The Crow and the Kitten
This is the story of something that happened just one week after that cold day in December when the demon was banished to the glass hill. The hill was drab and barren then, the house was old, empty, and full of cobwebs, and Sebastian, looking critically at his new home with dissatisfied eyes, was completely alone. He would not meet Ciel for another three years yet, and even though he had only seen the boy for an instant, staring out at him through a window, Sebastian hated him. He swore to himself that he would get the boy's soul someday, and when the demon swore something, he always went through with it. His anger then was very new and very powerful.
The demon did not like the glass hill, he did not like his run-down, musty old house, and he especially did not like his new name. He believed that 'Sebastian' sounded pretentious. It was certainly no fitting name for a butler. If he had the name long enough, the demon thought sourly, its pretentiousness might even rub off on him.
The demon was not quite wise enough to know that it is the owner of a name that influences the name, and not the other way around. Nor was he wise enough to realize that he had always been a little bit pretentious to begin with, no matter what name he had. And probably he would never realize it, so it is safe to assume that it never bothered him.
Sebastian had wasted no time in getting to work on his disgracefully neglected house. Banishment was no excuse for sloppiness to a demon butler, and with a glance at his pocket watch, ticking away the seconds of his imprisonment reliably, he had set in.
On this particular day, Sebastian was relieving some stifled aggression by housecleaning with a vengeance. No piece of furniture in the house was safe from him, no inch, cranny, nook, or corner of his house was left unscoured, no floor unswept, no table-top or banister unpolished, no rugs unshaken, windows unwashed, or door hinges un-oiled, no speck of dust allowed to rest on any surface. Sebastian had very few personal touches to add to the house; no nick-knacks, books or pictures, and hardly any furnishings, so the overall effect was still very bleak and very lonely… but very, very clean. He even polished up the glass hill.
His thoughts as he cleaned were morbid, violent, terrible thoughts… some so terrible that even the demon hated to think them, and that are far too heinous to describe. It happened to be a beautiful day, but Sebastian was determined to be in a dark and stormy mood.
He was sullenly polishing his second-best tea set (porcelain, hand-painted with violets and roses) to a mirror-like shine when he first thought he heard something strange. He stopped. Listened. Continued, when he did not hear it again.
When the tea set was finished to the demon's satisfaction – that is, when it gleamed so brightly as to be almost painful – he moved on to his best tea set, which he was very fond of. It was fine bone-china, hand-painted beautifully and set off with golden trim. As he set the tray on the table and picked up the sugar bowl, the faint little noise sounded again.
What in the world? Sebastian wondered. He had never heard such a sound before. It was a pitiful, sad little noise; a mewling sort of peep.
It was coming from the tea set.
Sebastian took the lid off the sugar bowl. Empty. He peeked into the creamer, the cups and saucers. Empty. And there was the noise again!
All that remained was the teapot. Delicately, the demon picked it up. He knew at once that it was heavier than an empty teapot ought to be. He removed the lid, and peered inside.
Two round eyes belonging to a small, fluffy stranger peered back at him from the darkness. The creature daringly popped its head out to meet him, and once more it trilled a tiny mew. Sebastian set the teapot down, and reached one gloved hand in to remove the intruder. "How," he said aloud in awe, "Did a kitten get into my best teapot?" For it was a tiny kitten, with miniscule black paws and a perfect miniature face, practically shivering with newness, and putting tiny pinpricks into his gloves with its claws as it clung to his hand. Its eyes shone like the golden trim of the tea set.
"Oh my, oh my," said Sebastian with a smile. He knew, from all the fables he had ever heard, just how to speak to a kitten. "Pretty mistress kitten," he began, as was proper, "how lovely you are. How soft your fur, how slender your paws, how graceful the arch of your tail. What striking golden eyes you have."
This was, of course, precisely the right way to speak, as no kitten can ever resist being flattered. The kitten in question began to ignore him with tremendous dignity even as she clung to his hand, which was larger than her whole body. (She was, as Sebastian had guessed, a she.)
The demon set her lightly down into a teacup, which she quickly scrambled out of, knocking it over in the process. Sebastian was so charmed by her that he did not even scold her for it. But she was still very young, and she could not keep her balance while walking. Sebastian scooped her up and set her on her feet every time she fell over. She was, Sebastian realized, a wise little kitten, for she did not trust the demon in the least. She accepted his compliments with grace, cordially thanked him for his gift of a saucer of cream – but she would not give him her affections. Every time he offered to assist her, she tottered unsteadily away on her petite padded paws, and she refused to tell him her name.
"How can I win her trust?" Sebastian mused, as he went about polishing the tea set. He did not realize it, but his vile mood had evaporated entirely, and he thought no more ghastly thoughts. He was keeping one eye on the kitten to make sure she did not go toppling from the counter-top. As the day passed, the kitten caused all sorts of mischief. She ripped up the bottoms of the curtains, she left black fur on the light-colored furniture, she crawled underneath the china-cabinet and could not get out again, and she somehow ended up locking herself in Sebastian's wardrobe.
He had lost track of the roving kitten by the time she managed this, and was drawn to her by following her frantic mewls for help. When he opened the doors, he picked her up amidst her shrilling protests and held her by the scruff of her neck. "Now listen to me, young miss," he said firmly. "We are to have no more of this nonsense today. I must make this house presentable, so you must stay with me." His strict tone was only an excellent act, for the kitten had quite stolen his heart.
He did not, however, know that picking a kitten up by the scruff of the neck is one of the most comfortable things he could have done. While he spoke, the kitten's tail, smaller than even one of the demon's fingers, curled around her little feet, and she began to doze off in his hand. With a look and a smile that felt foreign on the demon's face, he slipped the drowsing kitten gently into the pocket of his coat. Perhaps having something to look after would make banished life more interesting, after all.
As the demon continued to clean, into the evening and long into the night, he would look down at his kitten every so often. And when he did, he did not think about the pretentiousness of his new name, or the bleak emptiness of the glass hill, and he forgot to be discontent.
A/N: I'm thinking there's going to be quite a few of these "in between" chapters scattered here and there every once in a while, just to fill in some missing details of the story.
Much more importantly: I recently sent several review responses to some absolutely wonderful reviewers for various stories of mine… but now the website is telling me that most of them probably did not go through. And 'probably' means 'definitely'. Very, VERY uncool. So as always, to all my reviewers, thank you so much! But specifically to LifeInABox66, and especially to AmitraDay – a thousand times thank you for your wonderful reviews! And if you think you might be someone who didn't receive a response from me, feel free to send me a message. :)