He can't even look at her.

It's the same, sickening guilt that he remembers swirling in his gut when Gilbert's memories resurfaced, when Gilbert clutched at Glen's severed head, long preserved within stone. Vincent finds himself amazed that he's capable of feeling such palpable guilt all over again, especially for someone that isn't Gilbert, but god, in this situation-

No. It's still wrong to him. It still is something he shouldn't be feeling, and yet he shoves Oscar off into Zwei's care, having her escort the man to Ada's chambers to allow the girl at least that much solace.

"Did you at least let her see her brother one last time?!"

Vincent wishes he had been wrong, that the key really was at the site of Lacie's grave, but instead it's everything but that.

His fist connects with Gilbert's door, meaning to be a knock but instead, he nearly punches the door in his frustration, hard enough that the ache drags up his muscles and into his shoulder.

For once, he is certain that he doesn't want to do something.

The needle slips from Gilbert's grip and he stabs his finger, yanking it away before the bright red can stain the white of his latest project. He sucks it into his mouth, jamming the needle into a pincushion before getting to his feet, not nearly as irritated as he could be by the interruption. Any interruption is a good one, these days. The meditative, contemplative state that sewing puts him into is hell when he hates being alone with his thoughts, and it's been years since he's liked the company of his own mind.

Even though it's probably Vincent-definitely Vincent, he sees-he opens the door, a bit more eager than usual for company. "You're not all dirty," he observes. "Did you not dig up that grave after..."

He trails off at the look on Vincent's face. It's odd, to say the least, nothing he recognizes, and after this long together, that's unusual. "Vince? Something wrong?"

The furtive glance down the hallway makes it clear that Vincent doesn't want anyone else to hear the following conversation. "… It's her," he murmurs as he lets himself in, stepping past Gilbert and into the room. "There wasn't any reason to dig up that grave, I knew it."

Gil shrugs, shutting the door behind his brother, clearing a spot for him on the couch, sweeping it with his fingers first to make sure it's free of stray pins and needles. "You thought she'd be lying," he points out. "Did Leo make you punish her? Is she all right?"

Vincent collapses back onto the couch as if he's a puppet cut from his strings, his eyes shutting as he breathes in a long, calming breath. "Didn't you hear me, Gil?" he tiredly says. "It's her."

"I heard you. I'm just..." Gil stops, unable somehow to tease Vincent about his love life when he looks so despondent, so utterly defeated. "Hey," he says quietly, kneeling on one knee in front of Vincent's feet, gripping his upper arm. "What did she do?"

Vincent hates feeling like this

He hates that girl, and for a moment, thinks he might relish killing her, if only to make this stop and to make that stupid, niggling anxiety about her go away. "… Nothing," he says instead, cracking his eyes open. "For once, she didn't do anything. She… Gil, she's the key. Ada is."

Ada is the key? It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem right. Ada, sweet, innocent, large-eyed Ada, who'd tugged on his coattails and shoved kittens into his bed and cried onto his shirt when Oz had fallen, who'd never stopped liking him even when he'd betrayed her family, who'd never blamed him even when he'd kidnapped her...

Worse is what that means.

Gil's stomach turns sour, and he pulls back from Vincent as if he's turned to ice. "Zai did this." It's not a question.

"I can only imagine," Vincent slowly, coolly says, and perhaps it's the chill to Gilbert's own voice that steadies him and makes him think he's in the right for being this upset. "Oscar said… that the key is sealed within her. The only way to release it is upon her death." He laughs, the sound far from humor-filled. "Apparently, she was told that Oscar was the key, under similar circumstances. Small wonder she didn't want to talk."

"I should have killed him when I had the chance. Chances." Gil's voice is bitter, too weary to be truly angry, long years of hating the man flaring to life so suddenly it burns in his chest. It's easier to be angry at the man he's despised for half his life than to think about what comes next...and what has to be done. "I knew she had to be trying to protect someone. She's not stupid."

"… I can't kill her."

He's said it, and it hurts, burns as bile rises up in his throat. Vincent glances down, surprised to see his hands shaking a bit, and god, this is just pathetic. He isn't supposed to care. Ada is just a girl, certainly not Gilbert by any stretch of the imagination, and yet-"I can't. Leo… is still going to ask me to."

There's nothing about this that's right, nothing about it that's fair, but there is some small, uncaring part of Gilbert that can't help but be a little pleased at hearing those words from Vincent's mouth-Vincent, of all people, and it's that little spark of empathy that makes him climb onto the couch, close enough for comfort, not so close as to be invasive (the kind of thing his little brother should really learn from). "Don't. You don't have to be his gun hand. Your job is to protect him."

"He expects it." The words are spit out, bitter and sharp, and for once, Vincent doesn't crawl his way into Gilbert's lap. Instead, he seems content to maintain his distance, however shaky it may be. "If I don't kill her… I can't… he can't do anything. He needs Gryphon, Gilbert."

"Is your stupid wish that important to you? Damn it, when the hell are you going to realize that none of this mess is your fault?" It's a conversation they've had a thousand times, and Gil bites it off. That's not what this is about, in any case. He lights a cigarette, needing one more than he can ever remember needing one, remembering with a sickening lurch how much he'd wanted to be like Oscar, those happy days in the sun. "Maybe he won't. Maybe if he takes Raven from me first, he'll be powerful enough to figure out a way to...I don't know."

"You know he won't." Vincent sucks in a ragged breath, and he holds out a hand before he can stop the reaction. "Give me one." I don't want to think about this, I don't want to do this.

"It's bad for you," Gil says automatically, but with little real conviction. Vincent's got enough to deal with today. Maybe he can skip the lecture, just once. "You don't know what he'll be able to do," he says, handing over a cigarette and match book. "I don't think even he knows. With all five black-winged chains, and Elliot?"

The match sparks without hesitation, and Vincent tosses it back once the cigarette's lit, breathing in the smoke like it's his last lifeline. "If you're insinuating that he's going to bring her back after killing her, I highly doubt it. Leo doesn't have the time or energy for it. She'll be dead and stay dead and that's…" Exhale. Inhale. "In the end, maybe that's… safer."

God, Gil is tired of losing people. He hears Raven's ancient dusty croak of a laugh in his mind, telling him to try it for another few hundred years and see how he likes it. Begrudgingly, stomach forming into a stone as hard and cold as the rest of him feels, he smokes in silence for a few minutes. "Not the worst fate. We've seen worse."

Throw those emotions away, a man had told him once.

"… I just can't do it. Not this time." Vincent laughs, so damnably tired that it almost is starting to become honestly funny. "You probably think I'm losing it, don't you, Gil? After how many people I've killed."

Gil snorts out a puff of smoke, Vincent's gallows humor contagious. "As if I'm one to talk about the blood on my hands."

"Ironically," Vincent drawls as he sags back into the couch, "our master has yet to bloody his hands, after all this time."

There's the inclination to insist that Leo do it himself, if he wants it done so badly-but isn't it what they all want, really? Isn't it the only way to free Oz from the prison of his own body, to free Vincent from his own hell, to free the world from the constant threat of Jack?

It's been years since he's tried to get someone else to do the dirty work, after all. "Don't worry about it. I'll do it."

"What?" Vincent jerks at that, his eyes wide as he looks at Gilbert, frowning. "No. You can't, Gil-that's… it's not any better than if I did it."

"I can't shove something like that off on you. At..." Gil takes a long drag of his cigarette, trying not to picture how it would happen, how she would look. "At least I can make sure it doesn't hurt her more than it has to. I owe her and her family..." A lot more than that, but it's all he has to offer.

Vincent shakes his head again, a shaky hand flicking ash off of his cigarette. There's something to be said about how much he doesn't want to do this-for reasons that he'd rather not think about, least of all how she'd cry, how she'd remind him that he had promised to take care of her-

"… I'll just bring it up to Leo." Smoking. Smoking is good right now. "He can decide what he wants to do, especially if we both refuse."

It's passing the buck, but at this point, Gil can't bring himself to care. The only other options are basically untenable, but will probably come to pass anyway. And who knows? Maybe Vincent is wrong, and Leo will figure out a way to take the chain out of Ada without killing her. He's planning on doing the same with Jack and Oz, in reverse.

"Yeah. Good plan." He doesn't even bother pretending, lighting another cigarette before the last one's embers have cooled enough to touch. "Let's just get it over with. I'll come with you, if you want."

"You don't think I'm stupid? For not wanting to do this?" Vincent can't help but ask, because god, he certainly feels stupid. He feels as if he's been hung out to dry by this girl and damn if that isn't the last thing he's ever wanted.

Gil sort of wishes he couldn't understand, that it could be a shock that anyone would feel stupid for not wanting to kill an innocent girl. He knows, though, and as much as he wishes it were a shock, it's probably for the best that it isn't. "I think we have limits," he says instead, rubbing his pricked, bruised fingers hard along the fabric of his trousers. "Even us."

"… Maybe you do," is the quiet reply before Vincent takes a last, shuddering inhale from his cigarette, the meager nicotine from it hardly enough to calm him. "You've always been better, Gil."

Gil plucks the cigarette butt from Vincent's fingers, crushing it out in one of his crowded ashtrays. There's no hint of a smile among the bitterness as he says quietly, without any hint of artifice, "I've never understood why you always thought that."

At that, Vincent does laugh, open and genuine. "Because you are. You've always protected me, Gil, even when you haven't remembered me. You're too good of a person… it's why you always get so hurt. It's why I wish I could protect you as well as you've always done for me."

"The list of things I haven't protected you from is a lot longer than the ones I have. Just...just because you don't tell me about it doesn't mean I don't know, you know." It's more than he's ever admitted about some of the things he suspects, has suspected for years, remembers from a lot longer ago than that. "I've failed you a lot more times than I've done right by you."

Vincent's eyebrows arch. "How could you have failed me if I did most of those things on my own volition?" he prods, far more grateful for this conversation than letting his mind linger on one pretty blonde girl down the hall. "Certain things you weren't mean to be involved in, Gil. That doesn't mean you weren't protecting me properly."

Gil sighs, raking a hand back through his hair, resting his head back on the couch. "Maybe back in Sablier I did right by you. After..."

The guilt is an insidious thing, snaking into him at odd times when he'd thought it long-since defeated. Maybe if he'd been braver about reclaiming his memories, if he'd tried harder, pushed Vincent to tell him-

"It doesn't matter." It's a simple response, and one that Vincent hopes is enough, especially when he reaches out, grasping for Gilbert's sleeve to gently tug. "It doesn't matter," he repeats, looking up at Gilbert with a weary sort of smile. "You're still perfect to me, Gil, regardless of what you think. You've always done right by me. Just now, even… you tried to protect me from this mess, even when you don't have to, not by a longshot."

Maybe the both of them are too far gone for anything good to come out of this. Maybe that's why he's always been pulled back to Vincent, even when he'd been tempted, so very, very tempted to just let go of his hand, lose that weight, try to shut his ears to Vincent's screams of his name back when he'd escaped the freak show.

He's always been a selfish bastard, when it comes down to it.

"It wouldn't have mattered," he says suddenly, meeting those mismatched eyes with his own. "Even if you'd never existed. I'd still have been a Baskerville. There isn't a time I remember before I saw those lights." He swallows hard, catching Vincent's hand with his own. "Whatever you might think, I'm glad I'm not here alone."

When Gilbert says things like that, it almost makes him want to take back that wish, and instead push forward the lie he'd told Ada-that he simply wishes for Gilbert to be happy.

And then he remembers that Gilbert doesn't know everything that he's done, how terrible of a person he truly is, and how Vincent regrets none of it.

"… Regardless of what happens, I'll make sure you end up happy, brother," Vincent murmurs, and his fingers tangle their way around Gilbert's to lightly squeeze. "I'll make sure to never leave you behind, just like you did the same for me."

When Vincent says things like that, his meaning shaded so subtly that anyone who doesn't know him would take him at face value, there isn't a thing Gilbert doesn't regret. There's nothing left that he hasn't said, no more ways to tell Vincent he doesn't want to be happy if he's all alone, nothing else he can think to do to show his brother just how much he's wanted, valued, needed for all his oddity.

Every time he realizes just how hopeless it is, it makes him hate life and himself a little more.

"Come on," he says, tugging Vincent up to his feet with their joined hands. "Let's get this the hell over with. Maybe then..." There's nothing they could do afterward, no amount of sleep, no amount of drowning it in liquor and cigarettes and sex that will make it hurt less. The only thing Gilbert can hope is that after this is over, it'll be over.

Vincent allows himself to be drawn to his feet, keeping hold of Gilbert's hand a moment longer before unwinding his fingers, forcing himself to stand alone no matter how it hurts and how he wants to fasten himself to Gilbert's arm, to his side, any part of him. "It's a selfish request, but," he begins, heaving a sigh as he looks apologetically at the other man, "will you at least… tell our master? I'm not sure…" I can get through it without saying something stupid.

Gil doesn't hesitate, nodding instantly. Honestly, it's probably for the best. "Just don't do anything stupid while I'm gone, will you?" He wants to give Vincent another touch, another squeeze of reassurance, but his brother is a grown man, not a child having a nightmare. He pauses just before reaching the door, adding, "And don't just sit here and brood. That's my sort of thing."

"… Would you prefer I put on something nice for you and wait in your bed instead?" At this point, he can't help it.

That draws a derisive snort from Gil, but at least it comes with a half-hearted grin before he shuts the door.

Once outside, it fades entirely, the ever-present closeness of Vincent no longer able to distract him from the idea of what's going to happen, probably tonight. He makes his slow way down to Duke Baskerville's room, this time at least remembering not to barge in, and it's with a heavy hand that he raps three times. At least let them be wearing clothes...

It's only a moment later that the door lurches open, producing a rather sleepy looking Duke Baskerville, dressed well enough if not rather tousled. "Gilbert?" Leo's head tilts to the side. "Well, I was expecting Vincent, but you'll do. I expect you-" He pauses to yawn. "… have something to tell me about the key, if Vincent is back?"

Gil nods curtly, wishing he dared smoke anywhere in the manor except his own room. God, if there's any sign that it's a bad day, it's that he can't go five minutes without his fingers twitching to his coat pocket. "Vincent's resting. We found the key." Better to get it over with as soon as possible, really.

Leo blinks, the abruptness of the statement snapping him wholly awake, no matter how he's inclined to still be suspicious. "Where is it, then?"

Gil's hand clenches so tightly his fingernails draw blood from his palm, but he forces the words out. "Zai Vessalius put it inside Ada. It...looks like the easiest way..." He bites his lip. Leo's not stupid. He'll understand.

"Inside-" The realization is like a smack across the face, one that leaves him rocking back onto his heels and silent for a moment. It's one thing to have a chain sealed within another person, but a gate's key? Leo can't even imagine how that's done, nor an easy way of… extracting such a thing, unless… "Did she know all along?" he settles for, bitterness settling into the pit of his stomach.

"No. I..." Gil swallows hard, thinking over everything Vincent had told him. "I don't think she even knows now. She thinks it's her uncle. Maybe he's telling her, I don't know." His hands twitch, and he grits his teeth, cursing his master's father for everything he's worth. "Vincent thinks the only way is to kill her, but-if you had Raven first, you could find another way, couldn't you? With all your power?"

Leo hesitates, and he slowly shakes his head. "I don't… think Raven would make a difference. Keys, as far as I know, were never meant to be sealed in people. It's like… turning them into a box that has to be broken open."

Gil wants to scream. "But you don't know that," he says, pleading, trying not to sound as pathetic and desperate as he feels. "Please, Master, there has to be another way. Look at her, talk to her, see if there's something..."

"I've looked at her for days now," Leo exasperatedly replies, a frown on his lips. "If that key had been easily accessible, I would have sensed it. Instead, it's been right here under my nose, which leads me to believe it's buried within her so deeply that there is nothing else that can be done."

But he hasn't, Gil wants to protest, he's had Vincent try and pry information out of her while he plays with cats and dresses and diamond rings. It's with no shame that he sinks to his knees, begging, "Is there anything? Please. Maybe-maybe Jack knows something, or old Master Glen, or someone-"

Leo's face twists in disgust. "Gilbert, get up," he mutters, taking a step back for good measure. "I'm not letting you go and ask Jack to how to remove a key that could potentially destroy him forever-don't you think he'd give you a bit of false information there?"

Gilbert's shoulders sag, even as he hauls himself back to his feet. He should have known better, really. Vincent and Leo were always the geniuses. Of course they'd be the quick ones to grasp that there's nothing to be done, even as Gil clings to his foolish hopes. "Then...you'll..."

"… Vincent will probably want to deal with her," Leo eventually says, his gaze flitting to the side as he frowns. "At least, I'd imagine so, after how he's been around her since she came here."

"No." Not this time, Master. "He won't do it."

Leo blinks. "What? Did he say that?"

"Yeah." It's irrational how angry it makes Gil that Leo had simply assumed, no matter how much sense it makes. "He's your bodyguard, not your executioner. Do it yourself."

"I-" Leo's face flushes, a mix angry at Gilbert's blatant, obvious disrespect and thoroughly taken off guard all the same. "Fine. I will! And you can tell Vincent to stay away from her until then, if he doesn't want to deal with this."

He's pushed his luck this far, Gil figures he might as well go the rest of the way. "I want to go to Pandora tonight, too. It's better that I put more seals on Jack before he has the chance to wipe away the last ones, and Oz deserves to know about Ada." It's not a question, not really, and Gil firms his jaw, not really wanting to know what Leo sees in his eyes.

"Go already, then," Leo bites out, a hand already on the door and fully prepared to slam it in Gilbert's face. "It's obvious how much I can count on the two of you in the midst of this already."

That makes a cold rage boil up in Gilbert's belly, and his hand slams into the door, preventing Leo from closing it. "We're not your slaves," he says quietly, eyes boring into Leo's odd dark ones. "We serve, you protect. That's how it works. Fealty for honor. Loyalty has to mean something, Master."

Leo flares up, a scowl on his face as his fingers dig into the door, grasp white-knuckled. "It means that you get what you want at the end of the day! I never said you were my slaves-you two are the ones that go out of your way to do everything over and beyond, and now, in all of this, you're running out?"

"We go out of our way because we remember what it's supposed to be like!" Gil snarls, shoulders tensed as if he's expecting battle, hand no longer trying to twitch to his cigarettes, but to his gun, though he doesn't let it go there either. "The Baskervilles used to be a family! But as long as you get your own, you don't give a shit what happens to either of us, any of us, do you?"

"I-" Jaw clenching, Leo steps forward, shoving the door open further as he steps out into the hall towards Gilbert. "I never wanted this, you know! I never asked to be forced into this, I never wanted servants or any of this power! If you're so damned sure of what to do with all of this, then maybe you should be Glen after all!"

"No one wanted this life!" God, it feels better than it should to get some of this off of his chest, where it's been stewing for a lot longer than he should have let it. "Yeah, we know, least of all you, and you remind every single one of us how you'd rather be anywhere than with us, how you'd rather be dead than be our leader every damned day. Not one of us chose to end up here, any more than you did, so stop acting like you're the only one who's lost anything!"

"What you've supposedly lost is sealed safe and sound in the bottom of a dungeon!" Leo snaps, flaring up further with each word. "Are you really trying to tell me that's the same thing, when a simple little wish will make it all better for you when it's over?! Don't you dare tell me that I don't 'take care' of any of you! I could have just as easily walked into the Abyss and never come out."

Oz's face, wan and drawn from lack of sunlight, lack of joy. Vincent, twisting himself into knots over his poisonous desires. Glen's severed head, cradled in his arms. His body moving, betraying him, because of promises made when he was no more than a child, the threat of the only warmth he'd ever known being snatched away. "This isn't about what I've lost, or how much worse you could be! You don't even try! You'll kill that girl because it's easier than trying to help her, and you'd kill Oz if you could, and I'm not as naive as Vincent to believe you have any interest in giving us something in return!"

"If you think I want to kill her, you're wrong!" It comes out shrill, too close to hysterical for Leo's liking. "She-if I could help her, I would. You think just because I don't watch her all day like you and Vincent do, that I don't see-you have no idea what I see every day, and I know, just from her being here, that there's nothing-" He sucks in a ragged breath. "And you're wrong about Oz, too. If I wasn't trying, I would have just killed him-I would have found a way, because it's still easier than all of this!"

"Well, what the hell else am I supposed to think?" Gil growls, no longer caring about keeping his voice down, no longer caring about anything at all, much. "You ignore most of the Baskervilles, you make us do all your dirty work-you expect us to be grateful just because you could have killed yourself and didn't? There isn't one of us who hasn't tried!"

"What the hell do you want me to do?!" Leo spits out. "In case you haven't noticed, there's not much I can do anymore, other than wait and try to slowly piece all of this together! Believe it or not, the voices in my head aren't terribly helpful most of the time!"

The frustration wells up in Gil, so strong he wants to shoot someone, which is probably not a great reaction. Worse is how he has nothing to offer, other than a bitter, impotent wish that Leo could be more like his real master, more like the man whose soul he carries, who Gil is irrationally sure would never have let the situation get this bad. "Stop punishing us for being human. Vincent doesn't want to kill an innocent girl so you don't let him see her before she dies? You owe him more than that!"

"I never said he couldn't see her! I-I just said I'd take care of it." He's so angry that it's hard to breathe-or, really, not as much angry as he is just forcing back the urge to slam the door in Gilbert's face and curl up and give up. "Isn't that what you wanted? Me dealing with something for a change? Or am I just never going to be the Glen that came before me, and so you'll always hate me?"

"You did! You said to keep him away from her if he wouldn't do it! Just like you don't let me see Oz unless you're happy with me sewing you dresses!" He doesn't want Leo to be right, but god, he remembers when those eyes were on a man he'd gladly have given his life for, had nearly given his life for more than once.

Slowly, he forces a breath out through his nose, trying to keep himself under control, hands clenched so tightly he almost hears bones pop. "I don't hate you for not being him. I just don't trust you like I trust him. Trusted."

"The reason I don't let you see him is because of what happened last time." God, now Leo has reached the point of just being tired, and that never bodes well. "Obviously that hasn't happened every time, but the chance of it is why I try to keep you away. Sewing is at least something you can do in the meantime, unless you'd rather keep your brother company all of the time instead." Leo reminds himself to breathe, even as a reflexive hand lifts to pull at a strand of his bangs, as if that'll help cover his face even when they aren't quite long enough. "And I meant… Vincent's just going to cause trouble about that girl… Ada. It's better if he stays away, and I haven't exactly heard a request of his to go near her again, anyway."

It sounds like pathetic rationalizations made after the fact, by a child too small for the heavy velvet coat around his shoulders-and so much of the time, Leo wears it well enough that its easy to forget that that's what Leo is, when it comes down to it. He's so different from the reclusive, innocently-smiling servant Elliot had brought home years ago that it's easy to forget they are the same person, more or less.

Gil shoves his hands into his pockets, the heat from his outburst fading away, leaving him even colder than usual. Then, unexpectedly, he starts to laugh, though there's no mirth in it. "It doesn't matter anyway. You're going to erase Vincent, aren't you? Then you'll never be Glen at all. None of this matters. God, what a joke."

Leo's lower lip trembles before he can stop the reaction, though he sets his jaw after the fact. Somehow, that manages to keep his voice steady as well, though Leo can't remember a time recently when he's tried harder to keep it that way. "Then you should be happy about it, shouldn't you? That I'll never be here to mess things up so badly."

It doesn't matter. I'll be dead a hundred years ago, and none of this will ever have happened, all because he doesn't believe me when I say I love him. "There's nothing to be happy about. Just give Vincent a break. He's not as tough as he thinks he is." He grabs for a cigarette, ignoring Leo's rules as he strides away, not wanting to look at those sad, bullied eyes anymore. "I'm going to Pandora."


It's not even worth it, a little voice tells him, one that is wholly Leo's for a change, and so he sinks backwards, stepping back into the bedroom and shutting the door with a slow, heavy thud behind him.

When it comes down to it, he's really not meant for this job.

"What do you know about the Vessalius key?"

Gilbert doesn't even wait until the Pandora dungeon door is all the way shut behind him before asking the question, Raven stirring restlessly in his mind, one hand on his gun though he'd rather use it on himself than on Oz again. He doesn't even know who'll respond, whose green eyes he'll see when the boy turns around, but he tries to be ready for anything.

The gaze turned in his direction is wide and honest, and openly surprised at the sudden query, to boot. "… The Vessalius key?" Oz echoes, shutting a book that he's read for the umpteenth time as he slides off of the bed, bare feet hitting the floor with a quiet thump. "I… not much of anything, why? Aren't I supposed to be asleep when you're here?"

This is stupidly dangerous, and for not much reason. It's not like he has much hope he'll accomplish anything in any case, no matter how the guilt, and the wounded look on Vincent's face tells him he's got to try. "Because if you or him know anything it could save your sister's life. Please." He swallows hard. "It's her last chance."

"… I really was never told anything," Oz slowly answers, concern quickly taking over his expression as he steps closer to the bars. "After all, I was thought dead and gone when my uncle handled that sort of stuff… why? What's happening? What's wrong with Ada?"

Gil doesn't want to do this. But the idea of Oz finding out from anyone else...

"She's..." There's a lump in his throat, the tears welling up even as he tries to force them down, something he's never been the most successful at. It's harder with Oz looking at him, worried for his sister, and god, seeing the two of them happy together was all the light Gil's ever wanted to bring back to the world. "She's the key. Duke Baskerville thinks so, anyway." He drops his gaze, unable to meet Oz's eyes, burying his face in one hand as he confesses, "He's going to kill her if I can't find another way."

"What?" Oz lunges forward before he can stop himself, his hands wrapping around the prison cell's bars no matter the initial shock of connecting with the outermost barrier of the seal. It's there as a precaution now, of course, and something he tries to avoid as much as possible, but he endures the pain to be that much closer to Gilbert, worry and anger twisting his face. "You can't let him kill her! There has to be something that you can do!"

Gil can't help himself, closing with the bars before he can remember why it's a bad idea, hands closing tightly over Oz's no matter the shocks he'd put to remind himself as well why this is so stupid. "I'm trying, but I don't...I don't know how to undo it, and Leo-" He bites off that bitterness, unhelpful as it is. "Everyone just wants it to be over, but...if you know anything, if...if Jack knows anything. I'll listen. You have to believe I don't want any harm to come to Ada."

Oz shakes his head firmly, even as his fingers tighten around Gilbert's, squeezing tightly. "We can't talk to Jack about this," he says, shoving the shake from his voice even as he struggles to calm down. "I… even if he knows something, he won't tell us. He might even lie. He doesn't want that key released, because he knows what it means for him."

"It's getting released." There's a rough, despairing edge to his voice, no matter how he squeezes back, glad in that moment that at least Oz is here, at least Oz understands. "No matter what we do, because he'll kill her if there's no other way. I..." His breath hitches, and it's a lot harder to be brave around Oz than it is facing down Leo. "I'll-at least do it myself, so...I know...she won't..."

"You can't kill her," Oz admonishes, his grip turning vice-tight, as if that'll prevent Gilbert from leaving and doing just that. "Gil-there has to be some other way. Has Leo talked to her? I know he wouldn't want to kill her…"

"I don't know what he wants anymore. He's not the Leo you knew, Oz. He's Glen now." Glen, who hadn't wanted to, but had put hundreds, maybe thousands of people to the sword when he'd had no other choice. "I tried to get him to talk to her, but...I lost my temper," he admits, face flushing.

"That's a lie." Oz yanks on Gilbert's hands, dragging him closer still to the bars to frown up at him. "He's the same. I can tell, just in the way he looked at Elliot. Leo hasn't changed… but if you've lost your temper with him-now, or before-you've probably scared him into making you think that. You can be really mean sometimes, you know."

No matter how much Gil wants to protest that Leo is different, that Oz hasn't seen his cruelty, his callousness, his imperiousness, all he can do is whisper, "I'm sorry."

Because Glen is wrong, and Oz is as much his master as Glen, with less of a claim on his soul and more of one on his heart. "I want to believe you. But...no matter if he's the same old Leo or not, he will kill Ada to get the key if I can't come up with something, and fast."

Oz draws in a slow breath, loosening his grip slightly. "I know," he quietly says, "and I don't want that to happen more than you or anyone else. But… Gilbert, if there's no other way, then you have to let him do it, and you can't… you can't judge him for it. The Leo I knew couldn't as much as push a kitten away, let alone really hurt someone… well, outside of throwing a table at Elliot, but that's different. I can't imagine he wants to kill her either, but this isn't about what we want anymore. It hasn't been for awhile."

But you knew that all along, didn't you, Gil?

It's hard to tell whose voice it is in his head, though the taste of dust reminds him of Raven's croak of a chuckle. Admitting that you knew from the moment Vincent said something that she'd have to die...that isn't something you want to do, is it? You're not here to find another way.

You're here to find absolution.

Stupid. There's no absolution for him.

"Then...this is going to be the last time I come here." Gil swallows hard, forehead leaning against the bars. "Once he has Gryphon he'll take Raven from me, and that'll be all he needs."

"No." Oz stretches a hand up, tangling a hand into Gilbert's hair to gently tug. "Once he does that-if he can do that without a hitch-then that'll mean I'm free, right? It won't be the last time, Gil."

Gil's own words come back to haunt him-that after Leo grants Vincent's wish, none of this will have mattered, none of it will have ever happened-and for once, it's almost a comfort. Ada won't have died, Oz won't have suffered in this prison, and who knows how many countless atrocities (and kindnesses and small acts of beauty and friendships) will never have been?

But Oz doesn't need to know how close to the brink they all are. And it hasn't happened yet; there's always the sliver of a chance he'll get through to Vincent, after all.

He lets himself be tugged close, a tiny smile on his face. "Yeah, Oz. Though you'll have to take care of me like when we were kids... I won't be a contractor anymore."

"You're still plenty capable without a chain," Oz sniffs, withdrawing his hand with a flick to Gilbert's forehead. "And you've got another master now, too, you know. Leo's your master, too, so you should be giving him some respect, at least while I'm in here. I don't want to hear about you losing your temper on him again-what sort of servant does that? You have to trust him to do what's right."

Gil bows his head, properly chastised. "You're right. I'll apologize to him as soon as I get back. I'm sorry." Strange, how it seems easier to apologize to Oz than to Leo, even when it was Leo he'd wronged. "I get really...I didn't like how he was treating Vincent."

Oz sighs as he sinks back down onto his heels with a shake of his head. "Still. You know better. Leo is… well, regardless of how he's been lately, he's always been shy. You yelling at him didn't help, especially in a bad situation like this. It's not easy for anyone, Gil… and I… I wish I could be there to help you, and help Ada, but…"

"Leo? Shy?" Gil can't help but snort at that, and god, it's easier to talk like this, about silly things that don't mean much, than to talk about what's going to happen all too soon. "Sometimes I forget that you didn't know him for very long. He's a lot of things, but he's never been shy."

He starts to reach through the bars, but thinks better of it, no matter how he wants to run a gloved hand over the softness of one smooth cheek, the way he knows Oz's skin feels now. "I wish you were there too. Don't worry. I'll have you free soon."

"There are a lot of different kinds of shy-you're one kind, too," Oz insists, even as his eyes linger upon the twitch of Gilbert's hand, and how it's so obvious what Gilbert wants. "Leo isn't me, and he isn't your previous master, either. Stop comparing us, first and foremost… and tell Ada I love her while you're at it, all right?"

Despite what the Raven croaks in his ear, Gil does feel a little better, a lessening of maybe twenty of the thousand pounds weighing him down. It's not enough, but he's never really happy, and at least this way he can do something for Ada.

He nods, then beckons Oz closer with a sigh, tugging off his glove. "Might as well lock him down tighter while I'm here." He swallows hard, then promises, "I swear that if it has to happen...it'll be as easy as I can make it. And I'll tell her."

Obediently, Oz leans back forward, pressing his head to the bars, no matter the sting of it. "Take care of her as much as you can," he softly says. "And once I'm out of here, I'll take care of you. You've always taken care of everyone, Gilbert; you need a little break."

I don't want a break. I just want you.

Gil lays his hand on Oz's forehead, relieved at least to see that the seals he's laid are still in place, covering them with stronger ones yet, now that he's rested. He lets his hand linger too long, and doesn't care, fingers moving up to briefly ruffle Oz's hair. "I'd do anything to make you happy."

"Have chocolate waiting, then," Oz simply replies, a grin on his face as he pulls back. "And stop looking like you want to die already. There's an end to this yet, Gil."

That's what I'm afraid of.

But just now, it's hard to imagine that brilliant smile fading into nothing, and it's never failed to bring the ghost of one to his own lips as well. He fishes in one deep coat pocket, pulling out a little bag. "Truffles, from that shop you like downtown," he says, handing it over. "Don't eat them all at once or you'll get sick."

The grin turns to a full out beam, and Oz snatches away the bag without hesitation. "You're perfect! I'll take my time, don't worry. I wanna savor them."

Gil's smile is soft, fond, even as his heart aches. He slips away, not wanting to say the words of goodbye aloud, knowing that no matter what comes next, it won't be long now.

And he's got quite an apology to make.

Really, it's been awhile since he's felt this pathetic.

The eventual process of dragging himself from Gilbert's room too far longer than it should have. That being said, Gilbert's taking far longer than Vincent anticipates, and upon leaving, he finds out the man has taken a course towards Pandora, leaving Vincent to fret all the more.

He needs to be alone, and stay that way. It's far better that way.

The first rip of fresh, unmarred curtains makes him exhale a long breath, and god, but he hopes he isn't interrupted. It's one room that's always been off-limits for him-the main music room that has been relatively untouched, save for Leo's occasional bursts of insomnia that left him locked away with the piano for nearly days on end before he'd finally fall asleep at it.

Another rip of sharpened scissor blades through fabric, and Vincent starts to be able to see straight again. Would he be able to tell her goodbye? Did he even want to?

What was even the point in caring?

Elliot had thought he'd be useful.

He'd thought he'd be helpful.

He remembers seeing his brothers and their chains, all the members of Pandora with great looming guardians, affectionate and loyal, and maybe that had been some consolation for the fact that he can't stop suspecting he's left something behind in the Abyss, some part of himself that he can't reach, can't touch, can't put a name to, but that he's supposed to have. Maybe if he still had it, Leo wouldn't be unhappy. Elliot can't remember a time when Leo had been so unhappy Elliot couldn't fix it with a hug and an apology.

It's been days since they'd fought, and Leo is no less upset. No matter how Elliot apologizes, something awkward and unfamiliar with how much he's doing it, Leo just insists that he isn't angry, he just wants to forget-but he's not happy.

It's with the sinking conviction that nothing is ever going to be right again that he asks for some time to himself-not to find Leo a present this time, but because it's suffocating in Leo's soul with Jabberwock and the others, and he can't bear to see the sadness on his lover's face. He doesn't exactly mean to seek out the music room, but it draws him as much as anywhere else, and he winces to see how much dust has accumulated on the piano since his death.

He takes little notice of anything else, relaxing onto the bench, trying to close out everything except the way his fingers play across the keys-rusty, sloppy, and he nearly flips the damn thing over, annoyed at the way he's playing for two years of not practicing.

It won't sound good, anyway. It's only half a duet.

Vincent pauses, just long enough to watch Elliot come inside, long enough to see him sit at the piano and start to play. The sound of quietly, slowly ripping fabric is buried in the sound of the piano, and for a moment Vincent thinks they can properly ignore one another and brood in their own respective silences.

And yet, he's the one to blame here, because he can never keep his mouth shut, nor can he miss the chance to deflect his own thoughts, to shove away his damnably annoying feelings for a girl that is, undoubtedly, going to die. "You look cross," Vincent lowly offers, his scissors snagging into the fabric a bit as they slide downward, and his attention redirects briefly to that task, all in favor of leaving a ragged scar across dark velvet.

Elliot's fingers trip, the next note gone sour at the surprise interruption. Once he pauses, he hears the sound of ripping fabric, in its own way an odd mix between disturbing and soothing, a memory held over from childhood. He cranes his neck just far enough to see Vincent, not smiling for once, taking to the curtains with demented determination.

Elliot considers for a second yelling at him to stop defacing the manor, but it's not as if there's anyone left who will care anyway. "Doesn't matter," he mutters, switching to a two-handed scale. "I'm just a ghost."

"Aren't ghosts see-thru?" Vincent mildly retorts, not looking up from his task at hand. A strip of heavy fabric falls away to the ground, and he continues with a low hum underneath his breath. "You're not doing a very good job of being scary, either."

"You're good enough at being scary for both of us," Elliot snaps. God, this score used to be easy. Nothing's really easy these days, though part of the problem is that his reach has changed before he's had time to adapt. "They used to tell me all kinds of lies about you to keep me away from you. When I was little I thought you were going to suck out my soul in my sleep if I didn't eat my vegetables."

Vincent pauses outright at that, looking up with a dully affronted look on his face. "Which one said that? Claude? No, probably Ernest."

"Ernest," Elliot confirms with a nod. "If it had just been Claude I might have listened. His warnings were too boring to be pretend, but Ernest used to make things up." The callouses on his fingers rub together, swordfighting clashing with piano, making his fingers stumble even as they loosen up with the practice. "That first time, when I came into your room? Ernest told me you were capturing boys from town and turning them into your dolls. I had to see for myself."

"… Ernest always had quite the imagination," Vincent drawls, his eyes rolling skyward before he turns back to his task of shredding, neatly dissecting the curtains into long, entrail-like ribbons of fabric. "And he was never quite satisfied when a person was simply down. He had to be the one to put them there. Small wonder he made up so many stories about me."

Elliot shifts on the bench. It's the kind of thing he wants to refute, the kind of thing he would have, once upon a time, when he'd believed in his big brothers and the smiling faces they always showed him. With the return of his memories by Humpty Dumpty, just before his death...it's considerably more difficult.

He grabs a random page of music, something written in a small neat hand that he recognizes all too well, though he doesn't know the song, and starts to play. Almost casually, he remarks, "Leo told me you killed Father."

Vincent's lips curl into a wry smile at that. He isn't surprised, of course; what surprises him more is that Elliot hasn't confronted him, or perhaps punched him before this point. "Did he, now?" Another shred of curtain hits the floor. "I did it for you. Does that make it better, or worse?"

It's not an easy question to answer. The notes fall into a mournful minor key, something that almost hurts his heart even playing it, even if he's not doing it right yet, and the thought of Leo left alone writing music like this for years...

"I used to have a lot of bad dreams," he says instead of answering, bent over the keys to better read the tiny notes. "Even before Sablier. I didn't want Father to think I was weak, so I never told him about it. I wonder if he knew about that too."

"Your father was a horrible man," Vincent murmurs, in no mood to sugarcoat as he stabs higher up the curtains, shredding downwards with a thoroughly audible rip this time. "I daresay if he knew, he wouldn't care. A good thing his blood seems to run so thin in you, Elliot."

"Does it?" Elliot asks, fingers slamming a bit harder into the keys than he'd intended, notes of heartbreak acquiring a wrathful streak. "Everything I've found out about them-they're-they were, I mean...cruel. Cold. They didn't care about anyone but each other and me. I killed them."

There are angry tears in his eyes, but he plays through them, biting them back. "I killed Vanessa, and Mother, and Ernest and Claude, just because they were going to kill Leo. I did. I'm just as bad as any of them ever were."

"That wasn't you," the older man follows with a little tsk, shaking his head. "There was a chain influencing you, Elliot. There was nothing you could have done to prevent it, either… none of those deaths are meant to leave your hands bloody." Vincent pauses, his gaze sliding over towards Elliot for a moment. "If anything, the blood is on me… seeing as I couldn't kill them before you did."

"You shouldn't have had to." God, he should pick up a different song for this, something he'll butcher less, but at this point he can't stop. "You got sucked into their-you should have gotten adopted by a family that wasn't...poison."

Ernest and Claude, probably Fred, murderers. Father, a murderer and a liar and who knew what else. Mother, a would-be murderess and who knew what else. Vanessa, the same. "We kill everything we touch. There's a reason our roses are black."

"Oh, now you're just being overdramatic," Vincent sighs out, letting his scissors slide shut with a quiet glide of metal. "What's gotten you so upset, anyway? No one died this time." Yet. Ah, he needs to keep cutting things up.

Elliot's fingers falter to a slow, uneasy halt, and he feels far younger than his years when he looks up at his big brother. "What do you know about Glen Baskerville's soul?"

"It's old," is the deadpan retort initially offered. "Truth be told, not as much as I'd like, but I don't think most 'Glens' have ever been forthcoming about what goes on within their own minds… why do you ask?"

"Leo is...different." His hands rest on the piano, tapping nervously, betraying his state of mind. "Sometimes I wonder...how much is really him and how much is Glen, and if that's going to keep changing."

Ah, this, of course. Well, far easier to talk about someone else's emotional problems than his own. "How should I put this… you were the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with." Best to be blunt about it, while he's at it. "You died. It was his fault. That takes quite a toll on a person, you know." I'd know. "It has little to do with whether he's Glen or not, though that has some bearing… the duties that come with the name and what have you."

"He just seems so..." Wounded. Broken. Like an injured bird that can't figure out how to fly again even after the wing has healed. "We always used to fight about everything-or I did anyway-and now when it happens he just...I hate feeling like I'm hurting him, even if he is more powerful that I could ever be. And I can't ask him about anything because no matter what's happened, he blames himself, and it's not his fault," he finishes, eyes blazing as he looks up at Vincent. "None of it was, it's not his fault he was born with that destiny hanging over him, and he didn't force me to go anywhere, so if you're the one that's telling him it's his fault I'm dead you can stop it!"

"I haven't told him a thing." A shrug follows the words as Vincent's gaze turns away again, languidly picking his way through the remnants of the one curtain he's shredded thus far. "I'm merely repeating his words… though they do have some merit, even if he gets a bit cyclical with his depression… I've found that it's best simply not to bring it up at all. He was certainly worse before you returned, of course."

Elliot takes a deep breath, forcing himself to calm down. The temper has been a little better since he came back, partly due to the lack of being able to properly vent it, but it's still there. The next glance he casts at Vincent is a little guilty, no matter how jealous. "I...I never knew how to ask you...this might be...awkward."

Vincent tilts his head to the side, preliminary amusement flickering over his expression. "Are you going to ask me if, when, and how I slept with him?"

"No! Idiot!" Elliot slams the key cover shut, embarrassed beyond the point of looking at Vincent. "I-he told me, but-I want to hear from you...he said there was..."

It's not going to be any better for waiting. "Are you upset that I came back? Did you want to keep him?"

"Oh, god no." Vincent tries not to laugh, but it's impossible at this point. "You can keep him. I mean no offense by that, of course," he quickly amends, "but really, he's a high maintenance little thing, especially when he's in one of his moods, and I am quite happy to say my heart is stolen by another. Our moments together were… how should I put this." He lifts his scissors up, idly tapping the blade against his lips. "A sort of mutual punishment, at the very best."

Finally, that sick jealous thing in his stomach disappears, after far, far too long of holding onto it. It's swiftly replaced by disgust that he doesn't bother to hide, as he turns back to the piano, pulling out another sheet of music he's never seen. "Leo told me that, too."

"Then I hope you can realize I meant no disrespect by sharing the bed of what is clearly yours. Really, it was sort of pathetic in how it all started, anyway," Vincent sniffs. "At least he hasn't continued the habit of falling asleep wherever he falls down nowadays."

He had, once, but... "If he does now, I catch him," Elliot mutters, letting his fingers relax into the new song, finding it just as disturbed as the last. "By the way, remind me to have words with you and Gilbert about your familial duty. Someone's got to carry on the family name."

Vincent tries not to roll his eyes again. He fails. "Gilbert wants to bed that Vessalius boy, I have no interest in marriage," he boredly recites, moving on to a second curtain. "And that aside, what woman would marry a Baskerville in this political atmosphere? Really."

"You're both Nightrays," Elliot points out, bristling. "And I don't care if what Leo says is true and I don't have a single brother who likes women, there's still your duty. I'd have done it if I hadn't...you know."

"Can't you go and make little chains with another chain or something? Better yet, find one that can turn Leo into a woman for the night. Keep the Nightray name, that should work out well for you."

Instead of yelling, or blushing, or anything that he's sure Vincent expects when teasing him, Elliot just stares at him. "You're dealing with Leo now. Do you really want to deal with nine months of cravings and morning sickness?"

"You're implying it would be much worse. He's already all over the map, perhaps something good would happen there, too," Vincent sniffs, unfazed.

Elliot glares at him. "Fine. I'll get Gil to get married. He's a lot easier than you to guilt and bully into stuff. It's not like Oz would ever...you know." No matter what Leo says about how he looks at me. Leo just sees that kind of stuff in people.

Vincent wants to kindly point out that, oh, Oz certainly would, probably has, and would again, but there's no use trying to convince Elliot of something that he won't see. "None of it matters, anyway," he tosses back instead. "After Leo grants my wish… none of this will." And that's his only solace now, isn't it?

Elliot frowns, partly from leaning forward to peer at the tiny notes that just aren't lining up, partly at Vincent's words. "I heard about that, too." He shakes his head, annoyed with Vincent, annoyed with Leo for writing something so difficult to get his fingers around. "Leo said..." No, he can't bring it up. Even now, there are some things that are too embarrassing to say aloud.

"Oh, did he actually tell you?" Vincent can't help but sound amused. "About my wish? It's a G-sharp there, by the way," he adds, as if he's heard it three dozen times (and probably has).

"I know it's G-sharp!" Elliot snaps, though hearing it does make the note appear a bit clearer on the page. "You don't even play."

He probably could, though. He'd always been like Leo, in that way, always good at whatever he'd tried, even though he didn't feel like trying that many things. "He told me. He said you want him to kill you."

"I've turned enough piano score pages," he replies, sounding bored as he snips away the curtain's cord, just for the fun of it. "And it isn't quite that. I don't want him to kill me. I want him to erase my existence."

There's always been something...not quite right about his elder brother. "That's dumb. You're dumb. That doesn't even make sense." He slams his hands down, glaring up at Vincent. "That kind of thing never works out! I've read it in a dozen books! If you change the past, you won't exist, and there's no one to make the past change! It's obvious!"

Vincent merely looks at him, nonplussed. "My existence never caused Gilbert anything but pain," he simply says. "There's no reason for me to be there. I gave Duke Baskerville a couple of options-I could be miscarried, or even die at birth if dealing with my existence in the womb was too troublesome…"

The notes aren't coming out right no matter what he does, everything a confused messy jumble like his thoughts, and Elliot can't help the way his lip curls in disgust. "I thought Leo was just making fun of me, but you really are in love with Gilbert, aren't you?"

A smile immediately, cheerfully comes to Vincent's lips. "Does it bother you, Elliot?" he sweetly inquires. "Gilbert is my world, and his happiness means everything to me. There's no shame in that, is there?"

"Of course it bothers me! You're his brother, that's disgusting!" A loud, dissonant chord reverberates as Elliot slams his hand down again in a way he hasn't mistreated a piano since he was a child. "Even you must be able to see it's perverted!"

"If it's love, can a person really judge what is perverted or disgusting?" Vincent plucks at a ribbon of velvet before slicing into it. "At least I'm not fucking a goat or something along those lines… although being with a man is seen right around the same level either way, isn't it, Elliot?"

Apparently, even being a chain, being no longer human, no longer subjected to the weights of family obligation and noble scrutiny, isn't enough to purge those memories. Elliot hunches over, face burned scarlet, feeling suddenly very small. "Forget it."

Maybe his father had known about that, too, like he'd apparently known about everything else.. Maybe that was why he didn't care about saving his last son, a little voice whispers into his mind.

Vincent shrugs. "You're a chain now; I do believe you're rather above the laws of society… and that said, your contractor is the most powerful man alive. Don't concern yourself with it, and do well to not concern yourself with others' intimate business, either. It's just wise." He chuckles, twisting a piece of shredded velvet about a finger. "You aren't the only full-blooded Nightray to enjoy the company of a man, anyway… has Leo told you that, or has he simply enjoyed spreading rumors about Gilbert and I?"

That, of all things, makes Elliot's head jerk up, eyes wide. "I-no, he...he said he didn't know, I was only joking around..." Just how depraved is his family, anyway? "What do you know?"

His brows arch high, and Vincent sets his scissors briefly aside, finding a bit of relief in gossiping about horrible individuals. It's a soothing balm to his nerves, go figure. "I'm not terribly sure I should relay so much, if it hasn't been offered to you before by anyone…"

Damn it, this is the sort of thing that always comes with being the baby in the family, and it makes Elliot grind his teeth in frustration. He can't just blink sadly up at Vincent either; that had never been nearly as effective on his adopted brothers as on his full-blooded ones. "You're annoying," he mutters, flipping through the pages of the song. "No wonder Leo didn't like having you in bed."

A wry snort follows that. "I can assure you it wasn't my prowess that was the problem, but merely his preferences. And if you are that curious, it was mostly Ernest. He enjoyed his fair share of torment."

"Like you, then?" Elliot asks, before censoring himself. "Men and women both so long as you can play your little games? I've seen you at those stupid parties."

Vincent smiles again at that. "The difference, little brother," he purrs as he turns away from the curtains, slowly making his way over to the piano bench and elegantly taking a seat on the very edge of it, "is that I prefer my bedmates to be of a much higher breeding."

"And he used to knock the maids around, I know," Elliot mutters. It's one of the few things he had known about, something too commonplace for them to keep from him, though it hurts his pride to admit it.

"Not just the maids." Vincent leans back slightly, his shoulder connecting with Elliot's. "His trips to Sablier, to the orphanages that the Nightray family managed… those were always telling."

"I..." Elliot sighs, leaning back into Vincent, and it's odd that he's so much taller than his big brother now, no matter that he's grateful for the warmth and solidity of family, odd as it is. "I heard them say things sometimes, in the carriages when they thought I was sleeping. About...the merchandise, the stock, that sort of thing. I know we didn't own any farms."

"Girls-and boys-he'd pull in from smaller villages," he confirms with a nod, gaze idly sliding to the music score in front of Elliot. "I saw all the books, at one point. Not that I needed to; Ernest had a way of running his mouth off in the bedroom and I heard everything I needed to at that point." Vincent turns, reaches a hand out, idly flipping to pages near the back of the manuscript. "Some of the older ones, and especially the pretty ones, he'd test personally. It's a lucrative business, even if they are used goods."

"It's so hard for me to believe. I never saw that side of him, you..." Elliot trails off, his brain catching up a few words too late, a sinking horror in it as he turns to stare at Vincent. "Did you just say..."

Vincent shrugs. "It seemed like a good idea at the time. It protected Gilbert for a little while, at any rate, and made me seem quite harmless in comparison."

Elliot swallows around a lump in his throat, then leans forward, forehead thumping against Vincent's shoulder so he won't have to look up at him. "That's unacceptable," he mutters, shamed almost to the point of physical illness. "You never should have had to. I-I tried to tell him off for picking on Gil, but...I'm sorry. For my family, our family. God, it makes me sick."

"… You always were the good one," Vincent murmurs, glad that Elliot can't see the momentary surprise that flits across his own face at being apologized to for something that was honestly his own decision, as despicable as it might have been. "Really, it's not your fault. Nothing they did is."

Elliot sits in silence for a few minutes. He wants to protest, to say that it is his fault, it's everyone's fault who's ever involved, no matter how remotely, no matter if they don't know or not, because otherwise nothing is going to change. "I really...wanted to change things."

Something occurs to him, and he stiffens suddenly. "All the pretty girls and boys?"

"Well, given his stamina-apparent." Ah, things he shouldn't joke about. Vincent leaves a mental reminder to himself to censor his words, at least mildly. His little brother really is quite innocent still, all things considered.

"At...all the orphanages?" It's a question he doesn't want to know the answer to, but that doesn't excuse him from asking. He's done enough hiding from the truth in his life.

Here we go. "He had no tendency to discriminate."

Something soft is breaking, somewhere Elliot can't hear, and he can't help but remember what Leo had said about all other nobles and how Elliot was the first, the only one who hadn't...

And Vincent knows. Has known, probably the whole time, that's obvious.

Elliot lets out a slow breath, closing his eyes. "Did he tell you? Or do you just...know, like you know everything?"

"Ahh… you're a bit mistaken," Vincent murmurs, glancing down to examine his nails as a distraction. "Your father had very clear instructions regarding my master while he was at the orphanage-all the better for observation, to see if he truly did harbor Glen's spirit. Ernest didn't lay a hand on him there."

Elliot grabs Vincent then, strong hands on his slender shoulders, turning him forcibly, and god it's weird to be bigger than him, even if all he's focused on is...


Vincent merely looks up at him, unfazed and unblinking. "It wasn't until you brought him home-just before you left for the academy, if I recall correctly."

Elliot stares down at him, wanting, wishing, willing the words to be untrue, even as they hang flat and heavy in the air. His hands fall to his sides, and he sags down onto the piano bench, all the fight gone out of him. "He was supposed to-this-I'm glad they're dead." He's never said it aloud before, but it doesn't feel wrong. Ugly, and twisted, but not wrong. "I'm glad. Thank you."

"… You're obviously not supposed to know," is the eventual response, and Vincent shifts, turning fully about to continue flipping through the last pages of the music score. "And my master has never been inclined to dwell on such things, so you would be much better off leaving it be. He didn't finish this one," he swiftly changes subject with a nod towards the manuscript in front of him, no matter if Elliot isn't looking. "Cried over it quite a bit, though; you should do something about that."

Elliot's eyes focus on the music-always the easiest, the best escape from the pressures of the family, of the life he'd never really wanted-and the notes make sense. Absently, he grabs a pen from where he knows Leo hides them, jotting down a few notes here and there. "Should I pretend like I don't know?" He lets out a bitter little laugh, and that goes into the song as well. "I know it's odd to ask you for advice, but I think you know him better than I do right now."

Vincent's lips wryly twist. "I'd hardly say that. I merely know his moods lately. But no, I wouldn't feign ignorance. He'll see right through you, and consider it an insult. I'm sure he can respect that you found out about it; he just doesn't want your pity. I think he's had enough of it lately as it is."

"I'm bad at lying to him anyway," Elliot mutters. It's something that he'd once considered a point of pride, honesty in the snake's den. Now, he realizes just how deep those lies had gone, and it makes him sick.

God, he needs to think about something else, anything else. "I never thanked you," he says abruptly, changing the subject. "For telling him I was sorry."

"No need; it was an honor." Leaning forward, Vincent makes a point of blowing a warm breath over Elliot's neck. "But you need to stop apologizing to him now that you're back, because words are empty without the force to back them. I doubt, before all of this, that he clung so fiercely to a person that was on his knees for him all of the time."

Elliot's hands clench into fists, but it's with angry at himself, not with Vincent, anger at his new form, at his new limitations. "I hate being a chain. I hate needing his permission to leave his side, I hate needing his permission to exist in the world, I just want to be myself again, damn it! But I can't say any of that, because he thinks it's all his fault that I'm dead in the first place, and he doesn't need that guilt too, not when he's...you know."

"Mmm. Would you have stopped yourself and not told him something so important before?" Vincent inquires, dropping his head idly to Elliot's shoulder. "Honestly, I doubt he fully thought through this whole… bringing you back idea."

"It was an accident. Neither of us meant for it to happen, but..." Elliot huffs out a breath, resting his head against Vincent's. "I'm not sorry to be back. It...I can't remember much of what it was like down there. All I really remember is missing him. Now that I know his soul is never going to be reborn like everyone else...yeah, I'm not sorry. You understand," he says, a little surprised to find that he thinks Vincent does understand. "You'd do anything for Gil, wouldn't you?"

"I would," is the easy agreement. "And even if you aren't sorry about being back… you should still let him know what you aren't fond of. I really can't recall you ever biting your tongue before."

"But that's a useless emotion, isn't it? I used to just yell all the time because I knew Leo was worse than I was, and nothing ever made him...he's sad all the time now. I don't know what to do when he cries."

"Unhappiness begets unhappiness," Vincent drawls. "Between contractor and chain, such things can easily be channeled, even. Air your grievances and call it done."

After a moment, Elliot has to grin, giving Vincent an affectionate little punch in the shoulder. At least his status as a chain doesn't prevent him from doing that much. "You're a really weird guy. Thanks."

He stands, making sure not to just dump Vincent onto the bench. "I'm gonna go yell at my idiot servant. But...if you feel like being weird in here again next time, I guess that's okay with me."

"… That's probably not going to happen again," Vincent sniffs, rubbing at his shoulder where he's been 'lightly' punched. "All things considered. But go yell at him, just try not to be too noisy in the aftermath. We have guests, after all."

That doesn't bear answering, so Elliot ignores him (except for the brightening of the tips of his ears), grabbing the music sheets before running off to Duke Baskerville's room, pounding on the door. "Oy! Leo! I want to talk to you, so let me in!"

"Do you have to break down the door?" is Leo's growl as he wrenches it open nonetheless, scowling up at Elliot. "What's the hurry for?"

Elliot stalks into the room, pushing past Leo and slamming the door behind him, mindful of Vincent's warning for them to be quiet, and oh god, he doesn't want to think of what the others in the mansion might have heard. "I really hate being your servant!" he growls, folding his arms. "And I really don't like having to ask your permission before doing anything or going anywhere, and when this is all over and done with, I think you should figure out some way to fix that! And if not, I'm going to keep being annoyed about it!"

Leo stares openly, jaw dropping before he has the sense to close his mouth after a short, shocked pause. "I-where is all of this coming from?" he manages as he recovers, flaring up in his own right. "You're my chain, it's not really something I can change, you know!"

"If you can go back in time and punch Vincent's mother in the stomach when she was pregnant, you can fix me!" He plants his hands on his hips, a glare in his eyes. "You're some awesome powerful Duke, you should be able to give me a little more, I don't know, solidity! Realness! Something! Because you need to know that that's the only thing that pisses me off!"

There's that urge to simply gawk again, wide-eyed and entirely taken off-guard. "I… I don't really know… if I can, um, grant the wishes of… chains?"

"It doesn't have to be right now. But when you've destroyed the Will of the Abyss, you'll be able to do lots of stuff with your black-winged chains, right? So." He folds his arms, shrugging. "That's what I want. It'll help me protect you more, anyway."

God, Leo just has to laugh.

Of course Elliot would have a request like this. Of course. Leo turns partially away, burying his face into one hand as he laughs, shaking his head. "You really don't get it, do you? After I kill Ada, after I destroy Jack, free Oz-I'll be granting Vincent's wish, and there's no telling what will happen then."

"So don't grant his stupid wish. It sounds dangerous anyway. Come on, Leo, you know that changing the past never works out in books. There's...what if..." He swallows hard, taking a hesitant step forward. "I couldn't deal with never meeting you, and there's a chance that could happen."

"But-" Hesitating, for all of a second, Leo then shakes his head. "I promised him." I'm not just doing this for myself. I'm not. I'll keep my end of the bargain, just to prove Gilbert wrong, if nothing else-

Then again, Gilbert has never seemed terribly thrilled about Vincent's wish either.

"… If I don't grant his wish," Leo says, glancing back up at Elliot, worry flickering over his face. "Ada… she'll stay dead. Your parents, your brothers, your sister…"

"You think I'm so much of a coward that I'd want to undo everything? Those things happened. They'll keep happening. And if we fix it, we can stop things like that from happening again, but if you do this...there's no telling." The unknown is terrifying, worse than death, thinking that everything that is might never have been, and Elliot bites his lip, trying to stay firm. "Do you want it all to have been for nothing? Worse yet, what if you grant his stupid wish and everything is a thousand times worse, except we're not together to fix it? Is that chance worth it?"

It's not a possibility that Leo likes to think about. Before, it hadn't mattered-before, Elliot was gone, and how things replayed out never mattered. Now, bile rises in Leo's throat at the thought of somehow not being at Elliot's side after one hundred years played all over again. "That doesn't… make it feel any better," he murmurs, a hand lifting to gingerly press at the bridge of his nose in exasperation before falling away as he looks down again. "Not keeping that promise. And… everything that's happened so far."

Elliot slams his hand hard against the wall. "You don't have the right to decide that! I don't care if you are Duke Baskerville and I am your chain, I have the right to make my own choices! And I have the right to keep my own past! You can't make that choice for everyone in the world just because Vincent feels guilty, or because you do! You don't think I know by now that my family deserved what they got?"

"I-" Leo sucks in a ragged breath before shoving himself forward, scowling up at the other man. "You think you know everything-you always think that! I don't want to lose you more than you want to lose me, but I still-I'm trying to do the right thing! I thought you'd want a chance to be with your family again!"

"My family is dead! I mourned them! And-" This part is the hardest, something he's not even sure if he can say aloud, but for Leo's sake, he has to try. "By now I think I know that the world...is better off without them."

"… You don't even know the half of it." God, he doesn't mean to say that out loud, but it comes out anyway, leaving him to flush hot. "F-fine If you're fine without them, then so am I! I'll… I'll deal with Vincent somehow, just-stop telling me what to do, your orders are always awful, anyway!"

Elliot takes a big step forward, more determined than ever. "No one said you had to listen, but I'm still going to treat you like the kind of master who should take care of you!" He swallows hard, but Vincent's right, and Leo shouldn't have to deal with this all on his own. "And I do know the half, or the whole of it. Vincent told me."

Leo's head jerks up, his gaze sharp, suspicious. "He-what?" A pauses, and Leo looks ready to throttle something. Someone, rather. "I'll kill him."

"Don't. I-he didn't tell me, exactly. He told me…things, about Ernest, and h-him. I guessed the rest." He unclenches his hands, sighing out hard through his nose. "I get why you didn't tell me. I just…I know, now. So you don't have to feel like you're keeping anything from me." Maybe, just maybe, we can forget about it now.

"… It doesn't change anything, you know." The response is still wary, like he expects Elliot to lunge forward and try to shake it all out of him with enough apologies or hugs or pity. "It's not something I think about. None of it is. I don't want you to think about it, either, especially not when you're with me."

Elliot's face twists in honest surprise, shock, and a bit of horror. "I didn't-that never even occurred to me, I-look, did I treat you any different when I found out about what you used to do on the streets? God, you act like that would change how I think about you! The only thing it changes is that I'm a lot less sorry about what happened to him!"

He scowls down at the floor, annoyed. "I don't want to talk about him."

"… Good."

The word comes on an honest exhale of relief, and Leo lurches forward, closing the distance properly between them for the first time since Elliot entered the room. "I'm actually pretty tired about you talking about everything," he says as he stretches up onto his toes, yanking on Elliot's lapels to drag him down. "I get the point already, so just shut up."

Oh thank god I did it right. It's the first time Leo's touched him on purpose in days, but breathing a sigh of relief would be the same as trying to give Leo pity about everything, something he obviously doesn't want. Instead, he grins, a hint of challenge as he says, "Why don't you just make me?"

Leo scowls, though he needs no further encouragement than that as he lunges upwards, his hands following to tangle within the tail of Elliot's hair as he kisses him-hard and fast and hot, teeth too sharp in that instant and a bit too rough. This better make you, you obnoxious bastard.

Elliot lets out a strangled yelp, though it turns into a snarl as he moves, grabbing Leo's waist in his hands and hauling him up, crushing him against the wall with his feet nearly a foot off the ground, the heavy weight of him a hard, demanding presence as he groans into the kiss, giving as good as he gets, tasting blood and wanting more.

The little squeak of surprise echoing from Leo's throat quickly turns to a groan of his own as he sinks back into the wall, content for a moment to sag beneath Elliot's weight with only half the mind to clamp his thighs to Elliot's hips and drag him in closer still. Leo's nails score down the back of the other man's neck, his body already a squirming, greedy thing as he bites at Elliot's lower lip, sucking it into his mouth only to release it with a ragged, eager pant, eyes dark as his gaze fixes upon Elliot.

This-this needy hungry thing, this writhing panting mess-is what Elliot needs. Every bite makes him harder, every nail scratch spurs him on, and the way Leo's legs lock around his hips makes him grind up between Leo's legs, the friction almost enough even with all their clothes in the way, ready to lose his mind just at the look in Leo's eyes. He only breaks the kiss to haul Leo up further, so he can bury his face in the other man's neck, biting, sucking hard, tasting that pale skin and marking it with a growl.

God, Leo can already feel the hard line of Elliot's cock press against him, and that's enough to make him nearly lose what's left of his sanity from the urge to grind against it-wriggling, twisting, squirming as he tries to rub against Elliot no matter the hold on his hips and how he's effectively trapped against the wall. It's all by Elliot's hand, and that makes it better, makes him pant and whine with each bite to his throat, each suck that he knows will leave bruises even as it sends hard shivers down his spine. "Elliot-"

"No talking," Elliot mutters against his skin, giving him a hard bite where neck meets shoulder, a soft flick of his tongue dragging over it as the ghost of an apology before he bites him again. It's been years since they've had each other quite like this, quite this rough, and Elliot doesn't even bother wasting the time to strip them, shoving a hand down the front of Leo's trousers, crushing him to the body with his weight, curling his hand around Leo's cock and stroking hard and fast.

"But-" Leo shudders hard, lurching up against the other man's calloused palm, his hands scrabbling against Elliot's shoulders, up his neck again to tangle into his hair and pull hard with each bite that sinks into his flesh. He writhes, Elliot's hand just a bit too rough, a bit too fast, but that doesn't stop him from liking it, especially when his back arches and he tries to rut against Elliot's hand, little more than base instinct driving him.

Just seeing Leo like this is enough, probably, with the way he squirms, the way he's hot and throbbing in Elliot's hand, and Elliot squeezes, strokes, twists his palm over the head, anything to drag out those sweet hissing breaths. Every yank on his hair lets him know he's doing it right, and he's painfully hard himself, grinding up between them even as he strokes, long practice teaching him exactly how Leo likes his cock touched, long hard pulls from the soft base of curling hairs to the leaking tip, faster and faster as he bites and sucks new skin every time.

Each drag of Elliot's hand brings Leo to twitch, his thighs to tremble, and after awhile, there's nothing he can do but let his head fall back against the wall, groaning, hissing with each agonizingly good slide of Elliot's hand. He's not going to last, not like this, and undoubtedly that's what Elliot wants-to see him unravel into nothing and god, Leo wants to, but-

"Fuck me already," he pants into Elliot's ear, giving his hair another yank, his ankles crossing to dig his heels into Elliot's lower back. "You want to, don't you? I c-can feel how hard you are, just-"

He'd had some sort of a plan, hazy and half-formed, but fuck if it doesn't go out the window when Leo looks like this. It's the work of a moment to shove his trousers to his ankles, and he groans at the sudden release, lurching forward to pin Leo harder against the wall for a moment before moving to throw him over the edge of the bed, yanking his clothes off and spreading his legs, grabbing the oil from under the pillow. "Not gonna be gentle." His hands are almost shaking as he slicks himself, tipping a trickle of oil along the cleft of Leo's ass.

Burying his face down into the mattress, Leo can only moan, nodding to agree that that's fine, that it's good, even, as his hands knead into the sheets, his back arching and his hips pressing back with a visible tremor raking through his form. "Please," he whispers, shutting his eyes at the feel of his cock rubbing down into the bed, so hard, so stupid, ridiculously eager that even that's enough to nearly put him over the edge, let alone the thought of how Elliot is going to feel inside of him, too big and too much.

It's less out of any desire to punish either of them, more because he can't stand not having Leo this second that Elliot's far too rough, strong arms snaking around to splay over Leo's chest, dragging him back into the first long thrust as he drives in deep. He doesn't stop-can't stop, thank god Leo won't ask, couldn't stop if he tried-and buries himself to the hilt with each loud slap of his hips, each breathy grunt of Leo's name, every one feeling like it's going to tip him over the edge into sweet oblivion.

For once, Leo doesn't try to keep back his voice, a shriek wrung from his throat with each hard, deep thrust. It's as much as he imagined and more, always much more than he anticipates, and he sobs, legs quivering as he tries to splay them further apart, lips parted with each gasping pant as he reaches back. He scrambles to claw into Elliot somehow, no matter how that twist makes his muscles tighten further and leaves him mewling all the louder and sinking forward again, his own cock throbbing and hard enough that dizziness clouds his senses.

Elliot wants to attend to Leo, god, he does. He wants to hold him tight and stroke every part of him and tease him behind the ears, touch his chest, give him long hot kisses and stroke his cock, but none of that is possible when it feels like he's lost his mind. His mind, his consciousness, his world narrows to filling Leo, as hard and as deep as he physically can, driving into him over and over, dimly aware that he's probably far louder than he'd wanted to be, and in Leo's ear no less, but unable to stop. He's probably hurting Leo from how tightly he's holding him, and even that thought just makes him tighten his arms more. "Leo-"

"Nhn-" It's supposed to be Elliot's name that he bites out, but Leo can do little but gasp instead, crying out with each hard snap of Elliot's hips against him, into him, leaving him shuddering and so, so full. He has the mind to reach down and stroke his own cock, as hard and desperate as he is, but he doesn't even need it, the next forward lurch and grind of his hips setting him over the edge with a gasping, desperate cry, sobbing out Elliot's name as he spills over the sheets, squirming back onto his cock with each shake and twitch that rakes through him.

It's impossible to tell what sends Elliot over the edge first-the way Leo sobs, the way he clenches down like a vice, the way he writhes-and Elliot near screams when he finishes, coming hard and hot and god it feels like it's been longer than it has. It feels like it lasts forever, a pulsing, infinite thing that grabs him and shakes, leaving him twitching, sweating, clinging to Leo for dear life, still throbbing deep inside him. "God," he rasps, voice hoarse and used like the rest of him. "You…you're…"

"Don't… pull out," Leo gasps out, groaning as he sinks forward, wriggling down to press his face into the bed with a deep, heaving exhale. Everything aches, everything won't stop shaking, and he's lucky that he even has a voice, with how it's already reduced to a husk. "God… god, Elliot, I missed you, fuck me like that again-"

Elliot presses a hot open-mouthed kiss to one of the swelling bruises he's left on Leo, petting a hand through thick soft hair. "I'm not going anywhere," he breathes, promising a hell of a lot more than the next few minutes. He shifts his legs, getting into a better position, moving slow and shallow to keep himself hard, trailing his lips over the pale expanse of Leo's shoulder.

Leo shudders as he sinks down into the mattress, just enjoying the slow press of Elliot's cock deep inside of him even if he's so recently and totally spent, with little more to offer than his uselessly quivering body. "You were loud for once," he lowly taunts, exhaling a shaky laugh. "Everyone's… gonna know what you just did to me."

Elliot laughs, low and hungry even as he nuzzles into Leo's hair, gentle kisses behind his ear. "They'd know just from the way you're gonna look." His voice is nearly a purr as he hitches Leo's hips up, scooting them forward so he can lay Leo more fully onto the bed. "I think you like everyone knowing what I'm doing to you."

"Yeah," Leo agrees on a sigh, huffing out a breath as he squirms underneath Elliot, twisting back slightly in order to steal a wet, breathless kiss. "I hope every last one of them is jealous, too."

"Yeah?" Elliot asks, low, teasing, into the kiss. One hand trails around to rub slowly at the soft, sticky length between Leo's legs, urging him back to hardness. "Who do you want them to be jealous of, hm?"

"God, me," is the breathy groan to follow as Leo's hips lurch forward on their own accord, no matter how he's still so over-sensitive that Elliot's touch almost hurts. "E-everything you do… feels so good, and they don't get any of it."

Elliot doesn't bother pointing out that half the people in this house are his brothers, who he only hopes wouldn't be jealous. That's not the point, and he drags his hand up Leo's pale thighs, up his hips, to rest on his slender waist. "Mmm, they should be jealous of me. No one else gets to see you when you come undone, do they?" he asks, hips moving in urgent little circles.

Leo's skin heats further at that, a desperate little moan leaving his lips as his cock swells, legs spreading wider as his hips grind down slowly into the mattress. "You're still the far better choice," he sighs, arching his back with a shiver. "Because god, that feels good…"

"I feel pretty good myself," Elliot confesses, groaning as he braces his hands on the bed, resting his weight there instead of on Leo's ribcage. "God, the way you arch your back like that-you look-" He hardens inside Leo even as he watches the slow undulations, the way Leo's legs spread eagerly.

"You like it when you can take me like this, don't you?" Leo murmurs, his cheek pressing to the mattress as he rocks his hips back, biting his lip at the way Elliot feels inside of him. "What is it? The way you can hold me down?"

Elliot huffs out a laugh, grinding down, deeper with every gentle rock of his body, and he leans down to brush a kiss down Leo's spine. "Nothing like that. I just like watching you wiggle around. And it's easier to do this," he adds, curling one hand underneath and dragging his fingers up Leo's cock.

God, it's a good reason, and Leo groans into the sheets, eyes fluttering as he makes an effort to wiggle that much more, trembling with the drag of Elliot's hand. "You could hold me down… if you wanted. I'm yours, I want the m-marks you left… to stay…"

It's not real; it can't be, because Elliot won't be the kind of man who leaves marks that'll stay on Glen Baskerville, no matter if he's alive or dead or other. But it feels real, when he bites and sucks just under Leo's jaw, delicate skin bruising and reddening under the assault, when he grabs Leo's wrists and pins them by his head, every slow, deep thrust making him groan at the tight heat surrounding him. He doesn't need to say you're mine; the marks do that for him, and will for the next several days.

And that's nice, being loosely pinned, caught by Elliot's hands and ravished by his mouth, leaving Leo's breath to quicken, his body to arch back again, a low whine leaving his throat with every slide of Elliot's thick cock into him. His own cock aches again, full and dripping and leaving him wishing he could rut into the mattress, but held as he is, hips hiked up, body already quivering from the strain, there's nothing he can do. "G-god, Elliot-"

It's easy to feel the effect it has on Leo with every slow undulation of his hips, every shivery twitch of his body. Elliot gives him what he wants, long, deep strokes, nearly pulling out with each thrust, then sliding back in hard, angling to hit him just right on every stroke. "You like it when I take you like this?" he breathes, pinning the smaller man to the bed harder and harder, hands leaving bruises on those pale pretty wrists. "You like being held down and given more than you can take?"

"Yes-" It is too much, every deep thrust of Elliot's cock enough to make him shudder and squeak, voice breaking into breathless, mindless noises when Elliot pushes deeper still and makes him sink down into the bed with how good it feels. Each time he hits just right, Leo feels like he's going to break, his body squeezing tight and aching all the more for it. "F-faster-Elliot, please, fuck me-"

Above and beyond the way Leo thrashes beneath him, the best thing of all is those noises he makes. Every time Elliot moves, every time he buries himself, the slap of flesh on flesh obscene in the quiet of the room, faster and faster, it's to wring more of those pretty, pretty noises out of Leo's throat. His teeth tug on an earlobe, and god, he's close, even being near Leo is enough to get him close. "Scream for me."

It's probably irresponsible to want that, but god, they haven't had nearly enough times when they've been allowed to be as loud as they want, and he'll never, never tire of Leo's voice.

At any other moment, Leo might laugh at him, tease him for apparently liking it when he's loud-but right now, god, what is he supposed to do but obey? Even if Elliot hadn't said it, he would have been gasping at the way Elliot's cock fills him, stretches him so achingly wide, and it's not a far reach to let the breaking whimpers and whines of his voice escalate into a shriek when Elliot hits him just right, leaves him quivering and lurching back to grind himself on the other man's cock.

"I-I-" His cock jumps with each thrust, and Leo moans, face hot and buried down into the sheets. He's so close. "I c-can't-Elliot, want you to fill me, please-"

Elliot damned near screams himself. Leo's so tight, so hot, so perfect around him, squeezing with every shudder, and when Elliot arches up to stare at him, he's lost. Leo's a pretty thing at the worst of times, but now-arching-panting-quivering-writhing on his cock, spread open and stretched out, so full he couldn't close his legs if he wanted to-

He's not gentle when he comes, so savage it feels like a punishment, his only saving grace that Leo's so slick with fluids that it's an easy slide as he lets go, filling Leo more, emptying himself with every hard, brutal thrust inside and an unintelligible shout. "F-fuck, Leo!"

God, he's a mess, so full of Elliot's cock that it hurts for his body to tremble and squeeze around him like it is. It's enough knowing that whenever Elliot pulls out he'll be dripping, useless and used-and that sets Leo over the edge more than anything, sobbing into the mattress as he comes without a touch, his voice breaking on a hoarse keen of Elliot's name that might as well be a mantra by now.

Elliot's arms give out, and he collapses on top of Leo, muscles twitching, breath a shallow, gasping thing. He's rarely felt so utterly drained in his life, as his head tips forward, just enough to nuzzle at Leo's hair before he goes limp. "Not moving," he mutters, "so don't ask."

Leo groans at that, only pushing back slightly in protest. "Heavy," is his not-quite complaint, and he sighs a long, shuddering sigh. "But you feel really good like this, Elliot…"

As much as he wants to stay boneless and draped forever, the body has needs, and with a wince, Elliot pulls out as gently as he can, rolling at least halfway onto his side and tucking Leo up into his arms. "This better?"

"Mmhm." Leo is quick to nestle back against him, trying not to shudder too much at how empty he now feels. "Do all of that more often," he sighs, leaning his head back to nuzzle beneath Elliot's chin. "I miss it."

"Now that," Elliot murmurs, hands stroking softly down through Leo's hair, down his spine, "is the kind of order I like, Master."

It feels like years later that he feels like speaking again, let alone moving. Even his fingers have stilled, tracing patterns over Leo's lower back, though he doubts Leo's any more asleep than he is. With every gentle exhale of Leo's breath, Elliot feels his hair move a little. Just now, like this, sweaty and tired and sated, it feels like he's really alive. "Hey," he says softly, quiet enough that if Leo's really asleep, he won't wake. "I like your new music."

If he's thinking about sleep, that goes out the window with that particular remark. "What?" The word croaks out a bit hazy, as near-sleep as Leo had been. "You… where did you find that?" Incredulous, now.

"Music room," Elliot says, as if it's obvious. "I needed to think. You did a lot of good work. I brought one of them in-it's unfinished, but I have an idea for the ending if you're interested…"

"… Can you even still play?" It's impossible not to tease Elliot about such things, after all. Leo rolls onto his stomach, resting his chin atop folded arms. "I bet you're rusty. Why should I let you add onto my compositions?"

"Just because I'm a little rusty-I can still play, you know!" Elliot bristles, reaching out a hand to tuck Leo's unruly hair behind his ear, touch gentle no matter the snippy tone. "It's just weird that my fingers are longer now, but I'm getting used to it. You stopped in the middle on so many of them, though."

Leo gives a little shrug at that, turning his head to the side to look up at Elliot. "I didn't feel like playing most of the time. It wasn't… really the same, without you there." He smiles wryly. "I bet your reach is incredible now, though. Nothing like my stupid, small hands."

Elliot walks his fingers down Leo's spine, grinning. "Small, but you were always good enough to make up for that. We can get back into practice together, hmm? Maybe you can write a song that's less sad."

"Well, now that I have something else to write about…" Leo sighs, stretching like a cat beneath Elliot's touch. "Once this is all taken care of… we can practice together again," he softly agrees.

Elliot leans over far enough to place a sweet kiss to Leo's shoulder, stretching out next to him. "All the more reason to get things taken care of. I'm rusty enough without waiting any longer." And I want to see you smiling again as soon as possible.

"… I need to talk to Ada," is the murmur that follows, and the subsequent plant of his face directly into the bed. "Ugh."

"Waiting won't make it any better. Do you want me to come with you?" Elliot offers, though he doubts he'll be much protection against the girl's tears, especially not if she's not actually attacking Leo.

"Not really," Leo grumbles, lifting his head up again to rake a hand back through his hair. "I just… I wish there was another way, but…"

"If there isn't, there isn't." Elliot sighs out a breath, scooting closer. "Ada's a noble. We're taught from childhood that sometimes we're going to be really important, and that comes with a big price. I mean, even if she is a Vessalius."

"Is 'death' usually among those big prices?" What's the use even in complaining, really, when he knows he'll go through with it. More than anything, it's Gilbert's words that still sting, and Leo sighs as he shoves himself up into a sitting position, stretching out sore muscles. "Gilbert made it sound as if I hadn't done anything to try and… stop it. There wasn't anything I could do."

Elliot snorts. "What good are Gilbert's opinions? If he were any good at being nobility he'd have done something to carry on the family name already." It's still a sore spot, and he'll definitely have to have strong words with his brother later. "And yes. Maybe the Vessalius know that better than anyone, really. Look what happened to their mother."

"… Will you punch him in the face for me later?" Leo sniffs, making to get off of the bed and deciding to simply roll over instead. "I'm not the best at this, but he makes it out like I'm the worst master anyone could ever have. I'm just doing all I can."

"I'll punch him for you whenever you want," Elliot promises, and means it wholeheartedly. Whatever Gilbert's been doing for Leo, he obviously hasn't been doing it very well, or Leo wouldn't be so upset all the time. "What does he have to compare you against, anyway, except Oz? Vincent says Gil wants to bed him, by the way."

Leo barks a laugh at that. "Said as if he hasn't already."

"You-god, is that all anyone did while I was dead?" Elliot demands, eyes wide. "Everyone turned into perverts and started hopping into bed with each other?"

"Oh, good grief, it was a recent thing. Just the other day." Leo's eyes roll as he eventually does make it off the bed, rolling until he's forced to put his feet down and stand properly. "You know, when Jack decided to come and try and kill me. How do you think he managed to convince Gilbert to let him out? Really, 'nobles' think with the wrong head at the worst of times…"

"Only nobles?" Elliot's brows arch, and he really can't help getting a little dig in. "Not just scrawny servant boys who take comfort in the worst places when they're lonely?"

Leo shoots him a glare over his shoulder as he goes about locating discarded clothing, though there's little real annoyance behind the look. "Servants have timing better than most."

"And terrible taste," Elliot mutters, not quite under his breath. He contemplates reaching for his trousers, then flops back to the bed. "You sure you don't want me to come?"

"Rude, insulting your own brother." Leo sighs, making a face at himself in the mirror as he fiddles with a stray strand of hair. "I'm sure. I can probably handle her better without someone watching the whole thing…"

"You're allowed to insult Gil but I'm not allowed to insult Vincent? That's hardly fair. They're as much your brothers as mine, you know," he adds, extending his leg to nudge a toe against Leo's ring hand.

"… Now you're making it creepy," Leo deadpans.

"Do you want to be married to me or not?" Elliot shrugs, not bothering to hide his smile. "He apologized to me, by the way. For bedding what was obviously mine."

"Good. Because he is kind of creepy," Leo sighs out, leaning back over the bed as he pulls his shirt on, fastening the buttons and pressing an absent kiss to the middle of Elliot's back. "He likes licking boots. Fair warning, because you have some nice ones and all."

Well. There just really isn't any way to respond to that. "That's...done along with the rest of it, yeah?" he calls, letting Leo go with one lingering kiss pressed to the back of his hand. "I don't want him licking anything! At all, preferably!"

"At least let him keep to Gilbert, otherwise he'll get bored." Ah, he wants to linger like this. Anything to not go and face that girl, but Leo forces himself away from the side of the bed, his cloak scrounged up from the puddle it makes on the floor. "I'll be back." Hopefully sooner rather than later.

"Good luck," Elliot says, and means it. "Whatever you have to do, I'll be here waiting for you."

A nod follows the words before Leo sweeps the cloak around his shoulders, leaving the room without another word.

All in all, it really is one of the last things that he wants to do.

He knocks, a last, reaching attempt at being polite, no matter previous methodology in bringing Ada here. It's a relief to know, at least, that Oscar has been properly escorted away from her-one less obstacle to deal with, no matter how he'll probably offer her one last chance to speak to him before the end of it all.

Assuming she makes this all easy.


It's with as much grace as she can muster that Ada wipes her eyes, dabbing at them with a cool rag to try and take away some of the swelling, before opening the door. No matter how things have gone to hell, she gives Leo a tremulous little smile, and a curtsy befitting a Duke from a Duke's daughter and niece. "Duke Baskerville," she says with a nod, and stands back, pulling out a chair for him. "I...I'm afraid I don't have adequate refreshments," she says, pleased with how steady her voice sounds. Mrs. Prewett was right after all; once learned, some things would never fade. "But please make yourself comfortable."

He'll never quite get used to being treated like a noble, even after a pair of years having passed. Leo shrugs away that awkward weight upon his shoulders, draws in a steady breath, and steps into the room, ignoring the chair as he pulls the door shut. "You've already been told about… everything, regarding the key?" If there's a way to make this less painful, he's not sure he knows it.

Ada nods. Leo isn't exactly observing the pleasantries, but she's grown more used to that, over the years since society parties faded from her life. "Yes. I-if it's possible...I'd like to say goodbye to Mr. Nightray-Mr. Vincent, that is-first." She swallows hard, clasping her hands in front of her. "Then we can…" She can't quite bring herself to say it without crying, so she doesn't say it at all.

The surprise probably filters over his face before he can stop it, no matter how Leo blinks sharply to smooth his expression. "That's… that's it?" He shouldn't make the more difficult, but-really? "I… yes, I'll send him," he murmurs, his gaze shifting sideways as he reminds himself to breathe again. "Ada… for what it's worth. I don't… want to do this."

She blinks rapidly-damn, no matter how she'd told herself she was done crying, it feels like her eyes have different ideas, and she smiles to try and distract him. Leo has enough to worry about, after all. "I-I'm sorry I lied to you. If I'd known the truth I wouldn't have, but Uncle Oscar…" Her hands twist together. "This is more important than just me, but he's very special to me. Will you promise me he'll be all right?"

"… I won't harm him." It's the least he can offer, after all. "I'm sorry," Leo adds, awkward, strained, and it takes every ounce of effort in him not to curl up within the cloak draping his form. "I treated you… rather badly at times. But with the situation and all, there wasn't much else I could do."

"Oh, I know. You did what you thought was best." She takes a wavering little step toward him, then another. "I'd like to think we're still friends. I know we didn't spend much time together in school, but we were both so busy…" She laughs at herself a little, dabbing at her face with the handkerchief. "I'm sorry, I'm making a fool of myself. Was there something else you needed that I can…"

"No, there's nothing." Said perhaps too quickly, but Leo isn't good at this, especially not with women, and it's a bad enough situation already without Ada starting to cry all over again. "I'll… send Vincent here." Deep breaths. He turns away, ducking his head slightly as he reaches for the door. "You can take as long as you need."

"Thank you." There's genuine gratitude in her voice, as she tries to compose herself, smoothing out her skirts as she sits on the couch. "Oh, ah-this might be a...rude question, but…" Her hands shake, and she clenches them all the tighter for it. "How will you do it?"

"To free a key that opens a gate to the Abyss… a knife to the heart, and a chain to pull you down to the Abyss itself afterwards. That will trigger its release." Leo grimaces, his fingers tightening on the knob. "I'll do my best to make sure it isn't painful. You can be unconscious, even, if you'd rather…"

It doesn't exactly sound like the fairytale way she'd envisioned as a child, nor like the dreamless sleep Uncle Oscar said had taken Mama. But then, fairytales are lies too, aren't they? "I think...I'd like to be awake. I don't want to miss anything." The smile slips from her face despite her best efforts, and she turns away. "But, ah, I may change my mind. Thank you."

"… Whatever you decide," Leo quietly offers, unable to look at her any longer and glad that he's already at the door. It's a quick retreat, thankfully, and he shuts the door with a heavy exhale.

And now Vincent-another thing he doesn't want to touch with a ten foot pole.