Author's Note: I'm admittedly nervous; it's been quite a while since I last wrote a fanfic of this length. But here we go, nevertheless…
Warnings: Twisted Non-AU. Kinda confusing. Plays with a number of fandom observations… Shouta undertones.
Dedication: For Yinake-san and her LJ SebaCiel contest. :D Good luck to all of the contestants!
XXX Contracts XXX
I. "Rumplestiltskin is my name."
"I wish to strike a deal with you."
"Oh? Do you, now?"
There was a lilt and a chuckle in the purr of the second voice: velvet to the ear, even as it sent chills down one's spine. Across the expansive mahogany desk, the study's shadows congealed: in an empty gilded chair, a long-legged male materialized— black-leather darkness wrapping around each pale limb like a second skin. One booted foot crossed over the other; the ruby-eyed devil leaned contentedly backwards, fingers steepled as a lazy-lipped smile formed upon his pretty face.
"And what sort of deal shall we be striking, Earl of Phantomhive?"
The second man—thin faced and somber— stared at his otherworldly guest from his own golden seat, resting his chin atop laced, world-weary hands. He wished he'd been able to put more distance between himself and the demon, more than just the length of a wooden table, but his pride would not allow him to express this discomfort. All the same, he knew—could tell by the gleam in those luminous garnet eyes—that the devil could smell his terror.
"There has been something of an uproar in London, as of late," the Earl began coolly, refusing to flinch even as his guest's smirk turned feral. "Dozens of cases have been reported, stories telling of young, healthy men and women suddenly keeling over dead, as if their souls had been ripped from them. It has caused the Queen a great deal of distress."
"And so you, as the Queen's precious dog, have decided to go ahead and do something about this little pandemic?" the demon guessed lightly, tilting his ebony-haired head. Long, dark talons click-clacked as the devil's fingers twitched with amusement. "I see. And how may I help ease your woes, my dear Earl?"
The human's stare fell flat. "You could stop eating Londoners souls."
The creature had the good-graces to appear momentarily startled. But the expression soon melted into another small giggle, and another bright-eyed grin. "Ah. So you already knew it was me?" he lamented, cozying back in his chair. "Pity… we could have had such fun finding the culprit—"
"I will not listen to your lies, nor your word games, demon," the young count brusquely interrupted, though his voice remained impressively casual. "I want no fame, no fortune, nor anything else your wicked wiles might try to convince me of. I have no desire to sell my soul. However, I realize I cannot simply demand that you stop doing what is in your nature; a deal must be made. Or, as I hear your kind are fond of calling them, a contract."
"Well now." Scarlet eyes glistened like burning gemstones, accentuating the ethereal beauty of the devil in the chair. "Aren't you well-informed? A contract with me, you say? Very well…"
The demon stood, languid and cat-like, delight in his easy swagger. The pin-thin heels of his footwear tip-tapped across the wooden floor; as he made his meandering way around the desk, his claws whispered over its cool, flat surface. "I am not an unreasonable fellow," the devil murmured as he strolled, pausing before his prey with a gentleman's smile. "And to be perfectly honest, the bitter souls of your country's smoggy capital have rather put a stopper on my appetite. I am more than willing to enter into a contract with you, my young and pretty Earl."
The Earl felt his back stiffen in disgust, cringing as the demon's pallid hand grazed over his cheek, ice-cold and smelling sweetly of rotten apples. The scent made his head spin.
"But I'm afraid I must insist on suitable compensation for my troubles," the demon continued, forcibly tilting the man's chin when he had the gall to look away. "I dislike the sensation of starvation as much as any human. To that end, are you sure you wouldn't like to offer me your soul in exchange for this deal? I would be more than willing to do anything asked of me with a soul as tempting as yours as the prize…"
The pale-skinned creature leaned closer, fingers tightening around the count's jaw as he sucked in a deep, appreciative breath. "Mmm, yes, a soul of the highest pedigree. You would make the most delicious of meals… Would you, perhaps, be so kind as to allow me the smallest of tastes? Since you are depriving me of my future lunches…"
Eyes widened; fingers clenched. Lips that smelt of white chrysanthemum leaned closer, a mere breath away from his own—
The Earl lashed out, wrenching away with a push and a snarl and a flurry of nails. "Release me, foul creature!"
"My my. A fighter, are we?" The demon's frigid smirk returned; he dabbed at his lips with the back of his hand, licking the blood that had collected there with the tip of his tongue. "How rude. Your wife was much more accommodating, as to be expected of the lady of the house."
The man noticeably blanched; he leapt to his feet with a slam of two fists. "You dared touch—? If you did anything to Rachel—!"
"Well, you can hardly blame me, can you?" the demon reasoned pleasantly, running a finger over his gently oozing wound. It healed in an instant, leaving no sign that it had ever been. "I've been waiting for you to summon me for ages. It was right boring, watching you slowly piece together the clues that I left. And your wife was ever so lonely while you worked; it would have been rude to let things go along as they were."
His leer lengthened by three teeth on each side, his silent laughter almost audible as the Earl snarled and seethed. "Oh, but don't worry, my dear Master. I let you have all the credit…"
"And what is that supposed to mean?!"
His only answer was a sneer.
"Hear me now, mortal fool," the creature instead proclaimed, wrapping twin hands around his new contractor's shaking shoulders. "We have entered into a contract, you and I. I have promised to desist in my snacking ways, and in exchange have not even asked for your soul. Nor did I gobble up the soul of your precious little wife, so please stop looking at me as if I were some sort of monster."
"You… wait." The count blinked wide, dark eyes up at the devil, confusion in his stare. "If that's the case… then what form of compensation are you taking?"
Again, there was no straight answer—just a simple smile. "You're a wonderful detective," the demon then purred, bowing genially forward with a brush of lips on lips. The human recoiled as if bitten. "Clues or no, you'll piece it together. In fact, I'll give you ten years to do so— though I hardly expect that you'll need that long. But one way or another, I have every confidence that you'll figure things out eventually, my Master."
And eventually, Vincent did.
II. "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair…"
"London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down..."
There was something to be said for temptation.
As a demon, of course, this was nothing new to him— temptation was the very essence of his existence, mankind's only true motivator, and the most delectable spice with which one could season a soul. And yet, at the same time, it wasn't often that the devil found himself tempted…
He lapped at a silken paw, cleaning it thoroughly before tucking it beneath his current form's furry body. Far below, beneath the shaded canopy of the red oak tree, the picturesque family played: round and round, trapped and free, silent and singing. It was unusually to see the little boy out and about; the Earl usually kept him safely tucked away, 'worried for his health,' hidden in the labyrinth of Phantomhive Manor.
As if that might protect him.
No. Hiding his tiny prize from view only made the demon want him more— made him crave the very sight of the blue-eyed child. And not only the sight: the sound of his voice, the curve of his smile, the perfume of his scent. Especially his scent— for it was the smell of him that gave the truth away, and no one knew it but the demon.
"London Bridge is falling down, my fair lady!"
The mother trapped her son between long, loving arms, laughing as the child squealed with delight. And in the tree, the black cat purred with pleasure. For one day, London Bridge really would fall down, and it would be his turn to capture Ciel.
But until that time, he would content himself with lingering at the windows, watching, waiting, whispering…
III. "Run, run, run, as fast as you can..."
"You seek my aid?"
It was a familiar scene, after a millennia of life. He surveyed the gathered group of black-swathed occultists with well-masked boredom, seated on the edge of a sacrificial altar. Their eager nods were accompanied by desperate pleads and excited begging, their movements flickering strangely in the faltering glow of the pig-fat candles. The heady room smelt of sandalwood and smoke.
"You realize, of course, that I require sacrifices," the demon reminded politely; he had a reputation, after all. "No one likes to do something for nothing."
A ripple of bewilderment raced through the crowd; midnight cloaks rustled like the wind through autumn leaves. "B—but Master," the lead-priest choked out, even as he prostrated himself upon the pentagram-strewn floor. "We have followed the summoning ritual to the letter. We have decorated your table with spices and gems, women and animals alike. What more could you possibly—?"
Dark eyes narrowed: sharp as diamond, red as blood. "Do you question me?" the airy voice inquired, and the devil clenched a taloned hand as if he were squeezing an apple. The cleric's answer was a resounding screech, and his followers watched, wide-eyed, as their leader tore at his clothes and writhed like a worm on a hook.
There was a pop, then silence.
And when the demon slid from his perch, it was to the sound of hundreds of reverent, petrified, and groveling minions.
"The curdled souls and rancid meats you offer do not go unappreciated," he announced over the fawning and scraping and slither of fabric on skin. "But they are far beneath my consumption, and insult me more than they impress. However, I am a benevolent master, and will offer you a second chance. If you truly wish to earn my amity, you will have to offer me a prize worthy of my time. That is the basis of a contract, after all, is it not? To that end…"
The devil smiled, running gentle fingers over the foreheads of his bloodthirsty followers. "I have a job for you, my dears."
IV. "On her birthday, she'll prick her finger, and she'll die."
It was a pity that he'd have to kill his summoners. Really, a right shame. They did his bidding so willingly, and with such enthusiasm; he stood in the red oak tree—now made of more ash than bark—and watched as the chest that housed his treasure erupted in crimson flame: spewing sparks that shone more brightly than the stars. Someone screamed, another cried, and trapped souls vanished as if swallowed by Darkness itself.
It was a scene from hell. Yes… in all aspects, the perfect birthday gift.
"Welcome home, little one," the demon softly chuckled, shimmering eyes reflecting the inferno as the world around him burned.
V. "She wore scraps, ate little, and slept in the cinders…"
On the whole, one last month of waiting was hardly a heavy price to pay. That is to say, after all this time, a mere thirty-one days should feel like little more than a passing second. In theory. But in reality, he thought it would be much more accurate to compare this torture to the passing of a second on a malfunctioning clock— the spindly hands ostensibly unmoving, no matter how many real-time hours trickled by. And the demon was so distracted by the boy and his unfamiliar temptations, he found himself wiling away the hours with aberrant wishing: willing that frozen second to hurry up and pass, narrowed eyes glued to the clock's broken face.
Such a pretty broken face…
He lingered, tingling with anticipation, in the shadows just beyond the rusting cage. Every day, every night… At any given time, the boy was only feet away—trapped in a jewelry box of amber iron— half-crazed from shock and hunger. Ironic; the devil could relate. Though in truth, the demon's condition was probably worse; after all this time, he could hardly contain himself anymore. The urge was simply too strong… and he was not built to resist urges. In the darkness of the disenchanted night, tensions eased by the boy's unconscious delirium, the devil threw caution to the winds and glided closer to the barred trap, long nails caressing the uneven metal poles.
Just beyond, his payment lolled, like a porcelain doll or a drugged prostitute. Both such lovely pictures…
The boy's sapphire eyes snapped unexpectedly open, empty from weeks' worth of horrors.
"…fa…ther?" the half-dead whispered, confusion in his crackling voice. "Is… that you…?" With whatever modicum of strength remained in him, the child tried to lift himself to his knees— but the weight of his shackles was far too great, and the still-smoldering brand had sapped the life from him. He was able to do nothing more than stare blankly at the demon, who's initial reaction was an expression of uncharacteristic surprise.
But then his smirk returned, fully-flowered and sadistically sweet.
"Of course," the devil soothed, reaching between the bars to run calming fingers through matted, coal-gray hair. But that wasn't enough; as his arms eased through the barrier, so did his shoulders, then his torso, and soon he was completely inside: a looming silhouette, caste over the living skeleton once known as Ciel Phantomhive.
There was no resistance as clawed hands eased down a paper-thin chest, nor when long legs straddled the boy's fragile pelvis. Instead, the child only gasped, and sighed, and closed dull eyes as the demon leaned downward, breathing into his pinking ears: "I'm here to give you a good night kiss."
VI. "She will bite the poisoned apple."
"What has been sacrificed will never be returned."
The words were like a bite of fruit between his lips: refreshing and sweet, oozing the thick, delicious juices of irony. And he offered the verbal apple to the boy, urging him to join in savoring the flavor. Though it hardly seemed fair; the child would never be able to fully appreciate the gesture— would never be able to name the strangest of the sugars that he tasted on his tongue. For how could the babe be expected to know of a contract that had been signed and sealed before he'd even left his mother's womb?
But that was of no matter now.
The devil lifted a slender finger to parted, smirking lips, tilting his head in offering. "Now… choose."
There was barely even a pause; as if cued, a lilac eye snapped open, the once-blue iris imbued with lines of white-hot power. And as the unholy pentagram seared to life, the boy, too, was revived. "This is an order—" he screamed to the heavens, swallowing the proffered apple whole. "Kill them!"
London Bridge is falling down…
And thus a demon was born.
VII. "He lives in a house of gingerbread, never suspecting the witch."
"And what is this, Young Master?"
"What does it look like?" the child-Earl drawled, mismatched eyes lingering pointedly upon the pages of his book. The uplifted spine read "Fairytales;" Sebastian couldn't help but smirk. "It's a pocket watch."
Oh, the child's acerbic wit never got tiring. "Clearly," the butler agreed with an amiable tilt of the torso. As he bowed, the small clock swayed slightly, dangling from the silver chain that had been pinched between gloved fingers. "As always, the Young Master never fails to keep his responses succinct and to the point. Even his most useless responses."
A snort, a flip of a page. "I gave the right answer. You just asked the wrong question."
The demon cocked an eyebrow, torn between irritation and amusement. "Indeed. Perhaps I should rephrase, then: why is the Young Master giving this pocket watch to me?"
"Are you completely inept?" Ciel sighed, ripping his gaze away from his reading in a show of utter exasperation. "You're my butler now, aren't you? One of your duties is to keep track of the household's schedule. How could you possibly do that without a way to tell the time?"
Sebastian frowned faintly, continuing to regard the pocket watch with mild distaste, even as his contractor glared at him. "With all due respect, Young Master, as a demon, I am more than capable of telling time without the use of such devices."
Ciel graced the devil with a dry stare. "We're going for subtly here, Sebastian," he then droned, setting his book aside and lacing small fingers atop a familiar mahogany desk. "I have no desire for you to utilize your demonic abilities in order to accomplish every little task. That's just tacky. Besides, pocket watches are a sign of class; as a servant of Phantomhive, you're expected to look as if you come from money. Or at least, that the family you serve is equipped to furnish you with such ornamentation."
"Really now? Is that how it works?" Sebastian made a show of pondering this for a spell, smiling as his master scowled. "If that's the case, might I ask where the Young Master bought this bauble? That is to say, it is easy to believe that this was once a pocket watch of some value, but it seems to have long-since lost its splendor. In fact, I believe it looks rather charred… perhaps it spent some time in a fire?"
A tiny brow furrowed, annoyance written on every curve of Ciel's round face. "Just what are you implying, demon?" he forced through a clenched jaw.
"Implying? Nothing whatsoever, Young Master. I was simply expressing my curiosity. After all, if the point is to look as if I were well-to-do, wouldn't it stand to reason that I would be given a new watch, rather than this decrepit one?"
The small count glowered, woven fingers clenching to form a single fist. "If you must know," he informed, molars grinding as he forced himself calm. "That pocket watch holds a bit of sentimental value to me. But I have no reason to use it—not when the job of tracking time is yours. Therefore I'm giving it to you to clean, use, and keep safe, so I don't have to waste the money on buying you a new one."
"Sentimental value, you say?" Sebastian repeated, blatantly ignoring the latter potion of the boy's explanation. Much to Ciel's visible frustration, of course. "I am flattered, Young Master. Might I inquire as to whom this watch used to belong?"
The Earl glared, and huffed, and for a moment seemed hell-bent on keeping quiet… But he had no reason not to answer, and lacked the energy to ignore the pestering demon. And so, twisting away from his servant, Ciel eventually drawled: "It belonged to my father."
The solemnity of this announcement was ruined by a dark chuckle.
"It belongs to your father," Sebastian echoed from behind his pouting master— but somehow the words didn't sound like a confirmation, or a polite correction. The intonation, the lingering lilt, the audible leer… Perplexed, the boy turned swiftly back around, his face scrunched in vexation.
"…what's that supposed to mean?" Ciel demanded, scoffing at his smirking servant's stupidity. "The dead have no need for trinkets."
In response, Sebastian offered an agreeable nod, smiling that closed-eyed smile of his; deft fingers tucked the precious watch into an ironed breast pocket. "But of course. Silly me, Young Master…"
His voice trailed off, heavy with subtext and tacit laughter. Nevertheless, he remained the picture-parody of the perfect servant: with a scrape and a bow, the butler vanished, taking the trolley and afternoon tea with him. And yet, in his wake, he left a speechless and faintly-baffled young master— the child's thrumming heart suddenly ill at ease as his promised eye flamed.