A/N: So. You guys remember the Harmony/Inferno setup, right? The last time I used it was Chapter 20. Two different ways to take the same idea. It's not really happy and sad endings this time; it's more like tragic and less-tragic. I decided to write both. "Happy" ending first, so if you want to stop after that, feel free. The Inferno ending goes against how I normally think soul-eating demons feed, but after last weekend, I needed to write some pain and suffering. :(
Summary: "You are the one who made a deal with me, Lord Phantomhive. And now there is payment owed."
Payment (Harmony and Inferno)
Ciel was having a wonderful birthday. His mother and father had taken him into London to get sweets from his favorite shop, as well as picking up a cake for after dinner that night. They celebrated with many of the servants who had been with the family the longest, those who were practically family themselves. Tanaka, Ciel's nanny, the head maid and gardener, the chef and his assistants… When no one was visiting, Vincent and Rachel relaxed their usual formality.
But one thing was bothering the ten-year-old, and that was how unusually attentive his parents were being. They had been by his side all day, since his mother had awoken him with a happy smile and a plate of his favorite pastries. They'd been spoiling him rotten. More so than usual. Not that he minded, because he adored his parents, but he did notice that it was a bit strange.
Dinner was an elaborate affair, with all of Ciel's favorite dishes, topped off by the crème cake they had bought in London as well as a magnificent multi-tiered chocolate cake prepared by the chef. He was showered in fine gifts and wishes for his continued health, and was allowed to have as much cake as he wanted.
"Ciel, come sit with your father and I in the drawing room. We'll read you a story." Rachel promised when dinner was over. With an eager smile, Ciel scrambled down from his chair at the table.
"Can I sleep with you and Papa tonight?" he asked, beaming.
His parents exchanged a glance, and Vincent nodded. "That can be arranged, Ciel. Come along, now. We just want to spend the evening with you."
"Let me go get my rabbit, and I'll be right there, Papa!" Ciel chimed, running off in the direction of the stairs to retrieve his stuffed toy. His parents considered stopping him for just a brief moment, but the day wasn't over yet. He would be fine out of their sight for only a few minutes. They had done their best to be around him all day, unwilling to risk the demon snatching him away without their knowledge. But there was still time left, and if that creature wanted him, it would have to go through them first.
Ciel hurried into his room, snatching his rabbit where it sat on top of his neatly made bed. When he turned around to head back downstairs, there was a tall figure standing illuminated by the faint light from the candles. Ciel blinked at him for a moment, recognizing the leather and feathers from a memory of a year or so prior.
"You're the magic man." the child said, tilting his head curiously. "I remember you, from when I got lost in the woods. You haven't come to visit since."
The man smiled. "Your mother asked me to stay away until tonight. But now I may speak to you as I please." He smiled, kneeling down to be eye-level with the child. "It is a pleasure to get to know you, Ciel Phantomhive."
Shyly, Ciel squeezed the rabbit, lifting it enough to cover half his face. "What's your name?"
"You may call me Sebastian." the man said calmly. "May I speak to your parents, little one?"
"They're down in the drawing room." Ciel watched in awe as the man once again shifted his appearance to the neat uniform of a butler. Clutching his rabbit, he led Sebastian downstairs. The servants were retiring to bed, and they met no one on the way to the drawing room. When he pushed open the door, his parents smiled when they saw him, only for the expressions to falter immediately when Sebastian stepped in behind him.
"Ciel, come here, darling." his mother said quickly, reaching out for him. He walked over to her, looking up in confusion as she pushed him behind her.
"Mama, that's Sebastian." Ciel explained, worried that she was angry with him. But his parents were glaring at the man still standing by the door, who had yet to speak. But his eyes were glinting, darting between his prize and those who would be unwilling to surrender it.
"Hello, Lord and Lady Phantomhive." he said, bowing slightly. "I have come for what I am owed. I would ask that you acknowledge our bargain without much fuss. You have had ten years to prepare, after all."
"Demon." Vincent snarled. "You are not taking my child."
Sebastian sighed. "You are the one who made a deal with me, Lord Phantomhive. And now there is payment owed." He flicked a finger, and both Lord and Lady were flung back onto the couches, held there by the demon's power. Ciel watched with wide eyes as Sebastian came forward, a white-gloved hand ruffling his hair lightly. "You are to come with me now, little one." He glanced at Ciel's parents, observing Vincent's struggles and Rachel's crying for a moment before returning his attention to Ciel. "Your parents needn't fear. You will be well looked-after. And perhaps one day you will see them again."
"What?!" Rachel cried. "What do you mean, one day?"
"My lady, you forfeited any right to see him in exchange for ten uninterrupted years." Sebastian replied with a small smirk. "I have let you have him for so long. Now I shall take what is mine." He smiled at the child, continuing, "Ciel, will you come with me?"
Ciel took a tiny step back. "I-I won't get to see Mama and Papa anymore?" He sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
Sebastian gently placed his hands over Ciel's ears before turning to Vincent and Rachel. "He cannot hear us now. It is your choice, my Lord, my Lady. He can come with me, and I shall raise him to be the ultimate soul. He will want for nothing. Or, I can take my payment another way, and kill him before your eyes. Choose."
Rachel let out a helpless sob. "H-He will be safe with you? He will live a good life?"
"Yes, my Lady." Sebastian replied. "I shall give him the best life I am able to."
Vincent glanced at his wife, and Rachel wiped her eyes. "Then please… Please don't kill him. Not my darling child."
The demon smiled, removing his hands from Ciel's ears. With a simple gesture, the boy's parents were able to stand again. Rachel went immediately to Ciel, wrapping him tightly in her arms. "Oh, Ciel… Darling, you're going to live with Sebastian now. But he's… he's going to take good care of you. And you will see us again, I promise, sweetheart."
"Be brave, Ciel." Vincent said, giving his son a hug as well. He didn't like this, but if their only alternative was Ciel's death, they had no choice.
Ciel's big blue eyes were watery. "Papa… Mama…" he sniffled sadly.
"We love you, Ciel. More than anything else. Don't ever forget that." Rachel murmured, kissing his forehead and straightening his small jacket. "We love you so much…"
"I love you too, Mama." Ciel said in a small voice. Rachel stood, taking a step back, and Ciel's attention was drawn back to Sebastian as the tall man scooped him up. His hold was gentle, unthreatening, and he bowed politely to Ciel's parents, saying, "Thank you, my Lord, my Lady. He will grow to be a child you can be proud of. I do not lie."
Neither parent spoke, watching in despair as the demon turned and walked away, their only son held in his arms. Neither could stop the nagging fear that they felt, that the demon was lying, that they'd just surrendered their son to hellfire and torment. But there was nothing they could do.
Two years later, Vincent was attacked while in London. He wasn't able to see who did it, but the Phantomhive family had many enemies because of both the success of the Funtom Company and Vincent's work for the queen. The carriage driver was able to get him home, but the family doctor couldn't help him. He was dying.
Late that night, as Rachel sat by his bedside, she became aware of a presence in the room. She gasped softly as Sebastian stepped out of the shadows, bowing politely. "Good evening, my Lady."
"What do you want?" Rachel snapped, clinging to her husband's hand. "Come to watch me lose something else?"
Sebastian shook his head. "Do you wish to see Ciel?"
Rachel stared at him, hope filling her eyes. "More than anything."
"Knowing that the price I will take for this is your life?" Sebastian asked.
She hesitated, glancing at her husband, who would be dead in a few hours, and nodded slowly. It would be worth it to see Ciel one last time. And then, she could meet Vincent again in Heaven.
Sebastian disappeared for a few minutes, returning through the door this time, with Ciel close behind him. Rachel reached for him, and the child practically ran into her arms, settling into the familiar embrace. Sebastian watched with apathy as she spoke to him, asking how he had been and what Sebastian was like. He watched as Vincent awoke, staying conscious just long enough to see his son, and pass on the family ring and the title of Earl of Phantomhive. And when Vincent Phantomhive's life finally ended, he watched Rachel urge Ciel out of the room, giving him a hug and a kiss and telling him to go rest.
When the child was out of earshot, Sebastian stepped forward again. "Are you ready?"
"Yes." Her eyes were resolute. "Take care of Ciel."
He chuckled. "I fully intend to." He approached her, with the slow gait of a predator, until all she knew was black.
And then nothing at all.
"My father was murdered." Ciel said quietly, his gaze sad, when Sebastian found him in the conservatory. The moonlight bathed everything in an unreal glow, lending Ciel an icy sort of beauty. "Is there any way I can stay here with my mother, and search for the ones who killed him?"
Sebastian hesitated. Rachel hadn't specified what to tell Ciel with regards to her death, but he didn't think that the child would be pleased to learn that she'd died to see him. He settled for a half-truth, saying quietly, "Your mother has followed your father into the next life. She could not bear to be without both of you."
Ciel's eyes widened, filling with tears. "M-Mama…" Sebastian often forgot that he was still only twelve years old. He'd grown up so much in the two years he had been with the demon, it was sometimes a shock to remember he was only a child. Ciel wiped his eyes furiously, managing to mumble, "Sebastian?"
"Yes?" the demon asked curiously.
"Help me, please. Help me find the people who killed my father. Whoever wanted him dead." Ciel almost begged. "You're a demon, right? Do this for me, and you can have my soul. That's what you want, right?"
Sebastian blinked in surprise, before a smirk curled his features. "If that is what you wish, little Earl." He knelt, hand over his heart, head bowed. What a stroke of luck, for the child to offer his soul of his own volition. He had agreed to aid Vincent Phantomhive on a whim, chosen the child as a prize out of boredom, knowing he could at least mold him into a decent meal. It was a challenge, something he had never done before, but it was turning out far better than he expected. Revenge would season this soul into something positively delicious.
A meal well worth waiting for.
The sky was covered in a gloomy blanket of grey clouds, lending an oppressing feeling to Ciel Phantomhive's tenth birthday. A dark mood filled the house, and everyone could pick up on it, despite their attempts to keep everything cheerful for the little boy they were celebrating for.
The servants, of course, did not know why their master and mistress were so on-edge, save for Tanaka. The elderly steward had been told everything, and took upon himself the task of entertaining the young master for the day while his parents prepared for the party. As he watched the child playing, he couldn't help worry, not just for Ciel, but for his parents. They loved Ciel so dearly, it would destroy them to lose him.
"Grandpa!" Ciel chimed, running over to scramble up onto Tanaka's lap. The steward smiled fondly.
"What is it, young master Ciel?" he asked, shifting to be certain the exuberant child wouldn't topple to the floor in his excitement.
Ciel beamed. "Mama and Papa promised that they would read me as many stories as I wanted tonight! And they said I could sleep with them in their room!" He rocked back and forth on Tanaka's lap, giggling like the happy child he was. Tanaka did his best to return the smile, but it was strained, like Vincent and Rachel's had been for the past week. No one who knew what this night meant could be truly cheerful, too fearful for Ciel's fate for a real smile. Vincent and Rachel's promise to Ciel was simply another form of coping: refusing to believe that when night fell, their child would no longer be with them.
The chef baked a spectacular cake with alternating tiers of vanilla and chocolate, topped with raspberries and chocolate shavings. Gifts were exchanged, and Ciel was nothing but smiles throughout the whole thing. He made an absolute mess, chocolate frosting ringing his mouth like sloppily-applied lipstick, and he giggled as he tried to lick it off.
"Ciel, come here, let me." Rachel wet a napkin and cleaned up her son's face with an exasperated smile. "What have we told you about table manners, darling?"
Ciel looked over at his father, who chuckled. "I think he can be excused a bit of chocolate on his birthday." With that the boy promptly squirmed away from his mother and returned to his cake, though he did make an effort to be at least a little less messy.
Eventually, they left the servants to clean up the table and retreated to the drawing room, where Vincent and Rachel let Ciel sit snuggled in-between them, prepared for the stories he'd been promised. Rachel had just picked out the first book, when suddenly Ciel jumped to his feet.
"I left my rabbit in the dining room!" he cried, and was gone through the door before his parents could stop him. Exchanging worried glances, they forced themselves to calm down. The dining room wasn't that far away. Ciel would be fine…
The candles were still burning when Ciel arrived in the dining room, though the dishes had all been cleared away. His stuffed rabbit was sitting right where he'd left it in his chair, and he scurried over to grab it. But as he reached for it, he became aware that he wasn't alone in the room. Bright sapphire eyes focused on the tall man in black leather, before widening with recognition.
"You saved me when I was lost in the woods." he said. "You're the magic man."
The man chuckled. "Indeed. Your mother asked me not to return until this night. But now I am here." In a few fluid steps, he came around the table, bending down to pick Ciel up. "And I am afraid I must make a small correction to your thinking of me." He smiled, sharp teeth bared, and his eyes glinted bright, glowing crimson. Ciel cried out, and the man purred, "I am a demon, little Ciel. Now, call your parents to us. Scream for me."
"MAMA! PAPA!" Ciel shrieked, squirming in the demon's grip. The tall man smirked, hearing from deeper within the house the sound of running footsteps, as Vincent and Rachel reacted to their child's cries. When the doors to the dining room flew open, Vincent entered first, gun in hand, and the demon laughed.
"You know what sort of powers I possess, and how fast I can move, and you would point a gun at me?" he taunted the earl. "I could very easily cause you to shoot Ciel instead." Vincent immediately hesitated, lowering the gun by a fraction, knowing that it wouldn't help. Glancing at the clock, which was steadily approaching midnight, the demon set Ciel on his feet. "Say goodbye to your parents, little one."
Ciel raced across the room to latch onto his mother, who stood a few steps behind Vincent. She held him tightly, crooning reassurances in his ear, and the demon continued to smile. Humans and their empty promises were so amusing. They could tell the boy that everything would be all right, but the fact of the matter was that once the ten years were up, Ciel was his. He had been generous, as technically ten years had ended the previous midnight. But now there was no way for them to avoid the conclusion of the contract.
Rachel had turned, keeping herself between her son and the demon as if to protect him with her own body. Ciel wasn't crying, but he did look frightened, wide blue eyes peering over his mother's shoulder. The demon licked his lips. Fear would only make him sweeter in the end. As the clock struck midnight, the demon extended a hand. "Lady Phantomhive, it is time. The child is mine."
"I won't let you take my son!" Vincent shouted, lifting the gun again.
The raven-haired man scoffed. "You are the one who made a deal with me, Lord Phantomhive. And now there is payment owed." He started forward, and Vincent began firing. But each bullet was caught effortlessly until the gun clicked empty, and the demon reached out and took hold of Ciel, pulling him easily from Rachel's arms. Both of the parents lunged for him, but with a simple gesture, Sebastian tossed them up against the walls, pinning them there with his power. He carried the crying, struggling child to the large dining table, laying him down and pinning him as well. "Do you know why this child interests me so?" he asked conversationally, directing the question mostly at Rachel. "His soul is so pure, so innocent… Usually demons do not favor innocence. It is far too cloying a taste. But this little one reminds me of the ambrosia feasted on by the angels in Heaven; something that I will never taste again, but wish to. This appears to be as close as I can get."
Ciel was sobbing, struggling against the demon's power, terrified. The crimson-eyed male leaned over him, brushing away tears with surprisingly tender fingers. "Don't cry, little one. I will be gentle." He glanced at Rachel, who was crying as well, and continued, "Do you know what you traded, for ten years with this child? You sacrificed your happiness in the future, to have him. Everything will be stripped from you now. Your company will be back under your rule alone. I will not step in to save it anymore. Your home will burn. Your child will be mine and you will watch me take him. This is what reward you reap from making a deal with a demon. Be grateful you still have your lives."
He leaned over Ciel, brushing his lips softly against the child's. Ciel squirmed, trying to look away, but couldn't. The demon chuckled, pulling back and licking his lips once more before calling on his power. His fingertips lightly ran over Ciel's throat, a vague attempt to be soothing as the child began to scream with pain. Extracting a soul was a painful process, and though he endeavored not to harm the child, not wanting to damage the soul, a little pain was inevitable. Faint traces of wispy silver began to appear at the boy's lips, and Sebastian reached out, allowing them to gather around his fingers. He used a bit more power, and Ciel let out a fresh shriek of agony before falling limp against the table as a small, orb-shaped ball of silver drifted gently out of his mouth.
The demon smiled, coaxing the orb closer before popping it into his own mouth. He ignored Rachel Phantomhive sobbing in the background. Vincent was silent, defeated, but the raven-haired man didn't look at him either. Ciel's soul was as delicious as he had expected, rich and sweet like the most decadent of desserts. He greedily ate up every bit of the amazing taste, a content sigh escaping him. It had been a perfect meal. Now it was time for dessert.
Rachel cried out with horror as she watched the demon draw a wickedly sharp black claw down Ciel's chest, cutting through the layers of fabric he wore so that clothing could be pushed to the side. The boy did not stir, and she was terrified to think it was because he was truly dead. But her fears were confirmed when that claw was again drawn down, this time slicing through skin and tissue to expose what lay beneath in a gush of crimson. Though she wanted to shut her eyes, horrified curiosity kept them open as she watched the demon pull from her son his small heart, dripping red, and begin to eat contentedly. Her husband had stopped watching several minutes before, but she kept her eyes on the terrible spectacle until the end, when the demon licked the blood from his fingers with a smile and turned to face them.
"Thank you, my Lord, my Lady, for such a wonderful meal." His smile was cruel and mocking. He released them from their positions pinned against the walls, and continued in that same deceptively pleasant tone, "I would suggest you begin waking your servants, if you wish them to live." And with a simple gesture, all of the candles around the room flared up, catching the room on fire in seconds.
Rachel tried to get to Ciel, the last remnants of her mothering instinct insisting that she couldn't leave her child, her only baby, here like this. But Vincent grabbed her, insisting that they had to get the servants and get out while they could. And so the demon was left in the burning dining room with the body of his meal. He turned to glance at the shell that had once held that perfect soul, and with a snap of his fingers, made sure the body was alight. "A funeral pyre will do for you. Thank you, little one. You were delicious."
And with that, he was gone.
Vincent and Rachel, with help from Tanaka and the head servants, managed to get everyone safely out before the fire spread too far, but it spread quickly, and soon the building was completely up in flames. Rachel sobbed into her husband's shoulder, mourning the loss of her child and her home, while Vincent merely stared at the flames, feeling dead inside. He should have been in Ciel's place. His son should not have had to suffer for his foolishness. The manor could be rebuilt, the company could be maintained, but Ciel… Ciel was irreplaceable. The scars of loss would never heal. And he was certain that was what the demon intended. They would probably never see the red-eyed creature again, and would be left with nothing but hate for the beast that had murdered their child, and regret that they hadn't been able to save him.
And the crushing, horrifying sorrow that came from the knowledge that they had failed.