This is really a gift fic for velvet_ears on the kuro-santa exchange on livejournal, because woodofferret generously donated a gift to me, and it made me want to share the love. The prompt was gen, no pairings, anything involving Ciel, Sebastian, or Prince Soma. Hurt-comfort, extra points for extra angst. Enjoy. :D
A/N: Set right after chapter 12; takes liberties with canon.
Draw the Curtains
"for life's not a paragraph/And death i think is no parenthesis." ~ ee cummings
Sebastian never makes it to the stove. Ciel is leaning his head against the dining table, wondering about the funeral preparations for Madame Red, when there's a clatter of pans and the weak splash of milk on the kitchen tiles. He doesn't move until he hears what might possibly be a groan, except Sebastian has never made that sound before; he never had reason to. Ciel lifts his head and slips out of his seat, annoyed to find that his legs are still shaking from exhaustion. He makes his way to the kitchen, rolling his eyes as he goes. If this is theatrics, after all that has just happened, he isn't in the mood for it.
He finds Sebastian bent double on the floor, sprawled in a way that doesn't suit him at all. At the very least, he's trying to stand – one shaky hand is gripping the nearest cabinet handle, and he's leaning on an elbow in a sort of strange, ugly push-up. Ciel isn't sure why he doesn't immediately move to help his butler, when the man is obviously in pain. Instead, he stands by the doorway, watching the milk turn a strange shade of pink as it puddles around Sebastian.
"You're injured," he states. It would be an unnecessary detail if it wasn't so difficult to believe. Ciel thinks it needs saying, because Sebastian and injuries don't go together, unless he's the one inflicting them.
Sebastian's head snaps up at that, and his expression is upset for a grand total of two seconds. Then he fixes it into one of his smooth, melting smiles, and somehow finds the strength to slide upright and into a sitting position against the cabinet doors. It's only slightly better than sprawling, and the idea probably shows on Ciel's face, because Sebastian says, in his most convincing sunny-weather voice, "Young master, you're talking nonsense. I'm –" something in his chest gives a sudden spasm of pain, because for a moment his smile twitches too high, and his eyes scrunch up – "Perfectly fine."
"You spoiled my milk." Ciel doesn't need to point at it - Sebastian's eyes automatically dart towards the mess he made. His eyebrows knit together in disapproval, and he's plainly disgusted with himself as he answers, "My apologies. I'll get it cleaned up right away."
"Don't bother." There's a warning tone in Ciel's words now. He walks across the room and picks up the upturned milk pan, while Sebastian tries to heave himself onto his feet. He fails with impressive dignity, and slides back down against the cabinets, expression trapped between noble and mortified. It settles on politely confused when Ciel turns and glares at him. "You're obviously not in any condition to do anything right now. How the heck did you get us home?"
And why didn't I notice sooner, Ciel thinks, taking note of the giant diagonal tear in Sebastian's expensive suit, and the similarly torn skin beneath it, jagged in a way that clearly calls to mind the Death God's chainsaw. Then, before he can help it, or tell himself not to, he remembers Madame Red – the unpleasant grind of her skin against metal, the crimson exploding from her chest as she falls. His head starts to spin. "You could have told me," he mutters angrily. When Sebastian says nothing in his own defense, Ciel stomps out of the kitchen.
He returns, a few minutes later, dragging a chair from the dining room with him. He settles it in front of where Sebastian is still huddled on the floor, then he gestures. The butler puts two elbows onto the seat and struggles to stand.
Ciel bends down to offer him a shoulder.
Sebastian is apparently bent on ignoring the fact that he is trying to help, because he wobbles onto one knee and says, "Young master, please, I'm perfectly fine."
"You already said that," Ciel grumbles. "I'd prefer it if you didn't use the same lie on me twice."
"You mustn't exert yourself," Sebastian tries again, desperately, as Ciel loops his arm over one shoulder and helps lift him onto the chair, staggering from the effort. "You've had a long night."
"You don't think I can manage this?" Something in his voice silences Sebastian, although he does make a valiant effort to sit properly, once they've got him half on the chair. Ciel resists panting as he stretches his back out. Sebastian is frowning at a fixed point in the distance, sullen and resentful, not at all like himself.
"You're going to have to tell me where the medicines are, and how to do this," Ciel says, in a manner that he hopes will make it less awkward for both of them. When Sebastian continues to do what can best be described as sulking, Ciel folds his arms. "That's an order."
"This will be nothing by tomorrow, I assure you –"
Sebastian sighs. "In the medicine cabinet, left corner of the bathroom near the servant's quarters." It clearly pains him to give instructions like this. Possibly even more than the injury itself. "Take as much gauze as you can find, antiseptic, cotton swabs, butterfly bandages if there are any. Water and a towel, for cleaning. It won't need stitches," he adds, before Ciel can mention it. "Just something to keep it from worsening until tomorrow." Half to himself, he mutters, "It should have healed completely by now. It's probably because of the Death God's scythe...I don't know why I was so careless."
Ciel almost makes a remark about flesh and blood, and how it's all part of the deal, but he stops himself – it would probably only aggravate the situation. He goes off to find the necessary supplies, and returns later than he would like, because he had to look for a stool to reach the top of the cabinet. Sebastian has obviously resigned himself to fate; he has peeled off his vest and tie, and is inspecting the wound with more fascination than horror.
Ciel realizes that their mission that night will cost him a new suit besides a funeral. Furnishing his butler's wardrobe is yet another inconvenience he'll have to face once the sun rises. The idea makes him frown, even as Sebastian notices his arrival and looks up at him doubtfully.
"I can do it myself. I feel much better now." He looks like he means it, too. The idea of Ciel giving him first-aid is obviously making him worry.
Ciel tries not to feel insulted as he rolls up his sleeves and gestures for Sebastian to – do whatever he has to, so that Ciel can properly clean the wound. That shirt is beyond repair, anyway.
"If you're so eager to work, then save that energy for tomorrow. I want blueberry pancakes for breakfast, with hot tea, and lots of maple syrup. And English muffins with apricot jam." He soaks the towel in a bowl of water and rubs it across the cut. It dyes the water red when he dips it back in. "And then, before we start getting calls from Scotland Yard, you can take care of the funeral preparations, and contact Elizabeth and grandmother and everyone else." He finishes washing out the wound, and dabs a cotton swab into the antiseptic. He stabs it onto the edge of gash, lessening the pressure when Sebastian's face contorts into a grimace. He continues, to keep both their minds off what is happening, "Then we'll have to send out the necessary invitations, write up the obituary, and order red roses for the ceremony. Fifty bouquets. No, make that a hundred. Am I doing this right?" The question is more exasperated than he means for it to be, more upset. He's sleepy, and not looking forward to tomorrow.
"Just fine," Sebastian answers, gentle in a way that makes Ciel feel very mean and the tiniest bit regretful.
He decides to ignore it, and nods. "So a hundred bouquets, with some extra to strew on the red carpet, and the best mahogany casket you can find, and a full-blown choir. She'd like that."
"I'll do what I can without setting foot inside the venue."
There are very few things that Sebastian's true nature keeps him from doing in the human realm, and Ciel always forgets that entering holy places is one of them. He starts unwinding a roll of gauze. Tries not to think too much about the jagged cut, probably mirroring his Aunt's own splintered chest perfectly – her skin split clean by one large strike, pale halves of flesh with so much red in between. All that sparkle and all that life, gone in the blink of an eye. He wonders why it always happens quickly like that: too fast for him to register, to turn it around, to try saving. Always something gone forever before he can say something kind, something about how they actually matter to him.
Did he lose something important that evening? He still doesn't know. He distracts himself by thinking of how this wound is really quite impressive – so long, and so deep. If Sebastian were human he would have been dead, too. Because he's a demon, it won't even leave a scar.
Sebastian seems to notice the way his master's brow is furrowed, the way his lips are tight as he wraps the bandages over the wound, tugging hard, so that the skin will somehow pull itself together. Ciel doesn't know why it infuriates him when Sebastian touches his arm and says, with believable sincerity, "Don't worry, young master. You can take your time. This will be good as new by morning."
Ciel swallows. The fatigue is making his eyes water, and his tongue grow heavy.
"Well, aren't you lucky." He puts a thick peel of medical tape on the ends of the bandages, just in case tucking them in isn't enough. "Not all wounds heal so quickly."
Sebastian's eyes are dark and deep when he looks at Ciel – they burn into his, recalling fire from an inferno they both know is real. Ciel would flinch if he thought he was being ridiculed, but time has afforded Sebastian his trust, and anyway, he's too tired to conceal his weaknesses tonight. The butler's voice is almost like a bell tolling in the darkness when he murmurs, solemnly, "Not all wounds heal."
Madame Red falls to the floor, painted in scarlet. Sebastian puts a hand to his bandages, and blinks with surprise.
And Ciel keeps his promise to himself that he'll never cry again.
A/N: Special thanks to A for beta-reading. Comments would be greatly appreciated. :D Thank you for reading!