Title: Human Sentiment
Characters/Pairings if any: Ciel, Sebastian, mention of Madam Red, (Sebastian/Ciel if you squint, I guess)
Rating: PG 13 for suggestive language?
Word count: 2227 +/-
Cut text: They're sapphires. Or maybe lapis lazuli. Ciel couldn't be sure. All he knew was that they had always been there. Ever since he could remember.
Click. Clack. Click.
They're sapphires. Or maybe lapis lazuli. Ciel couldn't be sure. All he knew was that they had always been there. Ever since he could remember. He rolled them around in his hand, between his palm and his fingers.
Click. Clack. Click. Roll.
One cerulean-blue drop slipped through his small, still half-numb fingers, falling onto the floor. He picked it back up, his thumb rubbing over the cold, smooth surface.
"Young master, it is time for afternoon tea."
When Ciel looked around, there was a tall, tall figure, dressed in black, like a character in an everlasting funeral. He hadn't been wearing the silk waistcoat or the fine silver pocket watch when they'd first met, the Demon.
Expressionless, Ciel stood there, his unbandaged eye staring up at the thing that had become his savior and his damner. That thing that had come when he'd been scared, half mad, utterly consumed by fury. That part of him was still there, somewhere, tied very tightly to when he woke up in his bed, sweating and silently screaming in pain, ghostly hands at his back and head, the smell of burnt flesh in his nose.
"It isn't wise to gaze at anything for too long, young master." The Demon said. 'Young master'. Ciel almost wanted to laugh. He'd made him into his butler and called him Sebastian. It was like bringing home a puppy. With fangs.
Walking over, Sebastian gently steered him to a comfortable chair by one still-underfed shoulder. This had been his father's chair. Vincent Phantomhive's. It was perfect, down to the last touch of gold paint, the small stain on the upholstery when Ciel had spilled jam on his father at age three. Not a single scorch mark or speck of blood remained- if it had been there at all.
"I don't like this chair," Ciel said abruptly, forcing his bony shoulders back against Sebastian's hands. Sebastian did not move. Neither did he push him forward.
A pause. Then, Sebastian obligingly set the chair aside, placing a new one in its place. This one had no memories.
"Today we have a calming Chamomile tea, chocolate éclairs, walnut scones, and a choice of strawberry, apple, or blueberry jam. There are also petite-fours under the dish, and a light deep dish pie."
Ciel glanced at the food. In his mind, hard, crusty bread, still broke into ash on his tongue, stale water still an unpleasant taste at the back of his tongue. Forcing down the desire to choke, the boy reached for the cup of chamomile. He washed the bitter taste down with the strong, scalding flavor of fresh-brewed tea. The rest of its dregs, he buried under a tomb of chocolate éclairs. The sweetness was thick in his mouth, and melted luxuriously on his tongue. Thirty-two days of prison fare was almost a lie.
"Take the rest away," Ciel said.
"Your aunt- Lady Angelina, was it not? - would be distressed to see her long lost nephew not eating properly."
Instantly, Ciel snapped upright. "What would you know of Aunt Angelina? You're just a Demon!"
He bowed. "Right now, I am Sebastian Michaelis- a butler to the core."
"My health and my aunt are both none of your concern. I ordered you to take these away!" Ciel slammed his hands down on the table, rattling a saltshaker. It tipped over the side of the table, breaking into tiny ceramic pieces, salt all over the floor.
Bad luck, Ciel thought, almost hysterically, his father had said. But Ciel was already sinking deep into hell. What was luck against a demon?
"Yes, my lord," comes the acquiescence. Sebastian cleaned up the mess, returned the dishes under a cover to the trolley, and left the room. Still breathing heavily, long minutes after he left, Ciel reflected that he'd never had been allowed such a tantrum, if his parents had lived. Mother would have spanked him for such bad behavior, so unlike a gentleman's.
And his hand dipped into his pocket. Click. Clack. Click.
It was amazing that he'd found them at all. But there they had been, right next to the heavy ancient ring of the Phantomhive family. The same ring in between his fingers, like a lead weight. It was far too big, slipping loosely even from his thumb. In it, his fingers seemed all the smaller, all the more helpless. He clenches his hand into a fist. If it was like this, then the ring would not slip off. If it was like this, it didn't matter how small his hand was.
And he was holding on, holding on so tightly.
Books were scattered all over his bed: everything from the most arcane books, dripping with sigils and symbols, to Dante's Inferno. He'd always been a smart child. His mother had often remarked as much. His aunt had been delighted, hoping to find a soul like her own in her nephew. Head bowed over the old, yellowing scrolls and tomes from his fa- the manor's library, Ciel turned page after page, absorbing this or that fact hungrily, discarding the superstition of the rest. Not goat eyes, but a cat's; not a bestial form but humanoid. Virgin sacrifices and banal blood rites. The differences were many and Ciel almost despaired of the conflicting lore.
But the books distracted him from his thoughts and their knowledge was essential. If he couldn't make one whole picture, than he would make several, discarding as he went along. After all, he and the truth of the matter were under the same roof.
There wasn't expectedly, any way out and he hadn't been looking for one. There was little enough to live for after this. But anything, anything at all that could tell him about the Demon and his Contract would be more useful in his head than gathering cobwebs.
The candles burn lower and lower, well into the night.
Finally, the last of the text was read and his vision blurred, three flickering candles multiplying into a ghostly ten. Flopping back on the bed, the mattress sinking down with his slight weight, Ciel almost laughed (but his mouth won't open, weighed down by his heart). What would Aunt Angelina say to him, reading all these books of 'superstitious nonsense', as she called it. She would insist that he throw them all out, replacing them with books on science, on medicine and anatomy. What would she say if she knew where he'd been…?
Ciel rubbed his wrists reflexively, the chafed skin from a month long horror still unhealed under efficiently wrapped bandages. Aunt Angelina had noticed. She had noticed, even covered by the long sleeves. She was a doctor, after all. She had insisted at looking at them and nothing but the Demon's intervention had stopped her from taking him away. But the way she had folded her arms around him, smelling of red spider lilies and the faint scent of the hospital, is almost, almost like his mother's.
But she wasn't.
Mother was dead. Like father. And he will never be in their arms again. Here or After.
Digging the heel of his left palm into the now-unbandaged eye, Ciel's other hand slid into his pocket once more, rolling two cold little stones over and over between his fingers.
Moonlight spilled into the room from the window, shining stark panes of light on the carpet floor. Ciel sat on the window seat, his sheets dragged after him from the bed, like a haphazard bridal train. His body is engulfed by the sheets, twisted and cloaked about his waif-like form. The comfort of it, the draping smooth silk, reminded him of his mother's arms.
"I know you're there. Demon."
Two knocks from the door, a murmured excuse, and the butler entered the room. "Was there something you wanted, young master?"
The sheets covered half of Ciel's face, but he could see the Demon from his other eye, his good eye, the eye that was still his own yet. For as long as his life held.
"Pierce my ears."
Walking towards Ciel, the Demon-Sebastian kneeled in front of the low window seat. "If it is what the young master wishes…" he trailed off.
"It is." Ciel glared.
"Yes, my lord." The smile, under the messy black hair of his bow, was amused. His hands reach up, gently pushing the linen sheet off Ciel's hair and down to his shoulders. Ciel stared balefully back at him, both eyes uncovered, the Contract glowing dully.
From somewhere under his waistcoat, 'Sebastian' produced a needle, a packet of matches, a small vial, and a quarter of a small apple. He stripped off his gloves, showing his pale hands with their black nails and the twin of the mark on his eye.
He selected a match from the packet. One moment, it had been a simple match. The next, a tiny flame had burst into being at its head, the smell of burning wood and sulfur wafting up from it. Long, slender fingers heated the tip of the needle, quickly, 'sterilizing', a ghost of his aunt in his mind suggested. Sebastian placed the cool, moist cube of an apple under Ciel's earlobe.
Ciel braced himself.
The silver point of the needle plunged into his flesh, searing hot and swiftly burying into the pale fruit on the other side.
His heart pounded in his ears, loud and throbbing. Pain lanced through him, immediate and burning. It hurt far more than he had ever thought it would. Far too little compared to the weight in his chest. And a few drops of bright red blood dripped from his ear, falling on Sebastian's fingertips and dotting the pristine white sheets.
Ciel's hands tugged the sheets more tightly around his arms, the skin around his knuckles going a shade whiter as the pain started to throb in earnest.
A moist cloth, draped upon a hand, he guessed, wiped away the worst of the blood before clamping down firmly on the fresh wound, applying direct pressure until the flow ebbed.
"Shall I put something in it before piercing the other?" The smooth, low voice inquired.
Wordlessly, Ciel reached into his pocket (click, roll.) and withdrew two small, round earrings, dropping them into his butler's broad palm.
Sebastian smiled. "As you wish."
The earring's blunted point poked into the lock, coming together with a small snick that jars the tender flesh, sending a small, jarring flash of pain through his body.
"The next one," Ciel gritted out.
And Ciel let his eyes fall closed, enduring, as the needle punched through his flesh, replaced once more by the dull silver rod of the other earring.
"Young master?" The hand was as gentle as his mother's when resting on his brow. But Sebastian's hand was bonier, hard-edged. It weighed heavy on his shoulder, with the familiarity and air of one beholding a possession.
"What is it?" Ciel snapped, opening his eyes.
Before him, Sebastian placed a small mirror, oval shaped and bordered in tinted rosewood, into his hands.
Moonlight struck the silvered mercury, and for a moment, just for a moment, he thought he saw his mother, staring back.
His mother's eyes, his mother's chin, his mother's mouth. His mother's… And then (only then), without thought or prompting, the wet warmth of tears flowed silently down from the corners of his eyes.
Ciel never heard the door open and shut. The earrings weighed heavy on his ears, as though anchored in the bittersweet past.
Sebastian's fingers slid in and out of his mouth, tasting the sweet smears of blood like a dark chocolate. His lips closed for a moment on the tip of one finger, nipping lightly at the end before it slid completely out.
It reminded him most of despair, stirred with hate. As it should. The boy wouldn't be half so interesting otherwise.
Concealing a smirk behind one splayed hand, the demon went down the main staircase, pausing at the landing. There, on the wall, was the main hall's undoubted centerpiece, a massive canvas painting in a heavy gold frame.
Sebastian gave the portrait a brief, cursory glance. It was done in oils. He hadn't given it too much attention, during the restoration. But it was clear that it had been done by a skilled, if unimaginative, artist. Lord Vincent had been a handsome man, dark haired, with keenly intelligent eyes. Lady Rachel was very beautiful woman with a kind air and laughing eyes. The little boy in between the loving couple clearly got his face from her- from the large, clear blue eyes with the veil of thick lashes to the delicately boned face and plump lips. He even had the same laughing eyes as his mother. That boy wasn't much older now than he was then, in the timeless trap of a canvas.
And there, on the Lady's ears, were the two twinkling blue drops, a shade lighter than her husband's. Even through age and carefully lifted soot, the paint showed a bright, perfect cerulean blue.
"Human sentiment…" he murmured, touching his gloved hand to the braided gold frame.
Slowly, his lips curled into another smirk. "It never changes." Sweeping the family a mocking bow, he resumed his walk down the hall.
The sound of his heels in an empty hall went: click. clack. click.
Notes (spoilers ahead for up to chapter 31):
I always wondered why Ciel had those earrings.
He didn't have them after the contract, when Madame Red saw him, so I can only conclude he pierced them at some other time after that and before the series started… what's more, though, they're possibly his mother's. LOOK EVEN IN THE ANIME at 14:12 of ep 5, you can see the earrings, and in the flashback of Madame Red's life, especially ch11, page 8!
And it kinda gives me fic ideas ; A lot of my details were taken from those flashback chapters, actually. Ciel having his father's nose, long sleeves. While others are completely fictitious.
After chapter 31 came out, we see Vincent Phantomhive actually wore earrings, too. Or an earring. We can't be sure just yet. But I thought as opposed to his father, the name-bearer of Phantomhive whose ring is a clear memento, I'd try to focus on his mother; Plus I thought of it as ring from his father, earrings from his mother.
Haha, I just reviewed Madame Red's flashback and has anyone else noticed that the dog's hair is black? I always thought it had been a lassie-type of dog, but Ciel and Elizabeth are actually frolicking with a huge bear of a dog (whose breed I cannot recall off the top of my head) with black fur. Interesting.
Also, who here watched Parent Trap? Ok. How about Loveless? You could say this fic draws a little bit of inspiration from both. The rudimentary piercing method is from Parent Trap. I have no idea if they had a refrigerator back then. Seeing as they had only one parcel of meat on hand for guests, I'm guessing not. So. No ice. ;
Re:loveless… I had always wondered why that particular scene in Loveless was deemed so intense. I get that you'd be really scared of puncturing anyone's flesh- the amount of trust there is scary. But in this context, I think Ciel isn't trusting Sebastian as much as he's…daring him? Perhaps it makes some sort of twisted sense, to have the one who gave you another chance imprint a memory of enduring pain. Perhaps, it's just that he can't pierce his own ears, what being all of ten, untrained, and healing besides. And who else is there to turn to?
Anyway, getting back to the point, why is it so intense? It STRUCK me while I was writing this. Because there are so, so many parallels for devirginizing sex it's hilarious. If you're an old hand at innuendo, you've probably noticed all the word choices I made that make me groan at my own pun-nyness. XD;;
… okay, so I just realized that entirely by accident of my mind, the virgin bride analogy I had written first before realizing all this sets the scene nicely up. I do love it when that happens.