Here we are, my first published story! I have most of this one already done, just working on finishing it up, so no requests for plotpoints, sorry :( Anyway, enjoy this! The story is AU, set in Victorian England in 1889. There's not much magic aside from the shinigamis, the contract doesn't exist and as for what everyone's role in the story is... you'll just have to keep reading to find out :D

For any Victorian slang used in the story, you can use this nifty little dictionary i found: www (dot) tlucretius (dot) net / Sophie / Castle / victorian_slang (dot) html

A warning to people who don't like BL or shounen-ai: there is BL. Read at your own risk. But please don't flame me for it if you read it and are offended later; it was YOUR decision to read it.

Further warnings (For the entire story, not just the prologue): minor gore, lots of *Victorian-era* swearing :D, BL, OOC Ciel (only at first!), innuendo and the like. Prepare yourself.

This is just the prologue - the first chapter will be out on Friday, October 9. Read on and enjoy!

The Undertaker's Apprentice

Dead bodies don't take care of themselves. They can't do anything for themselves; they're helpless. The poor decaying bodies, who will take care of them? They have nowhere to go besides six feet under, but how will they get there?

Everyone has a use for himself in this world. Some people spend money on lavish parties and bask in riches, others do the dirty work. I am the latter, though I do not care to call my work "dirty". I make the dead beautiful, give them life again before they are sealed into their new wooden homes. It is rewarding work, and interesting to boot. I find nothing to be more intriguing than having a body sent in and discovering how they died and the secrets of their life they might not have even known themselves.

You can read a person's entire life from their corpse, did you know that? I can tell if they were rich and mugged in an alley by an underpaid harlot, or a humble wife who died in childbirth. They all come to me and tell me their stories. And I listen to them, hearing their last words before they are sealed away completely.

The dead tell the most interesting tales. I've rarely been disappointed in a corpse—unless, of course, the cause of death is a boring old heart attack or other organ failure. You can learn a lot from corpses, and they never cease to amaze me. I have never felt so fascinated by something other than the dead.

That is, I had never seen something more fascinating until that boy showed up.

* * *

It was evening in smoggy London. The rain was drizzling down outside and streaming down the darkened windows of the rickety shop. A haphazard sign was propped up above the door reading "UNDERTAKER" in large, spindly lettering. The street was quiet, save for a few rats and stray dogs. An emaciated mutt sniffed around the street, looking for some food. It timidly followed its nose past the door to the shop, but quickly leaped back and scampered off as a sudden CRASH echoed through the door.

"Clumsy boy! Watch where you're going!" a tall, grey haired man rushed out of the back room of the shop as soon as he heard the noise. His top hat was ripped and worn so badly strips of cloth were hanging down by his long hair and bangs that hid his eyes. The rest of his attire was not faring much better.

"I-I'm s-s-sorry, sir!" the young boy apologized, falling to his knees and trying to scrape up the shards of broken glass that had been a jar just moments ago. "I-I was gettin' the a-arsenic like ya t-told me ta a-an'—"

"And you broke it!" the Undertaker reprimanded, "Now I have to go though all the trouble of getting more. Do you have any idea how much arsenic costs?!"

The boy grabbed at the glass in a panic, ignoring the sting in his knees as the shards still on the floor bit into them. "I-it won' happen again, sir!"

"I'm sure it won't," the Undertaker said, walking up to stand behind him, "Still, arsenic is very expensive."

"I'm s-sorry, I—"

The Undertaker lifted the boy up onto his feet, turning him so that he was facing him. "Maybe you can pay me back right now."

The boy shook his head, staring at his ruddy shoes. "I don' have any money, sir."

The Undertaker lifted the boy's chin so that he was gazing right into those beautiful blue lamps he had. "I'm sure we can figure something out," he grinned, bending down to eye level with the boy and leaning into him.

The boy tore his gaze away and stepped back, wrapping his arms around himself. "No please, sir! I'll do anythin' but that!"

The Undertaker chuckled and stood up straight again. "I'm joking," he said, running a finger from the boy's eye down his cheek and tracing the jaw line, "There're much prettier girls than you I can find in the brothel down the street."

The boy shut his eyes tight and appeared to shrink back even more. The Undertaker chuckled again and kissed him on the forehead before returning to the back room. "Get back to work, Ciel."

"Yes, sir."