Warnings: BOYXBOY YAOI. Not really shota, since I made Ciel eighteen. Unfortunately the yaoi is more hinted at than explicit, but Kuroshitsuji is all hints and teases…
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them. I'd love to, though, so if anyone ever hears that the manga-ka is selling them/raffling them off/throwing them out/getting rid of them/raffling off spare parts/giving away their used clothes/etc, let me know! (I call dibs on Sebastian…)
NOTE: This is a SEQUEL to 'A Conversation at Midnight', 'A Thief at Morning', and 'A Question at Midday' . You probably want to read them in order for this to make sense.An Interlude at Midafternoon
"Ciel? Are you there?"
The Earl looked up from his work, an impatient look on his face. Important documents had come in from Phantom Company just that morning and he needed to be done with them by lunchtime. While he still had three hours before that happened and only a small stack of documents yet to go through, he would like to get them done as soon as possible.
His blue eye met a pair of nervous green staring at him from the doorway, a blonde head just barely poking around it as Elizabeth waited to be acknowledged and let in. With a sigh, Ciel dropped his papers on his desk and leaned back in his chair, looking at his wife almost coldly.
"Yes?" he said, more a demand than a request. He didn't have time for any of 'Lizzy's' antics today. He did not have time to go on a romantic picnic to some secluded lake on the grounds, or go shopping for 'cute' new clothes, or even sit down to have a nice long lunch for just the two of them. In the first few weeks of their marriage, Elizabeth had come every day to try and drag Ciel away from his work, but lately she seemed to understand that the Earl's job was very demanding and required some effort on his part. She hadn't bothered him for almost a week now, though he should have expected that the peace would be short-lived.
Elizabeth almost flinched from his cold tone, then drew herself up to her full height (several inches shorter than Ciel, but still a bit taller than most other woman of the age) and strode into the room. Each step seemed to be full of purpose, though they grew weaker and more hesitant as she drew closer to the desk. Ciel waited calmly, staring with disinterest at the blonde in the deep green gown she had no doubt bought with his money. It wasn't as if such spending bothered him - he was certainly able to afford any spending spree Lizzy decided to go on, but it was mildly irritating that his wife couldn't seem to do anything but shop. She contributed nothing to his household except another mouth to feed and person to dress.
Elizabeth's steps were tiny by the time she stopped in front of Ciel's desk. He waited expectantly for her to speak.
"Ciel..." she began, but seemed unsure of how to continue. Already impatient, the Earl held back the urge to sigh as she fidgeted. Finally, Elizabeth looked up and met his eyes with determination. "I think we should get rid of Sebastian and hire a new butler!"
Startled, the slate haired man momentarily lost his cool composure. His blue eye widened in surprise, then darkened in anger. He restrained himself, gripping the arms of his chair as he fought the urge to stand and slam his hands down on his desk at the very suggestion. He was no longer that little boy who had almost slapped Elizabeth because she had damaged his precious ring that now graced his left ring finger - he was a man now and couldn't give in to his temper so easily.
"Why?" he asked, voice flat. There was no way of 'firing' Sebastian - not that he would ever consider firing the demon even if such a thing were possible - but if Elizabeth had some sort of legitimate complaint it would need to be addressed.
The woman in front of his fidgeted, white-gloved hands wringing together nervously as she avoided his gaze.
"Well... he's rude," she said, clearly inventing. "And he's lazy, and he-"
"Tell the truth." Ciel cut her off. She looked at him, startled and the faintest trace of moisture was beginning to collect in her eyes. He narrowed his own in a glare. "Sebastian is neither rude nor lazy. He does more work than any of the other servants we have here - more than Paula, certainly."
Elizabeth drew back at the mention of the maidservant she had insisted come with her after she had married Ciel.
"Besides, Sebastian makes the best sweets I have ever tasted. Why would the Phantomhives settle for anything less than the best?" he asked, turning back to his work. Speaking of treats, the demon should be along sometime soon with his afternoon snack. Though Ciel was more in control of his sweet tooth, he had yet to lose his liking for sweet things. "If that's all, then you can leave. Sebastian's employment here is not up for discussion."
Satisfied that the matter had been settled, the Earl was about to begin to read the next document when Elizabeth's voice interrupted again.
"He's taking you away from me!"
Startled at the sudden outburst, Ciel dropped the papers and looked back up. Elizabeth's eyes and cheeks were reddening, unshed tears collecting in her eyes as she stepped forward. Her hands were clasped over her chest as she stared imploringly at her husband. "We're married, Ciel, but you never have time for me. You always have time for him, though - he almost sees you more often than I do, and he would see you more often if I didn't come here every day to ask for just some of your time!"
Ciel's eye widened at the bitterness and anger in Elizabeth's voice. It was odd and unnatural - the bubbly blonde could rebound from just about everything and he had never seen her in such a state before. Then he registered what she had said and stood, glaring back at her with equal fury.
"He is my butler. Of course I'll see him often," he retorted. He was about to continue when Elizabeth leaned forward and interrupted him again.
"But you're my husband! We've been married for two months now, and we haven't..." Her voice cut off abruptly, hands dropping to smooth out her skirt self-consciously as she blushed with a mix of embarrassment and shame.
"He's taking you away from me," she whispered. "We're supposed to be married, but you're so cold to me. I never see Ciel's smile anymore and he sees them all the time. He just has to walk into the room and I see your face light up. You're never happy to see me. Maybe if he left-"
"He stays." Ciel snapped, something cold shooting through him at the suggestion of ordering Sebastian to leave. The demon belonged to him and he belonged to Sebastian. Being separated was unthinkable. "You're imagining things."
"I am not!" Elizabeth protested, struggling valiantly to keep her tears from falling. "I want to really be your wife, but you don't even seem interested at all! All you care about is him and your company! It's like you don't love me anymore!"
With those words she lost her struggle and began to cry. She turned away from her husband, wiping at her eyes with her gloves and she tried to keep her sobs and sniffles quiet. Looking away, something akin to regret in his eyes, Ciel began to dig in his pocket for a handkerchief. Producing one, he moved around the desk and gently lifted Lizzy's chin.
She stared at him, sadness in her eyes and she still tried to keep her sniffles quiet. He wiped at her eyes carefully, drying off her face as he spoke quietly.
"I understand your feelings," he murmured, lowering his eyes as he thought of the object of his own unfulfilled desire. He knew what it was like to want someone. Even if the situation was different since, by all rights, Elizabeth should be able to 'have' him, the feelings involved were the same. While he could empathize, he could not find it in himself to give in to Elizabeth's desires for her happiness. Something inside him rebelled at the mere thought. "- but I only married you because it was expected of us. 'Love' was never a factor for me."
He could feel the blonde stiffen in his arms, her green eyes going wide with shock at his blunt admission. Then, suddenly, she drew back her hand and slapped him. The Earl saw it coming, but too late to do anything than turn his head with the blow to try and minimize the damage. The blow stung and he put a hand to his cheek instinctively as he stumbled into the desk, almost knocking over a stack of papers as he caught his balance.
Elizabeth glared at him, more tears pouring down her cheeks. Without another word, she turned away and ran out the door of the office, slamming the door shut behind herself and likely heading to her quarters across the mansion from Ciel's own rooms. The man watched her go, rubbing his stinging cheek with a scowl. He knew the pain was at least partially deserved, but lies hurt so much more than the truth. Lying only staved off pain for a short time until the truth was revealed, and then the lies only added to the hurt. He could only conjure up a hint of regret for his actions. It was better that Elizabeth found out how he felt now, after all, than find out years later.
He turned to move back around his desk when the sound of the door opening again reached his ears. The soft sound of familiar footsteps came next, approaching him. He didn't even need to look at the newcomer to know who it was, just accepted the cool and slightly damp rag the other handed him. Ciel put the cloth to his cheek, sighing in contentment as it eased the sting.
"Thanks, Sebastian," he said quietly, moving around the desk to sit down in his chair. He patted his cheek, pleased to note that the pain was almost nonexistent now. It had been a very hard slap.
The butler bowed, a knowing smile on his lips.
"I would hardly be fit to serve the Phantomhives if I could not do something so simple," the demon replied, extending his hand to take back the cloth. Ciel handed it to him. His cheek was still a bit red, but that would fade quickly. Sebastian's smirk seemed to widen as he looked at his master's cheek, but Ciel was already turning back to his paperwork. He was completely unprepared for the gentle hand that caught his chin and tilted his head just enough for the butler to see the outline of a hand on his master's cheek.
Ciel's breath caught, attention totally diverted from his work as Sebastian's fingertips ran lightly over the mark.
"It seems that Lady Elizabeth did not take kindly to hearing the truth," the demon observed quietly, then drew his hands away. Ciel scowled, as much at the statement as the loss of that gentle touch. He busied himself with his papers to hide his disappointment. The Earl didn't bother to question how Sebastian knew what had gone on between him and his wife - he would be very surprised if there was anything in the estate Sebastian did not know about.
"The truth is better than lies." Ciel defended himself, though half-heartedly. Sebastian understood. He knew better than anyone else why Elizabeth's husband had yet to visit her bed, despite the fact that they had been married for months.
"I was not questioning you, bocchan." Sebastian replied, straightening up and smiling. The butler turned towards the door. "I shall be back shortly with your afternoon tea."
Then the demon was gone.
Ciel watched him go, an almost-smile on his face before he realized and forced himself to adopt a more serious expression. He turned back to his work, mood much lighter than it had been since that morning when Sebastian had woken him. Absorbed in his work, he didn't hear the front door open and a carriage race away, or Finny and Meirin's frantic entreaties for Elizabeth to come back.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed! Please review if you're planning on favoriting this. The next story in this sequence is 'A Murder at Midevening'.