"How do you get into these situations?"
It's early morning, cold and smelly somewhere in a dark alley, everything black and red around them. Not a new situation – but unusual enough (organ trafficking and witches, or something similar) that Sebastian actually had a little trouble fixing things. He unfastens the chains around Ciel's wrists with an exasperated air, trying to ignore his master's pale, blood-drained face. The ankle cuffs come next, Sebastian cupping the left one in his palm while Ciel slips down against the wall, breathing heavily through painted lips. His knees are bare and trembling, and there's lipstick smeared on his cheeks, or some of it might be blood. Sebastian can't be sure without tasting it.
"I found them out, didn't I?"
"True." Though whether it was really necessary that Ciel do it – well, he's not going to complain. It must have cost them to subdue him. "You're wearing a dress," he points out, concern tinged with dark amusement. Black lace, taffeta. A silver sash made of satin, the whole ensemble exposing too much skin (he suspects it's not only because of the tatters). It's been years since he saw Ciel in a dress – or half out of one anyway – and despite his lack of a wig and the hard lines on his back, ladies' couture still suits him embarrassingly well. But Ciel is rubbing the make-up off his face, not listening, which makes Sebastian think that perhaps this isn't the best time to point out the obvious. Or enjoy the view. The stones beneath them are wet from rain and blood – there's an eyeball bobbing cheerfully in the nearest puddle, and something resembling a forefinger not too far away.
"You didn't have to -" Ciel wheezes, grumbles. "- leave a big mess like that."
"I didn't like how they were treating my master," Sebastian replies. The ash-colored light falls into his face, splitting the shadows around it. For an instant, he feels a twinge of irritation that manifests as a grimace, but he distracts himself by folding his mouth over the scraped skin of Ciel's ankle. The contact makes Ciel shut his eyes and shudder, the tremor like lightning through them both. Sebastian tries not to enjoy it too much, and pulls away. "Mmm, rust."
Ciel's frown twists into a wry smile, like it can't help itself.
Sebastian thinks that Ciel is always responsible for the trouble. "You have a natural predisposition to attract perverts," he tells him, matter-of-factly, after the third time Ciel had been kidnapped in the half-year Sebastian started working for him. (He told Ciel a little earlier that bodyguard, cook, and personal slave did not seem to be part of a butler's job description, and that perhaps he had better focus on things more appropriate to the title – for example, folding napkins, and serving wine with a flourish. Ciel had answered, coolly, "Well, you're versatile.") Ciel is ten, still recovering from the trauma, but the look in his eyes grows harder by the day. Sebastian's statement makes his forehead crinkle.
"I'm not joking," the demon continues – not that he is given to jokes, in the first place. "I can't pinpoint what it is exactly. Maybe your face. What do you do with your face? It's like people are compelled to take you away."
"And rape me?" Ciel growls (yaps, Sebastian thinks, like a vile little puppy). He obviously does not want to skirt around the matter.
Sebastian gives a helpful shrug. "I was merely stating my observation. You seem to be a – shall we call it – pervert-magnet. A most enticing candidate for kidnap."
"This isn't funny!"
Sebastian inclines his head. "No, I don't think it is."
"Then stop looking so amused."
He tries to arrange his face in some less offensive manner, knowing that his master will be displeased regardless. Ciel starts to pace around the floor, and somehow manages to look like he is posing for a photograph at every turn. Sebastian has to excuse himself ("I'll make tea then, young master, after which we may discuss this further,") to keep from snickering.
Maybe it's because he thinks like a vagrant, that he can't blame those kidnappers for doing what they do – can understand their motives, almost. He feels nearly sorry for them when he cracks their heads open. The Phantomhive boy is ridiculously attractive.
This fact doesn't change throughout the years. Neither does the number of perverts. Ciel continues to insist that it's about the company, or the Queen. Alternately, he calls it bad luck.
Ciel isn't proud of his athletic inability, and on occasion it does prove trying, like when they're attempting to catch a criminal. Rain is pouring down on Paris, the effect strangely theatrical as they race up the side steps of Notre Dame in pursuit of their latest target. "I'm not going in there," Sebastian mutters, trying his best to ignore the splitting headache he gets just being near the place. Ciel shoots back, "I'll take care of it," then promptly slips on the slick steps, a few paces short of the entrance. His chin bangs against the stone, so loud that Sebastian is surprised when he grabs his master and sees that it hasn't burst open. The boy's eyes are rolling back in his skull, his jaw horribly slack.
"Um." Sebastian suppresses a smirk of disdain. The door slams shut behind the criminal (someone had pulled it open for him, ushered him quickly inside, and Sebastian finds himself wondering whether it was an accomplice or simply a kind, stupid soul). Their footsteps echo, then fade. The demon decides that the capture isn't worth worsening his headache, and that he'll finish the job another day. Hopefully not in the proximity of a church.
Ciel's chin isn't broken, thankfully. Neither has the impact disfigured him, though it does leave an impressive purple bruise that invades his jaw, smarting every time he moves his mouth. The doctor bandages it, ties up the ends on his head like droopy rabbit ears. Belonging to a particularly violent rabbit, not used to eating mush and soup only (the effort of chewing might make the healing process slower).
The rain also gives Ciel a fever, so that he alternately throws off the blanket covers, then buries himself so deep in them that only the top of his head sticks out. Sebastian is thankful that Ciel can't talk much, otherwise he'd certainly be getting an earful. Ciel sweats buckets, the endless bowls of hot soup not helping ("Choc-late," he grizzles on the second day, and Sebastian feels so moved that he obediently melts a few sticks of cacao in a bowl of milk. It looks disgusting, but Ciel finishes it). In truth, Sebastian thinks the flush on his master's face is rather becoming, but keeps this opinion to himself.
It's a pleasant change from their hectic life back at the Phantomhive estate, sitting there with his finger skimming over his master's soaked brow. It's two days later when Ciel, resigned to the fact that he'll only be a burden if he tags along, gurgles at him to get the job done ("But next time, next time I'll really catch him myself.")
Sebastian complies, though a bit grudgingly. In his head he's already imagined all the broken dishes and spoiled meats they'll come home to. Finny wreaks more havoc than ever, after the past year saw him grow another five inches; Tanaka's laughter is a little heavier than it used to be; and Lady Elizabeth, now graceful, shapely, and deserving of the title, always insists on welcoming Ciel back home, a hug and a kiss waiting to happen.
The demon has always taken pride in his knowledge of humans: the way he can discern their speech better than most others of his kind, the way he understands how one clenched fist differs from the next. The way he can crawl into them and tear them from the inside out, never removing the smiles on their faces. The way his victims come to him willingly, on their knees, shivering until he lays hands on them.
This is the first time, he thinks, that his scholarly pursuits might actually...compromise him. Being Sebastian takes much longer than he expects, considering that there were times prior when he didn't even have use for a name. He has never worked so hard for the taste of someone's soul, but every time he catches himself wondering if it's worth it, the boy does something so utterly unexpected, so cruel and condescending and dangerous that he remembers why exactly he struck a deal with such a small, broken child, all those years ago. Ciel is different.
(Even the way he had demanded the contract: the altar crimson beneath him, his pale, clenched hands and that fierce burning in his face when he sat up, bleeding everywhere, and shouted "Kill them!"
His voice had pitched like a flute, the days without water wearing down the reeds in his throat. Sebastian remembers enjoying the flavour of it, the crisp way it hung in the air, suspended by hatred.)
It's not always the adventure he expected, though. When the househelp's ineptitude isn't making his head throb, the work is actually quite mild. Baking in the kitchen. Cleaning up the mansion. Berating the other servants, knowing it won't make a difference. Being charming to anyone Ciel receives in his home. And at night, running the bath, where the tub's edges are frequently stained with blood. Quietly taking off his master's clothes, folding them over. Laying out sleepwear. Dragging the curtains closed. Every sound Ciel makes in that dark room is amplified – when he clutches the pillow, when his foot slips two inches out of the blanket. There are evenings when Sebastian knows it's better to stay, and he spends those hours thinking of what tea to serve in the morning, listening to Ciel breathe.
He is melting sugar for caramel flan when Ciel clomps into the kitchen and stands there with his hands on his hips, spoiling for a fight. It's funny how he still can't shake off that manner of standing like an irritated girl, even if his voice has stopped cracking in the middle of arguments, and he has replaced all his shorts with trousers.
What is it this time turns smoothly into "Yes, do you need something?" when Sebastian acknowledges him, making a conscious effort at pleasantry (even if he's working). Ciel opens his mouth to say something, then shuts it. He stomps around to the cupboard and rummages in it for what Sebastian knows is nothing – an excuse to stay in this room with him, to let his puzzling frustration be known. (Sebastian hasn't tried to decipher it. Ciel is always upset one way or another – not that the demon cares – but this moody spell has lasted longer than most, and since Ciel has had to stay indoors for health reasons since their last scuffle, he's been particularly stormy.)
Suddenly Ciel is standing behind him, looking over his shoulder at the sugar turning to sludge in the pan. "What are you making?" His breath is hot against Sebastian's ear, like a stray flame from the stove, but the sensation is not wholly unpleasant.
Sebastian turns around to face Ciel, to tell him, imperiously, "Caramel flan," because the kitchen is no place for the master of the house, and is surprised to find that he doesn't have to look down too far anymore, to meet the human's eyes. Doesn't have to look down –
For a moment Ciel might have grabbed his apron, balled up his fists in it, asking desperately for something he isn't even sure he wants to have. But when Sebastian starts to pay better attention Ciel is already halfway across the room, walking out so quickly it's a wonder the floor doesn't blaze up behind him. By the time Sebastian returns to his work, the sugar is so stiff he has to make hard candies instead.
It isn't anything as pure and simple as wanting.
He knows this, and he thinks Ciel might know it, too.
Things become different, the moment Ciel allows things to be. Sebastian doesn't remember precisely when or how his master smashes that thin wall between them by pulling him in so that their faces are too close together. It's always something to do with the throat. Swallowing. Trembling. Or about the mouths, and that strange thing humans do with them, bumping them together then inhaling the air in each other's beings. Eating each other up. It's not too different.
He realizes afterwards that it was something he had thought about (craved?) often enough, but demons are notorious for desires, so he isn't too surprised. The understanding strikes him because of the expression on Ciel's face, like he's defeated and hating himself for it. But when is the boy not? (An afterthought – he can't actually be called a boy anymore. Maybe not even young master. Time blasts past them like badly-aimed bullets; they've been spinning in the same bubble for so, so long.)
But it was bound to happen, has always been, and that's when he starts thinking it isn't always funny when Ciel spits up a mouthful of blood, or gets his toes crushed. Or when someone touches him like that. Sebastian tries to stop it before it happens, but circumstance doesn't always let him. Of course, Ciel has his own ideas about how to protect himself, and has done so adequately in several occasions now. (Oddly enough, it isn't half as fun that way. But that's probably only him being sinister again.)
He wouldn't call it being protective, because that would imply something like, oh, tender feelings. Which he doesn't have. There must be a better word for it – that burning which rips through his gut faster than he can reign it in, when Ciel shuts his eyes and grits his teeth and imitates a tea-kettle, never giving his enemies the satisfaction of a scream. Sebastian tells himself he's being professional. He knows, without a doubt, that's what it was the first few years; but recently he feels almost too glad when his knife rips into the enemies' chests, the shouts in their mouths liquefying into scarlet.
That doesn't stop Ciel from scarring, though, and there's only so much Sebastian can do, no matter how good Ciel's gotten at defending himself, or he well he now handles medicines. (Things that run and smell and sting even when he's careful, Ciel's toes colliding with his knee sourly every time he applies antiseptic on a particularly deep cut.) Ciel already had many scars when they met, but the number has since swelled to countless: most of them only thin lines of white or pink, but some rough and brown, still ragged at the edges long after the stitches have been pulled out.
"You're being possessive," Ciel tells him, frankly, right after he's gotten his sodden boots off (they were knee-deep in the sewers only minutes ago – not perverts, but hired thugs this time. They took an equal number of them down, though only Ciel has the bruises to show for it). Sebastian's kissing him blind, but Ciel has grown used to their violent way of knocking mouths together by now. In fact, he takes all of their time together with a strange resignation (it was bound to happen, it really was), though now and then he cracks a smile that makes Sebastian feel particularly stupid he's enjoying doing this so much with a human. Demons aren't really partial to kissing, after all. It's almost too – sweet. Tame. Something along those lines. They're pressed against the headboard, Ciel nearly blue, because Sebastian never needs to come up for air.
"I don't like people playing with my – things," he finishes eloquently, distracted by the movement of lips against his collarbone.
"Your prey. Your food," Ciel shoots back, with wholly inappropriate humor. "Right?"
Sebastian laughs at that, but what he really wants to say is I don't like people playing with you, not with you, because you're mine.
"I'm the only one allowed to dress you up," Sebatian remarks, after he's helped Ciel out of the torn dress and made a great effort to administer the usual first-aid without touching too much. Lately his hands can't seem to help themselves. Lately he's been making up all sorts of excuses that haven't been working too well. All this contact colors his judgement, and no matter how injured, Ciel is still beautiful (it must be said, Sebastian thinks. It cannot be denied,) his limbs hopelessly fragile, his skin nearly translucent under the layers of dirt and blood.
Sebastian had carried him to the nearest inn ("I am not going to a hospital looking like this, you bastard!") and had asked for a single room (questionable glances of the innkeep notwithstanding), which now held the strange smell of blood, mint, and balm-oil. Ciel had demanded whatever alcohol was tucked away in 'this blasted place's cellar', which turned out to be a fairly impressive set of red wines. He's gulping down his second bottle already.
"Fuck you," Ciel answers, turning from weary to angry, one finger raised to condemn. The alcohol probably isn't helping. "You took too long in coming today, fuck you. You're starting to become incompetent."
Sebastian thinks that isn't a very clever thing to say - he's not the one naked and tipsy and sprawled on the bed with pink cheeks – but as a butler, he isn't in a position to disagree. He pats the young man's bandages into place and feels a tiny prick of irritation sprout inside him. Incompetence is a strong word against one's aesthetics, and Sebastian is not accustomed to hearing it. And what might the cause be – the trying senselessness of these charades? The hunger clawing up inside him, more and more every day, so that sometimes wounds actually – sting, a little? The fact that occasionally, the diversions seem more enticing than the end? The thought makes his lip curl, even as he recalls the sensation of Ciel's palms flat against his chest, his low mutter of "This doesn't change anything." (It doesn't – hard eyes, harder mouth, and Sebastian says, No, really.)
Who's fault is that? would only be another excuse. He wipes the crumbly make-up off Ciel's face with a damp towel, advises him that the third bottle had better be the last, and resists the urge to devour him on the spot. He's not going to fill up that hollow just yet.
Ciel apparently senses his unease, because he narrows his eyes and goes, "You're not...sick, or anything?"
The expression Sebastian shoots him is meant to suggest what a stupid idea that is. His triumph is less than savory when Ciel looks – almost relieved, instead of pissed like he should be. He cranes his neck up and seals the air between them, briefly, then thumps down and falls into an exhausted sleep. Sebastian rolls his eyes at this shamelessness, throws the covers under his master's chin and stares at the wall for a longer time than is productive.
His master holds no power over him.
When Ciel has his revenge (no matter what he calls it, that's what it is), Sebastian will disappear, and the demon that comes in his stead will take what is his and destroy it. Enjoy it – as slowly as he likes, for as long as he wants to, because he has earned it. Will have earned it, by then. (Has been earning it for years.)
So when he thinks about that moment – Ciel's eyes turning the color of dust, his wrist going slack in the false butler's hand while the demon holds it and waits for the soul to emerge, the idea of it enough to make everything inside him ache with anticipation – it isn't nice when Ciel's laugh suddenly cuts in. It's a bitter, sarcastic laugh, tired and faltering but blurted out anyway because they're lying next to each other with the sun coloring their skin in a way that feels fake. Sebastian, at the last moment he exists, won't miss that. He won't miss anything.
His master – not even, he thinks. Not exactly – is only human. There are no exceptions to that kind. And he's looking forward to it, and nothing hurts, except the endless waiting. The waiting has dulled everything inside him, warped the world and painted it in garishly bright colors.
"It didn't use to be like this," Ciel murmurs, but what he means is we didn't use to be like this.
"No," Sebastian agrees, and the back of his hand seems to go up in flames.
A/N: Old repost is old (this has been up on lj since last year), but I hope that you enjoyed regardless. Thanks for reading. Comments are always appreciated.