Warning: mentions of past abuse including mild sexual abuse, some OOC, AU, mature content, tons of angst and fluff
A/N: Yay feedback and sorry for the wait! Cool fact is today happens to be the one year anniversary of this fic so thank you for the dedication if you've been reading for that long! Also thank you to my beta for looking over this~!
Chapter XXVI; Breathless
Ah. Oz wasn't sure what it was - whether it was the spontaneity of the offer or the ardor of her gaze, but the prospect brought out a chuckle as he bowed and took Alice's hand for a dance. Grinning, he downed his punch and handed the empty glass to Gil before he was dragged to a large space by the balcony doorway. Break must've left for a few minutes – how many minutes? Five? Twenty? It was becoming hard to keep track. His feet were unnaturally light as they lifted from the wooden planes of the floor, but his limbs carried a strange latency that threatened to leave him dizzy. When Break returned with what appeared to be a pitcher of water, Sharon's normally delicate voice had turned tellingly regal from her place at the couch, and Oz couldn't contain his laughter at the expression on Gil's face.
By the time Break went about securing a record, Oz and Alice had already found a tune of their own, both stumbling and breathless throughout the length of it.
Gilbert migrated over to the couch beside Sharon as Break set up the record player in the corner of the room. He poured her a glass of water, one she gratefully accepted. Blinking when a slip of his hand had the pitcher clattering to the table noisily, he could tell his own coordination was off. But judging from the state of the others, he was doing quite well. Sharon assessed him haughtily, with a distinct shyness. Embarrassed, perhaps, and he offered a meek smile. Her eyelids were drooping heavily when Break walked over, having successfully provided music. "Milady, may I suggest you retire...?"
"No, Break, I... want..." she trailed off then fell limply against Gilbert, her head resting on his shoulder. He immediately froze, taking in the added weight; going red, he gaped at Break as if to defend his innocence. Surprisingly, for reasons unknown to him, Break looked more unsettled than anything. A vague look of almost… sympathy. But Gilbert couldn't make out the expression, not when his eyes felt glossed over and his mouth felt numb. It only took a couple seconds for Break's expression to be wiped clean.
"Well, Gilbert, it seems you have things under control~," he drawled, grinning at his predicament, and then promptly disappeared from the room.
"Hey, wait!" he hissed to stop him, almost a whisper out of fear he'd disturb Sharon from her slumber. He sat ramrod straight and barely dared to move his head. Every time he did, he could feel her hair against his neck and he'd freeze again. The heat from embarrassment was beginning to make him whoozy. Why was his head so damn heavy...? The only person he'd ever been this close to before was Oz. It didn't feel even nearly the same – but what might Sharon do when she awoke…? And Oz was right across the room! He slouched slightly in silent turmoil. Somehow, although the situation was entirely innocent, he felt as if he were about be caught doing something wrong.
"Um... lady Sharon..." he tried, but she was out cold.
He was just starting to relax when, "HEY! What is Seaweed-head doing to Sharon?!"
"I-...!" He couldn't seem to come up with anything past that. Warily, he blinked up at Alice who rushed over with her hands on her hips. "S-sorry...?"
He grimaced sheepishly, then curled into himself when Alice suddenly invaded his personal space. Distressed, he sunk himself back into the cushions. Unfortunately, this made the situation worse; Sharon was even more comfortably nestled against him. Alice practically growled, but then her face went blank like she'd forgotten to stay angry.
"'S not fair," she grumbled before settling herself on her other side. She tugged the girl by her arm until she leaned against her instead, then sighed contentedly, letting her eyes close as well. Gilbert released a breath and tried to stand, staggering a bit under his own weight. He had to catch himself on the armrest, and his face felt warm. He'd only had that one drink, so why…?
Oz was standing at the food table, uncharacteristically quiet. Especially considering just a moment earlier, when he was dancing joyously with his fiance. The only sounds in the room now were the crackle of the fireplace and the quiet melody of the record playing. Gilbert approached from behind. "Oz?" he tried.
"Mm?" was the unenthusiastic response.
Gilbert swallowed; it felt funny to talk, but his mind was clear... here and there. "How are you?"
The blond glanced at him with blank eyes, then at the sleeping pair on the couch. "Fine."
Was he really…? His hand lifted as if to touch Oz's face but as soon as it entered his line of vision he caught it and let it drop to his side. Wh-what was...?
Oz blinked at him tiredly. He clearly noticed and he was not pleased...!
His lips parted in an apology that seemed to catch in his throat, but shame soon dissolved in favor of bewilderment when Oz's expression suddenly brightened. All traces of the gloom from earlier were now rays of sunlight, eyes alight with a new prospect that had Gilbert's curiosity peaked. "Hey Gilbert, let's go outside!"
Still stunned, Gilbert allowed Oz to lead him by the hand to the balcony doors, but not before the noble grabbed a full plate of hors-d'oeuvres. "B-but it's cold. And you don't even have a coat – hey, why... are you bringing snacks?"
"Because I'm hungry."
That actually... made sense. Somehow.
The chill was refreshing on his flushed skin and he promptly forgot his reserves about going outside in the first place. Oz tugged him by the sleeve to the ground where he was busy hoarding his plate of snacks. He then stretched out and leaned himself up against the bars on the balcony, nibbling on the edge of a sweet. It was still cold, and Gilbert felt himself mindlessly migrating toward the blond until their shoulders touched. As soon as they did, Oz dropped his cookie and shot himself sideways to wrap his arms around him in a tight hug. "...Oz...?"
Oz only nuzzled into his collarbone and Gilbert felt the blood rush into his cheeks while a jolt passed through his chest at the sudden affection. Then Oz hiccuped and they both jumped.
"She likes you." Except it was more of a whine than a statement. Oz was acting... odd.
"I-I didn't... I mean... okay, but..." Gilbert swallowed, confused, and shifted a little; his mind felt fuzzy and he found himself melting into the warmth of the one pressed against him. It didn't seem worth it to reason with his master in this state.
"I like you too," Oz said, and Gilbert's breath hitched, but then he exhaled in a sad smile.
"Oz, you're drunk."
"So are you."
Gilbert blinked heavily at the darkness behind Oz's head. He couldn't argue with that, he definitely felt more than funny.
"Maybe we should... go inside. You might catch a cold," he suggested. Not that he wanted to escape this embrace...
Oz grunted and shifted even closer. "But I want to stay out here with Gil," he complained, humming. "Gil can keep me warm."
Gilbert's hand seemed to develop a mind of its own, fingers beginning to sift through blond hair in delicate strokes. Oz let out a contented sigh like a purr, and in any other state of mind it would've given him cause to stop. But right now... his limbs were like lead and this... it felt amazing, liberating; it sent his mind reeling with a giddiness he could only attribute with Oz.
He could still see the two girls resting on the couch and was dimly horrified to think what might happen if they awoke to see them out here like this. But... it was only a hug... between master and servant who both had too much to drink, right?
Oz didn't say anything or move for quite some time. He was not going to let his master sleep out here on the cold stones of the balcony. While he was plenty warm where the two of them pressed together, the cold stones beneath him and the sharp edges of the balcony railing were far from comfortable. "Hey, are you..."
Ah. Awake then. "Um, aren't you uncomfortable like that?" Oz's back was arched awkwardly. He didn't seem to notice until Gilbert said something, though, choosing that moment to sit back unsteadily.
"You shouldn't be outside," Oz said simply, seemingly randomly, staring blankly out along the pitch black grounds. One hand of his, now free, then reached out and he began nibbling on a strawberry from the plate.
"Shouldn't be outside...?" He could hardly follow Oz's train of thought at this point. And, his own thoughts were beginning to cease entirely watching Oz's mouth work over the fruit. At first he kept his lips sealed over it as he took the first bite, nibbled, and licked his lips before taking a small chunk out with his front teeth. Then he used his tongue to catch any drips of juice... Oz glanced sideways at him then with the strawberry still between his teeth. Gilbert flushed, having been caught staring, but wouldn't – or couldn't – look away. He heard rather than felt the flush within his ears.
Emerald eyes glittered at him. Oz held eye contact as he popped the fruit out of his mouth for a moment before clarifying, "It's cold and someone might see you, Gil." His tone was calm and even, and Gilbert could almost delude himself into thinking he was sober, that the look directed at him was as real as it felt.
Gilbert nodded slowly, but he was still captivated by lips dyed red by the fruit. He'd always liked strawberries...
Oz deliberately brought it back up to his mouth and traced the seam with the bitten end before poking his tongue out to lick along his top lip. The entire time, he kept his eyes trained on Gilbert's. When he closed his mouth around it to bring it in with a suck, the valet snapped his head forward and forced himself away from the image. He could feel the flush spread out along his entire frame and inwardly panicked.
Oz was teasing him and he was making a fool of himself...!
Then the blond was in front of him as he swung a leg over and straddled one of his thighs and Gilbert outwardly panicked, holding his back straight against the bars behind him. The rapid rise and fall of his chest was telling, but he tried to keep still out of fear he'd somehow pull Oz closer. "O-Oz, what are you... doing...?"
Oz smirked slowly and shoved the rest of the fruit in his mouth and chewed leisurely. "Eating," he responded when he swallowed, narrowing his eyes knowingly. "Do you want one?"
Oz leaned in close, trapping him with his hands on the bars behind him, until his breath graced over Gilbert's own mouth. It must've been the alcohol pumping through his veins that made Gilbert lean forward and tip his head up in anticipation. Panic left his system as if caution never existed; instead he stared imploringly into those playful eyes, his breath leaving his mouth in short pants, his hands grasping either side of Oz's open vest.
Oz seemed taken aback but more than pleased. He didn't close the gap as expected; instead, he reached over to grab another strawberry. Gilbert faltered, but only momentarily. "I think you do," Oz breathed, and used two fingers to tease the fruit between his valet's lips. Gilbert never broke eye contact as he opened his mouth and sunk his teeth into the flesh; he was too mesmerized by the look in his master's eyes as he watched. He wondered if his heart could be pounding any harder than it was at this moment. Then Oz leaned forward to grasp the other side between his teeth and lifted an eyebrow in silent challenge.
"Hoo~, now this is a surprise."
Gilbert immediately froze, glancing to the side and saw Break leaning against the door-frame, then jerked his head back in panic, taking part of the strawberry and slamming the back of his head into a bar of the balcony railing. "Ow..."
Oz wasn't fazed in the least; in fact, he just looked annoyed that he was interrupted. Did he forget who was sitting just beyond that doorway, in full view...?
Right. Oz was quite intoxicated. Gilbert suddenly felt rather guilty, even though it was only at Break's appearance that he began to sober up himself.
"Ugh, I'm never drinking again," he vowed.
"It's not like you to take advantage of the drunk and vulnerable, Gilbert," he drawled.
Oz pulled the rest of the strawberry out of his mouth and whipped around with an irritated glower.
"Oh? That is quite the face for you, brat. Go on, don't stop taking advantage of your cute servant for me now. Alice on the other hand might not be so understanding..."
Recognition first registered in Oz's eyes, then a deep shadow of despair that Gilbert couldn't determine the source for. But it was gone as quickly as it came. The valet glanced inside, relieved to see Alice laid out across the couch... but she was alone; Sharon must've awoken and left.
Gilbert was starting to notice that the affection he received from Oz was becoming harder to attribute to a physical relief. Unless he was only pitying him... but he was powerless to stop it either way. The problem was, he was craving it more and more, and sometimes, like now, Oz felt more distant than ever; it drained at his already limited confidence.
Oz vacated his lap to settle himself at his side, looking rather blearily at the doorway.
Break had already gone inside, but he left the door ajar for them, a sign to hurry to bed. Gilbert recognized the interruption for what it was – a warning for what might and very well could happen. What would he do with himself if he got Oz in trouble with Alice? He didn't quite know how this worked; he was a servant, was it considered cheating or just normal male noble behavior?
He wasn't sure which one he preferred.
Gilbert shakily rose to his knees, then used the railing as support for standing. He stumbled a bit, but then held out a hand for his master. "We should go in," he said. The blond was still staring at the doorway in trepidation, as if afraid for what was to come. He in turn felt helpless; he knew some people were moody after drinking, but this felt different and Oz didn't quite trust him enough yet to share his thoughts. But he was already given so much, why did he always need more...?
"Why are you..." the noble grasped his hand and stood, leaning on him briefly for support, "...looking at me like that...?"
Gilbert blinked out of whatever expression Oz had found. "S-sorry, here... let me..."
Oz looked forlornly at the dropped cookie and the plate still on the ground. Gilbert offered a small smile, then bent down to pick them up and lead the way inside the doorway. At least his master was able to stand and walk okay, for the most part. He hoped with some sleep his mood might increase… For now, this was all he could do. It was enough.
Suddenly he felt the impact of a chest against his back and the blond's arms encircling his shoulders tightly.
"A-ack!" He quickly steadied the plate in his hands and righted himself under the added weight, then tried to keep his voice down since Alice was still resting on the couch, "O-Oz, what-?!"
Or maybe his mood would take a turn for the better right now.
"Gi-il, carry me~," he said, just shy of the curve of his ear. Gilbert sighed, suddenly feeling like an overwhelmed babysitter.
"Shouldn't I take Alice first...?"
Oz whined, "Break can take her. I'm tired."
Break was in the midst of cleaning up, and when he heard that a vein seemed to throb in the side of his head. "You brat, what makes you think I want to do your dirty work for you?"
"I'm drunk," he said as if that explained all. Gilbert quietly snorted and then quickly smothered his laughter behind his free palm.
"Break, you spiked the punch, didn't you?"
"Mm...? He spiked the...? Shit... that makes sense... hey, stop shaking..."
"Took you long enough~."