Disclaimer: Usual disclaimer applies. (So: NO.)

Author's Note: I've kicked around writing this ficlet since… goodness, since finishing "Kagome, Kagome," but only seriously decided to pursue it after watching Angelskully's fantastic new video, "Kuroshitsuji: Evolution." (Mmm, yes, the world needs more demon!Ciel. XD)

Warnings: THIS WILL MAKE ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE REST OF THE "HIDE AND GO SEEK" SAGA. ("Contracts," "L'Homme aux gants blancs," "Secrets," "KakuRenBo," and "Kagome, Kagome." Particularly the latter two.) Like the disclaimer, the standard warnings of this series apply here, too.

XXX

Asphyxiation

XXX

She never asked for his name.

Of course, she never really asked for anything; the choking bite of the velvet bands and beaded chokers that she kept forever threaded around her throat served as a reminder of that— of the masked men who had tried to steal her breath, but succeeded only in taking her voice. As long as she wore her necklaces, she would never forget, never forgive, never even try to open her mouth and…

And so she never asked for his name.

And he, in turn, never gave it. What's in a name, after all? A devil by any other name would be as devious. The beautiful creature was content to exist without a title—other than that of his position, "butler," by which the other servants addressed him— and she had found that she had no trouble summoning him with even less than that. She fancied he could read her mind, he was so very attentive; she would simply half-think of what she wanted, and he, in turn, would grant her wish.

Every wish except one.

But then, he would hardly be a demon if he didn't bend their contract a little, would he?

X

She never gave him her name.

Yet, that did not stop him from knowing it. She had no idea how he had learnt it: her parents had been killed, her relatives were dead, she had no friends (nor other attendants) at the time of her rescue… but lo, even as he broke the rusting shackles that bound her bony ankles, he addressed her by the name of her great-great-great grandmother—the name that her mother had bequeathed upon her.

He must have been able to read her mind—must have known how badly she wanted to hear her own name, if only to show that she was still alive. To prove to herself that she still existed.

The monster had smiled—like the cat about to eat the canary, ivory-bright and Cheshire-wide. "It shall be a pleasure to serve you," he had purred, bowing as she stumbled and swayed upon her bruised-and-bleeding feet. "Lady Elizabeth."

She couldn't even cough in acknowledgment.

And he, oddly, looked pleased by this.

X

He didn't often use her name.

At times, she thought he might dislike it. She knew it was fairly common, as names went, and the devil didn't seem to take much pleasure in the mundane. But a name was an identity, and she simply couldn't bring herself to change her own. "Elizabeth" may be common, may be boring, may be her butler's least favorite name in all of history… but it was hers, as was he, and he would just have to deal with that.

Or so she told herself.

But sometimes, when she plucked up the courage to look at him— her thick lashes half-lowered, golden ringlets artfully mussed, fingertips splayed over developing curves in blatant invitation—she found herself wavering. Waffling and wondering when his only response was a curt grin before politely bowing himself out of the room.

She wasn't sure if she'd imagined it… but she thought she saw revulsion in his downcast eyes.

X

She often pondered over his name.

She doubted he was Satan himself; she suspected a devil of such caliber had far better things to do with his time than play-act the part of her butler. Lucifer and Beelzebub were rejected for the same reason. In her more imaginative hours she toyed with the idea of Mephistopheles, but from what she had read that demon and her own bore little resemblance.

Coiling a blonde curl around a bejeweled finger, she spent many a-long, winter hour studying demonology by candlelight, door locked and curtains lowered. But those were hardly barriers worth the time of a demon…

"You will not find me in such tomes, young mistress," the shadows one-day whispered, making the girl's heart leap and her arched back straighten. It was during such moments that she was glad she could not scream, however startled; the demon hardly needed another reason to wear that smug smirk of his. "I am afraid I have done little merit such… attention."

She blushed faintly, demurely embarrassed at having been caught by her subject of study, but he did not seem interested in teasing or mocking. Rather, the butler—suddenly full-formed and ever-so-close, warm breath tickling the finest hairs on the back of her neck— leaned over his tamer's delicate shoulder and perused the open pages of the book on her desk.

"But if my lineage interests you that much," he murmured, the words dancing sweetly from pert lips to pert ears, "I suppose I can tell you a secret."

A single gloved finger— lifted, lowered, like the twin arms that trapped her, stomach-first, against the study's mahogany table— fell upon a black-texted description, tapping it once. "He was my father."

Green eyes swept, pale flesh prickled. Malphas, the passage read.

Outside, the hungry crows cawed.

And she was alone.

X

She wanted to hear him say her name.

More than anything; more now than ever before. She wanted to know that he saw her, knew that she existed— recognized that she was more than a body to be cared for, a soul to be eaten. Because it scared her (or, more aptly, terrified her beyond all reason) that this creature who meant so much to her seemed to always be looking just-past her face—seeing something, someone, anything else.

She was 17, naked, and stunning: standing before him like Aphrodite, dappled in rose-scented bathwater that drizzled and dripped and dribbled down planes of china skin, falling like tepid teardrops into the gilded tub. Mutely, she offered him her body, just as she had offered him her soul: flaunted her breasts, cupped her hips, brought his hand to her moistened core and pressed against it—cheeks pinking and eyes desperate and lips parted in a silent, wordless plea…

And all the while, the devil kneeled before the bathtub, free fingers fisted around a washcloth and dark irises dull, reflecting the apathy born by his monotone voice:

"I did not love you then, Elizabeth," he quietly droned. "And I do not love you now."

A flinch, a twinge. She released his hand as if it'd burned her, and—ashamed—slowly lowered herself back into the water. The butler continued scrubbing her arm, acting as if nothing had happened. Much to her chagrin, she had never been quite as good at acting; averting her gaze, she curled her legs to her chest and desperately tried not to cry.

"…why are you so miserable?" the devil asked after a spell, his jovial lilt poisoned by the scathing disdain that lurked beneath the courteous veneer of his innocuous query, his pleasant demeanor, his obsequious facade. Like a bubble bath, she thought—pretty, soft, and white on the surface; cold, dirty, and black beneath. "I did as you wished. I said your name."

He touched her throat and leered.

It was then that she first realized what "cruelty" truly was.

X

What is your name?

Brow arched, the demon stared at the written question for a full minute before redirecting his bemused glance, finding his contractor. "Why does it matter?" he asked in return, setting a cup of apple blossom tea beside her morning scone. "You have never needed my name before."

Perhaps so, but the girl knew better, now—realized the power that names held over persons, places, things. A name was an identity, and once something had an identity, it could be controlled. Owned. Rejected. For ten years, now, the demon had known her name; she had given him the advantage, as well as the benefit of the doubt. How foolish she had been, how naïve— how stupid, to assume that the demon would ever see her as more than tomorrow's feast. How she hated him, herself, the deal they had struck—the way he was watching her, with eyes full of surprise and pointed mouth warped by growing amusement.

For the first time (since the day they'd met), the devil graced her with a genuine smile.

"…very well," he murmured amiably, palm pressed to his chest and eyes glinting like moonstones, opalescent and omnipotent. "My name is Sebastian, young mistress."

He glanced up at her— sapphire irises glittering through the curtain of his mussed silver bangs— and flashed the broken songbird a predatory leer. She swallowed harshly. And as she did so, she could feel the decorative band he'd woven around her throat tighten, cutting into her skin and windpipe and sanity; the silken fabric hissed in violent protest, as if singed by the unholy mark that it worked so hard to hide.

In that moment, she knew that 'Sebastian' was lying.

But Elizabeth could do nothing about it.

XXX