morituri te salutant.
Disclaimers: I do not own Kuroshitsuji.
Ratings/Warnings: T, for graphic/gory innuendos.
A/N: The beginning of a collection of Kuroshitsuji drabbles.
And when no one was looking, Ciel talked to the cat. And when no one was looking, he finally noticed the cat was missing an eye.
"Yes, my lord?"
"Is this a new cat?"
"...Yes, my lord."
"Where did you find it?"
"The other day, when we had lamb for dinner—I found him soliciting our back door for some food, so I gave him a piece of meat, and he's decided to stay."
"Ugh, well, of course he has—you fed him."
"Young master, don't pet him. Please, you're already congested enough as spring unfolds, I don't think you'd prefer to have more allergies—"
Ciel uttered a dainty sniff, reaching across the table in the garden to run his fingers through the fur of the new cat. What number was this, now? The fifth stray so far? And they all wandered about his garden like it was a zoo, and he was quite confident that Sebastian was not the only suspect in the mix. The gardener was far too easily distracted by little animals—he talked to the birds, he stood motionless for minutes upon minutes to see if butterflies would land on him, he forgot to water the flowers and trim the trees if there was a rabbit or a squirrel he could feed. And the maid was no better, being a woman and having a soft spot for cute things like that; and Tanaka was a man with a huge heart, as well. As it added up, it seemed that the cook was his only ally, but Ciel was sure Sebastian kept the cook far away from his strays.
Ciel propped his chin on his knuckles, free hand still threading through the fur at the top of the cat's skull, the place just between its ears. The cat sat comfortably on the edge of the table; it had jumped up as Sebastian poured the tea and settled down right there, like it had been invited. Its tail flicked off the edge of the table, and its eyes were hooded as Ciel's fingers stroked down its neck. Its fur was thick and long, framing its face like a lion—smoky gray with flecks of black here and there, a fluffy tail and silky ears. And it purred, so loudly. Ciel could feel the vibrations beneath his fingers.
"What did you name it?" he asked, leaning back in the iron-wrought garden chair and lifting his tea to his lips. The breeze was nice today, whispering through the trees and caressing the body. Not too warm and not too cold out, either. Perfect for tea in the garden.
"Gabriel," Sebastian murmured, and the dish in his hands clinked gently as he set it to the tabletop. Scones, with chips of chocolate and slivers of almonds. Ciel frowned, hooking his ankles were they swung above the cobbles of the garden patio.
"You didn't make any candied pecans?"
"No, young master. The pecans were nearly gone—"
"You should have gone to a different store, then." He huffed a gentle breath, licking tea from his lower lip and kindly swatting Sebastian's hands from around his plate. "It's fine. Don't worry about it. Gabriel, then, hnm?"
"Like the right-hand angel to God."
Sebastian chuckled, and when Ciel's gaze flickered up to examine his face, he found it curled in one of the butler's curious little smiles, intriguing and frightening and aggravating all at once. Secrets were worth nothing, after all. "Yes," Sebastian confirmed, and dabbed at the corner of Ciel's mouth with a napkin, brushing a few crumbs from his lips as the boy chewed.
The cat's tail flicked; its eyes fell completely shut and its fur shifted as the breeze slipped through it. In the silence of the afternoon, its purring was quite loud, and Ciel chewed thoughtfully as he relaxed into the chair, observing the cat on the table.
"He's made himself at home, it seems."
"I suppose he does seem like a good pet. And I'm not really sneezing, since he's downwind."
Sebastian hummed in response, reached forth and ran his fingers through the cat's fur in turn. Ciel watched, taking another bite of the almond scone. It was so strange, how Sebastian's disposition—no, his entire being—changed when he was loving on a cat. It was humorous, almost; unsettling and confusing, too. Was he, a demidevil, really that easy to persuade—
Across the garden, the doors to the kitchen flew open, shattering the peaceful hush in the garden—and following it, just more grinding on the ears, was the cook's voice:
"Mr. Sebastian, Maylene needs you in the vestibule, sir—"
Sebastian sighed, pulling his hand from the cat's neck. Ciel watched him through his lashes, licking a crumb off his fingertip. Oh, God, there was the need to sneeze. Damn.
"Pardon me, young master," Sebastian edged out, and if Ciel wasn't mistaken, the butler sounded exasperated. He watched him from the corner of his eye, tailcoats shifting along his legs as he hurried to the kitchen door and disappeared inside with the cook, such a lovely butler with all his idiosyncrasies and intricacies. His presence made life so much more fun than it should be.
Somewhere, a bird chirped.
Ciel's eyes flickered over to the big gray cat napping on the edge of the table. He swallowed, took a sip of tea, propped his elbows on the tabletop and swung his legs. "It looks like it's just you and I," he sighed, disappointed. The cat flicked its tail. The breeze tossed hair from Ciel's eyes. He laughed, nursing another delicate sip.
"I know I must be quite scary," he murmured, and grinned on the edge of his teacup. "But really, I would never harm an animal. I promise. They're helpless, and I think that harming something or someone that doesn't even know what's going on, or can't fight back, is disgraceful and abhorrent." He frowned, tapping a nail on the edge of the china. "Well, under given circumstances, I suppose. When it's not justified. So—" He jabbed a finger out, setting the teacup down and cupping his cheek in his palm. "—don't do anything to me that might make me want to harm you. Do you understand, Gabriel?"
The cat's ear twitched.
"I know, I know." Ciel sighed, lacing his fingers beneath his chin. "I apologize for making you have to deal with the butler. He's probably more frightening than me. Animals have a way of seeing through lies, don't they? Sensing things humans can't..."
On the breeze came the soft lilt of a little song, probably the gardener down by the stables, cleaning the horses. Ciel shifted, glancing about the garden patio, wondering if he was still alone. He took another bite of the almond scone, reached out and stroked a knuckle along the cat's ear.
"Come, now," he murmured, licking his lips. "I've only seen your profile so far. Look over here, kitty. Gabriel..." He clicked his tongue a few times, pursed his lips and called for the cat's attention, rubbing two fingers together. The cat's head lifted a bit, and Ciel lit up, running his fingers through the whiskers of the cat's fluffy face.
The cat's eyes rolled open and its tail flicked another time; its paws shifted and its ears twitched, and it turned its head to face Ciel where he craned over the tabletop. Its tongue slid out, rough and pink, licking its nose and maw.
Ciel's breath caught in his throat with a raspy little hitch, and he sat back heavily in his chair-practically threw himself there, almost knocked over his tea—and regarded the cat on the table in shock, sharp consternation. Heart pounding, skin prickling, eyes wide and lips pressed tight together as he felt the color drain from his face.
The cat licked its lips again, climbed up off its belly and sat down facing the boy, fluffy tail draping perfectly along its haunches. It purred, and Ciel couldn't bring himself to look away from the place the cat's right eye should have been, no matter how hard he tried. The eyeball had been gone for quite a long time, its place on the cat's face a sunken hole, gutted out and filled with fur where whatever wound had been there had healed. And somehow, Ciel hadn't noticed, because the cat had been sitting profile the whole time, sleeping. And somehow, it was discomfiting, and it made his stomach churn and his throat tighten. And—
And he could see it, he could see it in his head—Sebastian, somewhere, perhaps somewhere between the stables and the garden, where the forest liked to creep in on the edges of the estate. Sebastian, with his new stray, holding it as lovingly as he always did, petting and nuzzling and coddling, and then jabbing his thumb in the nook between the cat's eye and its nose, gouging out its right eye and severing the nerves and sinew with his long black nails. Perhaps—perhaps slurping the little eye down his throat like a delicacy, perhaps sucking the blood as it poured out and lapping it up off the cat's fur— But why, why would he, what kind of sick gesture was that, and how, and no, and—
"Young master, is everything alright?"
Ciel whipped around so fast it hurt his neck, eyes wide but only one focusing on the butler, a vicious, imploring desperation bleeding through the blue. "I-I—yes... Everything is—" He couldn't speak. His voice kept getting caught in the back of his throat, and Sebastian simply stood next to him, peering down in concern, brows risen and pretty face as innocent as could be. But there was a monster in there, a devil, and—
Sebastian glanced at the cat, then back to him, face blank but behind it, Ciel knew that Sebastian had deduced what had happened between the cat and the young master. He was smart enough. Ciel's hands trembled where they clutched the arms of the garden chair. He swallowed, brow knotting, unable to shake the sudden sick sensation of fear, of gore, of sadistic destruction and manipulation and fun, and Sebastian needed to stop smiling at him like that, all of a sudden.
"Young master, did the cat frighten you?"
"Sebastian, the cat is missing an eye."
Sebastian avoided the little hand that swung out to hit him with seemingly innocent ease, stepping to the side and out of range, gently taking the cat from the edge of the table and setting it down amongst the flowers. It stretched, before suddenly finding interest in a butterfly and leaping off through the bushes to chase it. And Ciel's lips were dry, and his heart fluttered beneath his throat, and he couldn't meet Sebastian's eyes, not while he was smiling like that, so he just gripped the edge of the table and wished he was digging his nails into Sebastian's skin, instead. Because, oh, the bastard—
"All the strays I pick up," Sebastian murmured, meeting Ciel's eyes from the side of the table, "I cherish in spite of what the world might see wrong with them."
Blood-clot eyes, cherry-wood or copper, staring with such weight in them—such indulgence, such depth, such subtle insinuation and promise. And that gleam in them, there because there was no smile on his mouth but there was in his eyes, and it was one of his indecipherable and intimate grins, and Ciel's cheeks flared as his fingertips touched the smooth surface of his eye patch and he turned his face away, glaring into the bushes where the cat had disappeared.
The underside of the little dish rattled against the table as Ciel pushed it forward, crumbs dancing on the edges of the plate. "How disgustingly romantic of you," he whispered, flicking his gaze over to meet Sebastian's once more, and this time Sebastian was, indeed, smiling again. Humble and sunny, warm and kind. The feet of the garden chair scraped against the cobbles as Ciel stood, and he let his shoulder bump into Sebastian's elbow as he brushed past, fingers twisting together.
"So sweet, I've lost my appetite," he announced, voice thin, and met Sebastian's eyes once more over his shoulder. Sebastian's smile darkened—not his obedient butler smile anymore, that aggravating act, but this time his real smile, incipient and curious. He nodded curtly, and Ciel did not shake his touch when his palm landed between his shoulders on their walk back to the manor.
stray intimations, end.