Don't really want to talk about this one. Lots of feelings.

I own nothing. Lyrics are "Run" by Snow Patrol.

prompt: 125. ragged hunger

.if and when


light up, light up

as if you have a choice


"You're tense."

It's not so much an observation as it is a testament, a spotlight shone onto the man of the hour, yet Break knows Gilbert will flare up at it nevertheless. After all, that's simply what Gilbert does – simmer, smolder, and then spit fire like some great and mighty dragon that has been trapped in a dungeon for hundreds of years. The comparison isn't too far-fetched, what with how the man's back is rounded and stiff, his spine sticking out from under his shirt like some steely reed, and Break thinks he looks rather violent like this, all terse angles and clenched teeth as if he may lunge for his throat at any second. Truthfully, Break almost wants him to; surely Gilbert needs it.

Leaning over the sink, Gilbert pauses in the middle of scrubbing a pot a bit too roughly, soap suds flying up all around him like tiny breakable universes. Then, with a shallow sigh, he goes back to scrubbing with hard, jerking motions of his arm, putting his entire weight into the task as if trying to break the pot in half rather than clean it. "I'm fine," he grinds out from between his teeth. "Just busy."

Break breathes out a laugh light as air as he props his chin up on his fist, elbow resting on the tabletop. "If you wash away at that pot any harder," he says, "you'll whittle it down to dust."

"There's a stain on it."

"Then simply soak the pot in hot water and come back to it, Gilbert," Break says as if speaking to a very slow child – something that never fails to ruffle Gilbert's black feathers and make him pull a sour face. "It would be such a waste to flap your little wings until they fall off."

Gilbert heaves a sharp breath, holds it for a moment, and releases it with, "I know how to wash dishes, Break, thank you."

Break doesn't think anyone else on this planet could manage to be so hostile on the topic of dishwashing, but he supposes Gilbert is indeed full of surprises and regards the curt dismissal with a pleasant sigh and a crossing of his legs, prim and poised as he's perched on the edge of his chair. "Have they personally affronted you, by any chance?"

"Stop asking stupid questions."

"That's not what I expected you would say," Break says with a slinky grin as he fans out his hand before him and surveys his nails, the weakened cuticles, the tiny white air bubbles lurking beneath the surface. This is the hand, he knows, of a dying man – thank goodness. "I expected you to say something like…" He morphs his voice into a melodramatic, raspy whine so commonly displaced with none other than Gilbert Nightray. "'The dishes haven't affronted me, but you have, you sorry clown.'"

"Well, there you go." Gilbert shoots him a contemptuous look over his shoulder as the sinewy lines of his back shift and tighten with each downward scrub of the pot. "Looks like I didn't have to say it after all."

Break smiles, the half-moon curve of his lips pale and sugary sweet. "It's probably not a good idea for you to take comfort in that," he says with a chuckle. "Relying on someone like me to say the things that you can't."

There's a challenge in Gilbert's voice when he asks, "And what makes you say that?"

"Oh, but isn't it obvious?" Break uncrosses his legs, resituating them to stack his ankles atop the table in that way that he knows Gilbert hates. "Besides, if I were the one to voice all the murky, hidden mysteries of Mr. Gilbert Nightray, this place surely wouldn't be so silent, would it?"

Oh, Gilbert doesn't seem to like that one bit. Break can pick out the man's agitation in every stark sharpening of his back, his shoulders, and the pale column of his neck as he bows his head and taps his foot impatiently on the floor, as if to relieve himself of every inclination to slap Break upside the head with each moment of contact of boot against floorboard. He doesn't say anything – not yet, at least, always taking pride in this calm before the storm for as long as he can – and so Break takes this as his wordless cue to continue pressing him until he crumbles and simply gives way to the admittance that, by bottling up, is slowly rendering him crushed and bruised like a flower flattened between the pages of a massive book.

Break traces the rim of his teacup with the very tip of his finger and watches the lean planes of Gilbert's back tighten as he rounds his shoulders over the sink, neglecting his task of washing dishes in favor of gripping the edge of the counter with wet, soapy fingers. After a beat, he lets out a slow sigh and glances at Break over his shoulder. His eyes are tired and sad. Then again, Break notes, Gilbert is always tired and sad; it's as if it's hardwired into the man's blood to constantly be this dark, morose jumble of worried frowns and sorrowful gazes in between vicious bouts of anger and hunger. Break can practically feel it bubbling beneath the surface of Gilbert's stare as he looks back at him, waiting.

Then, after a beat, Gilbert's eyes tilt down to the floor, and he asks, "Are they still out there?"

Ah. So that is what this is about. Break nods his head, smiling softly with eyes closed.

There's a pause, and then another pained sigh that passes from Gilbert's lips. "Not much I can do about that, so."

"It's that exact mentality that leads you to this place, Gilbert."

"Break, I really don't need your motivational speech right now, alright?" And there's the sound of Gilbert going back to scrubbing, rough and grating. "God knows you only say things like this to get a rise out of me anyway."

"There's some truth in that, perhaps." Break leans forward and rests his cheek atop his folded arm, silvery hair fanning over a scarlet eye that closes serenely as if sleeping. He could rather use a nap right about now, in fact. He might steal one of those once Gilbert becomes bored with pouting about all the pretty things he can't touch; because that is what this is about, isn't it? It's about the blond brat lounging on the couch in the other room, spending these rare lazy hours dabbling in idle banters with that chain of his. It's all quite ridiculous, really, but Break supposes he doesn't have to tell Gilbert that – if anyone knows just how absurd those circumstances that Oz clings to so dearly are, it's none other than Gilbert, what with how the man all but pines after the green-eyed thing as if he were the works of heaven himself.

"Then again," Break says, another thought coming to him, "it probably would be quite amusing to see all the reactions…"

"Oh, what are you on about now."

"Mm, you don't know? Don't be coy now. I don't know how you've managed to put it off for so long, to the point where even those in high society don't notice it…I could almost call it a gift, in fact."

Gilbert scrubs harder at the pot, breathing heavily but saying nothing. Break takes this as his obvious cue to continue. "It's one thing for Oz to not notice, given his general slowness, but the women? Oh, the women…the foolish gaggles of them that believe you to be otherwise, that all but pray for you to finally accept their courtships. It's quite comical, isn't it? Why, I'm not sure whether to pity them or to, well, pity you."

"Dammit, Break, keep your voice down!" Gilbert hisses in a stage whisper, whipping around for a brief, fiery moment to glare at Break. His eyes are wild and narrow and lethal, but Break merely brushes off his rage with a blasé wave of his hand and a liquid grin before Gilbert huffs and goes back to washing, water splashing over the rim of the sink and onto the floor.

"Anyway," Break sighs out pleasantly, "I suppose it's just a matter of how long you'll be willing to wait before it gets the best of you…ah, but judging how you can't even handle a mere conversation about it tells me you're already at your reign's end. Am I right in presuming that, Gilbert?"

"No," Gilbert says far too quickly. It's a lie and they both know it, and yet Break finds himself almost impressed by how heady the man's talent is in denying himself every unfavorable detail of his personage and yet thriving off of the misery each one entails. It's like his fuel, that displeasure, and Break is encouraged to wonder just what Gilbert would do with himself if something good ever did happen to him; he's stricken with the notion that Gilbert would simply call it a joke or a farce, or believe that the world is all but laughing in his face and preparing to steal away that temporary respite because it's funny, it's absurd that good fortune would waste itself on him and not his master. Perhaps that's why the man dives headfirst into denial in the first place – to expect nothing of beauty to step into one's life, something entirely willing and fair and honest, is to never be maimed by the chance that it may all be snuffed out like a candle's flame within the second of its arrival. It protects him, that denial. It keeps him immune to the same pain that he so desperately longs for, even subconsciously.

Then again, Gilbert Nightray is the same man that fed off of blind hope for the entire ten years that Oz was gone. And now, in the days of the boy's return, it's as if all the yearning and wanting that Break knows Gilbert still drinks up like wine – no wonder it makes him so weepy – has been woefully bound down with chains for fear of exposing itself and ruining everything. He's a walking contradiction, a stumbling paradox, and yet in times like these, Break feels as if he in fact understands this man more than anyone else in the world, however reluctant he is to recall his own pains of comparison. Those comparisons have to come from somewhere, after all, even if they are places Break left behind long ago in favor of madness and apathy.

On this note, Break's smile dries out, and he puffs out what could almost be called a scoff. "You like to pretend you're apathetic," he murmurs, "but you'll have to wait much longer to ever believe that yourself."

"I've been waiting!"

It's not often that Xerxes Break is surprised, but the vicious hunger dripping from Gilbert's voice makes him blink twice over. Gilbert is shaking like a leaf at the sink, head bowed and hands gripping the edge of the wet counter as his shoulders shake with tiny gasps. Is he crying? Likely. Either that, or he's dangling precariously on that dangerous precipice of tears and fury, teetering in between both but not letting himself take solace in either. But after a moment, Gilbert seems to find his bearings about him and takes a long, shuddering breath before running more water and filling the pot up to the brim. Break smirks at the sight. "Are you going to soak it like I told you to?"

"Shut the hell up."

"Good boy."

In the living room, Oz laughs. Break rolls his eyes at the sound and wonders if Gilbert would dub it as "summery", as "inspiring" or any of that other poppycock he seems to pin onto that boy. Just as expected, Gilbert lifts his head and turns to look towards the doorway, only for the light in his eyes to dull out almost immediately. Break knows why – it hadn't been him that made Oz laugh, right? What a waste. What a tragedy.

Not another word is spoken as Gilbert bites the inside of his cheek and sets his sights on washing a set of teacups. His shoulders are shaking again.