"Sorry, what did you say?"
"Oh, just that he thinks you're…wonderful."
Lacie's eyes lidded. "This is still my brother we're talking about?"
Jack laughed a little. "Definitely."
"Remind me again, how long have you known him?"
"Fine, don't believe me." He hugged his knees, "But I'm pretty good at reading people. He's just…not so much with the words," he said in a deep voice, imitating the one they were talking about. "But I can tell he really cares about you."
Lacie looked at the ground, those red eyes flickering. "How can you tell?"
"Well…" Jack looked up into the sky, thinking. "Your smile." He turned to her, as if appraising that smile…which was not currently present on her face.
"What about my smile?"
"It's sort of…" he traced patterns in the ground, "subtle, and perfect, and real."
She scoffed. "What does this have to do with my brother?"
"See, I've only been around that smile for a little while, but your brother, well …he's been around it his whole life. I have trouble believing anyone could be around that smile so long and not fall in love with it."
"Let's see…whenever you get bored you escape your tower to watch the stars, dragging innocent boys into your schemes," they both smirked, "and make up lyrics to his songs…What's not to love about that?"
That coerced a smile onto her face. He noticed it, and sat up, continuing.
"He told me about your cooking for him. Like that time you made him a birthday cake."
"He said it…" he swallowed like he didn't want to say anything negative about her, "tasted horrible."
"He still ate it, didn't he?"
She turned to the stream, considering it. "What else? What else did 'my brother' notice about me?"
"Well… if nothing else, there's one I know he notices:" He pushed his hair back behind his ear as a breeze brushed by. "the way you sing and dance. You know, without reserve…like the rest of the world isn't there."
"Are you sure these aren't all things a certain Vessalius boy thinks about me?"
His face split into a grin. "Quite the mystery isn't it?"
She shoved his shoulder, knocking him, laughing, down into the grass.
"Alright so maybe I can't know all that." He sat back up. "But he does love you. I just…don't think he knows how to tell you." He paused. "You two are worlds apart, really. He, never straying from the rules. You, the unchanging free spirit." he looked at her, then at the ground, like he wasn't supposed to speak the words aloud. "But he does love you."
She watched an ant crawling in the grass.
"Or maybe he notices when you two are talking about him behind his back!" they started as the object of their discussion spoke.
"O-Oswald!" Jack stood up, brushing himself off. "W-we were just talking about…"
His eyes lidded at him, then he turned to Lacie, who smiled sweetly, finishing Jack's attempt at a lie with a too-overt truth.
"How much you looove me."
He rolled his eyes.
To say sleep eluded him wouldn't have done the scene justice. Instead of resting quietly on his eyelids, sleep pummeled Oswald, tossed and turned him over like dough, sent him to the ground beside his bed, until finally the restlessness of his mind spilled out as tears on his face.
The little boy hugged his knees, hiding his face.
Lacie's tiny feet pattered over to him. "Are you alright?"
"Sure you are."
He hugged his knees tighter.
"It's nothing. It's stupid anyways," he muttered.
She sat down next to him, pulling a blanket from his upturned bed around both their shoulders.
"You're right, it probably is."
He glared at her, revealing his tear-stained cheeks.
"But it's keeping you up…so it can't be completely stupid."
He turned his head to the side, looking away, wiping his nose.
"It's the ceremony tomorrow, isn't it?" She cocked her head further to the side, trying to make him see her.
He didn't reply.
"What are you scared of? …Is it the creepy door? It's really not that scary once you go in!"
"No…And Master told you not to go in there without permission."
"You don't want to have a big ugly bird inside you?" she continued as if she hasn't heard him.
"No it's not that…It's just…"
"You don't want to drink its blood?"
Lacie cocked her head to the side, at last listening patiently.
At her patience, Oswald turned towards her. "Master Glen keeps talking about how I'm gonna be his next bodily vessel, and I'm honored but…what does that mean?"
She blinked, as if to say What do you mean 'what does that mean'?
"Well…When he starts putting these 'Chains' inside me…when I become Glen…Am I…Am I…Am I gonna stop being… me?" he squeaked, like saying the words allowed made them scarier.
Lacie paused a moment, putting a finger to her chin as if contemplating it, then simply said, "You think too much, Nii-sama."
He folded his arms and looked away.
"I can't pretend I understand half of what Glen talks about—"
"—so I don't really have an answer but…what's the use worrying about it?"
He slowly turned towards her.
"If you don't want to be his next 'bodily vessel'—whatever that means—then why don't you say something? Do something? Try to change it?"
"No…I-I…do…I mean, at least, I know I should…it's just…"
"Then why spend time making yourself miserable thinking about what could go wrong? If and when that happens, you'll be older, right? You'll understand. You don't need to keep yourself up thinking about it now."
She put her finger on his lips, then took his face and turned it towards her to tell him she wasn't finished. "And you'll always have me. Even if you become some creep, or monster, I'll still be me. And I'll be there to punch you if you do."
A smile crept up onto his face. He rubbed his nose.
That was the first time he felt like he could breathe the whole night.
She smiled, holding up a fist. "Oh, believe me, I will."
That smile. More irrefutable than any argument. Like she refused to let the sadness reach her. Just that smile was enough. Enough to push the darkness away, if only for a moment.
She pulled him into a hug, and they rested their heads on each other's shoulders.
He wanted to tell her. To tell her how much that smile meant to him. How grateful he was that she had cheered him up. How grateful he was to have her. How much it meant to hear that she wasn't going anywhere, and she'd make sure he wasn't going anywhere either. How much hope she gave him.
He took a deep breath.
He wanted to use it to say 'I love you, Lacie.'
Instead he let it out.
Lacie had always been atrocious in the kitchen.
Not just that she didn't know how to cook, bake, or otherwise hold a whisk. She decimated the space. Even the simplest of recipes would end with the counters covered in sauce, batter, frosting, or other undisclosed semi-liquids; the bowls stacked around the room like she'd been trying to create a tower with them; spoons, spatulas, knives, and other utensils strewn about like they'd gotten lost on the way to the drawers. And that was nothing to say of the chef herself; her advancements in the field left her face and dress covered in ingredients. The servants always played rock-paper-scissors over who would have to clean her dresses after these endeavors (aprons, apparently, were too restricting… and her dress would get covered somehow, even if she wore them).
But it was Oswald's birthday.
And she would be damned if she wasn't going to bake him a cake.
The moment they learned of her plot, the servants, and any other people who didn't want to end up in the splash zone, sectioned off the area as if it were a crime scene.
There was one, however, who didn't mind insane situations, in fact quite enjoyed running straight into the daydreams of deranged little girls, and never missed a date with madness.
A few of the servants raised a finger as he walked by, as if to warn him, but thought better of it.
Glen opened the door, ducking as a spatula landed centimeters from his head, without a change in expression.
"This stupid batter won't listen to me!" the little girl slammed her fists on the counter as another spoon clattered to the ground.
He chuckled. "Well, what exactly have you be telling it? Maybe if you stopped insulting it and actually had a decent conversation it'd be more prone to listen to you."
She scowled at him.
He strolled over to her, throwing a "Let's see what kind of mess we're dealing with here," over his shoulder as he observed the mangled batter. He dipped his finger in and tasted the concoction from which getting salmonella was the least of his worries. "Have you tried adding sugar? It always helps spruce things up."
"Hmm," Lacie grunted, pattering over to the opposite counter, stretching for the sugar container against the back wall. She glared at him when reached over and grabbed it with ease, dropping it in her hands, as if she wanted to do this all on her own.
"Well, I'd suggest you add it in and mix it, but that's just me."
She proceeded to add it in in handfuls without measuring.
"This might help," he slid a measuring cup over to her.
She used it…just not in the intended way; she didn't pay attention to all those pesky little lines.
"Can we add chocolate?" she asked when she had sufficiently smothered the batter in sugar.
"Sure, add whatever you want," he sang, grinning as she found the cocoa powder and, once again, paid no regard for rules or recipes.
They proceeded to spend at least another hour like this, with Glen giving her vague instruction, Lacie pouting as she followed it with her own flair.
In the end two chocolate covered gremlins stared down at their droopy, half-frosted baby and grinned…for very different reasons.
Glen went to retrieve Oswald, and once they finished dinner, they sang to him, presenting the monstrosity (which, if it was remotely edible, was only due to Glen's suggestions).
Oswald stared at the slowly wilting gift like it was an insurmountable mountain he'd just been asked to climb.
He had some experience with Lacie's kitchen adventures. One time she tried to feed him something she called "The Lacie special" but he was sure was a frog she accidently set fire to (…needless to say he did not finish). Another time she'd actually tried to make him a decent meal, and forced himself to eat enough of it that he spent the night puking it up. And now, apparently, he was supposed to eat this…thing in front of him.
Glen cut him a too-large piece and slid it over to him with a grin, and the air of an executioner serving a criminal his doom.
Oswald swallowed, digging his fork in with determination, then brought it to his mouth, preparing himself for the assault that was about to happen.
It wasn't…good. Too sweet and too bitter at the same time, and the texture all wrong.
But it also wasn't as bad as it could have been.
"What do you think, Nii-sama?"
He wanted to tell her the truth.
"Mmm hmm" he grunted, trying to sound satisfied.
She beamed proudly. "Good!" she pushed the plate closer to him. "There's plenty more where that came from!"
Oswald looked to Glen for mercy, only to find he was trying to stifle his laughter.
He continued to shovel bites into his mouth, hoping this wouldn't be the end of him.
He wanted to make up some excuse, wanted someone to rescue him.
But that would erase the smile from her face.
He wanted to tell her, regardless of how it actually tasted, how happy it made him that she would do this for him. He wanted to tell her how much it meant to him that she spent the day making this for him. He wanted to tell her that every birthday is happy as long as she's in it.
He swallowed, taking a deep breath.
He wanted to say 'I love you'.
Instead he kept eating the cake.
When Oswald arrived at the top of the tower, his sister was nowhere to be found.
This wasn't exactly a rarity. Lacie wasn't the kind of person who liked to sit in towers quietly, talking to the birds and dreaming of a world out there. She went out and grabbed everything off the world's shelves herself.
He picked up a few stray socks and ribbons—(he always found himself cleaning up her messes)—and stepped up to the window to close the curtains for evening.
…There she was, sprawled out on the grass outside.
He banged his head against the windowframe.
He knew well she was plagued by countless whims and impulses, and unburdened by a sense of discipline over them…still, why she would be out at this hour exactly was beyond him.
"Shouldn't you be in bed?" He asked when her impulses had dragged him outside too.
"Shouldn't you be?" she smirked.
He looked away, folding his arms, daring not to say you're the reason I'm out here.
She patted the grass next to her as if she's saved him a seat at the opera.
He rolled his eyes, but sat down all the same.
"What exactly are we doing out here?"
"What does it look like? Stargazing."
His folded his arms, incensed there was a reasonable explanation for all this.
"What rhymes with 'purple'?" she asked after a moment.
He raised an eyebrow at her.
"I know what you meant… I'm just having a difficult time connecting stargazing to rhymes with purple."
"They're not connected, dummy."
She pushed him down into the grass, making sure he didn't miss her favorite show.
"I'm making up lyrics to one of your songs."
"Oh." His eyes widened at both her actions and her responses, then he paused, staring up into the pockmarked sky, admiring the view, thinking. "…I don't think there are any rhymes for purple."
"There must be…" she rested her head on his chest, staring up at the stars herself, "Maybe they just haven't been invented." She traced patterns on the back of his hand.
"You'd like to invent a word for one of my songs?"
"Maybe. Why? Are you against 'shmurple' being a word in one of your songs?"
"I'm not for it."
She laughed. "Fine, I'll pick a boring, real word."
He carded his free hand through her hair, trying not to smile.
This was… nice.
He wanted to tell her off for escaping her tower, especially at this hour, but she had a way of pulling people into her antics, even her law-abiding brother at times.
Now, laying out in the grass, golden lights keeping watch over them, their breath carried away by the breeze…he thought he might like to stay.
He wanted to tell her that. How grateful he was for moments like this. That he wished this star-struck moment could last forever. Just him and his little sister hiding away from the rest of the world. Just Oswald and Lacie, no ill omens, no Baskervilles, no trials nor Juries, nor cursed titles and the responsibilities that came with them.
He took a deep breath.
He wanted to use it to say 'I love you.'
Instead he let the stars have their moment.
Another area in which Lacie had little to no expertise was, ironically, needlework. Plenty of girls in this day and age were prone to sitting on the couch quietly and embroidering, crocheting, sewing up a dress, knitting scarves, and other various projects that required needle and thread.
As established, Lacie, first of all, was not the type of girl who sat quietly on couches in general. She'd always been a rather squirmy child, preferring to go outside and play tag to sitting inside and reading, so the activity didn't fit her personality in the first place.
Second of all the details had always frustrated her—too fiddly to keep her attention. All those tiny stitches, every one needed to be perfect, or it would throw off the balance of the whole ensemble…She liked when things were imperfect.
But she had to maintain appearances, and when she ripped her dress on one of her many adventures, it was her job to sew it back up again without anyone knowing.
'Without anyone knowing' being the key issue here.
"What's that?" Oswald asked at one of the many parties hosted by the Baskervilles.
"Don't be rude, Nii-sama! Just because you don't think she's pretty doesn't mean she's a thing!"
He tugged at the helter-skelter sewing job on her dress.
"Hey! What business do you have grabbing a lady's dress!" she whisper-shouted—(though a few people still heard, and stared their direction, inching away)—in mock outrage.
He glanced out at the people, then returned to the object of discord, running his fingers along the haphazard stitching. "What happened?"
"If you must know…" she explained, knowing he had every idea what actually happened, "I was sitting in my tower, like a good girl, and suddenly this bird flew in and ripped it."
Oswald's eyes lidded.
"Terrible isn't it?"
He grabbed her arm, pulling her through the crowd.
"First grabbing my dress, then my arm?! My, sir! You're very forward."
He rolled his eyes, bringing her to one of the servant's rooms.
"Take that off."
"Excuse me?!" she folded her arms over her chest.
"You can't go walking around at a party in a ripped dress." He rummaged in one of the drawers, picking out a needle and the correct color of thread. "It reflects poorly on Baskerville name."
She puffed out her cheeks, like she didn't really care about said name. "Fine."
She slipped off her dress with barely a regard for modesty, revealing the petticoat underneath, dropping it unceremoniously into his outstretched hand.
He set it down on the desk, threading the needle and finding the blemish.
Always a source of embarrassment, his personality, on the other hand, always calm and calculated, following the rules and hating messes and imperfection, lent itself quite well to the delicate art of needlework.
Lacie stepped up to the window—(…where anyone could see her…)—observing the courtyard and any guests meandering through it.
As Oswald took a closer look at her inexpert attempt, he realized that she hadn't simply poorly executed the patch…she had actually tried to create a little design. It looked to be a crude outline of a rabbit. He tried not to smile upon seeing it, proceeding to undo her efforts and begin his own.
Lacie wandered about the room, picking up objects, putting them down, making jokes about the paintings, before standing quietly and watching over his shoulder. He easily dragged the needle through the fabric, and there was a mesmerizing quality to the ease with which he could accomplish perfectly what was an impossible undertaking for her.
"My, Nii-sama," she rested her arms on his head, "if I didn't know better I'd think you were an old lady."
He paused, eyes flickering to her resentfully, before resuming.
Once he finished, he held up the freshly repaired dress to examine it.
"Try to be more careful next time, alright?" he advised as he held it out for her, staring intently at her, "We wouldn't want anymore birds swooping in and ripping it again, now would we?"
"Anything for you, Nii-sama!" she smiled too-sweetly and kissed his cheek, throwing it back on and rushing back into the soiree.
He stared after her.
Always so reckless, so quick to follow her desires—and not instruction—without regard for the consequences. Whether it be rushing off on some self-appointed quest, back into the party, making improper jokes, or creating a little design instead of just fixing what she'd broken. Barely a warning, a 'please,' or 'thank you' along the way.
Still, he reasoned as he put the supplies away, even though it annoyed him at times, he admired her.
He never did anything without calculating the risks first, and always followed directions, sometimes too closely. He did things by the book, without flourishes. To speak of birds…he was the bird that stayed in the cage like he was supposed to. She was the one who picked the lock and broke out into the sky, and drew pictures in the clouds with her wings. …Sometimes he wished he had the guts to fly with her.
He wanted to tell her how he appreciated her at least attempting to fix what she'd broken…he wanted to tell her how cute the little bunny she made was.
Instead of reprimanding her…sometimes he wanted to say 'Thank you. Thank you for the adventures, and the jokes, and the whimsy, and the messes. I don't get enough of that.'
He didn't really want to tell her not to go on adventures…he wanted to tell her to take him with her next time.
But he couldn't. He couldn't do that. Couldn't allow it. Couldn't tell her.
He could, at least, tell her he loved her.
But when he returned to her side, he merely listened to her conversations-(now a perfect representation of a Baskerville lady...at least in appearance. She may or may not have proceeded to speak with the guests about numerous risqué things...)
Oswald's fingers darted from note to note on the piano like a bird, carried free by the notes, the melody coming from his soul rather than his body.
He wasn't the only bird here; with every flourish of the keys came another twirl from the woman beside him, lyrics spilling from her soul too, as if she wasn't tied to the ground.
His eyes flicked from the keys, to the music, to her.
This was…beautiful. The song. Her lyrics. Her dance. This moment.
She was beautiful like this.
He never understood how she could dance and sing so freely, like it was just her and the music. If he ever tried to dance he tripped into something (more than likely another dancer), or else didn't look very elegant. Whenever he sang he cared too much who heard him, who was watching, and if it sounded good, to get any true assessment of his abilities. Besides, he didn't have the mind for lyrics. Words got all tangled up in his brain. Notes were simple, planned, and didn't have all these meanings that could ram into each other, tie themselves up in knots, and get lost in translation. With notes he just had to put one after the other.
Yet from the first step she took, her whole life was a dance. So when she truly danced, it was something that transcended her own life; she was in another world, completely unaware of those around her, or even her own body…she was the song now.
The music closed off with an enchanting crescendo, the notes growing faster, her voice raising higher, until the song ended, and suddenly there was silence.
Slowly his fingers came to rest above the keys.
She walked up to him, smiling and panting for breath, leaning on the piano.
"That was wonderful Nii-sama, wasn't it?"
He wanted to say Yes. Yes, it was wonderful, I loved your lyrics—(could do without the 'shmurple')—and your dance. He wanted to tell her how beautiful she looked when she's dancing, how wonderful her voice was, and how much he liked the lyrics she gave his song.
He wanted to ask her how she could dance like that, like the rest of the world wasn't there, and she was alone in the room with the song. Like she was the song. He wanted to ask her what she saw, heard, felt in the music that he didn't, how, why she looked so free when she was dancing. What the beautiful messes and imperfections were beneath the calculations.
He wanted to say you were wonderful.
"How do you…do that?" he asked at least.
"…Dance like that."
"What's that saying?" she put a finger to her chin, "'Eat, drink, be merry, for tomorrow we die'?"
His eyes widened.
Instead of noticing his shock, she smiled, continuing. "Something like that."
His gaze, dropped, along with the bottom out of his stomach.
And his thoughts changed direction. Now he wanted to say he was sorry, that she shouldn't have to die. He wanted to bang on Glen's door and demand that she live, that he not have to kill her—Lacie, his little sister, who he loved. He should be the one to protect her from all things that dared hurt her. He wanted to say that that's no good reason to dance so beautifully, that she should dance for tomorrow, not just today.
"I'm starving!" She took his hand and pulled him up. "Let's get something to eat! Maybe some meat?"
He liked her alive. He liked the songs, and the dances, and their meals, and conversations, and adventures. All that would end when she died. He wanted to tell her just how much he wanted her to stay alive.
And that night, when sleep bullied him like it did all those years ago, he wanted to run to her room, to weep on her shoulder and say how much he was dreading the ceremony, how much he wished she didn't have to die, how he didn't want to kill her, that he was going to fight it after all. He wanted to beg her to take him off on one of her adventures, so they both stay alive…stay the Oswald and Lacie they were all those years ago, beneath the stars.
He wanted to say 'I love you.' 'I love you.' 'I love you so much.' 'Don't leave me here alone.' 'Punch me in the face, I've become a monster, just don't sit quietly and let it happen.'
'I love you, Lacie.'
But he stayed in bed.
It was a lovely ceremony. Everyone thought so. Everything went flawlessly, each cue followed without a single hiccup.
The Baskervilles bowed profusely to him, and spoke of how honored they were to have such a decisive and devoted leader. Levi—(Levi now, not Master Glen anymore)—had commended him for an impeccable performance—
(it wasn't a performance was it? They all treated like it was some glorious show, but this was real. This was…this was blood and death and—)
There had been no tears when she died. This was not sad. This was not loss. This was justice. This was virtuous, and noble, and proper, and right. Everyone had told him so since they were children. That's all her death was, a period at the end of a sentence. The signing of a contract.
(A contract selling his soul.)
And he almost believed them. From the very beginning this whole becoming Glen thing was a great honor, a golden opportunity, and the margin for error, for what if they're, what if this is, wrong? was a small black spot in the corner on an otherwise spotless painting. He couldn't, wouldn't, didn't dare let that spot consume this immaculate image, made by people who knew better than him.
Everything perfect. In its place. No hiccups. No spots. No broken rules, or uncalculated errors.
That's all she was to them. A mess Glen made, that he needed to clean up.
Glen slipped into his quarters after the dinner, after shaking hands with all the friends and strangers who had come to watch, congratulating him for earning such a privilege as the name 'Glen.'
Glen did not retire early, did not tell them it wasn't the honor they thought it was, did not show anything was amiss. For nothing was.
That day he was some sort of machine, an automaton sent and meant to follow others' bidding, and he did so without a slip. He was built to be the master of the Baskervilles, and carry on their name properly, programmed to eradicate every distortion against this design, especially those anomalies created by him. If he made a single mistake, it meant something was wrong with his code, with the calculations he was made of. Glen held himself high, and breathed easy, guiltless and free.
However, when he arrived in his bedroom he did not hang his cloak up neatly in the wardrobe. He did not pour himself a nightcap and slip into his nightclothes, before sliding into bed and sleeping soundly, knowing he'd received a great reward, and done his job well, as he was programmed to.
Nothing was wrong. Nothing was wrong with what he'd done. Nothing was wrong with him.
Glen was, as he should be, the picture of the Baskervilles. Glen had done everything right, and was marked with a name that said he would continue to do so…if not, the chains holding the world together might just fall apart.
Oswald hadn't taken a single breath that day.
Try as he might to deny it, there was still something human left in Oswald.
When he clicked the door shut behind him, he stayed there a moment. He pulled off his red cloak, jacket, and cravat slowly, and threw them it onto a chair with a certain violence, tossing off his socks and not caring where they landed, before leaning his head back against the grain of the door.
Now, now that he was alone, out of the reach of those who programmed him, allowed to be flesh and blood, allowed to breathe again… every breath he should have been taking that day slammed into his lungs at once, tumbling one after another, punching, dragging their nails along the back of his throat as they climbed onto his tongue, then fell from his lips like blood.
He was not metal and mandates. Not here. Here he was…so very alive.
Oswald was becoming painfully aware of just how alive he was.
How many breaths had he taken in the last minute? Five? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred? A thousand? Stolen from the atmosphere. Stolen from…
Had he had this many breaths before? Had his life been composed of this much air? Every second, every minute, every hour. Every day, every week, every year. A chain of breaths, each one a reminder he was still alive, he was still him.
All he needed was one. All he would have ever needed to use was one.
One to speak her name.
One to tell her. To tell her how much she meant to him.
"You sin is…"
"That you were born with these eyes of ill omen…"
"…and that you are a threat to the peace of the Abyss."
Your sin is…
Your very existence.
He put his face in his hand, his hair leaking between the cracks in his fingers.
All he needed was one.
But he could have used more. He could have taken five to say a sentence. Thirty to say a paragraph. He could have taken a couple hundred to make a speech or two. He had enough to spare. He could steal that many before getting caught.
Instead, they tuned his tongue into a weapon…and he let them.
All he needed was one. One to tell her.
To tell this girl that her smile was, at times, the only thing that kept him going. To tell this girl how much he appreciated how she spent her time baking for him, and sewing bunnies into her dresses. How much he loved those moments when he sat with this girl and watched the stars. How much he loved the lyrics she gave to his songs. How much he loved watching her run from her cage, and fate, and dance like she'd die tomorrow.
To tell this girl that her very existence was much more than a gift, rather at times the only thing that kept him alive, kept him sane, kept him him.
All he needed was one breath.
And he used his breath to tell her that her existence was a crime. To follow his program, the script set for him. Instead he chained this girl, wild and free, to the ground, and the ceiling. He used his breath to her to steal hers away.
In all those years he could have paid a single breath to make his thoughts reach her.
Right now he'd pay all of them.
He slid down the door till he was sitting on the ground.
"Say something. Do Something."
He could have fought this. Long ago. He could have done something. Back then he could have said he didn't want to be Glen after all. He could have run from the house with her and never come back. He could have run away all those years ago.
He could have run away yesterday.
Today he could have done something. He could have not stood before that door, and drank that blood. He could have said "I won't be Glen. I'd rather she lived." He could have stood up, the Jabberwocky's blood in his veins, and said "No, no I won't do it. I won't kill her. I'm Glen now, and now I say she lives."
And even if he had kicked and screamed, and lost all the same… he could have told her. Told her how much he cared. He would have at least had that.
It seemed so simple.
Thank you for your smile. You never knew how wonderful it could make someone feel.
Thank you for the cake. I hated the taste, but I loved the look on your face.
Thank you for the starlit evenings, and the lyrics I couldn't come up with.
Thank you for the whimsy, and the adventures, and the messes.
Thank you for the music, and dances.
Thank you for…existing.
It wasn't that hard to say.
So why had the words died every time they rose to the surface? Why had he let those breaths out instead of taming them into words?
"I love you."
Three little words. One breath. Half a breath. Why had they seemed so big and unconquerable, and hard to get out all those years?
And he realized, that breath catching in his throat, that today, here, now, now that she was in the Abyss, now that she was gone, now that he'd never be able to say those things to her—
He had said the words aloud.
All those years, thinking and waiting and wondering, them simmering beneath the surface, never able to reach the air.
Now he had spoken them without even taking a second to consider them, the breath, the words, falling from his lips without him knowing, calculating, or thinking.
And once they spilled out, they started to simmer and burn on his tongue, they started to bubble, like all those breaths hitting him at once; all those years of silence, crying out;
"I love you." He whispered into his fingers, like the words were the discordant notes to a broken music box, "I love you. I love you. I love you…Lacie…"
And with her name, the name of the girl with red eyes and an untamable heart, he felt something burn in his own eyes.
This wasn't just some girl. This was Lacie. The one who sat with her brother and comforted him when he was sad, who joked with her brother, and dragged him outside, and made a beautiful mess of things. Not a child of ill omen. Not a distortion to be eradicated. Not a mess herself. This was his sister, who he loved.
It always felt like they were in different dimensions, but now they really were worlds apart, divided by time and space and—
This was his sister. Who didn't deserve to die.
Glen was an impeccable leader. Glen didn't hesitate to kill that which posed a threat. Glen wasn't sad. Glen did what needed to be done, and it didn't matter who she was.
But Oswald felt the drops against his skin, his hands unable to dam up the stream, the image of his sister hanging from the ceiling, and his own voice putting her there burning in his memory.
All Oswald wanted was to hear his sister's feet patter up to him. All he wanted was to see his sister smile again. All he wanted was to eat his sister's horrible cakes again. All he wanted was to sit and watch the stars with his sister, and come up with rhymes for words that have none. All he wanted was to clean up his sister's messy room, and fix her ripped dresses. All he wanted was to be able to tell his sister off for running off on some adventure. All he wanted was to hear his sister sing, watch her dance, again. All he wanted was to feel his sister's hands on his head, and her breathe into his hair sweet words about how she loved the world that hated her.
How she loved the brother that killed her.
He tried to let out this breath, but it would only come out in pieces, letters, words, now, always the same ones, the words, unsaid, that would forever haunt his lips;
"I love you, Lacie."