Disclaimer: I do not own Pandora Hearts.
A Slip of the Tongue
Gilbert's first meeting with Break had hardly been under ideal circumstances. Oz had just been dragged into the Abyss, and Gilbert had dashed out of the Vessalius household to escape the pitying glances everyone kept giving him when Break snuck up on him from behind.
Break made for an impressive, though garish, figure in the rain. His violet ensemble stood out against all the grey, and had marked itself vividly in Gilbert's mind. The little candy he'd been given was bright orange and pink; a strange offering at best. Gilbert had studied it long and hard while he walked alongside his odd companion, turning it about this way and that. Break had allowed Gilbert to keep his top hat, too, probably so Gilbert would have some evidence for Oscar Vessalius when he explained the Rainsworths' part in the Nightrays' outrageous proposal.
When Gilbert did leave for the Nightrays' he took the hat with him. He refused to tell Break he still had it in his possession. Sometimes he would take it out just to hold it and remember that day. It was one of his few comforts in the Nightray household. It reminded him he had a goal; he wasn't just a traitor to the Vessalius family. Gilbert silently vowed to be the best left eye Break could hope for because that was the only way he could atone for his failure to the Vessaliuses.
Break made infrequent visits to Gilbert throughout his stay at the Nightrays'. He teased him mercilessly—a treacherous part of his mind would draw parallels between Break's teasing and Oz's—but sometimes he offered encouragement. It was only ever for simple things like his aim in shooting or his family relations. Usually he managed to turn these into backhanded compliments, but Gilbert never entertained the thought of Break meaning any of what he said anyway. It was all just meaningless harassment.
That didn't stop Gilbert from accepting the sweets Break would proffer, though.
Two years after Gilbert joined the Nightrays he was given a mission. It had been a success, but it left him a complete wreck, and he refused to speak with anyone for several hours. He knew he couldn't keep this silence up forever. Vincent kept walking past his bedroom door, sometimes followed by Elliot; Gilbert knew he would cave eventually. Besides, he'd have to report to Break; he was keeping an eye on the Nightrays for him after all. Any mission they sent Gilbert on had to be reported to him.
When Break arrived he simply walked through the doorway as if he did so everyday. He was greeted with the sight of Gilbert sitting quietly in his room, leaning against his bed's footboard, shuddering violently.
Break had approached him quietly, and sat down next to him. He didn't speak a word until Gilbert had regained his composure. Break had the courtesy to act like he'd seen nothing amiss afterwards.
It was a strangely compassionate thing for him to do, and Gilbert didn't know what to make of it.
A few years went by, and he joined Pandora. Break had congratulated him, handed him a piece of candy, and said this made Gilbert a little more useful. Gilbert was 18 at the time, so he had long since gotten used to Break's mannerisms. He replied with a grunt, and asked when he could expect his first mission from Pandora. Break had chuckled and said Gilbert was just the same as he had always been. Gilbert knew that wasn't true, and he found himself wondering what Break could possibly mean. He wondered that a lot whenever he was around the Mad Hatter.
Pandora's missions tended to be quite a bit more straightforward than the Nightrays'. Gilbert was infinitely thankful for this; there was only so much deceit he could stand, and he was already choking down more than his daily allotment.
Since joining he saw a lot more of Break. Gilbert supposed that made sense, but it was strange nonetheless. Break almost seemed comfortable at Pandora headquarters. Gilbert was shocked to see Break actually had friends, and enjoyed harassing them nearly as much as he did Gilbert. A person name Reim seemed to get stuck with Break's paperwork so frequently Gilbert actually pitied the man.
Break had more excuses to speak with Gilbert now without drawing suspicion from the Nightrays. As such he insisted he train Gilbert to fight with a sword even though Gilbert had no intention of ever using one.
"Ah, but you never know when such knowledge will come in handy!" he had replied in his sing-song voice to Gilbert's complaints.
"I still think this is pointless," Gilbert said huffily, but he made no further protests. This was how Gilbert found himself training with Break every other day of the week at the Rainsworths' manor; he was beginning to get sick of seeing him so frequently.
How did Break have so much stamina? It wasn't like Gilbert had time for this anyway. The combination of the Nightrays and Pandora kept him busier than he knew what to do with himself. Still, he didn't hate Break, and he enjoyed seeing Sharon. She always offered him tea, as well as an arrangement of pastries (Gilbert could see why Sharon and Break got along so well). She would smile softly at him when he got more frustrated with Break than usual, and if things got really bad he had the honor of seeing her smack Break with her paper fan.
She almost reminded him of an older Ada, and he knew then he couldn't bring himself to stop visiting the Rainsworths anytime soon.
"So, what have those rats been up to, Gilbert-kun?" was what Break would ask at the beginning of every sparring session before going after Gilbert with far more voracity than Gilbert thought was necessary for training.
Gilbert would give concise replies in between blocking Break's well-aimed strikes. It was a frustrating exercise, but as time went on he found himself coming to enjoy it.
Several more years went by, and Gilbert finally had an idea of what those sessions had really been about. When Gilbert went before Raven once again he was bombarded with questions, with attacks, and he had to find a way of dodging and explaining why he wanted to make a contract, why he was worthy of making a contract with Raven, all at the same time.
When Gilbert came stumbling out of the gate he promptly fainted. His gasping breaths were probably the only thing that convinced anyone he was alive. But alive he was, and he knew he was indebted to his odd mentor once more.
When he awoke it was to Break's face hovering over him from where he was laid on his bed. Break's face was adorned with a large grin, and was much closer than Gilbert really felt comfortable.
"Congratulations! You're now Raven." Gilbert gave him a look, and Break released a loud, amused sigh.
"Oh, my, have you forgotten already? Look at what's around your neck." Gilbert had obediently lowered his eyes, and found Pandora's pendant inscribed with an incuse.
"I contracted with Raven?" he had asked hesitantly. He found himself filled with a gnawing terror. If he had failed he wouldn't know what to do with himself. Everyone had been watching….
"That's right," Break said in an oddly gentle voice. "You're one step closer to your goal."
"Oh," Gilbert replied dumbly.
"I should be going now. A lovely young lady left you a present, by the way." Break gestured to Gilbert's bedside dresser. On it was a black hat with a note. Gilbert picked it up hesitantly. Written in a smooth, girlish script were the words
Congratulations on your contract with Raven. This is only a little something, but I hope you like it. It matches your coat!
Maybe we can speak with each other again sometime.
Gilbert let a warm smile cross his face. He wished he could speak with her again; maybe when he got Oz back.
Break patted him on the shoulder and said, "Now, you get as much rest as possible; I think that sewer rat is about ready to pounce on you." Gilbert was so surprised by Break's gesture of camaraderie and Ada's gift he didn't even notice Break's customary annoyance at Vincent.
Only seconds after Break left Vincent stormed into Gilbert's bedroom. Vincent proceeded to embrace his brother forcefully with a joyful cry of "Gilbert!"
It seemed Break had been correct in his assumptions.
A few weeks before Break found a proper location to go after Oz, Gilbert was on a mission for Break under the pretenses of it being for Pandora. It was an unusual request, but Gilbert had accepted since it was only information retrieval. However, as so often happened to Gilbert, some complications had arisen and Gilbert had been nicked by a dagger dipped in poison. He barely managed to drag himself back to the Nightrays to inform them of his dilemma before he fell unconscious.
Gilbert's memory of what followed was shaky at best, but he didn't need specifics to know he had made a crucial blunder. He hadn't been entirely lucid at the time; he'd been halfway between dreaming and consciousness at best, but Gilbert was never one to allow himself excuses.
The poison had resulted in him being bedridden once more, an uncomfortably common occurrence for him, when Break came to visit. It was night, and only a few sparse candles around the room offered any light. Undoubtedly Break had wanted to see if Gilbert had any of the information he wanted whatsoever, but Gilbert's fevered mind fancied Break was worried about him.
As Break approached and laid a careful hand on Gilbert's much-too-warm brow Gilbert was forcefully reminded of the day they first met, and of Break's hat Gilbert had stashed in his closet. Whether Break would admit it or not, they had made a promise to each other. Break had approached him with hope in the form of those ridiculous sweets he always had. He made Gilbert his left eye, taught him things to ensure he would get Raven, and gave him orders. And Gilbert had made a vow to follow through with his side of things, whether Break was aware of that or not. Gilbert had to be loyal to Break now, there wasn't any choice, and it was all so much like…
"Master?" Gilbert wheezed deliriously. It was strange how the flickering shadows could make his red eye seem almost purple, how his white hair could have passed for yellow, and Gilbert wondered just who he was thinking of. Everything was melding together in a bizarre symphony of half memories and buried longings.
Break stilled for a moment, and seemed to be searching for something in Gilbert's eyes. He removed his hand silently. Gilbert wished he hadn't; it had been pleasantly cool to his rampaging fever.
"Get your rest, Gilbert-kun. I'll see you tomorrow." Break left as quietly as a wraith. Gilbert felt hopelessly alone.
When Break came back the next day, neither of them mentioned what transpired during the previous. Gilbert felt hopelessly ashamed. He couldn't tell what Break thought, but he was a bit more serious than usual as if he had had some kind of revelation.
Gilbert was more than content to let it go, Break made no move to confront the issue, and with the return of Oz there was no time to discuss trifles.
Even so, Gilbert never forgot his mishap, and every now and then Break would give him that same unreadable look as before, and Gilbert would look away until a new topic had been introduced.
This was a difficult piece to write and it turned out much longer than I intended. I hope the other characters didn't distract from the overall focus on Gilbert and Break. It didn't seem like it would be realistic to leave everyone else out.
Constructive criticism is welcome, and I hope you enjoyed!