Prologue: The Butler, Perplexed

...When he's not in a frenzy...he's almost pleasant to be around.

This was the thought that played through his head and baffled him entirely. Such a gaudy person, so completely obsessed with excess; it was just the opposite of his own personality. The other was as impetuous and impatient as he was stoic and composed; their flair for the dramatic grated on his subtleties. However, he had seen firsthand just how merciless the object of his thoughts could be.

But that, as well, was nothing but impulsiveness...

It was difficult to reconcile himself to this change in thought, but it wouldn't go away. Somewhere along the line, he had begun to enjoy the day's events. The unpredictability had been welcome; he'd grown used to and bored of the carefully scheduled household he'd been part of for the past three years.

...It's made me lazy, as well...He thought, somewhat darkly. I've grown too comfortable here...then again, the largely menial tasks I've been put to haven't helped with that.

When he'd heard that morning what his day would entail-a detail that had truly only masked a mystery-it had struck within him a deeply seated dread and weariness. Resigned to being abused and mocked, he'd dutifully done as told, but he'd been far from enthusiastic.

Now, three days later, escorting his charge down one of London's dimly lit streets, he was almost hoping to be ambushed again.

It must have been some time away from him that I enjoyed, he thought, still trying to reason his way around having enjoyed the other's company. That must have been it; I enjoyed the time away from the little brat that I've been putting up with for this long.

Oh, it'll be worth it in the end. After all, it takes time to ensure everything's just as it should be...a welcome reprieve. That's all it was. I'm hoping it'll give me an excuse to be away from this spoiled child again.

He sighed to himself as they continued; the carriage wasn't far away now. Only a precious few more moments left in the window of opportunity.

Some other night, He thought, beginning to make a mental list of the things that needed to be done. When those three haven't destroyed everything...

Was he considering seeking him out? It could be risky; there was no guarantee that he'd show up. There were three he knew of in London who might respond; he knew for a fact the other two wouldn't exactly take kindly to him. More trouble than it was worth to try to draw him out, then; there would be other opportunities. Patience had always been one of his virtues.

He stepped in front of the child to open the carriage door as they reached it; however, instead of stepping aside as usual and allowing the younger to enter, he found himself able to do nothing but stare in shock.

There was someone in the carriage already, lounging comfortably in one of the seats. The head turned; a smile played across the lips; the figure spoke with an alluring wink.

"Have you missed me?