Warning: Break doesn't realize how close he came to death.

Rated: T

Notes: I'm pretty sure you're all getting sick of never-ending cliff hangers so I'm gonna try and speed this sucker up. Only one or two cliff hangers left folks! This is nine damn pages oh my god. Thanks for sticking with me this far!

Uploaded: November 18th 2013

Those of False Innocence

Freedom Earned

Oz eyed the walls surrounding him warily, unconsciously petting the back of Equus' neck, soothing the Chain's nerves. His eyes traced every detail, every crack and dip in the otherwise smooth walls, and the thought that every shadow could conceal a chain, every crack an easy entry point for enemies, sent a pang through his chest.

It wasn't until he felt the grin stretching his cheeks that he realized the feeling racing down his spine wasn't fear.

It was excitement.

His seal pulsed suddenly, and Oz welcomed the familiar feeling, knowing the vibrations shifting his shirt were his own doings. He didn't need to rely on Alice or Alyss anymore.

It made him kind of sad.

The girls had been his first family; his first real one anyways. They had cared about him, and made him feel special. His grin faded. They had lied to him. They didn't care about him. Being rejected once had hurt enough, and he had been rejected by three people now. Maybe more than that, as he was unsure about his friends.

The only rejection he understood was that of his father. He hadn't expected to remember what he had. He didn't want to know that he had been a chain, B-Rabbit especially, but the situation had called for it. The Abyss had called for it. It had wanted him to remember.

And he did.

There would be time for regret and hurt later. He forcibly shoved his thoughts to the back of his mind, and cast his eyes upward again. He faltered, seeing that the top had only gotten farther away, and sighed. He would never reach Alyss at this rate.

Then quite suddenly, his vision shifted, and he propelled himself off Equus's back. It wasn't until he was in open air that he registered the stern yet soft word that had vibrated pleasantly through his mind.


And so he had.

He fell from Equus' back, his weapon dissolving quickly. As suddenly as his descent began, it was over. The wind was knocked from his lungs harshly as his back slammed into damp tile. He didn't need to stand up to see he had made it to the top. He had made it.

And he realized he would be alone.

Laughing shakily to himself, Oz pushed himself to his feet and pretended he didn't miss Chesh. It was much to late for regrets. And if his suspicions were correct, he wouldn't have time for them much longer. He couldn't feel his friends in his mind anymore.

But he could feel something.

His nerves relaxed slightly when he felt the large and comforting mind of the Hatter envelop his own gently. Reanimating his weapon, Oz allowed some of that comforting presence into his body, relaxing much more easily.

He had successfully freed the Hatter. He had only one more thing to do. Raising his weapon into the air, his eyes slipped closed and he brought his blade down swiftly.

The sound of a chain shattering was drowned out by an enraged scream, but Oz couldn't bring it in himself to wonder whose it was. A smile slipped onto his face as moments later he fully felt the Hatters presence surround him, and the seal on his chest pulsed harder.

It was time.

Break sat waist deep in the waters of the Abyss, shaking with anger and what he refused to admit was fear. He clenched his hand to his chest, feeling a sharp edge which only further proved that the pendant sealing himself to his chain had been broken; severed without a second thought.

And not a second after, the Hatter had rounded on him. Break had had just enough time to feel the hatred and sadness fluctuating around his lost chain before suddenly, it was gone.

He doubted he would be seeing it again.

And he was filled with an overwhelming sense of loss.

Gil watched break quietly, before turning to Cecil and Cheshire, who had stiffened suddenly.

Ignoring Gil, Cheshire shook slightly and sent a pleading look to Cecil. Cecil shook his head no, clenching his hands into fists to lower his own shaking. Cheshire's face twisted into something filled with only despair and fear, and Gil found himself speaking. Sharon turned to watch them, forcing herself to ignore the sputtering Break before her.

"What's wrong? What's happened?" Gil paled as a thought hit him, "Is Oz…Did he-"

"No," Cecil said firmly. "No." He wet his lips, then spoke softer. "Oz is fine."

"Then what-"

"I can't feel him." Cheshire's voice rang out, and Gil watched him grip his arms tightly, "We can't feel him." He rounded on Cecil quickly, "Please can I-"

"Chesh-" Cecil cut himself off, before hardening his features and turning to the three bystanders. He opened his mouth but his words immediately died in his throat. Cheshire tightened his grip on his own arms, however his look of concern was towards Cecil this time over.

Letting out a small noise of defeat, Cecil looked sadly at Cheshire, before giving a very small nod.

And Cheshire ran.

Gil watched Cecil carefully, cautiously. "What do we do now?" Cecil glanced up at him. "What do you need us to do?"

Before Cecil could think of a response, there was a growl, and he was thrown to the ground. The sudden movement and splash of his back against the cold water, and under that, the unforgiving tile, sent a jolt of pain and fear through Cecil. His eyes widened before they were forced shut as a fist collided with his face roughly, sending the right half of his head under the water. He sputtered, getting a quick glance at Break atop him, snarling madly, before man shoved his head underwater and he was choking again.

He refused to fight back, even as Break slammed his head against the hard ground, sending blackness fluttering across his vision. He knew Break was no one dear to Oz anymore, but he couldn't bring himself to hurt someone Oz had been close to even once. Even if it was Xerxes Break.

There was a shout, and suddenly Break's weight was off his chest. Cecil rolled over carefully, dousing the rest of his body with water as he choked and sputtered and coughed. Forcing himself to focus, Cecil listened to the shouts around him.

Gil was yelling at someone Cecil assumed was Break, and Cecil realized dully it must've been he who pulled Break off of him. He couldn't bring himself to be grateful. Sharon was yelling even louder, and Cecil took no joy in how disbelieving her tone was. He had a feeling the young girl's view on her long time friend would be changed drastically by the time they got home.

If he could get them home.

His train of thought was cut off when his head throbbed painfully, along with his lungs, and he started coughing again, abandoning every attempt to hide his pain in favor of trying to make it stop.

He realized too late that he'd been broadcasting his pain to Chesh and Oz the whole time.

What with him trying and failing to breathe properly however, he found he didn't care at all. He held his head tightly with one hand as he coughed at the water, his other hand shaking beneath the surface, searching for anything to grab onto to take the pain away.

His fingers closed around something small, and he calmed his coughing long enough to look at what it was.

His heart nearly stopped.

A sudden wave of nausea assaulted him, and he forgot all about the small object in his hand, and took to panting painfully, almost fully submerged in the water.

A few moments later, the sound of splashing water filled Cecil's ears just as he finally managed to breathe somewhat right again. There was another yell, this one unintelligible to Cecil, and he lowered his forehead to touch the water beneath him gently, choosing to ignore the noises and yelling around him.

After a time, Cecil suddenly realized it was quiet. And then it wasn't.

"He's not getting up…"

Blinking slowly, Cecil raised his aching head and immediately lowered it again, the small movement shooting pain through his skull. He had never hated Break more than in that instant, but he knew he wasn't the only one in that area who did.

In the second he had raised his head, he had seen the rage on Cheshire's face, and how it had morphed instantly into a look of immense concern right before Cecil lowered his head. He let out a small pained noise, before realizing he was still lying face first in the murky waters. He shook his head slowly and eased himself up onto his elbows.

And then there was a hand on his back, and he was being quickly but gently pulled to his feet.

Cheshire was supporting him even before he began to fall.

He blinked slowly, before breathing out, "...m' fine, Chesh."

He felt arms tighten around him, before the body so carefully supporting him turned to growl at the onlookers.

They looked very lost.

When Cheshire spoke, he was unusually quiet, "I do not care about the past. You've all had your reasons why you did whatever you did." Before relief could set in, he continued, louder, sterner, "But this is the present, and you have hurt my friends." His expression grew pained, but he continued talking, "When we win this fight…you will no longer be welcome."

Gil spoke hesitantly, "But just because Break-"

"This is your fault just as much as it is his!" The venom in Cheshire's tone made Gil and Sharon flinch back, but Cecil could only blink slowly before resting his head on Chesh's arm tiredly.

"Chesh..." The quiet voice gave Cheshire pause, and he looked down at his friend worriedly, "C'm on. he mumbled. "We gotta go."

Cheshire shot the three one last glare, before biting out, "If any of you hurt one of my friends again you will regret it for the rest of your lives."

It looked like they already did.

After tightening his grip on Cecil's faltering body once more, Cheshire ran, not noticing how Cecil's own hands tightened around something even more important.

It took every ounce of willpower in Oz's body not to run the second he had felt his friends pain. It had been sudden, and completely unexpected, and though the Hatter was doing his best to sooth Oz's mind, the boy was having none of it. His only comfort was that he knew Cheshire had felt it too. The thought of his two boys together brought a smile to Oz's lips, and he forced himself to think of the future.

He could be with his boys forever. And now even Hatter seemed excited by the notion, and Oz made a promise to himself to include the chain in any future events. He was part of the family now, after all.

Oz tightened his grip on the handle of his weapon, his eyes flickering over the walls quickly. Now wasn't the time for daydreaming. He needed to focus.

But it was hard to release his dream in favor for this nightmare. He wanted it to be over. There was a laugh behind him, and he resisted the urge to spin around, knowing by the time he looked that Alyss would be gone.

He was wrong.

She lunged at him, knocking his weapon from his hands and slamming him into the floor. He clenched his teeth and the scythe flew back into his hands. Moving extremely quickly, Oz slashed the blade through the air above him, receiving a piercing shriek in response.

His eyes widened as Alyss fell onto his chest, split in two. Immediately Oz found himself on his feet again.

There was no blood.

There was stuffing.

He swore to himself, before employing Hatter's assistance in locating Alyss again. He had been fighting a doll.

For some reason it angered him.

A doll is just what Alice had been, thrown about uncaringly on strings tied to Alyss's fingers. He had thought there was love. He had thought there was a bond.

But they had only been playing.

None of it had been real. The two girls had never loved him the way Cecil and Cheshire did. The desire to be done, to finally kill Alyss grew evermore in Oz's chest.

He would kill her if it was the last thing he did.

And when his seal suddenly throbbed with anticipation, and a giggle sounded behind him, he realized it very well might be.

Cheshire held his friend tightly in his arms, the boy having reverted back into a simple doll to make the traveling easier on his friend. Cecil simply sat quietly in Cheshire's mind, his fingers playing with the object he has somehow kept on his person through the transformation.

As much as Cecil wanted to be proud of himself for finding something so incredibly important, he wasn't. He didn't want to think about the implications such an object brought with it.

He had yet to mention it to Cheshire.

Though he wanted nothing more than to spill his secret, he held his tongue. He clearly felt his friends anxiety and worry in the void surrounding him, and it made him feel sad.

It made him feel guilty.

He wanted to return to his human form, but he knew the moment he did so the pain inflicted on him by Break would return and he would be of no use whatsoever. Not that he thought he was being useful at present however.


The void around him pulsed.

'What is it? Are you alright?'

Cecil smiled sadly. A tired Cecil was more help than no Cecil at all, he hoped.

'Get ready for some weight.'

Before Cheshire could protest, Cecil's hand tightened around his secret, and shook it once. And as Cecil returned to his human form, a low ring echoed through the quickly filling void of Cheshire's mind.

Whether he had meant to or not, Cecil had told Cheshire his secret with that simple sound.

And at that moment, pain rang out from Oz's mind, causing both Cecil and Cheshire to stumble.

'This is ridiculous!'

And Cheshire understood that the information he'd suddenly been given was correct.

But while his heart plummeted, his legs only moved faster.

Oz whirled around to parry the weapon thrust at his neck, and almost dropped his weapon in surprise.

He took a step back, composing himself quickly as he fought off another thrust. A giggle was the only response to his scowling face.

"What's wrong little brother? Aren't you happy to see little old me?"

He lashed out as a response, cutting into too familiar red fabric and brown hair. The figure before him just laughed before striking him again, this time landing a hit with the hilt of her weapon on his still aching chest and shoulder, causing his mind to fluctuate with pain.

'This is ridiculous!'

"You're supposed to be dead!" On his last word Oz lashed out again, stronger this time, and succeeded at slicing off one of his adversaries arms, only to watch, furious, as it stitched itself seamlessly back into place.

Alice laughed at him.

"How are you supposed to kill a rabbit?"

Oz yelped as he was suddenly bombarded with spike tipped chains. Alice only laughed as she yelled joyfully.

"You smash them! You dice them! You crush them and slice them!" Oz frantically dodged attack after attack, ignoring small brushes of pain each time one spike grazed his skin. And still, Alice sung.

"You mince them! You soil them! You squeeze them and boil them!"

Attack after attack dodged, and Oz's mind suddenly sharpened and focused onto what she was singing.

"You grind them and pound them! You bash 'em and crack 'em!" She almost growled the last phrase, before her attacks seemed to waver. A thought popped into Oz's mind, and his gaze shot up to meet Alice's.

"If you fold and you bend them, will they crack before mending?"

Alice stopped singing, and her attacks actually stopped. She stared at Oz, befuddled, before her eyes lit up and her grin widened.

"Fun's over!"

Her attack was quick and precise. Aimed straight for the heart to collapse the arteries and fatally wound, If not kill instantly.

Oz's attack was quicker.

He summoned the chains of the Abyss, a quick and controlled command only he was capable of pulling off at such a speed. He knew. He still remembered the first time he'd done it.

But that was when he'd had bunny ears, and thus, a story for another time.

The chains engulfed Alice's weapon, and all it took was a sharp movement, one strong enough to bend bone, and it shattered. Then they engulfed Alice.

Oz felt Equus disappear.

And then Alyss attacked him from behind.