This is the clean version of Broken Pieces. The unedited version is linked to on my profile.
Broken Pieces has a sister story called 'Together Again' written by CheshireCity. If you would like to read, there is a link on my profile.
The second arc of Broken Pieces (chapters 9-15) are currently being rewritten. If you would like to read the old versions, please see the links on my profile.
"There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought."
Zora Neale Hurston (Their Eyes Were Watching God)
The smell of burning human flesh is an indescribable one.
Ciel Phantomhive had never stopped smelling it for six years.
But smelling wasn't enough to describe the intake. Burning flesh is not something you merely smell. It's something that will consume you. It's always present in your nose and deep, deep inside your lungs—one night you will lay down for bed, and an indescribable ashy sensation will roll out of your chest onto your palette. The taste of sweet, acrid, charring flesh is embedded on the back of your tongue, no matter how many times you vomit in the middle of the night or wash your mouth out with vodka. You will always feel the smoke slicked with burning fat over your skin. The crawling feeling of being covered by your mother's flesh is impossible to wash from your skin. The sight of your father's horror-stricken face half-devoured by flames cannot be erased. No words can take away the sound of timber cracking and moaning in the fire, constantly repeating in the back of your brain like a skipping record.
Ciel would always remember that last time he saw his mother smiling at him, brushing his hair out of his eyes. "We have a surprise for you, darling." She had told him that morning, smiling in her secretive way that made him grin with excitement in turn. "Go play with Sebastian outside while we get it ready, love."
Agreeing enthusiastically, Ciel had sprung from her embrace (the feeling of her fingers sliding over his shoulder as he broke away still crept over his skin) and bolted into the hall, where his father was walking towards the study.
He had laughed, never angry at his son for running like a normal child, and ruffled Ciel's hair as he shot past. "Slow down!" His father had called after him jovially. Ciel grinned over his shoulder at his father. The image of Vincent Phantomhive smiling warmly at his son as he ripped into the front hall would never leave him, etched into the backs his eyes with brilliant definition. It was such a stark contrast from the expression caught in mid-horror, with the smell of burning hair and skin.
He wished he'd told his parents he loved them.
"Sebastian!" The child cried as he collected his coat, summoning the borzoi from his usual perch on the stairs. The canine plodded to his master's side, nudging the back of his legs imploringly. Ciel smiled and stroked the animal's head before they started out the front doors and onto the grounds of the Phantomhive manor.
It was one of the first times that Ciel had been allowed out of the manor to play on the grounds without the supervision of his parents, having been sickly the majority of his youth. Though his mother had fretted constantly about letting her son out by his lonesome, Earl Phantomhive had assured his wife that Ciel knew better than to wander off too far or get into trouble. Besides, Vincent had assured Rachel, he would always have his faithful pet Sebastian at his side.
Ciel loved the lands that made up the estate. The shallow forest creeping around the manor had become his favorite playground in a few short weeks—and despite his mother's warnings and father's trust, he dared to delve a bit deeper into the woods every time he went to play.
"We're almost there." Ciel informed Sebastian, who started up at him with dark eyes, tongue lolling out of the side of his mouth. "I marked the tree with my pocketknife last time—see?" He gestured towards a shallow scar in a nearby fir: a simple CP. As Ciel marched along, the sticks and melting sleet crunched below his feet. Deeper and deeper they traveled, a small tune falling from Ciel's lips as they went:
"Go to sleep my little baby. You will never come to harm—you are safe while mother holds you. Gently rest in peace and calm." Whenever he couldn't sleep his mother would hold him to her breast, singing the Welsh tune in a low, sweet voice, swaying back and forth. His mother always smelled of something sweet and heavy—like rock sugar and aged tea. Scents heavy and calming enough to lull him into security. You're safe here.
Ciel froze, biting his lip. He had wandered awfully far into the forest by this point. Farther than he had ever gone before. There were no trunks blemished with the mark of his pocketknife here, just long, cold trees crossing their limbs above him like spider's fingers, blocking out the sky.
"Sebastian?" He cried, turning. The borzoi was nowhere to be found; nothing but the birds in the trees watched him with curious eyes. A burst of wind carrying the smell of smoke raced over Ciel's neck, suddenly reminding him of how very alone he was. Smoke meant that there was a fire roaring back home—perhaps that was part of his surprise? A story in front of the fire?
Ciel spun around and began to start towards the manor. A steady column of smoke was rising into the sky, marking where the mansion resided. But it was only moments before Ciel began to see that there was something wrong. There was too much smoke for just one fire—too much smoke for even every fireplace in the manor to be roaring and bright. What was happening? Why would there be so much fire—?
Scarlet and gold blinded the young boy as he stepped out of the woods. Fire. Fire all over his home. Fire rapidly crawling up the sides of the building and beating against the glass windows.
His feet began to act of their own accord, pulling him through the front door, through the front hall which showed signs of a struggle, everything casting jagged shadows on the walls in flames. Sebastian was dead on the carpet, a smear of red below his body. Ciel was talking; maybe it was the dog's name. Takana was yelling something to him—possibly to get out—but the old man was cut off. Ciel continued deeper into his home falling all around him, pushing the door open to the library.
It hit him with full force.
Pungent, palpable flesh burning in the air. All over his skin and in his lungs and in his mouth.
And his father—
Burning. Long since dead and slumped over the table. His face was already half-gone, consumed by the cruel red flames. A single brown eye stared back in shock, though the emotion was not intended for Ciel. Dizzy, the child took a step backwards, eyes flying to the floor where his mother was sprawled, her beautiful violet dress burned beyond recognizing, seared into her once flawless, ivory skin. His lungs were beginning to fill with smoke. If Ciel knew the story as well as he knew the ending, this would be the part where black would begin to creep over his vision and he'd awaken in a steel cage to be sold like a squirming animal. But the darkness never came; just the horrible sensation of inhaling ash and the scent of boiling blood again and again. There was something moving behind him.
Turning slowly in place, Ciel's eyes fell upon Sebastian. The wound had healed from the dog's chest, and it was advancing towards him slowly, its skeletal body warping and cracking as the bones changed. The animal's back arched, its vertebrae pressing against the black fur as it curled in on itself and stretched out into the lithe form of a cat.
"Master." Said the cat, blinking up at Ciel with those wine-colored eyes. Sebastian the cat—the demon—trilled a mewl and wound its way between his legs. Passing through the flames like a hand through water, the cat emerged as the butler, still staring at Ciel imploringly as he held up Earl Phantomhive's bloodied hand and gestured towards his ring. "I believe this belongs to you now, my lord."
Ciel nodded, his eyes darting from the ring to Sebastian and then back. "Bring it to me." He ordered. The demon smiled in the way that reminded Ciel of a cat with a secret.
"Surely my lord would be able to take on the Phantomhive estate with his own hands, would he not?" The butler asked smoothly. Ciel nodded and started forwards, allowing the flames to painlessly lick at his legs, the taste of his family disappearing from his palette. Sebastian calmly handed his master the late earl's blackened hand. Ciel took the limp flesh, noting how heavy and hot it was compared to his father's usual playful caress. Dead weight. Burning weight. He removed the ring and slid it on his finger, holding it up to admire its twinkling in the firelight.
Sebastian smiled. "Now it's upon you, my lord."
Before Ciel could ask what his butler meant, the acrid taste in his mouth returned full force, hitting his senses with agonizing intensity. He was being consumed by the flames while Sebastian watched, smiling serenely all the while. Searing hot, red, white as the mark scorched onto his back— Ciel tried to scream, to demand Sebastian to act, but he was choking in ash.
Ciel awoke with a startled noise, his cry finally breaking the thick seal between waking and sleeping. Instantly, his stomach began to churn with the putrid sensation still present in his mouth after nearly seven years. Taking several deep breaths through his nose, Ciel desperately attempted to calm himself:
'It's just a dream.' He repeated over and over in his head, though he knew after all this time that the mantra would never work. 'It's just a dream, you're fine.'
Finding himself adequately calmed, the young earl released a heavy sigh, sinking into his mattress—however, the ash seemed to fall out of his lungs and back into his mouth, bringing forth another wave of nausea. Throwing the covers from his lap, Ciel stumbled through his bedroom and closet, finding just enough time to heave violently into the wash basin in his bathroom. The smell of vomit caused his insides to tumble once more and he wretched again, his entire body wracked with tremors as he coughed and spat. Cuffing tears from the corners of his eyes, Ciel slid to the floor at the base of his washstand, holding his face in his hands. His mouth burned with stomach acid and the sour taste of sick and he longed for a glass of water to wash the taste away.
Upon attempting to stand, Ciel found that his legs began to tremble violently and he collapsed once more, leaning over on his side to press his cheek to the cool bathroom tile. Everything hurt and shook; moving was the last thing he wanted to do at the moment.
Ciel shifted and gave a dry little laugh at his predicament—how pitiful he must appear! A great earl invested in the powers of an unstoppable demon curled up on the floor, shaking like a frightened child. It was pathetic. He tried again to stand, finding himself in a bit more luck the second time around.
Despite the weakness in his legs, Ciel was able to prop himself up on the washstand and take hold of the pitcher, taking care to avoid the washbasin filled with vomit. Dipping the tips of his fingers into the blessedly cool water, he pulled his hand down his face and chest, the cold streaks they created sending a wave of relief throughout his body. Ciel took up a handful of liquid and poured it over his face, allowing it to creep over his scalp and down his neck. There was no shame or logic in his actions now: he would do anything to calm himself of this wretched heat of fear.
Moments passed and, finally feeling a violent lurch in his stomach from the warm stench of vomit, Ciel decided to retire to his room. Despite the rapidly approaching fall, the air in the bedroom was stagnant and warm, brought on from the very last little flames dancing in the fireplace. Avoiding the hearth, Ciel reached up to the collar of his nightshirt, loosening three of the buttons with one hand as he threw back the curtains with the other. Night had swept over the grounds of the manor, dousing the courtyard below in a silver glow. The earl bit his lip and loosened the clasps on the window, throwing it open with a nearly-silent creak and shutter of the panes.
Frigid air flew into the room, fanning out Ciel's cotton shirt and pressing it to his slight frame. He suddenly regretted the decision as the water sticking to his neck chilled and a deep shiver coursed down his spine. First too hot, and now too cold. He pulled the window closed without sound and traveled back to his bed, curling up on the covers.
Insomnia came often for Ciel. Not nearly as frequent as the days immediately following That Month, but the occasional nightmare and seemingly-endless night seemed to have become a regular occurrence in the young earl's life since the trauma of six years back. Taking a deep breath, Ciel fell back onto his plush pillows, savoring the tepid sensation of fabric upon him. If he was ever going to get back to sleep, he would have to assess the meaning of the dream and promptly dismiss it.
What had been different? Obviously, Sebastian had not played a part in the murder of his parents and his kidnapping thereafter, and he had most certainly not twisted into being from the corpse of his hound. But he hadn't changed directly into his current form, had he? There had been a cat in the dream, and a challenge from the butler—
"Now it's upon you, my lord."
Ciel's hand flew to the ring still encircling his thumb. He had known in the dream that the demon had not been referring to it. Possibly the position as head of the Phantomhive family? But no… the words had carried much more weight to them than that. The teen's brow furrowed as he held his hand up, pondering the events of the dream. They could possibly hold the meaning to Sebastian's words. After putting on the ring, the pain had returned to Ciel, sharper than ever before. He had not merely passed out. In his dream he had died.
Scoffing softly, Ciel folded his hand back to his chest. Exhaustion and anxiety must have been clouding his mind, for the Sebastian in his dreams had obviously been referring to the tendency of each of his ancestors to drop dead in their prime.
Ciel would never be prideful enough to deny that he had never contemplated or feared death. In fact, Ciel feared it a great deal. Shaking, sore inside and out, hungry, dizzy and broken in the cage he had feared death. Though he knew it was the only way to the warm arms of his loving parents, to his salvation, he feared it. Because what if there was merely darkness? Pressing, nonexistent dark consuming him—like a dream, only absolute. Ciel Phantomhive: raped and scarified on the marble slab like so many of the others before him. All the others bathed in their own blood screaming and screaming incoherently. There was no telling when the flash of the knife stopped and the flash of their bare flesh began. The only thing that was certain was when the screams finally subsided and their broken corpses were carted off the slab.
A bloody, extended death with no reassurance of a tranquil end. Ciel feared this, and Sebastian had erased those fears.
His end would come at the hand of the demon. Maybe it would hurt; maybe it would be swift and painless, but there was comfort in the fact that Ciel knew who would be his undoing and when. Once their contract was up, his soul was Sebastian's and was gone forever. Erased. No promise of heaven or hell, just pain and an abrupt end that were both guaranteed.
But who was to say when that contract ran out? His goal could be reached in as little as a day, and it would be over.
The nausea tumbled into his stomach once more. Ciel covered his eyes and released a tremulous sigh. He'd sold his soul to Sebastian for reassurance; he knew what he had gotten himself into. In any case, it wasn't as if he was lacking anything in his life. Wealth nor fame nor a comfortable lifestyle could do the heart well, but Ciel supposed that he could have been much worse off. While his servants did care about him, and what small portion of his family left did as well, Ciel no longer allowed himself to count their affections into his blessings. They were given. He was loved by his family as soon as he was born. He was loved by his servants for taking them in.
He was not loved in an intimate way.
Could that be what he would miss out on if his death came upon him earlier than he expected? Love? Fornication? Trifles that he heard the women gossiping about at parties that made Elizabeth blush and giggle over in the company of her friends while making doe eyes at her fiancée. He could certainly live without it.
The sickness was coming and going in waves, and Ciel's head began to pound. Why this again? His mind seemed to instantaneously float back to what he had yet to experience whenever thanotopsis set in. Rape was not the same as being tenderly caressed and adored, reveling in and sharing the passions of another human being. Blinding, dry, ripping, hot pain could never be compared to what he had heard was the ultimate of indulgences.
Before puberty had stirred within him, sex was a horror rather than a luxury in the eyes of Ciel Phantomhive. No one could get too close to his heart; no one could touch his body, for fear of them getting under his skin, for recreating that ripping pain. The thought of ever letting someone see his nakedness or place flesh to his flesh drew upon horrible fears. There were only two ever allowed to touch Ciel. One was himself, of course, and the other—
A deep blush settled on Ciel's cheeks. As he had grown, the stirrings within him had become increasingly difficult to push aside. By the time he was fifteen, it was not a rare occurrence to awaken with sticky thighs or worse—a throbbing hardness between his legs that he found could only be quelled by touching and simultaneous release. The thought of having the one other person allowed to touch him bring those sensations sent a warm ripple pooling through Ciel's stomach that settled between his thighs.
Though he had been abused, his body was still craving sex. Despite his constant sessions with his hand, Ciel knew that they would never be enough. He wanted that fire deep within him, all over his body and in his mind and soul. It was not unnatural to wish to be consumed by lust at least once in his lifetime.
Ciel sat up in bed, brushing the hair out of his marked eye, glowing faintly in the dark.
It was a whispered order, but he knew it had been heard. It was mere moments later when the door swung open with a soft click and in stepped the butler. Sebastian crossed the room with a calm, light step, kneeling at the side of his master's bed.
"Yes, my lord?" He inquired, awaiting further instruction as he folded his arm to his chest. Ciel noted dully that his usual vest and blazer were missing, his mind still swimming with the heavy implications of what he was about to demand.
"Sebastian." Ciel said in a calm, even tone. "Fuck me."
The butler started, garnet eyes flashing in shock as he met Ciel's apathetic gaze. He didn't have to ask. Ciel tilted his head to the side, regarding his servant lazily.
"You heard me." He whispered. "Fuck me. Now."
The room was silent. The heavy air of the fire and the cold of the window mixed above and around them, never quite meeting. Ciel sat perfectly still, eyes locked with Sebastian's. The earl's face was expressionless, but his heart was hammering against his chest. It was as if he were just realizing that the demon was in his room. His own words had hardly processed in his mind before it was too late.
"Yes, my lord."
It was over.
"I apologize deeply, master." Sebastian said, holding up a blood-slicked finger. "It would appear that I was a bit too… rough for your body."
"No need." Ciel said flatly, staring at the ceiling as Sebastian climbed off of him and set to cleaning himself up. Sebastian crossed the room, returning moments later with the pitcher and washbasin full of crystal-clear water.
"Are you ill?"
Sebastian set the basin down on Ciel's nightstand, dampened a handkerchief he produced out of nowhere, and began to stroke down his lord's body, wiping the blood from his neck and between his legs.
"I'll retire to my room now, m'lord." Sebastian said, dropping the soiled cloth into the washbasin. Ciel watched blankly as Sebastian stepped into a sliver of moonlight: the blood within the basin defused, staining the water with curling red. Sebastian did not inquire further.
'Stay with me.'
Sebastian stepped over to the door, holding the frame lightly and glancing over his shoulder at the young earl.
"I'll prepare breakfast and wake you a bit later than usual, my lord. You'll need your rest."
'Don't leave me here alone.'
But the order was never spoken. The door closed and Sebastian was gone.
"An odd request to come here, my lord." Sebastian said as they scaled the uneven brick steps. Small, worn names were engraved into each one, marking where remains of the dead had been scattered and long since blown away. Ciel did not reply as he made his way higher, lips drawn into a tight line. His legs, arms, and core ached and protested to the movement violently, causing another bout of nausea to tear through his stomach. If he replied to the demon now, he feared that he would whimper and give away the pain he was feeling.
Ciel pulled himself up to the top step, using his cane as a crutch. Taking a moment to catch his breath, he continued deeper into the cemetery, admiring the slate-grey headstones with a similar sky behind them. Turning, Ciel faced the Phantomhive family plot: it occupied a relatively large area of the upper cemetery, lined in white granite and decorative black iron. A light-colored burial chamber where his great grandparents and grandparents rested jutted over the other headstones, flanked on either side by statues of Demeter and Hestia, the later raising a stoker towards the demon and his master. Green vines were beginning to surround the feet of the crop goddess, who seemed to be worrying a wreath of grass and flowers between her hands.
Quietly, Ciel sat down on the concrete frame of the plot opposite them, staring with an intent expression at the newest and foremost marker.
Vincent & Rachel Phantomhive
The silence stretched on, rustling Ciel's cape around his slender frame as he bowed his head and regarded the headstone before him expressionlessly. Sebastian shifted, folding his arms over his chest.
"If my lord is finished having a staring contest with a stone, we are growing ever late to our scheduled meeting with Barron—." He began, obviously irritated at his master's odd behavior.
"Shut up." Ciel hissed in the venomous tone that made it painfully clear that he was not to be trifled with. "It may be a stone to you, but monuments are precious things to humans."
The demon bowed, uttering a prompt apology—but Ciel was quick enough to catch the cocked eyebrow that was thrown his way. "What." The earl said coldly.
"If it is not out of place for me to say, my lord," The demon began, turning to watch the stationary tombstone as if it were about to do a trick. "I never considered you to be the sentimental type."
Suddenly, Ciel pushed up from his seat, holding the top of his cane so tightly that the silhouettes of his knuckles pressed against the fabric of his gloves. His eye was downcast and hidden by a sweep of dark pepper-colored hair. "Sebastian." He said lowly.
"Yes, master?" The demon stood to attention, folding one arm over his middle and bowing.
"Leave." Ciel whispered. Sebastian cocked his head to the side before bowing a second time.
"Yes my lord." He replied curtly. With a small disturbance in the air that left Ciel's cloak fluttering, the demon was gone; and Ciel was alone.
Setting his cane down on the lowest stair leading up to the plot, Ciel reached into his cloak, extracting a tiny bouquet of white dittanies. The long-stemmed flowers brushed against the earl's wrist (blessedly soft and cool, much like his mother's touch) as he set them before his parents' headstone, crouching to the ground beside it.
'I shouldn't sully your grave like this.' He thought, pressing his brow against the cool granite, running his gloved hand against the engravings that made out his father's name. 'You would be disgusted in me for what I partook in last night—both of you.' Ciel's hand curled into a fist as his breathing became tremulous. Something warm and horrible began to force on the base of his eyes, pressing and pricking and heating into tears. 'It isn't my place to cry. It isn't correct to cry because I'm not crying for you… even when I have promised myself I shall never cry again.'
"I have nowhere to turn." whispered Ciel. "I should bear this heavy sin alone, but…" His hand flew to his chest, grabbing and staining a handful of fine fabric. "I feel too disgusting. I'm far too confused for my own good."
He leaned back his head, as if to attempt pushing the tears back in—but it only served to allow them to roll down his cheeks in hot rivulets. "I'm a selfish child. I cry because I am confused and I want your consolation, though you aren't here to give me it. Not for your suffering. I'm just…" He furiously wiped the tears away, laughing bitterly. "Sebastian's right. I'm just a fool talking to a stone."
Pushing off of the ground, Ciel brushed his trousers off and collected his cane, glancing wearily over his shoulder once more before leaving to join his servant.