A/N: Done for the Kuroshitsuji contest prompt 'Bad Habit.' I can totally see Lau as guilty of this.
All characters © Toboso Yana
Don't Stand Beneath the Eave, or You Might Get Wet.
It finally arrived at London's gates at the end of the nineteenth century, wrapped in a silk bundle and ready to be adopted: class. The Orient had it in every sense of the word, right down to their meticulously painted ceramics and bonsai gardens. Now the West had it too, transforming from a land of dust-imbued vagabonds to people who sipped their afternoon teas with their pinkies wiggling in the air.
(but does dust wash off so easily?)
The Kunlun Lau was no exception to class. With the poise of a vixen under the moonlight, he executed everything with style. Even his bad habits were elegant in and of themselves. Lau knew his foibles, and he knew how to exploit them.
(we have vices for a reason, those idiosyncrasies of the soul)
His biggest one could be found anywhere, not merely in the eavesdrops in which this indecent habit had once earned its name. Being a trader, he was proficient enough in English to pick up on any conversation. His tendency to listen in made his knowledge of the fast-paced world bottomless. He could catch up with current events, people, affairs, you name it, simply by going outside for a morning stroll. This method of acquisition suited him well, as Lau was never one to do things conventionally. It was how he received the latest news…among other things.
(plip, plop, don't stand under the eavesdrop)
The Earl of Phantomhive never bothered to lock his doors.
This made it extremely tempting, as Lau was a man who was very dangerous when bored, to pay the Earl a few unexpected visits. It was an offer sweeter than warm opium and just as rewarding. He was welcome in any time, as a partner in trade, which Lau planned to make the Earl regret at all costs.
(who is he waiting for to come home?)
It was on one such day that Lau strolled in through those opulent English doors and into the Phantomhive manor. The parlor was deserted, yet the carriage that stood stationary on the path of cobblestones outside signified that the Earl was indeed home.
Oya? Where could the Earl be?
Lau slunk upstairs in search of someone to bother, silk slippers padding silently on the carpet. As he neared the Earl's office the sound of voices drifted toward him. Those timbres could only belong to two people, and by the sound of it they were not yet aware of his entrance.
Oh, he was curious. What kind of conversations were held in this place, where the door handles were made of gold and the sofas were velvet-lined?
"Sebastian, why did you disobey my order?"
With the air of someone who was used to sitting on the floor, Lau crouched down, crossed his legs, and made himself comfortable outside the door of the Earl's office.
"I'm sorry Bocchan, but even I can't be in two places at once."
"Then what good is it to have a demon around?"
Outside, a pencil-thin eyebrow rose, and the voice continued.
"Thanks to you I'll have a bruise." This came out as a sulky grumble.
A sigh. "Maybe if Bocchan was more cautious of his footwork he wouldn't have tripped and needed someone to catch him."
"That was only because you had not double-knotted my shoelaces this morning, Sebastian."
Lau grinned in the shadow of the closed door. Excluding the part about demons, this conversation was merely the jejune repartee of the wealthy. He had no interest in hearing the ramblings of a spoilt man-child who couldn't care for himself.
"I'm sorry. That was a mistake on my behalf."
"Don't be silly; you don't make mistakes." A pause here. "And will you stop apologizing? You remind me of that idiotic shinigami."
"Please don't compare me to that," was the butler's tired reply. "At least I don't kill for fun."
"Only because I forbid you to."
Now, this was more like it. Lau craned his neck and surreptitiously placed an ear against the cool wall.
(what are these esoteric things, these yellow sewer secrets)
"Even though I haven't eaten a human soul in a while, I certainly wouldn't resort to whimsical homicide in that manner." The butler's voice sounded slightly wounded. "I tire of only eating and sleeping and eating again."
"You are rather talkative today, Sebastian. Is something the matter?"
A silence followed, which Lau could only descry to be a nonverbal confirmation or dismissal.
His suspicions were verified when the subject of conversation changed: "Bocchan, because of the warm weather I've noticed a few termites crawling around in places they shouldn't be."
As a master of cryptic articulacy himself, Lau immediately spotted the ambiguity in that sentence. It wasn't surprising, really, that the butler had known. His eyes opened a crack and he rose silently.
"Would you like me to, ah, exterminate them?"
There was a pause, where Lau could only imagine the Earl folding his arms behind that desk that was large enough to swallow him up. Hopefully his naivety would work in Lau's favor.
(bugs he's only talking about bugs, little Earl)
"Just leave them be, Sebastian. Eventually they'll be driven out or eaten by the mice."
"Yes, My Lord."
There couldn't have been a better cue. "Oya, oya, how is the Earl this morning?" Lau asked as he breezed in like an emperor, sapphire robes billowing out sinuously behind him. His eyes were once again slitted, the corners turned up in smiles of their own.
Ciel blinked. He was, as Lau'd presumed, sitting behind his mahogany desk. "Lau. What can I do for you?"
"Must I have a reason for visiting my favorite little Englishman?" Lau feigned dejection, bringing the sleeves of his robe together.
As the other sighed, Lau turned toward the butler, who smiled back. It wasn't the wearily polite smile that he donned when around the Madame or the other noblemen, but rather one that curled upwards knowingly. It was not a pleasant one.
The Earl unknowingly saved your life today, it said. But there will be another time. There will always be another time, as long as I'm around.
Only now did he realize how unnatural those red eyes were, and how those incisors seemed to elongate just the slightest bit during a smile. He'd always suspected, but had never known.
(What trip-traps under London bridges?)
Lau's smile shrunk by a few molars, yet he bowed low for the Earl of Phantomhive and it, which took the shape of a butler. Perhaps he would remain here for a little longer
(in this place where children command monsters)
(where things aren't always as they seem)
(where sanity has no reflection in the mirror).
What an interesting country indeed.