Inspired by a prompt of "all tied up". Was originally going for a more smut-route, to be honest, but this just started writing itself, against my wishes. It's unbeta'd, so I apologize for the grammar and typos. Please try and enjoy. There are a lot of spoilers so please pay heed to that. Not too many big ones, but just yes. Anyhow, let us continue and commence, shall we?


Retraced Steps

It was cold that evening, and Break and Sharon had already retired for the night. Alice had fallen asleep as well, curled up on the couch after having consumed two plates full of 'meat'. The human-like Chain hadn't bothered demanding her "servant" to sleep next to her, claiming that she wanted all the room she could get on the couch. Such a thing left Oz to his own dwellings, which involved heading outside to clear his mind. So much was happening so fast and it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep the mask of indifference on his face. Smiling was easy for him, it really was, but as of lately, his reasons for smiling were dwindling. Heartbreak and terror were both imminent, flirting with the horizon. Sooner or later, the dam of nonchalance would break. Water would surge forward and drown them all.

That night was just the beginning of what was to undeniably come.

The series of events that brought about the current situation were all a blur. Vincent had ordered his loyal and devoted servant to 'take care' of the Bezarius heir, which only resulted in a fast-paced, brutal power-struggle in the middle of the night between Echo, Gilbert, and the blonde boy who was being pursued. Somehow, in the midst of the screaming, cussing, slashing, and hitting, Zwei had taken control. The familiar Chain that belonged to the deranged, body-hopping spirit surfaced without warning, entangling the eldest Nightray. The rest was still a blur to Oz, because at that point, he had somehow found one of Gilbert's pistols, shot, and ended the battle with ease. The Chain disappeared, Echo retreated for the time being—muttering incoherent things that sounded nothing like the sweet girl—and the outside returned to its peaceful state.

Oz's hands, pressed against the ground, curled inward, yanking lightly on the soft grass. He sucked in a deep breath, attempting to calm himself down. He hadn't been expecting an attack like that, nor had he expected himself to react the way he did. Instincts—or something—had taken a hold of him.

"Heh…that was a close one~ right Gil?" Oz murmured, lifting one of his hands to brush back his sweat-laced hair. Green eyes drifted curiously across the garden, settling on his friend a few feet away. The Bezarius heir paused, noticing the bizarre position in which his "servant" was settled in.

"Gil?" Oz repeated, forcing himself up into a sitting position. He cocked his head to the right, as if hoping such a thing would make it easier to grasp the current situation. "Is Gil okay?"

After a moment, the mess of black hair shifted. Two, golden eyes became visible, peering back at Oz. As he shifted, the moon's light reflected oh so perfectly, revealing a few constricting strands that remained: tangled about Gilbert's wrists and torso. Apparently when Oz had shot, the constraints on Gilbert hadn't been disposed of.

Oz immediately frowned. "Ah…" he mumbled in quiet understanding.

Gilbert's gaze shifted, almost in an attempt to hide the impromptu shame the man was plagued with. Oz said nothing more and scooted over, ignoring the shivers that raced up his spine. Wet grass never did feel nice against bare skin. Surely he was getting his clothes stained.

"Here, let me help," Oz offered, forcing another smile on his face as he reached out to the silver strands.

"Oz, I'm fine," Gilbert retorted, breaking the odd solace that had befallen them. "Don't touch them," he murmured in regards to the strings Oz was reaching for, "I don't know if—"

"Gil is too stubborn for his own good," Oz mused with a soft hum to his voice, reaching forward again, ignoring Gilbert's obvious protests. "Relax, Gil."

Gilbert sighed in defeat—he never could beat Oz in these small battles of words. Then again, did he really want to? "Be careful," the Nightray tossed out idly.

As Oz went about trying to untangle his friend, his tongue slipped out and curled up to the right. A sign of complete and utter determination and concentration. "Gil might be tied up forever," Oz teased as he plucked at another string, frowning when it remained taut. He pointedly scoffed.

"Just leave it for now," Gilbert sighed. "I'll figure out a way to," he began but was cut short when his gaze met Oz's.

An almost scary look resided in the Bezarius' eyes as he shook his head. That'd be a 'no'. "Gil may be stubborn," he lilted, "but I am more stubborn." He grinned after that and continued his futile work, shifting closer so he could better grasp at the strings.

"Oz…this is pointless," Gilbert stated under his breath, refusing to speak louder. After all, he didn't want to "upset" the young boy, now did he?

"Gil," Oz said, allowing one of his hands to stray from the strands. His small, nimble fingers came to rest on Gilbert's chin, forcing the Nightray to look directly at him. "I said I'd help, and I will." He smiled once more, hoping the gesture would be contagious.

"I broke these once before, I can do it again," Gilbert responded stubbornly, averting his gaze.

Oz paused, head tilting to the side ever so slightly. "Gil is awfully odd tonight," he decided, allowing his hand to fall from his friend's face.

"We were just attacked by my brother's servant, of course I'm a bit on edge," Gilbert sighed, making certain to keep any sharpness out of his voice. With Oz, he made an effort to tame his short patience.

"Ah…" Of course. That had been quite the rigorous battle. Regardless, Oz stiffened a bit at the mention of Gilbert's younger brother. Just a mention of the man unsettled Oz. It was remarkable how a simple person could cause so much discontent in the boy.

Gilbert said nothing more, head hung low. He was quiet, ignoring the slight nip in the air. When had it gotten so cold? Just how late was it? "You're going to be tired tomorrow," he finally stated.

Gilbert's words broke Oz of his work-trance, causing the young Bezarius to blink a few times. "Ah…but it's worth it," he decided in a hum, moving his hands to Gilbert's wrist, working feverishly at the strands. He was getting nowhere. These strings were seemingly attached to nothing and yet everything at the same time. If only he had a pair of scissors—would those even cut it?

A few moments passed in silence.

Oz's trance was broken a second time when he took note of his friend shivering. "Cold?" he asked, voice surprisingly soft, devoid of his usual hum or smirk.

"No, not really," Gilbert answered simply, eyes still downcast.

Oz arched a brow. "But Gil is shivering," he pointed out. "If you're not cold?..." He trailed off, shaking his head in confusion. He decided Gilbert was just lying—he was always trying to appear strong—and continued with his work. A few seconds later, the Bezarius heir stopped. His friend had shivered once more.


"Yes, Oz?"

Oz didn't respond, and instead tentatively brought the pads of his middle and index finger down the length of Gilbert's left arm, starting at his wrist and descending to his elbow. He blinked when his friend's body betrayed itself and shivered. Ah, so he was shivering because of the touches? …But why?

Fully intrigued by this turn of events, and mystery of it all, Oz moved closer and repeated the action, but this time more deliberately and slower.

It didn't take long for Gilbert to catch on. "….Oz?" He wasn't that good with coherent statements as of late.

Oz didn't respond, fully focused on the shivers racing through his best friend's body. They were so obvious yet so subtle. It was amazing. The blonde boy's mind wandered in the meantime. His right hand lifted into the cool evening air, lingering between them before descending onto Gilbert's jaw.

"Oz?" Gilbert repeated pointlessly. "…Are you okay?" Because logically it was a good question.

Oz didn't respond a second time and idly began tracing the contours of Gilbert's face, starting with his jaw line and then his cheekbones. "Gil's changed a lot," he decided, a small nostalgic smile on his face. "Gil's face isn't as pudgy anymore," he whispered, voice trailing off as his fingers lingered beneath his friend's lips.

Gilbert said nothing, staring at Oz with a mixture of confusion and suppressed emotions. He instinctively shivered yet again, wanting to put some distance between himself and his best friend. He wasn't worthy of such a person as a friend. Wasn't worthy of having Oz treat him so kindly after so long. He was a traitor. A good for nothing traitor and he just didn't deserve this.

"But Gil's still the same," Oz decided, a small smile breaking through the solemn visage on his face. "Gil's still Gil, even now." He giggled quietly, as if trying to warm the cold night. Warm the cold that had grown between them in a ten year's absence.

"…I don't…" Gilbert began.

Oz quieted him before he could speak again. He knew what he was going to say. He knew it was going to be words of unease and self-worthlessness. He knew it. So, the boy, almost hesitantly, though he tried his best to conceal it with faked confidence, brought his fingers along Gilbert's lips. The first thing he noticed was how soft they were. The second was that they were a lot larger than his own. Thirdly, they were warm. Unlike Gilbert's skin and his own lips, they were warm. Oz was easily enthralled by the discovery.

Gilbert's breath accordingly hitched. Once more, he wanted to shift away, break the awkwardness that had begun to engulf him, but couldn't. He was still confined to one spot by the leftover strings of that godforsaken Chain. He was stuck here…helpless. But was it really all that bad?

"Gil's warm," Oz said quietly, a small smile forming on his lips. If Gilbert had been with it, he would have noticed that the young, cheery boy had begun to shake as well. "It's nice," he added absently, eyes lowering a fraction, concealing his bright green eyes with soft, light blond eyelashes.

Gilbert parted his lips to speak when Oz's fingers fell away, wanting to question if Oz was really okay—had something bad happened? Had he gotten into a fight with Alice and had kept it inside until now? Had he learned something bad?—but said nothing.

Without warning, Oz's arm looped around his shoulders. Seconds later, the small boy's head met Gilbert's chest, settling there as he all but shifted onto his friend's lap. He remained still, ear pressed to Gilbert's chest—listening to his heartbeat. His other arm joined his first, circling around Gilbert's tense, inert shoulders. It was warm. Really warm. But more importantly, it was safe. It was Gilbert.

"You're comfortable, too," Oz complimented, humming softly, though there was something distinctively different about his voice. Something foreign. Something new. Something uncertain. Scared, nervous, anxious, maybe?

"T-thanks," Gilbert stuttered then silently cursed for allowing such an old trait to return after all these years. He wasn't that sniveling servant anymore. He was Raven Nightray. He was stronger and—

Oz lifted his head, satisfied with having listened to Gilbert's heart for a minute. His eyes forcefully met Gilbert's, lingering there. Gilbert shut his mouth, his previous murmuring ceasing. He blinked, the mask of strength and ignorance melting away without any regards to the consequences. He just stared at Oz, allowing the situation to fully sink it.

"You know…" Oz began softly, gaze a bit distant, as if pondering on something. "…Sharon showed me a book the other day," he stated quietly, almost fondly.

Why was Oz bringing Sharon into this now?

"…Oh?" Gilbert applauded himself mentally for not stammering on his words that time. Good job.

"Mhm," Oz nodded, smile still there—though it was smaller than usual. That cornucopia of emotions remained. A perfect mixture. A foreign mixture that usually was hidden so damn well. "It was nice," he stated vaguely, almost laughing. "…but it got me thinking."

Oz thinking? Oh dear.

"About what?" Gilbert pressed forward with his words, surprised also by the fact that they weren't stuck in his throat. Oz was awfully close—so close and…

"About people," Oz began vaguely, shutting his eyes before continuing, "about how people connect with one another. You know, when you told me that you always wanted to be my servant, I didn't understand. People are…people can't touch other's hearts. It's physically impossible, you know? I mean, even if I wanted to, I couldn't reach your heart." To emphasize this point, he allowed his hand to slip from Gilbert's shoulders to rest over the man's chest—over his heart. "See? I can't touch it." He jabbed it to further emphasize, but kept his hand there all the same.

"Oz, that's—"

Oz shook his head, implying that he did not wish to be interrupted. Gilbert took the hint and remained quiet, mind bogged by confusion.

"I couldn't understand how people could become so devoted to one another. I mean, I understood family. There's common blood," he explained, smiling as he shut his eyes again. "That ties them together and keeps them close. But with friends… I didn't understand. I still don't, to a degree," he whispered. "All these things…they may just be an illusion, something the abyss may have created. I mean, it's probably silly to think that, but I just didn't understand. Not as much as I do now, anyhow."

He was silent before his fingers over Gilbert's heart curled against the fabric. "So when I read Sharon's book…I didn't really get how people could be so close, let alone fall in love." He cracked open his eyes, watching Gilbert intently. "But after I read it," there was a light pink on his face at that point, "I realized that not understanding is part of the fun. Part of the experience."

Gilbert's throat tightened and his jaw slackened. "…I suppose."

"Being close to someone isn't something you can touch or taste or feel," Oz began, in conclusion, "but just something you have to trust in."

He leaned closer, hand on Gilbert's heart clenching at the fabric tightly at that point. "And I trust Gil more than anyone…more than myself." He hesitated, watching Gilbert with the first real look of fear he had openly allowed himself to express. There was no danger, no Chains involved, just…something he had faced once before.


But Gilbert wasn't like his father, was he?

"With Gil, I feel safe," Oz finished. "…And Gil is the only person I have enough trust in to believe that there's something actually there between two people. Gil's…my most special person."

He nodded to his own words.

"Oz…I…" Gilbert wasn't really sure what to say to that. He closed his eyes, laughing almost bitterly. He gulped, then, opening his eyes to stare back at Oz who seemed petrified—scared. Such a look shook Gilbert. It truly, truly did. "I really don't know what to say."

"Ah…" Oz nodded, the look contorting into one of subtle rejection. "…That's fine—"

Gilbert felt Oz slipping away—both physically and emotionally. He was withdrawing. He had seen this only once before—right after the incident with his father. He couldn't let Oz go through that again. Was there something he had missed? Something between the lines Oz had said that he was supposed to catch? Gilbert wasn't the smartest person, wasn't the bravest, and not the brightest, but…was there something he missed?

Unable to see his master, best friend, only friend, go through that anguish again, Gilbert wrenched his arm forward. Surprising even himself, the binds broke. His right wrist was free. His left became free in a similar fashion seconds later.

Oz's eyes widened, not having expected the sudden movement or snapping. Not only that, but Gilbert's warm hands on his face caught him off guard. He remained still, eyes wide and barely breathing. "…Gil?" he asked hesitantly, an uncertain laugh fluttering out of him. "….Is something wrong?"

He couldn't force the words through his lips. They were stuck. So stuck and just—

There were a million things he wanted to say—one of them being a simple three word sentence, a simple phrase, something he had heard so many times, believed it to be true about a certain blond Bezarius… but only one, jumbled up sentence escaped him.

"Nothing's wrong when you're with me," which sounded more like one giant word in his flustered state.

Oz's heart stopped beating. "…Gil?"

Gilbert, frustrated at his own disconcerted state, shook his head and then stared at Oz. His eyes, concealing months and years of trepidation and hesitation, met Oz's. Something broke.

He wasn't going to lose Oz again. Not this time.

Gilbert, rather forcefully, brought his lips down onto Oz's, sealing the mismatched pair into a rather powerful, warm kiss. His lips lingered there, warm and shaky and tangible. Hell, he could feel the pulse of Oz's body against them. It felt so real, so desirable, so sinfully right and…

"Gil," Oz whispered, almost contently, against the on-pause kiss. Silently, his lips curled up into the remnants of a smile. Without a second thought, he tipped his head up a fraction, pressing back in the surprise embrace of affection.

Gilbert's world ceased to comprise of anything except Oz. Ozozozoz.

Long, trembling fingers curled in Oz's hair, keeping the contact close and real. His lips moved almost melodically, artistically, against Oz's. Warm. Wet. Real. So long had he waited. So long had he denied himself mentally of such thoughts. So long he had been alone.

Whatever strings that held Gilbert inert seemed to melt away, snapping silently in the soundless night. Gilbert occupied himself further with the beautiful boy before him, not wanting the moment to shatter nor end. It was perfect. Truly perfect.

Oz was the first to break the contact, ending the kiss with a small peck before looking at Gilbert, dazed and flushed. "…Gil," he began, a true smile radiating on his face. "Gil is talented," he whispered, ears burning at such a compliment before he averted his gaze, truly embarrassed for the first time in quite awhile. His heart was rapidly beating and he felt light-headed and warm and just good. His gaze settled upon Gilbert's form, noting the man's freed state. "Ah…and Gil is also free now."

From the Chain's hold and metaphorically speaking.

"…Let's head inside before it gets too late," Gilbert whispered, eyes opening, still looking a bit conflicted and almost scared.

"Ah…yes, that's a good idea," Oz whispered shyly, moving off Gil to stand up. His legs were wobbly and his mind was spinning and racing and he couldn't really keep the smile off his face. He brought a hand up to his lips, absently touching them. They still tingled and felt like Gil. Tasted like Gil.

"…If Break wakes up we're never getting to sleep," Gilbert murmured, standing up as well as he glanced off to the building nearby. He grumbled quietly, as if further developing such thoughts. Stupid Hatter.

Oz giggled quietly, swaying absently on the balls of his feet, hand falling from his lips. "Is Gil scared of Break?" he teased.

Gilbert deadpanned. "…That guy is insufferable," he murmured in his own defense, turning to head back inside.

He was stopped, however, when a small hand found his own. Gilbert paused in his gait, sparing a glance down at their joined appendages. "…Oz?"

Oz only hummed in response and began tugging Gilbert along.

For some reason, just that was enough.

For some reason, just a smile and a small gesture was enough to make it all the more real.

He was in love with his best friend—in love with Oz Bezarius.

And for some reason, all of this just made that okay.