little lamb, stained in red.

Disclaimers: I do not own Kuroshitsuji; nor do I own any of the quotes/lyrics used between scenes.

Rating/Warning: M for mature themes—direct references to sexual abuse, child abuse, occult and cult activity, and lots of otherwise "normal" sex; brief reference to opium use somewhere along the way, so small you might even miss it; graphic/dark content.

A/N: I started this three months ago, in February while I was in Tampa for Chess try-outs. Now I'm back in Tampa for the summer, so I don't know, it's kind of like it's come full-circle for the fic, lol. n_n; I've been dying to post it, but I just haven't felt it was ready until now. And, I mean, even now I'm still nervous because every author is their worst critic, but I've stalled long enough. It's done and there's more to come through the summer, hopefully.

Henceforth I ask of you:

what else is insanity, but love?

Tempt not a desperate man.

part the first.


Hands, reaching for him.

Greedy, gluttonous, disturbed—these hands that rattled the cuffs on his wrists just to see the way he winced as the metal hit his little wrist bones, that slid the key into the lock and pulled him forth for some play-time. Usually in some strange room that was dark and smelled like mold and dirt, and he was never alone. Hands on his shoulders, on his back. On his face, tangled in his hair. Touching, stealing, forcing. And the maniacal smiles of the onlookers, debating their next move in this auction. Demonstrations, lessons, play-time.

This is what this little lamb can do. Isn't he great at it? I taught him myself.

His hands, slithering through the bars, grasping for something to pull him out. How many times he'd tried to push himself through those bars in one month-how many times he'd prayed he'd be skinny enough to wriggle through. And the girl in the far corner of his cell—the girl that had tried to hold his hand the first time she'd been scared—she'd gone crazy after a while, kicking and screaming and thrashing and eventually knocking herself out against the bars, like a little songbird whose captivity and life danced along on demands to sing had driven her over the edge into insanity.

Sebastian's hands, prying open the space between earth and hell, flitting up like a raven, nevermore, nevermore, and as he swooped towards land, what touched the grimy stone near the altar was the toe of a boot and not a clawed talon, not at all. And Sebastian's hands, stroking blood-stained hair out of his empty eyes as he peered up at him and wondered, Is this God?

Hands again, his own. Fisted in the bed sheets-fisted in a waistcoat—clutching at the arms of his chair—and hands hidden by soft, worn white gloves. Beneath, they were smooth and adroit, somehow delicate, exfoliated by the sands of time. Milky white, slender and mature, the seal of the contract-their unholy sacrament, a star rotting the epidermal cells into an organic tattoo—sunken into the white flesh just below the knuckles. Black nails, prickling his skin. Experienced fingertips, exploring warm parts of him as innocent as behind the ear, as depraving as the heat between his legs. Talented, focused hands, never once mistrusted. On his skin. Between his lips. Unbuttoning his suits and smoothing up his inner thighs, tucking strands of dark hair behind his ear—and they were his decisions being made, because he was in control.

The hands before, the hands now.

The same dirty feeling, the same sick twist in his gut.

Despair and guilt before had never been prefaced by a burning need, but that was because he'd been ignorant. Young, stupid, innocent. The despair and guilt came after the need, now—now and again, old friends that liked to visit but never called beforehand—shuttling through the pleasure and wracking his frame even as he tried to soothe it.

This was the shame of Ciel Phantomhive.

While man's desires and aspirations stir, he can not choose but err.

My peace is gone, my heart is heavy.

Goethe, Faust.

He had to turn his head a little farther than comfortable to see out the window from where he sat in the big lavender Bocelli in his office, but even though he couldn't see the broad lawn below, the breeze and the bright, sweet-scented light reached him at his desk. Tudor windows unlocked and opened just a crack to allow in some fresh air, the sound of birds and leaves rustling in the wind. The time before eleven o'clock was always so peaceful—and as it was, the clock across the room read ten thirty-five, and Ciel closed his eyes again, relaxing into the seatback cushions of the big armchair.

The maid, Sebastian said, was occupied with cleaning the bathrooms, scrubbing the tile and porcelain and glass (which were all thankfully built into the floors and walls, so she could not knock anything over unless she really, honestly tried); the chef and the gardener, Sebastian also said, had been sent in to town to pick up some fresh meat for dinner and a good number of flower bulbs, now that winter was drawing to an end

spring, in like a lion, out like a lamb

and the weather was clearing up; and Tanaka, Sebastian said last, was in his office going over contracts and other business proposals and all their fine print, preparing papers regarding the company to discuss with the earl after elevenses, before the meeting with Woodsworth's executive at lunch.

And the breeze danced in through the windows and tickled Ciel's skin, and he let out a sigh as Sebastian climbed up off his knees, tucking stray strands of hair behind his ears as he smoothed down his trousers where he'd been kneeling.

"Oh, dear," he murmured, retrieving his gloves from the corner of the desk, huffing a breath and frowning to himself as he brushed his palms off on his thighs, redressed his hands.

Ciel's eyes rolled open, if only just halfway, and through his lashes he peered up at Sebastian with a light head, body tingling. His fingertips still shook; he'd managed to calm his breath, but his heart was still hammering his breastbone, lost somewhere between its throne in his chest and the bottom of his throat. His lower back ached now that the muscles relaxed, and his thighs, too, and the breeze caressed his cheeks, his neck, his fingers—and his clavicle, and his chest, and his stomach, where his skin was still hot. Sebastian had already tucked him back into his drawers, and he sat with his thighs spread and his feet flat on the floor and the buttons of his trousers still open, slouched in his Bocelli. Where his garters sat an inch above his socks and the hem of his shorts ended at his knees, the cool air trickling in from outside slid up and chilled the higher parts of his legs in turn.

Sebastian reached for the cloth near the half-finished cup of tea on the desk, crouched down and dabbed at his master's stomach—wiped up the bit of stickiness here and there near his navel. Their eyes met briefly—one dark blue connecting with two the color of cherrywood—and another little breath passed from behind Ciel's lips, a long sigh as his lashes lowered again.

"I'm sorry, young master," Sebastian whispered. "I'll be tidier next time."

Ciel smiled wearily and raised two fingers, wagging them back and forth in a weak motion of dismissal, and then his smile faded into another sigh and he closed his eyes as Sebastian gently laid the rag atop the desk and pulled him up, out of his chair. Sebastian returned to knee before him as he tucked his shirt back into the waist of his pants, buttoned them and smoothed the green cotton twill before closing the shirt in turn; climbed to a stand as he worked his way up the front of the suit, fastening the custom buttons and retying the ribbon beneath his collar, smoothing any other wrinkles out of his shoulders and arms.

There was a moment of silence as he stood with his hands on the young earl's shoulders, the boy with his eyes still closed and mouth curled in a faint smile. Groggy with the residual high of their secret rendezvous, nerves still buzzing with the ecstasy. But almost immediately, it was draining away, and Ciel's mouth wavered and his brow knotted, his lips twisted into a thin line, and he felt his butler thumbing the tears out of the eye that he could even before he'd known they were truly there and not stuck in the back of his head.

I do like it, really, he wanted to say, in simple reassurance, although he was sure that his butler needed not any words of comfort—so he cleared his throat instead, pulling away from Sebastian and dragging the Bocelli closer to his desk again, plopping heavily into it. He tested his tea to see if it was still warm enough, then licked his lips and motioned to the emptiness of his desktop.

"Have Tanaka come in earlier," he said. "We've got a lot to discuss today."

"Yes, young sir," Sebastian returned, and picked up the cloth and the tray he'd brought the tea in upon. Ciel held up a hand, and Sebastian paused, blinking down at him from the corner of the desk. The boy's little hand was a flicker of white as it darted across the desk to the tray and grabbed the last butterfly cake he hadn't eaten earlier, and he cast a glance at the butler as he ate a corner of it, raising his brows.

"Go on," he grunted around his mouthful, and Sebastian nodded curtly, coattails shifting about his calves as he slipped out of the room.

Ciel licked the crumbs off his fingers, ankles crossed and one foot wagging where his toes dusted the floor.

I'm the king of the castle, and you're a dirty rascal.

He remembered the afternoon he'd watched the snake Lau had brought over strangle its dinner—a defenseless little mouse, coiled up in the thing's tail, limbs stuck straight out and stiff as oxygen slowed down on its way to its minuscule brain, eventually stalling altogether. The mouse had been white at first, but in the end had somehow turned a little purple, and the snake choked it down with ease. Sebastian had stood behind him, watching in turn, for the entire stretch of silence in the den as the snake ate its dinner, and after the last furry end of the mouse was in the snake's throat, Ciel had turned and glanced at Sebastian over his shoulder—and, observing the grave, introspective look on Sebastian's face, he'd thought that that had been a very intimate thing to watch with him.

He dreamed that night that he was back in the rusty iron cell he'd lived in but hadn't called home for one month, surrounded by dank darkness, and something was swallowing him whole. But the room the little cage was in was so dark that he couldn't see what it was, he could only feel the resilient, wet mouth stretched about his thighs as his feet and legs disappeared further into the moist depths hidden somewhere in the shadows, and the thing trying to eat him made its way up towards his hips. His dream self attempted escape numerous times, and when he jerked awake, he let out an involuntary cry as he gripped at the blankets, because the sound of his shackles rattling was still there—

Except that it was only Sebastian, opening his curtains, and the sound of the rings clattering on the curtain rods.

His little whispers—love me, love me. That's all I ask for—love me, love me.

It wasn't a matter of pride.

It couldn't be a matter of pride, because if it was, then he wouldn't be doing it.

And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, and the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor shall be lifted nevermore!

The sconces in the billiard room were empty; the lights overhead in the frescoed ceiling had been updated recently, wired with only the best of the new technology, just as he'd had the hot water pipes installed a while ago. Amongst a plethora of leather-bound volumes and dusty collections lining the walls were a few new purchases—The Senses and the Intellect, The Alchemist, Saducismus Triumphatus, Rosecrucian texts and other books of similar ideas picked up by a little gloved hand in the public library, bought while the same little gloved hands smoothed over book spines and little footsteps echoed on the marble and a young man in an overcoat handed forth the money, with a too-small cane and tallhat in his free hand and a charming smile on his face.

And the new books sat neatly where Sebastian had slid them into the bookcase closest to the door, while Ciel laced his fingers and pressed them to the ornate ridge of the corner of the billiard table, watching the butler carefully from the corner of his eye, wagging his foot where his toe pressed to the carpet.

Because regardless of how big the manor was and how many corners of it were in need of the attention of the other hired help, there were times that it was excruciatingly difficult to find a moment of isolation such as this one.

There were locks on the doors, of course, and that often worked the best when the need wasn't so intense, but there were also the rare moments that found him scrabbling for an out, gnashing his teeth and clenching his fists at the other servants—rare moments that sometimes led to a detour from duties upon an innocuous excursion to the recreation room—where he let Sebastian cross the room from the bookshelves and hoist him up, set him on the edge of the billiard table with his feet in the air and Sebastian's slender waist between his knees, and his hands fisted in the lapels of the butler's tailcoat as gloved hands clawed at his sides—all around, along his back, up his chest, down his hips.

His rear end slid off the polished wooden edge of the table and hit the green felt of the tabletop, and his back arched as Sebastian's hands wrapped around his thighs, pressing chest to chest. He cocked his head back and let warm, wet lips move instantly to his neck, covering the skin there with a barrage of kisses and nibbles and swirls of tongue. And the head of the Phantomhive household bucked and beat a balled fist against his butler's shoulder, and didn't mind the kiss on his mouth one bit, because it was a need to be fulfilled, burning in his chest and knotting up his stomach and quickening his breath.

Sebastian's hair was fine and clean, smooth, soft through his fingertips, and he smelled like many different things—fresh soap and perfumes, clean clothes, beeswax polish, the spices from the kitchen and the tea, and something strident and cloying like the smell of rouge. And his skin—oh, that perfect skin—was softer than silk and comforting where it brushed against his, and Ciel closed his eyes and relaxed into the rocking motions of their bodies colliding—pressing, pulling, grinding. Sebastian's strong hand, raking along his chest as if memorizing every piece of him, and he hoped that the butler wouldn't accidentally pull a button off his suitcoat because he liked this one.

And afterwards, Ciel smoothed his clothes down as he strutted through the noisy halls, exchanging glances of secrecy and disdain with Sebastian as they parted ways in the vestibule; he, stomping off to the dining room while the butler crossed towards the kitchen, and he scolded himself ceaselessly for ever becoming so unprofessional, and vowed to never take part in such debauchery again.

Until the next time the need was so good, and he couldn't resist.

What has become of our little boy blue, since he kissed them and put them there?

It wasn't always like the nursemaids used to giggle about behind their hands when they'd thought he and Elizabeth were far enough away not to hear. That Jane is such a dirty puzzle, a real cheap cunny! the nice blonde one would titter, and the brunette would tuck loose curls behind unpierced ears and snort, Chicken-breasted three-penny upright dabs it all day long, I'm sure. And when the back-stabbing gossip was through, the nursemaids would try to occupy the children with something especially interesting before moving on, but Ciel had never fallen for it. He'd sit in the shade, picking the grass blade by blade, slouched against Sebastian's furry side while the dog snored in his afternoon nap, downwind of the nursemaids while they sat on their blanket on the other side of the tree and failed to notice how their voices carried.

Did he really touch you there? Oh, yes, he did. I can't believe you! But you wish he'd made it into YOUR dicky, I can see it on your face— And his...his member? Well... Let me just say it twarn't no lobcock. Not too big, not too small—just perfect, felt so good, I can't even tell you, my face will burn right off in my blushing. Just try, explain it to me. Come on, now. How do you do it? Agh, God, you're such a nosy thing—just spread my legs and he put it in. Right-o. It was uncomfortable at first, stiff as a rod—but I just remembered Jane's advice and kept moving, and it really is mind-boggling, Elsie. Oh...OH! Did you hear about that Kelvin sod? He's got the French disease, I heard from Laurie. Do you know how you get rid of that? Playing back gammon, I think. With a CHILD— Oh, I heard that, too—!

Sometimes Sebastian just fondled him, didn't ask for anything in return. Sometimes he took care of things with his mouth, dropping little kisses all over sensitive areas. Sometimes it was his fingers—inside and out, experienced and talented and mind-numbing. Every now and again, though, Sebastian glanced at him with a certain look of humility in his eyes, and Ciel would sigh and nod and let him yank off his drawers or flip up the hem of his nightshirt and plunder the intimate parts of his body with his own, and eventually, Ciel would smile, and eventually, he would like it, and eventually, he wouldn't want it to end, but eventually, it would end, in the same way it always did—a big mess. A mess as sticky and debilitating as a spider web caught on one's fingers, and just as hard to see, too; tricky little threads leading to a tangled web inside his chest.

There was a monster in my bed.

Sebastian taught him to dance, a diabolic waltz, and that ended with some stinging pride and a dark attitude. But Elizabeth's cheer when they stepped out onto the empty dance floor of an empty manor made up for it.

And later that night, he rang the bell connected to the butler's pantry, and when Sebastian opened his door, he was already sitting upright, smiling softly.

And Sebastian taught him another dance.

I don't think you trust in my self-righteous suicide.

I cry when angels deserve to die.

Ciel wasn't entirely fond of how, sometimes, people felt the need to point out the obvious. He didn't understand why it was so hard to just notice, analyze, and store in the back of the mind for future reference and use. The lack of such a skill caused so many awkward situations for people; wasn't the rest of society ever going to learn?

When he'd been younger, he'd had a million questions—Why does that man look sad, dad? Why is his handkerchief red? Why does that letter have the Royal Seal on it? Doesn't that woman know her dress is too small? Why does Uncle Clause say Momma doesn't like some of your friends?—and his father would shake his head and wag his finger and press the tip of it down against his nose, smiling. Aunt Frances would tell Elizabeth, Little girls are to be seen and not heard, and sometimes Ciel would be a bit dubious, wondering if his father would say that to him, too, but just as his blind trust assured him, his father was too kind for that—too clever for that. Instead, he reprimanded, Don't ask, and don't tell.

For a few years, Ciel had been too young to fully comprehend. He'd be tapped on the nose and instructed, Don't ask, and don't tell, and he'd blush and shrink away behind his father's leg and hope that the guests hadn't heard his inquiries because apparently, asking was wrong and so was telling.

When he was eight, the meaning hit him like an epiphany.

It was at a dinner party, where half the guests were waiting to meet with his father in the drawing room and the other half were there simply to appease public curiosity, and his mother was in the corner talking wine and silk with her girlfriends and his father had asked him to tag along through the crowd like he always did. Because like father, like son, and because one day he would be the head of the household, and Elizabeth would be in the corner talking curls and pearls with her girlfriends, and he'd be leading their eldest through the crowd, too.

He'd already eaten his bread pudding while the grown-ups toasted the night, and it was right before they ran into his Uncle Clause that Ciel had noticed it. And he'd clutched his father's pantleg and sidestepped behind him, and he'd opened his mouth, but did not speak, because—

Daddy, why does the Baron stare like that?

Don't ask, and don't tell. Take notice, but don't inquire. Analyze, consider, set neatly in the corner of the mind to remember and to utilize. His father was like that, Ciel realized; omniscient, like the time when he had been very young and he'd snuck a piece of cake between tea and dinner, and his dad had looked at him with his keen eyes and Ciel had looked back in the best innocence he could feign, and only later when he hadn't been hungry at dinner did his father bring up the crumbs he'd noticed on his collar earlier in the afternoon. His father never really asked questions, but he didn't need to, seemed to be superior to such petty things; there was a constant spark of recognition in his eyes while he talked to people, a critical intensity that was somehow warm and inviting at the same time, while he reeled people in to unravel in his mind, a kind-faced spider sitting amicably on its web with its dinner crawling up to its throne in unintentional sacrifice.

It was a tool, Ciel realized eventually, peering out past his father's pantleg at all the ladies dancing and the men toasting, and the Baron Kelvin, who just would not stop staring, and Tanaka directing the servants at the buffet. It was a skill his father was passing down to him, a polite piece of social mannerisms that he needed to learn if he was to be an attentive, intelligent gentleman, worthy of his lineage. If he was to be a proper man and honor the name given to him as his divine right, he needed to perfect this don't ask, and don't tell thing. Because it was a tool. Because people would not expect he had the upper hand if he didn't ask, and people could not strike him where it hurt if he didn't tell, and those were the basics of life. Noticing, analyzing, understanding, manipulating. In surviving the world, those skills were necessary.

Don't ask, and don't tell.

Of course, Ciel understood it completely now, sitting in the dining room of the manor. It was nearly an effortless thing, part of his wiring after years of practice and experience—having taken over his father's spot in the center of the spider's web—but he just couldn't understand why it was not common sense to others, as well; why it was so hard to simply keep the mouth shut, why it was necessary to even ask in the first place.

Which was why his entire body bristled and his shoulders twitched, and heat burst on his cheeks when Elizabeth cried:

"Ciel! What are those bruises from?"

Dishes and silverware chattered together where Sebastian removed them from the table on the other side of the dining room.

Ciel met Elizabeth's pinched stare with one of his own, brow knotted above the corner of his eye patch, lips parted as he searched for the right words to dispel her concerned curiosity. He licked his lips, and the stare between he and Elizabeth throbbed with desperate uncertainty. The clock ticked away in the silence, an obnoxious mockery.

Ciel's hand fluttered towards his neck; his mind went straight to the possibility of the bruises Elizabeth spoke of actually being the spidery marks of broken blood vessels and other red spots, some he hadn't noticed in the mirror this morning, or that Sebastian hadn't informed him of. He swallowed, mouth suddenly dry. He fought the urge, first, to exchange bitter eye contact with Sebastian, because that would be far too obvious, even with Elizabeth's obliviousness—and it wasn't as though Sebastian would grace him with a returned glance, anyway. He was probably enjoying this incredible awkwardness, proud of himself, like the sadistic bastard he was.

Panic bloomed in the pit of his gut where his insides twisted and he clambered for his composure, because he didn't like being startled so abruptly that he was rendered speechless. He didn't remember that sharp mouth suckling anywhere visible, anywhere he didn't allow, but sometimes he did lose track of what was happening because he was so distracted by other things—

At the thought of it, Ciel remembered that he was currently gawking at Elizabeth dumbly, so he uttered a light-hearted laugh to break the silence, shooing away his panic and reclaiming self-control as he propped his elbow on the table, palm to his neck, just in case the bruises she spoke of were actually there, much to his dismay. Innocence fell across his face and he smiled. "What bruises?" he murmured, reaching for his tea.

Elizabeth's hand shot out and her little lady's fingers locked around his forearm just as he lifted his tea from the saucer. The china clinked together and, across the dining room, the wheels of the serving cart rattled as they began moving on the carpet. Ciel grunted, eyes widening; his tea sloshed against the china, but not high enough to spill over. Elizabeth's stare was intense where it remained on him, but he was too startled to meet it just yet. She was Frances Middleford's daughter; when she wanted to be, she could be austere.

"These bruises," his fiancée answered, and her voice was liquescent in the silence, clear and strident, but strained-her munificence struggling to come through the sternness she felt she needed in order to accomplish her current quest. A lace-covered finger pointed to his wrist, where, upon reaching for his tea, his sleeve had moved up not even an inch or so, but just enough in the end. Ciel blinked, skin prickling as he acknowledged the faint purple on the skin near his wristbone, pasty gray bruises where Sebastian had gripped him the night before, clutched his wrists where his hands had been clawing for something to grab onto, pinned him down while he'd lionized him and he'd squirmed and cried out in rapture beneath—

Ciel shifted in his chair, dismissed the recollections, cursed himself for wearing this suit today, and made a mental note to confront Sebastian about his carelessness, then promptly check the length of every sleeve of every suit. But, despite the burning of his face, he sat up straight again, left his tea where it was and pulled his arm from her hand—but Elizabeth was unyielding, fingers steadfast and the worry obvious in her eyes, and Ciel regarded her sharply from through his lashes, mouth open but the right words still difficult to find.

"Lizzy, it's nothing at all to make a fuss about, I just—" He licked his lips, drew in a breath, held his chin level although his hand quivered where he longed to jerk it from her clutch, shove away from the table. His skin crawled. Childish anxiety coiled in his stomach, nauseating. He didn't want to be touched all of a sudden, he just didn't want to feel her hand on him anymore, he wanted her to let go and leave him alone. But damn it, what in the world could possibly explain finger-shaped bruises on his wrist in a way that would be believable to her? "—it was a complete accident, you see, I—"

"Excuse me..."

Ciel's shoulders wilted in almost immediate relief.

Elizabeth's lower lip protruded and her hand lingered, then drifted away from Ciel's wrist.

Sebastian smiled humbly where he'd ducked down between them, hands behind his back. "Pardon my interruption," he murmured again, "but the young master is just quite embarrassed about the origin of those marks. The other day, while in town, a child recognized him as the head of the Funtom company, and, with the intentions of leading him over to introduce to his parents, grabbed his wrist with such fervor that it left a bruise."

There was another short silence, tense and precarious, and Ciel met Elizabeth's eyes with what he hoped was an ascertaining expression on his face. Elizabeth was quiet for a moment, peering at him with the clouds in her eyes rolling with the movement of her thoughts, and after a moment, she clasped her hands together and pressed her knuckles to her lips, pretty brow knotting and modest smile soft.

"Ciel, why is that embarrassing? That's so adorable..." She faltered slightly, brow furrowing further. Ciel glanced at her, noting the look of disappointment on her face. Probably disappointed in him, he considered; she knew him too well for her own good, really. She tried to soften her expression, rephrasing, "Well, I mean, 'Noblesse Oblige', right?"

Ciel scoffed lightly, brows raising. He glanced to Sebastian; Sebastian returned the gesture, and his eyes were dark with indications of new debt and deviltry. Images and sensations flashed in Ciel's mind—the promise of obligation, black-tipped fingers, bed sheets on bare skin. But he was determined not to be struck dumb again, especially not by such an intentional, devious, vindictive, childish glance as Sebastian's. He shrugged, pulling his sleeve further down and folding his hands atop the table, hooking one leg over the other.

"Well, it's embarrassing that it bruised so easily," he countered. "It was just a small child, after all. ...Smaller than me. Like, hardly past five years old. Or so. Practically still a baby."

"You can't help that you have a weak nature," Elizabeth cooed, frowning earnestly.

Ciel huffed a breath as Sebastian passed behind him and continued on his way out of the room, wheeling the serving tray and dirty dishes out. "It's not weak, per se, Lizzy, I just... He was a strong kid, healthy and brutish for his size. I thought he was going to dislocate my arm with how hard he jerked on me."

Elizabeth laughed softly, and Ciel relaxed because she'd bought it. He peered at her, frowning absently at first, acknowledging yet again why don't ask, and don't tell was such a useful, effectual tool, and should remain his, and his only—and then he smiled in return, primly, lashes lowering on accomplished eyes. Outside the broad windows of the dining room, the skies were heavy with rain.

Come to bed, don't make me sleep alone.

Beads of water plinked against the surface of the bath, rippled outwards towards the smooth white side of the tub. Ciel lifted his hand again, watching the drops of water trickle off his fingertips and wrist, hitting the surface below. Plink, plink. He slipped his hand back under, pulled it out another time—slowly. Watched the water drip. Plink. Maybe he should get a more extravagant bathtub. But no, silver or gold would not go well with the rest of the décor; and besides, he was quite fond of the porcelain and oak paneling of this one, and he didn't want to seem too pretentious in his high-standing. His uncle was the one with a taste for the particularly gaudy, and in excess.

The steam filled the bathroom, fogging the long mirror in the corner and the windows high above the floor, dusting the plaster and marble and glass. He sat with his feet firm against the bottom of the tub, the water like a tickling finger on his buttocks and thighs; he slouched, curled forward against his knees, the cool air caressing his spine where the steam swirled up along it. His hair stuck to the sides of his face, dripping down his nose and cheeks.


Gloveless hands brushed past his cheeks from behind, pulling his hair out of his eyes and smoothing it down, peeling it out of his face and leaving it, damp, plastered to the top of his head and out of his face. Ciel dropped his hand back into the water and turned slightly, casting Sebastian a dark glance from over his shoulder, perfectly visible with his hair out of his eyes, slicked back and messy. Perfectly visible, lashes like charcoal shavings and eyelids delicate and pale, dark stare so pure in its blue from one eye and a flash of cloudy lilac from the other, and the little wrinkle, the adorable dimple, in the soft skin of his brow where his glare forfeited its animosity and became just another one of his grouchy temperaments.

Sleeves rolled up and fingers curled limply in the air, Sebastian rose his brows, waiting with elbows on the side of the tub and bar of soap on the stack of towels.

The silence stretched on, and the dripping continued—plinking this time down from the mouth of the faucet, pipes creaking beneath the floorboards. Their stare-down lasted a few moments, good, long moments, before Ciel licked his lips and rolled his shoulders and murmured over the gentle swish of water, "What?"

"Your hair." Sebastian motioned gently. "I need to wash it, young master."

More silence, and the dripping from the faucet.

Ciel dropped to his rear end and scooted backwards, water sloshing against the sides of the tub and privates bouncing idly beneath the water. He hunched forward, hands falling to his lap as Sebastian's soapy fingers tangled into his hair. The water created illusions; his hands were disfigured where they sat, wavering in the ripples. His head bobbed with the motion of Sebastian's hands, and the scent of buttermilk and honey bloomed from around his ears.

He wriggled lower, pressed his lips into a thin line and thrust beneath the surface, and the hands tangled into his hair again, raking through along his scalp. And when he slipped back up out of the water, sucking in a breath, clean hair pasted to his face again, the hands already had the wash cloth in them, scrubbing at his neck and behind his ears. His shoulders, down his arms. Beneath his arms. His sides. His back, his chest, his stomach, his hips. A gloveless, black-tipped thumb, twitching against his cock as if on purpose. Gliding along his thigh like he could tease.

"I'm not a toy," Ciel grunted, droplets of water spraying from his wet mouth.

Sebastian was silent for a moment, but when he did speak, he was in the shell of his ear, and Ciel's spine went rigid and his skin tingled, cold.

"I know," Sebastian husked. Ciel's eyes widened, his fingers plucking wet hair from his forehead and lashes, holding it out of his eyes. Sebastian's breath tickled the top of his ear and he drew his hands back up from where the wash cloth drifted along the boy's thin knee, knuckles following the curve of his legs, pausing with fingertips at the soft dip between hips and pelvis.

"Neither am I," the butler murmured, and Ciel opened his mouth to retort, but a wet wash cloth slapped against his face and began to scrub.

And when the madness stops, you will be alone.

Sometimes the need was sick.

The night that his aunt died, he lay sore and lethargic in the warm blankets and sheets he'd been so neatly tucked into—cool, expensive cotton, goose-down comforter, perfectly fluffed pillows. There was a hot water bottle at his feet and a silver platter on the bedstand, eye patch coiled at its corner and rings sitting on the black fabric, a cup of hot milk and brandy steaming on the silver. And the need was hiding dormant in his chest.

He watched Sebastian stir in the brandy with idle eyes, sitting up in bed and fingers folded limply in his lap. Silver spoon clinking against the sides of the fine china, Ciel watched Sebastian add a good amount—then licked his lips and asked for some more. And he watched Sebastian consider this for just a split-second, perhaps debating whether or not to advise his master otherwise, and then he poured a bit more brandy into the milk and stirred it in.

Halfway through the cup of hot milk, the need exploded—flowered up and out into his nerves, buzzed there like anxiety and sickened his stomach, and somehow, the burgundy color of Sebastian's eyes did not make him think of all the red that had drenched the night thus far.

With the rain falling outside, the half-gone milk was neglected on the silver platter and the young master welcomed his butler into bed with him, wouldn't let him crawl closer until he took off his shoes, of course, and sat with his fingers threading in and out of each other, smiling as the demanded distractions played out, like a show at a public-house—kneeling before him on his own bed, first the waistcoat with its buckles and buttons jangling, and then the fine white shirt; beneath, the fading marks of the brutal wounds the red-haired thing had marred him with, healing rapidly but not completely gone yet, bright pink scars curiously unpuckered. Clean black trousers, a startling lack of drawers—and the last things to hit the bottom of the bed were a pair of long socks. And so the young master clapped his hands together gently—softly enough that there was no sound, more a mockery than a true reaction, but the smile growing on his face was enough to prove his mockery false, and the butler pressed a gloved fingertip to his own lips and smiled a coy smile.

You're such an EARNEST boy, my aunt used to tease me.

Are you an earnest boy?

No. Yes. Hey—that red-haired thing, he wants you.

...He does.

But he can't have you. Do you know why?

I am yours.

You're so good, Sebastian.

In the candlelight, the brandied milk grew cold and the places between Ciel's legs grew hot, and his skin crawled and his fingernails scraped the sheets, and his throat ached from the breaths he gasped and the cries he refused to let out, and the aftertaste of the milk was dry and bitter. Sebastian's smile shifted from humble to sinister to comfortable, gloves eventually discarded and long, thin, pallid fingertips slipping into warm places and curling about little pink ankles while his smile dusted little pink lips and little gray eyelids.

When the end assailed him and his body jerked, Sebastian was stiff and painful inside of him, and Ciel bit at his knuckles to keep in the noises, ultimately pleased but disappointed and worried about the way the climax was plummeting so sharply this time. And then Sebastian gave the glance—that pathetic little imploring glance, ruddy eyes shining sanguine in the light and looking big and childish, like a demented puppy's, or a playful cat's—and Ciel nodded where he'd flopped down against his strewn pillows, dragging clammy hands down a clammy face as the stiffness shifted inside him and Sebastian's knees moved, hips wriggling back into proper position. And with his hands draped across his face and his heels over his butler's shoulders, Ciel felt the despair already setting in, with each shock sent shuttling into his tailbone and the usually oh-so sensitive areas there. Not pleasurable anymore, not tonight. Sick, rotten, disgusting, abhorring, reminiscent and betraying, shameful, deceptive.

He started crying only after Sebastian asked him what was wrong, finished and lying next to him, stroking hair out of his eyes and tracing the curve of his brows with a black-tipped thumb. And he cried because Sebastian wouldn't understand, and he cried because he didn't understand, either, and he cried because he didn't want to cry.

"What is wrong with me?" he husked, chin dimpled and brow knotted and tears welling above his lashes. "I'm a heartless, ruined...monstrous child—"

"No, my lord," Sebastian whispered, drawing the sheets up further, free hand stretching for his clothes. "Heartless and soulless are two very different things."

He was too astonished by such a cruel statement in such affectionate tones to cry any more after that; the tears dried up almost immediately, and Ciel fell asleep quite aware of the blankness of his stare at the ceiling.

Just how deep do you believe? Will you bite the hand that feeds? Will you chew until it bleeds?

"Oh," Ciel murmured in surprise, blinking a few times. The good china chattered delicately as he set his cup of tea down, and his face slowly darkened as he took notice of the stains blooming in the upper corner of the paper he'd dropped to the top of the stack on his desk.

Sebastian fell still, white cloth draped over his forearm. He glanced over to the boy in the big Bocelli, brow knotting. "What is it, young master?"

Ciel lifted his right fingertips, scowl softening to a disapproving frown at the amount of sticky residue the glaze on the warm scone had left there. Licking his lips just in case there was some there, too—perhaps even some crumbs—he shoved his hand forth, held it up in front of the butler as he reached for his tea again with his free fingers.

Sebastian's lashes fluttered in confusion at first, before his mouth perked in his usual curious smile, and he caught the hovering hand by the wrist. His eyes flickered upwards and Ciel met them, spreading into his own smile behind the rim of his teacup, and Sebastian nodded in understanding and pressed the dirty fingertips to his lips, gingerly. Parted his mouth and drew them in, suckling the butter and icing off the tips of the thin little fingers. Nipping teeth, tongue sliding along tiny fingernails.

Ciel's free knuckles tightened on the fragile handle of his teacup, and his breath escaped his lips in a short, unintentional burst, just as the delight tingling at the base of his spine flowered elsewhere accidentally. He broadened into a smile on a quick sip of tea; his laughter filled the quiet office, tickled fingers wriggling in the hot, wet warmth of the butler's maw, and Sebastian's mouth curled into a contented smile around them.

One devil knows another.

The bells rang.

Ciel's mouth dropped and he sucked in a shrill breath, entire body bristling. A cloth—rough, dark—a blindfold prevented him from opening his eyes all the way, and ropes burned his wrists through his gloves. For a split second, all his practiced reactions flitted away and the fears and feral impulses from childhood took over—a strangled cry arose in his throat, choked there, muted and wavering on the back of his breath, and then the shadows outside the blindfold became light, taunting ribbons of it at the edges of his vision, and shock rattled his frame like the acknowledgment had physically hit him.

Not bells.

People. Talking, whispering. And he knew the feeling on the air very well—secretive, dark, sick. And when the hands untied the blindfold across his brow and it fell to the grotesque pink folds on his lap, the sea of observers and auctioneers crowded into the room before him was not a surprise.


And Ciel stared between the bars at them as the auction began, feeling the way his eyes hardened over, and the fury and the adrenaline surged through his blood so that his knuckles shook where they were tied together. Because he'd gotten out of this before, he was not supposed to be back here, that Druitt BASTARD—

The candles went out.

Gasps, cries, screams—snapping limbs, crumbling bodies, thuds and splatters against the floor.

And in the darkness, Ciel smiled.

King's knight to e-five.

My God, my tourniquet. Return to me, salvation.

Gloveless knuckles dusted across his cheek and Ciel peered up at the face hovering over his in the darkness, lashes lowered on dazed eyes—foggy, clouded, tired. His body buzzed with the leftover thrill of sex, and there was a part of him—in the depths of his ego, where the pride for his family's name was still burning fiercely—that felt kind of dirty, kind of rueful for these acts of utter depravity, but although he was Ciel Phantomhive, he was not Vincent, and in not being his father, he had every right to be himself.

Sebastian smiled, looking incredibly pretty in the moonlight. The celestial glow softened his face where it hit the milky skin, but where the bridge of his nose created a median, the shadowed half of his face was somewhat ominous. Ciel's hand moved up, fingertips brushing the perfect curve of Sebastian's jawline, and the same gloveless knuckles gently pressed the hand away.

"Please relax, my lord."

His fingertips dipped in the air where Sebastian had swatted them away, swerved down to the bare skin of Sebastian's chest. Traced his collarbone, the slender, sculpted slope of his shoulder. The gentle swell of his chest, idly trailing his middle finger up and down the smooth dip between flat pectorals.

Dazed blue and lavender followed his own fingertip, lips open and breath coming soft and slow. The moonlight fell in slants across him, too, where he lay cradled beneath his nearly-naked butler, the blankets drawn up over the young man's hips and falling to drape over his side before hitting the bed. Sebastian's hand dropped down to splay across his chest in turn, and Ciel's eyes shifted, catching on the black nails and the marred knuckles, the pentacle rotted into the skin. Maybe his nails were rotten, too. Dead.

Sebastian mimicked the motion, dragging his index finger up and down the middle of his breastbone, fingernail tickling his skin. Ciel sighed, a shiver zipping through him at every little scrape of Sebastian's nail, like an innocent sweetheart or a lover, pointless motions that were comforting and although meaningless, perfect—sweet nothings not whispered, but gestured. His thighs were aching, the space between his buttocks and tailbone throbbing. Tingling and sore, feeling rather empty now that Sebastian was done and he was curled beneath him, knees pressed to the unfastened waist of Sebastian's trousers and toes wriggling in the sheets. Sebastian's bare feet were just inches away and the rest of his clothing lay folded neatly at the foot of the bed.

The sheets moved with Sebastian's elbow, whispered against Ciel's nakedness and sent chills up from the places where the sensitivity was still fading. His knees twitched, and when he shifted towards the sturdy body, the warmth beside him, the soreness inside him ached sharply, and then dulled down again.

He pressed a coy little kiss to Sebastian's bare shoulder, felt the long, black-tipped fingers tangle into his hair, swirl against his scalp. He met Sebastian's eyes from over his upper arm, and a new chill assailed him at the look on the devil's face—something so utterly warm and comfortable, innocuous and good-willed, and if Ciel hadn't been catching his breath, he would have laughed at how startling this was, how much it ruined Sebastian's well-crafted reputation.

Instead, he relaxed as he had been told, slumped down against the pillow and Sebastian's other arm, and smiled at him from below his lashes, hair falling into his eyes.

And Sebastian—as not-Sebastian as he seemed right now, in the moonlight, soft and peaceful and doting—leaned down, cupped his master's cheek in his palm and kissed the corner of his mouth.

It took the butler a long while to get fully dressed again, most of which was spent slumped on the edge of the mattress with his shirt in his hands and his trousers still unfastened, poker-faced in the moonlight with strands of hair falling loose from behind his ear, watching the boy he'd carefully redressed and how he was somehow already tangling the blankets he'd smoothed to his chin.

I can't resist, take all you want from me.

It was another bright and comforting, early-spring day when Mrs. Rodkin couldn't make it for French tutoring, and the afternoon tea was a sweet black brew. Spicy enough to question the influence of those Indians he'd finally sent off on an impossibly possible scavenger hunt in the market. Ciel had stressed all night with Sebastian over just what kind of shopping list would be too easy for them to obtain quickly; after all, Agni promised completion of anything too difficult for the prince, so to keep them away for a long time, they had to come up with something simple enough that Soma would be adamant about accomplishing himself, in his newfound mission to dispose of any selfish action whatsoever.

Avez-vous besoin de mon aide?

Embrasses moi... S'il vous plaît.

...Oui, monseigneur.

The main lesson-book sat neglected on the corner of the desk, flimsy workbook draped over the arm of his chair. The study—his study, on the second floor, had no gargoyles on the mantle like in his father's study (which was now his, too, either way), but instead had world maps and old portraits on the walls, and a little globe in the corner, a divan and a number of bookcases, a shelf for each lesson and more for his old collections of books. The walls were sky-blue, the carpet navy, and the curtains were still the same soft white they'd been when he was young.

Some days, the room upset him in all its nostalgia and childhood brightness—the table with the ship in a bottle, or the cabinet in the back corner where old board games sat gathering dust. Some days, he moved his lessons to his office. But today, he wasn't really paying enough attention to his surroundings to feel the plaintive weight of the lingering memories.

I'm sure you're better than Mrs. Rodkin, with your broad...capabilities. Why don't YOU teach me the French tongue today?

The curtains fluttered and Sebastian's hand slipped over, fingertips gingerly cupping the line of Ciel's jaw—and Ciel straightened up, stretching his back, hands moving from where they fisted the arms of his chair to instead press to Sebastian's waist, thin fingers splayed where they touched the fine cotton twill and thin, woven wool. And the room was quiet as it had been for the last five minutes, quiet except for the sounds of kissing—tentative at first, the gentle caress of lips upon lips, and then more involved, filling the silence with the wet, pliant smack of mouths and slithering tongues, grazing teeth, and quivering lower lips. And breaths in between, because the kisses were slow and amorous, sensual, patient—and the exploring tongues took turns between leaders with bobbing heads.

His tea would soon get cold, he reminded himself, but their mouths broke apart not once in all of nine minutes, and when Ciel fell back against the seatback of his chair, lashes lowered on heated eyes and cheeks flushed, shoulders rolling with gentle breaths, sensations blooming up from other regions of his body, his mouth was raw and tingling and Sebastian thumbed his chin dry, smiling humbly.

Ciel finished his tea with his collar unfastened and Sebastian's nose buried in the nape of his neck, dropping languid kisses up and down the stretch of skin between his earlobe and the slope between shoulder and neck. Empty cup set on the desk near the abandoned lesson-book, little fingers tangled into layered strands of dark brown hair, and Ciel turned to press his nose into Sebastian's temple, just next to his ear and above his cheek. Took in his scent, the way he felt. Sebastian's tongue slid away from his neck and his hands gripped the arms of the chair, waiting for his master's next words—waiting, with ruddy eyes sharp in attentiveness.

"...Merci," Ciel finally murmured, breathed out against Sebastian's skin. Sebastian was silent, motionless, as the boy's fingers tightened against his skull. Then he lifted a hand, pressed it to the knuckles shaking in his hair, gently pulled the hands away and kissed the tips of the fingers.

"No," he whispered, meeting Ciel's eyes. "Merci."

I can't hold on to me, wonder what's wrong with me?

The first bath he took after leaving that filthy place and its massacred evils was steaming and fresh, and he almost cried out in relief when he dipped his toes into the water and they tingled.

But once he was sitting, it was miserable, because the hot water stung the places between his legs where inhuman humans had ravaged, and he almost cried out in pain because the hot water throbbed and pulsed between his buttocks and along every scratch and scrape on his knuckles or his knees.

And Sebastian cleaned the dirt and dried blood off, checked him for disease, and washed his hair with wonderful fingers, and when his muscles were numbed by the water and his fingertips wrinkled, the stinging ache was still there but Ciel acknowledged that hating that pain was childish, because that was the pain of healing.

And he'll beat you, beat you, beat you,

And he'll beat you all to pap.

And he'll eat you, eat you, eat you,

Every morsel—

snap snap snap.

end of part one.