Disclaimer: I do not own Pandora Hearts or its wonderful characters-Jun Mochizuki does!

Originally, this was supposed to be a writing exercise to draw me out of writer's block, but it turned out better than I thought! I suppose you could call it a loose companion fic to my other one, As You Lay Sleeping-there are some of the similar themes. I'm beginning to notice a pattern here-lately I've been into a Break/Sharon sort of mood with some serious romance.


By the Hearth

"Look at you! You're dripping wet." Sharon sighs as she spots Break enter the parlor. Despite changing into a fresh set of dry clothes, he had left his hair unattended, ivory locks rumpled and wavy, heavy with water. Small rivulets cascade down his face, tracing along his well-defined jaw line and neck. The swoop of hair that usually covers his left eye hangs in disarray over his face.

"Ah! I apologize, Milady~!" he replies with his characteristic flamboyance. His cheeriness, however, is tinged with evident weariness—he heaves a sigh and sinks into the nearest armchair, eagerly settling into the comfort of the cushions.

Sharon hums in response, gathering towels in her hands.

"How was the mission?" she asks in hushed tones.

Break laughs softly, trying to stay awake—the armchair was just too comfortable and the fire from the hearth so warm—

"Fighting a Chain that blends with the rain makes it twice the more fun when the day is done," he rhymes sleepily, whimsical as ever.

Sharon rolls her eyes. Really, that ridiculous man, she muses, settling onto the arm of the chair.

Break realizes that it will not do to have his lady without proper seating and that he should forsake his seat. But before he can take action her delicate hands are in his hair, slender fingers running through the wet locks and across his scalp for a teasing instant. She takes the fringe that messily hangs in his face and smoothes it out, drawing it across his forehead and tucking most of it behind his left ear. A few stubborn strands of silver fall back onto his face, over his closed, unhidden left eye.

Her fingers accidentally brush against his eyelashes. So soft, they feel. Soft and white, almost transparent—they look like an artist's fine hair fan brush. And if she looks closely enough, she can see the small droplets of water clinging to his eyelashes, like crystal dust—

She suddenly realizes her forwardness and draws her hand back, blushing furiously. Oh, she hopes he does not see the rose dusted upon her cheeks.

And Break chuckles knowingly, his garnet of an eye twinkling in reflection of the flickering fire of the hearth.

"To what do I owe for this occasion?" he inquires.

Secretly, he wants her hands again—such pleasant feeling, but he won't show his desire. Suddenly, a fluffy towel obscures his vision, the fabric covering his head like a veil.

"You'll catch a cold sleeping with wet hair," his Lady chides, fluster ever evident in her voice. She rubs the fabric gently through his hair.

"You treat me too well, Milady."

And indeed, the mistress should not have to dry the servant's hair. But how he enjoys her ministrations so…

"Nonsense, it's…" She pauses, something flickering in her rose colored eyes, "…it's the duty of the lady of the house."

Ah, a familiar phrase—when she was much younger, her self-appointed "duty" was caring for him—the Kevin-who-wasn't-quite-Break with earnest gifts in flowers, girlish crafts, smiles and giggles and late-night story telling.

Now, however, he has a sense she means to say something else, something more (something he wants to hear). But those words mustn't be said, he muses, unable to ignore the twinge in his heart. It is…the best for both of them.

They fall in comfortable silence, save for the crackling of the fire and their soft breathing. Sharon notices that Break is relaxed, his head ever so slightly leaning into her hands. His hair is so smooth, like fine silk—her hands slip out of the towel for an instant. She remembers the time his hair was long, her small hands tugging and his hands trying to shoo her away.

Sharon holds back a giggle, amused by the reminiscence. How things have changed now.

Touching his hair evokes a different kind of feeling, a different kind of flutter of the heart—she is older, her hands are bigger and it's like she's touching him for the first time all over again. Her hands can fit his better now, like puzzle pieces coming together (those aren't the only puzzle pieces she wishes to fit with him). And before she knew it, she has come to love him in a way that is not brother, but that which is lover. Almost like a romance novel in the making, the two of them.

But no, I cannot turn that page. She smiles sadly. I cannot read, cannot and must not say those words, she muses.

It's the best for the both of them.


Break suddenly sneezes, bringing her out of her thoughts. An apology is half mumbled out before he sneezes a second time, third time, and fourth that leaves him sniffling, turning his nose an interesting shade of pink.

Suddenly, she wants to laugh despite her worry—the normally composed man making funny faces as he sneezes. Undeniably charming, even if his nose is running.

"You've already come down with a cold!" she exclaims. She fishes for a handkerchief in her pocket and hands it to him.

Covering his face with the dainty cloth, Break tries to wave off her remark, only to be interrupted by a fifth sneeze.

"No worries, this is nothing!" he says, voice muffled by the handkerchief. Though she cannot see his lips under the fabric, she knows that sheepish smile that reaches his ruby eye.

Five sneezes in a row is hardly nothing, she thinks as she touches his forehead and cheeks for fever. His cheeks are warm and pink—he looks like he's blushing, but she knows she can only wish—Break does not get flustered over little things like she does.

"It's best to nip this one early in the bud," she finally says, drawing her hand reluctantly from his face. Thoughts of the smoothness of his skin pass through her mind, causing her to blush, but she tries to push away the distractions with more productive thoughts. She needs to call the maid for extra blankets; she needs to prepare the tea. So many things to do to take care of him!

And so she sends Break to bed, promising to be by his bedside with something warm for him to drink.

As she hurries away, she does not see the hidden smile that graces his features—grateful, amused, and loving all the same.