.: As part of their routine, Ciel Phantomhive—the youngest leader of the country's secret police force—meets with Sebastian Michaelis—leader of the country's largest rebel mafia group—to discuss business and maybe have breakfast after. [Sebastian/Ciel AU]
.: Part of my multifandom mafia/Shisengumi/police AU; more details in my profile/livejournal

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Ciel Phantomhive sits on the surprisingly well-kept red-brick steps of an otherwise rundown establishment, two layers of coarse jackets shielding his petite body from the sharp bite of the morning air, looking not terribly out-of-place in the sluggish town. He keeps his face schooled to a neutral expression, something not entirely difficult to accomplish, seeing as the news he's reading from the ink-drenched newspaper are all things that he has expected from the country.

The front page news is all about the celebrations of the successful negotiations with certain rebel territories, pictures of hope and cheer blown-up to extraordinary sizes. There are no mentions, as expected, of the subjugation of the rebel armies, of the operations to cut-off the territories' arms supply and food rations. Any allusions to the existence of a secret police force that performs things nobody but the highest level of government will approve and know of are all nonexistent.

And that's the way everything should be.

Ciel flips the newspaper to the next page and nearly cringes at the invitation to the campaign fundraiser party by Viscount Druitt. The only thing stopping him from openly gagging at the advertisement is the knowledge that the person he's meeting is most probably being late on purpose, just so he can annoy and observe Ciel at the same time.

As though summoned by the not-so-pleasant thoughts, Sebastian Michaelis is waving at him congenially from across the road, friendly smile lost on Ciel entirely. Maybe the gesture works on the shopkeeper from down the road, or the secretary in the upscale insurance company on the Upper Sector, but Ciel knows Sebastian, knows how demonic the other really is.

…Of course, Ciel doesn't explicitly say any of those things to Sebastian's face. Not because Ciel is afraid of whatever Sebastian will do to him once he starts showing extreme carefulness in handling their… meetings, but because it's part of their 'thing'. Ciel considers it a game. He doesn't really care what Sebastian thinks of their little trysts, but since he's playing along, that's all that matters to Ciel, really.

"Good morning, Ciel," Sebastian's greeting sounds normal and harmless and Ciel just wants to laugh at the absurdity, "I apologize for being late, I had a long talk with my housemates before coming here."

"I wasn't waiting long," Ciel replies with a little huff. He drops the newsletter in favor of crossing his arms across his chest.

Sebastian doesn't miss the action, nor the way Ciel tightens his hold around his torso a little more.

Ciel has a little theory about Sebastian having experience as a butler before his current… profession, what with the way Sebastian seems a little too eager to tend after him. But it can also just be a mere part of their little game. It doesn't really matter to Ciel. It feels a little nice to have someone tending to him, since his hired help at the office cost him too much in damage control.

…As expected, Sebastian wordlessly unbuttons his thick black coat and carefully settles it on Ciel's shoulder. Like a good butler should.

"Shall we go for breakfast?" Sebastian asks, a part of their routine. "There's a newly-opened place near the harbor; I've heard their pancakes are to die for."

Ciel quirks an eyebrow, but agrees to the invitation with a tilt of his head.

Another part of their routine is Sebastian gently guiding Ciel down the steps and into the cracked pavement leading to the harbor.

It's six-thirty in the morning and the town is still mostly blinking its drowsiness away. As part of their routine, there are no pancakes as there is no newly-opened place near the harbor; as part of their routine, Sebastian will invite him by the time they finish at seven forty-five to have breakfast at the Upper Sector.

As part of their routine, Ciel Phantomhive—the youngest leader of the country's secret police force—meets with Sebastian Michaelis—leader of the country's largest rebel mafia group—in broad daylight.

Their routine is changing, little by little, step by step, and Ciel is letting it.

If one looked at their first meeting (a dreary midnight business at one graveyard where Ciel is chasing one of his cases' suspects; with Sebastian not-so-subtly interfering with his kill for no other reason than self-amusement), their tenth meeting (a can't-be-helped-it information trade under the mask of heavy smoke at an exclusive nightclub) and their meetings now (in broad daylight, where they can see each other's faces without the cloak of nighttime)—everything is just too different.

But nobody else but the two of them can look back on the events that have been spread out across the two years they've known each other; it's not like Sebastian has commented on how different their business arrangement is now, and it's not like Ciel actually considers Sebastian's opinion to be of value anyway.

"Here's your tea," Sebastian offers with a honey-sweet smile, causing Ciel's left eye to twitch, "would you care for some toast, or maybe some scones?"

The two of them are playing along with their breakfast routine, only this time inside the walls of one of Sebastian's many mansions, instead of being amongst high officials and celebrated people in the Upper Sector's paved walkways and illuminated restaurants.

…Of course, there's always the chance that Sebastian is planning to eliminate Ciel here, inside his mansion that has been off-limits to the government's hands since the mafia family's inception. It's a good course of action—nobody will ever know of Ciel Phantomhive's demise that way. Not that Ciel is going to let that happen. He may be young, much younger than Sebastian, but he is the head of the elite Phantomhive Police Force. Self-defense is something that goes hand-in-hand with his duties.

"Arsenic? Cyanide?" Ciel lazily wonders as he takes a bite from the toast, smirks at Sebastian. "Or maybe ethylene glycol?"

"I wouldn't poison you," Sebastian places a hand over his heart—a gesture of mocking honesty and subservience, "especially when you're so defenseless like this."

Ciel grits his teeth. He knows Sebastian is baiting him. He knows it. That doesn't lessen the bite in his tone when he speaks up, "We never did manage to have a fencing contest as we have agreed last week, Sebastian."

The mafia lord's answering smirk is positively dripping with danger.

Ciel's heart skips two beats at the sight and he wonders whether Sebastian has poisoned him after all.

Ciel looks out the clear bulletproof window and sees the moderately busy streets below. Even at its peak hour, this town is barely comparable to the slowest moments of the Business Sector. As expected from a town so far-removed from the government's influence. As expected from a town that is normal and harmless at its surface, even though it's harboring the headquarters of the most influential mafia faction underneath its sluggishness.

He rarely is the one who makes a move to change the flow of their game, but his clash with the Noah's Circus has left his hired help a little injured and his headquarters more than a little destroyed. And Sebastian is a great cook and all of his suites have impeccable libraries.

"Shouldn't you be at a hospital?" Sebastian asks, tilting his head a little to the left. "You do have connections with the Upper Sector's healthcare division, if I remember correctly."

Ciel doesn't really want to go to the hospital, because that means alerting his Aunt Angelina who works there. And his aunt doesn't seem to understand the concept of secrecy, so she'll definitely spill the news to his fiancée Elizabeth and that's just a whole other headache he doesn't want to deal with.

"It's just a few scratches," Ciel answers with a shrug, because scratches are all that they are. He has firsthand experience with more painful things—a few bullet grazes and some bruises are nothing compared to that one month.

"They should be treated nevertheless."

"You're so nosy, Sebastian."

Sebastian roughly pulls Ciel away from the window that looks covered with cobwebs from the outside. Before Ciel can even register what's happening, Sebastian has already seated him on one of the couches. Before Ciel can even protest, Sebastian is already peeling away his clothing to reveal the improperly-and-hastily-bandaged wounds.

"You're being insolent, but thank goodness that I'm so nice as to take care of such a spoiled brat, hmm?"

In contrast with the other's profession and his usual way of dealing with things, Sebastian's fingers are slow and careful when they clean his wounds and re-apply the bandages. Ciel knows that Sebastian knows about the brand on his back and everything else that comes with it; Ciel knows that Sebastian has seen it before. But it doesn't stop the tremor that skitters down his entire body when Sebastian's fingers flutter by the shameful mark.

"Why are you doing this?" Ciel's voice is a little breathy and uneven on the edges. The moment the question leaves his lips, he regrets voicing them out. It's a question that has been in his mind since the day Sebastian offered him valuable information regarding a fellow rebel group's movements. It's a question that he has never voiced out because Sebastian is useful and their arrangement, strange as it is, makes his work go smoother.

Sebastian's fingers settle firmly against his back, his mark. Sebastian's eyes are a deep, deep crimson as they meet Ciel's questioning gaze head-on.

"…Isn't information gathering a part of your job, Ciel?"

"Master, welcome back—eh, a guest? Bard! Maylene! Master brought back a guest!"

Ciel is already regretting his decision of bringing Sebastian to his temporary headquarters. His hired help are making a fuss at the sudden appearance of something aside from targets, dead targets and trespassers on the Phantomhive property. With all that commotion, Sebastian is sure to understand that Ciel's invitation to have lunch together for their business meeting is a little special.

Lunch is a little less burnt than usual, but it's what one could call acquired taste perhaps.

"I finally understand," Sebastian says after one bite of his lunch and after one sweeping look at the room they're at.

The words 'this doesn't mean you're special' and 'I've had other guests before!' are already on the tip of Ciel's tongue.

"If this is what you've been eating for the past couple of years, it's no wonder you stayed so short, little master."

…Maybe Ciel should have poisoned Sebastian instead.

"I received information that Earl Grey paid you a visit last week?"

Ciel sighs heavily. "You do like your gossip, don't you?"

"I'll have you know that I have reliable sources." Words followed by a sugar-sweet and coffee-bitter smile.

"So you also know the reason for Earl Grey's visit," Ciel smirks like he always does, even though his mind is still running in circles about the next course of action, "since you have such reliable sources."

"I do," Sebastian smirks back, like he always does, "but what I'm interested to know is your response."

"It is my duty to get rid of all the filth in this country." Ciel slowly stands up from his seat, steaming cup of tea and freshly-baked dessert forgotten on the dining table. He pulls out a gun from underneath his dress jacket; leisurely makes his way to where Sebastian is sitting without bothering to hide the weapon.

"Oh? A declaration of war? I'm afraid my mafia family will crush the Phantomhive with so little effort."

"I have the backing of Lau's supply imports."

"May I remind you that our family controls the arms supply of other mafia groups? And they hate you, so they'll surely come to my aid."

"Agni and Sohma will give me their support too."

"It disgusts me to admit this, but Grell's group is definitely not going to pass up the chance to help me out."

"Grell? I thought you just had a clash with William and Ronald last month?"

"I'm certain that we can settle our difference once they know my target is to crush the government's loyal dog."

"W-Well, the Trancy Group is going to help me out too!"

"Trancy? I didn't think you'd stoop so low as to get help from those second-rate nobles—"

"Shut up," Ciel hisses at the still-seated Sebastian. Ciel is standing near, too near, the mafia boss, his knees bumping with the other's legs.

Ciel's gun is already pushed against the other's chin, Ciel's hand is already set to pull the trigger, Ciel is ready.

But he really isn't, because Sebastian is useful, when all is said and done, and he actually enjoys the way Sebastian helps him and antagonizes him simultaneously.

Sebastian's fingers flutter back to his mark, and the touch still burns even though there are layers of clothing separating their skin.

It's unfair how that single touch is enough to loosen the tension building up on his shoulders, the stiffness on his arms, the readiness on his fingers.

"I received information about the Phantomhive tragedy eight years ago," Sebastian murmurs into Ciel's ear.

"Even more gossip, Sebastian?" Ciel's hands only tremble twice when larger hands soundlessly take the gun from his grip.

"It's from a very reliable source."

"Undertaker really doesn't know how to keep selling my information to you," Ciel mutters, the irritation changing to a breathy sigh when Sebastian settles him more securely in his lap.

"And since the two of us have a rather impressive arsenal at our hands, shouldn't it be easy to take down the cause of the tragedy?"

"You're suggesting that we take down the Queen of this country?"

Sebastian chuckles darkly. "I'm proposing we join forces and take down the Queen."

It's true that if they combine their resources, they can form a bigger army that has a fighting chance in actually taking down the Queen of this severely rotting country. It's still an insane idea, but Ciel doesn't think he'd have stayed close with Sebastian if he isn't capable of things like this.

"You're really nosy, Sebastian." Ciel doesn't mind it that much, actually. Sebastian keeps on meddling with his affairs and Ciel keeps on letting him—it's just another addition to their routine, to their game.

"And you're being an insolent brat again," Sebastian chides him with a nip to his throat; Ciel tightens his hold on the other's waist in response, "it's a good thing that I'm nice enough to actually put up with you, hmm?"

Ciel Phantomhive sits on the surprisingly still-there red-brick steps of an otherwise completely destroyed building, long black coat on top of his bulletproof vest shielding his body from gunshots, looking not terribly out-of-place in the war-torn town. He keeps his face schooled to a neutral expression, something not entirely difficult to accomplish, seeing as half his face is covered with a black mask to conceal his identity and keep him from breathing in too much smoke.

Today's news is just one piece of paper, a hasty announcement from the government about rebel factions rising up to stain the name of their glorious country, along with an advisory for the civilians to flee their sectors to move to the designated safety sectors. There are no mentions, as expected, of details regarding the rebels aside from calling them demons who want to take over this peaceful paradise. Any allusions to the existence of a newly-established secret police force methodologically taking out groups that are at-risk of helping out the rebels are all nonexistent.

But the truth always comes out in the end, just like how Ciel managed to uncover the real culprit behind his family's assassination and his subsequent abduction after eight years, just like how Ciel is going to expose the pitiful reality of this country and the ways their Queen cripples this country even more.

"Good morning, Ciel," Sebastian sits down beside him, smell strongly of blood and death apparent even through the face mask Ciel is wearing, "I apologize for being late. I had a lot of fun on my way here."

"I wasn't waiting long."

This is just another part of their routine.

"All teams are in position," Sebastian informs him with a honey-sweet smile that somehow fits so well with the first territory that their faction has successfully taken from the country.

Sebastian lets his hand settle on Ciel's shoulder. Ciel lets it stay there.

"Shall we go for some after-breakfast exercise?" Sebastian guides Ciel to where their squad is positioned to take over the next territory. "I heard that the Business Sector has a lot of fine cuisine, fitting for their cutthroat, filthy-rich residents."

Ciel almost laughs at his partner's antics.

And that's the way everything should be.

END.