By Your Side

Summary: Post-Yura's party. Alice now knows the truth of what happened to her one hundred years ago. Scared and confused, she finds comfort from the least likely person. Friend-shippy Gil/Alice; also slight Break/Alice and Oz/Alice.

Author's Note: Well, I was in a Gil/Alice mood, and thought this up. Now while I do support the two romantically, this story was made under the premise of friendship. So just platonic, but if you insist, it can be seen as romantic. However, I do try and make the Oz/Alice evident, since I think it's apparent that they are most likely going to end up the canon pairing. But since I do love Alice/Break as well, I had to toss a little in. And even a smudge of Gil/Oz. : D So a little of everything, haha, but this is, mostly, a Gil/Alice fic.

Disclaimer: I do not own Pandora Hearts, thank you. If I did... well, I don't know what I'd do! XD I can't decide on a pairing alone as it is, much less come up with this epic plot. Lol.

"And I'll be by your side,

wherever you fall.

In the dead of night,

whenever you call.

And please don't fight

these hands that are holding you.

My hands are holding you."

By Your Side, Tenth Avenue North

A little over a week had passed since they had attended Yura's ball, but the five occupants of the Rainsworth mansion had hardly recovered from the horrors they had seen there. They all were still quite stricken, the memories of the many headless corpses and Yura's attempt at re-enacting the Tragedy replaying in each of their minds.

Although all of them were affected, however, the one who was currently the most scarred by it... was Alice.

The young girl had shut herself up in her room almost as soon as they had returned home, coming out only to quench her persistent hunger. She barely spoke, and when she did, her voice had lost its cutting edge, and whenever she did attempt to put up a fight, mostly with Raven, everyone could tell the drive behind it was gone, and that more than anything, she was tired and resigned.

Oz, of course, had been the first to notice. But even though he had tried to cheer her up, the Chain simply would not, and after every meal – which included her barely touching her food, another thing that worried Oz – would retreat back into her room and remain there.

As he, Gil, Break and Sharon sat in the living room, almost a week and a half later now, all lost in their own thoughts, Oz decided it was time to make his worries known.

"Something's wrong with Alice." He said, and everyone looked up to catch his eyes.

Break bit down on a lollipop. "Indeed. She's been in her room for days."

Gil puffed on his cigarette, lying back on his armchair. "No kidding. It's too quiet, almost unbearably quiet without her loud mouth going. She's barely even picked a fight with me, and when she does, it's a weak attempt at best. And she's stopped eating like a glutton."

"Yes," Sharon frowned. "She's not all lively like she usually is.."

Oz stared at his knees. "I think Yura might have said something to her. Something to upset her."

Gil regarded him. "Or maybe he did something. Don't forget, Oz, he almost sacrificed that stupid rabbit in that ridiculous ceremony he was trying to hold. That would be enough to shake anyone up, even her."

"Mmm..." Oz knew that was definitely part of it. A huge part of it. "Actually," He looked up to the room at large, "There's something I haven't told you, Gil, Sharon. Back when we were in Cheshire's world, I learned something about Alice. When we returned, I told Break about it, but.." He stared at Break intently. "I didn't know how to tell everyone else. Especially not Alice."

"What is it?" Gil asked, frowning slightly.

Oz sighed. "You know Alice had been human, once. And we learned from what the Will of the Abyss told Break many years ago is that the Abyss can give consciousness to the lifeless. Well... a hundred years ago, on the day the Tragedy occurred, back in that memory in Cheshire's lair, I went up to the tower she had been imprisoned in, and I found her... dead."

Sharon and Gil's eyes widened.

"No way... A-Alice... was...?" Sharon asked weakly.

"What happened?" Gil pressed. "If she had been locked up in a tower all her life and Jack was the only person who came to see her, how did she end up dead...?"

Oz's fists clenched at his sides. "She had been murdered. By the same person who had despised her, the same person who was responsible for the city falling into the Abyss..." He locked eyes with Gil. "Vincent Nightray."

A lingering silence welcomed him once had had finished. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Gil made some kind of choking sound, his eyes even wider than before. "M-My brother... Vincent... killed Alice?"

"Yes," Oz said sadly. "Vincent hated Alice. Or rather, he thought he did. Because she teased him. But what he didn't understand was that it was the other Alice - the Will of the Abyss - that had belittled him. And because it was two girl's personalities in one body..."

"He killed the wrong one," Gil supplied. Oz simply nodded.

Break's eye narrowed. "And because he opened the gates of the Abyss, when the city fell into it, Miss Alice also was dragged into it, and since the Abyss revives those who have already died, the girl became a Chain."

"Exactly," Oz nodded again. "I can't bring myself to tell her. That she was murdered... that she died... but somehow, I get the feeling that I don't need to." His expression turned cold. "I think Yura did it himself. That knowledge alone would hurt her, but when he tried to kill her again..." He grit his teeth forcefully as if it could protect him from his own anger. "I'll never forgive him for what he's done... especially to her."

Silence came again.

"Well..." Gil again broke the silence as he reached over to an ashtray on the table in front of him and put out his cigarette. "We're just going to have to talk to her. No doubt she'll try and put up a fight about it, but even as tough as she makes herself out to be, she is just as fragile as any one of us. And right now, that stupid rabbit is not being the stupid rabbit, and I hate to say it, but it's a little lonely here without her being a stupid rabbit."

Oz stared in shock for a moment at Gil before he smiled, blushing slightly, and nodded. "Thanks, Gil."

The dark-haired man just grunted. Break laughed, and Sharon giggled..

"My, you really would do anything for Master Oz, wouldn't you?"The white-haired man smirked, and Gil glared at him.

"Shut up!"

"Take it easy, Raven~" Break kicked his legs and stood up. "What's say we go interrogate little miss bunny now?"

Sharon stood too. "Wait just a moment, Break. It might be overwhelming for her if we all go barge in at once. Maybe we should do this individually."

Gil snorted. "So she can beat the living hell out of all of us? Wouldn't we have more of a chance if we all went together?"

"Nonsense~!" Break chirped. "I highly doubt she'll be so violent in her current state of mind."

Gilbert crossed his arms defiantly. "If you're so sure, you go first."

Break popped another sucker into his mouth and grinned. "In that case, I will~"

And he turned and pranced off down the hallway in the direction of Alice's room. Sharon, Oz, and Gilbert all exchanged mischievous smirks and followed him, not wanting to miss anything. But when they rounded the corner, Break was nowhere to be seen.

Oz blinked. "Huh? Where'd he go?"

Sharon sighed. "Knowing Break, he went in there with an alternative entrance..."

Gil pressed his thumbs to his forehead. "That idiot, that's not the best thing — "

He was cut off when a high, shrieking scream erupted from Alice's room along with the sound of crashing.

"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN HERE, YOU STUPID CLOWN?"

"Good morning, Miss Alice~!"

CRASH. "You look lovely, as always!" Another crash. "Would you mind if I talked with you~?"

The three eavesdroppers jumped as they heard the sound of glass breaking. "GET AWAY FROM ME, YOU PERVERTED CLOWN!"

"Oh, but Alice, I just want to talk...~"

"GET OUT! STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM ME, CREEP!"

And then the door to Alice's room burst open and Break came flying out and onto the carpeted hallway, followed by the immediate slamming of the door. The trio could only stare, shell shocked white, at Break's crumpled form.

He sat up, blood oozing from the side of his head, and stared at the door he had just been kicked out from, putting on a false pout. "Why, Miss Alice is a very cranky rabbit today. I only wanted to talk, and she went and hit me with a vase~"

"Cranky rabbit! Cranky rabbit!" Emily exclaimed.

Gil's eye twitched in annoyance. "If you had gone in like a normal person, maybe she wouldn't have been so hostile!"

"Break," Sharon said sweetly, slowly walking up to him, a dark aura surrounding her. Sensing the danger, Gil quickly moved Oz off to the side, out of potential harm's way. Break seemed to sense it too, because he stood and attempted to ease off in the other direction.

"Ha... ha... ha... perhaps I'd better go get cleaned up!" As Sharon approached even more, he zoomed off at a speed so quickly that Gil and Oz nearly flew backwards from the pressure, and Sharon was left racing after him, an evil glint in her eyes.

Oz turned his attention back to the door. "Maybe... we should leave Alice alone for a while..."

Gil nodded his agreement and began to walk away."Let's go pick out something for dinner. She'll come out for that. Then we'll confront her."

Oz tagged along beside him, giving one last sad glance towards the door. "Yeah."

That damn clown...

How dare he just come in where he was not wanted, and surprise her like that! Huffing in annoyance, the young Chain laid on her stomach on top of her bed, face pressed into the pillow. Of course, she knew the others had to have sensed something was wrong by now. And although she hated it, hated the weakness, and hated herself at the moment more than anything for allowing it to happen, she did not have the energy to put up on a facade. She knew they would notice something, and she knew it was only a matter of time before any one of them came in to question her.

She sighed. Part of her actually felt... guilty for the way she treated the clown just now. Perhaps she ought to apologize...

Heh. As if. There was no way in hell she'd apologize to that idiot. She'd sooner go back to the Abyss than downgrade herself to that level...

Or so she told herself. She squeezed her pillow tightly in her fist, her eyes shining with tears. The Abyss. It had been a long time since she'd actually gone and thought about it so deeply, thought about its darkness, isolation, and remembered the loneliness she had suffered there.

It was only a matter of time, she knew. The clock hand on Oz's seal was almost at its complete rotation, and once it was, both he and Alice would be plunged back into that world. She shivered. Soon she would go back to the place that had destroyed her humanity...

She shut her eyes tightly as she recounted that night at Yura's place, and how the creep had looked at her, how he had addressed her as if he knew something that she didn't, smiling that eerie smile. The words he had said..

"You wouldn't happen to be in some way related to... that Alice who was mysteriously killed... during the Tragedy of Sablier, would you?"

Yes, she had died back then. She had not simply fallen into the Abyss and awoken as a Chain. She had been human.

"The one Jack Bezarius often spoke of in his journal? The girl with the connection to the Will of the Abyss?"

Her eyes had widened with shock.

"Such a lonely, trapped little child... and then that boy had to go and kill you, didn't he? How sad."

His voice was crusted with amusement.

"Who?" She had demanded. "Who... what are you talking about?"

He had grinned, and the sight of it sent chills up and down Alice's spine. "So curious... do you really wish to know...? I can give you all the answers. All of those answers about your life, all the answers to the questions you hold. Shall we go and find them, together?"

She whimpered softly as the memories all came coming back; going to look for Oz, encountering the Baskervilles, Yura grabbing her from behind, blearily awakening to find herself strapped to some kind of table, Oz's terrified scream...

"YURA! WHAT DID YOU DO TO ALICE!"

Oz...

"Let's re-enact the tragedy of one hundred years ago in its entirety!"

"You know nothing! Nothing of the people who were there! Of the people who died there! Yura! I'm going to kill you!"

She raised her head slightly as the aroma of food filled her nostrils. Oh, it smelled absolutely appeasing to her growling stomach, but she did not want to go out and face Oz and the other idiots. So she would wait. She could wait until they were all asleep. And then she would eat, get a good night's rest, and maybe tomorrow, tomorrow, she would talk to them... tell them everything...

Maybe.

It was now well past the latter half of midnight.

Oz, Gil, Break and Sharon had an almost completely silent dinner. At first, they had fully expected Alice to make an appearance at the smell of food, but as the hours crept by, they had to acknowledge that she wasn't coming.

Perched on the arm of the armchair beside the couch, Oz glanced up at the clock and sighed. "We'll give her the night to cool down," He said. "Then one of us can go and talk to her, and we'll keep trying until she opens up to one of us. She can't go on like this. If she does, Alice will..." He trailed off.

Sharon gave him a small, sad, smile. "Oz, we definitely won't let it get that far. We're Alice's friends. She needs to realize that we're not just going to abandon her, when she needs us the most. I think she knows this, and she's just too stubborn to admit it."

Gil grunted from across the room as he put out yet another cigarette. "A stubbornness we're going to have to break through, no matter how hard it is." He sighed. "Stupid rabbit..."

Nobody said anything else, all equally worried about the girl. The silence stretched on for a long time, until at last, Oz yawned. "I'm getting tired." He rubbed at his eyes.

Break chuckled. "Yes, it is late, isn't it? Milady Sharon has already fallen asleep over there on the couch. I think we'll both retire for the night." He easily picked up the sleeping girl and turned when he reached the corridor. "Good night, Oz, Gilbert-kun; I shall see you two, and hopefully Miss Alice in the morning."

Oz nodded. "Good night, Break."

"'Night," Gil muttered.

A few moments after Break disappeared, Oz yawned again, stood up, stretched, and smiled at Gil. "I think I'll head to bed, too. Goodnight, Gil."

Gil ruffled his young master's hair. "Goodnight, Oz. And don't worry... that stupid rabbit will be back to her normal self in no time."

"Yeah. Oz nodded, smiling wider. And, he too, departed, leaving Gilbert alone in the sitting room, his only company the crackling fire. He sighed and looked at the clock. 1:30 am. It was very late. The food in the kitchen would have been put away by now. He stared down the dark narrow corridor, his mind drifting towards Alice.

She must be starving by now, he thought. Why must she be so damn thickheaded and stubborn? Doesn't she know we can all see through it?

Deciding that he wasn't quite ready for bed, the raven-haired man headed towards the kitchen. The cooks had done as they had been asked, to save some of the leftovers for Alice. He grabbed a tray and began to pile food onto it. If she wasn't going to come out, then he would simply leave her meals at her door for her. He wasn't going to stand back any longer and let the rodent upset Oz any more than he already was, because she refused to come out and eat.

But as he rounded the corner to the girl's bedroom, he ran head smack into something, and the tray of food fell to the floor. "Damn..." He looked around for the source, and saw, with some surprise, that it was Alice.

The impact had knocked the young girl to the floor, and upon seeing Gil, her surprised expression quickly changed to a haughty one before she quickly sprang to her feet and began walking away, back towards her solitary. But Gil was having none of that. No more hiding.

"Not so fast," He said sharply, grabbing a hold of the girl's arm. "You're not going back in there."

Alice struggled hard against his tight grip, glaring. "Let go of me, you damn seaweed-head!"

"No," He spat. "You lock yourself in that room for a week and worry Oz sick and you expect me to let you continue this little charade?"

"Let me?" Alice snapped, whirling around to face him. "I do what I want, seaweed-head! If Oz is worried, it's his own stupid fault for being so sensitive! This has nothing to do with you guys, so leave me the hell alone!"

She attempted to pull away again, but Gil had pushed her up against the wall, pinning her.

"Don't you dare talk about Oz that way!" He exclaimed. "After all he's done for you, after all he continues to do for you, you speak of him like that? Do you have any idea how worried he's been, how worried all of us have been about you?"

Alice's eyes widened. They were all worried about her...?

"And yet, knowing that, you still want to turn around and hide from us? You're going to run away? The Alice I know would never do that! The Alice I know would never run away!"

"What do you know?" Alice snapped, pushing Gil away from her. "Don't pretend to know who I am!"

Gil let out a bitter laugh. "Stupid rabbit, we already know who you are! You're Alice! You're B-Rabbit! We've seen you get angry, cry, be happy, be stupid, be smart, be Alice! Right now, you're not her! Something happened to you at Yura's place. He said or did something to upset you. What was it?"

"Nothing!" Alice replied hotly, looking away from Gilbert's eyes. "Just leave me alone!"

She attempted to leave again, but Gilbert once more pulled her back. "No. We can stand here all night arguing, you stupid rabbit, but I'm not leaving until you tell me what's wrong!"

Her eyes blurred with angry tears as she attempted once again to pull away. She just wanted to be left alone, she was desperate to be... "Raven, please just leave me – "

"I'm not leaving you alone," He said simply. "Everyone's left you alone; I won't be yet another person to do that." Alice's eyes widened again. "Stupid rabbit... no... Alice... tell me what happened. What did Yura do?"

At the use of her name, Alice's cheeks reddened, and she looked at the floor, unable to meet Gil's eyes. "He just... he just told me some stuff, okay?"

Gil's eyes hardened. "What kind of 'stuff'?"

Her shoulders shook as Yura's words came back so easily in her mind. "He... he said... that I had been killed one hundred years ago... during the Tragedy of Sablier..."

Gil froze. So she knew, now. Knew the truth. The truth Oz had tried so hard to protect her from...

"Dammit!" Alice suddenly shouted, shutting her eyes tightly and holding her arms over her head as if trying to protect herself. "Why... why can't I stop thinking about it? Why does his face keep haunting me, even though he's dead? Why does it hurt so much? Raven, why am I so...?"

And then she was shaking as sobs wracked her body, and oh, she was so angry, angry at herself for breaking down in front of Raven, and she was angry at Raven for provoking it out of her. But more than anything, she was angry of the truth, and it hurt, it hurt so badly, in ways she had never hurt before...

"Stup – ...Alice..."

All of a sudden, she had been pulled against Gilbert's chest, his hand holding the back of her head gently. "It hurts so much because it saddens you," He explained. "You saw and experienced things you shouldn't have had to, and it's painful. There's nothing wrong with feeling sad for what happened to you, stupid rabbit. You lost the life you once had, had your humanity taken from you. You have every right to feel that sadness."

She hid her blush behind Gilbert's shirt, and allowed herself to relax slightly in his arms. She forced a scoff, as if offended. "O... O-Of course I have the right to, you dumb seaweed-head!" She declared, attempting to regain some of her edginess, but failing miserably.

Raven snorted as he pried her away. "Listen, stupid rabbit. You should know by now that Oz is not going to just abandon you and let you go on hurting without attempting in some way to heal your pain. He's stuck by your side for this long, and he's not going anywhere, no matter what you say, no matter what you do, no matter what your past foretells. And that's become true about all of us. Sharon, Break, and I... we're staying with you, too. And even if something were to happen that those two wouldn't be there, Oz, and I... we'll be there. Like Oz, I too, will be by your side."

Feeling the tears forming again, Alice let out a frustrated groan and promptly stomped down on Gilbert's foot, hard.

"Ow!" His injured foot shot up into his hand as he massaged it, glaring at Alice heatedly. "What the hell was that for, you stupid rabbit?"

But once again, the Chain had failed in keeping her tear ducts under control and her lip quivered as a small stream of tears fell down her face. "S-Shut up, idiot! G-Going on about ridiculous mushy stuff like t-that..." She hiccuped as she at last got some control over herself.

Gilbert blinked at her in shock, before he slowly smiled again and plopped a hand down gently onto the top of her head. "Come on, stupid rabbit... let's get you some dinner."

He turned away and began walking away. Instantaneously, Alice jogged up beside him, and he noticed the immediate change in her posture, and the slight leap in her step...

He hissed as a punch to his shoulder made his arm shoot with pain. He grit his teeth and looked down at the brown-haired girl walking beside him, her face flushed, a smile plastered on her lips.

"Hey, thanks.. Gil."

Gilbert stared at her in surprise for a moment before he looked away, unable to keep himself from smiling, too. That stupid rabbit... "You're welcome... Alice."