I'm so sorry about the disappearing for several months! A lot has happened, but do not fear, I have every intention of finishing this! Thank you for all the lovely reviews and favorites, and hopefully no one has forgotten about it in the time gap. I'm starting to realize that my summary for this is...daunting? I'm debating whether to change it, if you'd like to add your input on that matter.

Disclaimer: I do not own Pandora Hearts

The birds weren't singing quite as brilliantly. They had stopped, within the last few hued mornings, which in themselves were a shade duller. The nightingales that Oz had taken to had also stopped, only the minstrel of the lonely morning doves perched on the rooftop filled the hanging silence. Languidly, the sun would peek over clouds and behind rooftops with little smudges in the skyline that formed flocks of fluttering creatures.

He had been waking up alone, which although was not uncommon, he found himself craving the warmth of another's skin against his own. Images and dreams flitted under his eyelids, and there was a moment in between sleep and consciousness that he found himself immersed in a warm, saccharine grace. Reality hadn't hit yet, the nightingales had not yet sung and the thoughts of the real world would crash like a roaring wave and send him sputtering into his pillows, clutching for air as he saw his father and Jack and his heart wouldn't quite stop feeling as if it were being clenched upon entirely.

For the next few moments, Oz laid there, ignoring the thin film of sweat sticking to his clothing and the grinding chasm in his chest. He laid there just to be, to remind himself that the worst has passed, or to convince himself rather, and that it was as if the bundle of sheets and fortress of pillows could keep him safe from all harm.

Viridian eyes slipped shut again, and molten amber filled the safe black veil.

And oh god, it was that sick spiraling feeling again. Some unknown force was gripping his lungs between the pads of its fingers-just because it could, and somehow he knew in his theoretical gasping state that it was probably laughing at him. And he really wasn't quite sure why the color of rich navy was sending his nerves into a frantic short, or why he had become so concerned with the way the sheets bunched and pinched when someone occupied the space next to him. He flung himself over, arms twisting wildly against the fabric to just pretend for a moment that the pocket next to him had been filled by more than the mess his hands were making.

And it was odd to say, but Oz knew that he truly missed Gilbert.

Granted, Oz had never been a very practical boy. His emotions and impulses ran off a little chain of reactions and forgotten causes that imploded with every laugh as he left behind some kind of catastrophe that no longer concerned him. Logic was so often abandoned that he sometimes forgot just what the peculiar word truly meant. He had never been on the other end, so to speak, where he was clutching desperately for that same logic he had snubbed. Why? What were the motives for suddenly vanishing?

The emotions creeping up his stone wall of a mask was too much work. Rolling over, Oz watched as the sliver of light bent from his ceiling down the expanse of the wall.

He didn't care anymore.

(Except that he did and he knew it).

Three more days.

Gilbert came back and Oz wasn't sure whether he was more angry or hurt or relieved. It came in the form of a little digital envelope with just a simple "Can I come over?" and he just stared until his eyes felt that heavy strain from looking at the brightness of the screen too long and too close. And it seemed like by the time he was done burning those four words into his retinas that he was then pulling the handle to the front door to a sheepish man who looked like he hadn't slept or eaten in days.

"Hey," Gilbert started and Oz watched the way he averted his eyes in that nervous habit, and he realized that he had slowly become able to pinpoint a few of his habits. And by the way he took a breath like the rush of air would sweep away all his worries, Oz knew he was about to try and explain—and why exactly was Gilbert explaining himself to Oz? He was by no means obligated to him, they were barely more than acquaintances with a bond of sex and money.

"I don't care where you were," the blond snipped, but cracked the enormous wooden door open more to let him in.


Gilbert's face twisted in a somewhat painful manner. Oz recognized the way his brow wrinkled, the way it had over dinner when he wanted to say something or when Oz asked him an absurd question that really shouldn't be asked in bed.

"Are you hungry?" Oz asked with pursed lips, the door slamming against its hinges a little too roughly.

There was this gritty friction in the yard of space between them. Not like the dulled sense of admiration that Oz distanced himself from, or the stuffy rivalries and hatred of other houses. It was rubbing against him and tearing up any resolve he had, and roughing up that tiny fraction of guilt that he had left. He hadn't done anything wrong, he thought to himself, but for once, he felt like he should hastily apologize.

"No, I'm alri-"

"Let's have lunch then."

Oz strode past him with a headstrong focus onwards to the dining room and he was partially weary of looking back. Maybe it was his own fucked up way of asking him to stay, but the crude commands were the most basic forms of communication he knew when he didn't know what was going on with himself. He wanted to scream and say so many things, to emotionally vomit and demand to know everything and why he wasn't attached at the hip when he wanted him so much.

He wanted Gilbert so much.

He heard the thud of a second pair of footsteps and started to rummage around in the cabinets. He was acting like a fool, he frowned at his skewed reflection in the porcelain dish and stuck his tongue out with a sigh. He was acting so silly that it really was embarrassing. He should really stop this.


"What," he jumped and spun around in some animalistic manner like a deer in the headlights.

"I'm fine."

"Ah, well, I'm really not hungry so..."

The dish clattered onto the counter precariously and Oz stared, his lips pressing into a tight line and trying to hear past the pounding of his own heart rate in his ears. His eyes slipped down, watching as his fingers clenched and unclenched, scraping his nails over his palms. He was still racing, and the part that bothered him most was because he was unsure of what exactly had set off the hurricane of foreign impulses.

Gilbert was smiling at him, he saw once he lifted his head after a heavy moment of silence. It was the most earnest—painfully genuine—expression and the slight indent of his brow suggested just a hint of amusement. It struck Oz as the most breathtakingly, sole, moment that was so bright that he could feel some layer of ice just melt, the water trickling and cooling that erratic nerves. It made him feel safe, calmer, and suddenly very small. That smile was too experienced and soft, it had been shown to another and the teenager was fully aware of that blatant gap that placed him on the irrationally green and childish end of the spectrum.

"I'm sorry," he was still smiling, although there was a certain amount of unease to his tone, as if he were embarrassed.

Oz shrugged, "It's really okay. I've just been bored out of my mind." The older man nodded slowly, and the silence returned like a fog setting in. Licking his lips dryly, Oz added, tone curious, "Did I forget to pay you?"

Blinking, brows furrowed and he slowly shook his head, "No, you did." His voice trailed off, lingering on words unsaid that stopped at his tongue and were swallowed back down.

Oz was reminded of how business centered and frivolous their relationship, if it could even be considered that, was. Yet, here was Gilbert, standing in his kitchen with a terribly adorable expression of confusion and shifting uncomfortably without those business strings attached. He was there because he could be, and he had been the one to ask.

He should really say something, Oz thought to himself with a sense of resolve, take this strange opportunity despite that neither were probably sure of how it had ended up that way. Just as he parted his lips, a high pitched tune cut him off, and as Gilbert sighed and dug around in his pocket to find his phone, Oz frowned slightly. Not that he was discouraged, or disappointed even. Maybe a bit.

"Vince..." Gilbert muttered, eyes scanning over the phone with a click of his tongue.


"My brother," raven locks shook in a curtain around his face, "Don't worry about it. I'll need to leave soon, though." His voice was apologetic, and Oz nodded.

"Why did you come today?" Oz's grace was lost in his curiosity, the inquiry more blunt than tactful but it did the job. He watched the surprise pass through topaz irises like an alarm setting off.

"You seem lonely," Gilbert answered, eyes meeting his in that earnest way again, all his intentions so completely honest that Oz hardly knew what to do with them, "I just thought you might want some company for a bit, if that's okay. I don't...I'm not asking for money for this, you just seem to be alone a lot."

Oz couldn't breathe, his chest was filled up so tightly, constraining and tugging from every which way that he could only stand there and question what made this man so different, why was it that he could make the absurd assumption that was so true that he couldn't stand to face it himself. And even more so, he was still standing there, he had seen it, seen whatever sort of backwards mask Oz had created for himself to remain king in his vast kingdom of self protection and pride, and he was there trying to break down the mortar and brick, most likely unintentionally at that.

And he really was lonely, sometimes—most the time.

"You can come over without asking, you know," Oz mumbled, and the corners of his lip pulled upwards just slightly, "You don't need to ask." And then he was grinning brightly at Gilbert, truly grinning with all the radiance of his overbearing personality in one expression. He felt happy, for the first time in a long time.

Maybe it was infectious, that grin of his, but Gilbert found himself smiling back, "Alright. I'll keep that in mind."

He couldn't keep doing this.

Time was passing with every day, and it slipping away faster than he could possibly keep up. Between his day job, his night job—that he was hellbent on keeping as discreet and away from Oz as possible—and Oz himself, Gilbert was starting to fall apart at the seems. He didn't eat much, there was no time to and food was money that needed to go towards digging Vincent out of that hole he had dug them both into. And that hole was getting deeper with each day, and the time that they had left was not nearly enough to get the amount of money that Vincent needed to pay back.

Gilbert was disgusted with himself to some extent, more than ever; he started to pay more mind to the faces and eyes that watched every inch of his skin like some animal on display, and he realized that he was just that. He was just a pretty plaything that was no better than his body and what it could do to give a crowd of dirty old men a hard on. The thought was starting to nauseate him. It wasn't as if he had a choice, though, and he had to swallow what was left of his dignity and force a smile as one leg hooked around the pole.

He slid up the metal pole with a grimace, and quickly shot a smile to make up for the slip. The other hand was working off the white tanktop clinging to his torso, and he immediately pressed his bare chest again the pole with a lick to his fingers and a wanton moan for emphasis. It was sensual, more intimate the way that his lips parted in the way a lover would touch him, oozing with a desire for something lacking with the way that his hips rolled and bucked to a force that wasn't there. It took all that he could to block out the heated stares and catcalls, and when he did, he found himself thinking of bright viridian gazing up at him, pink lips parting to whisper his name and a moan.

After his show, he was pulling on a jacket when a familiar face made his way towards him.

"Great show, Raven."

The grin directed at him was sleazy, and Gilbert muttered a quick thanks and pulled the jacket tighter around himself. His manager was a short man, a bit too heavy and his face rounded. His hair was sweaty and thin, and he wore thick rimmed glasses that screamed presumptuous. He had the kind of laugh with that was like shrieking, with piggish snorts as his face crinkled up unattractively. Without a doubt, Gilbert tried to avoid him unless entirely necessary for him to have to make contact.

He felt a hand on his lower back and immediately jerked away, squeezing his eyes shut before sending him a mild glare.

"Just give me my paycheck," he managed through grit teeth, and his manager laughed with that obnoxious voice of his again before handing over the crumpled piece of paper. Not as much as he had thought, and the hours were correct, Gilbert frowned.

He was about to turn to leave the god awful joint when the nasal voice stopped him, "So that Vessalius kid," he paused to laugh at the expression he received, "We all know about it, hell, did you really think word wouldn't get out with that family?"

"I don't care," Gilbert narrowed his eyes, "I don't know anything about his family."

"Well I'll tell you that you're fucking around with the wrong one," the man raised a brow, "That kid is just a brat. Now his cousin. Jack. That's who you should get to. Guy is practically bathing in money," he stopped for a moment, and the way that his lips curled was almost frightening, "But be careful, Raven. They're pretty fucked up. Didn't exactly get his reputation for volunteer work. I've heard that for a night, Jack can make anyone feel like the center of the world, but he can tear them apart just as quickly."

Gilbert's stomached churned. Without another word, he quickly jerked around and made his way towards the exit. He felt like the only one who wasn't aware of what was happening, like he was blindfolded and being led into a minefield. Jack. Jack Vessalius. The name echoed and rung in his ears like a blaring siren, but all he could picture was the face of a grinning Oz.