Disclaimer: I'm in college. And broke. It's safe to assume that I own nothing. (That is to say, neither "Kuroshitsuji" nor Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice.")

Author's Note: This is the accumulation of a few Kuro-related musings, written down because it's been a while since I posted anything longer than a couple hundred words. I don't feel like this is anything fantastic (especially compared to what I've been reading, as of late!), but I hope you enjoy it, nevertheless. C:

Warnings: SebaCiel. Follows the anime… sorta. Also contains a couple of shout-outs to the manga. Oh—and the poem is out-of-order and incomplete. Though I'm sure you all would have been able to figure that out yourselves. XD;

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Breathless

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I. Some say the world will end in fire

Every human is born in blood.

A writhing, silent mass of flesh and filth, pink and small and wrinkled. Minute monsters. Expelled, exorcized, ripped out, out, out and offered to the world as archaic sacrifices. Another lamb for the slaughter. Another cog in the wheel. Another servant of fate. And in those first, crucial moments, each child is taught what to expect from the malicious midwife known as Life.

Pain.

Hit and smacked and hurt again, over and over, until heavy lungs are forcibly drained of fluid; until tiny air sacs learn how to expand.

Until the newborn is taught to scream.

Ciel Phantomhive knows little of childbirth. He doesn't remember that first December (the fourteenth, midday), ten long years ago. He doesn't remember the doctor (man or woman?), or the weary smile of his mother (what did she look like?), or the comforting embrace of his aunt (will he ever see her again?). But then, he can hardly remember his own name, right now.

Do you wish to form a contract with me?

Ciel Phantomhive knows little of childbirth, but he knows enough. Every human is born in blood. Every human is born in pain. Every human is born breathless.

But he, unlike other humans, is born twice.

"This is an orderkill them!"

X

II. Some say in ice

The first time he uses the seal of their contract, it rips the air from his lungs.

Power. Never before has he known the intoxications of it—like a drug, or mulled liquor, teasing his senses even as it tears his brain apart. Claws it to shreds— running up and down the expanse of jellied gray matter, dissecting his thoughts into individual, paper-thin ideas. Long, caressing strokes; tattered musings dissolve into nothingness; his head is an implosion of sweet agony. Is he crying? Is he leaking? What slips between the whites of his eyeballs and the pinks of his lids? Sweat? Tears? Blood?

Blood. He can feel every drop of his blue blood racing, shooting through his veins like liquid fire. Fire. The iced sapphire tails of comets and gunpowder. And for once, its noble tint makes sense to him: for he has long-since learnt that the molten azure core of a flame is where it burns the hottest.

The brightest.

His eye is blue fire.

Before him, the midnight shadow wears the smile of a sickle-moon. Frosted; milk-white. He kneels. And though his master cannot speak—wheezing, gasping, seizing within the confines of his gilded throne— the demon knows his charge.

And he purrs into the silence:

"Yes, my lord."

X

III. I think I know enough of hate

Society is suffocating. It quashes creativity, free will; it complicates simple matters, taking something as pointless as (love) the curl of a finger, and decreeing it as either polite or gaffe. Gives it meaning. Gives everything purpose. Can nothing simply exist? The constant façade exhausts him. If he could, he would wash his hands of the pomp and ceremony of the royal government…

But then, he is the royal government, and thus duly expected to personify these mannerisms.

Ciel has long-since grown used to playing Pretend. So much so, that he half-wonders if, one day, the mask will cease to fall from his face.

"God save the queen," he mouths with his fellows, tipping into a reverent bow as Her Majesty glides past. Slides. Slithers in and out of view, her black-silk train of satin and lace hissing as it catches on the velvety fibers of the (blood) red carpet.

Every Eden has its Serpent.

"God save the queen."

The wish reverberates as an echo, the prayer of ten hundred voices: ebbing and flowing through the gathered throng like an audile wave. And in this ocean farce, in this sea of noisy pageantry, no one notices the stillness of one small soul. No one cares for the irritated contempt which lurks in the silence of a single, bitter child— hidden deep, deep within, like a pearl in a clam. For in truth, no one thinks of him, one way or another.

No one, that is, but for the attentive butler— as he is always in tune with his precious Earl's breathing. Or, as it were, the lack thereof: for even as he'd mimed along, Lord Phantomhive's ritualistic murmurs held no life, no voice.

After all, if God could save the queen, she wouldn't need Ciel.

(And he, in turn, wouldn't need the devil.)

X

IV. To say that…

It is rare, this feral terror— uncommon in waking hours, anyway. But nightmares are one thing, and reality is another; the clammy talons of dread and raw panic that make knots of his insides, crushing his organs and leaving him for dead, are not feelings he can wake from. It is not something he can evade. Rather, it is the sort of attack that no one—nothing— can protect him from; again (again!) he cannot save himself. No weapon will work against it, nor any sort of subservient soldier… even the demon is virtually useless, for how can he be expected to repel an enemy which lives within his young master? Which is his young master?

"Calm yourself, my lord," the raven-locked butler murmurs, soothing and serene, even as the little boy spurts vomit and foaming saliva. "Please relax. It is only a small attack; it will be over soon. Don't fight. It will just make things more painful."

Don't fight? Don't fight? How can he not? How can he not? Is he simply supposed to surrender? Is that what the demon expects from him? Even now, after everything, does the world imagine he'll just lie back and die?

He will not. He refuses. Even though his eyes are blurring; even though his knees are buckling; even though his throat is collapsing, closing in upon itself with the feel of someone squeezing, squeezing, squeezing

X

V. From what I've tasted of desire…

Lizzie squeezes, squeezes, squeezes, and for a moment, his world shrinks to the size of the little blonde whirlwind. In her fragile arms, even the most gruesome truths are transformed into something cloying and cute: hazy memories mean nothing in the wake of her the honeysuckle curls, the velveteen softness of her rose cheeks, the strawberry sugar that pours from her mouth in the form of squeals and sighs. Candy for the soul. And oh, those loving entreaties are so genuinely sweet, he feels slightly sick upon hearing them.

Perhaps that's why his stomach aches: a syrupy overload of unaccustomed affection, combined with the constricting hold of thin limbs. Her embrace, even now, is mind-numbingly tight… He wonders if she is afraid of letting him go. She acts as if he might vanish (like before) if she does; as if he'd wander off and be lost to her forever. Ciel, on his part, hasn't the breath (nor the heart) to inform her of the truth. Thus, bands of pink lace become the ensnaring wires of tangled puppetry, cutting into his hips, his chest, his throat… and again, his belly flairs, and again, his lower gut sears, as if made into a pit for singed embers.

Yes, perhaps she is why his stomach aches.

…or perhaps not.

In her arms, he cannot breathe. But for once, he isn't sure why: is it truly the vice-like grip of her hands that steals the wind from his lungs… or is it the baleful ruby glitter in his butler's vigilant eyes?

X

VI. …I hold with those who favor fire

There is no air.

Between them, above them, around them. No air. No space. No secrets— nothing but flesh and darkness andfire, fire, fire, and Ciel understands enough of chemistry to know what's going on. Realizes that flames need oxygen to burn. Knows that the bigger, the brighter, the hotter one wants a blaze to be, the more molecules they must be willingly to sacrifice. And ah, asphyxiation seems such a meager price to pay for pleasure this profound; the convulsing child eagerly surrenders each puffed pant, choking on garbled demands for moremoremore. He doesn't need to think twice— for with the rest of his body so deliciously aflame, he hardly notices the sweltering ache of his empty lungs. Oxygen, like shame and clothing, has no place in this locked pantry; the devil sucks it all in, out, in, out, in, out, and in its wake, his breath (his mind, his insides, every fiber and flake and filament that makes up his contorted, needy being) melts into a coagulation of hellfire. Soon, only spider webs and magma remain.

Do you play with fire because you wish to be burned, my lord?

"SSebas…!" He gags on a gasp, bare back raking up and down the narrow room's inner walls; deep within, he can feel his butler do the same. An appreciative groan hisses through the gloom, a sound like a striking match: the scalding heat burns blisters into the shell of the boy's rosy ear. The tickling warmth taunts him. A nipped kiss teases.

Vermillion eyes smolder like scorched coals.

And if Ciel were wise, he knows, he'd avert his pretty gaze— he'd accept that these claret supernovas are not meant to be stared at, let alone lusted after. But no… Though these solar flashes may someday be what blinds him (to truth, to realism, to the reality of their bond), it hardly seems worth the effort to turn away now. Why bother, when his own eye is glowing in tandem?

Behind clamped and lowered lashes, white-hot power flares… flares—flaresflaresFLARES—!

"Se... or… der—!" The rasped beginnings of an unknown command crumble into extraneous nothingness: verbal ash on the tip of his tongue. A pointed thrust adds multicolored stardust to his vision; his mind is no longer functioning rationally: the inferno is stealing his reason, his pride, his veritable essence…

Did you not learn your lesson the first time?

The flames—the demon—takes, takes, takes, more, more, more. Home, hearth, and innocence, the very atmosphere is his to play with; and the boy knows (has always known) that he will not last much longer.

"Se…!"

Ciel Phantomhive is dying.

"Seba… I … !"

It has, after all, been three full years since he last managed to gulp down an effortless breath.

"Se—!"

And human beings cannot survive without air.

"Sebastian!"

X

VII. …destruction ice is also great…

There is blood on his hands.

Fresh, metallic… dark as the shadows now eclipsing his face. Like melted cotton candy, it lingers between his fingers— sugar-spun and sticky scarlet, a coating candy shell; in his ears, a whispered plea smothers his soul in the same sweet heat. And the magnitude of the butler's soft request, of this dire situation, of the hidden silver pocket watch and its thrumming second hand (ten, nine, eight, seven…) births a rage in his gut and a flame in his eye: the combination of shock, nostalgia, and vendetta-fueled fury turns Ciel's bullet-riddled innards into twisting dragons. Venomous snakes. (Every Eden…) He has long-since digested his bite of the apple, and its poison is finally reaching his heart: churning the contents of his stomach, petrifying his stony lungs …

Until I say otherwise, please close your eyes.

And though he has a million things he wishes he could say, he doesn't have the time (the breath) to speak.

Instead, he nods.

X

VIII. But if I had to parish twice…

He is drowning. Sinking. Slowly, slowly down.

And no, he cannot breathe. Can never breathe. How funny, he thinks, that his life should end as it began: breathless, bloody, and cold. But oh, it is so much more than that: water is rushing into his hollow lungs, polluted, acerbic, and sour… and he is falling back into cloistering wetness, soon to be nothing more than another's passing thought. In that bittersweet moment, in that sudden dawn of comprehension, he realizes that this is more than just a death— it is a backwards-birth and pseudo-baptism, all in one damning descent downward.

A torrent of glacial bubbles stream pass him, like snapping threads and broken promises. Without their support, he slips deeper and deeper into blackness, closer and closer to hell. How long will it take him to get there? The passing thought meanders through his sodden mind, accompanied by an odd, lethargic sort of boredom. A controlled curiosity. Will he float forever in London's murky abyss? Will he someday resurface, gelatinous and unrecognizable? Will he be allowed his proverbial Last Breath?

This final musing lingers an unusually long time in the diluted recesses of his brain; it takes him a full minute to figure out why:

The demon had rendered him breathless.

Human beings need air to live, don't they?

For all of his wanderings, all of his trials, the Earl's lungs have remained consistently unfilled. He has screamed, and fought, and cursed, and persevered— but he hasn't retained a single breath. Not since That Day. Not since he met his butler.

But if I have lived so long without oxygen…

His Last Breath happened four years ago, atop a blasphemed and bloodstained altar.

What does that make me?

He hangs in suspended animation, ethereal and unsure, until the airless depths swallow his consciousness whole.


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