My Most Precious Warmth
NOTICE: I've begun to draw a doujinshi based on this story. If you'd like to read it, you can at deviantart. Just type in My Most Precious Warmth Pandora Hearts Doujinshi in the search engine.
Thank you and read on :D
Summary: The more memories they got back for Alice, the more she seemed to be thinking of Jack. And, as selfish as it sounded, this made Oz want to stop looking for her memories altogether.
"You can't get unless you give.
And you have to give without wanting to get."
Theordore H. White
Sometimes, they would sleep together.
They wouldn't do anything; she just slipped into his bed, beneath the covers, and dozed. This happened whenever she had a bad dream and couldn't bear the thought of being alone. Oz didn't mind – in fact, he kind of liked it. He liked how Alice seemed to need him, because she wouldn't go to anyone else. It was always him.
Waking up to her sleeping face, lips slightly parted, wasn't too bad either.
Like this morning, when Oz blinked open his eyes and sensed the sunlight penetrating through the thin curtains. He woke up to see Alice right beside him, eyes closed in slumber. Her face looked so soft and vulnerable – so different from when Alice was awake – and she was snuggled closely against him, a breath away.
He smiled faintly. Slowly, so not to disturb her too suddenly, he brushed away a few strands of her brown hair from her face. "Alice," he whispered, easily recognizing the warmth in his own voice. "Alice, wake up."
She mumbled something, stirred slightly, but didn't open her eyes. "Oz…"
And yes – hearing his name coming from her lips like that made him shiver pleasantly. Although he knew he shouldn't be, he was kind of appreciative of Alice's nightmares. "Sleepy head," he said quietly, brushing the back of his fingers against her forehead affectionately. "Wake up."
Then she shifted, turning her back to him, and curled up into a small ball. Oz sat up, peered over her and questioned, "… Alice?"
"Jack…" she mumbled, a small, graceful smile on her lips.
And sometimes, he hated how she slept with him. Because his morning mood depended entirely on what she said in her dreams and thoughts – he'd either tackle the day feeling elated, or downright rotten.
An unpleasant feeling wound its way around his heart and OZ frowned. "Alice," he said, with a little more conviction. For some reason, he didn't want to see that sleepy smile, didn't want her to continue with her dreams. Don't say his name, don't say his name. He shook her, gently but firmly on her shoulder. "Come on. Wake up!"
Finally, she opened her eyes wearily and found him staring down at her. "O-Oz…?" she whispered. Then she smiled softly. "Good morning. I had one of the most pleasant dreams!"
Oz forced himself to smile in return. As long as she doesn't say his name again, he'll be fine. "That's great!" he said with false cheerfulness. "You can tell me about it later! How about we get you back into your room so you can get ready for breakfast?"
Alice slowly got out of the bed, a little reluctantly, and pushed the white sheets off of her. She rubbed her eyes and yawned. "I don't remember what the dream was about," she told him pointedly. But the smile was still there nonetheless. "I just remember that it made me happy."
Oz didn't comment and she walked out of his room, wearing nothing but an oversize T-shirt she must've gotten (stolen) from Gil. Oz stared at the door, was suddenly aware of the emptiness of his own room and sighed. He smiled brightly at no one in particular.
Well, it was a brand new day. He should make the most of it.
But it concerned him – really it did. As time went by, as more memories were retrieved for Alice, the more he noticed her behaviour changing. She was still loud, obnoxious, tauntingly haughty and meat-loving, but something else had been added to the normal mix: sometimes, he would catch her gazing off into space, dreamy smile on her face and eyes as soft as feathers.
He didn't need to be a genius to know that she was thinking about Jack.
And he hated it.
He knew he shouldn't, because Alice's happiness was his happiness, but sometimes, he just couldn't stop that emotion from rearing its ugly head.
After all, before Alice retrieved her most recent memories, those smiles were only directed at him. Now, she hardly ever smiled like that at him and it unsettled him more than anything ever would.
"Oz!" Her voice was direct, straightforward, and he was glad. "Oz! Come on! The stupid clown has another assignment for us!"
Words he actually dreaded to hear even more so than before. Because if there was another assignment, wasn't there a chance of another memory?
Oz looked up from the novel he was reading and stared at Alice, who'd barged into his room proclaiming the news. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot impatiently, glaring at him. With an inward chuckle, Oz set down his book and got up from bed, walking towards her.
"Come on, Oz! Hurry up! Why are you so slow?" she scowled. Despite her mild glare, Oz could see the excitement in her eyes. It made him feel slightly queasy in the stomach.
"Just for the record, I hope you know you're doing a horrible job as a manservant," she growled. "I shouldn't be the one picking you up."
"Sorry, Alice," he said genuinely. "It won't happen again."
She huffed. "It better not. So hurry up!"
They walked down the stairs together (Alice ran ahead of him, more like) and met up with Break, Sharon and Gil in the living room. Break waved at them happily, the usual smile on his face. "Nice of you to finally join us, Oz-sama~!" he chimed.
Oz returned the smile, waved at Sharon and nodded to Gil. "So, what's the new assignment about?" he asked chirpily.
"We'll be sending you three off to an abandoned mansion in the outskirts of town," Break said, sitting by the table and stirring his sweetened tea. "Sources say that a Path was opened up inside it and now a Chain's haunting the area. Oddly enough, thefts have been occurring in the surrounding houses – I wonder if the Chain managed to make a contract with a thief." His eye twinkled, as if he found it amusing.
"Thief or no thief, just bring it on!" Alice proclaimed, placing her hands on her hips. "When are we leaving, clown?"
"Right this moment, actually, Miss Alice," he grinned. "You seem rather excited. I wonder if this Chain has a piece of your memory~?"
Alice's eyes widened with growing excitement. "Well, we won't find out unless we get off our butts, right? Let's go!"
She was already speeding out of the room before anyone could tell her to stop. Oz stared at her back glumly, unable to help the slightly exasperated expression on his face. Sharon glanced at him and smiled. "Something the matter, Oz-sama?"
Jolted out of his musings, Oz turned to the lady and gave her a sheepish grin. "Oh, it's nothing, Sharon-chan!"
She sipped on her tea delicately, briefly closing her eyes. There was a faint smile on her face. "Alice has been really lively lately, hasn't she?" she said openly, directing her question at everyone. "Especially with the topic of her memories."
Gil snorted. He dearly wished for a cigarette but knew Oz and Break would clobber him if he smoked in front of Sharon. "A little too energetic if you ask me," he said dryly. But then he glanced at the door where Alice disappeared through and smiled slightly. "Though, I am kind of glad. After that incident with Cheshire, and especially after that thing with Isla Ursa, she's been avoiding talking about her memories like a plague. I'm… glad that the stupid rabbit has finally regained memories that make her smile."
Break stared at Gil with a perverted grin. "Ah, I didn't know you paid that much attention to the little miss, Raven," he cooed.
"That's 'cause he secretly likes her," Emily commented with that eerie voice of hers. "Raven likes Alice! Raven likes Alice!"
"S-Shut up!" Gil shouted at the two of them, face heating up. "I do not!"
As they argued, Oz could only stare at them blankly. When Gil glanced at him though, Oz's expression changed instantly. "Alright, come on guys, stop fighting!" he laughed. "Alice is probably waiting outside for us. She'll get cranky if we make her wait any longer!"
Both Sharon and Break waved at them. "Buh-bye, my little puppets," Break sang with a grin. "Have a safe journey!" But as Gil and Oz were leaving, Oz, by mere instinct only, glanced back. His eyes locked with Break's and the older man smiled eerily. "Especially you, Oz-sama," he said, voice a little quieter, his eye piercing through Oz as if he could see his soul. "I hear that this Chain feeds off greed. Finds the emotion delectable, actually. Perhaps you can be a little more wary…?"
Oz's lips stretched into a hallow smile. "No need to worry about me, Break," he said calmly. "I can accept anything, remember? I don't need to be greedy – I'm happy with the way things are now."
"Ho-hum," Break mused. "As you say, Oz-sama. As you say."
"Haunted mansion? Pasha!" Alice mocked, staring at the broken down house with three storeys. "Who the hell will this place scare? A mouse?"
Alice's conclusion of the place, however, was not the same as the majority. It was indeed rather gloomy, with overgrown weeds, peeling walls and hanging pieces of wood from the balconies. The trees that surrounded it were tall and foreboding, with darkened leaves and tough, dark brown branches. Twigs and dead leaves were scattered all over the surrounding land and when Oz ventured up the outside steps, they squeaked depressingly.
The entire house seemed to radiate a dark aura of hostility – but, Oz interpreted, it seemed also quite lonely. It was only in his imagination but the houses on either side of the mansion seemed to stretch as far away from the 'haunted' area as much as they could. As if the bright, well-taken care of houses wanted to isolate the lonely, abandoned structure.
"Let's just get this thing over with," Gil mumbled beside him. "I want us to be back before dark."
"Ha! No problem!" Alice smirked. "I don't know why but for some reason, I have lots of energy! I'll take care of this stupid Chain and its contractor no problem!" She bounded up the stairs and, without further hesitation, kicked down the front door. It created a loud smashing sound and the floorboards seemed to whine with age as the door struck the ground.
"A-Alice!" Oz exclaimed, rushing up to her. "Why did you do that? Now the person – or the Chain – knows we're here!"
"Not to mention that the neighbours might think that we're the ones breaking in," Gil growled in annoyance.
Alice crossed her arms stubbornly and glared at the two of them. "What's your problem?" she seemed to sneer. "I told you I'd handle it quickly, didn't I? The sooner the Chain appears, the sooner we get to kill it…"
And the sooner we get to retrieve another precious memory.
Oz heard those unspoken words. Before he could stop her, she bounded away into the house, disappearing into the darkness. "Alice!" he yelled and had no choice but to follow her, knowing that Gil was close behind.
It was strange. Once he entered the house, the temperature seemed to immediately drop to freezing. It was so warm outside, a pleasant day, but the moment he stepped inside, the darkness seemed to sap away every light that warmed him. He was suddenly so cold and he couldn't help but shiver. "Alice…?"
Immediately, Oz recognized her voice, so small and quiet; and, immediately, he wanted nothing more than to stop whatever was making her feel like that. His eyes adjusted to the dark (it was strange, because even though the curtains were drawn, the light still would've seeped through the cracks – not here, though. It was as if light couldn't pass through and warm the lonely house) and spotted Alice standing a few metres in front of him, hugging herself closely. "Are you alright, Alice?" he questioned, briskly walking up to her.
"It's just… very cold," the Chain whispered, rubbing her hands up and down her arms.
"Be careful, guys," Gil warned them with the utmost seriousness. He held his gun loosely yet readily in his hand. "Don't you ever leave my side – not for any reason. And that goes for you too, you stupid rabbit."
"Shut up, seaweed head. I can take care of myself!" But Alice didn't venture too far away from them nonetheless.
They explored the dark mansion, with nothing but the sounds of their steps and creaking floorboards reaching their ears. It seemed utterly abandoned. Cobwebs hung lazily from the ceiling and numerous bugs scattered across the floor. Yet it was strange – the furniture seemed expensive, yes, but some were upturned and some rooms looked as if they'd been ransacked. Yet other rooms were picture perfect, ignoring the layer of undisturbed dust and dirt. What happened?
Then suddenly, Gil had enough of the dark. Although they could still see slightly, he hated how everything was cast into shadows. He reached into the pocket of his jacket and took out his lighter.
Alice, however, noticed what he was doing and got the wrong idea – after all, being a Chain, her vision was nearly perfect, even in the light-depraved mansion. "You stupid seaweed head!" she hissed. "This isn't the time for you to smoke! You know how I hate that stuff!" She couldn't stand it – she couldn't stand, also, that Gil was practically killing himself with it.
"It's not that, you stupid rabbit!" Gil retorted hotly. "I just need a little more light."
Then with a practiced flick of his finger, a flame appeared in the darkness.
And almost immediately, the temperature became colder.
"Warmth…" said a voice and the three instantly stiffened. "What are you holding…? It is so warm… I want it… I want it…" They couldn't pinpoint where the voice was coming from. It was hollow and yet also grating, like fingernails on a blackboard.
Gil pointed his gun into the darkness, Alice took a defencive stance. Oz just stood there, calmly gazing out into the shadows that he knew were staring right back at them.
"I want it… I want it…" the voice chanted. Then a gale of wind, the light went out, and the voice whispered: "… Give it to me."
He didn't know what happened. The light went out, he felt himself being slammed against the wall. He heard her voice, heard another massive thud, as if something heavy had fallen to the floor. He rubbed his head and opened his eyes, adjusting to the darkness. "Alice…? Gil…?"
There was a groan and he immediately recognized it as his servant's. "Oz," Gil mumbled, sitting up. He lifted himself off the floor, also rubbing his head. "Damn Chain," he cursed, glaring around him. He helped his young master up to his feet. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Oz replied dismissively. He tried to look for Alice. He spotted her almost immediately – she was standing up, stiff and unmoving, eyes wide as she stared down the hallway they were in. He was immediately concerned. "Alice?"
She didn't respond. He heard Gil mutter, "Where the hell is my damn lighter?" but otherwise ignored him. His attention was solely on Alice.
He walked forward, grabbed her arm. "Are you alright?"
"Warmth," she suddenly whispered, still not looking at him. She was gazing off into the distance, seeing something he couldn't see. "I feel warmth."
Oz didn't know what she was talking about. To him, the mansion was as cold as it ever was. "Alice…?"
Then she suddenly shrugged his hand off her – he wouldn't admit it, but he found her actions cutting. She gave a wide smile, her eyes twinkling with joy. "I sense warmth, Oz!" she shouted, the excitement back in her voice, the happiness. "I sense one of my memories!"
Then she was running away from them, into the darkness, following that thread of connection that only she could sense. "Alice!" he screamed after her, hearing Gil shouting "Oz!" behind him as he gave chase to the fleeing Chain. "Alice! Stop!" But why was he telling her to stop? She was leading them to the Chain, wasn't she? To the illegal contractor?
She was leading them to the memory.
And nothing else.
Oz couldn't describe how much it hurt, to see her back running away from him and towards something he could never be, could never be a part of. She said she sensed 'warmth' – she was currently running towards that 'warmth'. But wasn't he warm enough for her? Couldn't he supply her with this type of 'warmth' that she seemed to crave?
After all, Alice was his sun, wasn't she? So why couldn't he be hers?
Then suddenly, he lost sight of her, her form disappearing into the darkness. He abruptly stopped, looked behind him, found Gil metres away from him. But then Gil's eyes widened and he was enveloped in darkness too, disappearing completely into who knows where. As quick as lightning, Oz was now alone.
And with that thought, the temperature of the mansion became even colder.
"Gil?" he whispered, looking around. "Alice?" Where were his closest friends? Why did they abandon him?
"I sense warmth, Oz!" he suddenly remembered her saying, the joy unable to be contained in her words. "I sense one of my memories!"
Oh. So that was why. Alice abandoned him… because she went chasing after 'Jack' – her familiar 'warmth'.
"Stop it," he whispered, closing his eyes against the shadows that seemed to be coming closer. "Stop it, Alice, stop running…" He walked backwards until he hit the wall. "Stopping running away from me…"
He pressed his knuckles against his eyes; the pain in his heart, the constricting vice inside his chest, a burning anger – why was he feeling this way? These emotions brought nothing but coldness.
Alice, Alice, Alice, Alice… Where was his sun? How could he be warm without his light? In a place where the coldness seeped into your bones and froze over your soul, he needed her now more than anyone else in the world.
"Ah, a familiar soul," a voice chimed horribly in his ear. Oz immediately snapped open his eyes. Nothing greeted him but darkness. Was he even in the mansion anymore? "Oh yes, I sense it too. You… Nothing but a child…" In the shadows, Oz spied beady yellow eyes and a pearly red grin. "Such a greedy heart…"
Oz promptly ignored its words. "Where's Alice?" he asked coldly. See what happened to him without his Alice by his side? "What have you done to her?"
"I have done nothing," the despicable Chain replied. "The Bloodstained Black Rabbit came running to me."
"Impossible. You're lying." Because this dark Chain, this Chain that emitted coldness, couldn't be her warmth.
"Then why don't you try and find me… Perhaps then, you can find what your greedy heart desires~"
Then the Chain began to disappear and immediately, Oz began running to chase it. Because at least that much was true, wasn't it? The Chain knew where she was, so it could lead him to where his light was. He didn't want to stand here, alone, in this horrible coldness anymore.
"Alice! Gil!" he yelled into the darkness. He ran through the hallways, through the abandoned rooms, not seeing those yellow eyes and red teeth anymore. He was merely following his instincts, willing his invisible bond with Alice to guide his way. He climbed the stairs and barged into a room, opening the doors so harshly that they slammed against the wall. "Alice!"
And there she was, on the opposite side of the room, standing by the doorway. She was struck still, and so was Oz.
Because the room they found was unlike any other place in the mansion – it was bright and incredibly warm. But Oz didn't know where this warmth was coming from – the lights on the ceiling weren't on and even though there were candles lit all around the room, they couldn't be the ones making such a cosy atmosphere. Oz noticed little trinkets scattered all over the floor, some large and some small, and lots of photographs and novelty items that looked so aged that he wondered if they were even made anymore. At the centre of the room was a desk and on that desk was a slightly glowing object – a mirror. And behind that desk sat a man wearing rumpled clothing with a displaced tie, eyes blank and hollow. Floating above him was that darkness – a swirling mass if energy with beady yellow eyes and grinning red teeth.
They found their illegal contractor and his Chain – yet for some reason, they also found their warmth in the very same room.
"Oz!" Alice shouted at him from the other side of the room. "Where's Raven?"
A groan. Their eyes immediately locked onto the crumpled figure lying on the floor among the random objects. Gil looked up drowsily, his hat thrown aside. "Oz…?"
"Ah, so you've found me, so you've found me," the Chain chuckled, hovering above its silent contractor. "How strange it is… for greedy hearts to flock like this."
"Shut up!" Alice snarled, eyes narrowed furiously. "I'll kill you, you stupid Chain! Give me back my memory!"
"But it's mine," the Chain whined, no longer grinning. "It's mine, it's mine, it's mine. I don't want to share it!" Then the room seemed to darken, if only slightly. "Such a bully, Bloodstained Black Rabbit… Bully, bully, bully! Don't try to take what's mine!"
"It's mine!" Alice growled at it, advancing threateningly. "You thieving little Chain! Give back what belongs to me!"
But for some reason, the Chain wasn't paying attention to her. It was suddenly looking at Oz and a hideous grin stretched on its formless face. "I am a greedy one, I am," it said to him and Oz felt himself stiffening. "I take what I want and I don't care about anything else… You want to know what I collect, little boy?" Its eyes turned nasty, like something sour being jammed down your throat. "I collect… the most precious… the most treasured… of things. Because they are so very… very… warm."
And Oz didn't know why he did it but suddenly, he was standing between the Chain and Alice, his arms opened wide. "Stop it, Alice!" he heard himself shouting at her. Her eyes widened. What was he doing?
The Chain behind him gave a low, mad chuckle. "Because I'm greedy… And I want to steal what people hold dear the most… This memory belonging to the Bloodstained Black Rabbit… It has such a warm and bright glow. It must be… really precious… yes?"
"Give it back to me!" Alice yelled, furious beyond belief. She glared at the Chain and then back at Oz. "Get out of my way, manservant!" she growled. "What do you think you're doing?"
But the Chain kept whispering dark things into his ear. "She is greedy for her memories and I don't wonder why. I've peeked into the mirror, little boy, and I've seen what it contains." Oz hated this Chain's voice yet he couldn't help but listen. What was it trying to say? A memory most precious to Alice? What… What was it? He wanted so desperately to know. "It was… a memory… a pleasant, heart-warming memory… a moment in which no girl would want to forget… A memory of a handsome blonde man, looking much like yourself… of a person named 'Jack'."
Alice heard the Chain's words and immediately her eyes widened, her cheeks flushed and she became even more determined than ever to get what belonged to her. "Jack…" she whispered beneath her breath. Then her eyes hardened – she wasn't seeing the Oz that stood right in front of her; she was only staring at the mirror. "Give him back to me, you damned Chain!"
And that was it – Oz's heart froze over and he wouldn't allow himself to move.
The tone of his voice made her stop completely. She glared at him. "… What?"
Oz was staring right into her eyes, expression cold. "I won't let you get that memory, Alice."
And the look she gave him then shattered him – a look of hurt, of anger… a look of utter betrayal.
And suddenly, he regretted ever saying those words. The darkness that wrapped itself around his heart the moment the bloody Chain began to whisper poison into his ears suddenly faded, to be replaced by remorseful guilt and shame. His mind cleared, his expression lost that dark and cold look; he suddenly felt his body go limp.
What… had he just done?
"You…" she whispered, looking at him as if he was a stranger, as if he'd just done something horrible. "What…"
He braced himself for the verbal lashing that would surely tear his heart apart. He closed his eyes, unable to look at her anymore, because he felt so horrid about what he just said and did that he wanted to kill himself.
Because he hurt Alice, didn't he?
Because he was so greedy – he wanted to keep her light all to himself.
And in doing so, he had hurt her. For that, he deserved her screams, her hate, her anger; he deserved for her to leave him, because if this was how he acted, wasn't that best for her?
He… deserved none of her precious warmth.
"WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE TO OZ?"
Her furious screaming made him quickly open his eyes. Yet her anger wasn't directed at him – her vicious glare was directed solely on the floating Chain behind him.
"You fed him lies, didn't you, you piece of filth?" she sneered, shoving past Oz to advance the illegal contractor and his floating Chain. "You took advantage of his stupid naivety to make him say that, didn't you? Because Oz would never say that to me! Never!" Her eyes darkened with fury. She didn't even care that the mirror she longed for, the mirror containing her 'most precious memory', was right in front of her. All she cared about was that this stupid Chain had managed to make Oz say such a thing.
What had this abomination done to him? Why was Oz acting so strangely? It was all this stupid Chain's fault and because it made Oz be unlike Oz, Alice was going to destroy it completely.
Because she couldn't imagine Oz… not being Oz.
The world would then just be too dark – not worth living for.
Then, because she was so close and her fury blinded her, she didn't see how the illegal contractor, silent and ghost-like, suddenly stood up with a large knife in his hand. He lifted it up, hollow eyes strained intently on Alice, brought down the knife in one single movement, aimed directly at her heart-
And a gun shot, the sound of metal on metal, and the knife dropped to the floor with all those precious objects containing people's most precious memories.
Gil was standing, his gun in his hand. He stared darkly at the floating Chain and its contractor. "Don't," he whispered dangerously, "hurt Alice."
"No, no, no, no, no!" the Chain screeched, its voice piercingly loud in their ears. "Be greedy! Don't regret! Be selfish and vile and evil and shallow! I want, I want, I want, I want! Yes, be like that!" It stared into their faces, into Gil's, and Alice's, and Oz's, and it seemed to get madder, the room getting darker. "I see it! I see the greed in your hearts! Don't try to hide it! Greed for the person's love, greed for your own happiness stored within memories, greed for the person's life and attention – I see it all! Desire! Do whatever you can to get what you want! No matter who you hurt – obtain that warmth, steal all of it, and never let it go!"
Then a surge of power, a slice through the air, and the Chain began to disappear in a low, agonizing moan.
Oz merely stared at it dismissively. "Silence. Your voice is annoying."
The large scythe in his hands disappeared and so did the nameless, greedy Chain. The illegal contractor slumped to the ground, unconscious. Obviously, the bond between Chain and contractor wasn't strong enough, otherwise the man wouldn't still be here.
A moment of quietness fell upon them, the temperature of the room returned to normal and sunlight once again began to seep through the cracks of the windows. Suddenly, it wasn't so cold anymore.
Alice hit Oz over the head harshly.
Oz immediately whined, rubbing the back of his head. "Alice!" he whimpered, glancing at her. "What was that for?"
"You usurped my power yet again without my permission!" she growled, glaring at him angrily. "Why do you always do that?" But then her eyes softened and she crossed her arms. "But I guess that just means that 'Oz' is back."
The memory of it made Oz's chest ache. "Alice… about that… I'm sorry." He slowly reached forward, grabbed the mirror from the desk and held it out to her. "I'm sorry that I tried to stop you getting what made you happy," he whispered. "Here. Your 'most precious' memory."
Alice stared at it and he could see the longing in her eyes. So it then surprised him when she suddenly hit his hand, making him drop the mirror. It shattered into shards on the floor, the sound echoing in the empty mansion. "A-Alice!" he shouted, eyes immediately flying over to the broken shards, wondering how the heck he was going to fix that.
"I don't have a most precious memory!" Alice snapped at him. "Are you completely stupid?" She reached forward, grabbed his shirt and pulled him towards her. Their faces were merely inches apart, making him slightly blush, but her glaring eyes captivated him like nothing else has ever had. "The memories I make with you and seaweed head and the clown and big sister are the ones 'most precious' to me!"
"B-But the ones with Jack…" he stuttered.
"Jack… made me happy." She loosened her hold on his shirt but didn't let go. She avoided his gaze and instead looked at the ground. "He did make me happy, I remember. But… he's dead, isn't he? I can't… keep chasing after a person who's not really here anymore." Then she looked up, her eyes shining with conviction. "But you're here, Oz, and that's all that matters to me! You're the person who makes me happy now! So don't you ever scare me like that again or I'll beat you up, you stupid manservant!"
And there it was again – why was it that Alice could make him feel this tickling warmth inside?
"Alright, kids, break it up," Gil growled, suddenly shoving in between them. "If you don't stop it, I'll puke."
Oz laughed lightly. "Glad you're okay too, Gil."
But Alice was sneering at him with a cocky smirk on her face. "Hah! I got it! I know why you're 'greedy'!" She placed her hands on her hips and metaphorically looked down on the older man. "You're greedy for Oz's attention! You felt sad because he was only paying attention to me, as a manservant should, and you broke us up!"
Gil's face flushed ten different shades of red. "I am not!" he denied with a squeak. "Besides, if anyone's the greedy one here, it's you, you glutton! You're the one who's always pining for Oz's attention!"
Alice stuck up her chin in defiance. "Why don't you look in the mirror? I swear, if you can watch yourself for a day, you'd be ashamed of how much you resemble a lost puppy when it comes to Oz!"
"Shut up, you stupid rabbit!" Gil yelled at her, still flushing red. "You don't know anything!"
"I beg to differ, seaweed head!"
"Beg all you want but it's not going to make a damned difference, stupid rabbit!"
Oz watched his two best friends bicker and smiled faintly.
He wondered if it was because the Chain was gone that the lonely mansion was suddenly warm, or it was simply because his most precious people were so full of life and were right here, by his side, never leaving him alone.
Oz blinked open his eyes as he sensed the sunlight pass through his curtains. He gave a soft yawn, stretching his arms above his head. A pleasant smile was on his face as he glanced at the person sleeping beside him.
She was curled up into a ball, her back towards him, and was snoozing softly. Oz sat up and leaned over her, just so he could watch her sleeping face.
"Jack…" she mumbled, curling up tighter.
Oz gave a sad smile and sighed, leaning back and lying down once more.
It still hurt him, whenever she whispered his name longingly in her sleep. But Oz couldn't bring himself to hate it anymore. After all, Jack was a part of who she was, a part of who he was, and if he hated his name being passed through her lips so softly, then he effectively hated Alice's own happiness.
And he could never do that. Because her smile meant everything to him.
Then she turned around, snuggling against him closely, and sighed contentedly. "… Oz…" she whispered, her breath against the side of his chest. "Get me… more meat…"
And there was that smile on her face and that pink flush to her cheeks. Oz looked at her, could feel the sunlight seeping through the curtains, and knew that the warmth that spread in his chest wasn't because of that.
Unwittingly, he leaned down and placed a gentle, almost nonexistent kiss on her forehead. "I love you, Alice."
Because he didn't care where her heart really was – whether it was with him or with jack. He didn't care about details like that anymore. He only cared that he loved her, that she was his sun, and if she smiled, if she was happy, then his world will radiate with her – and nothing else mattered to him but her smile.
But when he pulled back from his kiss, he found her staring at him, eyes wide and alert.
Then she pulled herself up and kissed him softly on his lips – nothing pressing, just a gentle peck. Yet, it still caused him to shiver with pleasure and his heart to nearly explode.
"I don't know what 'love' is," she whispered quietly to him, yet with lavender eyes determined and sure. "But I do know that you are my most precious person. Oz. Oz." Then she smiled, as if she liked saying his name. "Is that what 'love' is, Oz?"
She didn't wait for an answer, because she didn't really want one. The feeling in her heart was all that mattered to her – Oz was all that she could see and all she cared about right now. She sighed and squirmed even closer towards him, liking the way he generated heat and made her warm. "I'm really greedy, manservant. So you have to give me everything I want the moment I say it, understand?"
Oz laughed, and his voice echoed pleasantly in the room. "Greedy for what, exactly?" he grinned.
Alice felt the blood rush to her face as she gripped Oz's shirt, hiding her face against him. "You," she whispered, barely loud enough for him to hear.
But he heard it and her answer made Oz smile that goofy little smile and his emerald eyes to twinkle. He wrapped his arms around her, holding her close, and rested his chin comfortably on top of her head. "Then I'm yours, Alice."
If possible, her face darkened even more. "I-Idiot! I knew that already! That's what it means to be my manservant!"
And he laughed, because he loved these mornings with her.
He realized that he had no right to be greedy – he already had everything that he truly wanted.
He had Alice, right here, in his arms. She was healthy, happy and alive.
What more could he possibly ask for?
The fact that he was her 'most precious' person was merely icing on the cake, something that made his happiness complete.
And he wouldn't let greed or envy ruin the light that was his Alice.