Disclaimer: I don't own Kuroshitsuji. As demonstrated by my lack of ability to even keep a fanfic on schedule, I wouldn't want to.
A/N: I can't apologize enough for making everyone wait four months for this. Unfortunately, I had to spend all of my free time on classes, and even then I couldn't remain a 4.0 student. Quite simply, this semester sucked. And although I am taking summer courses, as well, I will be updating more often. Also, as usual, I will reply to reviews personally soon after this is posted.
One more small thing: A small part of last chapter has been edited due to something Maara Annika brought to my attention. I don't think it makes a huge difference, but I am striving for some form of accuracy in this. Thank you very much!
When Ciel arrived on Monday at 3:15 precisely, it was in a different manner than usual and he wasn't even alone this time. In fact, as he stepped out of a well-cared-for, midnight blue sedan, Sebastian watched as he was practically assaulted by a girl just about his age who flew around the other side of the car to pounce on him in a playful hug. Ciel struggled loose half-heartedly and held her arms to her sides as he spoke to her, seconds before the window beside her rolled down and the shelter owner could hear a slightly muffled scolding. The blonde-haired girl nodded once, her good mood seeming not to be broken.
After Ciel poked his head into the window, most likely in a farewell, he walked up the driveway to the shelter, his guest trailing ever-so-slightly behind him in bounding, happy steps. She had such a bright smile; it was a shame that the boy in front of her wasn't infected with it. They were quite a contrast to each other.
"Good afternoon, Ciel," Sebastian greeted, eyebrow quirked in a silent question, and the expression wasn't lost on the boy. "And you are…?"
"This is Elizabeth Middleford. Her mother runs the orphanage," Ciel explained, gesturing her to move forward.
Sebastian inclined his head in a slight bow to the young lady, smiling as she giggled at the action. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Elizabeth."
Beaming even wider, she replied, "The same to you, Mr. Sebastian! Now Ciel, I've told you to call me Lizzie! And you can call me that, too, Mr. Sebastian. When Ciel told me about the shelter he was working at, I wanted so badly to see it, and it's so cute!"
The older man was forced to hold his hand up to his mouth in order to hide his amusement at the look on Ciel's face. It was a mixture of embarrassment and irritation at his reaction, causing Sebastian to wonder if the boy had told her horrible stories of how he was treated his first days. The thought made him smile even more.
"Thank you, Lizzie. If you're enjoying your time here already, it means my job has paid off," he said humbly, nodding again.
"You're welcome! I love animals, and of course, I wouldn't miss the chance to spend some time with Ciel! I can't believe he didn't tell you that we're cousins, though. Honestly, Ciel, sometimes you act like it's something to hide," she accused, pouting slightly.
"E-Elizabeth-!" he tried to defend.
"Lizzie!" she corrected.
Sebastian could see him barely able to resist the urge to sigh as he started again. "Lizzie, it's simply never the first thing that I think of in order to introduce you. It's easier to tell people your name first before getting started on the fact that we're related."
The smile returned full force. "You know I wasn't really upset. I just thought Mr. Sebastian would want to know." Sebastian agreed with her. In fact, it was quite amusing to realize that the woman he had spoken to the first day and described Ciel as "hard to handle sometimes" on the other end of the phone was the boy's aunt. He smirked at the thought.
"Miss Lizzie, is it all right if I speak with your cousin privately for a few moments? We must discuss his job for the day, as well as a few other details," the shelter owner interrupted. At her nod, Ciel walked beside Sebastian, who held the door open for him before closing it gently behind him. Turning to the boy, Sebastian noted that he appeared to be desperately avoiding his eyes.
"I do believe I'll have you walking the dogs and tending to the cats before we close for the night. I'm sure Lizzie would be more than glad to join you, am I right?" he asked, his pleasant tone convincing Ciel to look at him.
"She couldn't be happier. She loves animals, especially cute ones," he replied shortly. If Sebastian was right, Ciel was very uncomfortable with the situation. After a few tense moments of silence, he spoke again. "You didn't bring me here just to tell me my job assignment for the day. What do you want?"
"I want you to stop acting like every time something slips about your life that I'm going to use it against you. What happens at the orphanage is your own business, and while I admit, it's strange not knowing very much about one of my employees, it's your private and personal life. I'm not going to pry into it," Sebastian assured him. "Strange" was an understatement though. If he was being entirely honest with himself, all the little hints being dropped at him were driving his curiosity through the roof. Still, he'd be damned if he would tell Ciel that.
He could tell by his employee's reaction that he wasn't expecting him to say that at all. Once again, his gaze was averted, a look of almost pain clouding his features. Sebastian saw his mouth move before he even registered what Ciel said, but barely audibly, he could hear a small "Thank you."
"Now, would you like some cake and a bit to take out to her? I made it this morning, since everyone in this place seems to have a sweet tooth."
"Yes, she'd enjoy that."
Following him into the kitchen, Ciel waited until two slices of the cake were placed on paper plates and forks laid beside them. From the looks of things, there were already four slices taken out with two remaining. The way Sebastian carefully covered the leftovers led him to think it might be saved for desert tomorrow as well.
As Ciel was carrying the plates out, the older man once again had to let him out of the shelter, but as soon as he crossed the threshold, he stopped dead in absolute horror. An ear piercing squeal reached their ears at about the same time as the fluffy white dog Ciel had learned to loathe ambled gracelessly towards his cousin. He couldn't make it in time to stop him from barreling into her, but he still shoved the cake at Sebastian, who took it by instinct, before racing towards her.
"Lizzie!" he shouted fearfully, the dog by now having shoved her to the ground and was lying atop her. "Are you okay? Lizzie!" In two more steps, he was ready to try and pull Pluto away from her, but another sound stopped him in his tracks.
A cheerful giggle erupted from under the white mound of fur that was Pluto, and small hands wrapped around his neck to scratch his ears. "Aww, you're just a big sweetheart, aren't you, boy?"
"Pluto! Down!" came Sebastian's sharp voice to the side of both of them. Ciel stared at him; the last time he had heard that voice was when he was disrespected the first day of his employment. If he was using it now, he wasn't very pleased with the situation.
Surprisingly, Pluto obeyed, and sat down beside Lizzie instead of on top of her. Ciel wasted no time in pulling her up from the ground and examining her arms for injuries like the ones he had received in his first encounter. "Are you hurt? Did he scratch you anywhere?" he asked quickly, making sure she wasn't harmed in any way.
"No, of course not. Pluto wasn't trying to hurt me, and I think he just needed someone to pet him for a while," she said, the whole time grinning from ear to ear.
Ciel heaved a sigh of relief at the news and Lizzie went right back to stroking his ears, laughing when he rolled over to expose his belly. She rubbed the fur there as Sebastian walked up to them, cake miraculously still perfectly balanced on its plates. "Perhaps we should eat this inside, after all. Pluto is notorious for trying to steal food."
"Eliza-Lizzie, Sebastian prepared some cake for us if you want to go inside and have it," he offered.
"That sounds delightful! Thank you, Mr. Sebastian," she trilled.
"It's my pleasure," he answered, and held it out for her to take during the short walk inside.
Once they were seated, Sebastian simply watched as they ate their desert. At the first bite something flickered across both his guests' faces that he couldn't identify. Another bite and Lizzie's continuous smile disappeared into thoughtfulness. One more and she was downright frowning.
"It tastes so familiar, Ciel, almost like…" she trailed off teasingly at the end, turning to stare at her cousin.
"I know, Lizzie." At the remark, he plainly threw a look at Sebastian almost daring him to ask, and at the same time, reminding him of his earlier conversation.
The two shared a look that bordered on absolute sadness, and talk ceased to exist for several moments until Sebastian dispelled the silence. "The cake batter was made with melted Funtom chocolate. Maybe you're both familiar with the taste?" he suggested, attempting to break the stifling mood that had settled over the kitchen. Again, a shared glance increased the tension, until Lizzie spoke.
"Yes, that must be why. It tastes delicious, Mr. Sebastian," she said hesitantly, looking to Ciel to keep the silence broken. "Don't you agree?"
'How strange…' the eldest thought. He could see Ciel keeping his past hidden, but he didn't expect it coming from bubbly Lizzie.
"Of course. Sebastian makes some wonderful deserts. My very first day he made mousse, and then he made baklava, both of which were excellent," he agreed.
'And now Ciel is complimenting my cooking and making filler conversation. What is going on here?' he wondered. He tapped his foot softly in agitation as his thoughts spun.
"Lizzie, Sebastian was wondering if you would like to tend to the animals with me today," Ciel said, finally causing his cousin to gasp with delight again at the thought. His expression softened from its tense counterpart as she grew happier.
"I'd love to take care of them with Ciel! Thank you!"
Disturbed from his wandering mind, Sebastian grinned in return. "Anytime, Miss Lizzie. Would you like to start with the cats? I'll join you."
Ciel glared at him in pure frustration as she squealed, "I love cats!"
"Why, I do, too," he replied brightly. "Let's go collect their toys."
The disgruntled boy waited until the pair was out of earshot before muttering under his breath. "That infuriating man planned this. I guess I don't have a choice though." Shrugging mentally, he followed them into the shelter itself.
By the time he arrived, Lizzie already had a kitten whizzing around on the floor with a laser. The red dot of light travelled around faster than he thought the fur ball could move, but the thing stayed right with it, even when it made a beeline right for his leg.
"Lizzie!" he cried in exasperation as the cat slid between his feet on the smooth floor.
"Sorry, Ciel!" she apologized, steering the kitten towards Sebastian, who picked it up mid-stride and nuzzled its soft fur. The two cat lovers smiled as the kitten struggled to get down, and it landed on all four paws as it worked free and catapulted off of its captor's chest. With another lap of the laser beam, it was scooped up and placed back, Sebastian instead getting out the cat that Ciel had his first encounter with.
"I do believe you should play with this one," he said, placing it at the boy's feet and handing him a feather stick. After glaring heatedly at Sebastian, he merely wiggled the stick back and forth, surprised when the cat pounced at it, catching it in between its front paws. He tugged it free and wiggled it some more, the cat repeating the previous action. Eventually, Ciel began to move the stick in more random and vigorous patterns, actually becoming entertained by the way the animal followed the movements.
In the meantime, Sebastian pulled out his tabby cat. He had grown quite fond of it in the last two days and he was more than willing to let Lizzie play with it, too.
"Aw, this one is adorable, Mr. Sebastian~!" she cooed, dangling a toy mouse in front of its nose as it batted at it.
"I found it here two days ago, but it's already become one of my favorites. Feel free to play with him as much as you'd like."
Within thirty minutes, all the cats that Maylene hadn't yet played with were back in their pens, and Ciel was ready to walk the remaining three dogs. Sebastian chose that moment to make his escape.
"It was a pleasure to meet you, Miss Lizzie, but I have some business to take care of and must leave you now," he said graciously.
"Oh…it was nice to meet you, too. You're so much nicer than I was expecting," she replied, causing Sebastian's eyebrows to rise. A quick glance at her cousin showed him refusing to meet his eyes again, and he smirked.
"Well, then, I'm glad I was able to exceed your expectations of me. Ciel, please meet back with me after you're done with the dogs. Have a wonderful time," he chimed, watching Ciel begin to leash one of the small dogs and free it from its temporary home.
Once outside, Lizzie turned to her relative. "From the way you were acting, I expected him to be a tyrant, but he's such a nice man."
"He wasn't so nice the first two days. I'm guessing you had something to do with it. He wouldn't have wanted to seem rude in front of a young lady, or anyone else that wasn't me, apparently," Ciel scoffed.
"I'm sorry if you didn't want him to know we were related. You seemed upset, but I can never seem to keep from saying the wrong thing," she said sadly.
"Don't apologize. He just seems to be very curious about my past for some reason. I don't think he's used to not knowing how someone thinks. It feels like he's very good at reading people."
"Just like you! Maybe he sees it as some sort of a challenge to crack your thoughts!" Lizzie suggested.
Ciel nodded. "I had thought of that, too. Of course, I'm doing the same to him; he's very different from most people I've met. Now, there's no reason dwelling on it while we have work to do. Let's finish walking the rest of the dogs."
In his office, Sebastian had booted up his computer in order to work on the bills that needed paid and the spreadsheet to keep them organized. His attention was currently elsewhere, though. As he pulled up his browser, he suddenly found himself very fascinated by the search bar.
It would be so easy just to search "Ciel Phantomhive" and see what came up. Forget the hassle of trying to pick his brain for all the answers he wanted; this would pretty much tell him everything he wanted to know, especially after he had practically promised Ciel he wouldn't pry.
Which led to the question, 'What am I doing?'
Or better yet, 'Why didn't I think of this before?'
Sebastian ran his hands over his face in irritation. For all of Ciel's secret keeping, he shouldn't be so curious, and if he did this, it would degrade him from curious to stalker in a single click.
Growling at himself, he shut the monitor to his laptop and stared at the door, simply waiting for Ciel to say he was leaving for the night. The three knocks couldn't come quickly enough.
"Lizzie has called for us to be picked up, and I'm ready to leave for the night. Is that all?" Ciel asked.
"Not quite." He stood up and motioned for them to follow him into the kitchen area. Pulling out the rest of the cake they had for lunch, he passed it over to Lizzie. "You seemed to enjoy it, and I know I won't eat the rest of it. I would be delighted if you would give some to your mother in thanks for letting Ciel work here at my shelter."
"Of course, Mr. Sebastian!" Lizzie was more than happy to deliver the cake and have some more of it for herself. "I'll make sure Ciel gets the dish back to you, too."
Sebastian smiled at her. "Thank you, Miss Lizzie. Ciel, you will be helping Finny with the grounds tomorrow afternoon, so I will see you then. Now, that is all. Enjoy your evenings."
A car horn alerted the two to the arrival of Mrs. Middleford, and Lizzie excitedly raced to the car with cake in hand, eager to share the events of the afternoon with her mother. Ciel was a little more hesitant but more than ready to say farewell to the shelter for the night. "I will see you tomorrow, Sebastian."
"The same to you. And if you can, try to bring gloves," he replied cheerfully. With that ominous suggestion, Ciel left for the night, leaving Sebastian alone with his spinning thoughts and spreadsheets to do.
A/N: I'm not even going to ask if it was worth the wait, because there's nothing that can justify having to wait so long, so I'm just going to be happy if you read and enjoyed it, and even happier if you review. Thank you all!