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Last Ascension

Chapter Text

you could have it all
my empire of dirt
i will let you down
i will make you hurt

Chapter 1

Memories flowed in and out through Leo's shocked mind, mixing with the echoes of strangers' voices and the floating glow of lights that never went away. There was pain. Immense pain, and then his vision aligned with the cobblestones and absorbed the expression of pure shock and horror that poured from Oz Vessalius's face, his hand extended in that killing gesture. Leo's eyes rolled backwards as the force of blinding agony radiated from his torso outwards and all was pain….

Elliot, is this how it feels to die?

There was blood, a spurt that was almost too much to seem real, and a wet thud as Leo heard his body hit the ground. Darkness crept on the edges of his vision and Leo floated towards the dark, which was so different from the piercing specks of lights from the Abyss. If this dark led to oblivion, Leo would embrace it with a smile (if he could smile, if he hadn't been choking on his own blood…)

"Live Leo, live for us…"

Elliot?

The healing process had already begun; his flesh painfully congealing around the gaping wound. Leo was a Baskerville. Of course.

Still, Leo cried out, extending fingers toward that unconscious realm, or that pale, glowing light with that inky blackness…

"Live Leo, live for us…"

The voices urged him on. No, they moved him, buoying up his weakening heart despite the rush of blood loss and the shock that rendered him immobile.

A voice, simultaneously coaching and cold, whispered, "Live Leo, live for us, live, move…"

Somehow, stumblingly, Leo rolled onto his stomach, got to his hands and knees, and crawled. He felt the slick coat of blood dragging against his clothes, catching bits of grass and dirt as he moved. He floundered, clawing and scraping to rest beneath the archway in the courtyard and lay there.

He wanted death. As his vision faded, he saw something wonderful, more beautiful than the lights of the Abyss, and encountered kind blue eyes and felt warm, warm hands touch his face….

Leo was jarred awake by the loping gait of the round-shouldered Baskerville Doug, who carried him slung over his shoulders. No, no, no, no, no…

The whiz of streets passed Leo's vision and he faded again until he woke to the cry of "Master!"

Leo found himself in a bright room, one of the many bedrooms of the Nightray manor.

The eyes of that pink-haired woman gazed into his and she was crying, her pretty face scrunched up in a foul, angry expression. "Damn them, damn them… We can't lose you again, Master, we can't…"

Between her vicious, tear-stained shouts of rage, Leo heard in his ears, the solemn voice of the previous Glen Baskerville echoing: "Welcome home, Leo. Welcome home."

He was trapped.

xxxxxxx

"Gilbert's yours," Leo told Vincent the next day. He lay on his back on the parlor's chaise lounge in the Nightray Manor's guest parlor room, dressed in a loose shirt over his bandages and simple trousers. He survived the battle, as much as he didn't want to. What remained behind was self-disgust and irritation as the voices wished him a speedy recovery (shut up shut up shut up).

The Baskervilles had escaped Pandora headquarters as well, dragging with them a shell-shocked Gilbert. The man had been reduced to mutters, cradling the last Baskerville leader's head in his arms as Vincent and Zwei carried him between them. In the aftermath, it was Vincent who had tended to Gilbert's wounds when the black-haired man eventually passed out. Currently, the Nightray heir was locked in his old bedroom across the manor.

Vincent put down the tea tray he carried into the parlor, placing it delicately on the sideboard. "What do you mean?"

Leo's heart twisted upon seeing the silver tray. That was setting Lady Nightray would use when she would have a personal tea with Elliot whenever he'd be home from Lutwidge on holiday. Leo wondered if Vincent selected that one on purpose.

"Everything is for your brother, right? What if I gave him to you?"

A generous proposition and a selfish one. In the miserable hours and days that had passed since discovering his true self, Leo felt like he was slowly, reluctantly, becoming attuned to his purpose and all that he was meant to be. Dismantling the walls built up from years of denial, shame, fear, and rage was a simple process, actually, since Elliot Nightray had been the boy who helped take it down, brick by brick. Leo hoped Elliot would become his wall in place of those dark shields, and those few years by his side were the happiest Leo ever remembered. Elliot kept the voices at bay and made it possible for Leo to think he could actually be a live as a functional human being.

Elliot was gone and everything inside Leo had come crashing down. And Leo wanted to pull it down the rest of it, to collapse the world he ever knew and crush it, crumbling into dirt between his fingertips.

Yes, Leo was determined to obliterate the lines and logic of Elliot's entire world, because he knew he would never be able to take part in it ever again. His beloved lay in the ground, and so, to Leo, it felt only right for everything that Elliot had stood for and held dear were laid to rest as well.

Coincidentally (or, perhaps, serendipitously), Vincent had taken care of most of that already before he had fetched Leo from Pandora by killing the Duke Nightray and having the Baskervilles exterminate rest of the household staff along with the unfortunate Pandora officers stationed at the manor.

Leo recalled his first night upon his return to the Nightray manor, empty except for themselves and the bodies. As they carted away the corpses to be dumped in a shallow mass grave on estate's forestland, Leo numbly thought of how many of those servant faces became twisted and estranged by death's touch. Lotti had placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Master, it was necessary," she had begun, but he brushed off her consoling fingers with a shrug.

"It doesn't matter," he had replied listlessly.

Nothing mattered anymore.

He then added, "Burn them."

Leo had stood by the towering bonfire that the Baskervilles made (they obeyed his every command, these strange people, looking at him in admiration and awe). Leo let the greasy smoke, pungent with the scent of charred flesh and hair and bone, permeate his clothes. He stayed up all night, watching his old acquaintances roast, observing with a certain detachment how their bloodless faces and stiffened limbs blackened and curled into themselves and how the human fat rendered with the ashes to create a sickly off-white paste that congealed at the base of the dying fire after the hours of burning.

What a fitting sacrifice.

Bringing himself back to the present moment, Leo glanced over at his valet to examine his reaction. Did Vincent's hands tremble as he poured Leo's cup? "Gil's… not the sort to be given," he replied lightly, his back facing outwards so Leo couldn't view his expression.

"Yes he is. Once he accepts being a Baskerville."

Vincent had explained the truth of Gilbert's past to him already: that Gil had been selected at the next Glen (if only that plan had come to fruition, none of this would've happened…) The thought of making Gilbert his replacement tempted Leo. Would there be a way to transfer all of the souls to him, along with all of his Chains? But then what would happen to Leo? Would he be stuck inside the whirlwind of ghosts while his body morphed into a monster? Or would Leo be free? The possibilities concerning Gilbert was the only reason why he let the man live.

But he didn't have to remain a Nightray. That allegiance Leo wanted destroyed, completely and utterly. A mere disavowal would not do, not for the likes of the final Heir. The Nightray honor was ripe for desecration.

Leo observed Vincent coolly setting up his tea and brought it over in the shining little cup on its mother-of-pearl accented saucer. He extended the set and Leo swiped it out of Vincent's fingers. The cup clattered, spilling hot, amber liquid. Leo grabbed his valet's wrist.

"I know the meaning of destruction," Leo said, meeting the other's bi-colored stare. "And the hope of salvation." His grip tightened. "You wish for Will of the Abyss to undo your existence. But I can offer you the sort of salvation you crave."

A dry laugh. "Master has the most foolish ideas in his head…"

"Don't lie." Leo angled his head and said astutely, "Don't tell me your feelings for Gilbert were different than what I had for… him…?" (It was too much to say that name aloud).

Vincent kneeled down, removing a handkerchief with his free hand to mop up the spill on the carpet; Leo reined in his elbow, drawing him close.

"I want you to make Gilbert swear loyalty to the Baskervilles. I want to watch you bring the Nightray name to ruin," he said lowly. Another pull until Vincent's face was near enough to kiss. Vincent, sensing a cue, leaned in (oh, that hedonistic whore of man; how often did Leo notice him try to distract others using that body of his?). Leo withdrew, an icy smile crossing his face as he let Vincent's arm go.

"I'm ordering you as my servant, Vincent. I demand this."

For a moment, Vincent's eyes flickered with some unknown emotion, before his eyelids lowered and that serene mask of servitude covered his features once more. He gave a slight bow of his head. "Yes, my Lordship."

Leo, Vincent, and Gilbert: a wretched trinity meant to ruin the Nightray Dukedom's noble reputation, its history, and soon, its lineage.

Elliot would be so upset to hear, Leo mused bitterly. But he can't get upset anymore. Because he's dead.

xxxxxxx

Master… Master…Master…

The thought pulsed in Gilbert's mind as constant as his heartbeat. In the dimly lit bedroom, Gilbert was aware of very few things over the course of the last few hours, as the rush of memories had rammed through him with a force that had left everything numb. He remembered the feel of Glen's head in his arms, the viscous embalming fluid smearing his clothes, mixing with his blood. His childhood, his life with Vincent, his life with Jack, the Baskervilles, old crone, the Tragedy….

Who was his master now? Did it even matter?

Images and sensation rolled in and out like the tide. Sometimes, the memories were so potent that tears formed as he experienced them again. The cold wet of rain-washed streets that he wandered with his brother. The roaring fireplace in Jack's manor, snuggled in blankets and warmth. The strong and reassuring touch of Glen's hand as he led him down the hallways in the Baskerville mansion. The smell of the estate orchards in the springtime.

Glen fighting Jack. A murderous pain across his back. The appearance Jack's Chain, a giant black rabbit (that wasn't Alice but Oz, yet how could that be, how could-?) The world falling out of place in an explosion and then it was Vincent, carrying him through the darkness…

Gilbert became aware of little things, eventually. He remembered soft candlelight and the burn of alcohol as it was poured over his wound. Vincent, his full lips pressed into a tight line, glided those silver scissors across his chest to cut away his clothes. His brother had been so careful, moving with precision, plucking out the bullet before sewing him using deft stitches. Like I'm one of his dolls, Gilbert had thought before finally passing out.

He woke up in his old bedroom, and a strange sense of irony hit him. How often when he was younger had he wanted to escape the Nightray manor, but was chained there through obligation and determination? And now he was literally trapped in his former adopted home, locked in his room, his wrists tied to the banisters of his canopy bed. They took the blood seal amulet away from him too, and without a bodily connection, his access to the Raven was lost. Part of Gilbert feared that they had shattered the pendant, and if so, everything he had worked for would be gone.

No, everything was already lost.

Oz was gone (and who was Oz? Certainly not his master any longer – gods, it hurt, it hurt to even think that…. Was he a boy? A Chain?). Pandora had tumbled into chaos. The seals where broken and the consciousness of Glen had returned, muttered the various Baskervilles in their shadows. But what did this mean? If Jack were to blame for the Tragedy this whole time (Was he? Was Oz? Was Vincent, even? Gil didn't know…), then what would happen next?

Gilbert stared blankly ahead at the fireplace opposite the room, where a plush chair stood. The bedroom had been transformed into his dungeon, and Gilbert wished he had been thrown in the Nightray cellar, instead of placed upstairs. Too much was insinuated by keeping him in a bedroom (was he only counting down the hours until some perverse game would begin?) His position – sitting up, hands bound on either side to the banisters, a pillow at his back to keep his torso away from the hard wood and his legs free – was a hair away from vulnerable. His arms ached from remaining in that bound position for hours, though enough slack was given so he could raise or lower them about a foot each way to ease the stress on his muscles.

Every time the bedroom door opened, Gilbert's heart jumped. He hated waiting for the inevitable. As the hours passed, no one came except for silent Doug, who entered to give him sips of water and bites of bread so he wouldn't starve. Not even his brother made a re-appearance.

Sadness weighed down Gil's chest, aching beyond his wound in thinking of his younger brother. Vincent knew all these years about Gil's memories and he never told. Everything made sense now: all those disappearances late at night, his obsession with what Gil knew and what he didn't, that look of shock and resignation at the very end, right before the last seal exploded.

But why hadn't Vincent visited him since? Again, when Gilbert thought he knew everything about his younger brother, mystery obscured his actions once more. Even as their childhood of loneliness and suffering played out in his head, Gilbert couldn't predict what Vincent was doing at this moment.

"Hello traitor."

A sharp beam of light cut through the gloom as the door opened. Gilbert turned his head. The Baskerville woman sauntered in, carrying a basket in her hands. Gilbert only saw her during the final battle at Pandora but suddenly recalled a vision of this woman in hoop skirts and flowing pink taffeta, kneeling down to ruffle his hair, smiling and asking: "Hi there, cutie, can you tell me where Master Glen is?"

The name rose up from his past. "Lotti."

"Traitor," she repeated again, lowering the basket on the side table. "Master Leo wants you cleaned up." She removed the items: bandages, a glass flask of alcohol, clean rags and several smaller bottles.

The folds of her red cloak parted and he saw that she wore nothing decent underneath: the tight corset, a short ruffled petticoat that exposed the sheer silk stockings that stretched over her legs. She removed the cloak from her shoulders and tossed it aside.

Gil, tied to the bed, could only avert his eyes from her cleavage as she undid the clasps of his shirt to reveal his bandages. Her touch felt invasive and foreign, making his skin crawl.

Lotti snipped at the old bandages with a pair of scissors roughly and tore away the bloody wrappings. There was no tenderness as her long fingernails raked across his skin when she swapped the healing flesh with a damp cloth. Gil flinched and she smirked.

"Poor thing," she tsked. "Would you rather have your brother do this?"

The reminder of his brother's hands moving along his torso made him blush even more. She grabbed Gil's chin and jerked his face toward her as she continued to swab his wounds. Gil jerked at the ropes, helplessly, as she pressed against him. "Lily wanted to rip your heart out for stealing the Raven. You deserve nothing better. Master should have his Chain returned. But he won't do it."

Was that anguish in her voice? "It's all for Master Leo. You understand, right? He's not my Lord Glen, but he's all we have." Lotti's delicate fingertips lingered down Gil's open shirt. "He's giving you a chance to redeem yourself. You should be grateful."

A hand suddenly grabbed at him from behind. Gilbert yelped, lifting his hips in reaction, and she smiled. "Stay there, traitor," she ordered as she unrolled a strip of clean linen around his chest over the injury. Gilbert bit his lower lip, tolerating her actions. Quickly, she re-tied the fresh bandage, but her hands wouldn't leave his body.

She smoothed out the linen beneath her dainty fingers, trailing her long nails against his skin. Her perfume, musky and deep and too strong, touched his nostrils, making his stomach twist. Rubbing down the front of his chest, tendering grasping the muscles of his abdomen, trailing further and further down…

Gil shut his eyes as the flash of memory came to him: laughing emerald eyes and a playful fingers dancing down his torso. "Gil makes the cutest faces when you rub his belly," Oz murmured, lying beside him. That was their signal in the morning, when they woke in each other's arms and Oz wanted to…to…

Oz.

Gilbert didn't want to give her the satisfaction of a verbal response, but finally, he growled, "Are you done?" How dare this bitch remind him of his master like that-

"One more thing." Slim fingers stroked down the front of his trousers. Gilbert recoiled, twisting his pelvis to the side, but his bound arms hampered him from further escape. "What are you-?"

"You don't deserve anything from him," she hissed gripping him by the sides. Gil cried out, "No-"

"Not even this." Roughly, she clambered on to the mattress, her heels sinking into the covers as she climbed over his waist to straddle his thighs. She yanked at his member through his clothes, causing him to grunt and sending a flush blooming on his cheeks. He kicked out and Lotti gave a little laugh as she rolled with the motion, her fingers kneading him down here.

"Stop," he choked out, feeling a sudden, inevitable horror. This was it, wasn't it, this was it- The arrival of one of Gil's fears almost felt like relief; at least he could resist this, he wouldn't give her any joy at seeing his discomfort.

He ducked his head, trying to keep Lotti out of his line of sight. His pelvis bucked; he arched his spine and writhed, grunting; Lotti bent and grabbed at the edges of his open shirt, using them like reins as he thrashed, yelling.

Forcing his legs to bend at the knees, despite the weight on his thighs, he pushed the woman off his legs; her hold on his shirt tightened and she tumbled off; cloth tore and ripped.

Hands like claws, she gripped Gilbert's bare sides to keep her balance and pressed the heel of one shoe right in the center of his bandage. Red bloomed onto the white linen and Gil roared, eyes tearing up from the agony. He couldn't breathe; colors flashed before his vision. And then the dagger heel eased off him.

Between his wheezes, Gil felt her weight settle across his thighs again, her legs hooking beneath his strained knees to keep them locked and immobile. Her short skirts were hiked up over her hips in this new position, and Gilbert saw the lace of her under-things flash in his face and she reached down to seize him again.

"You traitor. I don't understand what he'd want you for." She undid his belt and his fly (don't look, don't look, pretend this is nothing, she's not there…). Slipping her hands down the front of his drawers, her sadistic grin widened at the expression of embarrassment and anger that crossed Gil's face. The soft pads of her fingers rubbed against his delicate skin and he flinched, choking back his response. She had him in her grasp, and Gil couldn't think, fighting pain and shock as she taunted him in a sneering voice.

"You were my Lordship's most precious servant, his chosen one, but after the Tragedy, you abandoned us to crawl to the next person you saw. Pathetic little boy." The next three words she snapped out, each accompanied by a jerk of her palm. "Pathetic. Little. Boy."

Her words did nothing to arouse him, but as the pain from his chest eased to a low throb, Gil could not avoid that sensation of her digits along his member. A different musky smell joined that of her perfume and Gil noticed a patch of wet seeped through the lace in front of her crotch. Lotti tossed her head as she shifted her hips forward, rubbing the silken lace panties against the underside of Gil's cock as she pumped him in a firm grip.

"The traitor feels so good, doesn't he?" Lotti said throatily. "Does he enjoy how wet big sister's getting?"

Disgust overwhelmed him. "Don't-" he gasped, his face flushing entirely.

The smell of her arousal mixed with the headiness of her perfume and the moisture from her body. Tightness began to form at the base of Gil's stomach. He clenched his jaw to stop from crying out as her steady grinding continued. Lotti smirked. "From what I gathered from Vincent, I thought you couldn't get it up for a woman."

She spread herself on top of him in a feline motion, dipping her back low and presenting a generous view of the rise of her breasts. Lottie continued to press her feminine parts against Gil's member, angling the slowly hardening tip to press against the slick lace. She rubbed her body along his torso, and then straightened up leisurely. Her head dipped and an agile tongue licked below his navel. His forced gasps made his injured chest ache; he arched his spine and pushed again, contorting his torso in an attempt to throw her.

"Get away, get off, leave-"

But she didn't, nestling herself further, giving little nips along the tender skin at edge of Gil's bandages that made his hairs stand on end. "Oh no, this is so much fun." Reaching across him, she grabbed a vial of one of the oils on the table and removed the stopper with her teeth.

"Little Gilbert just needed to find the right woman, maybe," she said, drizzling the oil over her fingers and returning her hands to his crotch.

"Damn you, damn you." The sensation of her lubed warm fingers encircling his exposed member sent little ripples of pleasure. No, he thought, Not for her, not for this bitch. Lotti's fingers were deft and supple. Her thumb rubbed against the head of his shaft as the rest of her fingers gripped firmly, moving sensuously up and down, up and down…

Gilbert closed his eyes but the lack of sight only made him focus more on the sensation. "No," he said, lowly, shaking his head and resisting that warm pooling down his torso and gathering between his legs. "No, no, no-"

"But darling, yes." A scornful giggle from the woman on his lap. "Look how large little Gilbert can get."

Out of pure humiliation, Gilbert opened his eyes, realizing how useless it was to keep them shut. Against his will, the aching pulse between his legs became more intense, and Lotti's strokes turned adamant. Gilbert tried staring to the side, zoning out as he gazed at the marble mantle piece and traced the veins of grey running through the stone. He had to beat this, he had to draw his mind from her, from this place…

When her other hand cupped his balls, Gilbert slammed against the wooden headboard, biting his tongue to keep from enjoying the pleasure of her touch.

"You only prove my point," she panted. "You're not a true Baskerville. We're loyal. But you cling to anyone who shows you the least bit of affection."

"Stop," Gil gave a grunt, "You… bitch-!"

"If I'm a bitch, at least I'm not a whore." The lubricant over her fingers increased the sensation of her warm digits over his length. She thrust her hips against his unresponsive ones, forcing him to thrust against her. Gil moved, helplessly, letting a coat of need blind him momentarily. His lips parted and he swore again and again and again as she rode him.

"Oh, talk dirty to me. Big sister loves that."

"Shutupshutupshut-" A touch just beneath his scrotum, along that sensitive area of flesh, sent a chord of pleasure vibrating through him. "You…. cunt…." he said, startling himself as his voice drained out into a dribbling whine.

"But you love this cunt, don't you?" A wicked grin. There was a sound: a disgusting, wet noise as she slapped his erection against her dripping core, laughing at the horror on his features. "Oh, whimper for me, traitor, beg for me." Her hair fell forward over her head and her hot hands grasped and her scent unleashed something alluring…so different from Oz yet so triggering….

A rush of dizziness fogged his senses and a half-whimper, half-moan escaped his throat, trying to deny, to fight this feeling. Wild fear (this can't be happening, this can't be happening) and he tried to articulate it, but other noises kept getting in the way. The sounds, stifled and bestial, leaked past this lips as his own body betrayed him.

"Hmmm, I guess you can be such a cute servant." Another lick along his obliques, further strokes with her oiled palm. Her free hand floated down his chest, rubbing that wall of muscle as she rolled her hips on top of him. "Though you turned out to be not worthy."

"L-lotti-" he stumbled, trying to get his bearings. Why was his body reacting to her? Heat rose in his cheeks, flushing down the length of his trunk as he strained against his bonds. He was better than this, he couldn't give in, he wouldn't-

"F-fuck you…" Gilbert glared at her through half-lidded eyes.

"Oh, I wish you could," she smirked. Her rocking motions subsided and Gilbert shoved his head to the side, screwing his eyes shut once more, emitting an exhausted exhalation.

Her hot breath ghosted along his ear as she whispered, "I wish I could be the one to have you screaming in the name of our Master. I would make you work to earn back our trust, weeping in splendid agony between my thighs." Her hand gave one final pull, and Gil, unwillingly, gave a soundless little cry, mouth gaping, his skull banging into the wooden headboard so hard he saw stars.

Gilbert teetered on the edge, lightheaded and sickened, feeling his stomach drop from under him. Mounting shame over his situation overwhelmed his thoughts. His eyes closed, Gilbert noticed her weight shifting, easing as her fingers released him. Thank gods…

"Good," she purred. "You're ready. I would hate for Master Leo to be disappointed in your performance."

Wordlessly, he watched as she dismounted in one swift move, wiped her hands on the sterilizing cloth, and readjusted her short skirt, leaving Gilbert hard and exposed. He glanced at that damning spot between his spread thighs and immediately averted his gaze, shuddering. I'm filth, pure filth for letting her do this, Gilbert thought. He bent his knees and rotated his pelvis to the side in a weak attempt to hide his indignity. Gilbert bit his lower lip to trap in the sob as that tight throbbing pressed needfully against his linen underclothes.

Gilbert bowed his head. Think of nothing and this will pass. Just… don't think.

"Have fun, traitor." The heels of Lotti's boots clicked against the wooden floor as she exited the room.

In the hallway, she said, loudly, "I prepped him for you. Not that it took too much trouble."

Gilbert wasn't facing the door anymore, though he heard the portal slam shut and two sets of footsteps. A shadow fell upon the bed and a gloved hand tenderly brushed away the tendrils of hair that tumbled across his face. He tucked his legs in tighter, not wanting to show any more of his horrible, wretched self, but that movement caused even more constrained aching from his stiffened length.

"Don't," he gasped, resisting the palm that tried to turn his face. "No."

"Big brother."

Gilbert peered out of the corner of his eyes at Vincent standing at the bedside. Gilbert shook his head, muttering, "Not you, please, leave me alone, please, not you too."

Vincent took the bed sheet and draped it loosely over his legs, masking the aching tent. "Brother…" he murmured again. A sag in the mattress and Gilbert shuddered. He didn't know what to think. What was Vincent doing? Was he going to use him like Lotti? What did Vincent want?

Unexpectedly, the ropes that bound his wrists slackened and dropped. Gilbert raised his head to see Vincent untying him from the banisters, a look of consternation on his face. "Gil doesn't need to be afraid," he said as he lowered Gil's arms. "As long as big brother obeys, everything will be fine."

Chapter Text

 

i'm just an effigy to be defaced
to be disgraced

Vincent walked toward Gilbert's rooms, following the calm strides of his master. The blond gave a sideways glance at Echo by his side, silent and obedient as always. Zwei, the Baskerville's male self, lurked beneath the surface of that feminine exterior, and Zwei was the one who asked that if Vincent were to take Gilbert, whether Zwei could be the one to control him.

"Please, Vincent, please," Zwei had begged as he clung to Vincent while they lay together, slumped against the legs of the divan the last time the Baskerville emerged. Zwei rested his head on Vincent's chest, his pale white locks against Vincent's open silk chemise and said, "I can direct him to act perfectly. You'll enjoy it too."

"Oh shush, you." Vincent propped his chin on top of the youth's head, resisting the urge to wrap a hand around Zwei's neck. "This is a time between Gil and me only." The thought of Zwei possessing Gilbert made him seethe, and it was only the fact that he was the one manipulating Zwei – and Echo – that soothed his thoughts. Vincent depended on the Baskerville to choose devotion to him over the rest of the clan, if things ever went south.

Alternative plans immediately came to mind when Leo offered his brother…. Immediately, he wondered why. Was this a token of appreciation? A selfless gesture of sympathy? Or some sort of plan that Vincent was not aware of?

He had spent so many years assessing people and using Baskerville and Pandora alike to meet his ends, and even now, with that sweet goal of oblivion close enough to touch, he feared that everything he had worked so long for would be snatched out from under him. Vincent wanted to refuse Leo's proposal outright – what kind of person did the child think he was, that he would be pleased to claim his brother like plundered war spoils?

Lotti met them as she emerged from the doorway to Gil's bedroom. She rubbed a hand against Vincent's chest and said teasingly, "I prepped him for you. Not that it took too much trouble."

What was this tramp doing here? He restrained from snapping at her, even bowing to let Leo enter before him, as a servant should. Leo glanced indifferently at the huddled form on the bed before seating himself in the plush wingchair by the fireplace, directly across from them. He propped one heeled boot over a knee and lazily raised a hand to signal Vincent to approach.

Seeing Gilbert's humiliated, uncovered body made hot anger, white and cold, toward Lotti wash over Vince and for a moment, Demios lifted her head in his mind in silent inquiry. One sharp glance at the door, and he heard Leo make a disapproving tsk under his breath.

What kind of gift was his master presenting? Vincent thought viciously. He wasn't about to be used to entertain some child's whims, as much as he was committed to the Baskerville Heir.

Resentfully, he pushed that anger down and instead redirected his attention at comforting his brother. He touched his cheek and saw Gilbert visibly shudder at the contact, pleading for him to go.

"Brother…" Vincent couldn't deny the pain in his voice and Gilbert gave him a hesitant glimpse as he started to undo the ropes. "Gil doesn't need to be afraid," he assured him. "As long as big brother obeys, everything will be fine."

For a long time, Vincent suspected something unauthentic about the loyalty instilled in the Baskerville clan toward their Glen. How often did meetings with the Baskervilles turn into commiserating sessions, where one or another would tremble and break at the mention of their Master not being in the world any longer? Lily had cried the most, poor child, though Vincent suspected that despite her display of stoicism, Lotti had been pained the most by his loss (Vincent understood, in a way, having the same reaction toward Gil so often).

But as their misery became repeated and looped into an endless, unchallenged cycle, Vincent wondered at how such a cycle of relentless grief could perpetuate itself. He yearned for Gil, certainly, but he had outlets and motivation to distract him and halting that circuit of pain now and then. But the Baskerville obsession paralleled that of his brother's preoccupation with that Vessalius brat.

Vincent knew this devotion to be one and the same. All those years Gil pined for Oz Vessalius were lies (and the very existence of the boy, too, was nothing but a lie). Whatever relations his brother and the blond-haired brat had shared once Oz returned stemmed from falsity. If only Vincent could get Gilbert to understand that Gil's love had been warped and misplaced in a whelp who never deserved it….

He wanted to appeal to his brother's higher senses and not use the base compulsion for loyalty that was instilled within all Baskervilles. He wanted to remove Gil from his brainwashing, now that he had no need to pander to it anymore. Yet, with the Baskerville Heir watching in the room, Vincent had no idea how to get the truth across.

Better to pander to that forced compulsion, for the moment, and secure Gilbert's loyalty, and then after, later, when they could be alone…

Vincent's heart ached at the thought. After all these years of deception to save his brother, he wanted to stop lying for once.

He sat on the bed. "Gil," he whispered. "Master has come to accept your forgiveness."

Gil retreated to the furthest corner of the mattress, not even looking in his direction. Raw, torn blisters lined his wrists from the hours of being tried with rough ropes, and his clothes were in complete disarray. Gilbert reached down to yank the sheet up and wrap it around him. Both of them pretended not to notice that Gilbert huddled in a desperate attempt to hide his fading erection, or the mingled scents of sex and Lotti's perfume that lingered in the air. "Who?"

"Master Leo, brother. We serve him."

If Vincent could guide Gilbert to that certain headspace, Gil could be saved. He saw it happen before, when Gilbert had visited him and his compulsions provoked him to scream how he'd kill anyone to protect his master. Vincent needed to tap into that desire to do anything for his most beloved person once more.

"I... I don't-"

He had to be careful. Did Gilbert want to be touched? Vincent took a chance and eased his fingers against the curve of his spine. "Brother has to stay loyal," he said, as a tension between fear and threat entered his voice. "Master Leo wouldn't like it if Gil betrayed him. Like he had betrayed Master Glen."

How easily Gil slipped into his replies; he was typically so curt and grumpy in Vincent's presence. Maybe Lotti had shaken Gil up more than Vincent wanted to admit. "I didn't betray anyone," came the whisper.

"Yes, you did. You strayed and never searched for your comrades, did you? Instead, you became the plaything for Oz Vessalius, even after you realized Jack lived inside him."

"I'm not…"

"Hush, brother, Master isn't angry. He knows you simply made a mistake."

"A mistake…" His dark hair hung in curling tendrils over his eyes as he met Vincent's.

"Vince," he said, "I remember… but there's so much…"

He extended his hand. "Brother, come here." Gilbert stared, not making a move.

"Your wrists," he pointed out gently. "They're chafed. Let me put something on for them."

No response.

Is big brother afraid of me? Why are you afraid? There's no reason. Everything I do is for you, don't you understand?

A smile graced Vincent's features. Sincere. Soothing. Kind. Gilbert had to remember how he could be all those things for him. Despite these lies. "I never wanted to see you hurt," he confessed.

"I got hurt no matter what you did," Gilbert replied sharply, facing away. Vince paused, dropping the pretense as Gilbert continued, "And it'll only become worse, won't it? I'm sick of these games. I-I won't stand for them."

"Gil-"

"Give me the salve. I'll put it on myself."

"Gil shouldn't be embarrassed," Vincent pointed out. "Lotti was the slut that used him."

The hunch in his spine deepened as Gilbert hugged himself. "Don't."

"We shouldn't pretend this didn't happen," Vince said softly. In an even quieter tone, barely above breathing: "She's a bitch and always has been. I don't think Leo allowed her to do what she did."

"R-really…?"

Vincent used Lotti's anger and frustrations to his advantage. An old interrogation tactic, he recognized from Pandora: the good officer, bad officer routine. Vincent found it calming to find himself on the good side.

"Shhhh, but we don't need to talk about her anymore. Please, Gil, give me your wrists." Again, he offered his open palm, but didn't move any other part of his body any closer. A safe distance.

Carefully, Gil grasped Vincent's hand, child-like. Vincent recalled all of the times Gilbert had blown gently upon a scrapped knee or wrapped up a scratched elbow after roughhousing. Protective and kind, that was all he was toward Vince, before his mind became tarnished and those memories sunk to the depths of his thoughts.

Now, Vince was the one who soothed his brother's wounds, mentally and physically. He took the salve from the side table and fresh wrappings. He rubbed the circumference of Gil's wrists in an even, circular motion, his forefinger pressing slightly to feel the racing of his brother's pulse.

Gilbert, head lowered, made not a single gesture to indicate any reaction to Vincent's caresses as he tended to one wrist, then the other. Soft, clean cloth enfolded them both, and afterward, Gil let his wrists drop into his curled lap. Any sign of his previous arousal was masked by the rumpled folds of the sheet and Vincent wondered, achingly, what his brother was feeling.

"There," he said lightly. "Does big brother feels better?"

"Yes. Thanks." Casting his glance downward through lowered eyelids, Gil's face retained that slight blush from their touch.

Vincent eased closer to Gil's side until he brushed against the outside of Gil's hip.

"Vince, why is Leo here-?"

"Master Leo," Vincent corrected. "Why shouldn't he be? He's only your Master." Slowly, Vincent sat propped up with his legs stretched out before him, making sure to place his right arm on the bedspread behind Gilbert.

"But he's sitting there. What does he-?" Gilbert must have realized how foolish he looked not to ask outright and said in a louder voice, "Leo, why did you bring me here?"

"Please." Vincent gripped Gilbert's knee through the bedsheet, causing Gilbert to face him, eyes widening. "Don't be so rude. You are his servant. You should know better."

"But, it's just Leo. I-I-"

"You're a Baskerville. We have to obey, brother." Vincent had the upper hand in this situation: after all, he was not one of the Baskerville-possessed, cursed to obey every word from their sacred leader. He edged closer to Gilbert and let his fingers splay over his brother's knee, before starting to message it. "You can't disappoint him again, Gilbert. Like you did with Master Glen."

"Master Glen…" he recalled, the sorrow in his voice an anchor in Vincent's chest. "I never meant to leave him…."

"You didn't. You're loyal. You've only acted in the name of loyalty." Vincent's left hand traveled upwards, pressing into the firm muscle through the layers of cloth and clothing. The movement made Vincent angle himself toward Gilbert until instead of sitting side-by-side, his body gathered around his brother. Gilbert, consciously or not, sank back into a supine position, letting Vincent's right arm snake around his bowed shoulders. Soon, Vincent was spooning his brother on the bed as he continued to talk, rubbing circles above his knee. "Big brother never wanted to hurt his master. You shouldn't feel ashamed or guilty."

A necessary seduction. A means of sacrilege in order to seek redemption. He wasn't going to cause his brother any more pain. A part of Vincent knew he was being selfish, so very selfish, but he yearned for relief. To grasp for everything before utter extinction.

Gilbert's gaze locked onto his as he responded, his voice becoming fainter as he continued his affirmations. Whether Gilbert was reacting to his touch or to his words, Vincent couldn't be certain. "Yes. Vince, you're right. I'm not… I shouldn't… feel guilty."

"Because Master Leo is going to forgive you for failing Master Glen."

"Master… is… going to forgive me…"

"Yes, he'll forgive all of your misdeeds."

Vincent watched as sweet relief seeped into his brother's expression. That old mind-control was triggered; Gilbert regressed to that basic set of commands that had been implanted in his head. Gilbert would serve his master. He would please his master. Only by pleasing his master would he gain any sense of self-worth.

And even when your mind is torn and broken, I will embrace you, Vincent thought. I will nurse these fragments of yourself and give you whatever joy I can.

The next words came slowly, patiently, as Vincent watched the transformation grace his brother's troubled features, taking away all of the grief and replacing it with blissful release.

"Master wants you to swear your loyalty again."

"I… I will swear my loyalty."

"Master wants you to obey his every command."

"I will obey his every command."

"Master wants you to reject everything of the Nightray house."

"I reject everything of the Nightray house."

"And dedicate yourself, mind, body, and soul, to the Baskervilles."

"And dedicate myself…" Bright awareness flickered in Gilbert's dulled expression. "Vince, I never cared about the Nightray title. I… Master understands that, right?" Gilbert said, urgently. "I only wanted to save-" A road block. Gilbert rolled onto his side, breaking Vincent's hold. Golden eyes clenched tight.

Oz. The brat.

Gilbert uttered the abomination's name. The shadow of Oz Vessalius haunted his brother and he repeated, voice raw, "I left Oz. I left-"

"Shhhh…" Vincent guided his brother into his arms again, though Gilbert continued to face the wall. Vincent wrapped his hands entirely around him, his silk gloves feeling the heat of Gilbert's bare chest, his hips aligned against Gilbert's own. But despite their bodies being in touch, Gilbert's mind struggled far from Vince, torn over that ridiculous, stupid rabbit. "Oz Vessalius was never your master."

"Oz-"

"Is a sin. You know this. His very existence is a sin." Like mine, brother, but you hold no such feeling in your heart for me.

A strange hiccupping noise escaped Gil's lips. "I only wanted to stay by his side."

"I understand. But Oz is your mistake."

Gilbert argued, "He's not, he's Oz, and I-"

"Don't let the sin tempt you," Vincent said fiercely, holding him closer as his brother tried wiggling out of his grasp. I will drive this demon out, I will banish all thoughts of this monster from your head, Vincent thought determinedly, firmly locking his arms around Gilbert.

"He is your sin. Oz is your sin, your curse. Forget him. Master wants you to forget."

A wild cry. Gilbert gripped Vincent's forearms, head bending forward, legs kicking out.

"Shush, shush," Vincent bore Gilbert's thrashing; roughly, he managed to roll Gil flat onto the bed and held him down using his body, clamping Gil's arms to his sides. "Brother, brother-"

Gilbert wouldn't look at him. As if he was the monster. Stuttering sobs escaped Gilbert's lips. "I'm- I'm sorry," he hiccupped.

For what? To who? It didn't matter.

"It'll be all right," Vincent assured. "Please don't be sad. Master Leo understands. He is all-forgiving."

Several minutes passed as Vincent lay on top of Gilbert, restraining him as Gil continued to murmur and sob into Vincent's shoulder. Again and again, Vince said the words, "Oz is your sin. Master Leo forgives you. Oz is your sin. Master Leo forgives you," until the very syllables seemed to blend and lose meaning.

xxxxxxx

A slow throbbing inside Gilbert's head began, born from the strain of emotion that came from lack of air, from deep, wretched sobbing that yanked the air out of the lungs, from clinging too tightly, fisting against the sheets, from the pressure of Vincent's body – too hot – on top of his ragged, half-clothed self…

And with the pulsating pain there seemed to be another Gilbert inside the Gilbert who sobbed, questioning the plague of feelings that stormed across the ruins of his mind.

"I… I didn't mean to leave him…" (Leave who?) "…I-I-I didn't want to fail anyone…" (Oz… Glen… Leo…Elliot?) "I only… I-I- tried so hard, so very hard and it… I don't…I had to… I…" (What? What? What? Do you even know? Do you even know the truth?)

A vision (a memory) of an old woman (an enemy), her bone-thin fingers stabbing at his forehead and Gil is only a child…

(See the truth, see the truth, and stop this stop this stopstopstopstop)

"Oz is your sin."

A cough, a gag. "Oz… is my sin…"

(See the truth, you're better than this, you're more than this, you're)

Whispers of breath and the cadence of the crone's creaking voice: "Do not forget this… and bear this in mind…"

"Master Leo forgives you."

"Think for the Master…. Do your best for the Master…"

"Oz is your sin."

(Gilbert listen to me, listen to me, this is me, I am you, we have to fight, to fight to)

That adamant voice, that second Gilbert, was smothered by the twining recitations of the crone's incantation and his brother's lulling mantra.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"

Gilbert's voice came out in a rush, low and hoarse as the confession spilt out in a torrent of damning words: "But his head was in my hands and I never knew, I never knew the truth, does Master understand this, I never knew, it wasn't my fault, oh please let him forgive me, forgive me, forgive me-"

"Master Leo forgives you."

Waves of grief washed over Gilbert to the point of nausea. His limbs grew slack, his head reeled onto the pillows, weighed down as if by some invisible force. His voice dried up and withered in this throat, too exhausted to carry the confession on any further. Gilbert became aware of Vincent looming over him, suspending himself over Gilbert as he rolled onto his side and let the sobs rock through his tired, injured body.

Oz is my sin, he thought, and the agony was rooted not over any feeling for Oz, but that of a parishioner's sense of betrayal against a higher being, even as he was performing contrition before the priest.

The sheer emotional toll began to wear upon him. He wanted to curl up and sleep.

Vincent stroked the remaining tears from Gilbert's cheeks and trailed a tip along the bottom of one swollen eye. "Be at peace, dear brother…."

xxxxxxx

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry…"

"I'm sorry, Leo."

Final words. A plea.

Leo witnessed Gilbert's confession in silence, letting the remorseful words slam against him like an oncoming wave, and Leo, helpless, floundering, was swept into a turbulent mental ocean of memory. The phrase triggered a moment of sitting in a darkened room and hearing the snip snip snip of Vincent's scissors…

"I'm sorry, Leo."

Elliot shouldn't be sorry, Leo thought bitterly. He should never be sorry.

And when Gilbert screamed it was as if Leo was screaming too, but at the same time it was also Elliot's not-scream: the suffering, stilted silence of that still-warm body, drenched in blood over the hard stone floor.

"…forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, forgive me…"

There was a crease in the back of the white suit coat of Elliot's school uniform, caused by the way the young Nightray thrust his bent elbows back as he kicked over tin canister by the parlor fireplace where the ashes of dead fires were stored. They had just returned to the Nightray manor upon hearing the latest attack from the Headhunter. Two servants had died during this incident, and Gilbert instantly packed up and left the manor the very next day.

Black dust and soot poured out over the wooden flooring and Elliot cursed, "He's a coward, Leo! Vincent said that Gilbert left the manor because of the Headhunter!"

The fall as Elliot collapsed onto the divan and put his head in his hands. "Vincent said Gilbert didn't want to be a Nightray anymore…"

Ever since then, whenever the topic of Gilbert came up, it was always coupled with a new round of disappointment. Gilbert moved to a disgraceful part of town of ill-repute, refusing the Duke's money. Gilbert discarded all markings of nobility, running around like a homeless tramp in a trench coat. Gilbert vowed to serve as a valet – a lowly valet – to a Vessalius boy.

Leo read the concern and disappointment between the anger of Elliot's words. Gilbert was being a fool. Gilbert disgraced the family. Gilbert never appreciated the value of his rank.

And then there was Vincent, off in the corner, in consoling agreement. "Big brother doesn't understand, Elliot." "I'm sure Gilbert will stop by the manor soon, Elliot." "Yes, my brother can be quite preoccupied over such unimportant things."

One adopted brother had spurred Elliot's rage, but the other one fed it, causing the rift that Elliot ached to cross but could not because of stupid pride.

Leo, in the first blooms of love, disregarded Elliot's complaints about Gilbert and the sly words from Vincent. In his own way, Leo attempted to make amends, trying to show him that, perhaps, there was something more to the Vessalius boy that warranted Gilbert's loyalty. That was why, upon discovering Oz's identity as the Vessalius noble, Leo offered him a handshake and later assured Elliot that perhaps there was more to the young boy than he assumed.

But the result of all of this? In the end, did it matter? No, because Oz wasn't even human but a tool used by Jack Vessalius. The thing probably never had real emotions to begin with. So Gilbert had dedicated himself to nothing, and Vincent had fostered Elliot's hatred over nothing, and Leo tried making Elliot befriend nothing and even love was nothing, nothing, nothing-

"Master Leo forgives you…"

No. Leo wanted to yell. No, I don't forgive you, Gilbert, you bastard. No, I'll never forgive you, or your lying brother for anything! I will make you suffer for love like I did, I will make you realize what it means to lose everything, and I will. Never. Forgive.

The thought made his whole body tremble. His fingers gripped the curved ends of the chair he sat in. Outrage over this cheap, provoked groveling began to ferment in the boy's glistening eyes.

Suffer and weep, pathetic idiot, Leo thought as Gilbert curled up on the mattress. Vincent murmured soothing words and Leo wanted to slap them out of the blond's mouth. Manipulative whoreson. You claim to serve me, but I know you want to serve your cretin of a brother instead, the one who hurt Elliot so much and never even realized the extent of such hurt because he was obsessed over that abomination….

xxxxxxx

Feeling his brother's sounds reduce to a mere panting of breath and occasional sniffle, Vincent clambered off of Gilbert and took a clean rag from the table to wipe his face. How broken and terrible they have all become, lying cold in a bedroom haunted by memories and despair.

After the tears were wiped away, Gilbert's face retained a blank expression directed toward the canopy drapery. Vincent trailed a hand upon his cheek. His brother, who had been strong and pure and noble as a child, who saved him from so much and suffered throughout the years, was reduced to this, weeping for a boy who was never a boy at all, clinging to the rules branded into his mind. Gilbert became nothing but a doll that so many people played with until he broke. It wasn't fair; Gilbert had been so much better.

This is all my fault. If Vincent never existed at all, Gilbert would never have had to leave the sunshine…

Hesitantly, a question.

"What did Master Leo forgive you for? I…I don't understand. Why are you serving him?"

To become nothing, Vincent answered silently.

"Master Leo absolves the wicked." A sad smile as Vincent lay down on his side next to his brother and grasped a lock of his hair. "All I want is never to leave my brother's side," he lied, curling the midnight strands between his fingers.

"Since I'm a Baskerville," Gilbert said, his voice sounding almost wondrous.

"Yes," Vincent affirmed. He glanced up and saw Leo's scornful look.

The boy had his fists pressed against the armrests of the chair. Vincent caught the wash of color over Leo's cheeks, a malicious glint in those magnificently-colored eyes. Was it caused by rage? Grief? Lust?

A vicious rasp. "Ruin him."

Vincent protested. "He swore."

"I didn't hear it." A sheen of cruelty graced Leo's lips. "Gilbert," he said smoothly.

"Master?" Gilbert sat up immediately and started to scramble off the mattress.

"Stay there," Leo barked. The man froze.

"Vincent." Leo cocked his head to the side, a crooked smile curling alongside his face. "Make him ours."

For a brief moment, Vincent wanted to reject his command. Ever fiber of his heart throbbed against this. Vincent glanced at his brother, who had become so damaged from his trauma. Anything else and his brother would become more than broken, Vincent feared. Push a bit further and Gilbert would cease to be Gilbert entirely, not even shards of himself but only the dust and ashes of a man….

No, Vincent didn't want to do this.

Vincent tightened his hold on Gil's arm, easing him onto his back. "Master…?" Gilbert whispered. "What does he want?" He looked at him with wide, golden eyes. Eyes that scrambled for anything to hold onto, anything to trust, because Gilbert didn't even trust his own thoughts anymore. How innocent, how dear that tiny flicker of hope was in Gilbert's eyes.

A hollow reply. "Only for you to please him."

To himself, Vincent justified: No matter what I do to you, it wouldn't matter in a little while. We are so close to attaining the Will of the Abyss, and once that is done, everything will revert to the way it should have been: without me.

He had to believe in Leo's promise. Vincent had to have faith in his inevitable extinction.

That was the only way he could even…

The tangled sheet covering Gilbert came away by Vincent's gentle hand. The front of Gilbert's trousers remained undone, the waistband slipping down those smooth, narrow hips. A few strands of fine hairs danced in a trail from the base of his navel to down beneath his drawers. Vincent's eyes rested on that spot, and then rose up, slowly, along his chest to meet his older sibling's gaze.

The hope spluttered away, replaced by anxiety. "Vince?"

"Shush, big brother," Vincent whispered. "He commands this." A firm hand followed the path his eyes had made and Gilbert's breath hitched as Vincent leisurely pressed his lips to the hollow of his collarbone. Gasping, Gilbert arched his neck to expose all of that delicate flesh for Vincent to taste.

Chapter Text

 

i'm not sure of what i should do
when every thought i'm thinking of is you
all of my excuses turn to lies
maybe god will cover up his eyes

Leo watched, face impassive, as one brother overpowered the other with that forked tongue of his. The scene played out like one of the many in those illicit books he had snuck into Lutwidge, those dime-novels full of pleasures and scandal (the cries of "wait, wait," the predatory lover's beg to "please, don't fight it" the stumbling, clumsy grasps between tussled sheets, the whimpers and subdued objections melting away into " gods" and "ah yes" and "oh").

Leo remembered how much perversity shocked and attracted him when he first stumbled upon his first pornographic books hidden in the back of Ernest's closet – the House of Fiona never stocked materials like these. And after reading one – with its euphemistic title The Inescapable Downfall of Lady Magdalene – Leo knew he had to get his hands on more.

A pile of books, each papered in nondescript buckwheat-colored bindings to mask their florid titles, grew in a corner of Leo's own closet at school. The urge to read about those licentious antics intensified – the bad ones he kept for laughs, the good ones he kept and masturbated to whenever Elliot was too busy. Leo even got those lithographs on the crinkling cheap yellow-paper (here was Vincent, as dashingly villainous as a figure from those images, ripping off his frock coat and cravat in his fervor, as his brother flexed wantonly beneath him).

The Baskerville Heir was familiar with images of men and women, women and women, men and men, limbs entangled, mouths gasping, printed exclamations dragging across the page alongside the illustrated swirls of various bodily fluids. He was no stranger to perverse notions of any sort that lurked in the human mind (like these two locked in forbidden incest, and Gilbert, shamefaced, covering his eyes with a forearm in denial).

When Elliot, red-faced and fidgeting, first asked Leo one night during the holiday break at Lutwidge last year whether they wanted to "you know, go further," Leo couldn't help but smile a little and joke, "Hey, I've got some ideas."

Many nights after the first, awkward tumble, they did explore other avenues in order to "become more informed" about their possibilities. Elliot eventually got over his embarrassment (look at Gil, turning his head away from Leo's inexpressive stare, those cheeks burning in such a similar way…), and he got adventurous. Their trysts became more than fast and furious schoolboy romps, but controlled, sophisticated, and devilishly-clever.

Vincent seemed to be an expert at those as well; Leo wondered what that blond-haired man had done over the years to gain such experience.

Leo expected to feel joyful ridicule, reveling over that sickening way the last of the Nightrays were humiliated, a dual revenge that pitted one brother against another by their own terrible desires.

Or, if not triumph, perhaps arousal.

Or even some high-held magnanimousness, for the mercy of letting them have each other, even under these circumstances, as opposed to killing them.

Instead, only emptiness gnawed at Leo, as if all human passions sifted through him like sand in a sieve.

xxxxxxx

You are beautiful, you are so beautiful, Vincent couldn't help but think – or perhaps forced himself to think, to concentrate solely of the physical joys of assaulting his brother so he wouldn't think about the emotional consequences beyond his lust.

There was a way that the man lay on the sheets, receptive, as Vincent's touch roamed across the flat, hard muscles of his chest, skirting the crimson-stained wrappings, brushing down the soft definition of his abs, rubbing along his thighs through his trousers. He turned his head, covering his eyes with a forearm, but angled his neck just so that Vincent could kiss and suck at the nape, letting the downy hairs brush against his cheeks. And as Vincent threw off his coat and cravat and waistcoat, yanking his shirtsleeves over his elbows, Gilbert uncovered his face, the torn ends of his white linen shirt floating aside as his arms moved like the spreading of broken wings by a dying bird.

The first layers of his clothing gone, Vincent pressed his brother's wrists down against the bedspread and slipped his tongue into his brother's open mouth, and a moan escaped them both; but both their eyes remained open, locked, until that initial, heated moment passed and Vincent saw how Gilbert's gaze drifted to the side, past Vincent's shoulder, at the silent watcher across the room.

Was Gilbert resigning himself into accepting Vincent's touches? Was every roll of the hips, every presentation of a limb ready for kissing or biting or licking, every little wonderful sound that passed through Gil's lips only a sign of his devotion to his Master? In Gilbert's head, was an endless line, "For you, Master, for you, for you," goading him into accepting Vincent as he did in a mix of reluctance and desire?

Maybe that was so, and when Gilbert eased off, panting, and pressed his hands against Vincent's chest to ask, "But, Master...," Vincent let go. This will be a seduction, he vowed, not a rape. He'll undo his brother like all the pillow-biting noble wenches he did before, though Gilbert was worth a hundred of those aristocratic hussies. So Vincent paid no mind when Gilbert pushed him aside and addressed Leo worriedly, "Master, do you forgive me?"

Leo had his head lowered, becoming as immobile as a cornered animal right before it struck. Vincent recognized that pose from so many long-ago memories: this was himself as a child, locked in a carnival cage, denying the world around him. He brushed Gilbert's shoulder, but his brother, concerned and lacking tact, pressed, "Is Master all right?"

Both men on the bed turned to the person in control: Gilbert, expectant, brow knitted, and Vincent, gently placing both hands on his shoulders as a reminder of restraint. Gilbert was in that headspace, he realized; his brother didn't have any sense other than his concern for the Baskerville leader. Ha, once again, even in this situation, Vincent was prioritized last.

A sharp bark of a laugh as the boy raised his head. "You really are an idiot, aren't you?" Leo snapped. "Everyone here's a sniveling idiot. I hate that. I hate it!"

Despite Leo's rage, Gilbert saw through it, even in his brainwashed state. "Please, Master, I don't like seeing you so upset," he said kindly. Gilbert must've identified Leo's grief as akin to his own sense of loss. A moment before Vincent could stop him, Gilbert asked, "Is it Elliot?"

That name.

The tension in the room cracked.

Leo rose from the chair and pushed it over. The heavy wingchair crashed to the floor with a grievous thud. "Never say his name! Never!" He kicked at the underside of the chair so hard at the thin layer of gauze that shielded the bottom frame of the chair ripped.

Immediately, Gilbert made to jump from the bed toward the boy (idiot loyalty), but Vincent grabbed him from behind and sat him, hard, back on the mattress. Taking heavy steps, Leo approached them, the snarl intensifying in the boy's voice.

"You may be one of us, but you were a Nightray before. The Raven's Contractor. And he thought of you as his older brother." Leo shoved his face in Gilbert, forcing the other's neck back. "He had such a positive attitude, because he was such a kind person, but in the end, I knew how much it destroyed him inside when you left. You never cared, you tossed it aside-" Leo reached out to grab Gilbert by the top of his hair-

Vincent pulled Gilbert aside. "You do not get to touch my brother like that."

Leo retracted his hand an inch and smiled. "Are you really? After everything I've promised you?"

Vincent stared, not saying a word.

Gilbert's gaze dropped, his body growing limp. "So this is what this has been all about?" he said. "This is for… him? Because he hated me?" Something tiny and brittle broke, clean and sharp, in Gil's voice as he said it. Vincent looked at the failing strength in Gilbert's frame and let the ugliness of it all twist his stomach. With sudden clarity, Vincent remembered the moment Elliot first came home from Lutwidge and asked about Gil, and he had replied, almost dismissively:

"Oh? Gilbert's gone. He never liked being a noble anyways."

Childish jealousy about Elliot's fondness for his older brother motivated those words, and so many more after those. Elliot was the only one who could make Gilbert smile in this dark, somber mansion, after all, and it was a gift Vincent appreciated and envied. And now, years later, those words had returned to torment him ….

Vincent caught Leo's knowing look and glared.

"He could never hate anyone. Not truly." Leo smirked. "He'd get mad but that's not the same."

Gilbert glanced over his shoulder, the self-admonishing guilt rising up in those lovely eyes. His open shirt had slipped down his shoulders, revealing milky pale flesh. "And you believe this too?" he asked Vince in a small, small voice. "I never thought…"

Disbelief swept across Vincent's face. "No, brother," he replied fiercely, "Why did you have to bring him up? This is for us, for us and for our master." Vincent cupped Gilbert's cheek but the dark-haired brother resisted, addressing Leo again.

"Does Master not forgive me?" Gilbert asked brokenly. "For… hurting... him and the Nightray House-?"

"The Nightray House?" Leo grabbed the front of Gil's shirt with both hands and in increasing rage, yelled, "The Nightray House is nothing! He dedicated himself to nothing! Don't you understand?" Leo's arms shook as he released him. "You are nothing except a servant to Glen! And I am now Glen!" He gripped Gilbert's jaw. "Why are you asking such stupid questions?" he growled. "Aren't you disobeying me?"

"No…" Gil shook his head. "I won't… this can't…"

Leo let go and stumbled to his red-lined chair, propping it up again and collapsing into it. "Vincent, continue."

Vince would do whatever it took to save his brother, but Leo was getting out of hand, ready to boil over into pure recklessness. Vincent had to rein him in and subdue the youth's grief somehow before it was too late.

Gilbert started, "Vin-"

Vincent said under his breath, "Please stop acting insubordinate."

"I-I wasn't acting insubordinate!" Gil retorted and caught himself. A part of his old self broke from the state of obeisance; Vincent could tell from the sudden straightening of his shoulders, and the hint of protest as he spoke. "Wait, Master, Vincent… this doesn't help anyone. Punishing me wouldn't change any-"

The word stabbed Vincent; his brother did suffer his touch, it was a punishment for Vincent to hold him…

"Oh, I could make it so much worse for you, Gilbert," Leo interrupted snidely. He tapped his fingers along the edge of the armrest and propped one fist beneath his chin. "That Raven belongs to me. Instead of letting you live, I could've snapped your blood mirror in half and shot you in the face and been done with it. Or have done worse things to you for your long-standing crimes against the Baskerville House."

Vincent said in a rigid voice, "Master-"

"Oh, Vince, you know I'm joking," Leo said in a tone that he absolutely was not. "I'd never truly harm Gilbert." Addressing the other, he added, "You belong to us. You always had. You were supposed to replace the last Glen, remember?"

Out of the corner of his eye, Vincent saw the door creak open. Why would Lotti and Zwei be waiting outside other than as Leo's trusted guards? What would happen if Leo ordered them to help out in Gilbert's defilement? Lotti would surely jump at the chance (that was why Leo ordered her to attend to Gil—it was a warning to Vincent, not merely her own vengeful whim….). Or worse—what if Zwei took charge, Doldrum's strings at hand? A chill snaked down Vincent's spine at the thought of hearing his brother's voice wrapped around Zwei's elated cries. They would expect Vincent to cooperate enthusiastically. And he would have no other option.

A sense of terrible déjà vu hit Vincent. They were trapped, once again, in the foulness of the Nightray manor, lying between daggers. Like years ago when they were first reunited, they could not escape this gilded cage but merely tolerate and obey and lie and survive.

Gilbert must've thought that too, the real Gilbert beneath the programmed commands, and he sank into Vincent's arms, head sunken in despair.

Meantime, Vincent watched Leo's expression change from anger to distraction. Were the voices saying something in his head? How could he defuse this situation before it got out of hand?

"Shut up!" Leo shouted, suddenly, speaking to no one.

Vincent disentangled his arms from Gilbert and, moving carefully, crossed the room to kneel in front of his Master. "Master Leo…."

"Go," Leo had his eyes shut, hands pulling at his hair. "Leave me alone!"

Damage control. He had to do something to regain his command of this situation, even while having to serve another whom he staked his salvation upon. Slipping into his old state of seduction, Vincent humbly bowed his head, letting the ends of his golden hair brush against the rug. From his subservient position on the ground, he touched Leo's trouser leg.

"Does my master seek relief?" he offered. His fingers snaked beneath the edge of the cloth and started to rub the side of Leo's ankle.

xxxxxxx

"You selfish, foolish boy! Clear yourself of that anger!" A tall, dark figure loomed in Leo's mind and with a flick of a red cape before his eyes, Leo felt the grip of a fist as Glen Baskerville grabbed him by the collar in the realm of his mind.

"Shut up!" he shouted aloud, but internally, the youth struggled in the former leader's grasp. Leo was uninjured in this world, but the physical connection with his body still weakened him.

With an abrupt toss, Leo was sent to the floor of his head as Glen Baskerville replied curtly, "Remember your duty, Leo."

"Is it because he was yours?" Leo asked silently. "Are you angry that I'm misusing your chosen vessel, Glen?"

Again, Glen towered over him, the ghost of a man making the atmosphere suddenly darken. None of the other Glens said a word; they all seemed to vanish inside deeper recesses of Leo's consciousness. Were those voices, in their way, giving silent agreement for this Glen to speak for them all?

"Your servants should always be treated with kindness, brat. And that man was more than a vessel; he was a legacy. As you are now. As the leader of the Baskervilles you have a duty toward your kinsmen-"

"I never chose to have them as my kinsmen! I have nothing!"

A bitter scoff as the man knelt down and took hold of Leo's chin, much in the same way he had done to Gilbert only minutes beforehand. Leo stared into the man's violet gaze. "You have us. And you will always have us, boy."

Leo turned his head away; in the physical world, he crouched down, gripping the sides of his skull. Leo shouted, desperately hoping that making actual noise can banish this silent conversation. "Go! Leave me alone!"

A sigh from the dark-haired man. He rose to his feet, and Leo could see the ripples of water emanate away from his footsteps as the last Glen left him. His final remarks echoed solemnly: "While you are alive, Leo, you will always have a choice. Once you are dead, that thread of freedom will be taken away. Remember that."

"Does my master seek relief?"

Vincent's question jarred Leo back into the world. He glanced down as saw the blond man slipping his fingers up Leo's trouser leg to massage his ankle.

That hedonistic slut – that sneaky opportunist, that-

"No," Leo jerked his foot to shake him off. It wouldn't be the same, he thought. No one would be the same as Elliot. He was so bright, so noble, so much better than all of our wretched selves.

So the voices cared about the choices Leo made. Fancy that. Leo looked at the bitter display of vengeance before him. Mistreating them? He wanted to scoff, and yet a tendril of shame snaked its way up Leo's neck.

Don't listen to those stupid voices, he retorted to himself. But Glen's warning remained, for that was Leo's fate – to become a voice like them, eventually.

He threaded his hand through Vincent's hair. "You asked me to fulfill your true desire in exchange for your dedicated service. Doesn't this count?" He sneered at Gilbert and said sternly, "Maybe I won't forgive you, Gilbert. You worked with the enemy. I nearly died again because of them."

Gilbert fumbled, "Master, I…"

Leo went on in a shallow, consolidating tone, "There, there, don't worry. I was only in a mood. Can't help that." A dry, cold giggle. "But you can make it up to me. With your dedication."

With that remark, Leo grabbed Vincent's follicles and twisted sharply, lifting Vince's head violently. The blond bore the hair-pulling stoically until, with another laugh, Leo cast him aside. Vincent didn't even acknowledge any pain as he calmly retreated backwards on hands and knees until Leo ordered, "Stay. On the floor." Then, making a sweeping gesture with open fingers, he asked, "Will you join your brother, Gilbert?"

xxxxxxx

What is Vincent doing…? Gilbert thought as he witnessed his brother leave him to approach the young Baskerville heir. The intensity of Leo's shouts and threats left his stomach in knots, and the headache lingered only seemed to grow worse. Desire and need pulled at Gilbert – his brother's touches had been pleasurable, but thinking about that too much only make his stomach convulse and the pressure in his head mount even more. Was it good, Gilbert contemplated, to feel Vincent move on top of him? And how much of that sensual joy was stoked by that lingering idea that "Master Leo forgives you"?

But no, Master didn't forgive him, and Gilbert was cast off once more. He didn't have a master. He didn't know how to please anyone. He was useless, utterly horrible, and now, some sort of perverse monster, because-

Gilbert yanked the sheet over his stiffened member, which had risen again from Vincent's fondling. A whore, Lotti had called him. Gilbert was nothing but an attention-starved wretch, willing to prostitute himself for any sort of tenderness.

No wonder Master Leo hated him-

(Stop it)

- and Elliot must've grown to despise him too -

(Shut up)

- and Vincent only touched him because he was ordered to -

(Wake up)

There is was that voice again, that silent whisper from another Gilbert, the one that was the liar, that wanted him to disobey…

(Don't let them control you; listen you idiot, can't you see what's happening?)

Gilbert raised his head warily, but his attention snapped into focus upon seeing his brother and Master Leo. That proposition, shot down instantly by the shaggy-haired teenager.

(See what Vincent is doing.)

Gilbert grimaced. His brother, always doing inappropriate things. What was he trying to do, seducing Master Leo…?

"Maybe I won't forgive you, Gilbert. You worked with the enemy. I nearly died again because of them." Leo said tauntingly. And then he was yanking Vincent by the hair, a cruel gesture that Vince had stopped from being done to him-

That was it.

In a rush, a memory: in the bright, unforgiving lights of a circus cage, and both of them were dressed in rags and deemed to be "foreign devils." The spectators would reach out to grab and touch them, laughing or taunting but Vincent never made a sound, nor shed a tear. But the small child would shake all over until Gilbert pushed those hands away, lashing out all the swears he knew, and shielded Vincent with his torso, hugging Vincent tight until the ringmaster stepped in to pull them apart.

(Understand now?) said the old Gilbert from before.

Yes, he thought as Vincent was thrown down onto the carpet. His little brother was protecting him all these years. Using his body and his words as his only weapons of defense much like Gilbert had for him as children. Gilbert remembered now. He understood.

That epiphany, instead of draining what emotional reserves he had, sparked a small flame of purpose. A second wind stirred inside Gilbert's soul and he muttered under his breath, "Don't you dare hurt him."

Don't you dare hurt my little brother, repeated the thought, and it was said by both Gilberts, the young one and the old, in solid determination.

That feeling was always there, before Leo, before Elliot, before even Oz.

Gilbert knew that he had always cared about Vincent, the one person that fate designated no obligation for Gil to feel anything for.

The revelation stunned him.

"Will you join your brother, Gilbert?"

"Vince…"

If Gilbert wanted to be free, he couldn't trust those emotions provoked by Master Leo or even those stemming from Oz (oh gods, where was he now, was he looking for him, did he hate him? Stop, stop thinking those things.)

Being a Baskerville shouldn't matter.

Leo shouldn't matter.

Oz shouldn't matter.

Being real mattered. Knowing what was true.

Gods, he really was a simple man at heart, wasn't he?

"Vincent," he repeated.

This was another show, another performance before a heartless spectator. I can do this, Gilbert coached himself. He had done it before. This should be easy.

And it will be. Because he had to protect him. Gil had to save his little brother.

A renewed sense of purpose prompted Gil to rise from the bed. He lowered himself upon the plush carpeting before Vincent, who watched, wide-eyed, with an expression that Gilbert recalled from years and years before, on the visage of a little boy clinging to his hand. Vincent never lost that look after all: one from someone who so badly wanted to be held.

Gilbert traced his fingers along Vince's jawline. "I… I finally…" he started to say, but cast off the rest of the sentence. Instead, willing every ounce of sincerity to break through his touch, he lowered his lips and pressed them against Vincent's, letting his eyes close. His brother didn't know how to respond and Gilbert felt him retract.

Don't leave, he thought and grabbed the back of Vincent's head in one hand and wrapped his other arm around Vincent's neck. He let their kiss deepen, and, unlike that lustful and false one he had done for his Master, this kiss he did for no one but himself. Vincent's lips, instead of hard and aggressive, turned plaint, receptive. A little whimper that came from a broken place rose up from his little brother's throat, and the sound made Gilbert grip him harder.

Letting go, Gilbert said, hoarsely, "Tell me this feels real."

Vincent blinked, surprised, and Gilbert noticed the bottom lip tremble ever so slightly. Several moments passed as Gilbert peered searchingly into his brother's eyes. Tell me, tell me, tell me, please, Vince tell me…

Time unspooled endlessly as their gazes remained connected to each other. A tiny change, the softening of Vincent's expression at the corners of his eyes, and Gilbert knew that it was Vincent's front of manipulative lust crumbling and falling away. For a moment, Vincent truly resembled his lost child self, and Gilbert didn't mind thinking of that comparison at all, even after having kissed him. For what Gilbert was reminded of was a forgotten frailty that Vincent possessed from before, long ago, an authentic vulnerability that provoked such fierce protectiveness within Gil.

"Y-yes." Vince finally answered, the word barely rising above a whisper. He reached out for his older brother and fell against Gilbert's chest. "Yes, yes, yes…."

Chapter Text

my whole existence is flawed

you get me closer to god

As Vincent tumbled into Gilbert's arms, a sudden fear gripped the raven-haired man. Now that Gilbert had kissed Vince, making the first move, the possibility of pushing further terrified him.

Some sort of block settled deep in his mind as he moved forward to hold his brother. Gilbert saw the edge of some sort of standard – taboo, shame, indecency, ruin, guilt – and some part of him resisted, recalcitrant in spite of his determination. An urge inside wanted to throw himself off of it desperately. This death drive, this ceaseless need toward simultaneous salvation and desecration made Gilbert wrap his arms tight around Vincent's shoulders and pull his younger brother on top of him.

I want to love you, protect you, save you, not… Is this is enough? thought Gilbert as their lips met once more. The blond man shuddered in his hold, floundering as he clawed at Gilbert's shoulders, smothering him in a fury of tiny blossoming kisses along his face and down his neck.

Behind them, Gilbert knew Leo watched and despite his will for freedom, Gilbert's cheeks flushed. They were still doing what Leo wanted; they were encaged to his will, but this time, the moral chains were being wretched loose; they were falling. All of them were falling.

But it was a glorious descent.

Gilbert's heart beat frantically in his chest as he licked along Vincent's neck, making him stop his kisses to grip Gilbert's sides. A shaking moan rose from his little brother (something new, something Gilbert never witnessed before – oh gods, what's happening, what am I doing to us?)

Vincent's hands pulled at his clothes, eagerly, and Gilbert bucked his hips and pretended not to care about the black-haired boy silent in his chair, watching them rut on the floor like animals. This is to save Vincent, this is to save me, Gilbert thought to himself as he let Vincent take the lead, even as his younger brother kept making those whimpering noises (so loud, why was Vincent so loud and weak-voiced? Oh gods, Gilbert did something terrible, because he never knew Vincent to be this way and he didn't know what to do about it, what to do…)

"Vincent," Gilbert said and his brother, wild-eyed, had almost a savage look to him as he glanced up that contrasted sharply from the refined seductive gestures from before. Gilbert was suddenly struck by how much he didn't know about Vincent after all these years.

"Big brother," he whispered, "Y-you really want this?"

That look, that plea. "Yes," he couldn't help but gasp.

xxxxxxx

Glen's words repeated in Leo's head, even though the spirit had vanished into the depths of his mind. "While you are alive, Leo, you will always have a choice. Once you are dead, that thread of freedom will be taken away. Remember that."

Even if Leo were finally to die, his soul remained part of that abomination known as Glen. Even if heaven were to exist, he'd be trapped in that purgatory mass of twisted souls, roaming the earth as a pack of hungry ghosts until the next cycle began.

This wasn't fair.

He hated the gods, or God, or the Abyss. He hated everything in the world that allowed him and only him to be condemned in such a preposterous way. This was the worst sort of grim fairy tale, a never-ending story of pain and damnation.

It wasn't fair, it wasn't fair, it wasn't-

"Master," Gilbert's ragged plea interrupted Leo's thoughts.

"Ask him," Vincent urged as he gripped the side of Gilbert's waistband, hooking elegant fingers beneath the fabric. "Ask him, and you know he won't deny you, dear brother."

Gilbert's blushing face, a mask of confusion and desire which he tried to obscure by averting his eyes as he murmured his request. "Is this permitted?"

Leo had never seen Gilbert reduced to such a pathetic state and both of them knew it. Gil was looking for some emotional loophole, some deliverance that would pardon this behavior, allowing Gil to let this happen without being destroyed entirely by it. He wanted someone else to blame for his weakness, though he knew deep down his own failings caused this. Leo was intimately familiar with this logic by now, having used it so many times on himself.

Leo flicked a hand their way and said in an indifferent voice, "Let him."

Vincent yanked Gilbert's trousers and drawers down past those sharply-defined hips. Gil collapsed against his brother's chest, emitting some sort of relieved cry of submission. In an endearingly protective gesture, Vincent tangled his fingers in Gil's hair as he buried Gil's face in the front of his shirt.

"Isn't Master Leo so kind?" he said. "Only he allows such pleasures to those who serve him."

xxxxxxx

Gilbert had kissed him. He had kissed him.

Vincent had no idea such a small gesture could mean so much—he had kissed many people before and done far more lewd things to them without feeling the way he did when his older brother had done something far, far more innocent. A dam had cracked inside Vincent, because Gilbert acted adamant, determined to feel something true, and it cut through all of the lies and deceit and manipulative webs that Vincent had draped around them both. Years and years of repression became unleashed and Vincent couldn't help but move so much faster yet so fleetingly: graceful little kisses coupled with a firm grip that pressed his fingernails into his brother's sides. Gentleness and roughness. A rush of desire and relief that was almost too much for him to control.

No, he couldn't control himself, he couldn't, not when it was Gilbert that had undone him. No, he couldn't stop, didn't want to stop this, ever-

"Does Gil want to touch me more?" he asked hopefully, as he pressed Gilbert's head to his chest.

"Vince…" Hesitation caught in his brother's voice, along with a fearful eye, and immediately, Vincent's heart sank. No, he didn't. That kiss was permission. Only permission. A sudden anxiety slammed into Vincent, making him ease his hold.

He overreacted.

He had pushed too much.

How many barriers Vincent had to lift before he could get what he truly wanted?

Vincent ran his fingers through his brother's hair and watched his brother's eyes dart toward that boy again, his flushed cheeks betraying a sense of apprehension. But hadn't Gil risen from the bed with such a willful look on his face to grab Vincent and lock him in his arms? Where was that flame of strength than made Vincent crumble?

Gilbert tiled his chin upwards, straightened up, and hugged him close, feeling that solid breath as their chests rubbed against each other. Vincent nuzzled his head against his brother's shoulder, making sure that Gil faced away from Leo, to keep the illusion that they were alone.

"We can do this…" Gilbert murmured, as if trying to convince himself of something. "W-we can…." He stroked Vincent's cheek, and Vince pressed that palm to his face.

"Tell me this feels real." Not a demand like Vincent prayed for, but a plea. Gil wanted Vince to tell him how to feel. He wanted Vincent to control him.

Which means his older brother remained a servant, remained only willing to play a part….

Vincent made a mistake, he read too much into Gilbert's gesture. Maybe Gil only tolerated this intimate physicality in order to survive, just as Vincent tolerated the fat noble hens he took to bed for information, or tolerated pleasuring Zwei or Lottie to affirm his loyalty to the Baskervilles: all of these were gestures were distractions from his true heart. Just because Gilbert instigated a moment of assertiveness didn't change anything.

Fuck, why was Vincent such a fool to believe his brother would change his mind about him so quickly?

Only Vincent would be allowed this. Only this and never anything more.

Stop making us do this, he wanted to snap at the black-haired boy sitting before them. Even now, Vincent wanted to slap the youth to draw his dazed expression to focus on them. What do you want, you pitiful boy? Vincent wanted to scream. Do you want to make us all as unhappy as you?

His position shifted. Vincent rammed down his elated joy, meagerly gathered the remains of constraint around his cracked ego.

I'm an idiot, Vincent shuddered.

He swallowed hard and tried to smooth out the ragged hitches in his voice. "Oh, of course we can," he said, in a quiet, easy tone. "I can do whatever it takes to make big brother happy," Vincent soothed, letting Gilbert go, feeling almost a sharp embarrassment now that made his limbs move awkwardly as their bodies parted.

Gilbert lay on the carpet, panting and squirming, but angling his head up to prevent from looking at Leo, who seemed to have turned to stone. Curiously, Vincent glanced at the boy's crotch and noticed that he wasn't even aroused.

Then what is the point of all of this? he thought bitterly. Facing his supine brother on the ground, a renewed sense of dedication filled him. Us. That was the point. That had always been the point.

Vince undid the front of his trousers and pulled them down to expose his erect member before them. How odd it was, for Vincent to still be fully clothed while Gilbert sprawled almost nude beneath him, covered only in the torn draping of his shirt and bandages. Was this a sign that Gilbert was obeying his Master still, because he hadn't made a move to see Vincent fully before his eyes?

That's fine, that's fine, Vincent thought disappointingly. But this wouldn't stop him, no, this wouldn't prevent Vincent from pleasuring his brother to the fullest.

He grabbed the bottle of oil that Lottie had sent tumbling to the floor earlier and dredged up the last of it over his gloved fingers. The oil seeped into the silk, staining it a smooth honey color. Vince heaped on the lubricant, rubbing his clothed fingers together until the fabric was completely saturated. And old trick he used on older women (and men) who weren't as fresh as they used to be. He had to prep Gilbert, but wanted the sensation to be as smooth and luxurious as possible.

Crouching down between Gilbert's parted knees, he played with his brother's parts down below with that slippery hand and his brother bucked, biting his lower lip to contain the whimper.

"Vince, what's-" he glanced down to see what his little brother had done and a quiet sound of satisfaction came from him again as Vincent gripped his brother, hard, and leisurely pulled down his length again.

"That's- that's, that's so good, good," he panted, bowing his head so his chin nearly touched his chest and clenching his eyes shut.

A smile crossed Vincent's face at his accomplishment. He pulled back the foreskin of Gilbert's shaft, exposing the glistening head, and Gilbert arched again, stuffing his fist into his mouth and moaning between his knuckles. Vincent tongue darted out and lapped at the head of Gilbert's cock, causing his brother's spine to arch into a perfect bow. Vincent took that moment to thrust three of his silk and oil covered fingers into the perfect anise-shaped pucker of Gilbert's entrance.

Alarm and elation burst across his brother's features as Vincent's fingers slipped past that tightness and entered him in one smooth push. The trick worked perfectly. Gilbert took him in immediately, letting Vincent's long fingers enter all the way to the third knuckle without resistance. His brother bounced his pelvis, his knees splaying wide, accepting him so quickly, so deeply-

"On my gods, Vince, oh my gods, you're, you're-"

Expertly, Vincent extended his hand just a tad further, pressuring the knuckles against the soft, full flesh of Gilbert's rear, just until he could brush the underside of that special place inside his brother-

"Vincent, Vin-!" And the rest of Gilbert's cry was lost, drowned in his own silent, open-mouthed gasping and he threw his head completely backwards to look at Leo upside-down, not caring that the youth was staring at his flushed face and parted mouth and –

This was too much for Vincent to bear any longer.

"Ready?" he gasped, yanked out his gloved hand and positioned himself to plunge into his brother, holding his brother under his knees and hoisting his legs up slightly to spread them even further apart. But before Gilbert could reply, Vincent pushed his cock inside, breaking through that rim of muscle and flesh and bathing himself in hot, slick, wet heat.

Pure and complete penetration. Wracking, voiceless sobs shook through his older brother's trembling body and Vincent realized that this was probably the fullest Gilbert has ever felt; that the Vessalius brat would never be able to compare to Vincent's size-

Gil retracted, helplessly, pounding his fists against the carpet as Vincent held his hips in place. He begged in a strained tone: "Vince- oh, oh, please…"

"Does it hurt?" he asked. He sunk himself in further against Gilbert as he moaned and resisted, wheezing with sharp intakes of breath which released themselves as drawn-out groans.

"Oh gods, this is you, you…"

Vincent halted. "Brother, relax." He kissed the inside of his thigh. Another inch pushed in to trigger a full-throated groan. "Please relax and it won't hurt as much."

"I-I know," Gilbert said, voice torn apart, shuddering all along his body. "I know, but," as Vincent sunk in deeper, Gilbert wouldn't relax, and he screamed again, arms reaching out over his head toward that wingback chair.

"Master-"

Immediately, Vincent withdrew and dropped Gilbert's hips abruptly onto the floor. Gil cried out as his pelvis hit the carpet, and went limp from the shock of sudden emptiness, chest heaving.

Traces of oil and blood coated Vincent's length. He ripped off his gloves and pressed the heels of his palms into the eyes, horrified.

I taint everything.

xxxxxxx

Elation and fear: oh gods, this is happening, this is happening—

Vincent moved too quickly (and yet not quickly enough) for Gilbert, readying him even before Gilbert could say a word in edgewise, but even then, as soon as his younger brother's fingers pushed inside, Gilbert arched back, accepting, willing himself against the uncertainty and nervousness—

Yes, this is what I want, I want to save him, oh gods—

The intensity of the sensation as Vincent stroked him in that precious place within made Gilbert see sparks of light (a memory, the Abyss), and that moment he reveled in until he felt Vincent's length take him relentlessly. A fleeting urgency rocked through his body (too far, we're going too far), and Gilbert glanced over at panting, thrusting brother, that untamed expression on his face as tendrils of cornsilk hair flew about his face.

Little brother…

Words stumbled out of Gilbert's mouth in confusion and need as his thoughts collided with each other. This was his little brother, this was real, this connection was for them, only them, but no one should be watching, they will witness themselves, why was Master there, why-

And in a moment of anxious urgency Gilbert had to go and ruin it all. He swallowed his sobs, blinking back tears of disappointment and self-blame as his hips ached from the collision with the carpet. Why did he cry out for Master? Who the hell was that person anyone? Why did it even matter?

He fell behind. He had tried to break free, but he failed his brother. Again.

Gilbert shut his eyes as the blurring visage of Leo hovered over him.

Damn you, he wanted to say. Damn you, Leo, Gilbert cursed rebelliously as he lifted his head and rose to his hands and knees to witness Vincent edging away from him, pressing his back against the footboard of the bed, his stained gloves cast aside.

"Vince, I'm sorry," Gilbert said weakly, hastily wiping the back of his hand over his face. "I didn't mean it, I-"

His younger sibling curled in on himself, his fists balled up to his face, but Gilbert couldn't see any tears. Gilbert, moving gingerly because of the pains along his backside, crawled to place himself beside his brother and wrapped an arm around his shaking shoulders.

"Talk to me," he whispered, pressing his forehead to Vincent's. "Please."

Vincent shuddered harder. Gilbert raised his head to glare daggers at the boy in the chair across from them. Leo wasn't there, however, and to Gil's surprise, saw the Baskerville heir had wandered to the curtained and barred window on the far side of the room, facing away.

Master? Gilbert thought, but, resisting the urge to go to Leo's side, he clutched Vincent even more strongly. A slow hand (ignore Leo, ignore the boy, he has no part in this) instead, parted Vincent's hands from his face. Vince let him do so and gently, they fell to grip his knees. Gilbert leaned over and kissed Vincent's closed, but dry, eyelids (something he always did to reassure Oz; no, don't think of this boy, he has nothing to do with this…). That stiff, frightened aura resided momentarily as Vincent gasped and raised his head.

Vincent's lips parted, but for once in his life, Gilbert watched them tremble in silence, fighting to gather the words. When they finally emerged, delicate to the point of crumbling, Gilbert felt an ache rise in his chest.

"Y-you… you don't want me, brother. You never wanted me."

"Hush," Gilbert said, frowning, wondering whether Vincent's remark referred to what just happened, or the history of their entire relationship. He decided to answer the former, but made his voice indicate the latter as well. "What happened… took me by surprise. T-that's all." He swallowed, trying to firm his voice as he continued: "But I enjoyed it, Vince. A lot."

This wasn't a curse, a taboo, an abomination. He wasn't a monster for wanting this connection.

Or, on the contrary, maybe they were both wretched monsters. But only the damned could understand the damned, and perhaps this was the best choice to end whatever misery that been imposed upon their lives.

A moment of silence as Gilbert came to a decision about what he had to do. This was more than protecting Vincent from Leo's machinations or the Baskervilles' plans. He realized that his brother had to be rescued from the lies that had accumulated in their lives, tangling them in their thorny grasp. Gilbert took a deep breath, mentally reached out, and began to undo them one by one.

Gilbert wasn't a man for words, like so many of the people he had known in his life. Words, he realized (all too clearly) were dangerous. That can be distorted and twisted, becoming maligned. Pledges can be overturned. Commands can be manacles that imprisoned your brain and shackled your body. The one way to destroy words was through actions. Though sheer will and desire linked to a touch, a taste, a smell. An embrace.

"Help me remember, Vince," he said, voicing the process in his head. "Help me remember us. Before Ma- before Leo. Before Oz." A nudge closer. His bare palm cupped Vincent's chin. "I'm sorry for being such a terrible brother. I…I want…" Another sigh and then, a murmur. "You. Entirely."

xxxxxxx

What had he done? Leo felt a dagger twist inside him with every pained expression on Gilbert's face and as soon as the dark-haired man yelled at him, Leo jumped from the chair, stricken, and moved off to the end of the room. He crossed his arms, hearing Glen's voice (Or was it only an echo? Leo couldn't tell anymore).

"Legacy…"

Leo's knuckles paled as he held himself tighter and inevitably, the image of Elliot came to his mind (shut it away, shut it off, it hurts, it hurts) and hot shame filled Leo from the outside in. Guilt slammed into him from all sides: he was responsible for this, this was all his fault, everything rotten and wretched and cruel manifested from him. That look flashing in Gilbert's eyes reinforced this feeling: it was not one of submission, or pleading, or fear. The look was passion and condemnation; Gilbert's cry was meant for Leo to go away, and in that moment, Leo was overcome by how much Gilbert had embodied… something… that Elliot once had.

Will power. Elliot had wielded his will like he did the Nightray sword: constantly and without regret. Despite that embarrassment and awkwardness, Gilbert was determined to have this moment with Vincent, and damn Leo for getting in the way.

A brush against his mind.

"He was worthy, you see," Glen said, and Leo could tell that the voice contained no judgment against this social taboo behind committed behind him. "Even in this, he carries himself well. My precious servant."

The shame that drove Leo off soon faded into nothingness again, and Leo tried grappling at that feeling, if only for the ability to feel something more than loss and anger. Those emotions that propelled his cold rage ate away at him too much. He felt undeniably empty, even as the noises behind him softened as the two brothers took to whispering.

Leo remained standing by the window, sensing Glen hovering somewhere nearby. The ghost made no attempt to speak again and Leo shut his eyes, feeling his awareness dip down into that realm between the self and the soul, that place where the not-waters rippled.

Glen stood there, in the pooling folds of his red Baskerville cloak. Both of them faced one another. Leo wanted to admit something important in that moment, but remained speechless and instead, slumped down into the not-waters of his mind.

Would this cold, commanding figure even understand anything that Leo had shared with Elliot? In a sense, Leo knew that Glen had witnessed everything at least, caged in Leo's soul the way he was. Though he never commented (none of the Glens did) when Elliot was there, they also knew everything about their relationship. Leo hated that fact: they witnessed every private moment, every intimacy that he ever shared with the youngest Nightray boy.

That was why Glen found his tactics so irresponsible, Leo realized: because Leo was becoming a watcher before his time. And not even a respectful one, but a heartless one. He bowed his head.

His feet touched something and he glanced up to see velvet red. The Baskerville cloak. A spare one had manifested out of nothingness – or perhaps it had always been there as well, waiting for him. With cold fingers, Leo tied on the red cloak and hugged his knees. Glen sat down beside him and the two of them stared away from each other. Leo wanted to think of nothing, and Glen respected this meditative silence.

From far, far away Leo could hear the whispers progress to lingering moans and then to uncontrolled cries of elation. Who was it? That sound felt so unlike anything he had ever heard from Gilbert or Vincent. His response was neither embarrassment nor shame nor perversity. Leo wondered if it was because the world had turned so numb since Elliot's death, or because when taking refuge beside Glen, everything else became distant and unattached to Leo's experience. Sounds echoed out into the blank vastness of his soul as he and Glen remained there, together, waiting as the human drama played out in another world.

xxxxxxx

"I want to see you," Gilbert demanded, his voice stronger.

He saw Vincent's eyes widen and his hands unconsciously tug his shirt around himself. "What?"

Gilbert tried to figure out how to express what he meant and not sound like an idiot. "I… I don't know you anymore. I hadn't for… a long time. And if I want to know you… then, well…" He ducked his head again. He never had to ask Oz for this – the boy had always been the instigator, and Gil had always willingly complied – but now it felt peculiar to approach a man – never mind his own flesh and blood – even as his desire sat peaking between them.

(Stop asking,) said the second Gilbert from within. (Go and have him respond. This needs no words now.)

Pressing his lips together in gentle determination, Gilbert slowly straddled Vincent's lap. His movements were stilted from the pain that was slowly ebbing away from Vincent's mounting and he tried to hide the awkwardness by moving slowly, sensually. He ran his hands up along Vincent's forearms as he settled himself down in front of him.

Something seemed not to process in Vincent's head, and Gilbert would've laughed if he hadn't felt so self-conscious. "W-what?" he repeated, bewildered.

Despite his sadness, the drooping erection Gilbert had stirred as he brushed against his younger sibling. He wiggled in his seat and Vincent bit his lower lip and gave a choked noise in response. "Show me," he said.

Gilbert started unbuttoning Vincent's shirt, feeling the younger man's breath become shallow and his arousal harden again. Vincent remained absolutely still as Gilbert undid the row of mother-of-pearl buttons, pulled the silk shirt to expose that pale flesh, and pushed the cloth away from Vincent's shoulders. His brother got the point halfway through and tugged the rest of the garment off, before eagerly grasping his trousers to yank them further. Gilbert was in his lap, however, and for a moment, a chuckle escaped his lips and he took Vincent's wrists in his.

"Not yet," he said, gaining confidence in his movements, seeing his little brother under his control. The switch came so easily but startled Gilbert nonetheless to see how his brother became willing and obedient, as if he had waited for so long for finally stop resisting. And himself – in someone else's lap and giving orders! If only Oz could see...

Gil pushed away memories that rang familiar to this one and kissed Vincent fully on the lips, rubbing his hands against that too-skinny chest. His fingers caught in the golden chain that held the blood seal for the Dormouse, and Gilbert pulled it over Vincent's head and tossed it away. No more interference from anyone.

Fingers played upon cool skin and Gilbert shoved Vincent into the wooden foot board as their kisses lengthened and deepened. Gilbert opened his mouth and their tongues wrestled in wild abandonment as those hungry sounds emerged from Vincent again (who'd ever suspect his sleepy brother to be so loud?). Gilbert rocked his hips to thrust against Vincent's as the other man reached down and gripped Gil from behind. Gilbert emitted his own little cry as their mouths broke apart.

Panting, they stopped for a second, and Vincent took that chance to wiggle the trousers and drawers down his legs further, but not far enough since Gil remained in the way. Immediately, Gilbert grabbed the tops of Vincent's thighs and messaged that muscled flesh and leaned in, closing the space between them.

He gripped his own cock and Vincent's in his palm, and jerked them together. Another elated exclamation from his younger brother and Gilbert cracked a small smile. This was new side to Vince, and Gilbert had to say that he was starting to like it immensely.

Vincent thrust wildly, clawing at Gilbert's covered shoulders as Gilbert fondled them and made quieter, but intense utterances in the back of his throat. Oil from Vincent's lubricated length rubbed onto Gil and he gave a soft moan in contrast to the increasing volume from Vince. Gilbert bent forward and gave a playful nibble on Vincent's chin before rising quickly to his feet to grab another unopened vial of oil next to the medical supplies.

Taking advantage, Vincent tossed the rest of his clothes off and watched, eyes gleaming in almost an innocently expectant way as Gil yanked the cork out and drizzled some of the fragrant contents into his hands.

Rubbing his fingertips together, Gilbert moved to be on top of Vince, kneading and rubbing every inch of flesh beneath him. "Yes," Vince whispered. "Please…"

That was magical almost, to reduce his usually manipulative and unyielding brother into compliance. The power made Gil flush and his arousal intensify.

"Big brother, Gilbert, yes, please, touch me," came the rush of words and Gil worked his hands down the length of the younger man's body, his golden gaze on Vincent's face, feasting upon all of the nuances of expression he had never knew Vincent could contain.

xxxxxxx

Vincent rarely blushed, but felt the heat rise to his cheeks as his brother surveyed his naked body. He had seen Gilbert become focused before: practicing at the firing range of Pandora; in the mirror, scowling as he tried to tie back his hair; at Yura's party, watching that abomination dance with that annoying Alice across the room. The intensity of that stare, whether in discipline or frustration or jealousy, were expressions that Vincent was used to from his moody brother. Yet this – that deep and yearning need in his eyes… Vincent never knew Gilbert's stare could render him this way.

This was too much. Gil was going to take everything away, and as much as Vincent wanted this, the terror of having what he wanted and having it go wrong (everything went wrong with Vincent) made him wish his brother would stop, despite all of the rippling pleasures that radiated up and down his body.

As Gilbert undid the final invisible binds that locked Vincent's heart with every stroke, every lick, every inch of flesh he possessed, Vincent felt that final cord of defensiveness flare up. He willed himself to muffle his reactions when Gilbert's grip came to his waist, fingers tracing little circles above his hipbones.

"Big brother doesn't-"

Suddenly, Gilbert was pinning Vincent to the floor. "Shut up," he snapped, bearing down his weight. "I want you like this," he said throatily.

Don't lie! Don't lie! Vincent tried to scramble out from under Gil, not wanting to make his big brother go through this torment any more. "Don't lie…" he breathed into Gil's ear, too scared to let his voice rise any higher. "I don't want Gil to be unhappy because of me anymore-"

"Shhhh…" Gilbert's mouth was on his, his tongue, commanding and invading. Vince felt two sides of him warring, very much like the feeling he got from his duelling Chains at times. Desire and denial. Violence and seduction. The subtle and the loud.

That fear gave one more attack (lying, lying) and Vincent narrowed his eyes and broke their kiss. "Does Master Leo like your performance?" he hissed, throwing out that last spear of doubt masked as cruelty.

Gilbert's grip turned to iron in a way that Vincent experienced very recently, when Gilbert yelled at him on the cobblestones. "Fuck Leo. This is for you."

From his position on the floor, Vincent angled his head toward the wingback chair to realize clearly that Leo had left to sequester himself in the corner of the room. Looking up at Leo, who was immobile, as if captured and pulled into his own head again (the Glens?), heedless of them both. Vincent wondered if this was what the Baskerville heir wanted. If this is what Gil wanted. If… if…

The questions distracted Vincent long enough to startle him when Gilbert let go and grabbed his torso to flip him flat onto his stomach. Vincent felt his brother part him from behind and then lay flat against him, rubbing his length against the crack of his rear. He made a startled gasp that trailed off into a lengthy groan as Gilbert licked behind his ear.

"You are mine, Vince."

Brother, brother, yes, yes, yes-

Vincent must have muttered this aloud, for he heard Gil reply: "That's what I want you to say."

Gilbert's hips thrust forward and Vincent felt his older brother's stiffness parting his cheeks. The heat bloomed from the contact, and Vincent thrust upwards in return, rubbing his dripping cock against the plush carpeting in the process.

"Feel me," Gil whispered in Vince's ear. "I'm right here. I'm here for you."

For me.

Gil is here for me.

Rising pleasure, rising pleasure...

"Look at me."

And suddenly Vincent shifted position, thrown onto his backside and Gilbert was the one to grab his legs and heave them over his shoulders. Vincent braced himself on his forearms and raised his neck to tuck into his chest to relieve the strain on his spine.

"Look at me!" Gilbert commanded. Shock and wonder encapsulated Vincent's expression. His mismatched stare snapped open and there was Gilbert, the flush of desire overturning any traces of former self-consciousness. His gaze – that golden heat – and his grip – steady and strong. Vincent reached down and parted his rear to expose his entrance.

The rest proceeded in an unspoken flow of motion and Vincent moved as if in a hypnotized haze, captured by his brother's will. Vincent started to finger himself before Gilbert knocked his hand aside and put his own inside, plunging his digits in deep. Vincent gave a whimper as he was stretched, but he could only think of his bobbing erection and how the pull of Gilbert's hand seemed to connect straight to the very root of his cock.

There were no words now. There couldn't be. A moment passed between them and Vincent swore electricity sparked between them as Gilbert's hand slipped out and his member sank in its place. Gilbert entered, letting his eyes drift close, gritting his teeth as a line of sweat dripped down his forehead.

Brother...

Elongated moans unleashed themselves as Vincent succumbed, feeling the utter fullness of his older brother. The tightness and pull of him, that sensation of being widened in a burning intensity. Vincent began to yell, his voice rising louder and wilder than he could ever imagine. No, this was not like the casual fucks for information or the foolish flings with the Baskervilles. He was always coolly silent during those, or cruelly demanding in a silken drawl. There was nothing of that collected tone anymore as Vincent shouted in raw desire. He had never remembered screaming that loudly out of pure pleasure before.

Vincent tried hammering these sounds into words, but was unable to. His hips rolled, trying to gain a rhythm, and he started groaning and uttering nonsense in time to the motion of Gilbert's thrusts. He braced his fingers into the carpet and his legs started to flail. Gilbert's hands gripped Vincent's knees to steady them both and as his older brother thrust even deeper, Vincent cried out, surrendering, his toes curling.

"Gilbert," came the name – once, twice, three times, again and again like a martyr's chant before the unfurling of the first arrow – "Gil, Gil, Gil…"

Instead of expecting death and nothingness, however, Vincent – eyelids fluttering, hair flying, lungs aching from his cries – felt suddenly, desperately alive. Living and filled to the brim. His Gilbert, his one and only brother, made him want to survive and flourish and exist.

A question flung out unbidden during a moment when Vincent could finally gather enough thought past this onslaught of passion.

"Does brother want to keep me?"

"Always," came the growl. Another push and a helpless mew came from Vincent's lips.

Always.

He didn't want this moment to vanish in time, this moment of pure revelation. He didn't want to become nothing anymore, because then if he did, Gilbert would lose him, and his big brother wanted to have him forever. As childish as that logic was, in any other situation, Vincent would've been able to argue himself out of it. Yet, in this very brief slice of forever, captured and lost in the cresting wave of desire, he believed. The thought sustained Vincent, nourishing that emptiness in his soul.

Vincent wanted to live and let his brother have him.

The blond man had used every ounce of self-control not to cry beforehand, even in the throes of crushing disappointment. At his brother's reply, though, that final barrier (the one in himself, the one he had guarded since forever), came loose. A trembling gasp. His face contorted in pleasure and pain. A hot pressure that was growing in Vincent's chest dissolved into a thousand rivulets of emotion. Fiery and cool at once, the tears brimmed at the corners of Vincent's eyes.

No, he thought, this can't happen. Big brother would be sad. I can't make him sad anymore-

But Vincent failed and began to cry, clawing against the carpet as he lost his voice again and again.

xxxxxxx

Out in the world, there was weeping. And shouting. Leo lifted his head in his mental realm. How long did his blankness last? Glen met his eyes, expressionless. The air seemed to rock in motion with the names that were being shouted in that distant land of the real world.

"Gil, Gil, Gil…"

"Gods, Vince, Vince, my Vince-"

Slowly, Leo rose to his feet and wordlessly, the dead Baskerville leader mirrored his actions. He had to know, not out of a perverse longing for sexual display. This wasn't a yellow lithograph or a brown-papered novel. What these two men shared before him couldn't be written off as simple titillating pleasure or a sickening punishment concocted by a vengeful mind.

This was human life. Leo had to discover what he felt about life.

Leo left Glen, standing and silent, and walked toward the light. Bit by bit, details of the bedroom came to Leo's awareness and the shouts changed from echoing to solid and sharp.

Leo's footsteps felt too heavy, even on the thick rugs as he returned to his seat. Before him, Gilbert and Vincent were lost in another world as dramatically different as the one Leo had just escaped from. Gilbert, spine arched, dark hair hanging in tendrils from exertion, pressed against Vincent, who had tears dripping from the corners of his clenched eyelids, sobbing uncontrollably and scrambling for anything to hold onto. Sounds of heavy breathing contrasted with the incomprehensible, begging pleas, but both brothers had each others' names on their lips. Their names and ragged shouts for the divine.

The voices in Leo's head went silent. They paid homage to the primal essence of humanity – one person embracing another – and at the same time, there existed a dimension of something elevated and holy in this defilement. Because this moment, so intimate and raw between two human beings, this feeling was real, was torn and broken and utterly, savagely resplendent in its glory.

Though Vincent's eyes remained shut, Gilbert's, heavy-lidded, caught Leo's return. He didn't change the rhythm or the words on his breath.

"Gods, gods, gods, Vince, oh gods..."

Gilbert stared straight into Leo's eyes, defiantly, while mounting his mewing, flailing brother. Signs of the old faith, the faith of utter darkness and indescribable beatitude seemed to shine for a moment in the man's eyes and suddenly, Leo knew. Leo knew all about the heavens and the Abyss and how this world ran deep, the Hundred Year Cycles that continued longer than history, and how the chains that covered the world was linked to life, to existence, to the flow between the dimensions, between here and the Abyss and elsewhere—

"Yes," whispered Glen. "Yes, yes. You understand."

As the two men before him cried out in their climax, Leo felt something: his soul lift and rise. He knew what he suspected all along—that he was above this. Elevated onto some higher, vacuous plane hollow of emotion. An enlightened detachment from reality.

This didn't matter.

Not even this display of human passion provoked anything. Not disgust nor ridicule nor hate nor lust nor anything. Not because he was empty, but because he was transcending.

Even that petty wish to destroy the Nightray name was a child's resentfulness. Leo realized that because revenge – like happiness and love and hatred and wickedness – were mere ideas drawn from humanity.

Leo was above humanity.

He was never truly human to begin with in the first place, but a human plus something more: plus the power that flowed through him from the Abyss itself, plus the strength of his Chains, plus the countless lives inside him. By becoming Glen, he needed to slough off what remained of his humanity like a butterfly crawling out of the chrysalis.

The pair finished their copulation and collapsed against each other. The sounds of panting breath filled the air for several minutes. Carefully, Gilbert withdrew and gathered Vincent in his arms. Tiny gestures were exchanged between them: a tender caress along the face, the brush of one's nose along the hollow of the other's neck, the tightening hold of arms around shoulders. The family ignored Leo entirely. Leo didn't mind, for he had nothing to do with the simple affairs between men.

Two sentences, whispered between two souls still existing in that realm of mortal connection, a level that Leo knew he could never descend towards ever again.

"I missed you," Vincent confessed, timidly. "So much."

Gilbert kissed his little brother on the forehead. "I missed you too."

Leo's fingers curled over the armrests. "Elliot," he whispered. Nothing.

"Elliot. Elliot."

Only a name.

No reaction.

No pain.

Nothing.

"Elliot."

Leo closed his eyes, feeling that lightness fill his being.

Finally, Leo sighed, sitting back, enthroned in that humble chair. He had arrived. Climbed the mountain of human suffering and, at the summit, he looked down to see how very small all of them had become. Their bodies. Their lives. Their very existence, in all of its joys and horrors.

A pair of invisible hands touched his shoulders and but Leo knew this wasn't a ghost of his lover, but the presence of his predecessor. And kinsman.

Now Leo comprehended what Glen had told him. He will always be alone in this terrible power. But Leo would be reassured that he had never been the only one to suffer such a fate.

A calm remark slipped out from the shade. "This is the truth," murmured the last Baskerville lord, the one who had lain in pieces for a hundred years like relics of a long-forgotten ritual. "This is what you should never forget."

Leo sat and watched, reveling in his newfound status: the mortal god whose existence bridged the faiths of the ancients and the harbingers. The youth who existed as a singular and as a multitude. The boy who contained a pantheon.

He lifted his face to watch the lights float over this domain and noticed Gilbert, the Baskerville House's prodigal servant (and Glen's legacy and Leo's sacrifice and Vincent's savior), raising his golden eyes to follow Leo's distant gaze while he cradled his brother in his arms.

For this is mine kingdom, and my power, and my glory, for ever and ever.