Disclaimer: No Kuro-ownage for me.
Author's Note: This was inspired (long, long ago) by ankoku_tenshi's fic, "Blister." I apparently misunderstood it the first time I read it… hence this story. Which I've had notes on for months and months; I've just been too lazy to write it. XD;
Warnings: Character death everywhere. Even still, not very exciting— I mainly used this piece to work the rust off of my Kuro-themed writing. (I mean, it's been a while…)
Notes: Violin Sonata in G Minor, more commonly known as "The Devil's Trill," was written by Giuseppe Tartini. It is believed that, if you play it, your soul belongs to the devil forever.
The demon offers his customary smile— allows it to creep over his skull-white lips like the larva of a worm-infested corpse. Unnatural and too-long, the sneer settles and squirms; it is answer enough. But the butler expounds all the same: tilts into a reverential half-bow with a gloved hand splayed across his vested chest, the spidery fingers blossoming outward as if a budding carnation. And the flower petals drip scarlet dew, and the bile-green pollen spreads…
The putrid perfume that clings to his deferential servant hits the young earl's nose in a sudden rush of warm air; the nauseating stench (of flesh and entrails) combines with the nauseating facts (of plot and deception), and if it had been anyone other than The Devil's Aristocrat the resulting amalgam of sensation and data would have proven Too Much for their psyche to withstand. But this is Ciel Phantomhive… and his psyche had broken years and years ago.
"I'm impressed. I didn't hear a thing," the young man comments vaguely, the rotting stench of evisceration already a fading memory. Behind his elaborate desk, he shuffles through the remnants of notes and notices, of wills and documentation— of novels, and vouchers, and faded parchment scrolls that contain the music used in today's lesson. Tchaikovsky and Bach, and a selection from the infamous Violin Sonata in G Minor, said in whispers to have been written by a man who the devil had taunted with song. Ciel knows the legend, knows the truth behind it, knows that the composer had gone mad and died in the throes of beautiful insanity, never satisfied by the quality of his work… or, perhaps, driven crazy by the cultivations of Satan.
Ciel also knows why Sebastian had slipped the piece into his musical itinerary.
Sebastian's leer is as slicing and thin as the sickle-moon that rises beyond the window, the light of which reflects far-too-prettily off of the curve of his jaw-line and the glossed curtain of his locks. The beams shift as the crescent orb ascends; the glow bathes his extended hand in ethereal shades of watery indigo, dying his crimson fingers violet.
"I am very good at what I do, young master," the butler murmurs, in a voice that is not-quite a purr, not-quite a husk, not-quite a laugh. It is melodious and grating, like the cawing of hungry ravens. His eyes tell a similar story, watching his own fist unfold; something shiny glints within the cage of his claws, golden and rusted with blood. "I took the liberty to assume that you would want this back…?"
From the corner of his good eye, Ciel casts the ring a disgruntled glare. Then he returns to his papers with pursed lips and a delicately scrunched nose.
Sebastian swallows back an avian cackle. "Beg pardon," he smoothes, whipping a tissue from his pocket with a flick and a flair. "I am very good, but also very messy. How embarrassing," the servant continues in self-directed murmurs, speaking in tones of deceptive airiness as his pristine handkerchief turns spotty with the fluids of the dead. "To think that I would forget to wipe the grime off of his murdered wife's wedding band before presenting it to my young master… I am horrified by my own thoughtlessness."
"My my," Ciel retorts in a drawl, filing a thick folder of memos into a neatly labeled drawer. "Was that a quip, Sebastian? Or perhaps a subtle critique? I'd have hardly thought that you would be against this course of action. Would you rather I had shown mercy to the family who betrayed my parents and me?"
"'Mercy?'" the demon echoes, rolling the word on his tongue as if it were a displeasing foreign delicacy. The dark crow smiles—copper-scented finger pressing lightly against his mouth; the ominous chasm grows wider, deeper, sharper. "Heavens no. Why should you have shown mercy when the young mistress's relations showed you none? Why should you have shown compassion when they had always been so ruthless? Why should you have shown allegiance to familial ties, when they clearly cared not a whit for your shared ancestry?"
The young man snarls, only half-listening to the creature's whispered coos. "For the sake of the Queen's favor… out of a greed for money and a lust for power… to have killed your own brother…" Clenched fists tighten, tendons straining and squeezing and squeaking within the binds of leather gloves.
"It is not uncommon." Sebastian is breathing his answers, now; the only thing softer than his voice is his footfalls. His fingers. His silent exhalations as they sweep over Ciel's sensitive nape, teasing the fine hairs at the top of his spine. And when the earl shivers, he pretends that it is because of the icy, onyx-swathed arms that curl possessively around his middle, pulling him backwards and into the darkness. "For every Abel, there is a Cain."
The contractor hums. "And for every Tartini, there is a devil."
A grin. It presses against the base of Ciel's throat, predatory and pleased, and the ivory-smooth feel of saliva-slicked fangs helps to pull the gentlemen's attentions away from his compulsive organizing. "Some of the best opuses, my lord," Sebastian then informs, "are the ideas of one, but the work of another."
"A duet of the minds?"
"Of the souls, of course."
The younger of the two scoffs; his mismatched eyes wander (as if about to roll), but he is momentarily distracted by the newly-burnished loop of metal that Sebastian had left discarded atop the table. After a minute of blank-faced consideration, he lifts the simple ring upward: between two fingers, above his head, watching coolly as the starlight turns the golden band silver. "…you've known all along, haven't you," Ciel finally decrees— no, not "asks," not "says," but decrees, for there is no better word to describe the bland certainty, the detached authority in his voice. "About Aunt Francis. About the Middlefords."
Sebastian does not deny it. But then, there is little that Sebastian does deny. Instead, the teeth against Ciel's neck become infinitely more pronounced—unsheathed as amusement tugs upon the demon's lips— and a sympathetic tongue clicks tauntingly in the shorter one's ear. "My poor young master," the devil laments—though in a tone so saturated with sadness, there was no way that the emotion could be genuine. "Betrayed again. And by family, no less."
The petite contractor grunts, finally choosing to break away from the creature's wandering embrace. "I have come to expect it," he then returns dully, slotting the final of his discarded books onto a nearby shelf. What had begun as a higgledy-piggledy pile of papers is now a single sheet of violin music, unrolled and carefully flattened against the desk. And the teen's thin fingers trace its contours gingerly, not so much with regret as with admiration. "There is no such thing as 'loyalty' in this world."
The devil cocks his head, momentarily taken aback. "I am loyal, young master," he affirms, sweeping into a bow so low, so humble, that his slanting forehead brushes against the back of his right leg, and his left knee grinds into the frosted hardwood flooring of the study.
A hush. Ciel regards his servant with a sideways smirk, and in the expression one can see the demon's influence—its scythe-sharp edge, its wintery bite, its aura of humored condescendence. "…but you are not of this world, Sebastian," he intones, the words heavy and melodic—like the funeral bells of twilight, tolling over the moor. The sound is as solemn as the wuthering, and nearly as hypnotic. Poetic. Orchestral.
The earl can see the melody of the moment in his mind: written in black and white dots, like rounded chess tokens, skittering and scattering across the clefts of his brain. He can hear the once-muted staccato of his heartbeat as if it were the pounding of a bass drum, for the rest of the world has long-since faded to (nothingness) 'pianissimo;' the imminent crescendo of reality and nightmares threaten as Sebastian's black-molasses chuckles resonate in his tamer's ears, and the distant scream of memories become unspoken premonitions, and then slink into the shadowed recesses of Ciel's consciousness.
And the devil nods. "Indeed," he agrees. "I am not."
Ciel is the one who is smiling, now— fingering the discarded wedding band as if it were some kind of toy. Maybe it is, in his mind; a game, like the vows that receiving the ring had entailed. Worthless human poppycock… he flicks the tiny trinket over his half-turned shoulder, and is not surprised to see Sebastian deftly pull it from the air. The young man does not ask about the butler's fascination with the bauble; he knows, and has known since the day of his wedding, when the servant's casual comment (Marriage is just another form of contracting, don't you think?) left flames of realization burning in his chest.
The band disappears into Sebastian's breast pocket, along with the thin cloth that had cleaned it. And still he kneels, as if waiting for something to happen.
His master arches a single eyebrow, noticeably dubious. "Though I must say, Sebastian, that I am beginning to wonder about your loyalty," Ciel remarks, in a tone that almost mocks the demon. That audacity, that cheek; Sebastian lifts his head, devious eyes piercing the source of it.
"Sir?" he questions. But there is no question. Not really. There is only a looming leer, and twitching fingers, and creeping silhouettes as dusk gives way to nightfall, and the moon is swallowed by inky cotton clouds. The demon unfurls: stands at full height, with an added six inches for his pin-heeled boots. In the clinging gloom, red-washed leather glints glacial white, as reflective as the steel it imitates. There is the sound of rustling, unseen feathers, and even the gloves are no more.
The earl nearly heckles the dramatics; how dare his butler waste so much time. "I ordered you," he reminds curtly, twirling to face his companion head-on, "to kill every last member of the Middleford family." The briefest of pauses, which he stresses by way of a pointed, incredulous stare. "…you have forgotten one."
Sebastian's ruby gaze twinkles, fading from claret to burgundy as blood-lust slits his pupils. "No," he assures, in a sultry half-breath. Two noiseless steps, and he is torso-to-torso with his tiny tamer, dragging an ebony talon down the pallid expanse of his cheek. "I have not forgotten."
Such beautiful insanity.
"Then don't procrastinate," the young man snaps, eyeing his servant with his usual brand of precocious arrogance. Upon his gesticulating porcelain fingers, his own wedding band gleams like ruddy mercury—the symbol of his second covenant, and the end that Sebastian has always foreseen. Their pulses harmonize; the melody comes full-circle. "It's unbecoming."
Another masterpiece. The demon beams.
And when he whispers, "yes, my lord," Ciel's heart is already in his hand.