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”This is going to sound rather silly,” Vincent begins with a rather soft voice, accompanied with a fragile smile that doesn’t fit the frills of his nightgown, courtesy of Rainsworth household. “But, um, brother…”

Gilbert looks at him with a small smile that is lined with strain and exhaustion, but it’s more than he has managed for Vince in the past fifteen years. “Is something wrong?”

Vincent looks distinctly embarrassed, his fingers at the sleeves of the gown fidgety and fiddling with one another. “May I sleep with you, Gil? Like when we were…”

Even though Vincent trails off and looks away, it’s not hard to guess what he meant. Gilbert’s eyes water, just a little; oh, Vince. “Of course you can, Vince.”

Vincent, though he’s probably even more exhausted from everything that has happened, smiles a smile that Gilbert doesn’t flinch away from.

“Thank you, Gil.”

Vince’s smile twitches at the corners, the red and gold irises softening into a vulnerable feeling.

Thank you.

*

Vincent’s hands shake as they hold onto the hem of Gilbert’s pajamas. Gilbert has already pulled covers over them, but it’s hard to ignore the trembling hands of the baby brother that he’s been pushing back all this time, fearfully so.

“Vince?” he asks, even though he feels like crying. Oz and Alice – Break – Uncle Oscar – Elliot; the list of losses just goes on and on, and the grief has only started to hit him.

But he has Vince, after all this time he still has Vince.

“S-sorry,” Vincent says. “I’m—I’m—“

“It’s fine,” Gilbert turns his head to look at Vince from the corner of his eye. He doesn’t know what to do; he’s out-of-touch with how it is to be a big brother. “Vince—it’s fine, I’m here.”

Vincent chokes, and cries. It hurts to listen, because Gilbert should have been there for him all this time, but it has always been easier for him to get tangled in his own pain and misery. Back in the Nightray household, he had never tried to understand Vincent.

It hurts—it hurts—

it’s like the sharp slash of Jack’s blade on his back all over again.

It’s hard to turn around with just one arm to help him, but Vincent is there to help him where he himself fails.

“Gil?” Vincent’s eyes are wide, the glistening tears barely visible in the dim moonlight that trickles into the room.

“I’m sorry,” Gilbert says, voice thick as he drapes his arm over Vincent, hoping to alleviate some of Vincent’s present sadness. “I’ll never treat you like that again.”

Vincent shakes his head, mystified. “I just wanted Gil to be happy…”

“You have said that,” Gilbert headbutts Vincent, except that it ends up being gentle instead of the intended harsh. “I have you with me. If that’s not happiness, then I don’t know what is.”

He sounds surer than how he really feels – for once.

*

It goes downhill from there, because they’re both broken people and repressing the pain can only help them so far.

There’s no Oz nor Alice to reach out to, no Break to say something mean-spirited with a sly smile.

There’s Ada, the kind and loving Ada, but Vincent refuses to enter her light, refuses adamantly when Gilbert invites him to join Ada and him for lunch.

“You know why I can’t,” Vincent says, and smiles. The tilt of a smile is off its hinges, a little wrong and several shades of fake. “Brother, I’m not meant to walk the same path as her.”

Gilbert doesn’t know what to say to that, so he keeps quiet for the time being, relays Vincent’s words of goodbye to Ada, whose face twists with grief when she hears them.

There’s Reim and Sharon, too, but Gilbert can never bring himself to discuss his past with them – or even his present, which consists of fighting off the depressive moods and dreams that are all alike in greyness and the sense of impending anxiety.

And Vincent – oh, his dear brother Vincent doesn’t need any reminders of the past that sapped his will to live in one surge.

Gilbert swallows the hopelessness down: in a world that has survived the end, there is no room for such a thing.

He can’t – he can’t give into it.

*

Vincent plays with scissors even now. They fit his fingers, almost like a natural extension, and he snip-snip-snips them.

Gilbert would be scared, and in a way he is, but he stays with his brother when he cuts a stuffed toy, gold and red irises blank and watery but the tears just won’t fall.

Snip-snip-snip.

They’re living together now, and it’s much freer than it ever was in the Nightray mansion where one of the few niceties was Elliot, who was unbearably gentle even with that temper of his.

Gilbert still hasn’t properly mourned for him.

Vincent stops his assault on the stuffed toy, a tinkling laughter on his lips. It doesn’t scare Gilbert. It doesn’t, because he has only recently realized the extent of cracks in Vincent’s heart.

He just wants to be there for Vincent.

Vincent, who has been alone with his thoughts for a very long time.

(But, an annoying thought tingles in the back of his mind, how much of that is you just being lonely without Oz and the stupid rabbit?)

*

“Gil,” Vincent’s voice and the touch of his hand pull Gilbert away from his dream with a start. “Gil, are you alright?”

Gilbert doesn’t know how to answer that. His sight is blurry with tears from his sleep, his body tense and trembling, and a lingering afterimage of Elliot’s dead body plays in his mind.

He can’t breathe – that’s the following realization as his throat constricts from the effort to suck air into his deprived lungs.

“Gil!” Vincent’s voice is urgent, terrified. “Brother, I’m here, I’m here—“

It’s like they’re those two scared children again, back then when they had been abandoned by everyone except for themselves.

Gilbert’s crying, and Vincent’s holding him – it’s a role reversal from their childhood.

“Gil,” Vincent’s voice shakes. “Brother.”

“Elliot,” Gilbert manages as he wipes his eyes to the sleeve of his pajamas. “It was—just a dream—“

Vincent’s arms tighten around him.

“Do you miss him?” he asks, soft and strangled at the same time.

“Every time I think of him,” Gilbert says, drops his hand to Vincent’s and squeezes. “H-he accepted me as his… elder brother, even after—“

“I know,” Vincent says, nuzzles at Gilbert’s neck. He probably thinks it’s soothing, but it makes Gilbert suffocate all over again. “Elliot made you smile for real, when no one else in that household could.”

Not even me, Vincent’s words hold that meaning.

“It hurts, Vince,” Gilbert wheezes after a moment of gurgled crying. “He was—He was my… our brother.”

Vincent breathes warmly against Gilbert’s neck, and the hitch between the breaths is hardly audible over Gilbert’s labored ones.

“Yes, he was.”

*

Elliot’s grave is a simple one: a small headstone amongst others in the graveyard of Nightray family, besides his brothers and sister.

Vincent is understandably uncomfortable with Gilbert’s decision to come there. “Brother, you’re torturing yourself,” he had said before they left for the grave.

I’m not, Gilbert had said, but it is a lie if there has ever been one.

It’s hard not to beat himself over it.

Standing there before the dull gray of the stone is difficult, but if he didn’t do it now, he never would.

Gilbert hangs his head, closes his fingers around each other.

“I’m sorry,” he says to the grave. “I’m sorry, Elliot.”

Vincent hangs back – I have said what I needed to say to Elliot before – and his presence feels warm to Gilbert.

The wind picks up somewhere along the words that Gilbert needs to convey his dead brother.

I’m sorry I’m sorry Elliot I’m

Elliot would have kicked him if he were there to listen, but he’s not. So Gilbert doesn’t stop until his chest hurts with another wave of grief that makes him stagger back to Vince, whose hands hold onto him firmly and kindly.

“It’s alright, Gil,” Vincent says, gentle and smiling as his fingers press into Gilbert’s shoulders, “it’s alright.”

*

They run into to Leo when they leave;

Leo’s hands hold a bouquet of statice.

*

Vincent has nightmares just like Gilbert, but his are quieter, more subdued and none of them involve Elliot or Oz and Alice like Gilbert’s do.

Sometimes Gilbert wakes up in the middle of the night to Vincent shaking behind him, hands desperately clinging to Gilbert to keep him from leaving.

Vincent doesn’t talk in his sleep. At most, he cries silently like he learned to in their youth when Gilbert held a hand over his mouth to keep people from finding them.

From hurting Vince.

Vincent’s mouth sometimes forms words against Gilbert’s neck during the nights he’s pressed himself the closest to Gilbert.

I just wanted to save Gil…

I didn’t want Gil to remember.

I just wanted to die.

It’s hard to know these things about Vincent, because Gilbert can’t run away from his own guilt in what made Vincent Nightray into who he is: a broken, twisted person that never cared for anyone so much as he cared for Gilbert.

It’s that love that enabled Vincent to make some horrible choices.

But it’s not like he’s the only one.

*

Both of them are dependent people, but they cope with that in very different ways. Vincent has his scissors and dolls to tear down, whereas Gilbert finds it difficult to function as a person altogether even though there’s someone that so obviously needs him.

Even with Leo giving them things to do and a place to be, things are messy and they’re stuck in the spider’s web that is depression and mania.

Waiting for a hundred years seems impossible, these days when even ten years looks like an impossible wall.

But at least— at least he has Vince, at least he has—

*

They continue sleeping in the same bed. The one time they didn’t, Vince woke up to a panic attack and fear of Gilbert being gone. Gilbert hadn’t been able to sleep at all.

They talk, they cry, they hurt.

And no one else can know; just like back in the streets of their bloodstained childhood.

*

I’m glad I have you, Vince.

Anything for you, Gil; anything for you.