Author's Note: I don't know why I ever bother saying things like "I'm not gonna write any more of this idea," because those are always my "famous last words."
Anyway, I blame (and thank) goodbyemyheart for this. Her podfic of "Adoption Papers" was so damn cute, I found myself wanting to write more for this series, just so she'd podfic it again. XD;
I also want to extend my thanks to finnsrock who provided me with prompts 21-30. :3 (As before, prompts 1-20 came from the "Avatar: The Last Airbender" community.)
Warning: A continuation of "Adoption Papers." Not in chronological order. Lame title is lame. OCCness because of AUness. BEWARE THE CUTE~
Another Collection of AU Sentences and Ficlets
Ciel sat at the kitchen table for hours, staring at the crumpled letter for so long he could hardly make out the words, anymore. All the while, time ticked agonizingly by: noonday sunlight became twilight shadows, and as a bedtime gloom overtook the little white room, Sebastian came to sit beside him.
The ten-year-old did not react. Did not speak. Did not move, save for the faintest flinch when his caretaker delicately placed his own hand over Ciel's trembling fingers, currently fisted around the correspondence's ivory envelope.
"…the choice is yours, Ciel," the butler murmured, placating and soft. "I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to move back in with the Middlefords. They are your family, after all…"
His voice trailed off, colored by ever-present understanding. And as his reassurances faded into silence, the boy blinked once, as if startled from a trance. But when he slowly lowered the letter, casting Sebastian a veiled glance, it was not an expression of gratitude that he wore. Rather, he looked markedly offended.
"...did you really think I was considering it?" he asked after a long moment, pale brow furrowing in quiet confusion and single blue eye narrowed in a soundless show of hurt. "That's not why I… I mean, aren't we family now? Wouldn't you have… have even tried to stop me?"
It was Sebastian's turn to look distinctly startled. Is that what he was waiting for…?
With a tender chuckle, Sebastian lowered himself to his knees, crouching before the little boy's chair. With a ginger touch, he pried the note and envelope from the child's quavering grasp and instead held his hands in his own, gracing his charge with a watery smile.
"If you love someone," he explained gently, giving the boy's fist a subtle squeeze, "you let them go, if they wish to leave. But that doesn't mean that you want them to leave."
Ciel's chin wobbled, and he began chewing his bottom lip in an effort to keep it from quivering as well. "I don't want to leave…" he whispered, voice cracking in an effort to stave off tears. "But I… I thought maybe you had called them, or…"
The young preteen's whimpers were suddenly muffled by the butler's shoulder, and Ciel was only-too-happy to surrender to the hug.
"I can understand why the Middlefords would want you back," Sebastian murmured, resting his cheek against the downy crown of the boy's head. Ciel's response was a questioning hiccup, even as he burrowed all the closer to his caretaker. "They've realized what a great kid you are. I'd want you back, too, if I'd been stupid enough to let you go in the first place…
…but I promise you, Ciel. I would never be that stupid."
The butler pulled back half an inch, brushing the boy's unruly bangs behind his ears with an affectionate touch. "Stay, please."
Ciel swallowed thickly, sniffling as a single pearly tear slipped beneath the leather of his eye patch.
3: Forever (lyrics by The Veronicas)
"Come on baby, we ain't gonna live forever~ Lemme show you all the things that we could do! You know you wanna be together, and I wanna spend the night with— Sebastian!" The embarrassed squeal was followed by the clattering of a dropped hairbrush, and a scramble to find an extra clean shirt. "What're you doing home so early?"
It was an inquiry that Sebastian had a difficult time answering, busy as he was collapsed against the bathroom door, laughing hysterically.
"So this is where you live, is it?"
Looking up from the baseball he was tossing, Ciel flicked his gaze towards the nearby fence. A petite blonde was leaning against it, watching the smaller child with hungry aquamarine eyes. Ciel recognized the stranger as the neighboring manor's young heir, a boy his age named Alois.
"I don't live here," Ciel answered politely, though warily. He didn't particularly like meeting new people in the best of circumstances, and he had heard suspicious whispers about the Trancy family... "This is where my caretaker works. When I don't have school, I spend the days here with him."
"Oh?" Alois cocked his pretty head, flashing Ciel a bright (albeit faintly disturbing) grin. "Then where do you live?" he sweetly asked, sounding just a little too interested.
"…I'm not sure I want to tell you," Ciel confessed after a moment of guarded hesitation, and then quickly toddled off.
"…and then Lizzie kissed me," the fifteen year old concluded, eyes on his twiddling thumbs in a desperate attempt to keep from meeting Maylene's probing (and half-blind) stare.
"Kissed you?" His affirming nod was answered by a deafening, girlish squeal, so enthusiastic that it all but resonated through the walk-in closet that the pair was hiding in, having their impromptu heart-to-heart. "Well, that's wonderful, Ciel!" the maid then squeaked, cheeks flushing an excited shade of pink as she jovially clasped the teen's folded hands. "Although," she tacked on sheepishly, gracing the boy with an understanding smile when he finally chanced a glance upward, "I can understand why you might not… how did you phrase it? 'Feel anything'? She is your cousin, after all. I wouldn't worry too much about it. Perfectly normal~"
The auburn-locked beauty beamed, wholly confident that she'd managed to sooth her pseudo-son's fears.
And Ciel didn't have the heart to correct her.
"…um, yeah. Yeah, I guess that might be it…"
But he doubted it.
"And stocks!" Bard confirmed, giving the butler a brisk nod. "Believe me, he'll thank you for it, one day."
Sebastian arched a single eyebrow, opening his mouth to protest—but in the end, decided he hadn't the time or energy to get into a fight with an idiot.
Maybe Finny would have a better idea of what to get an eleven-year-old for Christmas.
"Look, Sebastian, it's all quite simple. You have a little keyboard, see? You just slide it ou—no, slide. It's not a flip phone. Stop pulling, you'll break it! Alright, here, let me do it. There. Okay, so you use this little keyboard to type a messa— …wait, what did you do? A phone shouldn't just die like… okay, you know what? Maybe you should just stick with the normal post, hm?"
"And stocks!" Bard added with relish, nudging the child in a meaningful sort of way. "Good stuff. You can use 'em to save for college!"
Sitting beside the Christmas tree, Ciel cast Sebastian a subtle, but visibly bewildered sort of stare. What was he to do with this? He didn't even know what the numbers meant. Neither did Maylene or Finny, who had (coincidentally) just opened identical gifts, and were now clearly plagued by the same questions. They, too, shot Sebastian a bemused glance.
The butler shrugged, then immediately waved a prompting hand.
"Oh, yeah… uh… thanks, Mr. Bard."
"Yes, thank you, Bard~"
"Wow, this is great!" Finny cheered, excitedly waving the papers above his head. "Though I've, er, never heard of this company…?"
"Yeah, neither had I," Bard admitted, chewing cheerfully on the end of his cigarette. "But it sounds legit, right? I doubt Stocks-R-Us would steer me wrong, you know?"
Well, if nothing else, Sebastian thought privately as he watched the little comedy unfold, those notes will be good fodder for the Yule log.
"Come on, now, kid. Would it kill you to smile?"
"Not sure. Don't want to risk it."
"Oh, please smile, do," the red-haired photographer keened, wriggling a patchwork doll before the twelve-year-old in an encouraging sort of way. It rather had the opposite of the desired effect. "Don't you want to make that delectable morsel of man-meat happy? I'm sure he wants a nice picture of you to hang in the living room, or some-such…"
Upon his wooden stool, already highly uncomfortable (and, thus, annoyed) from having been stuffed into starched and ironed foppery, Ciel arched an eyebrow. "I beg your pardon?" he asked scathingly, sounding simultaneously incredulous and disgusted. "That delectable morsel of what? Are you talking about Sebastian…?"
But the photographer—who's name, according to his tag, was Grell— had already floated off into the happy realm of daydreams, giggling and molesting his doll as if it were the dark-haired man sitting out in the studio waiting room.
"…a nice picture that will come crashing down as he—and me— against the wall~!" A girlish titter, one that (somehow) managed to make Ciel blanch and blush.
"What the hell does that even mean?"
"Oh, maybe he'll let me take a nude picture of him, while we're at it… That would make me grin, oh yes~"
Now wondering if he'd ever be able to smile again, so mentally scarred was he, Ciel leapt to his feet as quickly as his pinch-heeled leather shoes would allow. "You pervert, you're worse than Alois!" he snapped as he did so, hopping off of his chair and tromping towards the exit. "I'm getting out of here. Sebastian!"
"Ciel…? Ciel, can we talk?"
Outside the ten-year-old's locked bedroom door, Sebastian lowered his hand and sighed. "Ciel…" he tried again, sounding very tired. "Ciel, I'm sorry I didn't believe you. Mr. Faust from next door came over and confirmed your story—he said he saw Alois steal your baseball and throw it through the observatory window."
"Yeah, he said that because that's what happened!" the boy in the room spat, his scornful screams muffled by a pillow. "But you said that I was lying!"
"I didn't see Alois," Sebastian tried to explain, running a hand exasperatedly through his hair. "I just saw you, looking startled and running away. It was… fairly damning evidence, you have to understand." From his pocket, the butler retrieved the ball in question, giving the worn and yellowing leather a bitter once-over. "But you're right," he then admitted, lobbing the toy a few inches into the air and watching it spin. Every so often— depending on which way the ball rotated— the name 'Ciel' would appear in smudged ink. "I should have trusted you when you said you hadn't done it. I know you hate liars, so there's no way you'd lie to me… I hope you can forgive me."
But then, after two excruciating minutes, there was the sound of tentative creaking. A dubious sapphire eye peeked through the newly created gap between the door and jamb.
"…wanna play catch?" the half-hidden Ciel mumbled, still a bit miffed, but clearly tired of fighting.
Sebastian smiled. "I would like that very much."
Looking very pleased with himself, Ciel smugly showed the three servants his completed Lego creation—a sculpture he'd constructed out of every brick in his collection. Nearly as tall as he was and easily twice as wide, it was a colorful tower of random turrets (and equally random ledges) that had a tendency to totter dangerously if anyone stood too close. Not surprising, since it was only three bricks thick.
"Ooo~" Finny cooed, applauding the ten-year-old. Maylene looked similarly impressed.
Bard, on the other hand, gave the structure a more thorough inspection before offering comment or opinion. Ciel waited patiently for the chef's final judgment, watching as the scruffy blonde tilted his head and blew a misty spray of smoke from between his lightly pursed lips. "D'ya plan on being an architect when you grow up, kid?" the cook then asked, ruffling Ciel's already-mussed hair.
The boy considered this query, proudly perusing his plastic palace as he did so. It was starting to waver and whine, but in a beautiful sort of way. All the same… "No," Ciel happily proclaimed, chest puffed out and hands on his hips. "I'd rather be a demolitionist!"
Bard nodded sagely. "A far wiser call," he praised, patting the child's shoulder.
The merry foursome then pushed and knocked and kicked the tower into oblivion.
"What do you think that one looks like?"
"You're not very good at this game, are you, Ciel?"
"What? It's a cloud! That's what it's supposed to look like!"
"Oh, come now, don't get angry! I was only kidding."
"…I guess it looks like mashed potatoes, too. Or whipped cream. Kinda. How's that?"
"…have I ever told you, Ciel, that you are one special kid?"
"Why does that sound less like a compliment and more like you're teasing me?"
"I've no idea. Now, how about some ice cream?"
"Yes, this is Sebastian Michaelis. I'm calling about my… my son, Ciel—he's in your class. Apparently he's recently been bullied by another girl in his grade? …what do you mean, what do I want? I want you to do something about that, obviously!"
"Okay, we're here. Are you ready? Yes? Then open your eyes!"
With great enthusiasm, Ciel did as he was told—and instantly froze.
It was spectacular— a rainbow world of edible delights pulled straight from the pages of Roald Dahl, and the sight nearly brought tears to his eyes. All along the tiered walls were lollipops (spherical and circular and square) and gummies (worms and bears and disks and other shapes that he couldn't quite identity, but appreciated nevertheless), toffees and caramels and so many types of chocolate he'd probably need a lifetime to sample them all. Fudge was being cooked in the back of the store; the scent drifted through the air like the most saccharine of perfumes. There were jawbreakers in boxes, made in nearly every conceivable shape and size, and barrels overflowing with jellybeans, organized by hue and flavor. In display cases beside the wooden crates, rock candies glistened like sugary stalagmites in the rosy glow of the sunny sweets shop.
With concerted effort, Ciel managed to stop salivating long enough to look up at Sebastian, eyes shining with excitement and a single, lingering question.
His caretaker chuckled. "You have a fifty dollar limit," he answered, giving the child a small (and wholly unnecessary) nudge towards the candy. "Happy birthday, Ciel."
"Ewwww—what happened to him?"
"G—give that back! That's mine—!"
"No wonder you wear this ugly patch. It's an improvement! I'd want to hide my face, too, if I looked like you."
"Please, give it back…!"
"Ugh, wouldya lookit his eye, Peter? I think I might barf!"
"Ow— give it…!"
"Ha, I've seen roadkill less mangled than you! Right, Jumbo? What a freak. You're a monster, you know that?"
"No, I… give it back…"
"Aww, look, Wendy! The baby's crying! Can't believe that messed-up eye o' his can do that much."
"I— I'm not crying! Give me back my eye patch!"
"I don't even wanna be touching this—it's probably gross from being on you, alla the time."
"Throw it in the mud, Dagger! Yeah!"
"There, you got your stupid eye patch back!"
"Hahaha~ c'mon, guys. Let's go before the teachers show up."
"Oh, Mr. Sun! Sun! Mr. Golden Sun! Please shine down on meeeee~!"
"Finny, I don't think it's working."
"Well, of course not. Everyone knows that two people need to sing the song to make it work!"
"…lemme get Maylene."
"It works best if a little boy helps sing it."
"I think you're full of crap."
"That'd be easy enough to prove… if you'd try it out, once."
"C'mon, Ciel… you know you waaaant to..."
"…oh, alright. Just this once."
"Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun…"
"Please shine down on meeee~!"
"Oh Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Go— Finny! Finny, look, the rain's stopped!"
Sometimes, when the weather was warm and promised to stay so, Sebastian and Ciel would walk home from the manor, enjoying the violet-hued dusk and the other's quiet company.
"Ciel! Ciel! Hi!" The three servants whispered, chirping and wiggling their fingers in the dark auditorium, trying to get the attention of the little boy on stage. Ciel, for his part, professionally ignored the trio; Sebastian, on the other hand, not-so-professionally jabbed them in the sides.
"Hush, now! The play's started!" he hissed, affectively silencing the exuberant threesome.
But when he was sure his companions weren't watching, he shot Ciel an eager wave, too.
Sprawled comfortably across the couch (with a half-asleep Ciel snuggled bonelessly atop his chest), Sebastian looked away from the television set and instead turned his attention to the silvery locks that he was running his fingers through. "Your hair is getting a bit long, there, little one," he commented, twining a few strands together in a musing sort of way. "Perhaps you should go see the barber, soon."
"Ngh…" the eleven-year-old grunted, not sounding all-together pleased by the prospect. "Dunwanna. My hair's not long…"
"Ciel, I can practically braid it."
"Just the bangs…" the boy protested, propping his chin up so as to meet his caretaker's amused stare. "And they're not nearly as long as yours," he pointed out, readjusting his arms so as to grab a fistful of Sebastian's ebony forelocks. "Or maybe I should just get you some more ribbons…"
The two engaged in a momentary stare-down, as if sizing the other up. Then—slowly and simultaneously—they loosened their grasp on the other's bangs.
The subject was dropped. They returned to watching their TV program in a comfortable, cuddly silence.
"Bard, what's a 'supernova'?"
"This for homework?"
"It's when something in the sky blows up."
"So what's it called when something on earth blows up?"
"Then you prick a tiny hole in one stem, thread another flower through it…"
Ciel watched, utterly transfixed, as Sebastian carefully laced one butter-yellow blossom through another, forming a bright, woven chain out of the colorful spring weeds.
"…and there! You have a crown."
The butler grinned as he dropped the flora circlet atop the startled twelve-year-old's head, chortling when the boy's instantaneous response was a noisy sneeze.
"Sebastian? What're you… Are you watching Monty Python again?"
"Are you sure you went through your pockets, first?" Sebastian asked, brow arched as he watched Ciel dump the contents of his laundry basket in front of the washing machine. In reply, the thirteen-year-old rolled his eyes and let loose an exasperated sigh.
"Yes, Sebastian, I did."
"You better have," Sebastian threatened, bending to scoop up a few dark shirts that would fit in with the current load. "'Cause anything I still find in them is mine, you know."
"Yeah, whatever," Ciel mumbled, unrolling his balled up socks before Sebastian had a chance to lecture him about those, too.
"Alright, then. That was your last warning," Sebastian shrugged, plucking a pair of worn blue jeans off of the floor. After a brief inspection of his own (just to double check that the pockets were, in fact, empty), he dumped the pants into the soapy water. He did the same thing to the next pair of jeans he grabbed, as well as the shorts he nabbed after that. But just as Ciel was about to leave—tossing the last of his flattened socks atop the underwear pile— Sebastian stuffed a hand into one of the boy's cargo pouches and froze. Rummaged (rather purposefully) for a second more. Then, eyes widening, he murmured an intrigued: "Oh my. What have we here…?"
Two steps from the door, the teenager paused. "…what'd you find?" he asked dully, trying to sound only half-curious. But that was rather difficult to do, what with Sebastian making such an impressive fuss over whatever-it-was he'd just discovered.
"Quite the treasure," the butler retorted dreamily, lips curling into a pleased, secretive sort of smirk. "I should thank you, I think, for not doing as you were told…"
"What? I totally checked my pockets!" Ciel groused, spinning on his heel and storming back over to his caretaker. "Lemme see that!"
"Oh no no, you know the rules," Sebastian clucked, pulling the cargo pants closer to his chest and swiftly shaking his head. "This little present is mine, now. Mine, mine, mine. And maybe that will teach you to take better care of your things, hm? Now, scoot—I know you've homework to finish. Go on. Off you get."
Feeling rebuked and even crankier, Ciel shot the older man a sour glare, muttering "jerk" under his breath as he stalked out of the laundry room. Nevertheless, he'd learned his lesson, and wandered off to do as he'd been told, for once.
After he was sure the boy was gone, Sebastian pulled his hand out of the grimy pocket—threw the lint he'd grabbed into the trash—and tossed the cargo pants in with the rest of the dirty clothes, humming amiably to himself.
"Actually, before you eat one of those cookies, Sebastian, I meant to ask— what's the difference baking soda and the kind of soda you drink?"
When he was ten, Ciel made a birdfeeder in art class out of an empty gallon of milk. Proud of his charge's creation, Sebastian had hung the feeder in the back garden, hoping it might draw in some songbirds. To the bewilderment of both men, however, the only birds that the contraption attracted was a flock of friendly crows, who immediately took a liking to the little house and refused to leave—even after they stopped refilling the feeder.
"I guess crows just like you," Ciel had commented offhandedly, trying not to laugh when one such bird alighted itself onto the butler's head. "It could be worse, though, right? They could be vultures or something. Or pterodactyls!"
Sebastian had shot his charge a faintly amused, but mostly exasperated stare. "…they can't stay forever," he then decreed, as if to comfort himself.
Maybe not, Ciel acknowledged, but they certainly seemed willing to try. He was sixteen, now, and the crows were still there to welcome him home every day.
26: Inner Tube
"Are you holding on tight, Mr. Sebastian?" Maylene giggled, readjusting her sunhat and peering at her coworker from over the rim of her prescription sunglasses.
From the center of the large inner tube that they had attached to the back of Bard's little speedboat, Sebastian shook his head. They hadn't even started moving yet and he was already turning a sickly shade of green. "…I don't think I want to do this…"
"Oh, c'mon, Sebastian!" Ciel (looking far-too-adorable in his big orange life vest) encouraged, bouncing animatedly and nudging against his caretaker. "This'll be fun!"
The butler, however, looked less than convinced. Rather, he looked highly anxious. Double-checking to make sure that the twelve-year-old had a proper grip on the rope didn't help calm his nerves, either. "I don't think we define 'fun' in the same way, Ciel… Maybe I should—"
"Too late now!" Finny sang, shooting Maylene a knowing glance before turning to the blonde at the helm. "Hit the gas, Bard!"
27: Cement Block
"What're you up to, Ciel?"
"I'm drawing a picture."
"I see. Well, now, I recognize you and me… oh, and there's Finny and Bard and Maylene. But who is that?"
"…is it really. And what, dare I ask, have you drawn around her feet?"
"That's a cement block."
"And those blue lines above her head? Those are waves."
"She's sleeping with the fishies."
"…perhaps you should go to your room."
"What? Why? Maylene thought it was a good idea!"
28: Ant Hill
"The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah," Ciel mumbled to himself, crouched beside a sandy ant hill and watching—spellbound—as the little brown insects scurried back and forth, back and forth. And as he did so, the boy half-wondered if, someday, he—a creature equally as tiny and weak-looking—might grow to be as strong as the ants.
"How was school today?" Sebastian asked pleasantly, sitting beside Ciel at the kitchen table. Gulping down a mouthful of gooey chocolate chip cookie, the boy offered a vague nod and told him, "'Salright. How was work?"
"It went well, thank you," the butler replied just as genially, folding his hands atop a spare napkin.
Ciel eyed Sebastian.
Sebastian eyed Ciel.
"…you first, or me?" Ciel grunted, discarding his affable façade just as easily as he had his dinosaur backpack. Sebastian's response was an irritated groan, scrubbing his face with his hands before yanking his fingers through his rumpled hair.
"Sometimes I just cannot stand those three imbeciles—!"
"The teacher got mad at me for correcting her when she made a dumb math mistake. I wasn't rude or anything! And it was her fault for being an idiot!"
"And then that accursed Claude fellow (God, I hate him!) appeared at the door, spouting these lies about me and acting like a horrid creep…"
"Then they were all out of chocolate milk at lunch, a third-grader stole my swing, and during art class someone broke my clay sculpture!"
As one, the two men released heavy, shoulder-heaving sighs, biting back the remains of growls and curses. And while their frustrations might still be tangible, at least they were out in the open— which helped, if only because they no longer had to act. Thus, in the wake of their verbal barrages of anger, the two glanced up to catch the others' gaze, reveling in their unspoken camaraderie.
"…how about tacos and a movie tonight, little one?" Sebastian suggested with a half-smile, half-sigh, slumping wearily atop the table.
In reply, Ciel gave his caretaker's head a sympathetic pat, running his fingers through Sebastian's hair in the soothing way that the elder man often played with his own. "That sounds like it'll help."
30: Chocolate Pretzel
"What're you eating?"
"The last of my birthday candy. It's a chocolate covered pretzel."
"Ah, your favorite."
"Well… thank you. Any reason why?"
"Candy tastes better if you share it."
"…that's very sweet."
"It's chocolate. It's supposed to taste like that."
"That's not what I meant."
A soft chuckle. Lowering himself to sit beside Ciel on the porch stoop, Sebastian popped the rest of the candy into his mouth and pulled the boy into a one-armed hug.
"I love you, you know that?"
Ciel— notably startled, mouth ringed with chocolate and cheeks turning crimson— ducked his head to hide his delighted beam. Then he nodded, and wriggled, and murmured something that sounded suspiciously like: "I love you, too."