ten, long years, Oz could dream now… He slipped between the realms of fantasy and reality rather than being trapped within the dark patch between them, and he looked so relaxed, with no signs of pain or discomfort...

Gilbert almost couldn't help himself, his hand reaching out and touching his friend's cheek gently as though he simply had to be sure that he was really there, the warmth beneath his chilled fingertips spreading throughout his body in a gentle ripple. The feeling wasn't new – it had been there for many, many years – but in little more than a week it appeared fresh and strong, like a flame rekindled after clinging so long to glowing embers. It was a wonderful sensation that made Gilbert feel…

"Nnguh?" Oz mumbled, Gilbert's smile instantly vanishing, realizing his cold hands must have disturbed him. Tired eyes opening just a crack, hazy green irises sheltered beneath dusty lashes as he blinked slowly, expression slightly bewildered as he appeared to be struggling to figure out if he was awake or not. Withdrawing his hand sharply, embarrassed that he had been caught despite the harmlessness of the act, Gilbert mentally cursed himself for not having the tact to simply withdraw carefully and pretend that he hadn't noticed the boy waking. "Mmm?"

"H-Hey," Gilbert said with an awkward smile, suddenly feeling a lot more nervous, as he often did whenever Oz was actually awake and speaking to him. Oz did not respond, the lack of expression on his face an indicator of his mental debate between waking up and rolling over and going back to sleep. The former option appeared to win out, the blonde's eyes closing as he stretched lazily and took a deep breath, releasing a long, tired sigh.

"Hey, Gil…" Oz yawned, rubbing his eyes hard to try and rid himself of drowsiness. Despite the fact that he had been out of his coma just over a month and a half now, his exercises still took a lot out of him, so he regularly slept between visiting hours. This was actually the first time Gilbert had arrived before the blonde awoke and, judging by the way he was rubbing his eyes hard and keeping his head turned away from Gilbert, he was embarrassed to be caught resting and was trying his best to wake up quickly.

"Um… How are you feeling?"

"Fine," Oz said after a moment, content enough with his state to turn his attention back to his best friend and slip a tired but happy smile on his face. "'n' lazy."

"Heh… Well, you're allowed to be," Gilbert said with a smile of his own, something that always appeared to come remarkably easily whenever it was just the two of them together like this. He collected his usual chair from where it stood against the wall and moved it to its usual spot next to the blonde's bed, unaware that his friend was watching him with a curious gaze until he raised his head and their eyes met. Oz looked as though he was trying to figure something out, but his expression became neutral the moment he registered the Gilbert was looking at him.

What? Was he…?

Gilbert felt his stomach tighten, trying his best not to let that tension spread and show in his body language. Great… the quality of his oh-so-wonderful day was probably written all over his face. He really didn't want to talk about it… In fact, he'd almost forgotten about it completely until…

"You l-ook sleepy," Oz observed after another stretch of silence, his smile unwavering.

"Uh…" What should he say? He really didn't-

"You g-onna sit?"


"Sit, la-zy bones~" Oz chirped, still smiling, though there was a hint of mirth in the curve of his lips that was undoubtedly caused by the fact that Gilbert had not actually moved a muscle since their eyes had met, frozen in place

Gilbert's face darkened at the realization, before he answered with an awkward, "I… a-alright…" Feeling quite foolish and embarrassed now, he readjusted the angle of the chair slightly before stepping around it and sitting down. As soon as he did so, the blonde nodded towards the cupboard next to his bed, upon which sat a jug of water, an empty glass, a deck of cards and a few Get Well and Christmas cards. Gilbert didn't even notice his body tensing yet again, fists clenching nervously. What was he motioning too? Was he thirsty? There didn't seem to be any new cards for the blonde to show off... Did he want the deck?

Oz chuckled softly, shaking his head, before saying, "Cards, please."

"Of course he wanted the cards, stupid," Gilbert mentally berated himself as he gathered the deck and placed it carefully into his friend's waiting hands.

"Relax, huh?" Oz said with a small nod of thanks, setting the cards on his lap and moving them around in an attempt to shuffle them without the dexterity of his fickle fingers to assist. The action caused a slightly painful twinge in Gilbert's chest; it still saddened him to see his friend struggle with would have been simple tasks to him before the accident, from moving, to eating, to reading… but it was also inspiring (indeed, fascinating) to see him working so hard without ever asking for help. Yes, he scowled at his hands when they refused to hold something properly, he got embarrassed or annoyed when he had to ask for help with something, and he seemed to enjoy insulting the weights he had been given to exercise with from time to time, but other than that he dealt with his situation very well. He never raised his voice, he never got angry or bitter, responding to most issues with no more than a shrug of the shoulders before simply trying again, giving up or finding an alternative. "Blackjack?" he asked, "Go fish?"

"I…" He wasn't going to ask...? He wasn't… "Sure…"


"E-Either is fine."

"Go fish, then~" the blonde said with an affirmative nod, setting the cards down on his lap and sliding several off into two piles, tapping one and proclaiming, "that's yours," before sliding the other pile back onto his lap and gathering them slowly in his hands. "Now," he stated, shuffling back into his pillows once again, a spark of competitiveness in his eyes and a confident smile on his lips, "an-y threes?"

Gilbert quickly snatched up his own pile and scanned his cards, smiling when the blonde released a slightly hoarse bark of laughter when the Nightray was forced to hand over three of his cards on the very first turn ("Twen-ty bucks if I win~" "You can't bet after the game has started…" "Can too~!"). The game continued on as normal, idle chitchat pertaining to the weather or plans for Christmas day and the like, and for that Gilbert was more than thankful. Oz had not ignored the fact that Gilbert had clearly had a long day - he had acknowledged it and offered a quiet suggestion that he relax – but he understood when it was the right time to talk about these things and when it wasn't. Right now, all Gilbert wanted to do was forget everything that had happened before he had entered this room, and Oz was going to help him do that with card games and idle chatter. Even Ada and Oscar would have tried to get something out of him after a few minutes, or made some casual comment about work or stress in an attempt to get him to open up, but instead Oz called him a cheater or a loser and told jokes or stories or riddles, completely ignoring any curiosities he may have had and focusing on the game, instead.

Even after all this time… Oz understood him better than most people…

"What are you smiling at?" the blonde, who appeared unable to keep his own smile from his face, suddenly asked, interrupting the man's thoughts.

Gilbert blinked. "Am I?"

"Yeah!" Oz laughed.

Gilbert honestly hadn't noticed, but that fact, coupled with Oz's own clear contentment, seemed to only make him smile wider. "Well, maybe I'm just…" Just… what? His mind seemed to flounder for the right word, a word he knew well, one he uttered, one he really, really should know.

"Just… Happy?" Oz offered, smiling softly, green eyes alight with an emotion Gilbert could not name, but wished he could. It was something vibrant but gentle, strangely powerful yet comforting…

For a moment he forgot to speak, but then he swallowed and nodded, "Y…. yeah, of course."

The blonde scoffed and shook his head. "Th-then I'm not beating you bad-ly enough!" he announced, looking back at his cards, "Gimmie yo' ten-s."

"Don't have any," Gilbert chuckled at his friend's outstretched hand, reaching down and picking a card from the pile to set face down in the boy's palm, "Go fish."

"Shoot," Oz grumbled, looking like an irritated child as he scanned his cards once again, "Five, then."

"It's my turn."

"So no fives?"

"Oz, you can't take another-"

"How 'bout se-ven?"

"You can't… Look, give me the seven."

"Can't, don' have one~"


This was exactly what he had needed… Just something to make him laugh, something to make him feel better after a long and horrible day… Of course, that something was Oz. It was always Oz. And… happy…? The familiar word sounded strangely foreign… Something he was afraid to name or acknowledge in case doing so would somehow shatter it.

For years Gilbert had hoped that, upon entering that room, he would be greeted with bright eyes and soft smiles, and words that would wash away his worries and leave nothing but a sense of warmth and contentment in his heart. He would even be glad to accept a jeer or two, because even those had been missed in his best friend's absence. The way his eyes lit up and laughter filled the air was almost worth the torment, after all.

"An-y twos?" Oz asked, accepting the card that his friend hastily offered with a triumphant smirk, "You're so gonna' looose~"

"We'll see," Gilbert said, as though he had some sort of foolproof strategy to win this game of pure luck.

Maybe the blonde's entire demeanor was a little more worn than Gilbert had always hoped and imagined it would be, his limbs thin and weak and eyes and smiles a little dull due to being layered with every-present fatigue, but for him, this was so much better… Because those were all fantasy, while this was reality. For Oz to be awake, for Gil to be able to see those eyes at all… This feeling…

Maybe, just maybe…

He really was happy…


To Be Continued


A large portion of the next chapter is done so hopefully it won't take too long to finish. Thanks to anyone who stopped by and I hope to see you in the next chapter! :)