Author's Note: I MISS WRITING FANFICTION. SOBS.
In other news, this idea is very much Not New. It's been played with to death, really. But inspiration struck me, so I went with it.
Warnings: Crackish humor. Pre-SebaCiel, as paralleled by SebaSPG.
First of all, he was not pouting.
That was an important distinction to make— a pertinent fact that should be understood right from the get-go, because demons did not pout. That simply wasn't in their nature. Certainly no one in their right mind would label his current mood as happy, but even still, there was a difference. Sure, his auburn eyes were narrowed, and his bottom lip was sticking out ever-so-slightly, and he was fighting to keep his arms from crossing over his chest in a pouty-esque sort of way… but no. Even the most casual observer would recognize the distinction; his mood might be described as faintly irked, or politely put-off, or perhaps even (pissy) peeved… but the devil was not pouting.
He had long since decided that "the butler Sebastian Michaelis" would not stoop to such childish lows.
But that didn't mean he couldn't show displeasure in other ways.
"What an absolutely horrid brat this master is," the newly employed servant muttered under his breath, glowering dangerous at an innocuous butterfly that dared to flutter to close to his face. It wasn't the butterfly's fault, really; he was in the back garden, and as such was intruding upon the insect's home… but right now, he didn't care if a silly little bug considered him a bad guest. He had to vent somewhere (and at something) lest he accidentally strangle the ten-year-old he'd recently bound himself to. So he crouched beside the butterfly's white rose perch and grumbled: "I'd have hardly thought a month in captivity would erode away even the most basic of manners! There is no reason to hit a person who is simply trying to help you up the stairs… particularly when your depth-perception is non-existent! What a stupid chi—!"
It was at this point that Sebastian realized that the butterfly had wandered off, and he had been ranting to dew-kissed flower bud. Which, depending on who you asked, was even more embarrassing than simply talking to yourself. How very uncouth.
Clearing his throat and tugging upon his wrinkling garbs, Sebastian stood and subtly made sure that no one had been around to witness his momentary lapse of etiquette. (He was almost disappointed to find that he was alone; perhaps killing someone would help ease his stress. But there was no one even relatively nearby.) With a related sigh, the demon spun 'round, intending to traipse bitterly back to the unpleasant prison known as Phantomhive Manor— but was distracted when his path was crossed by a streak of black.
He paused. So did the streak— freezing as if in abject fear. And as it bore its pin needle teeth, Sebastian gave the animal a vague once-over. A cat, he believed he'd heard the mammals called: a four legged creature of a diminutive size, with a slender back that was currently arched in alarm. It met Sebastian's gaze, staring at the devil before it with wide, luminescent eyes.
"…what do you want, you mangy thing?" the butler droned, mood nearly as dark as the kitten's matted fur. It was an ugly creature, and thoroughly ruined the ascetics of the garden with its odor and bur-ensnared coat. The cat's response was an acerbic hiss, features contorting in an expression of disgust and fear that the demon was highly accustomed to, at this point. How ironic; he'd have thought he'd managed to escape such looks after leaving the house.
Perfect pearl teeth grit, hardening the line of his angled jaw.
"And what right do you have to judge?" Sebastian asked with a taut, cantarella-sweet smile. Still, the poison was palpable just beneath the gloss of his words; waxing irritation and mounting frustration soon fused together to create an entirely new emotion: irrational anger. But he refused to succumb to irrationality, just as he refused to succumb to pouting. And so Sebastian hid his fury behind his calm, unflappable mask, just as he was wont to do in the presence of his young master. "Come now, little one. It is time for you to leave. These grounds are not large enough for two bad-mannered animals to remain lurking on the premises."
Thus, with a muted growl, the devil reached out to pluck the baby cat from the graveled path— but was instead startled by a flash of claws, flinching involuntarily backwards when the cat spat in horror and bolted as far from the demon as it could.
The butler was left blinking, resentment forgotten in the wake of confusion. "…perhaps I moved too quickly?" he murmured to himself, pondering his previous actions as he stared at a white gloved palm.
It was then that a thought occurred to him.
"Mortals truly are weak-willed animals, aren't they?" Sebastian mused as he flipped through a leather-bound tome, the gold filament that made up its title ("Human Psychology") flashing in the midday sun. He turned the thick parchment pages with deft flicks of his wrist, intelligent eyes glittering as he committed the book's information to memory. Four steps down the marble staircase upon which the butler currently lounged, the dirty kitten watched the demon in a suspicious sort of way, a moment from bolting but too curious to leave. "Still, animals they are. Like you, little one. And they are just as prone to illogical reactions when they are frightened or feel bodily threatened. How silly of me to overlook the actions of the young master's kidnappers; pathetic though it may be, the fact remains that he is no longer used to benign embraces. Neither are you, it appears."
Sebastian flashed the baby cat a closed-lip grin, gingerly closing the hefty volume and placing it carefully beside him on the patio. The kitten shuffled instinctively backwards, scared by the sound.
"After our encounter yesterday, I realized that the suddenness of my touches may have been catching the young master off guard, and reminding him of unpleasant things. A feral reaction, just like the one you expressed," the devil explained to the loitering animal, whose knotted muscles were gradually relaxing— a reaction to the forced diffusion of the malignant aura previously surrounding the man-shaped monster. It was a change in disposition that did not escape Sebastian's notice. "Ah, see? Any beast can be domesticated, with the proper amount of patience…"
He reached out his hand, unhurried and steady, and held it level to where the kitten's nose would be, were it just a yard nearer. And then he waited, hardly breathing, exuding nothing but tranquil serenity, as the nervous creature tip-toed hesitantly closer, sniff-sniff-sniffing the air and the ground and, eventually, the demon's longest finger.
Its tail snapped upward; its petite claws extended.
And then it ran, leaping into the nearest collection of bushes with a violent rustling of leaves.
But Sebastian wasn't discouraged. In fact, he found the exchange quite heartening—he hadn't expected the cat to come so close, so fast. It might take a day or two; a week, perhaps a month… but soon that little one would be comfortable enough to let him touch its fragile head, its delicate back, its coiling tail. Maybe only for an instant, maybe with eyes full of obvious reluctance, but without the hostility and aggression that fear inevitably brought out of the weak.
Slowly. He simply had to take things slowly.
Hunger had the power to sour any creature's temperament; Sebastian knew that first-hand. He also understood the pains of the picky, and while it made his job more difficult, he supposed it would be unfair to call the kettle black, at this point.
"It is not to your taste, either?" the butler sighed, crouching a foot or two behind a tiny saucer of the previous' night's supper: mashed squash and roasted duck, served with a side of wild rice and coin-shaped carrots. The growing kitten currently snuffling around the plate had taken a tiny nibble of meat into its mouth, made a disturbing hacking sound, then immediately skittered away from the food, refusing to touch so much as another bite. It was not an unfamiliar scenario… though the retching had been new. "I do not suppose you could tell me why, could you?"
The young cat began preening its muddy paw, as if the scum between its toes made for a better meal. Sebastian's smile remained, but one of his elegant eyebrows had begun to twitch.
"Very well, then," the butler ground out, though not without his usual graciousness. "Well, let's try something new, then, shall we? It occurred to me the other day that I have been too retrospective in the realm of the menu; perhaps being preemptive would help these matters."
From the step above, Sebastian procured a second china dish, upon which powdered sugar perfection currently sat. The butler had never before tried his hand at human sweets, but cream puffs had seemed easy enough. Indeed, after only an hour of lackadaisical experimenting in the kitchen, he had produced a buttery pastry overflowing with sweet cream and drizzled in chocolate sauce, so perfectly pretty that any French patisserie would writhe with jealousy upon seeing it. And while it did not appeal to his personal tastes, Sebastian thought it looked appetizing enough.
And the cat, it seemed, thought the same.
"I have been debating over whether or not to feed the young master sweets with his tea," the butler told the animal, watching with amusement as it began creeping closer, intrigued by this new fare. "I have heard that such dishes are higher in calories, which the young master is in desperate need of. But what think you, little one? Do you and your selective palate deem this treat worthy of tasting?"
The response he received was a desperate, plaintive meow. And the whining continued (though the cat was careful to keep a few inches between their bodies) as it meandered in yearning circles, gaze locked on the cream that it very obviously wanted.
Sebastian set the plate beside him and then—when the cat released a louder, wholly demanding yowl— moved a compliant step backward.
"My, my," he murmured as the kitten attacked the puff, lapping at the cream and chocolate and milky byproducts of the half-melted sweet as if it had never been fed before. "That is quite an informative reaction. I wonder if my lord will lose himself to the pleasures of such a dessert, as well…?"
So distracted was he by these half-formed curiosities, Sebastian failed to notice when the tiny grin he wore began to look suspiciously genuine.
"Come, you are being ridiculous."
The little cat scowled— well, scowled as best as a cat could— as Sebastian made to step forward, and the grubby animal instinctively took a step back. It wasn't sure what was inside of the bubbly tin basin that sat at the demon's feet, but it was certain that it wouldn't like it.
"You are utterly filthy," Sebastian reasoned, crouching low and moving to scoop the creature into its arms. "Once clean and rid of burs, you will be far more comfortable. Trust me."
But perhaps that was the problem—the cat (much like another undersized mammal living upon these grounds) didn't yet trust Sebastian. Not fully, anyway. (And wisely so.) However, in this case, the butler had little idea how best to broach the activity in a way that would make either charge comfortable. Whether the cat (or his master) liked it, baths were a necessity. Unpleasant though the prospect sounded, this may be one instance where he'd simply have to persevere through the scratches and screams: persist until this currently-upsetting habit became as mundane as everything else.
"In you go," the devil intoned, and with a soapy splash the black-furred animal disappeared beneath the suds.
It'd be thankful for it later.
Pride was an annoying, persistent thing, and so easily mutated into anger. But even the most stubborn of creatures couldn't stay mad forever. At least, not over being properly washed.
"Well, hello, there," Sebastian greeted, sounding faintly surprised when a slouched (but glossy-coated) cat quietly pawed into the garden, silent and sullen but obviously looking for attention. "It has been a while. Have you deigned me again worth gracing with your presence, little one?"
The cat, in turn, looked expectantly up at the butler, release a questioning "meow" when it didn't see its standard dish of cream.
"Ah. You'd rather pretend we never fought?"
Another mewl, more insistent. And it must have been quite hungry, for as it whined it began to twirl restlessly around the devil's legs— tail brushing against dark fabric, coming closer than it ever had before.
Sebastian chuckled, regarding the creature with a smirk and a tap of his chin. "Funny, this is the second time I've had this conversation in the span of two hours."
Cats, Sebastian soon learned, were viciously playful, and playfully vicious. They were schemers and tacticians, unashamed of conspiring against you even as they fed from your palm. And in the black cat's golden eyes, the devil often saw a familiar spark of intelligence—a sadistic delight in the destruction it knew it could cause, even with the few assets it had at its disposal.
"I bought the young master a board game, today," the butler told his furry companion, sitting beside it on the marble stoop as he reached into his pocket. "He thoroughly enjoyed playing it with his most recent guest. He especially liked it when said guest 'lost her legs.'"
As per usual, the cat didn't really listen—instead, paid closer attention to whatever it was the monster was about to bequeath upon it. It was not disappointed in the ball of string that soon appeared.
"It was your idea, you know," Sebastian continued, unrolling an inch or two of the deep navy yarn and dangling it tauntingly before the animal, watching as it quickly became mesmerized by the cheeky piece of string. "You take such pleasure in destroying all that you can sink your fangs into; I thought my young master might enjoy the same. And so, to thank you, I've brought you this present."
He tossed the twine orb, and immediately the cat forgot the demon existed. But Sebastian didn't mind. Rather, he took great pleasure in watching others' plots unfurl, and delighted in cruelly executed plans. And indeed, the cat's claws had soon shredded the cotton sphere, leaving nothing but a pile of beautifully eviscerated threads that glistened like innards in the cheerful afternoon sun.
It reminded the devil of the aftermath of a certain summoning.
"See, now? What did I tell you about baths?"
The cat made a sound that wasn't quite a meow, but wasn't exactly a hiss, either. It was more like a begrudging growl, half-annoyed but decidedly submissive as Sebastian lifted it from the metal basin and toweled down its soggy coat. As he did so, he noticed a stubborn thistle, and swiftly plucked it out. Business as usual.
But then, to his own surprise, he felt his fingers linger…
"You do have lovely pelt, you know," he complimented after a moment, running ungloved digits gingerly through waves of still-moist fur. Readjusting his hold on the creature, the butler allowed his hand to slide from the cat's head to its tail, slipping down its back as if a fleshy sort of comb.
And the cat, in response, released a satisfied purr.
"Oh? Do you like that?" Sebastian questioned, sounding faintly surprised. He made the motion again, and was rewarded by a reprise of the sound, only louder and warmer. The malleable body in his arms snuggled closer, so that the butler could feel its fragile chest vibrating as the blissful noise continued. How intriguing.
"So gentle, repetitive gestures in the area of the follicles creates an agreeable sensation?" the devil paraphrased, considering the implications of this. As if to double-check his hypothesis, he continued his petting motion… and indeed, the cat seemed appeased. More than this— to his own astonishment— Sebastian discovered that he found the sensation rather agreeable, himself. The soothing rhythm, the silken touch, the intimacy and trust; contact between two bodies was not something he was unfamiliar with, but he had never known it could be so… innocent.
His eyes widened slightly as the cat placed its bitty paws against his chest, using the leverage gained to rub its face against the butler's chin.
"…soft," Sebastian heard himself whisper, and the delight in his voice rather startled him. And in that moment, when his brain was already working against whatever common sense he'd thought he possessed, the butler found himself wondering if his master's cheek was just as soft— if his body would mold as willingly into his own— if he would be as happy to be touched by the demon, and if he would make similar, contented little noises as naked fingers ran through his hair...
It was a question that Sebastian didn't currently have an answer to, but he promised himself that he'd find. Someday…
But for now…
"Ah… so soft."
"What is it that you do in the back garden every afternoon?"
Sebastian had learned enough "humanity" to know when to act taken aback: when to straighten ever-so-slightly, as if whatever had shocked him had become electricity that raced down his spine. (That said, he half-wondered if he'd have had the same reaction, regardless, even if he hadn't been attempting to maintain this mortal façade. It seemed likely, he had to admit.) "I beg your pardon, young master," the butler murmured, inclining his head as he helped the delicate 10-year-old out of his bath. "I did not realize my brief absences had merited your notice… I hope I have not inconvenienced you?"
"I never said you were in trouble," Ciel grumbled, holding perfectly still as Sebastian—with steady, obvious movements, careful not to move too quickly or stray from routine— pat clinging beads of bathwater from his master's bare, half-healed body. "You act as if you want me to yell at you."
"We are all most comfortable with the familiar," Sebastian returned blithely, and didn't bother hiding his smirk when his little lord huffed.
"You're twisted," the boy then muttered, though he seemed to be speaking more to himself than to his servant. Still, when he continued, he was again addressing his butler. "And you're avoiding my question."
"Not avoiding," Sebastian corrected, straightening from his crouch when he'd decided that the child was sufficiently dry. With a grand sweep of his arms, he cloaked the earl in his velveteen bathrobe, gingerly synching its sash. "I simply have not yet answered your query."
Currently bent low, and thus, on the same eyelevel as his master, Sebastian had no trouble catching the wry glance that Ciel shot him. But the boy would not give the demon the satisfaction of a verbal response; that would be yet another excuse to keep from acknowledging his original question.
Such a smart lad he was.
The devil beamed, palm splayed across his chest as he bowed Ciel out of the bathroom. "I have been keeping a pet cat, my lord," he then confessed, trailing behind his master as said master tromped into the bedroom. This admission was met with a derisive snort, and exemplified by the boy's body language: arms crossed and nostrils flared as he flopped atop his bed, regal legs looped in a disparaging sort of way.
Sebastian arched his brow. "Do you not approve?" he ventured knowingly, gathering the boy's nightdress from the adjacent wardrobe. He flattened the fine silk with his fingers after placing it beside the earl; the coverlet now partially-hidden, he again turned his attention to the task of undressing his master.
Ciel's upper lip curled. "I'm highly allergic to cats," he announced, foot bouncing impatiently as Sebastian stripped him of his robe and instead pulled the gown over his head, further rumpling his moonstone locks. "They make me sneeze. I hate them."
What a whiney little creature this new master was.
The devil smiled.
"I am sorry to hear that," Sebastian professed, voice strangely gentle as he straightened Ciel's collar and smoothed down his shoulders, voice colored by a newly discovered appreciation. "I am… quite fond of cats, myself."
The boy's single eye narrowed, guarded and shrewd. "…what is it that you are trying to say, exactly?" he charily inquired, batting the demon's hands away as his expression collapsed into a wary glower. A lesser man would have found a threat in such a glare—would have faltered and changed his attitude. But the monster's grin remained, and it was all the explanation Ciel was given.
"Now then, young master," Sebastian chirped in way of transition, eagerly pulling a comb from one of his many secret pockets. "Allow me to do something about that rat's nest of yours. It seems to me that you have a difficult time brushing it by yourself."
…that was new.
The ten-year-old figured he should probably find suspicion in such a random inclusion to their set daily schedule—not to mention the butler's unnecessary enthusiasm for the proposed chore—, but for the life of him, Ciel couldn't pinpoint a specific reason why. Such a lowly task was quite suitable for a servant of Sebastian's status… and there was nothing innately weird or terrorizing about having one's hair combed by another. Thus, not wanting to be ridiculed for paranoia (after all, fear was for the weak), the Earl succumbed to the inevitable: nodded curtly and gave the demon permission to do things his way.
And when (fifteen minutes later) the merry butler breathed a reverential "ah… soft," Ciel was so comfortably content that he didn't really hear it. Nor did he hear the response that fell from his own lips: a sated half-moan that resembled a satisfied purr.