I thought of this a while ago and I told myself I wouldn't write it unless I got other projects done…but I wrote it anyway. ^_~ Aah, I've been lacking on the disclaimer lately so I'll just say that Count/Earl/Hakushaku Cain doesn't belong to me. You know that. But…I guess I could own all the psycho women… They're scary, though. I actually think that Catherine might have ADD… As for possible warnings…implied R/C, butchered sentence construction in an effort to make this subtle, hmm…let's see…little to no swearing, but…aha! Rather ambiguous meanings ^_^
My Sexy Butler
Ever since he had been a little boy, Riff had always loved trains. Granted, the only time he had actually ever been on one had been when he was five, but the vague memories of just being there were important to him. He had never quite considered himself an industrial, run-of-the-mill, blue-collar type of man, but there was just something about sleek steel, gears working at incredible speeds, that had managed to entice him.
And he wasn't the only one absolutely fascinated with the industrial motion of how the wheels turned so brilliantly fast over a narrow track… The workings of the train had seemed to capture the admiration of his master, Cain C. Hargreaves; his sister, however, appeared rather disinterested in the whole matter.
Perhaps it was just a male thing.
The three of them, on a brief train ride to visit the master's cousins in Kent, were packed for the duration of the trip inside a miniscule compartment with each of them having their own complaints; Merry's was that it was too cramped, Cain was rather miffed at the fact that it was so stuffy, and Riff's only concern was the lack of appropriate leg room. The lack of space along with Merry's insistence on room forced master and servant to sit closely, side by side in an unusually intimate manner.
Which neither of them had any complaints about.
It was hard to believe that such a cramped and uncomfortable space was considered first class with its seats that hardly offered any cushion; it was almost like sitting directly on wood. True, there was a window that allowed one to look out at the swiftly moving land and there was the illusion of more space, along with a long window in the compartment door…but the heat and stale air cancelled it out so it hardly made a difference in the level of pleasantness. If anything, it made one feel like a caged bird.
Merryweather's small and pristine feet kicked at the air restlessly, each swoop of the foot holding an intense bundle of energy that needed to be released; unfortunately, it was quite annoying to the other two occupants, and when Cain reprimanded her for her unladylike behavior she slumped back into the seat, sulking with her arms crossed.
But as she was a child, she got over her injustice relatively quickly and her keen mind worked itself on other things, such as: "Brother…when we boarded the train, why did the conductor address Riff as sir? Train conductors aren't socially below servants, are they?"
"…I hardly think I'm one to know about that," Cain stated as he glanced from his sister to the subject with curiously vague eyes, "but I suppose it was because our Riff fails to appear like a mere servant…"
At this explanation, Riff felt slightly uncomfortable and shifted his weight in his seat, tearing away from his master's penetrating eyes. He pretended to look disinterested in the subject, but fully listened as Merry asked, "…Well how does Riff look if he fails to look like our servant?"
Cain linked his arm to Riff's and leaned against him slightly, gazing up at the butler, thinking about this question while studying his features. When Riff couldn't help but turn his head to meet the other's gaze, their eyes locked – blue mixing into green – and a sated silence followed as both their features eventually softened from mild insecurity to familiar warmth.
Coming across as vaguely mischievous, Cain broke their gaze and turned to Merry, finally saying, "Since looking like a servant obviously does not suit our Riff, I've been thinking of what does." With that he put a hand on Riff's arm and leaned against him further, seeming quite comfortable as green slowly met blue again.
"And…?" Merry asked impatiently after a few seconds of silence, staring at her brother and their adored butler as they fell into their own private world. "How does Riff look?"
If they ever heard her, they showed no sign of it as her brother had taken to stroking the butler's arm gently. It seemed as if slowly, centimeter-by-centimeter, they inched towards one another, the master's face drawing up an expression of absolute adoration.
"Sexy," Cain replied suddenly, looking back at his sister and breaking the magical enchantment he had held on the butler.
Various unintelligible noises escaped Riff's throat as he sat through Cain's one word explanation, absolutely mortified, while the other looked rather pleased with himself; Cain even went as far as to reach up and unbutton the first few buttons on Riff's dress shirt, much to his chagrin.
Merry, on the other hand, sat still for once and gave her brother a questioning gaze, at last asking, "What—"
"Nothing, Merry; go to sleep," Cain interrupted hastily, earning an almost relieved look from the butler as the young Hargreaves daughter scowled in her seat. She was finally prompted to slumber after intense boredom – a result of the resounding silence prevailing in the cramped space.
Once she finally was asleep, it was Riff who broke the silence with, "Honestly, Cain, I thought we agreed not around Merryweather… Besides, what if someone had heard you? It's not as if these compartments are exactly soundproof…"
"If someone had heard," Cain replied evenly as he gazed at Riff almost coquettishly, "then they, too, would be of the knowledge that you are sexy."
Riff, in no mood to protest this line of thinking, resigned with a sigh and tilted his head to look out the window at the vast and rapidly changing scenery while Cain leaned against him and toyed with the lapel of his jacket in boredom.
This continued on for a few minutes before there was a minor commotion in the hall, followed by two whispering voices outside.
"Shh, not so loud! D'you want them to realize we're here?"
"Well sorry, but it's not exactly easy to get around with a corset this tight…"
"Sorry m'lady, I'll fix it when we get off this train…"
Riff and Cain exchanged expressions of mild puzzlement at the voices outside the compartment as they continued to listen.
"Oh, Sondra…are you certain that the Earl of Hargreaves is in that compartment? The gentleman in there is quite handsome…"
"Handsome indeed, he is. Would I be too bold if I were to suggest that your Robert pales in comparison?"
"Not at all! Why just look at him, Sondra. He reminds me of that Greek statue Daddy has in his study…."
As not to give the two women slyly peering through the compartment window any indication that they could be heard, Riff gave his master a wry smile, as Cain looked particularly pleased with himself.
"The girls in his household always said the earl was quite attractive, but I never thought he would be so…handsome, m'lady. They don't make boys like that back at home."
"They don't indeed… Oh, to be his lady friend beside him…!"
Cain's expression immediately went from that of a certain smugness to outright indignation as he was called the "lady friend" by the two whisperers. Riff, on the other hand, seemed quite flattered.
"Yes, yes, she is strikingly beautiful herself… They make a simply wonderful couple, don't you agree, m'lady? And look…I think I see a little one sleeping on the bench… Poor dear. She looks tuckered out!"
"Oh, do you think she could be their child, Sondra? She's certainly beautiful like them. Beauty begets beauty, you know."
"I think I remember a friend mentioning that the earl had a younger sister living with him… That little sweetheart is bound to be her, now that I think of it. And I don't believe that the earl is married, either…"
"…But don't you remember, Sondra, he was supposed to marry the Rotterdale daughter…?"
"She died, though, m'lady. Don't you remember? Jack the Ripper and all…"
At the further exchange Cain's eyebrow began to twitch slightly, but Riff held him closely to alleviate the real earl's minor irritation. It worked and Cain even rested his head on Riff's shoulder while continuing to listen.
"Oh yes, that's right… A bit hard to marry someone who's dead, isn't it? The earl and his lady friend are probably courting, perhaps going to see her family in the country…"
"…They're a little too…close for courting, though, m'lady. When you sit with Robert, are you that close and intimate with him?"
"Of course not, Sondra! We do have a sense of decency and propriety after all, and – oh – I do believe I see what you mean…"
"She's pro'lly a cock chafer*…."
If Riff thought Cain's level of indignation had reached its peak when he was called a lady friend…
"…How scandalous! I just…oh Sondra, you really tied my corset too tightly, dear. I feel as if I might pass out…"
"Then let's go back to our compartment, m'lady. Your Robert is likely to wonder where we ran off to anyhow…."
When the hall was silent, Cain crossed his arms with an expression of irritation and resentment, all the while leaning against Riff intimately like they had been doing so. To Riff's embarrassment, he reiterated loudly with apparent vexation, "Cock chafer?"
Merry stirred slightly, only vaguely awake, and asked as she departed from her nap, "What –"
Nudging her with his foot, Cain interrupted quickly, "Nothing, Merry; go back to sleep."
There was a small branch of the Hargreaves line that had somehow managed to wind up living frugally in Kent. The head of the household, Edward Hargreaves, was a retired naval officer and therefore very strict in character. According to him, there was supposedly only righteous and good behavior in his household; as a result he had little to no patience for the current Hargreaves family head in addition to the past one as well.
His wife Catherine, on the other hand, was a flighty and extravagant woman of a rather flirtatious character. She had grown up the beloved daughter of a naval commander who supplied her with everything she could ask for and more: dresses, jewels, even her husband. In contrast to Edward, though, she absolutely adored the current Hargreaves family head and frequently wished to see him.
There was little harmony between Edward and his wife, and their two adolescent daughters who both seemed to take heavily after Catherine usually managed to spread the tension further.
They were the perfect family.
At the present time, their normally docile house was bristling with energy and excitement…on Catherine and her daughters' part, at least.
"Master Edward," their aged butler announced as he slipped quietly into his master's study, "your cousin from London has arrived."
The master set down the book he had been reading and reluctantly left the comfort of his favorite chair. "Oh bloody hell," he muttered, "does my wife know yet?"
"Not that I'm aware of, sir," replied the butler as he began to lead his master to the foyer.
"Then let's see if we can persuade him to leave before she does find out…" Edward muttered gruffly as he was led to where his cousin, with company, waited.
"Edward," Cain greeted politely as he saw his cousin for the first time in a great while, "it's been a while."
The Kent cousin bit back several remarks and instead gave the Londoner a hearty handshake that was much too rough for Cain's liking, patting his shoulder in mock geniality for added discomfort. "Too long, too long, Cain. I'd like to thank you for coming on Catherine's wishes…"
"The pleasure is all mine, Edward," Cain replied with a smile that was infuriating to his cousin; and that was exactly how he had divined it.
He began to introduce his two visitors, but Edward cut him off with, "…But I deeply regret to inform you, my esteemed cousin, that my wife has taken ill and –"
In turn, he was further interrupted by a vaguely shrill cry of "Cain!" The lady of the house rushed into the foyer with her two daughters and a pair of excitable maids close behind. Disregarding all other presences (and rather shoving her husband aside), Catherine immediately bestowed an affectionate hug and kiss onto the cousin and spoke rapidly, as she was apt to do, "Oh Cain, it is entirely too wonderful to see you again, darling! It's been years, hasn't it? Too long! Oh – and is this little girl your beloved sister you mentioned in your recent letter? She really – "
"Yes, Catherine," Cain interrupted to simply speak as he set his hands on his sister's shoulders adoring, "this is Merryweather, whom I mentioned to you…."
At Merryweather's polite "How do you do?" and curtsey, Catherine shrieked as she enveloped the poor girl in a tight hug, "Oh Cain, she is adorable – an absolute doll! I'm sure she'll have a wonderful time with Lisa and Beth!"
During this entire exchange, Riff had blended in nicely with the interior, going rather unnoticed as it usually was. It was a slight and inadvertent cough on his part, however, that brought him out of obscurity and into the spotlight.
Rather pushing Cain and Merryweather aside in a similar fashion as her husband, Catherine fixated her attention on the startled butler and her voice held a lilting manner as she said, "…And…whom do we have here?"
Quickly stepping to Riff's side with a certain amount of stark possessiveness, Cain introduced as he linked his arm with the butler's, "My dear, this our butler, Riff. He agreed to accompany Merry and I on the trip…"
In a dreamy fashion, she reached out to grasp Riff's slender hand and pulled him with her as she suggested in her usual swift manner, "I'm Catherine Hargreaves, my dear…and we have some tapestries… Does your master collect tapestries, darling? We really have some wonderful tapestries and I'm sure you'd be delighted to view them. You like tapestries, no? Of course you do… They're right in the southern hall and…" Catherine trailed off as she dragged the bemused Riff with her, to Edward and Cain's bewilderment.
"It seems she's recovered from her illness, Edward…" Cain muttered with a slight insinuation at vexation.
"…She's a hardy one…" came the gruff response.
Much to Riff's relief, by the time they had gathered for dinner, Cain had managed to save his butler from women who seemed wont to chattering incessantly to him – Edward's wife wasn't the only offender – and overall secured him for himself. When evening rolled around, it was apparent throughout the household that the Londoner and his servant were relatively close and familiar with one another.
That in itself irritated Edward terribly, yet delighted Catherine and her daughters, of whom Merryweather was rather forced to spend more time with than she had wished.
When they gathered for dinner, the lady of the house was delighted to seat everyone and play hostess. She, of course, sat herself next to her favorite guest. Although Catherine had wished otherwise, to Edward's surreptitious insistence on propriety and order, Riff was forced to stand by with the rest of the house servants and observe his master. The residing butler regarded him rather coolly due to Riff's young age.
"London is an exciting place, no?" Catherine asked cheerfully as she tried to make conversation at the table. The house servants began to serve the dishes as she spoke, somehow calming and making the atmosphere less formal.
For Merryweather, at least.
The young Hargreaves daughter eagerly accepted a plate with meat of some kind from a maid and piped up cheerfully, "Oh yes! There's always a murder of some sort to follow back home, and Brother and I meet the most diverse of people sometimes!"
"Murder?" uttered Edward that singular word with obvious misgivings, but that was the only thing he was able to get out when his wife interrupted loudly with, "How exciting! Tell me, is it like the novels where there's an astonishing twist behind it all? Sordid motives? Furtive love affairs? Unfor–"
"Surely, mother, it must be because those novels have some basis behind them, right?" Edward's oldest daughter Lisa chimed as she and her sister listened to the growing conversation with rapt attention.
"Yes, yes, fiction builds upon truth, does it not, Mr. Cain?" the youngest daughter Beth asked the guest excitably, much to her father's objection.
Edward's protests, as usual, went largely unheard and even more so unheeded.
Cain tucked a napkin into his lap and began to cut the meat on his plate as he replied, "Only the interesting ones. We usually don't bother following the more simple cases."
"Like the one from a few days ago, right Brother?" Merry piped in again, enjoying the topic of conversation. Almost in pride, she announced, "That one was so interesting that Brother wouldn't let me investigate it with him!"
In a valiant effort to direct the conversation to a more appropriate path, Edward commented loudly on the weather, noting the usual dreariness. Naturally he was ignored.
"Oh Cain darling, you simply must share with us how it went along!" Catherine spoke up after an uncharacteristic silence from her; such times were rarities. "We hardly ever have any worldly excitement here!"
"Ah…well, my dear Catherine, some elements of the story aren't fit for the delicate ears of you, my sister, and your daughters…" Cain said evasively as he took note of Edward desperately waxing lyrical about how the legumes tasted particularly good after the rainfall.
Looking undoubtedly relieved at the lack of bad influences that his cousin could have presented to the women, Edward took the opportunity to express his authority, "Let us refrain from those unfit subjects… Now Cain, I believe you mentioned earlier about the size of your household staff in London as compared to in Cornwall. Did you have any estimates for those figures?"
Almost thoughtfully Cain paused and then answered, "Big and not so big."
Lisa and Beth immediately began giggling as their mother said liltingly, "Oh Cain, you are too precious!"
"I normally don't concern myself with the household management," their cousin explained with a serene smile. "My butler Riff takes care of all that very well for me."
At this the Kent butler, who had stayed in the room overseeing all, offered Riff an approving nod.
"Oh how splendid," Catherine chirped as she completely neglected her small meal, much to a maid's gall. "It is so hard to find good and reliable help these days, darling. You are too lucky."
Cain gave her a neutral expression as he side glanced at Riff, his eyes holding much more than he wished; his butler's lips gave way faintly to an appreciative smile. "I suppose I am," the earl replied reticently.
Merryweather, having managed to devour her plate's contents, nodded as she added, "We're very lucky to have Riff. He does so many things for us!"
"Beyond normal duties, child?" Edward asked the girl, only barely curious as he set about to enjoy his meal with normal conversation.
"Uh-huh!" she chirped rather casually, looking quite pleased to be asked a question. "When he can, he mends my things when they're broken – like my dresses when they're torn…."
The house butler regarded this in slight surprise.
"Ah, Merry," Cain corrected lightly, "Riff hardly has time for that sort of thing. He takes it to a maid who has the experience for that."
The Hargreaves daughter continued on as if she never heard what her brother had said, "…He takes me shopping or to the park when brother's out of the house…"
To Catherine, who looked intrigued, Cain explained, "She'll throw a fit sometimes if I go somewhere and she doesn't."
"Ah," Catherine said knowingly as her butler seemed rather impressed, "my Beth was the exact same way, only she was too unruly for any maid! We just let her throw a fit in her room…"
"Oh!" Merryweather interjected the brief conversation as she paused slightly to think. "He also dresses my brother in the morning…"
"…What?" Edward muttered with an eyebrow raised, and his wife stated with clear interest, "Really?" Their two daughters started off in mild giggles as Riff rather looked a bit uncomfortable under the butler's sudden scrutiny.
"…I'm rather faint in the morning…" Cain rationalized with a tinge of pink to his cheeks.
"He does it when my brother retires to his bedroom, too…" Merryweather, completely oblivious, went on.
"…And at night…" he muttered, trying to conceal the awkwardness by picking at his plate's contents.
Catherine rested her hand on Cain's shoulder and replied with mildly patronizing sympathy, "It's the night air, darling."
"Uh…Cain…" Edward began with a bit of discomfort and obvious agitation, but as usual he was interrupted.
"…Yeah, our Riff really helps Brother a lot, now that I think of it," Merryweather stated casually, but then she added with a hint of indignation, "but sometimes they'll go out together at night and leave me all alone…!"
With renewed interest, Catherine asked pryingly, "Oh…is your Riff like a bodyguard as well? He…certainly has the build for that line of duty…"
Edward chose that moment to wax lyrical about the legumes again.
Cain indulged her playfully by explaining as she and her daughters listened intensely, with their aged butler giving the uncomfortable Riff a series of odd looks, "Yes, his body comes in handy frequently."
This alone sent the two adolescent girls into fits of giggles, much to their father's embarrassment and dismay.
"The city is rather a bit rough at night and…well, look at me. I can't very well hold my own out there, now can I?" he continued with obvious exaggeration. "So it's useful to have someone so strong and muscular…to stand guard over me while I enjoy the heady Lon–"
"You know, a little meat on your body would solve that, Cain" Edward interrupted, growing just as uneasy with the current line of conversation as the first.
Catherine gasped as if the mere thought of that was unacceptable, which it was to her. "Edward, really now! It's a health condition on your side of the family and you know it. I just think that it's wonderful that your cousin has found such a strong and handsome young man who will stand behind him and…"
Shrieks of giggling from Lisa and Beth drowned out Catherine's last words as she trailed off. It was quite fortunate that Edward had not the opportunity to hear those particular words, as his wife was quite prone to mentioning the unmentionable, but Cain, however, had.
"Oh, these legumes are absolutely delightful," Cain announced, after hastily shoving what was not even a legume at all into his mouth, and a peculiar shade of pink graced his cheeks and nose. "Please give my regards to your cook…."
"Best in Kent, I say," Edward added, all too thankful at his cousin's sudden, but rather curious shift in conversation as he, too, took what was not even a legume into his mouth.
Riff was beginning to doubt, as he shared the same shade of pink to his cheeks, that Edward even knew what a legume was. At the rise and fall of the conversation, he shut his eyes, trying not to appear nervous, and desperately wished to be back in familiar territory and not the subject of a rather ambiguous dialogue. He felt like the title character in a particularly embarrassing story in which he felt that the author writing should be shot. He had good reason to be embarrassed, if the intense stares of the resident butler and staff were any indication…
"Oh Edward darling," the never silent Catherine began as she clasped her hands together and her eyes took on a distant quality, "don't you think that our own George is growing a bit too old for his line of work?"
At this, the Kent butler, who was the George the lady of the house spoke of, looked decidedly uncomfortable and quite frankly alarmed.
"In this day and age of growing violence, I'd feel much better if – " she continued, but Edward struck this suggestion down with a bitter negative. Catherine crossed her arms then and appeared quite impenitent, if not irked.
As his cousin actually began to eat what on his plate he had been picking at earlier, Edward explained to his flighty wife, "My dear, George, while aging like the rest of us, is perfectly capable of performing his tasks. He need not do anything further than supervise the servicing of our food and tend to the servants along with our own superficial needs."
Catherine looked rather ruffled at this and retorted, "…I'm sure that our darling cousin's own Riff can perform those duties and beyond, such as tending to his master's internal needs."
"And I'm sure he does," her husband muttered lowly, dabbing at his lips with a napkin.
"All I'm saying, Edward," she persisted with a relatively obvious ulterior motive, "is that it's a sign of a good butler."
"…That's not what it's a sign of…"
Riff made a point to clear his throat slightly and look off, apparently finding a particular clock on the mantle absolutely fascinating. George, on the other hand, was obviously disturbed for more than one reason. "If I may," Riff said softly, "it's a sign of family."
"Family?" uttered Catherine, looking thoroughly devastated – so devastated that she actually picked up her fork and ate something afterwards.
Edward, as a contrast, seemed quite relieved at this news as Cain sat silently, giving Riff a rather odd look over his shoulder. As a result of his comfort at the situation, the Kent cousin tried to change the conversation to England's occupation of India, but a few words barely had a chance to be said before they were interrupted.
"Beth, look what you did!" Lisa explained as a flow of apologies came from her sister's lips. Quite by accident, she had managed to spill red wine on Lisa and her dress. "My dress is ruined!"
Immediately the nearest maid came to her side and offered in a hushed voice, but it was still heard by the silent room, all paying curious attention to what had happened, "Now now, m'lady, don't fret. I know exactly how to get this sort of stain out. Why don't you go and bathe yourself, dear, and I'll tend to it this evening."
When Lisa, nearly in tears, exited the room, leaving her embarrassed and upset sister behind, Merryweather bluntly asked with concern, "Isn't anyone going to bathe her?"
Edward turned a deaf ear to the question and quite frankly hoped that the rest of the men in the room would, too.
Catherine, though, took it upon herself to answer, as she stared at the young cousin in confusion, "No… She's hardly a little girl anymore, so why would…?"
This look of confusion was equally met with the young girl's.
"Because Riff bathes my brother."
"Really?" the lady of the house answered quickly, taking immediate interest in the baffled little girl. Riff, however, blanched, and Cain's face turned a reddish hue as a sound erupted from the fork he had accidentally dropped onto his plate; George and the rest of the staff instantly took to rapid whisperings while Edward's face held the likeness of a beet as he attempted to sputter something – anything – out. He did, though, manage to bellow out appallingly his cousin's name.
Cain stood up abruptly and announced with rush, "Ah, look at the time – come on, Merry, we really must be getting back home – it's been wonderful visiting with you – Riff, get our things – perhaps we'll visit again in a few years – Merry, come on – good luck and good health, now, farewell!"
With that he grabbed his sister's hand and towed her out the room and down the hall as Catherine and her daughters followed them in dire protest.
"B-but you told us you'd be staying for a couple of days!" Catherine objected as Riff hastily suited the master and his sister in their jackets, conveniently providing a barrier between the cousins.
"Change of plans, darling," Cain replied, the reddish tint to his cheeks still present, as he and his butler rushed the Hargreaves daughter along and out the open threshold.
As Edward heard the slam of the door from back inside the dining room, he and George both sighed with relief.
"W-why are we leaving?" Merry asked in distress as soon as they had left; her brother held her hand and dragged her along.
Cain offered no answer, but Riff remarked blithely, "I do believe we would have been arrested otherwise…" Any further attempt at speaking from Merry was repressed by silence.
Their swift pace slowed a bit once they had reached several yards from the house, and Cain asked rather pointedly, "Family?"
The butler simply shrugged and offered, "…We could be considered a variation of family, couldn't we?"
Cain's reply was simple and concise:
"Only if you're incestuous."
October 8 – November 4, 2003