Author Notes: Hello, everyone! This is a little something I wrote sometime last year after watching the end of Season 2 of Black Butler/Kuroshitsuji... just to make myself feel better. Hope you enjoy it :)
General Warnings: AU, spoilers and some OOC-ness.
Disclaimer: Black Butler belongs to Yana Toboso.
- Story Start -
It was early evening. The sun was setting in the far horizon, painting the skies with orange and crimson streaks, throwing long shadows on the ground.
An elegant carriage turned in at the gate of Phantomhive Manor and made its way up the long drive. By the time it stopped at the front doors, the four Phantomhive servants were already lined up and waiting, quivering and squealing in excitement except for Tanaka whose lined face betrayed not a jot of emotion.
The carriage door opened and Sebastien stepped out with his usual grace. His cool garnet gaze slid over the four servants and he nodded before turning back to the carriage. He bowed, extending a gloved hand. A smaller similarly gloved hand appeared to rest on his and Ciel, thirteen year old Earl of Phantomhive emerged.
"You've come back to us, master!"
"Yay, I'm so pleased!"
And Tanaka's quiet 'Welcome home, my lord' was lost in the flood of happy, noisy sobbing from Finnian, Baldroy and Mey-Rin as they rushed forward to greet their beloved butler and equally beloved young master.
- o -
Ciel was quiet as Sebastien dressed him after his bath, drawing his thin arms through the long sleeves of his snowy white nightshirt and then deftly slipping buttons into their corresponding holes. Far too soon, the task was over and Sebastien rose to his feet and bowed with his right hand over his heart.
"If there is nothing else, my lord," he said, "I bid you goodnight."
He didn't wait before turning around.
"Wait." Ciel jerked forward and snagged a fold of black cloth between his thumb and forefinger.
When Sebastien looked over his shoulder, Ciel stared up at him, searching those unreadable eyes.
"You're angry with me," he said. "I never asked to be turned into a demon, you know that. It was Trancy's plan all along."
As if aware he needed to give an answer, Sebastien nodded slowly.
"But you're still angry with me. I know you are," Ciel continued.
Sebastian kept quiet. No doubt he thought his silence answer enough.
"Why?" Ciel whispered. "Why, Sebastien?"
Those garnet eyes slid away.
Tamping down his anger, Ciel took a deep breath.
"We made a contract. I gave you my oath you could have my soul," he said, taking pains not to raise his voice. "I am a Phantomhive and we never go back on our word. I would never-"
Sebastien spun around on his heel, knocking aside Ciel's hand from his sleeve.
"But I am your butler still. And will be so for all eternity."
For all that Sebastien's voice remained soft and polite, resentment simmered just under the surface, as did bitterness.
"But that was also Trancy's doing!" Ciel protested.
An almost silent sigh escaped Sebastian's lips and he dropped his gaze.
"It is late. I bid you goodnight, my lord," he said and bowed again, right hand over his heart.
A heart Ciel doubted he had.
"Don't-" he began, but Sebastian was already at the door and in the next instant, had left the room.
Ciel stared at the closed door, his lower lip caught between his teeth.
It was gone. What they had before... that elusive bond, that unexpected camaraderie that made their interactions so strangely enjoyable... it was gone for good.
- o -
Breakfast the next morning was a silent affair, but perhaps the fact that Ciel no longer had a taste for human food had something to do with that.
"What shall we do today, my lord?" Sebastian asked. "There are no appointments to occupy your time as yet... unless you wish to reengage the services of your past tutors?"
"I should go over the books," Ciel said reluctantly. "Tanaka is sure to have made a mess of them this past month."
He looked up at that perfect side profile.
"What are - may I ask what are your plans for today?" he asked, his tone stilted.
The broad shoulders stiffened, but whether Sebastien was surprised at the question or the polite tone, Ciel didn't know.
"I am completely at your disposal, my lord."
A tiny, wistful smile tugged at Ciel's lips. He shrugged.
"In that case, I have no need of you today," he said. "Feel free to pursue your own wishes whether within the Manor or away from it."
Sebastian's eyes jerked to him, surprise flashing in them before vanishing.
"I only ask that you return in time to prepare me for bed," Ciel added softly.
"As you wish, my lord," he said and bowed. He went to the door, pausing for an instant to say a soft 'Thank you' before leaving.
The dining room suddenly seemed too big and too empty.
"Have fun, Sebastien," Ciel whispered.
- o -
It had been a long and dreary day. Dusty. Dry. Filled with ledgers and incorrect figures, stacks of bills and receipts, a burned lunch and a tasteless tea in between. Not that he needed mortal sustenance or Bard and Mey-Rin's contrite tears over the inedible food. Not that the Phantomhive coffers couldn't cover a few incorrect zeros.
Ciel just needed something to occupy his time, something that would distract him from the heavy, wretched guilt weighing down his heart.
If he still had one - he was no longer human, was he?
But finally, it was night and he was again sitting in bed. Tanaka had drawn his bath for him, but Ciel had eschewed the old servant's help, preferring to bathe in the too hot water on his own while staring glumly at the yellow rubber ducky floating on the soapsuds. His mood lifted when he emerged from the steamy bathroom, pink cheeked and towel clad to find Sebastien waiting for him with a bow and a quiet greeting.
Ciel wanted to ask how his day had gone, but there was an impenetrable air of reserve around Sebastien as he went about his work efficiently, toweling Ciel's hair dry and getting him into his nightshirt in record time.
Those skilled gloved fingers were doing up the buttons far too quickly and Ciel grabbed onto his slipping courage with both hands.
Already in the act of fastening the last button, Sebastien looked up, one enquiring eyebrow raised.
"Did you - did you enjoy your day?"
That eyebrow rose further.
"You have never asked me that before, my lord."
"I... have never cared to know before," Ciel admitted. "I'm sorry."
He stared into those narrowed eyes, feeling that odd squeezing in his chest again.
"You have never apologised before either." Sebastian's voice was just as low.
Unable to hold that quizzical gaze, Ciel pressed his lips together and tossed his head, annoyed at the heat radiating in his cheeks. Tanaka always made the bathwater too hot.
"You're angry with-" he broke off and turned aside, squeezing his smarting eyes shut. His voice was trembling. How... how mortifying!
What would Sebastian think of him, behaving like the child he wasn't?
And why should he care anyway?
Ciel breathed through his mouth, small hands fisting tightly on the sheets as the seconds crawled by and the silence stretched on... until a feather light touch on his cheek made him start. He opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as Sebastien's gloved fingers trailed down to his chin and tipped his head back, forcing him to look into quizzical red eyes.
"It seems you can still shed tears," Sebastian murmured, looking quite surprised.
Ciel jerked his chin free.
"Of course I can," he huffed, "I'm still huma- oh. Damnit!"
He hunched his shoulders, dreading a mocking comment or even laughter, but again there was only silence. Then Sebastian got up with a soft sigh and started straightening the covers.
"You're still angry with me," Ciel said. "Aren't you?"
"Of course I am," Sebastian muttered. His face was impassive as before, but the almost violent plumping of the pillows betrayed him. "I stayed by your side and carried out your every order with complete devotion and for what?"
That last word was almost a snarl. Ciel half expected the pillows to explode, expected to find himself covered in down, but Sebastian reined himself in immediately after. Vexation appeared briefly on his face before he sighed; a whispery, world weary sound Ciel had never heard before.
"You won't starve, you know," Ciel said. "You can still devour other souls like how you taught me."
Sebastian didn't reply as he smoothed out the pillows, his control perfect once more.
Ciel felt his heart constrict painfully.
"Is it such a punishment then, being my butler?" he asked, his voice shaking. It was getting hard to breathe now, almost like an asthma attack, but he knew he would never suffer those again. No, this was much, much worse, mourning over the loss of something precious he hadn't even realised he had had.
"You forgot 'for all eternity'," added Sebastian and his emotionless voice was like twisting a knife in the wound.
Ciel choked and hunched into himself, more miserable than he had ever been before.
Was this what the future held for him then?
An eternity of existing with the most perfect butler at his side, serving him with impeccable skills and unerring perfection... while loathing him all the while?
Ciel wasn't sure if he could go through that. He opened his mouth to say as much when Sebastian turned towards him.
"But the answer... is no."
Ciel blinked. And blinked again until Sebastien's face came into focus.
"No? No what?"
Sebastian's gaze softened and Ciel blinked those inconvenient tears away, wanting to hold that image for as long as he could.
"No, it isn't such a punishment being your butler, my young master."
Not 'my lord', but 'my young master' once more. Ciel used to find that term annoying and patronising, but it was now an endearment.
The tears came even faster, but he didn't bother holding them back this time. He felt the mattress dip and he tipped sideways, strong arms going around him to draw him close against a familiar chest.
"Hush, young master," whispered Sebastian. "I am here. I will always be here."
Ciel wrapped his arms around Sebastian's waist and cried.
He may have returned to Phantomhive Manor yesterday, but it was only now that he felt he had finally come home.
- Story End -
A/N: Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed it, do leave a review :)