Disclaimer: I do not own Pandora Hearts or any of its beautiful characters. I don't have enough creativity to invent such a complex and compelling plot, such amazing and unique characters, and such a beautiful world. Also, I do not own the italized song lyrics at the beginning and end of this fic. They belong to the incredible band Evanescence.

Warnings: Firstly, there are spoilers from the manga up to chapter 56, so read at your own risk. Secondly, this is rated M for a reason: rated for coarse language, blood, some mild to moderate depictions of gore depending on your tolerance level, and of course, graphic male-on-male sex. As usual (not that I expect it since my readers never do this) I won't tolerate any reviews bashing homosexuality or gay sex. If you don't like the idea of Gil and Break getting hot and heavy, then push the little back button on your internet browser and go elsewhere. For those of you who do like the idea, then enjoy.

A/N: So, I really should be working on the sequel to my Link/Sheik fic, Bound by Blood, but Pandora Hearts has recently captured my heart, and I couldn't resist writing this fanfiction. To be honest, it practically wrote itself. I've never popped out a story as quickly as I did this one. Anyway, this fanfic was inspired by a number of Gil and Break's interactions, but was mainly born from chapters 55 and 56 of the manga. Also, I should add that the Evanescence song, Tourniquet, which I think it should be Break's theme song since it fits him so perfectly, played a significant role in this story's production. (If you'd never heard the song, go listen to it and tell me that it's not describing Break. lol) Originally, this fic was titled Selfish, but as I was typing it, Tourniquet came on my iPod, and in the middle of the song, I had an epiphany that the song very much reflects Break, his past, and this story in general. After hearing it, I had to change the title, so Selfish is now Tourniquet. Thank you Evanescence! So, now that I'm done with the disclaimer, the warnings, and my blabbing, enjoy the story!


I tried to kill the pain
But only brought more
I lay dying
And I'm pouring crimson regret and betrayal
I'm dying, praying, bleeding, and screaming
Am I too lost to be saved?
Am I too lost?

Blood. Scarlet red blood everywhere. Red, red, red. Red blood, red pain. So much pain. Burning red agony, like the glowing, cherry-hot metal of a poker. Invasive pressure – curling, tearing, squelching. Flesh rips, veins pop, nerves snap. Then emptiness... and pain. So, so much pain

Agony sears through my left eye. My vision vanishes. I scream, overcome by pain and terror, and clutch at the gushing, bloody hole in my head. I collapse to the floor, curling up on my side, panting. The pain is crushing, the shock is mind-numbing, the horror is paralyzing, and the blood is everywhere, warm and slick and red.

Starbursts of red and white dance before my eyes. I don't know if they're from the pain or the madness I was dragged into. Blood oozes through my fingers, tickles down my face. It stains my hair, my clothes. I taste it on my lips. I'm shaking, gasping, burning.

My eye... So much pain...

Panting - can't breathe, can't breathe! Too scared, too agonized...

Red and white, red and white are all I see. I should be used to it; I've stared at those colors in the mirror all my life. Now I can't stand the sight of them. White dress, white hair, red floor, red blood. White and red eye – my eye. Crimson iris, white eyeball – severed, detached, gouged. Bloody, gruesome veins dangle from it. Red drips onto the floor, stains white fingers.

I'm dying... I will die here... without saving anyone...

Laughter – the shrill laughter of a child, the maniacal pitch of a sociopath – rises all around me, echoes off the walls, echoes in my ears, teasing, tormenting, and torturing me. Panic bubbles in my chest, tight as a vice, suffocating me. Adrenaline thrums through my veins, pumped by my frantic heart, infusing me with the insatiable need to flee or fight. Pain and cold stab at my raw, empty, bloody eye socket like a knife, like the icy fingers that dug my eye from my head. I tighten my grip on my dagger.

My eye... Give it back... Give it back... Give it BACK!

With a jolt, I sat bolt upright, eye wide and heart hammering in my chest. Impenetrable darkness encased me from all sides, a black void that sucked in even the smallest sliver of light.

The Abyss...!

Propelled by a sense of terror and urgency, I lurched forward, groping blindly in the dark for my knife. In the midst of its wild sweep, my hand knocked into something hard, and a second later, it shattered with an earsplitting crash. My jittery nerves kicked up a notch.

Then, suddenly, a breath of wind stirred my hair. I froze, frowning. The air was warm and mild, not the biting winter tempest of the Abyss. This realization led me to another: the surface my hands were fumbling over was not the hard floor of the White Alice's room, but a plush down comforter. Forcing myself to relax, I lifted my eye to my black surroundings, and found it wasn't as dark as I first thought. Although my sight couldn't pierce the veil of darkness, the splotchy, pale glow to my right was undoubtedly moonlight.

With that recognition, the last vestiges of the dream – no, the memory – released me from its barbed clutches. Exhaling a shuddering breath, I slumped wearily against my bed's carved oak headboard, my head and shoulders limply rolling forward. The adrenaline and crushing fear slowly abated, fading away with the flashback memory, yet their absence left me feeling drained and shaky.

I shoved a trembling, clammy hand under my sweat-dampened bangs, feeling along the underside of my left eye. After all this time, I'd grown accustomed to the flat, introverted flesh around my eye socket, different from the bulge of an eye pushing against the surrounding skin. Lifting my eyelid, I gently fingered the empty cavern. The hardened flesh inside was smooth, yet bumpy, like an old scar. I barely felt my fingertips' invisible touch, a stark contrast to the long white fingers that sporadically plagued my dreams, glacier-cold and blindingly painful.

Raising my sightless eye, I saw nothing of my bedroom, not the quilt over my legs, not the four-poster bed's canopy, not the curtains fluttering in the summer breeze. Only the pale, rectangular smudges of moonlight streaming in through the windows onto the floor reached my deteriorated sight.

As I recalled my night terror, my thoughts and fears from that time, and my desire to block out the sight of red and white, I laughed quietly, bitterly.

That wish, too, was granted, I thought with a resentful smile, digging my fingertips harder into my eye socket, a ghostly mockery of when I'd clawed at it as a scabbing wound. Any day now I'll completely lose my sight. I won't be able to see anything, let alone light and color.

A click resonated through the spacious bedroom. After a second, I identified it as the latch of a door opening... my door. Abruptly dropping my hand from my eye, I glanced to the left, more out of habit than anything else; I wouldn't be able to see my visitor.

Must be Sharon or Reim, I mused as the door creaked open. After all, they know they're the only ones who can enter my room unannounced, and not have to fear being greeted with a heavy object to the face.

"Break?" called a voice from the door. "Are you okay? I heard a crash..."

To my surprise, neither prediction was correct. The speaker's voice was masculine, which eliminated not only Sharon, but Shelly, Cheryl, and Alice. Also, he lacked Reim's wavering, constantly tense tone, and Oz's high prepubescent voice. If his deep, reluctantly concerned tenor hadn't tipped me off, than the faint whiff of cigarette smoke would have.

"Gilbert-kun, didn't anyone tell you it's rude to barge into other people's rooms in the middle of the night? Surely those Nightray rats taught you some manners?" I scolded, my fake smile and cheery tone falling into place like a well-oiled cog.

Since the darkness rendered me totally blind, Gilbert blended in with the foggy shadows. Yet this impediment could not prevent me from deciphering his expression in other ways: his annoyed huff and the dark mutterings under his breath told me he scowling fiercely.

My grin widened, genuine amusement creeping into it this time. Tormenting Gilbert – no matter the day, hour, or situation – never failed to entertain me.

"Don't be an ass, Break," he snarled from the door, clearly unwilling to venture deeper. I hadn't thrown anything at him yet, and he seemed reluctant to change that. "Or it'll be the last time I ever show an ounce of concern for you."

I laughed lightly, covering my smirk with a hand. "I didn't particularly think you've ever felt concern for me to begin with, Gilbert-kun. However..." my grin widened, and I beckoned him with the crook of a finger, "Since you just confessed to worrying about me, then come here and turn on the gas lamp. Sleep won't find me again this night, and I'd like to enjoy the light before the permanent darkness descends."

To this, Gilbert said nothing, didn't even mutter. Pensively, I cocked my head at the door, listening carefully. I didn't actually expect my raven-haired subordinate to obey, and wondered if he'd slunk from room, silently fuming. I didn't care one way or the other; I simply enjoyed teasing him. Still, I wasn't looking forward to burning my fingertips while I fumbled blindly with the matches.

However, after a small stretch of silence, I heard the swish of Gilbert's ever-present coat and the steadily increasing clack of his shoes on the marble floor. A soft breeze skimmed my cheek as he moved past, displacing the air around him. A series of silvery clinks sounded, followed by a sharp crunch as Gilbert stepped on something brittle and fragile. His footsteps paused, and in the sudden quiet, I realized what I broke: the crystal vase that had once stood on my nightstand. I tried not to think about what Sharon would do when she learned I destroyed it.

There was a sound akin to the tinkling of wind chimes as the shattered crystal moved. Below that I heard the swish of cloth and the muted squeak of rubber on marble. Gilbert must've swept away the shards with his foot until the maids could get to it.

A moment later, I heard the grate of wood against wood as he slid open the nightstand's drawer, followed by the rattle of matches against their box. There was a rough, sandpapery swish, the scent of smoke and sulfur, and a soft whoosh. A pinprick of gold pierced the veil fogging my one eye: a lit match. The spot of gold moved, and flood of hazy light flickered to life. Colors leeched back into my degraded vision, muted and cloudy, but color nonetheless. By smudged hues in my limited radius of sight, I could discern the cream quilt covering my legs, the bed's blue canopy and curtains, and the black, imposing figure by the glowing gas lamp.

"Ahh, that's better," I chirped merrily, waving one hand in the Nightray's direction. "Thank you, Gilbert-kun~!"

"Which one?"

"Hmm?" I dropped the smile, and arched a curious eyebrow at his vague form, cocking my head to the side.

"Which 'permanent darkness' are you referring to? Your impending blindness or your impending death?"

I blinked, then smiled. "Both, I suppose," I admitted with a shrug. "Whichever comes first."

Gilbert grunted, his shadowy profile wavering in the candlelight, as if he was shifting nervously from foot to foot. Clearly, he wanted to book it out of here, but his good conscience wouldn't let him.

"Before you broke the vase, I heard you thrashing around and talking in your sleep," Gilbert accused gruffly, as if I had any control over the matter. "What were you dreaming about?"

I locked my eye on the pale smudge of his face, approximately where his eyes – gold, I remembered – were, half-hidden beneath that mop of black hair. For a moment, I gazed seriously, steadily at him, before breaking into a wide grin. "Lollipops and candy canes."

There was silence for a heartbeat. Then, white flashed across the lower half of Gilbert's face. If I had to guess, I'd say he was bearing his teeth at me, like a wolf snarling at a challenger. My grin morphed into a smirk.

"Bullshit!" he growled disbelievingly, menace dripping from his voice. "You were yelling 'my eye' and 'give it back'." His silhouette surged forward, big and black. A pair of large, warm hands clapped me tightly on the shoulders. "You were dreaming about the Will of the Abyss, weren't you? When she took your eye?"

Somewhere amid Gilbert's accusation, my leer had slipped into a mild frown. I'd thought I was past that, the embarrassment of screaming out in terror during my sleep. After all, it happened so very long ago...

Forcing the grin back to my face, I laughed lightly. "Oh dear, you caught me in my lie. How terribly embarrassing..." I sighed theatrically. "Very well, if you must know, yes, I was dreaming about that brat. But really, there's no reason to fret over it. It's such an old dream..."

Gilbert was silent; I didn't need vision to know he was frowning skeptically. However, as I stared at the featureless oval of his face, the dark blob of his hair, and the monotone coloring of his outfit, I felt my smile slip once again. My eye narrowed. No matter how much I forced my vision, I couldn't wipe away the fog clouding my eye like condensation on a mirror after a particularly hot, steamy bath. It'd only been a month or so since my vision had worsened, but I was already starting to forget faces: Sharon, Reim, even Gilbert.

The air stirred as Gilbert withdrew slightly, the warmth of his hands leaving my shoulders. An anxious atmosphere surrounded him. "W-why..." he stammered nervously, "are you staring at me like that...?"

The smile fell back into place. "Oh, pardon me, Gilbert-kun~! I was just a bit distracted when I realized I'm starting forget what my precious left eye looks like."

For a moment, there was no sound except for the low, flickering burn of the gas lamp's wick, and the flutter of the curtains in the wind. In my amusement, I pictured Gilbert blinking stupidly at me, piecing together what I meant. Then, dumbfounded quiet broke when he snapped, "Q-quit making jokes, Break! And don't refer to me like I'm your possession!"

On the surface, his tone was furious and offended, but beneath it, I heard his anxiety and pity. It annoyed me. So, in retribution, I decided to tease him a little more. Covering my mischievous grin with a hand, I taunted, "My, my... so defensive~! Are you forgetting, Raven, that you're my subordinate, and therefore, by all rights, my possession? And–" I held up a finger "–didn't you yourself proclaim to the Baskervilles that you were my left eye?"

"T-that was... I-I just..." he sputtered helplessly, trying to retreat from the corner he backed himself into. It was really quite cute. "That doesn't mean anything! I just got caught up in the moment is all!"

"O-ho! Many great catastrophes have been blamed on this excuse," I chuckled, the wicked gears in my head turning. "Tell me, Gilbert-kun, what other silly, impulsive actions have you done during the 'heat of the moment,' hmm? Foolishly commanding Zai Vessalius to visit his son? Announcing your allegiance to Oz-kun in front of your brother, Eliot, heedless of the animosity between the Nightray and Vessalius dukedoms? Recklessly chasing after Zai in Sablier with the intent to kill?" My grin widened impishly. "Crying out your precious master's name during one of your peculiarly long baths?"

My final words had been spoken in jest, yet Gilbert's short, high-pitched shriek of unadulterated panic and shock spoke for itself.

Ahh... So he does do that, I mused thoughtfully, unable to suppress a giggle of amusement. I had always wondered... How perverted~!

Ignoring Gilbert's inarticulate, unconvincing attempts at denial, I continued to lecture him as casually as if I hadn't noticed his horrified reaction. "Honestly, you really must learn to temper your tongue. One day, these spontaneous outbursts of yours will land you in trouble, and I'd prefer it if you didn't spout Pandora's secrets just because you got 'caught up in the heat of the moment.' Cleaning up your messes would make life particularly troublesome for me, and I'd really hate to have to punish my dear subordinate–"

"H-how... h-how... how..." Gilbert stammered dreadfully, halting my speech. I fancied I could almost see his blush adding a scarlet tint to the cream-colored smudge of his face. "How d-d-did y-you know... a-about... a-bout th-that...?"

Innocently opening my eye wide, I schooled my face into an expression of feigned confusion. Then, I let my sneer shatter the angelic mask, and pressed a long finger to my lips. "Nuh-uh~! Not telling. It's a secret~!"

On any other occasion, he would have called me on the bluff, but this time, I'd struck gold. It didn't matter if I'd learned of Gilbert's affection for Oz earlier or just now; all that mattered was I did know the truth, so Gilbert didn't dare question the validity of my joke. He knew I liked to pop up in strange places, and therefore, knew it was entirely possible that I did hear him relieving himself with Oz's name on his lips. My reputation for disappearing acts preceded me, so if I decided to go public with this new information, few would question me. After all, it wouldn't be the first time I'd crawled out of a bathroom cupboard while someone was still in there. Reim could verify that.

Hands fisted in the front of my nightshirt, bunching up the fabric as Gilbert towed me toward him. His face was so close to mine I could just vaguely make out the gold of his irises, the heady flush staining his skin. His fingers tightened in my shirt.

"Break, I swear, if you tell Oz you won't have to worry about the Mad Hatter chipping away at your life because I'll strangle you myself!" he threatened, his voice bordering on hysterics.

Laughter bubbled up in my throat, and I waved away his threat like an annoying fly. "Come now, Gilbert-kun, we both know that's not true," I purred, sliding my fingertips along the underside of his wrist. I felt him jerk and gasp, but he didn't release his hold. "You couldn't kill me at Sablier even under the influence of that brainwashing anymore than you could've harmed Oz while ensnared in Duldum's strings. Besides, you ought to know death threats don't work on me. I'm going to die sooner or later, so it really does you no good to threaten me with violence."

Curling my fingers around his wrist, I smiled maliciously at him. Gilbert flinched, and I imagined the color draining from his face. Then, without warning, I stabbed my thumbs into the pressure points at his wrists, and he dropped my shirt with a yelp. I let him reel away from me, terrified but properly subdued.

This is really too much fun~! I laughed inwardly.

"Hmm," I hummed, tapping my chin in a pensive manner. "Let's see... What can you do to convince me to keep this dirty little secret between the two of us?"

Gilbert squeaked, stuttering incomprehensibly. Temporarily disregarding him, I mulled over my options, searching for one that would embarrass and unnerve him, yet be bearable enough to not scar him for life. The answer I settled on was so perfect, so brilliant I couldn't believe it wasn't the first one to spring to mind. A sharp, cruel smile stretched my lips, and in response, Gilbert whimpered in a highly undignified manner.

Crooking my index finger at his direction, I grinned and commanded sternly, "Come here."

"W-what are y-you... g-going to d-do?" he stammered, his voice pitched several octaves higher. He didn't move.

"If you come here I'll tell you," I promised, my grin widening with every second. When his blurry form still didn't move, malice crept into my sneer, and I opened my eye wide. "If not, it's only a stone's throw away from Oz-kun's room, and I'm not sick enough where I couldn't muster up the energy to pop in for a visit. I'm sure the nature of my visit would more than make up for the unseemly hour..."

Another panicked noise, but this time, he stumbled forward until he was standing by my side. His figure looked slimmer somehow, as if he was trying to make himself look smaller by hunching his shoulders, but I couldn't be sure. My blindness would tell me no more.

"That's better," I crooned, the malice draining from my smile like poison sucked from a wound. I patted the side of the bed delicately, signaling for him to sit down. After a minute of stuttering, nervous shifting and fumbling, he finally plopped down by my knees. I imagined him sitting tense on the edge of the mattress, poised to spring away at the slightest hint of a threat. Casually shifting my leg under the covers, I "accidentally" brushed my knee against his back, confirming my suspicion; his spine was ramrod straight, the hard muscles under his clothes coiled tighter than Reim when I hoisted my paperwork onto him. Even the slight brush of my knee against his back made him jump.

Lips quirked into a smile, I leaned forward, and reached for the smudge of his face. Predictably, he jerked away, and my fingers were met with empty air.

"T-tell me what you're going to do first," he demanded, leaning out of reach. "I'd rather prefer to know if you're going to do something horrible to me..."

I smiled. "Nothing horrible," I assured, drawing out the word. "Weren't you listening earlier? I said I'm starting to forget what my little raven-haired subordinate looks like. The last memories I have of your face are angry and depressed expressions after our encounter with Zai Vessalius. So if you want me to remember you forever as a miserable little boy, that's fine with me–"

"H-how..." Gilbert interrupted, confusion fusing his voice. "How are you going to see me? You're blind. You can't–"

"How does any blind person distinguish that which he cannot see, hear, taste, or smell?" I demanded with a humorous tone. When he remained silent, I chided, "He touches it, silly Raven!"

The Nightray emitted a shrill sound, and the bed twitched as he jerked away. "T-t-t-touch?" he squealed. "Y-you want... my f-face... t-touch me...?"

I smiled patiently, hand still outstretched. "Come here, Gilbert-kun."

"Hell no! I'm not participating in your sick f-fantasies!" he snapped, his voice rising in pitch. "You can just... You can..."

He trailed off, his words dissolving into inarticulate mumbles as he remembered my threat well enough so I didn't have to repeat it. Instead, I encouraged him, grinning all the while, "Raven, humor the whims of a sick, old man."

When the tense silence began to stretch, I started reconsidering my former assumption that I'd finally penetrated his thick skull. Just as I was about to remind him, a low, dark oath reached my ears, and the weight on the bed shifted. The black and white shadow shifted closer, and suddenly, I felt the radiation of Gilbert's body heart on my fingertips.

My smile returned. "Good boy," I cooed patronizingly, stretching my hand toward the oval of his invisible face. "That's much better."

Gilbert's irate retort was cut off when my fingertips brushed lightly against his cheek, his breath leaving him in a sharp, surprised whoosh. He went very still under my touch, almost as if he was caught in Duldum's strings again and was afraid to move lest he cut himself on them.

Placidly, I let my eye fall closed. Darkness completely engulfed my vision, a forerunner for my not-so-distant future. But I didn't care; I didn't want my small radius of fuzzy vision to interfere with my mental map of Gilbert's face. Blind to all else, my attention filtered into my icy fingers, focused solely on the warm, smooth skin beneath them.

Splaying my fingers slightly, I lightly swept them over the high, aristocratic arch of his cheekbone. Gilbert gasped, twitching at the contact. However, he didn't flinch away, and I didn't stop. From his cheekbones, my fingers danced horizontally across his face, circling the intricate swirls of his inner ear. The cold metal of the gold earring punched into his cartilage nipped at my fingertips. My touch gravitated upward, brushing across his temple and forehead. His black curls skimmed over the back of my hand, as soft and glossy as a feather. The slim line of his eyebrow scrunched under my fingertips as I traced it, and I felt his left eyelid flutter closed under my touch. His long eyelashes stippled the underside of my finger like the stiff hairs of a paintbrush.

Eye still closed, a smile crept into my face. His reaction reminded me of our first meeting, when I'd stroked my pinky finger over his lid like now, and asked him to be my missing eye. Thoughtfully, I circled the hard bone of his eye socket with the tip of my index finger. The skin surrounding that vulnerable little ball of fluids and nerves bulged outwards, a feature that was absent in my own left eye. As I ringed his eye, I was reminded of its golden iris – the color of polished amber – and of the red and white pain of when fingers shoved into an eye socket's fleshy, bloody center.

Quickly, I retracted my fingers, and instead stroked the long, straight line of his nose. Even though it was perfectly fine nose, no hooks or curves or impurities to speak of, it still reminded me of a beak: sharp, strong and proud. I smirked widely, and Gilbert shifted nervously under my hand in response.

"W-w-what are you smiling about?" he demanded uneasily.

Instead of answering, I waved away his concern with a flippant twitch of my free hand, and began mapping the opposite side of his face. Any further protests were cut off. While his expression was lost to my visual sight, I could read it through my fingers' touch. His eyebrows were cinched low over his eyes, and his skin burned beneath my fingers, as if he had a fever. But I knew better. Between his nervous shifting and his quiet, uneven breathing, I knew he was flustered and blushing like Lady Ada. Gilbert Nightray was not as unaffected by my touch as he would like me to believe.

A small smile touched my lips as my fingers skated along the edge of his jaw. The small, delicate chin of a child I had gripped ten years ago was now the strong, defined chin of an adult. Compelled by nostalgia, I curled my fingers around his chin as I had then, tilting his head up as if I was preparing to kiss him.

Gilbert's breath hitched in his throat; the faint expulsion of air caressed the back of my hand like a breeze stirred by bird's wing. He seemed to be holding his breath, as if he was expecting me to kiss him. I smirked. Admittedly, I was tempted, if only to learn of and savor his reaction.

However, I resisted the urge, but swept my thumb over his lips as a substitute, feeling their rough, chapped texture – presumably from his nervous habit of chewing on them. His lips trembled, and a moment later, he shuddered, as if the tremor in his mouth was the epicenter of an earthquake and had radiated out to the rest of his body. Lips parting slightly under my thumb, his breath came harder and hotter against my fingers, terribly unsteady and shaking. He blushed so red I felt its heat.

He has the body and face of an adult, but his mannerisms and reactions are the still same as that fourteen-year old boy I met so long ago, I mused humorously, withdrawing my hand. Gilbert sighed heavily, and absurdly, I couldn't tell if it was out of relief or disappointment.

As I leaned back against the headboard, I noticed that my usually cold fingers – a result my withering body's poor circulation – had been warmed by his body heat, a task my own heart and blood couldn't accomplish. Absently, I rubbed the tips of my long fingers together, then touched them to my lips to hide my smile.

Gilbert-kun is as cute now as he was then... I decided, finally opening my eye and smiling at Gilbert's featureless face. It didn't matter anymore if I couldn't see him. The mental picture I'd drawn was as clear as if I still had both my eyes. I conjured up his face in my mind, examining the results. No... Not cute. He's more than that now...

"My, my..." I giggled, clapping my hands to my cheeks in a coy expression. "Gilbert-kun has become so handsome~!"

The bed jerked as the Nightray uttered an affronted noise; I assumed he'd sat bolt upright, pulling away from me. "D-d-don't say stupid, perverted things, Break!" he snapped defensively, embarrassment apparent in his voice.

I laughed airily, and in genuine amusement. "You're so easy to tease, Raven~ !"

He sucked in a breath to retort, but cut himself off when a strong gust of wind surged into the room, loudly slamming the open door shut. The curtains billowed in the wind, cracking like a whip. I heard the rustle of papers as the documents on my desk rustled were scattered. Before I could move to collect them, the breeze lifted my overgrown bangs from my left eye like the curtain at an opera house. Automatically, I closed my lid over the empty eye socket; poor Gilbert didn't need to see it twice.

When the breeze subsided, I reached up to pat my ruffled bangs back into place, a half-formed pardon on my lips. However, imprisoning fingers seized my wrist, wrenching both actions to a halt. Out of habit, I glanced at Gilbert's blurred face, forgetting I could no longer visually read his expression. Blinking once, I asked, "What is it, Gilbert?"

Instead of responding, the vague silhouette of his hand extended toward my face. Only when his fingers brushed my disarrayed white bangs did I realize his intent. Quicker than his own hand had moved, I snatched his wrist away, my long nails biting sharply into his flesh. By his pained gasp, the jerk of his hand, and the wet warmth against my fingertips, I knew I had drawn blood.

Face free of a smile, real or fake, I scowled dangerous in Gilbert's direction. "Don't get cocky, little blackbird," I snarled, marginally tightening my clawed grip. "This isn't some kind of lovey-dovey, 'I-touch-you-you-touch-me' relationship."

"Oh, and I suppose running your hand all over my face isn't intimate at all, and is something friends always do?" he retorted, surprising me with the level of sarcasm and acidity in his voice... But I didn't let that shake my resolve.

Scowl deepening, I growled, "What I did was out of pure practicality. Suppose a Pandora member wishes to meet you. I can no longer simply point you out in a crowd, so the next best option is to provide an accurate, detailed description. Pure business. You, however, are breaching your boundaries, my little subordinate. No one – not even Reim or Sharon – is allowed to touch my left eye. No one. Especially not you. That's far too personal."

"Everything involving your life is personal!" Gilbert snarled. "You never let anyone in, Break! One of these days you're going to die, and all of us are going to be left wondering if we even knew you at all!"

My frown didn't lessen. "And how exactly will touching my ruined eye remedy that?"

"It's a part of you, isn't it? A part of your past. Maybe, after ten years, I'm fed up with your secrets, and your mysteries, and your lies! Maybe, after ten goddamn years of kissing your ass, I want to know something about you that's real, that I can touch, that I can understand! You know everything about me, and I know nothing about you, and it pisses me off!"

There were a number of things I could think to say to this, but before I could, Gilbert's angry, but softer voice interrupted my thoughts. "Besides, you owe me."

At this, I raised an incredulous eyebrow. "I owe you. Oh, do tell."

"For letting you touch my face," he said, and before I could interrupt, he cut me off with deadly precision. "And spare me the 'business' bullshit. You and I both know you did it to indulge in your own selfish impulses. I don't know if you did it to tease me, or if you really are bothered by your blindness, or for whatever other motive your twisted mind can cook up that I can't fathom. But the fact of the matter is that you selfishly acted on it despite my discomfort, so in return, let me indulge in my selfish whim to know more about you heedless of your discomfort. That's a fair trade, isn't it?"

"Not even remotely," I countered with a swift, humorless sneer. "You have no reason to detest someone's hands on your face. I, however, have every reason. Besides–" My grin widened, every bit as sharp and pointed as my hidden blade "–I can easily blackmail this ridiculous idea right out of that pretty little head of yours."

Without missing a beat, Gilbert retorted hotly, "If you do, I'll counter it with blackmail of my own."

At this, I threw my head back and laughed out loud, bitter amusement coloring my tone. Fixing my eye on his obscured figure, I grinned sardonically. "You blackmail me? With what? I know you won't threaten to reveal my true identity to Pandora; Oz-kun and Ojou-sama would be furious with you, and the ramifications would be too great. So what could you possibly–?"

"Your nightmares."

His words were so unexpected that I cut myself off, narrowing my eye in his direction. Gilbert continued, "I could tell Sharon you still suffer from nightmares... and violent ones at that. Not only would your insufferable pride take a beating, but Sharon would never let you sleep unguarded, which I know would piss you off even more."

I was quiet for a moment before my mouth split into a smirk, bitter and taunting. "Do you truly think Ojou-sama will buy that? She'll just think you're bluffing, and I'll simply refute anything you say."

"And do you, asshole, really think Sharon won't see through your false assurances, which you're so famous for?" he shot back. "Honestly, who do you think she'll believe? You, who always frivolously waves away your health issues and makes tasteless jokes about them? Or me, who would willingly swear on Oz's wellbeing that I heard your nightmare?"

For a moment, I was too stunned to speak. Gilbert and I had been embroiled in a power game for the past ten years, each of us trying to overpower the other. And up until tonight, I had always been the one to come out on top. However, rather than admit defeat, I decided to twist the outcome in such a way that I could take credit for it and still win.

"Very good, Gilbert-kun," I purred, smirking slyly as I extracted my nails from his flesh. Instead of releasing his wrist, I dragged it closer, feeling my fingers smear his blood. "I didn't know you had it in you to utilize blackmail. It seems I've finally managed to teach you a thing or two. Very well..."

Smirking evilly at him, I brought his wrist to my mouth, and licked the smear of blood staining his skin as if it were strawberry syrup. The familiar tang of copper and rust on my tongue was well worth hearing his alarmed gasp and feeling his surprised jolt. My smirk widened.

"...As a reward, I will concede to your request," I finished, languidly licking my lips as if I was contemplating taking another taste.

"Liar," Gilbert accused in a growl, startling me into a blink. "I know what you're playing at with that performance of yours. You're trying to regain power like you always do, trying to freak me out and trick me into backing down. Well, it's not going to work."

Abruptly, I let out a small laugh, stunning even myself. Gilbert made a noise of surprise, but I ignored it and released his wrist. Tilting my head back, I peered blindly at him through my overgrown bangs.

"When did you get so smart, Raven?" I asked, licking my fingers clean of his blood; the taste no longer bothered me.

"When I figured out on my own that you had gone blind..." he answered quietly.

At this, I uttered a small laugh, but made no further comment. The silence stretched between us. Gilbert was the first to break it, not with words but with actions. For the second time that night, he reached out to me, bed springs creaking as he leaned forward. Instinctively, I recoiled from his hand's ghostly approach.

"Goddammit, Break!" Gilbert cursed irritably, and refused to drop his hand. "Trust me, would you? Haven't I earned that privilege by now?"

I frowned slightly, my brow creasing. However, I remained mute, choosing to wait and see what Gilbert's next move would be, and how I would react to it.

Less time passed between this moment and the last. When Gilbert's hand hesitantly inched closer, I didn't move. He uttered a quiet noise, no more than a surprised breath; he hadn't really expected me to stay still. Yet I proved him wrong, making a show of becoming a statue as his blurry hand progressed closer to my face, its telltale heat whispering against my skin. While my calm guise was resolute, inwardly, tension weighed on my limbs, making me feel like a caged beast. I longed to bolt or slap his hand away, but I beat down the urge, gritting my teeth.

Then, at long last, Gilbert's fingertips brushed against the screen of my bangs.

The Nightray didn't dive straight for my eye as I thought he would. No, he made an effort to touch my hair, combing his fingers through the pale strands. At first, I scowled, wondering why he was caressing my hair like a lover would, and steadfastly ignored how unnervingly good it felt. It wasn't until he gently brushed my bangs aside – exposing my closed left eye – that I understood his strange touches. He was trying to acclimate me to his hand's presence, trying to ease into it. But even when he did push past the barrier of my hair, he still avoided my eye, and instead mimicked my earlier actions, grazing my cheekbone with his fingers. The trembling and hesitation in his fingers told me he was still unsure if I would actually let him touch my eye. I wondered myself...

Although Gilbert's touch was light, his fingers were a brand against my skin, practically scorching my cold flesh. His strokes were slow and halting as he traced the hollow between my eye socket and cheekbone, as if he were trying to soothe a frightened animal, yet afraid of being bitten. Part of me longed to do just that, to bear my teeth at him and snarl to quit treating me like some virginal girl. A different part wanted to tell him to stop pussyfooting around, and end this elongated torture. Another part still was grudgingly grateful for his gentle concern. And a final, very small part of me secretly enjoyed the searing touch of his ungloved fingers, my skin sizzling in their wake. But even that small amount of pleasure wasn't enough to stem my impatience and anxiety, or to force my hands to relax their grip on the sheets. Impatience won over.

"If you're going to do this, Raven, then do it," I said quietly, but with an undeniable undertone of warning and menace.

Gilbert seemed taken aback for a moment, but clearly recovered when his fingers slid upward, brushing lightly, carefully over my closed eyelid. Inhaling deeply, I forced myself to breathe evenly, steadily, and tried to unwind my hands from the sheets. My discomfort and anxiety didn't dissipate, yet I remained in control of myself. Not only did I motionlessly bear Gilbert's gentle prodding against my eyelid, but I conceded to his silent request and slowly opened my eye.

He sucked in a surprised breath, yet neither of us broke the silence with words. Without comment, Gilbert's fingertips touched my eye tenderly, almost reverently, as if he were admiring a rare artifact instead of an ugly, gaping hole in my head. Completely contrary to my concerns, Gilbert wasn't invasive. He didn't stick his fingers in my eye like an overeager child, or toy with the empty space like Vincent would if he were given the chance. No, he merely circled the elliptical edges of my eye, brushed against my eyelid and lashes, and traced the hollow under my eye.

Against my will, I actually found myself relaxing under his touch. I didn't have to remind or force myself to breathe steadily. Reflexively, both my eyelids drooped, and my fuzzy surroundings were suddenly invisible to my conscious awareness. Peace filled my mind, blinding me to all else but sensation of his hands.

Encouraged by my responsive reaction, Gilbert shifted forward, and I felt the mattress dip under me. However, in his haste, he stumbled forward clumsily; the movement jostled his hand just enough that his fingertip accidentally, shallowly stabbed into the corner of my eye.

Panic seized me, coiling around my chest and lungs like a serpent, constricting the air from my body. Pain exploded in my left eye, and with a shout, I slapped the intruding hand away. Distantly, I heard a voice, but couldn't hear the words over my heart's frantic hammering in my chest, didn't care to know with fear thrumming through my veins. Tremors wracked my body as my vision faded to white and red. My stomach churned. I broke out in a cold sweat. My throat tightened: choking, suffocating, strangling. Shrill, hysterical laughter filled my ears, the eerie, disembodied laughter of a child set against the backdrop of wooden rattling and clacking, the shrieking of dolls.

Hey... Kevin...?

Drawing my knees up to my chest, my hands fisted in my hair, my eye wide and chest heaving, nausea rolling in my stomach. Shut up...


Hands gripped my shoulders, hard and cold. I couldn't shake them off. Shut up...!

Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin, Kevin!


Gilbert's frightened voice cut through my dementia, and with a jolt, I snapped out of it, staring wildly in his direction. The smudged colors of his white skin, black hair, and the golden glow of the candlelight off his face assured me that my delusions hadn't been real, that I was still safely in my bed. As reality gradually returned to me, I realized the hands gripping my shoulders as tightly as a wrapped bandage were actually warm, not cold, and belonged to Gilbert. I also recognized that the one calling my name hadn't been the Will of the Abyss, but Gilbert, practically chanting my alias in his panic. As abruptly as it appeared, the pain in my eye faded, and I knew with sudden acuity that the pain was remembered, not real.

Exhaling a shuddering breath, I unraveled my hands from my hair and released my legs from their bent position. Mortification and anger simmered in my chest. It had been years since I'd had a panic attack; suffering one in front of Gilbert was humiliating and infuriating.

Gilbert's shaky sigh kept me from stewing in my ashamed fury, and I instinctively looked at his face. Now that I was conscious, I could sense the urgency, guilt and fear rolling off of him like heat waves

"B-Break..." he stammered, his voice unsteady. "I... I didn't... I didn't mean to... Are you–"

With a sharp wave of my hand, I cut him off. I opened my mouth to dispel his concerns, but before I could get the words out, my elevated heart rate, heaving stomach, and still potent terror triggered another, but different attack. Choking on my words, my body arched forward as I coughed violently into my sleeve. Caught in the coughing fit's claws, there was little else I could do but sit and wait it out. The coughs rattled my chest, deep, painful and wet. I was vaguely aware of Gilbert calling my name. However, most of my attention was on the warm, wet fluid searing the back of my throat as I coughed it into my sleeve.

"Damn..." I cursed when the fit subsided, chest aching and mouth tasting like I'd licked a rusty nail. I didn't have to look down at my sleeve and see the hazy smudge of red to know I'd been coughing up blood.

Beside me, I felt Gilbert's tension, his fear radiating off of him. "Oh, hell..." he cursed, low and terrified. "B-Break... you... you didn't use Mad Hatter... you didn't use Mad Hatter, and you're coughing up blood... I..."

My hand flew up, covering his mouth and silencing his words. I know what you're going to say, I thought, dragging my sleeve across my mouth and chin; the nightshirt already ruined anyways. Don't. Don't say it.

I was dying, withering away faster than he or anyone else had anticipated. Well, everyone except myself. I'd known for a while that my time grew shorter with each passing day. The clock of my life was steadily ticking away like the hand of an Illegal Contractor's seal. Once again, my life was being timed.

Against my hand, I felt a muscle in Gilbert's jaw clench, and the faintest tremor of his lips. I frowned, and shifted my focus to my hand. Beneath my palm, the corners of Gilbert's mouth were twisted down in a worried expression. With the renewed image of his face in my head, the curve of his mouth also told me that his eyebrows were probably drawn low over his golden eyes, which were most likely shimmering with pity and fear. I recognized the expression; it was the same one he'd worn the day Oz escaped the Abyss, when he'd scooped his master's small, prone body up into his arms. And now he was aiming that same face at me.

Uttering a short, quiet laugh – little more than an amused breath – I curled my hand under his chin, my fingers resting lightly on the edge of his jaw. "Showing concern for me really doesn't suit you, Gilbert-kun," I laughed softly, sweeping my thumb across his mouth, feeling the contours I couldn't see. "Your pretty little mouth should really be in an angry or annoyed frown rather than a concerned one..."

Then, with a slightly crooked smirk, impulsively, I leaned forward, and flicked my tongue over the corner of his lips.

With a surprised, scandalized exclamation, Gilbert jerked away from me, but not fast enough to prevent me from feeling the blush warming his skin. In his haste to distance himself from me, the Nightray's violent recoil sent him toppling backwards onto the mattress with a startled "oof." The sheets rustled and the bed bounced disjointedly as Gilbert trashed on his back like a turtle flipped onto its shell, trying to recover himself. The sounds and sensations of his struggle were all I needed to discern what was happening, yet I was thrilled my dismal vision was clear enough to show me the dark outline of his arms and legs flailing wildly in the air. The humorous sight, not matter how muted, made me laugh out loud. After a moment of futile struggling he stilled, a dark blob on the pale sheets. Then he sat bolt upright, a shadowy imposing figure. At least, he was until he spoke.

"B-B-Break?" Gilbert squawked, his voice as high-pitched as it had been when I'd surprised him after the coming of age ceremony. There was a slap of flesh meeting flesh. Since I felt nothing, I had to assume he'd hit himself instead of me. "Wh... wh... what the hell was that? D-did you just... l-li... l-lick... Did you just lick me?"

I smirked. From the half-muffled tone of his voice, I figured out what that slap had been: he'd clapped his hand over his mouth, presumably right where I had licked him.

"Indeed I did~!" I chirped, hiding my smile with my bloodied sleeve. I heard Gilbert suck in air, but couldn't place what it was in reaction to: my admittance or the blood staining my nightshirt. "I told you that worrying expression isn't suitable for you to aim at me, but no matter. I seemed to have remedied the issue."

Gilbert sighed headily, so strong I felt the exhaled air's caress against my face. That wasn't the reaction I'd expected. Harsh words, stuttering, poorly aimed punches were normal; a weary sigh wasn't.

"I hate it when you act like this," the Nightray cursed bitterly, his voice quiet but earnest. I blinked, eyebrow raising in surprise. "Dammit, Break, why do you always – always – try to change the subject or distract us whenever your health is concerned?"

I sighed. Shaking my head, I pointed at him and chided disappointedly, "See? Now there you go again: worrying unnecessarily about me, and making that improper face. And after I worked so hard to get you back to normal! Honestly, Gilbert-kun, save that expression for Oz."

For a moment, my subordinate seemed taken aback. But when he spoke again, his voice was angry. "Stop stalling, Break! We need to talk about thi–"

"Now that you've ruined my brilliant plan, I'll have to come up with another!" I cried in mock exasperation, schooling my features into a pensive expression. I held my chin with one hand, thoughtfully tapping my index finger against my lips. "Hmm, what would make Raven mad at me...?"

I heard Gilbert shouting at me, but I tuned him out. No... I don't want to hear it, don't want to discuss it. Not with you, not with Sharon, not with Reim, not with anyone. It is what it is. Let it be...


Stop it...

"Oh!" I exclaimed, holding a finger aloft. "I could summon Lady Ada to the Rainsworth Manor for a visit. She would never turn down the opportunity to see her brother, and more importantly, she never goes anywhere without her precious cats. And we all know how much Raven loves cats~! I could sic them on you, and enlist Oz-kun's help..."

The bed vibrated as Gilbert shuddered violently, a small, fearful whimper pushing past his lips. However, to my astonishment, my threat didn't impede him as I expected. Even though his voice had pitched a few octaves higher and wavered terribly, he persisted, snapping at me, "Break, cut it out!"

Shut up...

"Hmm... Not strong enough, huh? You must be worried. Okay, how about I send you and Alice-kun on a mission? Just the two of you~! Think of it as bonding time for the stupid rabbit and the seaweed head, eh?"

"Listen when people talk!"


"Still no? Then this one is sure to ruffle your glossy black feathers: I'll send Oz and Alice-kun on a particularly dangerous mission where lots of Chains are reported to show up. And if I'm really lucky, I'll stumble upon a piece of gossip where the Baskervilles are rumored to be hiding, and can send them there!"

"Would you shut up already?"

Be quiet...

"Or, even better! Can't believe I didn't think of this one first! I could take those scissors your rat of a brother treasures so much and stab them through his black heart – assuming the sadistic bastard has one to begin with that is. Yes, I think I'll go with that o–"

The air whistled as a projectile flew at me. Reflexes honed from years of serving as the Sinclair's knight, I easily dodged Gilbert's punch, smirking to myself. That's better. Gilbert is so predictable.

I was only half right. The projectile was Gilbert's hand, but he wasn't trying to punch me. No, instead of pulling back for another swing, his hand curled around the back of my skull, fingers twisting in my hair. Before I could react, he jerked me forward and slammed his mouth against mine.

My eye widened. Any retort or barb I could come up with was effectively silenced, all my witty comebacks, subversive tricks and diversions blown away. If I was being honest, it wasn't a real kiss. There was no lip movements, no tongues, no exchange of saliva – just his mouth pressed closed against mine. Really, it was no more than a creative way of shutting me up, and getting my attention. It was cute, really...

When I chuckled softly against his lips, Gilbert withdrew. Directing my near-sightless eye at him, my eyebrows knitted together and I wove a hand through my bangs. Smiling a little sadly at him, I scolded, "It's not nice to tease a dying old man, Gilbert-kun. It's quite cruel of you, actually. I haven't been kissed in a long time, and with good reason! Suppose I die tomorrow... I don't want to be lamenting over lost love while I'm gasping out my last, blood pouring from my mouth. I want to die in peace, detached from people and emotions."

As I spoke the words, I realized with a jolt of surprise that some truth had crept into my tone of mock hurt. My mask faltered ever so slightly as I frowned. This conversation had to end soon. I was tired, drained from the nightmare and subsequent attacks, and Gilbert was making me say things I wanted to keep quiet, however unintentional his influence on me was. I'd have to get back at him for it later.

To conceal my slip up, I let the fragile, lonely old man façade drop to grin viciously at him. "Besides, it you're going to shut someone up with a kiss, you ought to do it correctly," I taunted. "Really, Gilbert-kun, do you even know how to kiss properly? If you don't, I'd be more than happy to educa–"

For the second time that night, the air whooshed as both of Gilbert's arms flew at me. And for the second time, he proved me wrong. Instead of grabbing me to kiss me silent again as I expected, he hooked his arms around my back and yanked me into a crushing hug. I blinked in surprise, staring blindly over his broad shoulder.

Our bodies were glued together, so close I felt the taut muscles of his chest and stomach, so close his body heat seeped through our clothes to warm me. The iron-strong circle of his arms pinned my arms to my sides, shackling me to him so I was unable to wiggle free. Gilbert's forehead clunked against my shoulder, warm and heavy, his feathery black curls tickling my neck and cheeks. The scent of cigarette smoke clung heavily to his skin and clothes.

"You need to stop pulling this shit," Gilbert mumbled into my shoulder. "You call me cruel, but really, Break, you're the one who's cruel here! You and your blatant disregard for your life! It's cruel and selfish thinking and acting the way you do!"

I heaved a weary sigh, my breath stirring his feather-soft curls. Gilbert, it seemed, was not to be deterred.

"Persistent little bastard, aren't you?" I muttered, half to myself. "Very well. I'll tell you exactly what I told Reim-san when he found out I was blind: I don't wallow over my health or blindness because I don't see them as a curse. They are my redemption, my payment for failing my master, for spilling the blood of one hundred sixteen innocent people, and for changing the past and killing the little Sinclair girl when she should have lived."

"Stop!" Gilbert bellowed, his arms constricting around me, holding me tighter to his body. The raw emotion in his voice startled me into silence, listening intently as words poured from his mouth, his hot breath warming my shoulder. "This is exactly what I'm talking about! Calling your illness redemption for your crimes is selfish! It's selfish because it's a weak, cowardly excuse for thoughtlessly throwing your life away! It's selfish because you aren't Kevin Regnard anymore! When you emerged from the Abyss, you ceased to be Kevin Regnard and became Xerxes Break, and so your past discretions aren't part of your life anymore!"

"As romantic as your ideas of rebirth are, Gilbert, I am Kevin Regnard," I pointed out quietly, shaking my head at his childish notions. "Xerxes Break is just an alias. We are not two different people; we are the same."

"No you're not," he insisted. "Who you are now is different from who you were then. 'Kevin' is your past, 'Xerxes' is your present, just like 'Gil' is my past, and 'Raven' is my present. Neither of us are the same now as we were when we were younger. You need to stop living in the past because you're forgetting what's important in the present. And it's your obsession with the past that makes you selfish in the present because as Xerxes Break, you're forgetting all the people who care about you and will be sad if you die! Reim, Sharon, Oz... and... and... m-me..."

An eyebrow arched at this surprisingly honest confession, and I inclined my head toward Gilbert. However, he refused to lift his head from my shoulder and look at me. His strong arms tighten around me as if he were trying to staunch a bleeding wound.

I thought snakes were supposed to be constrictors, not blackbirds... I mused vaguely.

"You think you can just pop in, turn my world upside down, and then just vanish with that stupid grin on your face? Think again, you selfish bastard!" Gilbert yelled, sounding impossibly as if he was close to tears. "Take responsibility for showing up in my life and screwing it all to hell! Like it or not, you're part of my life now – part of all our lives – and we are stuck with it! You wouldn't let me off easy when you had me infiltrate the Nightrays, so now it's my turn! I'm not going to let you throw your life away, even if that means I have to smash your Blood Sealing Mirror with the Mad Hatter!"

His hands fisted in my nightshirt. "You're an insufferable, manipulative bastard, your obsession with candy is disturbing, your habits are obnoxious, you're rude, creepy and a control-freak, and some days I'd like nothing better than to shoot you in the foot–"

"This really isn't helping your case..." I muttered dryly.

"–but somewhere along the way, you became my friend... and I don't want to lose you!"

My eye widened at his heartfelt confession, shocking all the words from me. But before I could gather my thoughts, Gilbert continued, his voice strangled with barely contained tears.

"You once asked me if Oz was really what I needed, the one thing in my life I had to protect. You also warned me how sealed off loyalty to one person would harm them. I realize now that you were talking about your situation with the Sinclairs and your first contract. I also realized that, since Oz had been rescued, I'd spread my loyalty and protection around. I don't need to protect just Oz anymore, but Sharon, too, and... and... A... Alice... and you, even if it's from yourself."

If Gilbert's confession had been surprising enough, then the tears dripping onto my shoulder were. My eyebrows arched high into my hair as I felt those warm drops hit my shoulder, soaking the fabric of my nightshirt. His body shook against mine, as if he was struggling to hold back sobs. Staring down at the blurry silhouette plastered against me, I felt my expression soften as a small smile curled my lips.

Laughing gently, quietly, I pushed him away from me. Surprisingly, he actually released me, his arms going slack around my waist before falling away completely. He was too absorbed in the embarrassment of his undignified tears to put up a fight. Lifting a hand, I found his face and shoved the black mop of curls off of his forehead, pinning his bangs back. His hair was thick and silky between my fingers.

"Are you drunk?" I asked, peering intently at his hazy face as if I could really see into those invisible gold eyes and decipher the emotions there. "You're much more emotional and honest than usual..."

"Shuddup!" he snapped, his voice wavering. "I'm not drunk! Don't make fun of me for being concerned about you, you bastard! I wish I didn't care, but I do! And... and..." he trailed off, stammering incomprehensibly though half choked sobs.

I'll admit it; it tugged at my heartstrings, if only a little. Still it was more than most people could claim to.

He really is... I thought, letting his bangs drop as I slid my hand over his sticky, tear-stained cheek to cup his jaw, too cute...

Tilting his chin up, I felt it when those golden eyes locked on my face. My skin seemed to tingle, as if the Raven's sheer power had concentrated into its contractor's gaze. Yet, no matter how much he'd grown or how powerful he'd become, the splash of warm tears against my fingers and his soft, hiccupping sobs reminded me how little this man had changed in ten years.

"Honestly..." I whispered with a fond smile, absently stroking his cheek with my thumb, "You're still such a child..."

Then, without questioning the strange compulsion overcoming me, I breached the distance separating us and kissed him.

Gilbert, as it turned out, did know how to kiss properly. Granted, it was sloppy and clumsy and spoke volumes of his inexperience, but it was real. The second our lips touched, he crushed me against his chest, grabbing onto the kiss like a lifeline, as if kissing me would keep me alive longer. His hand knotted in my hair, jerking my head to the side as his tongue awkwardly invaded my mouth. The sensation shot heat straight between my legs, and I felt myself stirring for the first time in a very long while.

Not one to be outdone, I curled my fingers into the hair at the nape of his neck, kissing him with equal amount of ferocity. Gilbert gasped and shuddered, pressing me harder to him in response. Lips, tongues and teeth melded, caressed and crashed; heat and lust boiled beneath the surface; the scent and taste of salty tears and cigarette smoke filled my senses.

Outwardly, the kiss was no different than our usual power games. We both struggled for dominance, trying to make the other submit, but too stubborn, too proud to surrender ourselves. We held steadfast in our determination to remain in control despite the other's tactics: a rough tug on hair; a bite to a lip; a hand near an empty eye; a yank on an earring; fingers grazing an ugly, twisted black mark hidden by clothes; fingers tracing the tip of a long ropy scar. We pushed and pulled and prodded, just like we did every day, yet neither of us completely breached the invisible gray boundaries separating right and wrong. Our hands stayed on the other's torso, never straying lower – just like in our daily struggles when we never said or did anything that hit below the belt. Outwardly, the kisses and touches were really just another power struggle.

Inwardly, though, I couldn't fathom our barely constrained desperation and lust. Neither of us felt that way about each other. However, if I were to venture a guess – the unending tension between us and power games aside – the cause of this was our mutual sexual frustration. Gilbert harbored an unrequited love for his young master, and I – too absorbed in my ambitions – had gone decades without the intimate touch of another person. We both needed relief, and we both sought it through the use of the other.

We should've done this sooner... I mused, barely restraining a shiver as Gilbert kissed down my throat, pleasure burning through me. My head fell back as he suckled on the junction of my neck, a smile curling my lips even as pleasure curled my toes. My fingers tightened in his hair. This is the most enjoyable power game I've ever had the pleasure of participating in~!

Abruptly, I sensed I was starting to fall under the spell of his mouth and teeth on my neck, the delectable bite of his fingernails against my back as he clutched at my nightshirt. Determined to win, I kicked myself free of the bed sheets. Using my arms on his shoulders as leverage, I plopped myself into his lap and wrapped my legs around his slim hips. Predictably, Gilbert jerked, and consequently, our matching arousals brushed against each other through our clothes. A heady shudder ran through Gilbert and his lips trembled against my shoulder, a low, strangled cry erupting from his lips.

While my purpose had been to regain the upper hand, I wasn't as unaffected by the blissful sensation as I led Gilbert to believe with my soft, mocking laugh. The moment our erections brushed, my meticulously constructed mask of apathy cracked. My brow furrowed slightly, my eye fell shut, my lips parted marginally, and my hands shook ever-so-slightly. Since my face was turned away from him, I forgave the slip in my control. After all, it had been a very long time.

What disturbed me, however, was how hard I had to restrain myself from purposely grinding against him just to feel that delicious sensation again. As it was, I was already dangerously close to breaching those "Do Not Cross" lines, and I was unsure what the consequences would be.

Lifting his head, I felt Gilbert's angry glare seconds before he grabbed my face and tugged me down for another kiss. I hummed contently into his mouth, smiling against his lips as I dragged my palms over his clothed chest, feeling the hard planes of his torso. Confident I was back in control, I nipped at his bottom lip, only to blink in surprise when he ripped me away from the kiss with a hard yank on my hair.

His firm grip on my hair kept my head bowed back, my neck arched forward and bared. Hot breath ghosted over my skin seconds before Gilbert bit my throat – and none-too-gently – like an Alpha wolf exerting its dominance over a submissive pack member. Instead of subduing my burning arousal, the keen pain heightened it, bringing me almost as much pleasure as the teasing brush of our erections had.

"Don't be an ass about this, Break," he growled, his tongue laving the sore spot his teeth had left on my throat. "Let someone else be in control for once."

I shot him a pointed grin, and opened my mouth to retort. But before I could get the words out, hot hands shoved me hard against the chest. Unprepared for it, I fell back against the bed, bouncing once. I started to raise myself up onto my elbows when a dark shape entered my blurred vision, looming over me. A pair of demanding lips crashed with bruising force against mine, and a burning hand gripped me firmly through my sleep pants.

My eye flew open wide in shock, startling muffled moan from my throat before I could recapture it. My body arched into his touch, trembling from intense pleasure as he rubbed me through the fabric. In just one move, Gilbert had simultaneously crossed the boundaries and irrevocably uprooted my control. In one second, I went from dominant to submissive, Gilbert in complete control of me.

The first few minutes, I rebelled against the switch, tried to touch him in return since he'd discarded the rules. But he caught my wrists in his free hand, pinning them over my head. His tongue plundered my mouth as he kissed me harder, beating me back into submission with a languid, tortuously pleasurable twist of his hand around my arousal.

No matter what I tried, I couldn't claw my way back to the top. Gilbert had me pinned under his body and will, meeting my desperate struggles with a subduing lick to the ear, a hard bite, a suck to the collarbone, and always, always, the slow, maddening stroke, rub and twist on my clothed arousal.

Jaw aching from clenching it against the gurgling moans clawing at my throat, I peered up at Gilbert's foggy face, shivering faintly from the steady, teasing caress between my legs.

Maybe it'd be nice... I thought slowly, to let someone else take control just this once... How bad could it be?

And without conscious thought, I did just that, yielding completely to Gilbert. He didn't have many aspects of his life under control, but this I knew he could handle; I could trust him with it. My body must've relaxed, signaling my surrender, because Gilbert stilled above me, a surprised breath escaping his lips. My erection throbbed, missing the friction, and my hips quivered from the effort it took to not buck into his hand.

Grinning widely at the shell-shocked Nightray, I teased, "I must say, Gilbert-kun, I'm impressed." Tilting my head back, I dragged my tongue over inside of his forearm, smirking vaguely in his direction when his breath hitched. "I didn't know you had this kind of dominance in you."

I heard his angry, affronted hiss, and a second later, snapped my teeth together to hold back a moan when he squeezed me roughly, struggling to keep my grin from wavering.

"Shut up, you evil bastard," he growled harshly, thrusting against me as he bit my shoulder. He released my wrists to find the buttons on my nightshirt, his fingers fumbling clumsily against them. "I hate you...:"

Even as he said the words, I knew they were untrue. I knew it, and he knew it. His earlier confession was evidence of that. Still, I decided to play along as I slipped my arms around his neck and pulled myself close, flicking my tongue over his swollen, kiss-bruised lips.

"Hmm, is that so?" I purred in his ear, tasting the cold metal of his earring as my hands slid under his coat, pushing it off his shoulders. The heavy material pooled in the center of his back, bunching together at the elbows. "Then why are you going along with this? Oz-kun is the one you want, not me."

Silence greeted my question, and his fingers stilled on my shirt. I smiled slyly up at him. It was a rhetorical question, of course. I didn't really expect him to admit I was just a poor substitute for the one he really wanted and could never have. He was too gentle to admit such a shameful truth aloud, still too much of a child to push aside his guilt and enjoy the sinful pleasure. So when Gilbert's wavering voice cut though the tense hush like the firing of a gun, I was shocked.

"O-Oz... I... It doesn't matter if Oz is the one I... the one I..." he broke off with a repetitive swish of hair – he was shaking his head. "Oz loves that stupid rabbit... And as much as I hate her, I can't bring myself to kill her, or do th... this... with him... Both would only hurt Oz in the end... It's impossible..."

The anguish in his voice was palpable, and he lapsed into brief silence, as if the pain in his heart restricted his vocal chords. Then, Gilbert seemed to shake himself out of it as his arms withdrew, and the sound of cloth sliding against cloth touched my ears.

"But..." he murmured as his coat hit the floor with heavy thump, his hands returning to fumble with the last few buttons of my shirt. "But Oz... this isn't about Oz... not really... It's about you. I'm doing this for your sake."

All humor vanished from me as a tidal wave of rage swept over me. Gilbert – suddenly realizing this was the wrong thing to say from the darkening of my expression – recoiled with a breath of fear, only to yelp in pain when I dug my nails into his flesh.

"'For my sake...'" I repeated in a hiss, sinking my nails deeper into his flesh. Gilbert flinched with a pained whine, and once again, I felt the wet warmth of his blood. "Don't you know how much I despise those irresponsible words? Didn't I tell you not turn your actions into the excuse that you're doing something for the sake of someone? Even though it pissed me off, I forgave you when you claimed to be acting on Oz's behalf. However, never say that about me."

"Weren't you listening?" Gilbert demanded, wincing against the pain of my nails in his back, and the blood streaming down his back. "I already said it didn't I? I'm not doing this just for you; I'm doing it for everyone, myself included. I told you I don't want you to die on account of your damned selfish stubbornness. So if I can tie you to life this way, tie you to me, and give you one more reason to want to live, then I will. I'd rather do this than deal with everyone's misery over your death..."

I chuckled humorlessly, ignoring how breathless it sounded when Gilbert's mouth suddenly closed around one nipple. Closing my eye as I leaned back against the pillows, reveling the rough sucking of his mouth, I couldn't tell if his words were true or were merely meant to appease me. In the end, as I extracted my nails from his back to untie his cravat, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, and enjoy the anticipatory ache between my legs as his fingers slid beneath my waistband.

"Silly Raven," I laughed softly, yanking the silky scarf away with one hand, and shoving his head harder against my chest with the other, his teeth scraping against my nipple. Gilbert groaned at the rough treatment, thrusting involuntarily against my thigh. His wanton reaction, the vibration of his moan, the biting pain and keen pleasure of his bare hand wrapping around my length had me arching into his touch, panting and gripping wildly at his shoulders. Lowering my blind gaze to his dark head, I murmured, only slightly out of breath, "You make it sound like I want to be tied to you."

Gilbert's mouth left my nipple with a wet suction sound, and moment later, I felt his eyes studying me, trying to see past my grinning mask. I knew he was remembering what I'd said about wanting to die without attachments, and deciphering the truth in those words – because they were true.

I didn't want emotional connections with anyone; fond feelings would only make it harder for me to accept my death as redemption. I wanted redemption, but if I had earthly ties, then I'd be unable to detach myself from the material world and accept my retribution. As it was, I'd already erred when I befriended Reim and Sharon. The pain I'd felt when I realized I could no longer see Sharon's beautiful, sunny smile, or when I thought Reim had been killed could testify to this. I should've been able to indifferently accept these events, but I couldn't. I couldn't afford anymore attachments... and Gilbert was dangerously close to being added to that list.

The sound of a sigh and the bed creaking hauled me out of my thoughts just in time to notice his body heat enveloping me. Something skimmed lightly against my bangs. Only after a warm breath stirred the fine strands did I realize it was his mouth. Then, in a completely unexpected gesture, he brushed my hair aside, and placed a tender kiss on my closed, left eyelid. It was barely even a touch, like the graze of a butterfly's wings. And yet, the simple, affectionate touch twanged my heartstrings like a harp, a feat only Sharon had achieved when she'd presented me with a handful of candy as a little girl in an attempt to cheer me up.

Speechless at both myself and Gilbert, I could only blink in astonishment up the Nightray's blurred form, absently touching my eye through my hair. I could still feel his lips against my skin.

"You say you don't want attachments, and yet you aren't fighting me," Gilbert murmured softly. As if to prove his point, he slid my pants off to join his coat and cravat on the floor. The bed creaked, his body heat withdrawing as he sat back. Suddenly, I hissed, fighting not to arch my back as lightly calloused fingers teasingly stroked my length from base to tip.

"If I have to," he continued, his voice strangely distant, "I'll make you want to tie yourself to me. I don't care if you use me for sex as long as it keeps you here."

Abruptly, the mattress's springs stopped creaking, and I became acutely aware of warm, moist air hitting the head of my erection. It was the only warning I had before the wet heat of Gilbert's mouth descended on me.

The unexpectedness of his surprisingly bold action wrung a loud, strangled cry from me before I could stop it. My hands flew to his head, nails digging into his scalp as my hips reflexively bucked into the cavern of his mouth. Gilbert choked slightly, his breathing picking up speed and his body freezing above me. Squeezing my eyes shut, I exhaled a shuddering breath, forcing my body to relax and my hands to loosen their grip on his hair. His sudden wariness told me what his brash action had disguised: he'd never done this before.

Armed with that knowledge, it was a bit easier to lay passive beneath him, even with the pleasurable distraction of his wet, burning mouth around me. After all, I didn't want to hurt my little subordinate. Reassured by my immobility, Gilbert pinned my hips to the bed, and resumed the tentative bob of his head. His inexperience was obvious, manifesting itself in his cautious motions, the nervous trembling of his hands against my hips, and the occasional, accidental scrape of his teeth against my flesh. No prior experience fueled his actions, only his sparse knowledge, his solitary practice, and his unfulfilled fantasies.

Anyone else would've expressed discontent with his actions and would seek to correct them. I, however, didn't. While the scalding pass of his mouth over my erection wasn't nearly enough to bring me to climax, the slight pain and the years of sexual deprivation had me biting my lip to stifle the moans gurgling in the throat, my head thrown back against the pillows. The pleasure had my toes curling, and my thighs trembled on either side of his head, unconsciously falling open to give him more room.


I twitched violently, panting headily when he suddenly sucked on me, his tongue laving the underside of my arousal. Pleasure curled in the pit of my abdomen, coiling tighter with every stroke of his hot mouth.


My fingers tightened in his hair, carefully, but encouragingly pulling him farther down onto me, shuddering from the intensity. Mind fogged from pleasure and lust, when Gilbert reached up to press his fingers against my lips, I didn't hesitate to take three long digits into my mouth. His answering groan shot heat into my belly, my arousal twitching against the silken walls of his mouth.

Shit, shit, shit... I cursed, twirling my tongue around his fingers, sucking on them like they were a strawberry lollipop. With a wet pop, Gilbert pulled his fingers from my mouth, trailing a thin string of saliva across my chin. I'm... being swept up... by those black wings of his...

I felt as if I was caught in the vortex of Eques's warp portal – helpless to flee or control where I was carried off to. Allowing the continuation of this little escapade was dangerous, and I knew it. Yet I couldn't stop Gilbert or myself, couldn't bring myself to want to stop. Even when reality slammed into me with acute clarity as a slick finger tentatively prodded my entrance, I didn't hinder him, didn't remind him Oz wasn't the one he was doing this with. He already knew that...

Two slick fingers pushed into me, noticeably uncomfortable despite the pleasant distraction of Gilbert's mouth bobbing over me.

There's no turning back now... I mused, my heart picking up speed as the stretching pain left me breathless. I wanted more. We're really going to see this through to the end, it seems.

While Gilbert timidly thrust his fingers inside of me, stretching me out in a blissfully painful intrusion, I wedged one knee between his legs, rubbing my thigh against the hard, neglected length straining against his pants. Jerking, he moaned desperately, low and long around my arousal. The sensual vibrations jolted through me, so intense I threw my head back with a needy gasp. Unconsciously, I rolled my hips into the sensation, concurrently driving his fingers deeper and shallowly thrusting my length into his mouth. The mix of pleasure and pain was an intoxicating cocktail.

Without pausing my steady grind against Gilbert's arousal, I divested one hand from his hair to grip his wrist, shoving his fingers harder, deeper and faster inside me. His surprised gasp whispered around my erection, a delightful burst of air. I felt him raise his eyes questioningly to my face, and found myself inwardly cursing my vision. I could only imagine how erotic the sight was.

"You don't have to be gentle with me," I informed him with a sharp smile. "I'm not going to break. In case you haven't noticed, I actually like the pain."

Gilbert made a sound curiously like a snort, and with a wet, slurping sound, released my erection. It took every ounce of my will power not to groan in disappointment.

Suddenly, the Nightray's heat loomed over me, his lips skimming the side of my neck. "Masochist," he accused softly, shoving the third finger inside me. I arched into the painful pleasure, a faint hiss snaking through my teeth. Grinning up at him, I ground my thigh into his erection, sighing when he jerked and gasped, thrusting his fingers deeper into me.

"With the Mad Hatter as your Chain, you have to be at least a little masochistic," I informed him cheerfully, finding the clasps of his shirt and popping them open with quick fingers. "Makes the job easier if you can enjoy the constant pain, you know? Doesn't wear on the mind and body quite so much that way."

Gilbert growled angrily, stabbing his fingers hard and fast inside of me. Stars of pain and pleasure exploded in my vision, and I had to grit my teeth to keep from moaning. A small, shaky laugh reverberated in my throat at his forcefulness.

"Is that why you're so reckless with your life?" he demanded roughly as he splayed his fingers, loosening the tight inner muscles. "To feel pain?"

Finding the oval of his face, I grinned sharply, humorlessly at him. "Back to this, are we? Don't cheapen the moment, Gilbert-kun," I scolded, rolling my hips upward to grind our erections together. With a groan, the Nightray shuddered, dropping his forehead to my shoulder, and driving his fingers deeper. "Let an old man have his fun."

When Gilbert lifted his head, I felt the heat of his glare. Sighing heavily, he straightened and withdrew his fingers from my body. The abrupt emptiness was almost as strange as the full sensation of a foreign invader had been.

"You know, you can only play that 'old man' card so many times before it loses its efficiency," Gilbert grumbled petulantly, cloth rustling as he slid his shirt the rest of the way off.

Humming low in my throat, I reached out with both hands, my palms hitting the solid, living wall of his chest. I slid one hand along his smooth collarbone, feeling the strong lines of his broad shoulders before curling around his neck. Beneath my hand, the chain of his Blood Sealing Mirror burned red-hot, heated by his skin's warmth. My other hand slithered down the muscled length of his torso, mapping every plane, crevice, peak and dip of his flesh, expending my mental image of him. The smooth texture of the raised, ropy scar stretching across his skin fascinated me in particular.

Casually, I hooked my fingers into his pants' waistline, only to jerk him forward and kiss him forcefully. Gilbert matched my ferocity, our teeth clicking together in wild desperation and lust. His tongue found mine like old companions, and the bitter, salty tang of my own essence was now mingled with the taste of tobacco and smoke.

Breaking away sloppily, I leered up at Gilbert as pointed out, "And yet you keep falling for that ploy, so why stop?"

I didn't give him the chance to respond. In one fluid motion, I popped the button on his pants, and drew out his throbbing, burning erection. The half-formed excuse died on Gilbert's lips as he groaned desperately, his head dropping to my chest. He shuddered violently, panting and whimpering with every stroke of my hand on his hard, velvety flesh.

Gilbert's needy moans had my own arousal twitching helplessly, begging for attention even as I curled my hand around his length. I loved the sensation of his rigid, satin smooth flesh in my hand, yet found myself longing to feel it in a very different place. Almost unconsciously, I rolled my hips up, the tip of his erection brushing my entrance.

Gasping in surprise, Gilbert recoiled, and grabbed my wrist. "B-Break...?"

Smiling shark-like up at him, I cooed patronizingly, "What is it, Gilbert-kun? Rethinking your bold statement of how you intend to 'tie' me to you through bodily pleasure now that the moment of truth is upon us?"

"N-no, that's not it," he insisted, quite firmly despite his stammering. "It's just... you... won't you hurt yourself... doing it that... that way? Don't... don't you want me to get... uh... um... s-something to... to... help...?"

I smirked at his cutely embarrassed, concerned stuttering. Waving a careless hand, my nightshirt's loose sleeve flapping like that of my white coat, I reminded him with a grin, "It's fine, Gilbert-kun. No need to worry 'bout little ol' me." My smile turned into a sadistic leer. "We've discussed my relationship with pain already."

If his nervous shifting was anything to judge by, Gilbert wasn't convinced. "But..."

My eye narrowed as I frowned. Swiftly, I curled my legs around his clothed thighs, shoving his hips into mine. Before he could react, I snaked a hand between our bodies, curling my fingers around his erection. Winded and distracted by the sudden pleasure, Gilbert didn't stop me when I lifted my hips up and guided the tip of his arousal into me. A short, strangled shout tore from his throat, and his body trembled as his lust – which had fizzled slightly – was rekindled. Shuddering from the effort it took to remain still, his hair brushed my half-clothed chest as he started to bow his head.

However, I didn't let him. Fisting my hands in his hair, I towed his face up to kiss him quickly, deeply, before breaking off. In a firm, no-nonsense tone, I commanded, "Don't treat me like Oz, Gilbert. I'm not your precious master, and I'm not going to break. Give me all you've got. Don't hold back, and don't worry about hurting me. I can take it."

With a long, desperate groan, Gilbert finally cracked, surrendering to his selfish desires as he slid fully into me. The invasive pain was incredible, burning all the hotter without lubrication to ease the entrance of his impressive length. And yet, when my head fell back, eye squeezed shut as Gilbert timidly began to move with shallow, inexpert thrusts, a smile peeled my lips off my clenched teeth. Compared to the torture of losing my left eye and the steady, all-consuming agony of Mad Hatter's power as it withered my body, this pain brought me nothing but sexual excitement and pleasure. Even if I didn't have a taste for pain, the steady, maddening friction of Gilbert's stomach against my erection as he moved would have eased the discomfort. As it was, my skin tingled with sensation, and my grin widened.

When I uttered no sound of pain or protest, Gilbert's strokes gradually lengthened, venturing deeper inside me. However, the violent trembling of his body told me he wasn't giving me his all. He was still resisting.

"You're holding back," I accused, trailing my hands across his slick chest to graze his nipples. "Didn't I tell you not to?"

Abruptly, I sharply twisted the hard, sensitive peaks of flesh. With a strangled cry, Gilbert's body automatically lurched forward, resulting in a violent thrust. The consequential pain coiled the pleasure tighter, stealing my breath away, and widening my smile.

I was about to pinch them again when he caught my wrists, and pinned them over my head with one hand. Curling his free hand under my neck, he seized a handful of my hair, and wrenched my head back with painful force. I smirked in satisfaction, arousal heightening at the rough treatment.

"Enough," he growled, low and warningly, nipping at my exposed throat as he suddenly slammed into me. The abrupt increase in the speed, depth and ferocity of his thrusts told me he'd finally, obediently surrendered his reserves.

Laughing a little breathlessly on account of the sharp spike of pain and pleasure, I lifted my hips higher and grinned at his blurred form. "That's much better~!"

Gilbert's response was to growl angrily at me. His hands tightened on my wrists as he ducked down to pepper my throat with sharp bites. Smiling, I shifted my head in such a way so I could better feel the delicious tug on my hair and offer my little raven more skin to peck at. I didn't worry about marks; the high collar of my shirt would hide them. Unhindered by petty concerns, I was free to enjoy the painful bites, the pleasurable stimulation against my arousal, and the paradoxical sensations mingled together as he pistoned into me.

Sweat-dampened curls caressed my skin as Gilbert nosed aide my unbuttoned shirt. His lips grazed across my chest, moving from right to left, pausing only to plant a delicate kiss over my heart... exactly where the completed seal lay blazoned into my flesh.

Jolting, I tried to twist away from him, but his hand had formed a manacle around my wrists, trapping me. So instead, I glared at him, and hissed warningly, "Don't. Don't treat that ugly mark with affection. Don't drag it into this..."

Gilbert's movements ceased. "But it's already involved," he argued, his voice labored. Gentle fingertips brushed the seal, tracing its twisted black shape. "If it weren't for this, you wouldn't behave as selfishly as you do, and we wouldn't be here right now."

Scowling, I opened my mouth to retort. But then, Gilbert shifted his angle slightly, driving back into me with one hard thrust, and an unfathomable pleasure stabbed into me. My eye flew as I saw stars, and my jaw snapped closed, weakly smothering the rippling moan gurgling in my throat. Pleasure electrified every nerve ending in my body, so intense even my teeth tingled. Try as I might, I couldn't hide my breathless expression and reaction from Gilbert.

"Wow..." he murmured, his thrusts slowing slightly. "A speechless Break... I'll never see this again..."

Snarling, I averted my sightless eye from the smudge of his face, and growled at him through clenched teeth, "Just shut up and fuck me..."

His answer was a sharp thrust, his speed picking back up. The pleasure was just as intense as the pain now, if not more so. The steady drip of fluid leaking form Gilbert's arousal smoothened his thrusts, adding just enough lubricant to heighten my pleasure. And as a result, I realized I was quickly losing control of my calm façade. Mortified, I turned my head to the right, letting my hair fall to obscure my whole face; I didn't want Gilbert to see the wanton changes in my expression anymore than I wanted him to hear the half-strangled moans and pants rioting against the prison walls of my throat.

However, warm fingers treaded though my sweaty bangs, shoving them out of my face, and exposing both my eyes. Gilbert had no intention of letting me hide. Cutting my clouded gaze to his face, I glared from my turned-away position, only to feel my expression waver when he struck my prostrate again.

Above me, the Nightray shuddered, moaning, "B-Break..." low and husky. He dropped his forehead to mine, thrusting into me with renewed vigor, and moaning with wild abandon. The sound shot straight to my loins, and I shivered a little myself, despite the heat of his naked chest pressed against me.

If he doesn't stop that, the sound of his voice alone will undo me... I thought, my labored breathing stirring the black curls dripping into my face.

Humiliated by the mere thought, I distracted myself by teasing, "My, my... Listen to the blackbird sing... It's a much nicer sound than the caw of your feathered cousins." Bucking my hips up to greet him, I teased, "Sing for me more, Raven~!"

I heard the grind of his teeth. "Shut up!" he snarled, and in one swift motion, he flipped me onto my knees. With a hand between my shoulder blades, he shoved my torso down, and stretched my shackled wrists out in front of me before driving back into me. My head swam with the pleasure the new angle brought, infusing my veins as he stuck that spot over and over with vicious relentlessness.

Abruptly lightheaded, high and giddy off the sudden onslaught of pleasure, I gasped desperately for air, my breath coming out in half-muffled whimpers and moans. I could no longer adequately smother my voice, so overwhelmed by the pleasure burning through me, warming me as I hadn't been in years. I was abruptly grateful for the switch of positions. Not only was the sheets' added stimulation against my arousal welcome, but it allowed me to hide how quickly I was unraveling. I could relax my tightly woven control on my pleasured expression and moans, letting the comforter do the work for me.

But even with Gilbert exerting his unquestionable control over me, the two of us rutting like animals, lost in the ecstasy, I tried to ground myself. In this moment, I knew Gilbert had fully surrendered to his primal instincts, using me to engage in his unfulfilled fantasies about Oz. His servant complex and affection for his young master would never allow him to seduce and take the boy as roughly as he took me. This reminded me that I was a substitute for Oz, only a living body in which he could vent his sexual frustrations on. I wasn't the one he was really seeing, the one he had bowed beneath him, and thrusting into; he saw Oz, not me. I didn't particularly care. After all, I was the one who told him long ago to use me as he saw fit, because I would only use him in return.

And yet, for some reason, I couldn't forget the words he said to me, that this wasn't solely about Oz. I couldn't forget him telling me that keeping me alive had become as much a priority to him as protecting his unattainable master. I couldn't forget him crying on my shoulder. Nor could I forget or ignore the foreign, shapeless emotion rising in my chest as the pleasure peaked, and my climax drew nearer, tightening, coiling between my legs.

Damn... It's been too long since I last had sex... I thought, biting the comforter to muffle my moans while Gilbert's unabashed cries of bliss assailed my ears like a sweet symphony. I'm getting sentimental over one fuck...

"B-Break..." Gilbert gasped, his head falling hot and heavy between my shoulder blades, his arm winding around my waist to circle my erection. The pleasure spiked, and I groaned helplessly, all but gagging myself on the comforter just to maintain my stoic silence. His strokes were becoming faster, harder, more sporadic and frantic. He was nearing his end, just as I was. We both teetered on the edge; it was only a matter of who would finish first.

Determined to regain some manner of the control and dignity I'd lost during this particular power game, I began rhythmically rolling my hips into him, hoping to make Gilbert come first. He uttered a short shout, gargled with bliss and muffled by my back, his hand pumping my erection almost as quickly as he drove into me.

"B-Break..." he gasped again, breath hitching in his throat. "Ngh... nn.. a-ah!"

With a particularly delectable cry, Gilbert came, his body shuddering violently against mine. As intensely erotic as the sensation of his hot seed filling me was, it was the sharp sting of his teeth against my shoulder that sent me over the edge.

Uttering a strangled cry into the mattress, my hands fisted as the pleasure crescendoed in a white wave, and I exploded, spilling myself into Gilbert's hand, onto my chest and the sheets below me. Eye closed and brow knitted together, I shuddered as the blissful waves of my orgasm crashed over me, thrusting weakly into Gilbert's now slick hand, savoring the fading sensations. When the tremors of my orgasm finally subsided, I breathed a long, shaky sigh into the mattress, my body drooping as lethargy settled in my slack limbs.

Above me, Gilbert slumped heavily against my back. His head clunked against my shoulder, his hot, gasping breaths cooling the soaked, sweaty nightshirt clinging to my skin. Eventually, he released my wrists, yet I didn't retract my arms' extended position, or move at all. I wasn't quite ready for the post-sex awkwardness.

However, Gilbert didn't offer me time. With a sigh, his heat retreated from my back, leaving me feeling strangely cold, and he pulled out. I winced at the squelching sound and the warm drip of fluid down the backs of my thighs. There was a heavy thump, and the bed bounced as the Nightray threw himself down in exhaustion.

Very slowly, I sat up, my back aching after being bent over for so long. More fluid oozed down my legs. For a long moment, I gazed at him steadily, pensively, seeing nothing but a vague humanoid shape of black and white. Frustration built up inside me, and I felt an intense longing to clear away the fog over my eye. A second later, I frowned, bothered by how it bothered me.

"A... are you... alright...?" came Gilbert's quiet, hesitant voice, laced with sleepiness.

Tilting my head to the side, I forced a smile to my face, burying the fear brewing in my heart. "Quite alright," I assured him cheerfully, pulling my shirt closed around me. "That's the most fun I've had since torturing answers out of the Baskervilles!"

He uttered a soft sound, somewhere between a snort and a laugh. "Guess I'll take that as a compliment then," he mumbled sleepily, the sheets rustling as he nuzzled into them, like a bird fluffing its feathers as it settled into its nest for the night. I pictured him tucking his head under a slim wing.

With a slight groan, I heaved my sore body off the bed. The floor felt peculiarly icy beneath my bare feet.

"Where are you going?" The words were spoken softly, like a child afraid to be left alone in the dark.

"No worries," I said brightly, smiling in his direction. "I'm just going to take a quick bath. I'm filthy. Really, Gilbert-kun, did you have to make such a mess?"

He made no reply, only mumbled incoherently into the mattress. Forcing myself to turn away, I walked the well-memorized path to the bathroom, not even pausing to make sure I wouldn't run into the doorframe. Cold tile against my feet, I strolled over to the porcelain tub, finding the knobs by touch and twisting the hot water on. While the tub filled, I paced the bathroom's perimeter, drawing back the shades and opening the windows to let the pale moonlight and night breeze.

Since losing my sight, I found I enjoyed the sensation of a cool breeze on my skin when I bathed, liked scent of clean air mixed with soap. Immersing myself in the pleasures my other senses brought made being blind a little easier. This night, however, I had an additional reason for taking the time to open the windows. My hope was that when I returned to the adjoining bedroom to fetch a pair of clean clothes, Gilbert would be long gone. I wasn't ready face him, or this strange twinge in my heart.

When I reentered, the sound of breathing told me Gilbert was still there. However, it was slow and deep – he'd fallen asleep. Quickly, I gathered my clothes from the dresser before he could wake up. But as I turned back toward the bathroom, I paused, glancing over my shoulder to stare in the direction of the bed. Sighing heavily, I deposited my clothes on the bathroom counter, and padded silently back over to the bed before I could stop myself.

With the help of the still-lit gas lamp, my clouded eye told me he was laying curled up on the edge of the bed, facing me. Almost instinctively, I reached out a hand, fingertips grazing the side of sweaty face. When he didn't stir, my hand traced down his neck and over his shoulder, along his side and across his bent, clothed legs, painting a clearer picture of him inside my mind's eye. The frown I wore softened into a faint smile when, after my hand found his face again, he shifted slightly, nuzzling into my touch in his sleep.

Stroking the damp curls from his face, I remembered his words, and whispered affectionately, "You really are a child, aren't you?"

A little reluctantly, I withdrew and returned to the bathroom. I didn't bother to close the door behind me; there was no need now. Switching off the faucet, I peeled my wet nightshirt off, and slid into the steaming water with a pleased sigh. Almost immediately, the hot water eased my aching muscles. Settling down, I leaned my head against the edge of the tub, closing my eye as a gentle breeze caressed my face. Even submerged beneath the scalding water, I could still feel Gilbert's hands, mouth and teeth on me.

Despite the night's events, I knew our relationship would essentially remain the same, each of us using the other for our own selfish gains. I knew we would never outgrow the power games we played, and that our mutually beneficial relationship was unlikely to change in any drastic way. But, I also knew it had turned in a new direction. I knew it, and Gilbert knew it. All we could do now was sit back, and wait to see what the consequences of this night were.

Yet, even as I thought this, idly running a bar of soap over my arms, listening to the gentle splash of water, Gilbert's insistence what happened tonight wasn't been about Oz rang in my ears. Naturally, I wanted to scorn this claim as his attempt of softening the disgrace of what we did. But, much to my surprise, I found myself believing him. After all, it wasn't Oz's name Gilbert had moaned in the throes of ecstasy... it was mine. It was Break.

Ducking my head underwater, I scrubbed vigorously at my hair. When I resurfaced, face wet and flushed, I threw my head back, my hair slapping against my skull, pulled entirely away from my face. Almost unconsciously, my hand found face, covering my empty left eye as my fingers threaded through my dripping hair. I smiled to myself.

In my mind's eye, I saw a sleeping Gilbert lying curled up on the bed in the room over, saw him as clearly as if I had both eyes and perfect vision. And – unbidden by conscious thought – I saw a pair of black, glossy wings furled delicately over his frame, the long feathers reflecting the moonlight in blue highlights.

My beautiful Raven... I thought, smiling a little wider as my eye opened slowly.

Running both hands through my hair, mussing the wet, pale strands, I remembered his kisses, his touch, the feel of his body moving into me, and his vow to tie me to this life through him, as if he was a tourniquet stemming the mortal flow of blood from my body.

Glancing in the direction of the open door, I smirked a little, uttering a small "hmph" of amusement. Water sloshed around me as I draped my arms leisurely over the tub's sides, and crossed one leg over the other. Closing my eye, I leaned my head back, feeling the cold moonlight on my face.

"Maybe..." I murmured quietly, my mental image of Gilbert encompassing my mind, "sticking around a little while longer wouldn't be so bad after all..."

Then, I smiled; a wide, true smile.

My God, my tourniquet
Return to me salvation
My God, my tourniquet
Return to me salvation

- tourniquet [tur-ni-kit]: any device for arresting bleeding by forcibly compressing a blood vessel, as a bandage tightened by twisting. – From

Ending Notes: Gil is Break's tourniquet; he's the one to staunch the bleeding in his heart, the one who's a bandage to a wound to keep Break from bleeding out and dying, and through Gil, Break can find his salvation. This ending is very different for me. I don't usually end stories ambiguously, or without a definite "Yes, they will end up together." Break and Gil are the most complicated pairing I've ever written (and I hope to God I kept them decently in character), and their future is as uncertain to me as it is to them. Like Break said, they don't have a lovey-dovey relationship, and probably never will. Also, I feel their relationship to too complicated to accurately capture in a single oneshot; they aren't going to fall in love after one fuck – life just doesn't work that way – and I don't have the patience (or time) to write out the full scope of their relationship. Still, I like leaving it on a hopeful note. If I can't end it with my usual riding into the sunset happily ever after, ending on a postitive note is a close second. I hope I did okay.

Now, to be honest, I never intended on writng a sex scene; the story just kind of worked out that way, and I found I was able to weave some of Break's issues and Gil's desire to keep him alive into the scene. I liked the depth and relevance it gave the love scene, and became an important part of the story. Since it wasn't just about the sex (not that I wouldn't have enjoyed writing a sex scene with the two of them just for the hell of it), I decided to keep it. For once I actually thoroughly enjoyed how it came out, and it was the quickest and most painless sex scene I've ever written in my life (they usually drive me nuts...)

On a few random notes, I spent a lot of time poking and proding at my own eye while I wrote this, and reading up on eye anatomy and diseases. *shudders* Ah, the things I do for my craft... Poor Break =(. Oh, and about Break's taste for pain, I always kind of pictured Break as a masochist. He just has that aura to me.

So, if you enjoyed the story, drop a review and let me know, even if it's only a short little one. Nothing makes me smile like opening my email and seeing reviews waiting to be read. I like knowing what I did well and what needs work. What can I say? I'm a review-whore =P Love you all!