Disclaimer: How many times must I say "no" before you're satisfied?
Author's Note: The rhyme that Sebastian and Ciel reference in this story is a song called "Nature Boy." The entire song is practically perfect for the pair… But that's not the only reason for this fic's title.
Warnings: SebaCiel. My general brand of mind-effery. Inspired by the shores of Lake Superior, as well as everyone's favorite (crack?) reason for why season II exists, according to Sebastian. Please pardon any fail-editing. I did this all pretty late at night…
This story is about love…
Tea time is at eleven.
And accordingly, they find themselves in the other's company, carefully seated upon woven-wire benches beneath the wooden flower of the garden gazebo. As one, they sip their lukewarm beverages—Russian chai, spiced with clove and cinnamon, and sweetened with liberal dollops of vanilla-milk cream— as they lounge beneath the whitewashed eves of the trellis. Above their heads, interwoven vines dangle and dance and cast withering shadows; the unusual pair swallows their tepid tea in tandem, savoring the cloying sweetness that soon becomes tart on the tongue… An astringent bitterness that swiftly lays hostage to all five senses, despite the saccharine façade that the drink attempts to maintain.
It is reminiscent of their relationship, and it makes the pair smile.
"The weather is lovely at this time of day," the human drones conversationally, head tilted towards the forest. He stares unblinkingly over the dark, lush foliage, as if drinking in the misty view. "Don't you agree?"
The demon hums his assent, setting his china cup gingerly atop its Wedgewood saucer. Ebony tipped fingernails whisper over elegant pink plum petals, each blossom painstakingly applied, stained, and glossed upon the pieces of porcelain dishware. As a devil (who was once) a butler, he cannot help but appraise the objects, even if they are worth as little to him as the dirt that lies beyond the patio. "I took a liberty when assuming that this light would please you, young master," he murmurs, offering a reverential tip of the head. "I apologize for my presumptions, though I am happy to hear that you are satisfied, sir."
A vague grunt of dismissal is the only response that the creature receives. The boy's face remains locked upon the thriving woodland, multicolored eyes seemingly entranced. In the jewel-bright reflection of his vibrant irises, the devil can see the mirror image of the majestic pines, the delicate cypresses, and the gentle, alluring wave of the aspens—their silver-green leaves beaconing ever-forward, tempting others into the wilderness's ensnaring embrace.
The monster gracefully loops one leg over the other, hands folded neatly upon his lap. His second skin—an ethereal cloth of soundless black leather— glints as he shifts, temporarily highlighted by streaks of blinding white. He regards his companion with a gentle sort of smile, his vermillion-hued eyes as soft as blood-stained roses.
"Does something trouble you, young master?" the demon inquires, forever polite. The child continues to avoid the other's stare, preferring to keep his gaze locked upon the distant horizon. It is difficult to see through the trees, but if one squints, they can just make out the curve of the earth—water and sky blending to form a single, navy line. In the far distance, waves are plaintively pawing at the shore. "While I enjoy all of the time that I spend with you, our teatime talks tend to be more… engaging… than this."
There is the sound of a little boy snorting, his tone a mixture of amusement and derision. "We've already spoken of many things," he comments—alludes— as the demon stirs his cloudy tea with a tiny silver spoon. "Fools and kings…"
The demon purrs a lilting laugh—the sonorous sound harmonizing with the chime-soft tinkle of polished silver on glazed china. Clink, clink, clink; ha ha ha. "Shall we speak of love, then?" the former butler proposes, following the conversation's thread to its inevitable conclusion. He has, of course, heard the rhyme. (After all, as a servant of Phantomhive…) "It is the greatest thing I've ever learned, after all… whilst living amongst the humans in the realm above."
"'Love?'" The word feels foreign upon the earl's lightly pursed lips; perhaps that is why there is a note of caution in his adolescent voice— as if he were a curious cat, already aware of his unfortunate fate. But danger has never deterred him before, and despite himself he finds that his interest has been peaked. "What do you know of love?"
The demon regards his companion with an expression of vaguely masked surprise. He does not know? "I love you," he retorts bluntly, flatly, as if this declaration were the answer to everything. And perhaps it is.
The boy across from him, however, does not react to this assertion— neither positively or negatively. Nor does he turn to meet his tablemate's probing stare. Does his charge remain motionless out of surprise? Timidity? His own brand of coquettish delight? The child's eyes hold no answers, but he does not protest when the ex-butler moves to place his taloned fingers over his threadbare gloves, gently squeezing their intertwined hands.
Birds caw amidst the hush, hungry and loud. The earl wonders if they are seagulls or ravens, crows or vultures. (Nevermore…)
"…you think I am lying, don't you?"
The demon sighs when his tamer's stationary silence persists, and he shakes his beautiful head when his doleful exhalation transforms into an exasperated chuckle. "You know I do not lie, young master," he reminds, gently releasing the boy's frosted fist. Five free digits slide slowly outward, unfurling like an Easter lily—pallid, brittle, and sweet-smelling. His flesh feels faintly moist—clammy—as if coated in the stamen's sticky perfume. (He worries that the boy is catching a cold.) "Why do you refuse to believe me?"
The earl's response is brusque and immediate. "They say that if you love someone, you let them go," he informs impassively… though there is more than a hint of accusation hiding within the pulse of his voice.
It is an irritation that the devil interprets as humor. "'Let them go?'" he echoes, choking on an incredulous chortle. His back straightens in bewilderment upon sensing the boy's displeasure; nevertheless, he continues to find the idea preposterous. And why not? It makes little sense to the rational mind. "Do the humans find treasure in trash? How silly. Tell me, if a mother abandons her baby in the middle of a street, does that mean she loves him?" the creature demands, shoulders shivering as if with suppressed snickers. "If a pet owner kicks his whimpering dog to the curb, does that mean he cares? And if a butler leaves his master all alone…"
He trails off meaningfully, lifting his fragile cup to his smirking maw.
The child does not move. But for as still as his body remains, his voice trembles with a myriad of emotions—anger and distress and a frayed sort of desperateness… the sound of sanity being slowly worn away, chipped and crumbling like the water-beaten rocks that serve as the foundation for this isolated island. "…go," the earl whispers, and the devil can hear the tears in his voice—can feel them form, sting, and burn in the corners of his eyes, threatening to trickle down. "Just let me go."
The demon dabs the wetness away, grinning all the while. "No," he then retorts, disgustingly cheerful as he regards his immobile companion. "No, I shall not let you go. I shall never let you go—you are mine forever, little boy, to do with as I please."
As if to exemplify this, the monster stands—jarring pot, saucers, cups, table, chairs— and coils his arms around the petite nobleman, sneering at the boy's inability to resist his advances. Head lolls, arms flail, legs jostle; the devil plants an acidic kiss upon the base of the earl's paper-thin throat, as if in tender punishment. A serpentine tongue begins a steep, upward climb; the child's cranium rolls obligingly backwards, allowing his attacker access to his neck, ear, temple…
The verbal prod remains unheard, even as it tumbles from his lips. Said demon is too busy to listen, urgently lacing his clawed hands through the child's bone-thin fingers, his pale flesh chafing against antique hide gloves that flake and powder beneath prying palms.
His marble mouth tastes of ash and rose and putrid decay, fetid and clogged with clumps of purple muscle. All the same, his own mouth moves against it, muttering and murmuring and molding around the mold, nails biting into cobwebbed cheeks and raking through scraggly clumps of hoary hair. So passionate, so engaged, he somehow fails to notice when the child's wide eyes give a mighty roll…
The devil freezes. Pulls away. Notices the mismatched irises that gaze unseeingly up at him from the jagged granite floor, their once-rounded bottoms misshapen and seeping yellow pus. Cracked like eggs; from the center of the pale purple brand, now as distorted and deformed as the eye itself, a spindle-thin spider leg appears and flexes and begins to scrabble, as if trying to free itself from a cocoon.
"Sebastian," the boy says again—and this time, the monster does not attempt to regain control of their shared mouth. Instead, he stands beside the ancient corpse, stiff and still as the cadaver itself, and simply allows his lips to move. "You haven't left the Isle of the Dead in nearly three hundred years. You've consumed no souls—not even my own. You don't even have the power to keep my body from rotting anymore. You're killing yourself."
The creature does not reply. But around the child's skeletal body, midnight-swathed arms curl ever-more tightly, protectively— possessively. His butler does not realize the reason for his pleas… or, perhaps, does not wish to comprehend it. For while the little boy does not claim to understand anything about love, he does know that the sight of the weakening devil is more painful to him than one hundred stomach-popping bullets… one thousand deadly tumbles… one million agonizing drownings.
"Please…" he tries again, even as his host-body nuzzles all the closer to the rancid carcass. Within the hollow of his old cheekbones, the child (and former butler) can hear the ravenous squeal-squeak-squirm of writhing maggots, nibbling away at whatever decomposing meat remains. "Let me go."
But he already knows the answer. Knows it before he speaks, before he begs, before the devil bends to scoop two ruptured eyeballs off of the gravely ground.
"We shall have tea tomorrow, too," the demon decrees, calmly peeling pebbles from the sodden film of the deflated organs. From the center of the orb that bears the blasphemous lilac seal, the half-birthed spider thrashes its three-inch legs; the creature grabs it, plucks it, and tosses it without missing a beat. It whistles through the air with a shrill, chattering shriek. "Would the young master care to request a flavor?"
The boy does not answer. Understandable, really; it must be quite difficult to give proper consideration to the idea of future refreshment when one is busy watching their eyes being stuffed back into their skull. The resilient squelch of gelatinous fibers, the juicy groan of resistance that resonates from the ashen socket… Not only is it somewhat distracting, but it rather puts a stopper on one's appetite.
For courtesy's sake, the monster waits a moment more, tenderly readjusting his little lord's tattered funeral foppery. It leaves quite a bit to be desired, at this point: black velvet has faded to a festering fungus-gray; silver buttons gleam a tarnished shade of amber. What was once an expensive tailored suit has been reduced to a jacket with one sleeve and a set of hole-incrusted slacks. Mayhaps he should consider investing in some new clothes for the boy, as well… But first, the morrow's menu. "Young master? A preference?" he prompts, as if in reminder.
His (their) lips remain motionless.
"…very well," the monster announces when he hears no culinary suggestions. He gives the corpse's shoulders a final pat, then readjusts the putrefying body in its ornate chair. Arms flop, knee joints knock, heavy head sags— still-oozing eyes (as if weeping thick, oily tears) gaze forlornly at the surrounding scenery, just as they had before. "We shall have an orange blossom tea served with slices of lemon. I will have it procured immediately."
The earl does not object. The earl does not speak. The earl does not want to speak— for if he cannot talk sense into his companion, what point is there in talking at all? If only he could remain as silent as the departed were meant to be… but his (body, identity, mind) spirit is no longer his own; he is little more than the devil's toy, and he has no say over how he will be played with. He is a corpse, a doll, a puppet, a ghost… But he is still—still…—still whoever-he'd-been, and he can feel his heart breaking—both the corporeal one housed within his cadaver's half-exposed ribcage, and the metaphysical one that every human carries deep within their souls. Simultaneously shattering. Because he desperately loves something, and he wants—just as desperately— to let it go.
Their ivory mouth curves into a waxing-moon smile, widening as it brushes a chaste kiss against a dusty sapphire ring. In the band's intricate metal cradle, the cobalt-colored gem twinkles like the stars at sea... like his master's pretty eyes. Enchanting. Mesmerizing. A stone siren, luring its admirer to his untimely doom.
"I do love you, my lord."
It is too late.
From somewhere indiscernible in the hazy distance, the somber bells of midnight begin to toll.