Disclaimer: I don't own Pandora Hearts. I haven't even finished reading it! Please enjoy. Lyrics are The Birthday Massacre's 'Kill The Lights'.
Be All My Sins Remembered
this story's missing a wishing well
no mirror to show and tell
no kiss that can break this spell
i'm falling asleep
Gil wakes up to the sound of rain beating against the windows. The lights are all off but the early dawn sends pale blue rays scattering across the carpet. It is too early to get up, really, but the drumming of the rain and the hue of the early morning light sends a kind of restlessness shivering up his spine. He gets up.
Puddles have formed on the city streets below, and raindrops bounce across the cobbles. There's no sign of life, although Gil is sure that somewhere, parts of the city are coming to life. Today is a day like any other.
Except, of course, that any other day would not find him sharing his apartment. For some reason, even though he had known it had been their goal to bring Oz back, even though they had been on the cusp of succeeding, it had never occurred to him that...this might happen. Oz staying with him, benefit of his property and generosity, seems wrong. It seems perverse, inverted. It is not what he would have chosen. It is not what he would have wanted.
But it's difficult to look at Oz, half curled and half sprawled on his bed like the beautiful paradox he is, and not feel like somehow this is going to be fine.
Alice is an unexpected intrusion.
For ten years, the days he is living right now have been sacred in Gil's mind. The days when Oz would be back, when he would stand by his side again, when things would finally be alright. But this girl – this creature – has attached herself, unwanted, to everything! She lurks, and snipes, and complains, and Oz does nothing but smile and laugh and let her lean into him and call him her manservant. Manservant! As if Oz Vessalius could ever be tamed, let alone by a wretch like her.
He thinks he hates her, but in the dull mornings and the lightless evenings he wonders different. There's hate there, certainly – hate for what she has done to Oz, for the seal waiting to carve itself into his skin. But he can't give himself over to it, not completely. She brought Oz back, and they were never certain that they could have done it. And Oz seems to...like her. Why, Gil cannot fathom, but he respects his master. He loves him. To hate Alice entirely would be to say...well, it would to be say that Oz was wrong. That he was foolish.
It is a thing that Gil cannot do.
So he seethes, and resents her, and oftentimes he hates her. But there are moments when he doesn't, and those are the moments that Oz smiles, that he laughs, that he presses his fingers to Gilbert's face or catches his eye or simply looks at peace.
He is a precious thing, and Gil can tell that Alice feels that too. He cannot hate her completely.
"Things are beginning to move very quickly," Break says, over the rim of his cup. His eye is half-lidded and drowsy looking, but the man is alert as ever. This is what he does; looks lazy, looks foolish, plays the clown. He is deadly and he is clever and he has wrestled respect from Gil, even if he won't admit it.
"It was inevitable," he murmurs. "Now that Oz is back, I mean." His own cup is untouched.
Sharon stands by the window braiding and unbraiding her hair. He doesn't know if she is listening or not. He isn't sure it matter. He has envied Break for her before, so many times. He has his blonde and beautiful treasure, and she has never been mislaid. But Oz –
"It's all very exciting." Break sets his cup down and rests his chin on his hands. His sleeves overflow, ostentatiously ridiculous. He feels sometimes that everything about this man, from the day they met, has been crafted – put together carefully, so carefully, because he is scared of what might happen if he ever has to answer for his real self.
But Gil doesn't know, he doesn't know, and ten years was never going to be enough time to get to know Xerxes Break.
Break laughs. "You're always concerned. It's what you do."
Gil frowns. "At least one of us is."
Break's smile is a slippery, strange thing, all crooked and enigmatic and fond and friendly at once. It asks you to trust him, and in the same breath shrugs its disregard for whether you choose to or not. Break has never cared what is thought of him, as long as he can still make his plans. "Gilbert, you know very well I am going to protect Oz Vessalius."
Gil stiffens. "I can protect him myself."
Break's smile doesn't shift, and his lips barely move as he utters the words that freeze Gil's blood. "But who's going to protect him from you?"
Breakfast is always a chaotic affair. It can be subdued (lots of clattering, lots of clutter, a grumpy four-cigarette wake-up and a heavy, lazy silence through the apartment) or manic (a wild awakening, Alice piling her plate with everything in sight, Oz laughing, a practical joke), but it's never straightforward. There is mess, there is confusion, there is the overlap that happens when a man who has lived alone for as long as he can suddenly finds his space broken into, broken apart.
Alice is not a considerate house guest. Neither is Oz, but Gil would not exchange his mess for the world.
This morning, Alice has not yet woken up. Oz sits at the table, one hand on his cheek, absently stirring a bowl of porridge. A cup of coffee sits steaming next to him. Gil taps him on the shoulder to let him know he's here, and Oz looks up at him.
His eyes are oh-God-so-green, emeralds under a hay pile of spun gold. He hasn't aged, he hasn't aged, and it's a miracle every time Gil looks at him. Because what if he'd changed? What if he'd disappeared? What if the Oz he had loved had been worn down by years in the grip of despair? What if he had been twisted? What if this gold and green angel had been lost to the Abyss? Gil is certain he would have loved that shadow of Oz as well, but this...the unpolluted, shining boy in front of him is more than he could have ever hoped for. He has not even lost a day.
He loves him. When he was young, he wondered if he might, wondered what those feelings would be like. It has been ten years and he has questioned and pondered and considered and the answer has remained out of his grasp. But Oz sits before him. Oz is an unchanged miracle, he is bold and beautiful and he is back.
Xerxes break doesn't know a damn thing. Gil will feel himself come apart and become air before he hurts this boy again.
"I don't want to talk about it."
Oz's eyes are downcast, and Alice has the good sense to stop haranguing him. Her hands unwind from his arm and she pulls back, her eyes hooded with hurt. Gil hates that look. She pulls it out whenever Oz brushes her off, or turns down some crazy demand, and it's a look that says why? Why don't you want me? What can I do to please you?
And she's the one who keeps saying he's her property, so what right does she have to think that?
They are all three of them bloodstained and sombre. It has been an unpleasant evening. They are in an unpleasant line of work.
Gil lays his hand on Oz's shoulder. Oz doesn't shrug him off, and he feels familiar shapes and sinew under his fingers. He'd worship this boy if he let him. "You're taking it too hard," Gil tells him softly. "She was beyond saving. They've all been."
Oz's expression is one of abject heartbreak, and Gil wishes he could reach inside him and sew all the shattered pieces back together, and seal it with a true love's kiss (ha) to let it never break again. "It doesn't matter. She's still...gone. Her sister – her daughter –"
Gil squeezes his shoulder gently, and he feels Oz lean into him, just a little. It's like peace. "You care too much."
Oz looks up, and there's a cloud in his eyes. He frowns. "Gil," he says, and his voice is regret. "When did you get so cold?"
Gil doesn't sleep until the sun starts to rise, chain smoking his way through the night and watching the stars.
Day and day and day, and things change, and they stay the same. There is chaos, there is disaster, there is everything, and only worse it's going to get. They all know it. Every new plan is a step away from safety, from the comfort of bleary mornings and settled evenings. Gil is terrified of the day he will wake up and find every last shred of safety pulled out from beneath him.
He cannot handle losing Oz again.
But there's an evening, in the middle of it all, when Oz falls asleep against him. His hands are twined around Gilbert's waist and in his shirt, and Gil's control breaks. He lets himself stroke his master's hair, running his fingers through soft and gold, letting Oz's breath sink against him until the boy is asleep. He burns for him, and this is love, this is more than love, this is his everything and his being. Gil wishes there was a word bigger than love, bigger than devotion, because none of it comes close to explaining how he feels for this precious thing lying against him. Oz is his miracle, his saviour – his master and friend, his redemption and his guiding light. It's Oz he says his prayers to and Oz he begs to bless his days, and Oz whose touch and smile and glance can turn his world on its axis.
Oz Vellarius is precious, and he is more than Gilbert ever deserved. But in this moment, as he sleeps, he is his and his alone, safe and protected in his arms.
Chaos be damned. Tragedy be damned. Pandora, Baskerville, Abyss be damned. Oz will make it out of this alive. He will make it out safe.
And Gil will tear the world apart to prove wrong anyone who says otherwise.