Characters and pairings: AloisxCiel (in a GOOD way), ClaudexCiel (not in good way), Sebastian (um...sorta…and more later)
So, in writing this AloisxCiel bit I realized I totally indulged a pairing I hate: ClaudexCiel, but...but I had to because Claude is a TOOL in every sense of the word. He is extremely icky in this, and while it's not explicit, it implies horrible horrible things.
READER BEWARE! Extremely Adult Themes and such provide the conflict of this plot
Basically, it was my fondest hope from, like, episode 1 of Kuro season II that Alois and Ciel could find a common ground. It never happened THERE so...consider this more of CaladriaHaru's deep, inner, bibliotherapy.
Enjoy the sometimes not so discrete symbolism in this sometimes angsty, sometimes funny crackalacka doo da.
St. Sebastian's Home for Boys
Chapter 1: "A Deal With the Devil"
From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved rather than feared, or feared rather than loved. It might perhaps be answered that we should wish to be both: but since love and fear can hardly exist together, if we must choose between them, it is far safer to be feared than loved.
-Niccolo Machiavelli The Prince
Engraved in the lintel over the doors of the stately red-brick edifice somewhere in Britain is St. Sebastian's Home for Boys est. 1776.
It is a monstrous building faded slightly, window panes cracking, whitewash peeling, but other than this in fairly good shape. The two adjoining buildings are newer by comparison- more modern, with bright red bricks and clear windows through which pale candlelight glows by night in the dormitories.
In the courtyard between the two newer buildings on two faces and the immense building as the front is a green courtyard. In the summer the boys play football and tag on the grounds and make snowmen in the winter. In the fall they fly a kite or two over the north building. In the center of the courtyard is a statue of the home's namesake, St. Sebastian, the first martyr. His head is raised imploringly to the sky, body riddled by arrows. His arms are tied behind him to a post. The viewer is at once struck by the macabre choice: a martyr as a victim rather than a conqueror in form-not wielding a sword, not free to lift his hands to The Almighty.
One rare, sunny day
Beneath this austere and almost fearful statue sits a young boy. His age is difficult to approximate: he is small in stature, but he is concentrating upon a book in his hands. The boy's charcoal-gray hair is longish and falls into his face, especially over a black eye patch covering his right eye. He is wearing the orphanage's uniform: an unremarkable tweed-tan shorts and blazer over a white oxford shirt buttoned to the neck. He wears knee socks and a worn pair of leather shoes. His solitary blue eye follows the line of text back and forth, hungrily devouring the words he has hungrily devoured for two years. When he completes a page he licks his forefinger and uses it to turn the page. Thus, he spends three hours of his afternoon with his favorite book: Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince.
From a clear window in the north building another boy watches him. This boy is taller, his skin has seen slightly more sun, and he has a stronger physique under his uniform. His white oxford shirt is unbuttoned at the collar and his socks slump to his ankles from his own exercise in and out of the building. His hands upon the glass leave prints as he hungrily devours the view of the boy sitting under that macabre statue. He watches his own breath play out in a foggy patch on the glass, obscuring his view. Biting his lower lip, he leaves.
Two days later…
The boy sits under the statue, but he has slid the precious book into his blazer pocket to protect it. Three boys are laughing at him. One of them makes a remark and throws a stone at the boy who takes it on the shoulder and says nothing. The other two boys seem incensed or possibly fascinated. They also pick up stones and begin to hurl them at the prideful one who will not shield himself from their blows or wince in pain as they land on his cheek and his knee. The jeers become more insistent, but the boy with the charcoal hair stares at them with a venom that, if literal and not figurative, would kill them all on the spot. Two of the boys are visibly unnerved by it. Their leader, however, grits his teeth and balls his fist. He will have his reaction if he must fall under the shadow of that fearful statue and touch that cursed creature.
A blond head streaks from the north building like a bullet from a gun. Before the two crony boys can warn the other, the boy with the unkempt socks leaps upon him, bearing him to the ground. With extreme efficiency he punches the larger boy he now straddles once, twice. After the second blow he grabs the antagonist's lapels and draws himself towards the bloody lip.
"Robert…" he breathes, "No, no. Sticks and stones will break bones, and so will my fist to your nose." The blond boy smiles wickedly and tilts his head. "It's not a perfect poem, but I think you get my subtle irony and symbolism, right?"
The larger boy tries to spit blood in his face, but the blond boy leans left, dodges it, and then puts both hands over the bully's mouth and nose and seems content to wait for his adversary to begin to flop from lack of oxygen. The other two boys are terrified. They run away.
"Enough." The boy with the blue eye sits like Caesar over the proceedings. He does not put his hand in the thumbs-up position, but his command gets the blond boys' attention. "He isn't worth it."
Mollified by the insult to his attacker, the blond boy is able to release the bully with dignity. He takes his hands away while his victim gasps and sputters and then the victor runs his tongue down his hand, lapping up the blood left behind.
"Bastard!" says the brutish boy insultingly.
"Actually, no. Surprisingly, no," the blond boy answers, lightly getting to his feet with a giggle. He waits for the larger boy to make another move, but he doesn't. The attacker gives the other two a glare meant to be intimidating but only turns out to be quite nervous. He cuts his losses and runs back to the north building.
When the blond boy turns around to receive his thanks he finds that the other boy has pulled the book from his pocket and has taken it up again as if he had never been interrupted.
"Hey," he begins, darting to the bench, claiming a place beside the diminutive scholar. "Why did you do that? Why did you let them do that?"
"What a ridiculous question. As if I could fight back and maintain my dignity." He doesn't lift his eyes.
His voice is very pure. It has a note of royalty in it. The blond boy is enraptured by the sound of it now that he hears it for the first time.
"But they come here and harass you every third day," he complains, "and they threw stones," he tries to lean up to touch a tiny red mark on the other boy's cheek but he pulls away.
"I'm fine. I don't require your help in any capacity. Now, if you don't mind…"
The blond boy's eyes crease at the bridge of his nose. "What is that book that you like so much anyway?"
The boy with the eye patch sighs. "It's a manual. Once I have it completely memorized and understood I'll be able to leave here."
Was this a purposefully cryptic remark? The blond boy purses his lips. "I can't read. Does that mean I'll have to stay here forever when you get a chance to go? I've just gotten to like you."
At this the boy stops reading. He turns for the first time to his bench mate and takes a very close look at him. "You make no sense to me. You don't know me."
"That's not true!" the blond boy says brightly, excited that he has gotten attention. He leans forward on the bench. "Your name is Ciel. You came to St. Sebastian's when you were 10. You are 13-years-old now. You like bread pudding with raisin sauce, and you eat almost nothing else which is why you are so thin and small."
Ciel's eyes narrow, but the boy continues. "You have three reading places: the storage closet on the third floor, (when you are being particularly unsociable) the dormitory, (but only when it rains) and under the haunted statue of St. Sebastian in the courtyard. Your parents were killed in fire and you don't have a right eye because you gave it to the devil."
Ciel sighs softly. There is a hitch of pain in it, and the blond boy regrets the last part of the gossip immediately when he reopens the book.
"Wait…" he puts his hand on the page, drawing a cold look. "I'm sorry. I've been watching you."
"Because," the blond boy is suddenly afraid to go on. He knows he needs to answer, but his words don't always make the right impression; he tends to speak while he thinks. "Because by trying to be invisible, you stand out to me." He thinks this is okay. It's the truth anyway, but he leaves out the part about the feeling he has whenever he sees him. A feeling that he might…understand certain things.
Ciel appears to accept this answer. He has replaced the cool mask and tries to see through the hand on his page. "If you can tell I am trying to be invisible, then let me be invisible."
Ciel is controlling his temper. He puts his hand over the blond boy's, grasps his wrist firmly, and moves it off of his page. "Despite what the rumors say, there is absolutely no benefit in becoming acquainted with me. Everyone here either hates me or fears me, and they will give you a hard time."
"I heard the rumors, and I think that makes you very very interesting," he smiles and rubs his shoulder against Ciel's who shies from the touch.
"If I dispel the rumors will you leave me alone?" Ciel continues heedless of the answer. "I didn't give my eye to the devil; I lost it in the fire that killed my parents. I didn't trade it for power and special treatment. I have no desire to deal with people who may one day become my pawns. I have no desire to continue this conversation with you."
"Wait, wait!" The blond boy grabs Ciel's arm as the other boy stands to go. "There is the rumor that you get special treatment from the headmaster. You don't bathe with everyone else. The headmaster gives you private tutoring in French and all kinds of special attention. What about that?"
Ciel turns to the new antagonist who draws back at the mask of complete composure. There is no trace of annoyance. There is no trace of anger. There is no trace of a soul to speak of as he says quietly, "Headmaster Faustus is free to do whatever he wishes as he is not only the headmaster, but the chief benefactor of this institution. It is through his benevolence that a former prostitute named 'Alois' (probably not even his real name) who was remanded to the state has the opportunity to eat three square meals a day, wear clean clothes, and receive an education."
Alois' jaw drops open. His blue eyes grow wide and he jumps to his feet. Much to Ciel's surprise, the blond boy's arms fly around his neck in a sincere embrace.
"What the—" his eye blinks and the mask falls away.
"You know about me? You even knew my name? You really do know!" Alois giggles and pulls away to enjoy the look on Ciel's face. "Then you must have thought I was a little bit interesting, right? To know so much."
Ciel reaches his hands up and pushes the taller boy away. "No. I don't speak to others. My eyesight is faulty, but my ears work just fine."
"Oh~~" Alois says. Not satisfied with the response he takes the cuff of Ciel's blazer in both hands and leans in conspiratorially, "then tell me something about the boy who was throwing stones at you."
Ciel balks. He pulls his sleeve free and begins to head towards the north building as he says, "he's an idiot and a bully."
"He's been here longer than you have, Ciel." Alois calls, a thrill coursing through him at the confirmation of his hopes: not everyone deserved Ciel's attention, but somehow Alois did. In his joy he also offers, "He's also got a crush on you, though he is terrified of you."
Ciel stops. He turns his head and his eye is bewildered. "That is preposterous. You are making that up," he declares.
"No, I'm not," Alois asserts darkly. "I heard him talking to some other boys in the bath that you weren't in that he's going to pounce on you when you are asleep and completely molest you."
Ciel stiffens. He is clearly contemplating this and his face pales.
Alois wants to smack his head off of St. Sebastian's marble knee for the faux pa. It was all true, every word, but he shouldn't have said it like this. He was caught up in the moment remembering how after hearing the statement he had wanted to smile casually, get out of his tub, and drown the bastard for speaking of this pale angel with such irreverence.
"Ciel, Ciel," he closes the gap between them as he sees Ciel's soul disappearing again. He puts both hands on Ciel's cheeks and tilts his head to look him in the eye, "Make a deal with me," he breathes. "Make a deal with me. Robert is afraid of me now. I can protect you…"
Ciel's blue eye focuses. He smacks the hands away. "Leave me alone. I don't need you. I don't need anyone."
He is so thin and small, his face is so determined, his shoulders tremble. There's a bruise forming on his cheek from the thrown stone. He dares Alois to say something with his eye and his posture to prove that he is no weakling.
A door opens but the two boys do not hear it, lost in each other, willing the other to speak and end this agony.
Ciel blinks and becomes a blank canvas.
Alois looks up. From the double doors at the rear of the main building stands the headmaster.
The headmaster, Lord Claude Faustus, is an important, impeccably-dressed man. His yellow eyes behind a clear wall of glass spectacles survey the boys at the statue with the slightest hint of displeasure. He detests that statue and calculates for the six hundred and sixty-sixth time how much it would cost to pull it down. Ciel sits beneath it to mock him, he knows this.
St. Sebastian is watching you…
The boy had said it in such a way, with his head turned to glare behind him, his blue eye fiery in a 11-year-old's body. How ripe the nape of that neck, and when Claude Faustus had bitten it, what a lovely sound he made.
Now there were no complaints, only perfect obedience, except for the damn statue that waited to embrace his Ciel. He spent hours beneath its disgusting frame to cleverly remind Claude of his many many sins against him and against God. It was his own way of raising a hand to slap him in the face when he had no prayer of it in his physically-frail condition.
It needed to rain tomorrow. Perhaps he would tell the school master that Ciel's asthma was acting up again and tie him to a chair and read his beloved Machiavelli to him all afternoon, read it in his own composed monotone and figuratively slap him back.
It was a petty thing, but it was so enjoyable. It was not enough that Claude have that flesh in his hands; he must find the soul he hid, carve it out, and savor the taste of his defeat. It would happen. It was a matter of time. Only a matter of time.
"Ciel, it is time for your French lesson," he calls, and he knows Ciel will come. He must smile a little as he watches the boy turn from the taller, newer boy, and walk towards him.
"Of course, headmaster," Ciel says icily. "But I haven't had a chance to practice my vowels since our last session. Please go easy on me."
Ahh, the game. Claude Faustus loves Ciel's game. When he is biting back tears later Claude will remind him that he wanted to play.
"Tsk, tsk," Claude replies smoothly, "'spare the rod and spoil the child.'" His inner smile becomes an outer smile. He does not notice Alois watching him carefully, listening carefully.
Alois feels the pain in his heart well up. He knows, then, what he suspected from the beginning. He knows he is right. Watching Ciel's straight back as he walks to his doom sends a shudder of impotent anger and sadness through his body. He wants to reach out and stop that door from closing with such finality upon the pair as they disappear inside, the headmaster towering over his prey. The silhouettes: tall man, young boy, large hand dropping too casually to the small shoulder, too intimately. Ciel's eternally stiff posture, the rumors, that cold cold mask sheltering and protecting any vestiges of a heart still remaining…Alois sees it all. He remembers a young blond boy and countless tall men. He remembers the barrier he made and how, sometimes, it crumbles away revealing…nothing. A hollow child's chest where a bright red heart and soul used to live. Alois falls to the ground and in the shadow of St. Sebastian he weeps because he understands.
Three days later…
The door to the storage closet on the third floor of the north build flies open and Ciel is momentarily stunned.
"Hide me!" Alois begs, his arms full of white cloth that Ciel cannot immediately discern because his heart is beating so fast.
Alois is looks around desperately. "I crept into the laundry room and stole all of Cook's britches," he laughs, pausing to hold out one very large white undergarment as a victory display.
In spite of himself, Ciel's jaw drops open and he gapes.
"Why did you…"
"Why wouldn't I? She's too stingy, isn't she? And overcooks everything! But she caught me as I was grabbing the last one, and I had to run. Please!"
Ciel's lips part and close. There are heavy footfalls outside drawing nearer. He makes a sudden decision.
"There," he points. A pile of old drop cloths from the window-whitewashing of last year lay in a heap on the floor in a corner.
Alois' delinquent mind grasps the situation completely in a glance. He "ahs!" and dives towards the pile, wriggling under it like a caterpillar in August though the concrete floor is cold to the touch.
Ciel moves finally. He climbs over, pulling drop cloths down around Alois' rear, his face flushing at the entire situation. "You're mad."
"Yes!" comes a muffled reply of giggles.
The door flies open just as Ciel sits back with his book in his hand, feigning complete innocence. Cook's broad body and one of the groundskeepers fill the frame. The cook is sweating profusely, veins popping out on her forehead as she looks around.
"Eh? Ciel? Wut are you doin' here then?" her voice squawks. Ciel tries not to wince.
"This is where I sometimes read. Have I done…something wrong?" he asks, holding the book to his chest.
Cook sniffs as if she can locate the offensive boy or her undergarments by smell alone. "''Ave you seen the new blond boy? He'd 'ave an armload of…laundry."
Ciel looks genuinely surprised at such a question. He frowns slightly, shrugs, and shakes his head. "No. no one."
He is believable and the room looks otherwise devoid of life. Cook hmphs and stalks out after another few second's perusal.
When the door closes there is a measure of six heartbeats. Finally Ciel says, "she's gone." As the lump of white drop cloths move and a body emerges, Ciel shakes his head and murmurs, "I don't know why I helped you."
"I do," Alois says happily as his head pops free. He smiles with the drop cloths framing his face like a nun's habit. "You'd rather let me win then let her win."
Ciel snorts at this. "Win?"
"It's all a huge game, don't you see?" Alois slides free and lets his armload of laundry fall around his feet while he crouches next to the mountain of dropcloths. "You decide to do something, and if you can accomplish that thing, then you have won."
"That sounds like the philosophy of a child," Ciel goes back to his book.
"Hello, Ciel, we are children!" he crawls on his hands and knees to the other boy and pokes him in his soft cheek, causing Ciel to swat at the annoyance and turn away.
"Leave now. The coast should be clear."
Alois takes a deep breath. He is not going to win all at once in this game, but he is making progress.
"Next time, then."
"And why should I?"
"Because you have nothing to lose." Alois' voice is soft. He wants to nuzzle in that charcoal-colored hair and gently wrap his arms around that slight frame and tell him over and over, let me help you. I know, I know!
Ciel is silent.
"Didn't that guy that wrote that book say, 'it is better to be rash than timid'?"
Ciel turns to him quickly, astonished.
Alois holds up his hands placating. "I just asked the schoolmaster about some things, that's all. It's a good policy, you know. What am I saying, of course you know!" he bonks his head with the heel of his hand, enjoying the look of grudging dismay the illiterate boy was now receiving from the literate boy.
"Next time. It will be fun!"
4 days later…
Ciel is alone in the boy's dormitory. The other boys are at dinner where they should be and he is here with himself and his impotence and his self-loathing and his hate and his pain. He had eaten something at lunch, but his "French Lesson" had gone very long and he had no appetite even for bread pudding with rum sauce even if he could have some which, now, he could not.
He had bathed already, but it was never enough. The headmaster sent him back so that he could be in bed by lights out, and now he had to change into his bedclothes and pretend to be the padded, indulged favorite. Pretend he had dined sumptuously with the headmaster and let them wonder about his private bath time which no one else received.
Private bath times were a necessity, he thinks coldly, with a body that looked like his. Colored bruises, cuts, bite marks on his stomach, his thighs, his collarbone. What would the others make of that, he wondered for the six hundred and sixty-sixth time? What would they all do if he one day simply took off his shirt and showed them?
They would look upon him as a weak, pathetic creature worthy of either pity or hate.
Ciel shudders and thinks he might allow himself a tear. One tear, only one. It had been miraculously sunny for four days. He had been sitting in St. Sebastian's cool and benevolent shadow for four days. He had tolerated the Alois' boy's inane and strange conversation about London Johns and vaudeville shows and the amount of alcohol one could buy for a greasy quid in the right places. The dirt Alois proudly claimed seemed piled up high enough to eclipse his own. Almost.
He bites his tongue to distract him from the pain elsewhere and pulls off the uniform shirt he had had to put back on after his bath to make his way back here.
So lost is he in his thoughts that he doesn't realize he isn't alone until he hears the gasp.
He pulls the cloth to his chest and turns around, his heart sliding into his foot, body shaking on the verge of falling.
He has in his hand a bowl. The smell is bread pudding with raisin sauce.
"They said…they said you eat earlier sometimes…but I couldn't be sure you would get this unless I fed it to you." Alois voice catches in his throat at the end. He had seen Ciel's back. All of it. Devastation sets in. I don't know if I can save him!
"Go away! I'm not…hungry." Ciel doesn't know what to do. Should he escape? Where was he going to go? What an incredibly perfect moment, to be seen like this in all of his glory by the prostitute he had treated with such disdain when he was worse. So much worse!
"No. I guess not." Alois feels so calm right now. He sets the bowl on a bedside stand. Maybe he should go. Ciel will hate him for seeing him like this. He will hate him for knowing even though he has suspected since the third day he was here and he's known with complete assurance for nine days. And the more he watches Ciel, the more he feels homicidal urges to break and destroy and perhaps shove a knife into someone's skull. But the others appear to have sensed his demeanor because they give him a wide berth now and never came close to Ciel.
Alois feels Ciel watching him, trying to sound his depths, learn what he knows. The blond boy says nothing. He looks up at the shivering boy huddled behind his shirt like a curtain.
Their eyes meet.
Alois turns and walks out silently. When he gets to the door the tears flood his eyes. It is times like these that the barrier crumbles away and Alois' red heart and soul are still there, hanging on by a thread, but twisted…hurt. Feeling another's hurt…Ciel's hurt. He never would have thought himself the kind of person to willingly want to bear another's hurt because he had so much of his own, but there it was. Ciel had, without a word, with barely a glance, had gotten inside the barrier. And because he was inside he was protected…but nothing and no one else would be. Alois decides he is going to go to the storage room on the third floor which bears Ciel's scent, and he is going to break something. Maybe a few things. Maybe he will find a boy to break into two pieces, who knows? He does know that if he can't hold that frail body to stop it from shaking then he must destroy everything else in the universe.
Later that night…
The new moon casts her darkness over the dormitory of 16 beds. Ciel's eyes are open. He is staring at the small crack in the ceiling that looks like a spider. Its imperfect pattern revolves from one central water mark; the "legs" of warped paint proceed to mar the white perfection. He hates this spider because the more he watches it in the darkness the more it looks like it is moving in the darkness, crawling around to spite him, to tempt him, to suck the life and soul from him.
His thoughts drift back to the fateful meeting a few hours earlier. In the morning it will all change. He will not be able to look at Alois. He must cut him off completely for his own sake. He was stupid to believe that he could play games, could indulge such annoying conversation, could…enjoy anything at all about anyone or anything in this place that was hell.
The headmaster had told him tonight, as he held his chest to his lips to caress the flesh with that obscene tongue, that he had arranged for the statue of St. Sebastian to be pulled down in a week. That he had no less than seven days with his precious "patron saint" left. First Alois and then St. Sebastian. When the statue was gone there would be no place left to hide, no solace ever again anywhere within his reach.
The headmaster suckled Ciel's pinky toe with great relish that night, giving the distinct impression that his total consumption of anything Ciel had left to hide had begun. The bites, the caresses, the pain, the endless hours drew back through Ciel's memory like the cruelest of Alois' vaudeville shows. Somewhere inside his heart was pumping red blood directly into that monster's mouth and he was greedily licking it up leaving nothing but a hollow shell behind.
Ciel feels the will bleeding from his body.
He only wants me to give in, he thinks. If I bow down to him, if I tilt my head up and ask for it, he will grow so tired of me. He won't find me delicious. If I cry out that I want him instead of bite my lip and hold it back, he'll think me a poor diversion. If I let go of my pride, if I just let it go…
The image of St. Sebastian toppling over and shattering into a million pieces in the courtyard causes such a shudder of deep, true sadness to grip him that he moans in anguish. The destruction if the first martyr will herald the symbolic end to his denial.
It was always his game to start with. I never had a piece. I never had a single thing to begin with. Let him win. What will it matter now?
The face suddenly blocking out the spider above him causes Ciel's heart to falter.
They stare at each other even though it is nearly impossible to see clearly.
"I'm not leaving," Alois whispers.
"What…are you talking about. You can't be out of bed." Ciel feels his heart pounding in his ears.
"And yet, funny. Here I am."
Ciel feels the cold sheets suss around him and he is taken aback by the figure crawling into the bed with him.
"What the hell are you doing?" He is stunned and raises an arm to push him out when suddenly he is being held in a very close, very tight embrace.
Alois' breath is unique. How did Ciel not realize that it was so unique? It is sweet, a little, and it feathers his hair as he lays in shocked stillness, the warmth of the other body pressing to him.
For several minutes they say nothing to each other. There is no need for words. Alois' hands are gentle. These hands that belong to a prostitute at age 13 are the gentlest hands Ciel can clearly remember: they want nothing, but they give everything. The kisses being gently laid on his forehead are not repulsive or thick with ulterior motives; they are what they are.
And they are healing him.
The boy with the blue eye slowly, very tentatively, reaches a hand out to willingly close this gap. What is the façade of pride now? What is the loss from this? On the verge of his complete despair two hands are reaching out to hold him up.
"Hey, Ciel," Alois says lightly, lips brushing his ear, "I'll be your power. I'll be your pawn. Move me. Use me. If you understand and memorize me, we'll leave here together because I want you and I can't leave you alone. Make a deal with me, Ciel. Make a deal with me."
Ciel sighs. When he feels Alois' lips, he closes his eyes and pulls the other boy's head to his.
To be continued