Warning: mentions of past abuse including mild sexual abuse, some OOC, AU, mature content, tons of angst and fluff
Prologue I; Oz
Oz fingered the buttons of his coat, frowning at the extended absence of his coach driver. It had been over fifteen minutes since the departure time he'd given! Okay, so maybe more like five minutes, but it sure felt like fifteen. Or maybe an hour. It was cold, even though it was only October. He wanted to get home to his warm mansion, maybe demand a hot cup of tea, and retire to his bedroom for at least a few days before he were forced into repeating this noble nonsense again.
Being a noble was such damn hard work. The number of noblemen of his rank actually fell quite small, but once you factored in brothers, sisters, half-brothers, half-sisters, cousins, second cousins... The number of parties was just too high. Not to mention it doubled when he'd turned fifteen.
He swore in frustration and dug his heel into the carriage floor, then delighted in the soft thud of his forehead smacking against the glass of the small window to his right. He was alone tonight, a result of his sour attitude and threat to dismiss any of his servants who so much as thought about accompanying him tonight (which included following in a separate carriage, which one had made the mistake of doing on one previous occasion).
His frown deepened, but despite all outward appearances, his mood was surprisingly mild; bitter but tolerant, it simply made him feel better to pout and pretend that there were someone around to notice. The blond shifted his head against the cold pane of glass, his frustration succumbing to numbness with each driver-less minute, and he reached his fingers into his pocket to fish out the pocket-watch he always carried. He rarely took it out, but he never felt sound without the weight of it against his chest. He ran the pad of his thumb over the cuts and grooves of the metal surface and pursed his lips in distaste. It's not as if he disliked the watch itself, but rather felt sour toward the fact that this was the only gift his father had ever personally handed to him, and it was broken.
Scoffing, he gave into temptation and flicked the button holding the two delicate golden sides together, and he was met with... silence. As if he should have expected more.
He let out a small indignant grunt before leaning back up against the window. It was raining now; gentle patters of a drizzle on the roof resounded throughout the small carriage room. This party began as a brunch, and now the late light afternoon sky was quickly fizzling to a dark gray as heavy clouds gathered in to take its place.
He watched in slight dissociated amusement as the drizzle became a full-on downpour and the other departing guests began to run for cover. At least he was safe and dry while he waited for his soon-to-be-not driver to show up.
'Honestly,'he sighed in exasperation, 'I could be robbed at gunpoint and left for dead and no one would be around to act as witness.'
He huffed a little in wry amusement as his mind concocted the twisted fantasy.
"Hey, hey, you there," a gruff, dirty, pathetic looking man would say. He'd hold the gun up to the window. I'd probably notice the moonlight reflecting off the barrel as I spoke my last words. A romantic until the end, huh?
The words would feel heavy in my mouth, because like now, I'd be half asleep against the window and desperately, maddeninglybored.
"I don't have any money nor do I have anything of value to you," I'd say half-assed, just loud enough to hear through the carriage doors in a practiced tone, as I caress the velvet pouch containing more gold than this man has in hairs.
When have words ever really saved anyone?
The fantasy broke then at what he would assume to be the moment the gun was shot. It was with detached wonder that he realized he hadn't even so much as flinched at his own death, but then rules don't really apply to fantasies, do they?
When his eyes refocused, he continued to stare blankly outside. He peeled his forehead off the glass and rubbed at the inevitably red spot before quickly becoming distracted by the last guests to be reaching their carriage.
A man, middle-aged, with a conventional, indistinct face (probably a Nightray, he noted, judging by the deep black of his robes and the surly expression) walked briskly toward his carriage parked just down the road from his own. With him was a younger boy with dark hair and frail looking limbs weakly holding an umbrella up high in the air in an attempt to keep the older man dry. A servant, Oz assumed. The boy struggled against the wind and was left shivering from his own sacrifice as the umbrella was much too high to provide him any relief from the rain.
Oz let his eyes drift away from the pair, now (finally) seeing his driver making his way out of the mansion. What the hell kind of business would a carriage driver have with the Rainsworth family? He didn't particularly care what the man did with his time when he wasn't needed, but now he was late!
His figure disappeared behind a line of carriages queued to exit the lot, and his attention once again drifted back to the Nightray and servant duo.
The pair now stood beside the carriage, and – Oz sat up a little straighter in his seat – the umbrella lay in the gutter, obviously inside out and useless. Clearly he'd missed something; that left another tally against the godforsaken driver.
The boy bent over half in apology and his wet, wavy hair clung to his cheeks and neck in a pathetic display that had Oz suppressing the desire to exit his cabin to knee him in the gut. Instead, he clicked his tongue and wrinkled his nose.
Nobody should look that pitiful.
He watched as the man ordered him to stand and tried in vain to get a good look at the boy's face; it was impossible from this distance with the rain obscuring his vision. He was pale, paper white, though, with black hair that clung wetly to his skin.
He felt the carriage rock slightly; the driver must've taken his seat. But now his interest was solely focused on the happenings across the street. He managed to return just in time to sabotage his curiosity. He definitely had to go. Momentarily distracted by his thoughts, his attention was quickly redirected to the pair when the man stepped into the carriage and oh.
The boy yanked his hand out from between the door and the frame and the man inside slammed it again, now unobstructed. Oz watched as the servant cradled his now battered and most likely broken hand to his chest with a hiss. The other arm came up to displace the hair and tears of pain from his eyes.
Oz jumped when his carriage started forward and he barely suppressed a yelp, instead choosing to knock as a signal to stop.
The carriage stopped.
"Young master?" came the call from ahead.
He felt slightly shaken, although he knew it was just a natural reaction of instinct. How other masters treated their servants was none of his concern – hell, maybe he deserved it. Against his better judgment, he continued to study the boy across the street. He didn't seem much younger (if at all) than himself.
Couldn't that man at least dress his servants better? Honestly, what an embarrassment.
It had nothing to do with how that servant was now violently shivering, shoulders clenched as he tested the wounded appendage before he climbing up front with the driver.
Because it had nothing to do with him.
Because, really, all he had were words and when have words ever really saved anyone?
He knocked again and leaned away from the window, losing himself to the calming friction of wooden wheels against gravel and the clack of the horse's hooves on the soaked earth.