Disclaimer: There's a lot I wish I owned. Maybe if I found the right star…
Author's Note: Thank you to everyone who reviewed last chapter! Every bit of feedback I get means so much to me.
In other news, I'm sorry for the wait between this chapter and the previous one. I'm afraid real life has been rather hectic, and not very much fun. XD; I do hope this was an update worth waiting for… at least in terms of content, if not also length. ;3
Warnings: SebaCiel. Part of the "Bicentennial" series ("Bicentennial," "Inevitable," "Five Thousand," "Timetable," "Coffee Break," "Cats and Dogs," "Surely Someday," "Turn," "Bouquet," and "Moral"); also makes reference to my fanfic, "Diligo" (no, seriously). OCs. An obscene number of tasteless puns based on George Clooney movie titles. Takes place immediately after "Five Thousand." Inspirational thanks extended to TheLadyBluebird, Neneko, Neocloud9, and Madeleine-Elizabeth. Thank you, everyone, for your help and support!
Dedication: For all of my lovely Bicentennial Boys and Babes. Here's to keeping the future love alive! And, of course, happy holidays. :D
Hitches and Knots
Claude's plastic rose aside, a number of aerodynamically-challenged items went flying about the apartment that night. Concepts like time, all manner of limb, yards and yards of colorful textiles… Some didn't soar for long, admittedly, but they were undeniably airborne for at least a few seconds. It all made for quite the show. And even after so many centuries of supernatural existence (highlighted by witnessed miracles and horrors the likes of which mere mortals could never truly understand), Ciel found he couldn't repress the feelings of awe and wonderment that welled within as he watched Grelle's fingers dart and zip and sew, faster than any machine he'd ever seen in action. Hannah provided some assistance, as well, once the pandemonium brought about by Ciel's exuberant entrance had died down: she politely coughed up a spare needle or three, made a covert run to JoAnne's Fabrics (though borrowing Sebastian's shades and black trench coat was likely unnecessary), and found old re-runs of SpongeBob Squarepants on the television, which did wonders when it came to shutting up… well, all of those in the vicinity with the mental capacity of a five year old.
In short, pretty much everyone.
Though it took an hour or two for the brain-dulling magic of the series to fully take hold, both Trancy boys were ultimately lulled from their perpetual sugarless sugar-high by the sounds of inanity and poorly executed puns that seeped from the speakers. From there, it was a short leap from calmed to comatose: half an hour later, Claude and Will found their laps occupied by sleeping demons. Or would have found them occupied, anyway, had they been paying the slightest bit of attention; instead, said reaper and devil remained transfixed with the program for a notable while longer, unaware that their sponge-loving cover had been blown the same moment Luka started snoring. Ronald mumbled something uncomplimentary about getting better picture reception by watching the program off the whites of their vegetative eyes or the sheen of their glasses, but Ciel was fairly certain he was just miffed that he'd missed his daily dose of My Little Pony, seeing as the others had refused to relinquish the remote control. Finny, forever confused by the concept of animated television in general (it was physically impossible to live in a pineapple under the sea, wasn't it? And why would a horse wear a corset?), nevertheless managed to cheer his friend up by taking out the plastic tub of pony figurines that Sebastian had thought he'd hidden better. The two then amused themselves at the gift-strewn kitchen table in a manner that would have made bronies (and eight year old girls) everywhere quite proud. After a few morally-questionable, self-narrated episodes of imaginative quests and lesbian undertones, the microwave clock struck nine; in a disturbingly appropriate, kindergarten-esque fashion, the death god and gardener tuckered out, threw away their empty juice boxes and cookie crumbs, and retired to Finny's bedroom.
Two down. Carefully buffing a line of silvery buttons, only half-paying attention to Hannah and Grelle as they blathered on and on about the idiocies and idiosyncrasies of past clientele (Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Bloody Mary, blah blah blah, women and their gossip), Ciel wondered just how long it would take for the rest of the room to call it a night. He got his answer a few commercial breaks later, when Claude suddenly remembered how to blink. In doing so, he realized that his charges had long since been knocked out by visions of boxer-bedecked starfish, were drooling all over their slacks, and hey, what happened to the sun? With the help of Hannah, he gathered up the brothers, nodded a courteous so-long to his new, bespectacled comrade, and quietly left with his family for the Undertaker's abode and the beds that awaited them there.
But speaking of abodes, those left remaining (and conscious) in the apartment couldn't help but notice that Sebastian had yet to return to his. Which wasn't altogether a bad thing, really, as Ciel and Grelle were still furiously working on wedding attire, and the last thing they needed was Sebastian to catch sight of the surprise before it was time. ("Bad luck, you know~" "Says the woman who crossed paths with a black cat while running with scissors." "I'll let you know that I have extensive scissor training.") Still, the little devil was grateful when his text-tone sang at 10:14, and he received an apologetic note informing him that his fiancé was being kept at bay by last-minute, nuptial-related details. Grelle got a message a moment later asking if she could stay the night and babysit; as if she'd really been planning on leaving, anyway. No, no, there was too much to do: she sent Will on a few flower-errands ("Quit complaining—your hay fever isn't even that bad!"), double-checked all twenty five of her random lists ("Woah, wait, Grelle—who did you say RSVPed?"), and tinkered on Ronald's laptop for some reason she refused to expound upon ("Tch. With a password clue as simple as 'Celestia's favorite time of night,' he may as well just leave his computer unlocked").
And once all of that had been taken care of, they did each other's nails.
Ciel felt no shame in admitting that he enjoyed a good manicure, despite the difficulties that having naturally black nails presented. He had, after all, been raised on such pampering; he'd never found it particularly girly or emasculating. Even if he once had, he was a demon now, and demons knew little of humiliation. In fact, there was only one bitty issue that niggled at him whenever he indulged, and that was who he tended to engage in the practice with—painting the fingers and toes of the woman who'd first killed his foster mother, then somehow wound up replacing her. But if you found yourself thinking too hard during a manicure, then you were doing something wrong; Ciel used all of his not-inconsiderable mental faculties to keep from mulling over Madam Red, or his true mum, or the past in general. Or the future. Or anything really, other than how nice it was to finally relax, submerged in silence (sans the occasional grunt or sneeze from Will, who had been tasked to lug a good fifty large pots of intricately arranged floral decorations from the basement to the loft. And of course, it went without saying that the elevator was broken). Usually, when the unusual pair spoiled themselves with this sort of lavishness, it was at Grelle's house: they'd pop in a few episodes of the reaper's favorite soap opera, Morangos com Açúcar, and—for lack of a more masculine way to phrase their habits—gossip about boys and shopping until Will demanded that they shut up and sleep, because some of them needed it.
Today's pseudo-spa session was more out of necessity than extravagance, and they were both more harried and stressed than was the norm, but that just meant that they needed this more than usual. Again, if you're thinking too much, 'you're doing it wrong;' there was no reason why they might not still enjoy themselves while coating their extremities in enamel. Since the reaper had left her opera at home, Ciel instead proposed that they unwind to the dulcet tones of a book on CD that he'd been meaning to finish. Placing the last disk in the appropriate tray, he then watched Grelle mix a plethora of yellows, reds, and whites together atop a margarine lid, much as he had earlier studied her stitching. It was a rather hypnotizing sight; soon he'd coiled his arms around his legs and rested his chin atop his knees so as to ogle more comfortably.
"So… what is this that we're listening to, hm? What's going on?" the death god(ess) inquired as she stirred her liquid concoction, scrutinizing the resultant shade on the tip of her brush. It seemed she'd added a touch too much red to this first batch; against the pallor of the demon's skin, it glowed a faint orange. She tried again as Ciel grunted.
"You never bother telling me what's happened previously in your show," he wryly retorted, as if in stubborn rebellion. Still, his squirming half-smirk was enough to prove that he was merely teasing; he glanced up in time to catch his companion's chin jerk as a dry snort wedged itself in the back of her throat.
"Well, that's because I hardly know myself, do I? It's more imaginative that way, don't you think? Wondering what each person's story is… wondering how they all relate… wondering what the title even means…" As she mulled and murmured over these great mysteries, Grelle's smile became a contemplative frown. For the first time in a long while, she allowed herself to be distracted from the task at hand, instead turning towards her young friend and gasping in wide-eyed realization. "…Do you think Claude might be able to tell me?"
Ciel shot her a sardonic smirk in reply. Google would've been able to tell her that… "Perhaps it'd all make more sense if you actually bothered to turn on the subtitles."
"Oh, pish. Where's the fun in that?" The reaper waved her companion's suggestion away as if it were a bothersome odor or an overly-friendly fly. This time, the self-made polish had taken on a buttery sheen, and the tiny demon had a strange feeling that he'd look rather jaundiced if he allowed Grelle to apply it. Thankfully, she didn't bother asking—just attempted a third hue. As she mixed her grown-up finger paints, they listened to the book's smooth-voiced narrator wax on in poetic detail about a church and an appointed rendezvous, just as secret as the tryst between the two main characters. There was something oddly familiar about the plotline, if she momentarily ignored the implications of heavy artillery and gunfire. As the shinigami put two and two together, she arched an amused eyebrow.
"…I thought Romeo and Juliet were just over-excitable, lust-riddled idiots with a death-wish," Grelle commented lightly, smirking at the obstinate not-child curled up on the couch beside her. Ciel flushed a bit in response, his supernatural orientation rendering him incapable of lying or denying previous declarations… not that he had any reason or desire to. Even still, he allowed himself to briefly succumb to the juvenile distraction of wriggling his feet atop the suede couch cushions, then of tugging on the velveteen folds that he managed to catch between his curled toes.
"They are," he mumbled emphatically behind folded arms, clearing his throat in an attempt to sound haughtier. Or, at least, not quite as flustered at being called out. "But I'm allowed to be sappy and romantic the night before my wedding."
Grelle's response was a playful scoff, light and airy. It fooled absolutely no one— despite the attempted disguise, it was really just a wordless rebuke. But as chidings went, it wasn't so bad; the burbled sound was full of palpable pleasure, and her rejoinder was as gentle and affectionate as the touch of the hand that reached out for his. After giving her newest concoction of color an approving once over, Ciel placed his palm atop her own with all of the grace and elegance of the aristocrats he'd be raised to emulate. "Brat, if you wanted something sweet and romantic, I'd have brought over a movie with a happier ending. Like Chocolat. Or Princess Bride. Or heck, Iron Man. I mean, as I recall, the whole marriage-thing didn't work out so well for ol' Romey and Jules."
Despite himself, the tiny demon chuckled at that: a twitching smile tugging on the elastic corners of his lips. Not that Grelle could see his mouth, hidden as it was behind his crooked knees… But she could see the glitter of humor in the once-child's mismatched eyes: reflecting her bemused features and his distant memories in equal measure. "…but it is a happy story," he eventually corrected, the muffled words touched by the faintest hint of sarcasm—just enough to let Grelle know that he was embarrassed. That he was revealing something deep and personal and dangerously true. "It's a happy story… because it didn't happen to Sebastian and me." Ciel's winding grin gained teeth; his cheeks, color. His nails did, as well—a first coating of pale peach over onyx gloss and rot. He contemplated the change with an idle tilt of his head, his lilted voice lazy as his thoughts tumbled along… "Maybe that's why I hate the story so much… because it so easily could have been my own. At the Aurora… or times when I was Contracted. There were so many moments when I thought…"
The not-boy trailed off, the fade to silence as abrupt as the sudden cracking of his voice. He coughed once, grunting something half-hearted about a tickle in his throat; Grelle kept her gaze downcast, focusing (or, at least, pretending to focus) on the slender fingers in her grasp, and the makeup she was applying to them.
"…he would have followed you, you know."
The palm placed so gingerly within the cradle of her own tensed the slightest fraction at the unexpected confession; the reaper's whispered assertion brushed against his pinking ears as softly as the bristles of her brush did his nails. Still, his reaction was not born of surprise… She didn't need to look up to know that this announcement was in no way news to her companion. The only thing that shocked him was her willingness to admit to the truth that they'd both so diligently tried to ignore. Still, though they'd never previously spoken of it, he knew. He'd always known. After all, he hadn't always been as unconscious as he'd seemed.
("Just please, let him go, please, no more, please, me instead, please please please—")
"…like I said," Ciel droned, the tripping words heavy: overly saturated with recollections of recurring nightmares and sepia visions of a not-so-ancient history. He readjusted his pinkie with an arrogant sniff, all for the convenience of Grelle's paint-tipped polisher. "Lust-riddled idiot with a death wish."
The reaper looked about as convinced by this statement as she would have if he'd announced that Scotland Yard had finally found the evidence to convict her as Jack the Ripper. "And if you'd woken up to find his unmoving body sprawled across your own?" she pressed flatly, pausing transitorily to blow warm air over drying coats of enamel. "You wouldn't have done the same?"
(He was his only reason to exist, the only thing that kept his heart beating. He would not let go, no, "no, no, you can't die—you can't! I won't let you!")
Grelle chuckled again, low and unimpressed. "So heartless," she blithely admonished, glancing up at the impassive not-child through the hooded fringe of her long lashes. "And really, it's not the Italian kiddies' fault that they're not as lucky as you, brat."
One hand was switched for another; one half-lidded glance exchanged for a first. "Lady Luck had nothing to do with it," Ciel corrected, the gravity of his tone deliberately contrasting the lightheartedness of his companion's. At the sound of such unforeseen somberness, Grelle allowed herself a moment's hesitation… She then faltered, visibly taken aback, upon tilting her head and noticing the knowledge lurking in the oceanic depths of Ciel's deep blue irises. He, in turn, offered his friend a wavering grin, as if to confirm her suspicions… before swallowing thickly, trying in vain to suppress the electric tremble that shot from the tip to the base of his spine. "I owe a certain lady my thanks," the once-earl told his dear friend in a rasp, refusing to acknowledge the foreign lump in his throat, "but her name isn't Luck."
Grelle blinked once. Opened her mouth. Closed it again. Hunted desperately for a proper reply, but came up empty handed; she'd never expected recognition or appreciation, and wasn't quite sure how to deal with it now that it'd been presented to her. Flushing a rather vibrant shade of magenta, the death god shifted once atop the couch—readjusted her skirt and fiddled with her hair— and then beamed again, demure in her delight. "…are you tearing up, brat?" she gently teased, two fingers pinching the plump of his palm in a loving sort of squeeze. Doing anything more ran the risk of smearing and smudging his polish; heaven forbid such a tragedy occur on her watch. "What a baby you are, crying the night before your wedding…"
Glowering wetly, Ciel coughed out a gruff snuffle of negation— batting lustrous lashes rapidly before rolling glossy eyes. "Don't be absurd. I'm not crying," he snapped, contorting his features into an affronted sneer before giving his damp fingertips an admonishing flutter. As the book's narrator heaped lavish praise upon pseudo-Romeo and revamped-Juliet's dramatic and somewhat predictable end, the young demon stretched his jaw 'til it cracked and gestured vaguely at his navy irises. "It's moisture from yawning. It's late. I'm tired."
Such a child.
"Well, we seem to be done here," Grelle informed with a grin, placing the plastic lid atop the coffee table and working out the kinks in her own neck. It had been a long day, but from a mound of silks, polish, and hard work had come bountiful rewards. Beside her, folded neatly atop a chair, was Ciel's completed outfit, looking just as he'd envisioned; before her, a prepped Ciel was examining his nails—dull and flesh-toned for the first time in decades. From the sound of creaking joints and muted, sneeze-riddled cursing, Will was in the middle of lugging the last of the morning's decorations up the final flight of stairs… there was nothing more to be done besides making certain that everyone got a proper night's rest. Tomorrow would start bright and early… "You can go to bed, if you're so sleepy."
"Right then." Standing with a lethargic stretch, Ciel gathered up his personalized apparel as the audio book's narration faded to a histrionic musical number, signaling the end of the story. As the honeyed tones of the orchestra swelled, the young demon readjusted his hold on rustling gossamer and crunching velvet and hesitated, regarding the redhead who sat before him. Grelle cocked an eyebrow in silent protest to such scrutiny, but rather than rise to unspoken bait, the not-boy simply offered another smile.
"Thank you, Grelle," he said graciously, swooping down to plant a chaste kiss upon her rouged cheek. His lashes and locks tickled and fluttered like butterfly legs; his lips barely lingered there for more than a moment. Then he pulled away with devious little grin, as if nothing had changed. And nothing had changed, really. Some things would never change.
Grelle didn't realize her fingers had leapt to touch her face until they'd already fallen back into her lap. Her hand, like her features, felt unusually warm; whether the sensation had been birthed by the brief embrace or her own cherry blush, she wasn't really sure. She didn't really care. Either way, her devious smirk stretched—emerald eyes dancing with mirth and merriment as she swatted impishly at Ciel's retreating tush, blowing a returning raspberry when appropriate.
When he disappeared into the hall, she fell back into the comforting embrace of the sofa with a sigh. Folding her hands atop her stomach, the reaper then allowed herself the pleasure of a gentler blush, grinning with all the incomparable fondness of a mother as she breathed, "…you're welcome, brat."
Over the course of the next ten hours, Ciel made very good friends with his ceiling. And his armchair. And even Georgina, to some extent, though she had only deigned him worthy company because Sebastian never came home that evening, and someone needed to refill her water dish at 2 AM. Still, in the end, the young demon felt closer to said ceiling than he did the cat, whose mood was less likely to turn on a dime and result in red welts and long scratches. (Well, Ciel supposed he deserved some of the blame for his temporary injuries; Sebastian had made a point of warning him that Georgina did not appreciate being dragged across the room by her tail, whatever the circumstance.)
Though it hardly mattered. By 3, his abrasions had healed, and his skin was as unblemished as a supermodel's in a photoshopped portrait. To celebrate, he had returned to staring at the ceiling, and his armchair, and his mirror, and his closet, and whatever other piece of furniture happened to catch his eye. He wasn't bored, per se, or even lost in thought… He just didn't need or want to sleep, right then. He'd rather curl atop his quilt and breathe in the lingering scents—toy with the yarn work and absently smile to himself. In this way, 3 became 4 and 4 became 5. When 5 became 6, he heard the first stirrings of life beyond his doorway; Grelle was always awake when the dawning sky turned scarlet, whether she needed to be or not. Today, at least, she needed to be… he listened lazily as the redheaded reaper rousted her snoring husband, singing cheerfully about how they were going to move even more flowers today, wouldn't that be wonderfully fun? (Will responded with a choice collection of four-letter words so scathingly curt that they even gave Ciel pause. He wondered blandly if he and Sebastian would gain a tally for such a blasphemous string of swears, seeing as it'd been spewed in their home. That'd be convenient…)
The steady ticking of the spaceship clock hanging on the far wall in the devil's bedroom was soon drowned out by the scrape and groan of repositioned furnishings, flower pots, and William's mounting, snotty-nosed agony between the hours of 6 and 8; by 8:30, Ronald's moans for mercy had joined his boss's. Finny and Grelle, it sounded, were enjoying a light breakfast before submitting themselves to the grueling task of taking catered antipastos out of the fridge and removing the saran wrap. Finny added that he might even set the plates and wine glasses out, too, if he was feeling particularly daring. And oh, was that the doorbell? Such strenuous tasks they submitted themselves to.
Ciel's mattress squeaked as he flopped over, drowning out the dialogue of Ronald's retorting grumble, but the general sentiment was made clear by his tone. As the decorative rockets attached to his clocks' hands commemorated the tolling of 9 by orbiting around the painted moon in the center of its face, the hoary-haired devil started giving his first thoughts to rolling out of bed and facing the day.
But for some strange reason, he found that simple task oddly difficult to accomplish.
It was just like sleep. It wasn't that he was nervous, or anything… he wasn't. He wasn't scared. Not about marrying Sebastian— not about pledging himself to his former servant in a room full of virtual strangers… demons and reapers and angels who he only knew from stories. It wasn't like he was uncomfortable being openly affectionate, or anything. No. There was really no reason for him to feel anything other than calm and collected. He hadn't yet left the safety—um, warmth— of his bed because he didn't want to, that was all. He was comfortable here, and it wasn't like he was in a rush. The ceremony wasn't until late afternoon, and it was bad luck to see the bride early, wasn't it? That sort of superstitious stuff meant a lot to Grelle… For her sake, he should probably stay here. Out of the way. Not being nervous or scared or tired or full of stage fright or anything like—
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, music play! Do what the music say! You wanna kiss the gi—
With a flail of his right arm, Ciel successfully swept his cell phone from the bed stand; by some miracle, it landed softly beside him on the mattress, rather than become a dented mess of plastic on the carpeted floor. By way of the song (and its famous Disney singer) the once-earl was already fully aware of who was texting him; with a sudden eagerness, he readjusted himself atop the bed and made a grab for his bouncing phone, which was busily attempting to slither closer, lured by the shallow crevasse created by his coiled body. The device was soon safely clasped in his hands; Ciel wasted no time in sliding up the screen to access his recently-acquired message.
Good morning, baby bird, the new text read, and despite its lack of cheerful emoticons, Ciel could still feel tenderness and love radiating from the words. It made him smile, even before he was aware that he was doing so. And I truly hope it is a good one.
"It would be better with you here," Ciel couldn't help but grouse, pushing a stray strand of his unruly bangs behind his ear. Seriously, where was his butler? Unless he'd decided to personally verify every last-minute invitation that Grelle had forced Ronald to deliver, then there was no good reason for his continued absence around the house. Or, at least, no good reason that Ciel could think of. Not when he felt so…
Only a few more hours 'til we're wed, my precious little one; it seems rather strange to think of, doesn't it? Though such prospects would never cause my lord anxiety, brave as he is, I admit to feeling a trifle nervous, now that the event is upon us. I am certain that being with you would help to ease that disquiet, but alas, Grelle would likely have my head on a platter if she knew that I'd so much as sent this text.
It was a point that the not-boy was forced to concede. Maybe that was why Sebastian had been gone for so…
Even still, I felt forced to risk our favorite reaper's fiery wrath in order to convey a fair warning. I had really rather hoped to be there when this happened, but the universe has seemed especially fond of screwing me over, recently… if you'll pardon the rather coarse phrasing. More importantly— Ciel. I have been warned by a reliable source that a certain high caliber devil will be arriving early to assist with preparations for the ceremony. Be careful. He seems harmless enough, but in truth he is quite—
The universe, it seemed, truly had developed a taste for screwing Sebastian over, for at that exact moment a number of things happened in relatively quick succession. Beginning, coincidentally, with a creature who gave even less of a crap about others' than the universe did.
It began with a cat.
A cat who loved to nestle herself in the small of Ciel's back whenever she thought him asleep. Apparently that adage about felines having a 10-minute-memory wasn't entirely without merit, Ciel thought as the dark furball leapt up upon his bed. Either that, or house cats really were nature's biggest masochists—always harassing those who least wanted their attention. Whatever the case, Georgina had apparently decided to consider their previous night of hair-pulling and teeth-bearing water under the metaphorical bridge, for no sooner had she appeared did she see fit to loll across his backside: lounging as if his spine was but the Mason-Dixon Line of her own personal island. The unexpected force of her unannounced arrival startled Ciel into dropping his cell; he was then too busy craning his neck to glare at Georgina to pick it up.
"…you know," he told the creature coldly, thin eyebrows knitting together as he regarded the contented feline. Who was, at this point, calmly cleaning herself. "It might be prudent of you to remember that, with Sebastian out, there's no one to keep me from feeding you to Cardenio."
Georgina paused with her tongue on her paw. She blinked apathetic, golden eyes at Ciel. Then she extended a regal leg and began casually licking her—
"And here I thought that female dogs were the bitches of the animal kingdom," the once-child grumbled, rolling violently over to dislodge the cat from his back. Being as aerodynamically inclined as a certain, previously alluded plastic rose, a writhing Georgina flew half-way across the mattress, yowling in shock and protest for the entire two seconds of her mid-air journey. Then—much akin to their previous encounter—she was hissing, and swatting, and her back arching in annoyance, thrashing as the demon scooped her bodily into his arms and frog-marched her out of the room. "Oh, shut it," Ciel snapped as she wailed and growled, ears pressed flat against her head and spindly legs beating against his thighs. "You should be thankful that I'm not dragging you out by your tail again…"
Had she a few extra fingers (specifically one in the middle), Ciel had no doubt what Georgina's response would have been; as it was, she could only try to bite and claw at her would-be pillow, making all sorts of unhappy noises when he dropped her unceremoniously upon the not-nearly-as-comfortable tiles of the kitchen floor.
And that was when the cat passed the baton back to the universe. In regards to the whole screwing-things-up part, anyway—with an intended double entendre. For the last Ciel had been paying attention, things had sounded relatively normal outside the bowels of the house. (Well, as 'normal' as to be expected, taking the past few days into consideration.) But now, rather than obsess over the half-completed buffet or the fact that the flower pots were less "artfully arranged" and more "discarded in clumps," Grelle and Will were… uh, well, washing cucumbers together in a manner that would make that scene from "Ghost" look like Disney cartoon material. Completely absorbed in their own sexually-tinged world of phallic imagery, the giggling reapers failed to detect the disgruntled gaze of the young, pajama-clad demon. Even Georgina had other things on her mind; the moment her master's fiancé released her, an amorous Cradenio was there to provide comfort and condolence. With his body.
In retrospect, Ciel thought, this might explain why she'd tried to seek comfort with him in the first place. He almost felt bad about threatening to feed her to the dog, now that said dog was excitedly attempting to… um, eat her. In his own way.
Feeling a sudden surge of pity for the cat, the demon reached down to grab the Samoyed's crimson collar, giving Georgina ample time to run away… Which she took advantage of, of course, albeit whilst utilizing hip-movements befitting a coy minx. Ciel gawked a bit, notably baffled, as the cat flounced off towards the bedrooms—her retreat less of a bolt and more of a teasing, rump-swaying saunter. Cardenio whimpered and whined, wriggling frantically against Ciel's hold.
What the hell was going on here? The Spears were, for the most part, an affectionate duo; he knew from experience that their pet was, too. But Georgina? This was crossing the line…!
"O-oh! Young master, you're awake!"
At the sound of the disconcerted greeting, Ciel straightened—grip slipping, allowing a love-drunk Cardenio to scamper off to wherever his little heart desired— and twisted around, gaze searching out the speaker. Milliseconds later, his bewildered eyes fell upon a flushed and squirming Finny, who was gesturing politely to a stranger beside him. Ciel couldn't help but note the way his gesticulating fingers trembled ever-so-faintly, or the manner in which his free hand appeared to be pointedly covering a spot on his neck. In the distant corner, hidden beside bookshelves and a vase of moondance roses, Ronald was adjusting his glasses and straightening his shirt, looking just about as inconspicuous as a man visiting a bank while dressed as the Flash.
"Young master," Finny said a second time, lilted voice unusually husky as he again garnered the devil's wandering attention. Ciel reacted at once: head snapping back towards his old gardener and this new guest, stare bright with unabashed confusion. And that confusion grew exponentially as he finally grasped the sight before him, jaw dropping in gawked astonishment. He likely looked a fool. He couldn't bring himself to care. Rather, something in what the not-boy saw must have short-circuited his already haywire brain, for in the next moment he was in a state of juvenile shock— pointing a wild, accusatory finger at the stranger in question. "Young master, this is—"
"Who in Satan's name invited George Clooney to my wedding?" Ciel demanded loudly, glaring over his shoulder at Grelle and her husband. The reaper, rather than affect any trace of remorse (or, really, any sign that she was paying attention to Ciel at all), guilelessly giggled and turned her gaze to the bananas that she'd set aside for the fruit salad. Will's responding moan was as good a cue as any to give up hope on them; the devil decided to look away and address the supposed movie star himself—all salt-and-pepper hair and suave five-o'clock shadow of him. "What are you doing here? Don't you have some goats to be staring at?"
The man-who-would-be-famous answered by way of a vividly amused silence, allowing Ciel his ranting and rude gestures for a while longer. ("Shouldn't you be off somewhere putting the "ER" into "error"? Or busy spying on kids?") With each befuddled command and comment, the stranger's lopsided smile grew by sparkling white teeth. ("Why didn't you just burn your invitation after reading? Let's hear some confessions of your dangerous mind!") In very little time at all, the young devil had worked himself into a pink-faced frenzy, and was left a panting mess: brittle chest heaving as if he'd just run a marathon. While he still looked highly suspicious of the stranger, it did eventually occur to Ciel that his demand for answers might actually be met if he'd shut the heck up. Or stop jabbing his finger at his guest. Though the latter of these two things, it seemed, didn't bother the visitor much; as soon as Ciel remembered how to hold his tongue, George's doppelganger reached out and grabbed said finger, using it to yank the once-child into his open arms.
"What are you doing, you leatherhea—? … oh…"
What the… had someone just upped the thermostat? For some strange reason, the room now felt very, very warm. And no, not simply because of his sudden proximity to a new source of body heat. Potent body heat… toasty. Like a sauna. Maybe that was why he felt a touch dizzy…? Damn, he hadn't felt this lightheaded since the 70s, back when Sebastian had showed him how to fashion a liquor out of catnip…
No, focus brain!
"W-well…?" the woozy demon rasped in way of prompting, clasped finger shuddering in the stranger's velvet hold. His mouth felt unusually dry, and his cheeks unusually hot. And his pants— oh, that cleared his head. Dear lord, he didn't even like George Clooney movies; what was this?
"…'well'?" the doppelganger finally echoed, chuckling to himself as he used a ginger knuckle to tilt his captive's porcelain chin. His voice, unsurprisingly, was just as sinfully sultry as his sylphlike smirk. If he wasn't so busy trying to remember how to breathe, Ciel would mock him for his Harlequin Romance triteness. "That's a rather deep subject, wouldn't you say? Wet, too." A pause; the grin widened. "…get it?"
A cricket chirped.
Ronald started, looking towards a pot of petunias. Knees wobbling visibly as he propelled himself forward, the reaper left with a muttered parting of: "…I'll get the pesticide…"
Sans his shuffle, the room remained silent; once it was clear that no one was going to laugh, the intruder did so himself, clearly relishing his own horrible pun. Ciel couldn't help but notice that his breath—when it wafted over his face—smelled sweet… familiar. Almost as familiar as that atrocious sense of humor. The once-earl's brow furrowed in hazy contemplation, even as the attractively grizzled gentleman ran willowy fingers through his hair. And not in a soothing way, it should be mentioned. What the hell was this weirdo doing, looking for lice? He was acting very much like a famer surveying a potential mount. Um, horse. "But my, my… aren't you a little spitfire?" the debonair stranger continued cheerfully, the classy crows' feet beside his eyes becoming even more pronounced in his tickled delight. "A charming creature, really— I can see why Mallie-bird would be so very possessive of you. Never did learn to share, that one."
"Oooo~" As lookalike-George's palms cupped Ciel's colorful face, Grelle's keen penetrated the tense, hot air like a long, hard… er, knife. At first, it wasn't apparent if she was reacting to Will (who was brazenly kissing his way down the sweeping camber of her neck) or their guest's words… Perhaps it would be safest to assume it was a little of both. Whatever the case, she had soon turned her lust-bleary gaze upon her temporary charge and was throatily tut-tutting him. "Speaking of Sebastian-darling—" ("I'd rather you didn't," Will mumbled into her skin), "—he may be home at any time~ So you best scuttle off, pet! We don't want the groom to be seeing the bride, ah, prematurely~"
…pet? Eyebrows nearly disappearing above his hairline, leaning as far back from the stranger as his ensnared body would allow, Ciel leveled the sweet-mouthed Grelle an incredulous stare, features scrunched in bafflement. What the hell sort of endearment was that? What happened to 'brat'? This wasn't because he'd kissed her, was it? Because there was no reason that a kiss should make anyone so shamelessly amorou—
Two thoughts soundly beat any other ponderings out of Ciel's mind in the following instant. The first and more coherent of the bunch was that this Clooney clone must have spent a good deal of time in Europe (as a good German, perhaps), if this was how he took to greeting people. The second thought was more along the lines of frantic keyboard smash and cartoonish symbols used in place of more questionable language. Eyes wide, arms flailing, and feet kicking violently against the shins of the surprisingly strong stranger, Ciel's mouth nevertheless remained suctioned to his guest's face, and George (?) didn't seem to be planning to let go any time soon.
"Mgph? MMMMgbasch—mmgdnnn…nnn…. Nnn…" The petite demon bleatingly moaned, half-swallowed voice hitching as his violent squirming became less violent and more… squirmy. His face, already pink, was quickly growing red; since he didn't really need to breathe, it likely wasn't from oxygen deprivation. Finny, who was still standing rather awkwardly beside their grabby guest (waiting patiently to finish his introduction, no doubt), blinked innocently at the scene before him and made an understanding sound at Ciel's initial confusion.
"I know, young master…" the gardener agreed, nodding in response to a particularly guttural "mgph." "But this 'hello' is nothing compared to how he said 'goodbye' to his wife."
In the kitchen, leaning comfortably against the counter, Grelle smiled genially at the good-natured quip, seeing as the young devil was in no position to do so himself. (Though his current position was good for a few other things…) "Isn't it nice to see people so in love, even after a few millennia?" she cooed, her hums a trifle huskier than normal—which, prior to this moment, hadn't seemed possible. Will's hands ran up and down her sides, fingers catching on the edges of her top; from somewhere down the hall, Ronald called a question about killing insects with chocolate-flavored lube, since that seemed more readily available than Raid. His inquiry was drowned out by his suit-clad superior.
"Well, it helps that they don't seem particularly harried about monogamy…"
"Now now, that's not true at all!" With a wet snapping sound and an airy groan of befuddlement, a dazed Ciel's head fell heavily upon the shoulder of the protesting visitor, his silvery lashes fluttering like one who had recently chugged a GHB-laced jello shot. The speaker then twisted 'round to regard the reaper, looking puckishly affronted. "I would never cheat on my dear Lilith; she'd have my head in exchange! Both of them." A brief pause. Once again, no one bothered to feign amusement at the horrid pun; even the cricket stayed quiet. Instead, the stranger took care of the laugh track himself. "No," he continued, waving a dismissive hand, "the worst I do is wantonly murder the husbands of those I take an interest in. Oh—not that you need to worry about that, my dear." With a sheepish chuckle, the movie star duplicate returned his attention to the drooling Ciel: gently tipping his chin and offering another jovial grin. "I am quite taken with you, but as I said before— my son never quite learned how to share."
…son? In an attempt to physically express how much this announcement bemused him, Ciel tried to blink in surprise… but his lids couldn't seem to synchronize their timing. Well, that was embarrassing. But though his eyes and arms and a few other appendages below the waist were experiencing serious technical difficulties, his brain did, finally, manage to catch up. To some degree. "…s'wait…" the young demon slurred, driving himself backwards with a pointed push. Trembling fingers clung drunkenly to the stranger's shoulders, keeping him tipsily upright. He wished some blood flow would return to his feet—it'd make it easier to stand. And had using his tongue always been this cumbersome? Mmm… tongue. No, wait—focus. "Yur… yur Sebasschan's…"
The man who was not George Clooney—or even a man, really—beamed. "It is a pleasure to finally make the acquaintance of the scintillating little creature my beloved Mallie-bird is marrying," he cooed, ivory teeth winking as his black eyes crinkled. But there—there, deep in the pupil, was a momentary flash of vermillion fire. "I am Asmodeus, ruler of the Second Circle, husband to Lilith, and soon to be your loving papa-in-law." He laughed again (giggled more like it) and Ciel was suddenly and vividly reminded of the father of another fiancé that he'd had, so many years in the past. "You can call me Daddy, if you like. In fact, I insist on it~"
…even if the effects of the demonic aura of the lust-sect's king hadn't rendered him virtually speechless, Ciel doubted he'd have had much to say to that.
Perhaps he and Sebastian should be flattered, in retrospect. Out of all of the billions of people in the world, for the universe to have personally decided to have it out for them was sort of an honor.
Sebastian realized, of course, that excusing himself from the bedroom was a waste of effort. Seedy back alley motels weren't exactly famous for their soundproof walls; his conversation would have been audible even if he'd meandered half-way down the asbestos-bedecked hallway. But if he had no other talents, the devil was exceedingly good at putting up a front… disguises and façades, yes, those were his fortes. So when his cell phone began to chime a midi version of the Wedding March, he offered the woman in bed beside him an apologetic smile and wandered purposefully to the bathroom. She didn't bother asking why—just watched him leave with a smoldering gaze, luscious lips curling up in knowing amusement. Even as he firmly closed the door behind him, the devil knew that she would be eavesdropping as if her life depended on it; at least this way it would be a fraction more difficult for her to do so. In afterthought, Sebastian also pushed in the button lock on the handle (like that'd really stop her, if she put her mind to it) before sliding open his cell phone.
"Ciel?" the butler greeted in confusion, careful to keep his raw voice low. Still, the murmured name reverberated off of the cold tile floor and the dusty porcelain of the tub basin, resounding over again in his ears. Sebastian tried to dampen the effect by sliding the shower curtain closed; the sticky plastic sheeting whined in his grip, and the copper rings screeched along the rusty pole. In the cloudy mirror across the way, Sebastian's framed reflection was contorted in perplexity, features unusually sallow in the yellow glow of the cheap overhead light. "Little one, what's—?"
"You… have serious Daddy issues… you f-freak…"
The husky accusation was as unexpected, bizarre, and ridiculously cryptic as similar telephone greetings given by shadowy monsters in horror films like The Ring. Or, at least, alternate versions of such. Maybe an outtake that would have kept Ronald from wetting himself all over his couch, or Grelle from cutting the phone lines in his apartment. ("You idiots," Ciel had berated, smacking the reapers upside the head with an empty bowl of popcorn. "We don't even own VHS tapes anymore! The only way she'd get us here is through a haunted internet meme featuring lolcats!" And though he'd just gotten buttery kernels all over Sebastian's clean living room floor, Ciel had been righ—) Oh—oh, Ciel. On the phone. Yes, The Ring wasn't the point right now… well, er, it was, but no—no, wait, what was going on? Sebastian faltered, brow furrowing as he tried to remember himself… But in the end was forced to surrender, his expression as nonplussed as his rebuttal. "…what?"
A snort, followed by an exasperated groan. At least, the demon thought it sounded exasperated… mostly. "D-don't you… h-hah… act all innocent with me…" Ciel heatedly scoffed, the words hushed, rasped, and wheezy. On the other end of the line, someone was frantically fidgeting: the whispered sounds of rustling clothes and rubbing thighs rang in Sebastian's ears with the same crystal clarity as his fiancé's gruff insults. "T-that… father of yours… he looks j-just like… your movie star man-crush…. Nnn…"
"He does not!" It was almost kind of funny, really, what one could overlook when instinct took over; oblivious to the randomness of his charge's allegation, Sebastian merely squawked in horrified disgusted, so utterly taken aback that he momentarily forgot to keep his voice down. Or to ask where the hell that cruel assertion had come from, anyway. Because honestly, the very idea—! "My father looks nothing like George Clooney!" the butler griped, thin lips curling into an alarmingly moe pout. "And I wish you would stop calling him my man-crush. It makes me sound unfaithful."
Ciel retorted with an incredulous snort. It was almost as if he could somehow see his fiance's uncharacteristically infantile sulk —as if he was really as close as he sounded... "H-he's George Clooney's twin…." the not-child coldly (and breathlessly) insisted,"with your horrible sense of humo—oh…"
Okay, that was just crossing a line. Sebastian could feel the tirade swelling, now— he was already internally constructing his argument with the same skill and swiftness he used when building one of his Lincoln Log sculptures. Only, you know. With more verbs and adjectives than pseudo stumps and beams. "George Clooney is a gift from the gods of acting," Sebastian growled, lower lip sticking out and fist on an equally thrust hip. "To even suggest what you are is worse than blasphemy! Would you scribble over the Mona Lisa with crayo— …alright, bad example, I know we needed to up our evil quota that month. But I digress! Clooney and his fans everywhere would be— wait."
The elder devil froze again, forehead deeply furrowed as… hold on a minute… ah, there it was. His brain. It had decided to catch up with the conversation. And now that it was here, he couldn't help but realize that something was… off, with this discussion. Something slightly more specific than "everything." Wearing a sober frown, Sebastian forcibly pushed aside his repulsion and defensiveness long enough to acknowledge the garish, pink, metaphorical elephant loitering impatiently in the room. "…you met my father?" Sebastian deduced, once again proving that he could be quite the detective when he put his mind to it. Maybe next he'd figure out the parental control locks Ciel had installed on his laptop. "Even though I warned you to stay away in my text?"
The younger devil choked on another guttural grunt of strained laughter, his head falling against an unseen wall with a hollow thud. Each rattling gasp he expelled into his telephone's mouthpiece was exacerbated by the fuzzy warmth of white static. "Yeah… 'bout that— anyone ever tell you… mmgh~ t-that brevity is the soul of wit…?"
"…but I wasn't trying to be funny," Sebastian returned meekly, a frown curdling the corners of his mouth. But that was hardly the point, or his main concern. Something about this whole charade was niggling away at him… something about Ciel. Something that made his stomach twist in familiar ways. But why would an argument make his belly feel so…? No, wait… Lowering the toilet's cracked lid with his free hand, the butler went ahead and lowered himself, as well—elbows resting on his parted knees as a sudden revelation hit him hard. (No pun intended.) In the midst of his surprise (first at the call itself, then at Ciel's indictment), he'd somehow overlooked a detail that, in retrospect, was rather glaring and obvious and… um, intimate. It was a situation that called for tact, subtlety. Decorum. But in lieu of that, he employed a flat accusation.
"Ciel, are you masturbating?"
The little demon on the other end of the phone whimpered softly, breath hitching as his hair shifted and hissed. He likely had the phone sandwiched between his head and the partition, as his hands were… otherwise occupied. "Y-yes... I dunno… what happened, but… ah~!"
As another strangled moan squeaked its way through Ciel's pursed lips, Sebastian felt his own throat constrict, tighten. Funnily enough, it was a reaction mimicked by his sweatpants. But even still, the frustration in the elder devil's groan didn't seem to stem from a sexual source. At least, a good half of it didn't. "My love, please tell me you didn't succumb to baser urges in front of Grelle..." the butler pleaded, dragging a clammy hand down his face. He'd like to think his fiancé had a bit more self-control, but demons weren't exactly designed to resist impulsiveness or temptation, and that was his father's specialty. Thinking on it rationally, Sebastian was a touch surprised that he couldn't hear the telltale sounds of a raging orgy trickling from his earpiece… Instead, he was privileged to a single devil's insulted (albeit very horny) growl.
"'C-course not…I'm in… the closet~!" Ciel's hiccupped rebuttal was punctuated by a keen, the tail end of which almost managed to smother Sebastian's involuntary snicker. His baby bird snarled again to censure the immature giggling—he hadn't called to be belittled— but really. He'd walked right into that one…
"You haven't been in the closet for years," Sebastian rejoined glibly, unable to keep from smiling. His grin only grew when Ciel groaned again, though this time the response was more a reaction to annoyance than appetence.
"S-shut up—!" the younger demon snapped, heels drumming feverishly against some undetected surface. The mundane riposte rather underwhelmed Sebastian; in a long life seasoned by brilliant witticisms and shrewd retorts, 'shut up' was the best his tamer could manage? This was a sad moment to behold indeed… But then, given the circumstances, the butler was willing to let it slide. Slide, much like Ciel's hand was surely d—okay, no, not going there. Sucking down a deep, steadying breath, Sebastian then offered his absent charge another lopsided smirk. "Dun… wanna hear it…"
"Well, if you didn't want to hear it, why did you call me?"
The once-earl's hiccupped response was his umpteenth hitched groan, desperate and impious. As if unaffected, the butler hummed and smiled: privately pleased at how his fiancé so effortlessly managed to weave the "want" back into "wanton." Devious musings birthing a sensuous smirk, the servant's lacy lashes half-lowered to hood his wily gaze. And when his baby bird finally offered his reckless response… "Needed… to hear your voice—!"
Ruddy irises flashed vermillion; ivory fangs winked white.
"Ah… Therein lies our problem, I'm afraid." Oh yes, Sebastian was very amused, now. So much so, he somehow managed to ignore his own growing… problem. Shifting atop the toilet seat, he looped one lithe leg over the other and affected an unperturbed air. As he'd said before: he was all about the façades… "I cannot shut up and keep talking."
And there, an answer: Ciel's exasperation was definitely flirting on the edge of blatant fury, at this point. But in an adorably erotic way, as was his wont; Sebastian felt a tingling shiver race down his spine as his precious charge hissed, sounding deliciously feral and feline as he choked on a number of coarse and colorful curses, each lovingly directed at his fiancé. "F-fine…" Ciel begrudgingly conceded, spitting with rage in response to Sebastian's teasing provocations. "If you c-can… say something— something that won't—hah—piss me off—!"
At a bit of a loss, Sebastian blinked once, mouth half-open as his befuddled gaze fell upon the floor. Something that wouldn't annoy the young master…? He pondered on this prompt for a long, lazy moment, looking wholly and innocently thoughtful—as if unaware of Ciel's shallow gulps and gasps as they rang in his ears, wispy and frantic. The younger devil was on the ledge, balancing precariously, just begging for that final push over the precipice and into pleasure: the one, perfect word to send him careening over the edge—
"…parfait?" Sebastian offered blithely.
"Ah— AH…!" As was his prerogative and duty as a servant of Phantomhive, it seemed that the butler had chosen his word well; Sebastian smiled affectionately, downcast gaze warm, as the not-child on the other end of the line released an appreciative cry, then lapsed into a series of hoarse huffs and puffs, voice aching with weariness. There was another collection of static-riddled noises as Ciel succumbed to a slovenly slump against the back wall of his closet, still fighting for breath. "H-hah… hah… oh… Sebastian…"
They lapsed into an airless hush, not exactly awkward but certainly rife with an odd tenseness. There was a muted rumple of readjusted clothing on either side of the line; Sebastian wished rather fervently that he could do more than just find new ways to cross and uncross his legs. But he couldn't go home quite yet, and considering… current company… he didn't really feel like rectifying the situation in other ways. Choosing instead to focus on the humor of the situation, rather than the throbbing pain, the elder devil raked a hand through his bangs and shattered the heavy silence with a meaningful cough.
"…well then. I have heard of some bizarre pre-wedding romps," he commented flippantly, "but I think that has got to take the cake. Or the parfait. I propose that we never speak of this moment again."
Ciel offered no words of rebuttal or complaint—only a satiated sigh and a distracted grumble. "Wha… what happened, anyway…?" he tiredly demanded, still working valiantly to gather his thoughts and reaffirm his barring. Oh, he sounded so endearingly confused in the wake of baser mollifications; Sebastian longed to be there beside him, to be cuddling his treasured tamer, maybe kissing those puzzled thoughts out of his min—no, wait, shit. Glowering darkly, Sebastian stood from his makeshift seat and stormed over to the locked door, giving the wood (Poor word choice, there, Sebastian—!) a warning bang with his fist. The woman beyond merely laughed. "Your father… What did he do to me…?"
Still glaring at the innocuous barrier between himself and the current source of his ire, Sebastian sighed and allowed himself the luxury of leaning against the wall. It helped offset the unexpected weakening of his knees. "My parents…" the demon confessed in a gruff and faltering way—as embarrassed as any teenager forced to talk about his sires, "are the king and queen of the Second Circle of Hell. Which, as you may recall, predominately focuses on the concept of Lust." Clearing his throat rather awkwardly, Sebastian gave the door another angry rap. They weren't going to play games like this; he'd suffered enough during puberty, thank you. "They are… physically built… to perpetuate their given Sin."
The not-boy on the other end said nothing for a moment; even the echo of his breathing had all but vanished. Such stillness, Sebastian knew, served as prelude to dawning realization… to the start of unclouded understanding… to a crapton of mounting vexation directed entirely at this fucked up (dammit, the puns—!) world that they lived in. Because seriously. "…I suppose this explains quite a bit, now that I think on it," Ciel eventually droned, the words weak and wry. Sebastian arched a prompting eyebrow, regardless of whether or not his master could see it. It hardly mattered either way: the younger of the two wasted no time in pressing on. "About your particular skills, I mean. As well as your workaholic nature."
Despite himself, despite the situation, the butler couldn't help but allow a tiny, amused grin to worm its way onto his face, softening the hard, anxious angles of his countenance. It was just as well; smiling helped loosen the knot in his gut, calming the elder demon considerably. Ciel sounded exasperated, perhaps, but not angry… And he had a right to be angry, all things considered. Perhaps a shorter text, along the lines of "AVOID MY DAD" would have been more appropriate and helpful, in hindsight. "They do enjoy taking their work with them…" Sebastian feebly agreed, lifting a hand to massage his tender temples.
"I'd wager that they never almost-fail to fill their monthly evil quotas."
A wispy gust of air escaped Sebastian's drawn lips, the sound embellished by a laugh. "It helps that they get to set their own quotas, seeing as they are in charge. One of the perks, as they say," he tacked on dryly, lids lowering lightly as he curled all the closer to his phone. With his eyes shut, he could almost pretend that they were side by side…
Hidden in the depths of some distant, shadowed closet, Ciel offered a tickled grunt of his own, but nevertheless attempted valiantly to maintain the proper levels of sarcasm in his cynical drawl. Reputation, and all of that. "In that case," the once-earl proposed, a note of deviltry woven into his liquescent drawl, "shouldn't there be a way for us to get out of those bothersome late fees? They're as persistently maddening as those credit card adverts, but with a higher tendency to spontaneously combust and stink up the kitchen."
Oh, Notices… The mere thought had Sebastian groaning, trying not to remember how long it generally took to scrub the charred remains of brimstone-scented leaflets from his already-abused countertop. As if the imprint of Ronald's butt wasn't embellishment enough… "Well… it comes down to Balance, I'm afraid," the butler nevertheless elucidated. Shaking his head, he fashioned himself a smirk to wear whilst explaining away the mysteries of the cosmos. "And this is where we get into some rather heavy theological discussions—"
Or not. For as soon as Sebastian began to relax, almost forgetting that he was currently resting against the locked door of a hotel room toilet—not lounging in lazy, post-coitus bliss with Ciel somewhere far more (or less, possibly) sanitary— reality decided it was high-time to strike with the ruthlessness of a serial killer with a baseball bat. There was even a violent, cracking crash to exacerbate this metaphor; the sudden, ear-ringing bang had both Sebastian and Ciel gasping and scrambling, bodies stiffening in far less pleasant ways than previously. "Ciel—?"
But Sebastian wasn't the only one calling out his little master's name. Despite the rapid string of heartfelt curses currently being spat into the not-boy's receiver, the servant could still hear a familiar, sing-song voice demanding his fiancé's immediate attention— a playful mix of irritation and disappointment dancing around the corners of each lilted word.
…save it all.
"Cieeeeel~!" Grelle. A boisterous, cooing, quickly-approaching Grelle. Each elongated vowel swelled in volume and vigor, the not-boy's name pointedly underscored by the spongy shuffle of high-heels marching along plush carpet. As if in answer, clothing started to rustle more anxiously; the younger demon began demanding the realms Below to send rains of fire, as well as a pair of pants with fewer buttons. Sebastian resisted the urge to violently face-palm. "Little brat, what are you doing in there? Not trying to warm cold feet, I ho—? Oh-ho…!"
So much for never speaking of this again…
A guilty shuffle; an offended squeal. For his own sake, Sebastian chose to assume that Ciel had managed to stuff himself back into his slacks, at this point. He just wished he felt more confidence in that assumption… and no, Grelle's schoolgirl giggles were not helping.
"I apologize, indeed~ Big brat, then?"
"Don't look at me like that— Will was all but dry-humping you on the countertop!" the once-earl snapped over a barrage of obnoxious twitters, his howl of indignation muffled by turning his purpling face. But such a tactic was hardly effective; when it came to his poor, abused countertops, the elder demon could hear a bacteria-riddled pin drop from 20 miles away. And whether it be pin or straw, that was what finally broke the demon's back. With an incensed splutter, Sebastian scrambled again to his feet—glowering at his cell phone as if giving the device the evil eye would somehow stop otherworldly beings from making out in his kitchen.
"Wha— Will and Grelle, too? What in Hell's name is wrong with you people?" the sickened devil snapped—regrettably loud—having temporarily forgotten about the sensitivity of supernatural ears in the wake of so much rage. Which would simply serve to make the situation worse, of course… "We need to eat off of those countertops—!"
"Ah hah~!" Oh—dammit. Now Grelle knew it was him. (Not that it would have been anyone else, but…) Automatically— but belatedly— clamping a hand over his open mouth, Sebastian's brain decided that now would be a good time to randomly remember that whole thing about shinigami having impressive hearing, themselves. Of course, to be completely honest, even certain members of the Deaf community had likely been able to hear that outburst…
In short, they were both thoroughly Grelle's trilled "Is that Sebastian-darling's voice I hear? Tsk tsk!" made perfectly clear.
A fwump of a downy jacket; a squeak of mussed leather. Apparently attempting to shimmy up piles of his own heaped clothes, the younger devil sneered and spat in protest, likely offering the reaper a baleful glare to boot. "I can talk to him if I want!" Ciel asserted dourly, uncharacteristically immature in this demonstration of petulance. Almost like the whiney teenager he'd never had a chance to be in his human life. But technically, he was correct. It was their wedding, after all, and it wasn't as if they were the most traditional of couples to begin with. Why should old-fashioned superstitions succeed where morals, Contractors, and eternity had failed? They should be able to spend as much time together as they desired. This was inane! Why were they letting Grelle push them around, anyway? She wanted too much, and the only thing he was willing to give was a piece of his mind. "You don't have the right to tell me to do anything! Or him! You can't stop us! And you can't stop m—hey, give me back my phone!"
A struggle erupted on the other end of the line; clearly Grelle believed in fighting fire with fire, and immaturity with immaturity. In his mind's eye, Sebastian could rather clearly picture her dangling the cellular over Ciel's head, just out of his reach.
Morals, Contractors, and eternity had failed, but enter one traditionally-minded grim reaper and… well.
…this was all extraordinarily pathetic, wasn't it? Sebastian returned to rubbing his throbbing temples as the clamoring commotion continued in the depths of Ciel's closet, peppered by such titillating repartee as "Meanie!" and "Gimmie!" and other such singularly-worded charges and insults. Should he begin to hear slapping, he'd have no choice but to assume they'd succumbed to a catfight. Oh, how the mighty have fallen… Once upon a time, he had been a feared and formidable devil. Really. Though even he found it difficult to believe during moments like this…
"Haha, well, I'd spank you for disobedience, bratty-poo, but it seems you've already spanked yourself to completion, hmmm~? "
…wow. That wasn't just crossing a line, that was strapping on a jet pack and blasting yourself over it at supersonic speeds. Temporarily distracted from his own melancholic musings, Sebastian leveled the phone a flat glare, nose scrunched in the wake of such crassness. "That's disgusting, Grelle."
"The mess our favorite little one made is what's disgusting~"
"Rgh— I mean it, Grelle! I'm ordering you to— Don't touch that butto—!"
Unfazed and unthreatened, another taunting laugh rang through the demon's earpiece: good-natured in its vindictiveness, but still… well, annoyingly vindictive. No guesses as to what the shinigami was just about to do. "Your bride-to-be says bye bye, Sebastian-darling~!" Grelle keened into the phone, smacking her lips to simulate a blown kiss. The popping of her puckered mouth hadn't even faded to a full silence before the sound cut out completely; Sebastian was left with nothing but a dial tone and a headful of horrified musings. And pants that felt much, much looser.
He needed to get back home, now.
"It's time to leave." With his usual swiftness and efficiency for multitasking, Sebastian snapped his cell phone shut with one hand and swung open the flimsy door with the other. To her credit, the devil's current company had not gone so far as to take a glass to the wall; rather, she remained atop the mussed mattress, just as she'd been before he left. To some ignorant onlooker, it might not have been apparent that she was snooping at all: she even went so far as to jolt in surprise upon Sebastian's sudden return, blinking up at him with innocuous black eyes full of wordless questions. But the ruse hardly lasted for long. In the next moment, her ruby lips had bowed themselves into a toothy, knowing smile, as if she simply couldn't bear to fool the world with such a clever front of ignorance for any longer. Right, because she had been so convincing. Also, Sebastian was a llama.
"But we can't leave yet," the woman simpered, lifting her lithe limbs and opening them wide. Beneath the coarse coverlet, she rubbed her porcelain knees and wiggled expectantly, sheets of raven hair swathing her sensual person like a second blanket of silky satin, draped luxuriously over her slender shoulders. "Nearly a thousand years apart, and all I get is a single night of cuddling~? And only that thanks to blackmail? Whatever happened to the fledgling who would whine and whimper whenever I set him down to dole out punishment to damned souls?"
For an agitated spell, the taunt of the memory—much like her teasing giggles—hung in the air as a near-tangible entity, then fell to deposit a dusting of childish pink across the demon's cheeks. Scowling (as if that might somehow counteract the blush), Sebastian crossed stubborn arms over his chest and growled. And perhaps—just by virtue of current company— his brow may have furrowed a bit, and his bottom lip pouted out a touch, too. "Mother…"
The endearment was a spoken with bitterness and impatience, as it had been spoken to so many mothers over the eons. Lilith, however, unlike a good number of those others, remained entirely at ease in the face of such a disrespectful attitude, merely laughing at her son's obstinate irritation. "Oh, calm your tail feathers, darling," the youthful queen purred, rolling dark eyes so much like her husband's. And speaking of her husband… "You know that your father is only acting out of love. Love for you, and for this Ciel Phantomhive of yours. Should families not be affectionate?"
Lilith's casual retort was answered by an irritated groan; Sebastian scrubbed wearily at his eyes, sinking back atop the bed. (His mother's grin shone with obvious glee.) "There is a difference, Mother, between affection and sexual harassment," the devil curtly informed, leveling the woman beside him an acidic glare. Her response with another innocent flutter of her lashes, as if taken aback by this bombshell of a revelation.
"Is there?" Lifting a finger to her chin, Lilith's gaze slid musingly upward, her murmured voice thoughtful as she rolled the declaration around in her mind. A moment of consideration; another smirk, then a shrug. "Well, you learn something new every day~" she sang, wearing a beam so bright that Sebastian was certain it was meant to mock him.
And yet, at the same time, he wasn't altogether sure if she was kidding, anymore. The fact grated at his nerves, already worn from so many hours apart from Ciel.
"Mother. Please." The butler's voice was taut, tense. His half-hearted glower equally so—like some tormented hero from the pages of a trashy romance novel. Always the drama queens, her boys; histrionic to the core. In the back of her mind, Lilith wondered blandly if maybe she should have signed them up for tortured-soul's-foot-ball, rather than jazz-and-tap classes, back in their youth. But oh well. No helping their spinelessness, now…
"Oh, don't look at me like that, silly goose," Lilith admonished with a laugh, leaning over to boop a kiss to the tip of Sebastian's wrinkled nose. (He immediately made a show of scrubbing her affection away; her aura was bad enough, no need to add fluids to the mix. Of course, this overblown reaction only served to amuse his mother more.) With a final, fanged smile, the demon queen slid from the rumpled nest of the bed, smoothing down the slinky, low-cut negligee she'd decided to dress herself in. Inappropriate attire, perhaps, for dealing with one's son, but hey— Sebastian wasn't complaining. At least she'd decided to dress at all. "You worry far too much. Besides, while your father may work for Satan, he would never be so cruel as to steal his son's fiancé away. Particularly not," the she-devil coolly continued, "when I'm here." Gliding gracefully over to the shabby closet, Lilith paused long enough to shoot her child a lengthy leer, superficially sweet but deeply devious. Despite the unnervingly stretchy curve of her pliant lips—the way her mouth's pinches clawed at her eyes, untamed and ravenous— the expression nevertheless set Sebastian's heart at ease… sort of. But in the next moment, it didn't matter anyway, for Lilith pulled something from the cabinet's mildew-scented depths that made him forget everything else.
"Oh…" For the first time in… well, a distressingly long while, the soft breath that Sebastian released wasn't riddled with anxiety or exasperation; rather, it was a sigh rife with relief and appreciation. Countenance correspondingly buoyant in its bright-eyed satisfaction, the younger devil, too, stood and wandered towards the closet—outstretched hands reaching for the garb that hung from a hook looped around his mother's finger. "Oh, mother, it looks… how did you…?"
Lilith, visibly amused by her child's uncharacteristic display of wordless wonderment, arched a sprightly eyebrow and smirked. In doing so, it was clear whose smile Sebastian had inherited. "As the Queen of the Second Circle, it is only natural that I should be able to mend a moth-eaten suit, don't you think?" the not-woman chuckled, running willowy fingers up and down one repaired wool sleeve. The darned black fabric shone beneath her delicate touch; silver embellishments gleamed like distant stars in the sallow light of the bedside lamp. "It was, I suppose, somewhat onerous to find a spool of matching thread from a year so far in the past… and collecting all of the buttons that you and your master had bartered off over the centuries was a bit of a challenge, as well. I'd rank it up there with a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle, in terms of difficulty. It took me an entire afternoon."
As she spoke, his mother's sardonic sneer softened into something teasing and sweet—a genuine glitter of gratitude flickering into life in the ruddy depths of her eyes. Prior to this, she hadn't heard from her Mallie-bird in so, so long; it was always nice to know that, despite everything, she was needed. As Sebastian gingerly accepted the restored garb, folding it carefully over one crooked arm, he too offered a gentle grin. Then he leaned over and brushed a kiss of his own to Lilith's sericeous cheek, mouth quirked in appreciation and joy. "Thank you, Mama," he murmured as he did so, leisurely straightening as he hugged the outfit to his chest. "With this, everything will be perfect."
The declaration resounded with sincerity. It its wake, Lilith fashioned her features into a mask of theatrical surprise.
"…really? Is that all you needed?" she intoned, voice light with roguish mischief as she lifted her left hand. The right, from which the plastic hanger had been dangling, coiled behind her back when she elevated the other; idly, the curled fingers of her fist unfurled, revealing something round and burnished shining in the cup of her palm. "Then whatever should I do with these?"
Sebastian was, by no means, "slow:" not mentally, not physically, not in any sense of the word. (Except, perhaps, when Ciel asked him t—save it all; that blasted aura!) Even still, it took the demon a full minute to truly realize what he saw lying there, so lovely and solid, in his mother's open hand. Had she really…? Could it possibly…? When the truth finally registered, his already-wide eyes widened a fraction more. Jaw dropping a startled half inch, the younger devil glanced from the gift to his mother and back, as if he couldn't quite believe what his own senses told him. But then—just as suddenly as anything— he chortled. And he smiled. And he accepted the proffered present with a teasing soft of leer, nuzzling his nose against his sire's in a childish pseudo-kiss. "As the Queen of the Second Circle, yes..?" he then prompted, anticipating her explanation long before she had a chance to give it. After all, like mother like son.
Lilith snorted, grin squirming as she happily endured Sebastian's ticklish embrace. "Finding those was about as difficult as completing a Rubik's cube," she pronounced with a giggle, bracing herself against Sebastian's chest in the wake of this exuberant expression of gratitude. Beneath his pullover, she could feel his happy heart flutter. The sensation made her heart do the same. "Blindfolded."
Her son laughed. Slipping the cylindrical baubles safely into his suit's stitched pocket, he then looped his arm through his mother's and led her graciously towards the door, as if parody of his previous station. They were done here. And they had more important places to be. "Dare I ask how you wish to be repaid for your services?" Sebastian amicably inquired, the question impishly coquettish as he bowed the she-devil through the exit. Again, it seemed the thing to do, considering the outfit with which he had just been reacquainted. Lilith, in turn, offered a good-humored curtsy as she smirked, once more hooking elbows with her child as they stepped over the threshold.
"I believe you know my terms."
Neither filial piety, current gratefulness, nor even their cheery game of mistress-and-servant could keep Sebastian from rolling his eyes. The words added small weights to the corners of his mouth, pulling his lips into a frown… But his blustery exhalation spoke of acquiescence, even if it wasn't whole-hearted. It was just as well, anyway; he was already in enough trouble with his best friend. That wasn't to say, of course, that he had to like it…
"You two are nearly as bad as Claude, you know that, right?" the demon droned, flat of tone and face as he watched his mother's leer stretch, stretch, stretch—elastic and elated. Beneath her skin, plots and plans were frothing up like carbonation in celebratory champagne; each scheme shimmered in her eyes with the same opulence beauty as a bubble, leaving her nerves fizzy with excitement and gradient gladness. Oh, she was going to have such fun… Beaming blithely, as saccharine-sweet as sugar, Lilith rested her head against Sebastian's shoulder and hummed, stroking his arm to ease (or, perhaps, exacerbate) the tension in his body.
"Well, the apple never falls far from Eve, dear."
Her eldest scoffed. "I believe you mean 'from the tre—'" he began, dry correction butchered mid-syllable by a hissed yelp of surprise and pain. Glancing 'round, Sebastian managed to catch the tail-end of his mother's exploits: her deft, soothing fingers slipping back down the round of his shoulder. In her fist, she now held three silky strands of his forelocks; in an instant, her own powerful brand of magic had stripped them of their human guise. And all the while, the pretty queen smiled.
"Every breath you take… Every move you make…"
"So let me get this straight." Arms bound across his chest as tightly as if caught up in an invisible straightjacket (which might actually be a necessity, if this kept up), Ronald turned an incredulous glower upon his innocently baffled senior, two-toned hair mused from running frustrated hands through it. Grelle, in turn—already inching her way back to the party, armed with a platter of cheese cubes— shook her head pointedly back and fore, back and fore, the very picture of blameless virtue. "You have absolutely no idea how these songs got onto my locked wedding playlist."
"Every bond you break… Every step you take— I'll be watching you."
"Ronald, dear, I keep telling you— I certainly didn't hack my way onto your laptop last night," the vivacious redhead insisted, speaking loudly in order to be heard over the pounding baseline, the pounding feet, and the pounding fists upon the front door. In the distant background, Finny was trilling another animated salutation, followed by a polite query about what sort of fabric softener said guest used to keep their gauzy robes so radiantly opalescent. "What reason would I have had for improving a rather drab and dull playlist of cliché ceremony music?"
"Every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay—"
Behind thick plastic rims, Ronald leveled his friend a skeptical stare, brow furrowing as he mentally attempted to apply some sort of Sherlockian skill to this current conundrum of a mystery. For having nothing to do with its rectification, an odd number of familiar-sounding songs had magically appeared over the course of the night… songs that he was quite certain he had heard Grelle suggesting before. But in the end, Ronald was forced to concede that, in a court room setting, such a coincidence would've been seen as circumstantial, and thus wouldn't have carried much weight; he was left to merely sigh from his perch atop the counter, shooting his "improved" playlist a sidelong glance. For now, it didn't really matter, he supposed. Sebastian hadn't yet arrived, so he wasn't there to complain; Ciel (flitting around somewhere, likely trying to avoid the Trancys, his father-in-law, and… well, pretty much everyone at the current gathering), was too preoccupied to give much thought to unsuitable ditties. And as for their guests, varied as they were, they seemed united in their general apathy: after a few moments of initial confusion and soundless mouthing to one another, angels and demons alike eventually shared in a shrug before making their way to the refreshments table. (Quite quickly, once a certain king had gleefully born down upon them.) After all, so long as there was wine, there was no reason to whine, right? Or so quipped Asmodeus.
"I'll be watching you."
"Gabriel, my old friend! It's been too long!" With far more enthusiasm than anyone should be allowed to have without first consuming 20 pots of coffee, Asmodeus bounded, gazelle-like, from creature to creature, arms extended in friendship and welcome. Some newcomers he graced with a simple shake of the hand; others were greeted with much greater intimacy, occasionally in ways involving tongue. Judging entirely by the tone of his voice, the demonic monarch was apparently planning to physically consummate his friendship with the angel to whom he now referred. Or, at least, get in a good-natured hump. "Foretold the births of anyone of import, lately, Gabe? Perhaps in regards to the happy couple?"
"Azzy, my dear!" With equal vigor, a heavenly young man of golden robes and gemstone eyes half-skipped, half-fluttered into the packed living room, breaking away from a flock of lesser malakhim loitering near the coat closet. Folding three sets of butter-yellow wings carefully behind his broad back, the archangel reached out to clasp arms with the devil addressing him, bowing low to plant friendly kisses on both stubble-dusted cheeks. "Haha, well, if they are barren, it will certainly not be from lack of trying on your part," Gabriel teased, warmly clapping the other's shoulders. "You have been working overtime, it seems; I do believe I just saw Crowley and Aziraphale 'reacquainting' themselves in the corner~" As 'Gabe' straightened post-embrace, the sea of feathers, tails, leather, and gossamer around the pair undulated; glancing up, the angel caught sight of another familiar face before it was swept away by the living tide. "Azazel! Azazel, you cheeky thing, I see you hiding over there behind Raphael!" he bellowed, gesticulating wildly in order to catch the demon's eye. In his gusto, he nearly backhanded Alois, who was weaving in and out of the throng—dancing from creature to creature so as to introduce himself, and thoroughly relishing the outpouring of affection that resulted whenever he handed someone their goodie bag. He was such a whore for attention, it was almost surprising he hadn't worn his kimono. Or that ensemble from Victoria's Secret. "Come over here and give me a proper hello!"
"Gabby?" With a hearty laugh of surprise, Azazel— a gruff, muscular thing, dressed in armor reminiscent of a Roman gladiator— spun to face the speaker, a glass of ruby port poised before his lips. Beside him, a shorter, grimmer demon was half-eavesdropping, half-watching as a drove of chattering seraphim plugged a usurped Wii into the television, cheerfully challenging one another to games of combative karaoke. "Speak of the angel— I was just telling Leviathan, here, how long it's been since I last heard you play your horn. Perhaps you'll grace us with some of your musical brilliance tonight?"
"Whatever grating melody you chose, it'd be in better taste than the trash we're listening to right now…" the distracted Leviathan muttered into his own drink, rolling electric green eyes. Whether he was referring to the dulcet tones of The Police, or to the melodic keens of "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come" wasn't immediately apparent, but it was doubtful that he found either particularly pleasing. (Apparently, he wasn't alone; somewhere further back, masked by the thirsty swarm surrounding the kitchen table, a more vocal guest hollered: "For the love of— How about some Rebecca Black, if you want to torture us?") Both guests went ignored.
"Oh, I am not nearly so skilled in music as some… though perhaps I'll play for you, if you would whip out your violin for me," Gabriel returned over the spirited banter of spirits full of spirits. His grin widened in thanks as Asmodeus handed him a flute of his own; his wings rustled in ecstasy upon taking a swing of the merlot. "One more thing to anticipate about the post-ceremony party, I suppose? Besides the dancing. The blonde near the door mentioned DDR, earlier… I hear that you and Mephistopheles truly tore up the dance floor back in '29, what with your little waltz-battle in Turku. It's a pity I was so busy in France at the ti— oh!"
Drink sloshing and knees knocking, a temporarily befuddled Gabriel glanced swiftly over his shoulder, blinking after the eager Samoyed that had just drunkenly bashed into his legs. He wasn't the only one gawking: as the music faded from a song about a creepy stalker to a tune comparing love to a case of terminal cancer, Cardeno dashed, bopped, scurried, and howled after Georgina, who was weaving teasingly between the legs and leather heels of those gathered. Luka—having long-since grown bored of his cheeks getting pinched and his cute body snuggled— decided to help the dog as best he could, scampering along behind and trying to push the masses out of the animals' way. Ironically, his efforts often resulted in more unwanted hugs (he was rather drawing attention to himself), but at least he provided decent entertainment. More so than the crooning seraphim, anyway.
"When we first met you seemed fickle and shallow, but my armor was no match for your poison arrow…"
"…well. This song at least seems sorta appropriate," Ronald mumbled as he wandered randomly past, sidestepping a shrieking Luka ("Run! Run, Caredeno, you can do it—!" the not-boy was squealing dramatically, a pack of buxom she-devils gathering the precious bundle of eternal youth to their partially-exposed breasts and half-suffocating him) before nearly tripping over a caterwauling cat. Georgina, in turn, hissed at the reaper for the sheer audacity he showed in nearing her loveliness, then attempted to scramble up the closest limb in the vicinity. This limb just happened to be the leg of a cragged, milky-eyed demon, who (despite his obviously blindness) was currently engaged in a rather heated staring contest with a miffed William. What's more, he appeared to be winning. And he knew it.
"You are wedged inside my chest— If I tried to take you out now I might bleed to death… I'm feeling short of breath~"
"Ha. Blinked again, didn't you?" the elderly creature cackled, his chuckles sharp and avian as they fell from his smirking mouth. Gloating, he lifted a gnarled finger to point mockingly at his adversary; Will, in turn, cursed bitterly, readjusting his glasses on the bridge of his nose. Georgina scrambled to make a pseudo-nest out of wispy silver hairs.
"You are an insufferable churl, Baalberith," the shinigami droned in his usual monotone, though his cheeks had turned a dusty rose in peeved humiliation. Or alcohol consumption. It was difficult to tell, anymore. "And one day, before you have a chance to realize it, your omnipotence will fail you."
No one decided to comment on that paradox.
Visibly smug, the hunched heap of tattered robes and hoary hair instead snickered and cawed, coiling veiny fists around the wooden staff that was helping to keep him upright. As Baalberith readjusted his grip, Georgina's tightrope walk down the length of his arm was interrupted; she tumbled with a yowl. "You're just jealous that we demons got all of the cool powers," Baalberith remarked, flashing feral fangs of ivory white.
What the—? Blasphemy! Notably affronted, half-choking on a gurgled gasp, the very idea had his reaper companion scoffing—hand leaping to his chest like a slighted Southern belle. (Funny the little habits that one subconsciously picked up after a few hundred years of marriage.) Narrowed eyes narrowing all the more, Will wasted no time in staging a protest—
"I most certainly am not j—"
"I know all, kid."
…that was immediately and efficiently shot down. Baalberith's haughty leer remained, lengthening as William's puckered features fermented like milk, pale face twisting into a sour pout.
"… damn you."
"Pft. Too laaaaate~" Cookie in one hand and champagne in the other, the Undertaker feasted on a flurry of maniacal giggles as he watched the heated showdown, veiled gaze bouncing from devil to reaper and back as if it were some sort of tennis match. "He's already been good and damned for eons, heehee~" Crumbles of crumbs—accidentally spat out in the midst of his laughing—made a mess of his draping black turtleneck; the chimed tinkle of his decorative silver chains was drowned out by the sound of his own guffawing, as well as the rambunctious ruckus of general festivity. So enthralled was he, the death god didn't appear to notice that Georgina had managed to sink her claws into his knit sweater, and was currently dangling from his hip like a doomed mountain climber. Or a gaudy fashion piece. Her flailing back paws searched vainly for purchase against the pleather of his pants… much like another half-panicked creature was searching vainly nearby.
"You grew on me like a tumor…"
"Grelle, someday, I will personally disembowel you for this bullcrap music." With a shove and a groan, trying unsuccessfully to disguise his rubicund features with half-raised arms, Ciel pushed his way through the forest of legs and feathers, sandals and boots. He didn't want to look at anyone. He didn't want to make small talk. And lucky him, for the most part he was spared these tedious responsibilities: a good number of his guests had never before seen the bride-to-be, and thus were perfectly willing to leave the short, disgruntled runtling alone. They merely shot the fledgling a curious glance as he elbowed his way past, considering his presence as one might the infamous literary protagonist, Waldo. Or, perhaps, as the wandering solution to the game "one of these things is not like the others." Which, to be frank, Ciel currently embodied. Not only in terms of dress (it wasn't his fault that Grelle had kicked him into the crowd before he'd had a chance to change out of his sweatpants), but also in regards to his attitude.
He was not a people person. He did not enjoy parties. He did not like strangers in his house, particularly ones with auras that made him want to violate the furniture. (What? The couch smelt like Sebastian.) But at the same time—despite everything— he couldn't hide away yet, like a "good bride should." No… There was one thing the Ciel liked less than people, less than parties, less than strangers. And that was sharing. Sweet Satan, he hated sharing. So before Sebastian returned home (I'll send you a 10 minute warning text, he'd promised; they'd both had their fill of Grelle's wrath for the day), the little devil had resolved to complete his self-appointed quest: to personally find and—
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, music play! Do what the music say! You wanna kiss the gi—
"Oh my… I take it that was from Sebastian, then? What a charmingly clever ringtone."
Visibly startled— both by the speaker's deductive reasoning, and by the fact that he was being spoken to at all— Ciel whipped bodily around, thumb silencing his blackberry as his eyes searched out the owner of the chipper voice. At last, his darting gaze fell upon a beautiful image of a male: tall, toned, and handsome, with two sets of powerful wings folded against the small of his back. His golden bands, shimmering shackles, and ethereal foppery made his heavenly status clear… but it was the creature's vibrant eyes that gave his identity away—stunningly blue behind the russet curls of his bangs. For a full thirty seconds, Ciel could only gawk; he was almost tempted to lift a hand and point at the angel, as well, in case his open-mouthed staring wasn't conveying his rudeness quite dramatically enough. But in the end, it didn't appear to matter; whatever his display of loutishness, it left the other completely unfazed. Rather, the angel's response to his melodramatic gaping was a mild stare of general interest: calm and patient, a grin tweaking the corners of his lips and adding delightful dimples to his cheeks. The very vision of perfection.
"I apologize… did I startle you, Ciel?" the glittering vision of not-man asked deferentially, lowering the canapé on which he'd been nibbling. "I suppose it was somewhat uncouth to address you without first introducing myself… particularly when we've never officially met!" The angel grinned sheepishly, presenting his free hand in a genial sort of way. The motion stirred the air; he smelt of lilies and sunshine. "I am—well, was—your guardian angel during your mortal years. Not to mention an old acquaintance of Sebastian's, back when he was exclusively known as Malphas. My name is—"
"Uriel," Ciel finished breathlessly, finally forcing his frozen body back into action. With no further prompting, the once-earl thrust out his arm, fingers curling around the archangel's and giving it a hardy, if somewhat mechanical, shake. With each passing moment, the devil regained his charm— voice growing silken as he batted lacy lashes. "Yes… Yes, I know who you are. Forgive me my earlier discourtesy; I was a trifle taken aback. You see, I had actually been in the middle of searching for you… How serendipitous that you should spot me first, hm?"
Twenty seconds, forty five seconds, a minute passed them by, and still their fists were twined and tangled, moving boisterously up and down. If Uriel noticed how awkwardly long they'd been shaking hands, he made no show of it; the demonling, in turn, offered his guest a dazzling beam, eyes crinkling at their corners as he moved to more closely regard the being before him. "I had rather hoped that we would be able to speak in private prior to my fiancé's return, Uriel… I am to meet his mother then, you see, and won't have another chance to engage in conversation until after the ceremony. And that just wouldn't do; this matter must be dealt with at once."
"And you spread through me like malignant melanoma~"
It was Uriel's turn to look dumbfounded, now, if only flatteringly so. But after an instant of stupefaction, his staggered amazement melted into something far more traditionally angelic: an immaculate smile that added stars to his jewel-bright eyes. Thrilled and trusting, he did not object when Ciel gave their bound fists an encouraging tug, leading them into the uninhabited hall. "Of course, I would be honored," Uriel assured as they walked along, hand in hand. What an unexpected treat. "Whatever would you like to discuss, my dear?"
"I guess I never knew…"
"Well," Ciel began grandly, his spun smile as sugar-sweet as the candies and cakes that they wandered past, "funny you should mention your history with Sebastian…"
"How fast a little mole can grow… on you."
"Feeling something. But thanks to you and your husband, I don't think it's nerves."
"You're welcome for that." On her knees before the once-earl who would soon be her son-in-law, Lilith offered a wolfish grin— ruddy gaze caressing a leisurely path up the length of his svelte body. Behind the full fan of her lashes, black irises sparkled with vermillion laughter, even as her drifting stare returned to the task at hand. And what an important task it was: one so dire that she had demanded to assist, despite vocal unwillingness and hesitancy shown from all players on all fronts. ("But I wanted to help!" Grelle had pouted, only to remember that she had a living room full of overexcited guests to entertain. "I don't even know you; I don't want you seeing me in my underwear!" Ciel had protested, even as he was shoved bodily back into the sanctuary of his bedroom. "I also don't want you seeing him in his underwear," Sebastian had seconded in a mutter, chewing on his own tongue to keep from saying more. He had made a promise, after all… and he wasn't about to fight with his mother. He'd lose.)
Yet, although their reluctance had arguably been justified, Lilith had not only behaved (thus far) — she had also proven herself to be an invaluable part of the preparation process. She'd tweaked, she'd hemmed, she'd fitted… she'd readjusted what needed to be readjusted, and had touched up tiny flaws that he and Grelle had somehow failed to detect. Of course, notable talent as a tailor had never before stopped Ciel from keeping a wary eye on the women who dressed him (so long as her hands were on his person, he was on High Alert), but as he observed his own transformation in the corner mirror, neither could the young demon deny that Lilith was well-versed in the ways of fashion.
Well, the devil does wear Prada, they say.
"Sebastian may be the one responsible for the plague," the queen had mentioned conversationally, fixing a frayed seam with little more than a thought, "but corsets were my idea. Of the two maladies, which has been effectively neutralized, and which is still around? As always, mother knows best~" A chipper titter, tweeted through a mouthful of pins. For the sake of everyone's good mood, Ciel kept quiet about a certain pink dress, and the revenge that he now felt obligated to extract upon his mother-in-law. But that would have to be a venture for another time; there was, in fact, something more important than dated bruises on his ego. And that was looking perfect for Sebastian.
Without the use of a corset, this time.
Or sweat pants, for that matter— or a baggy t-shirt, or mussed hair. As each minute brought Ciel closer and closer to the ceremony, so too did each minute find him more and more primed for it. The not-boy's thin lips quirked in wordless satisfaction as he regarded his own reflection, visibly pleased with his chosen attire, what it represented... It was, after all, very familiar foppery—or it had been, perhaps, prior to Grelle's artful restoration. The frilled gray of the undershirt, the taut constriction of the neck ribbon, the shadowy black of the suit coat and shorts… memories clung to the ancient fabric as heavily as the scent of his old manor, and no, not all of them were pleasant. His first few years as a demon had been… well. But (as physically painful as it was to admit) Alois had been right when he'd suggested that Ciel look once more towards his origins: if it wasn't for such beginnings, he wouldn't be standing here now, would he? And in that regard…
Despite the lack of time, Grelle had done a fabulous job renovating the tattered garb, sprucing it up and making it—in her own words— "appropriate." After all, every bride needed a train… and Ciel had long lamented that modern-day fashions were no longer keen on bustles. Two birds, one stone. And on the subject of birds… Upon Ciel's chest, spindly fingers with ebony tips skittered, scattered, and smoothed, looping lines of newly stitched, double-breasted buttons through their respective holes. From each silvery fastening, Lilith affixed a swatch of scarlet satin, adding gentle loops of vibrant color to Ciel's monochrome sides. Wrapping around and downward, the decorative swathes met in an artful knot beneath a bow above his rear, then fell in a wavy cascade of frothy folds along the floor, tickling the shins of his soft gray boots. To further compliment the crimson crimps, a rose was waiting on the bed stand to later decorate his breast pocket. Beside it, a pair of half-gloves, black to match the suit. But it was not yet time to fiddle with accessories; perfecting the lay and drape of each pleat of his bustle was the current priority.
"That wasn't really a compliment, you know," Ciel informed the damned queen in a drone, shooting the she-devil a sardonic glower whenever her eager digits wandered teasingly too far left, right, up, or down. As if this exchange was part of a game—which it almost was, at this point— Lilith would inevitably respond to his warning grumble with a brazen smirk before demurely remembering her manners. For a time. But in a way, her annoying licentiousness proved a strange comfort; disregarding the cleavage and the flowing locks, her features and mannerisms were all so similar to Sebastian's that the not-boy was left feeling like he was dealing with his fiancé himself. Perhaps that was why Ciel felt oddly at ease with this woman, even if they'd only known one another for a few hours. "In fact, I rather feel as if I owe Sebastian and Claude an apology. With parents like you and Asm—"
"Daddy." The correction was automatic— cooed around the pins that dissected Lilith's v-shaped grin.
"…I am not calling him that."
"He'll cry if you don't. Do you really want to risk furtherexposure to fluids…?"
...the universe was a cruel bitch.
"…like you and… Daddy…—" Why yes, sometimes Ciel did hate himself, thanks for asking— "... it's a wonder they didn't grow up to be bigger perverts."
The curt slur pulled a chuckle from Lilith's upturned lips. With the same concupiscent sensuality that a film noir secretary might use to seduce her boss, the demon empress undulated unhurriedly upright: hips swaying, hands trailing, smile sliding up the round of her cheeks. The deviant glimmer in the depths of her dark eyes reminded Ciel of another shameless sex fiend in his life… but the maternal gentleness lurking in those same depths made him think (for the first time in centuries) of someone else entirely. For a musing moment, Lilith merely considered her son's beloved, seemingly torn between amusement and some other distant emotion…
Then, with no warning sans her own deliberate, measured movements, Lilith reached gingerly outward—
"Woah, wait—what're you—?"
—and enveloped the young demon in a slow-motion hug.
Uh… "L— Lilith…?"
Markedly startled, cheeks patchy with blossoms of fuchsia, the once-earl found himself incapable of stopping his mother-in-law's careful approach, rendered motionless by his own muddled astonishment. The most he could manage was a rapid double-blink when he realized he'd been sweetly pillowed against her ample bosom, held pointedly to her torso by limbs as delicate as porcelain. A moment later, and her chin was resting atop his head, palms rubbing comforting circles into the small of his back. The scent of gardenias hung about his nose—blended with the perfumes of rouge and warm flesh. It was an… improbably familiar sort of embrace. The kind that he hadn't considered, let alone missed, in over two centuries. And maybe it was because he'd spent so much time thinking on the past, lately… But this hold was rather evocative of…
"I am sorry, little one," Lilith tenderly murmured, her sweet breath whispering over Ciel's crown and fluttering through the fine hairs of his wispy bangs. Genuine sympathy lurked in the lilt of each syllable, aching and empathetic. Silly, really; her voice was so gentle, so loving, so full of candid concern, it nearly made the once-earl laugh in incredulity. "I wish that your parents could be here, as well."
In the aftermath of Lilith's condolences, the bark of amusement that had been burning in the back of Ciel's constricting throat curdled, died, and fell like a lead ball into the pit of his stomach. The sensation was… disarming. In laughter's stead, the young devil attempted a dry snort—but for some reason he did not entirely understand, the sound that escaped his pursed lips was rather more suggestive of a snuffle. That didn't make sense… And what was wrong with his eyes? Some dust still clinging to his outfit must have been blown upwards in a cross-breeze; everything seemed much blurrier now than it had moments before. How annoying… How trite, how ridiculous, how…
…how did she…?
"…would you…" With a flinch, Ciel started, shuddered. The resonance of his voice— subdued and strained, muffled by powder-scented skin and the dregs of his own pride— caught him off guard. For a tense minute, the once-earl half-considered letting the question die… Rather, he mentally attempted to kill it off: bludgeoning the query with his dignity, his mask of apathy. But in the end, the little demon was begrudgingly forced to accept defeat. He could restrain himself no longer; the pondering burst forth with such ragged desperateness that one might think he'd kept it bottled up inside for years and years and years… An inquiry caged for eons in the back of his brain, finally able to break through rusted bars. "...would you have brought them with you, if you could…?"
Lilith smiled. Stroked the not-boy's shuddering shoulders, tangling his straightened hair with her nestling. "Yes, I would have," she then assured, without any hint of irony, any ridicule or judgment. A mother to the core, she instead continued to lavish him with consoling caresses— much like his own mum used to, back when he was sick or scared or sad. The sudden deluge of archaic emotions, of sepia-hued memories, burned like funeral pyres in the base of the devil's gut, in the backs of his eyes… When Ciel blinked his hooded eyes, he was only vaguely surprised to feel a small pearl of wetness slip down the bridge of his nose, dripping to dew on the round of the other's breasts. "I most definitely would have, had I power over their souls. But they are not in my jurisdiction."
Not in her…
A gummy gulp; a thick swallow. With little regard for his stoic reputation, Ciel felt his fingers clench around clumps of Lilith's slinky gown, giving it an emphatic tug: despairing, demanding… childlike, even. Appropriate, considering it was his inner child that was acting out, begging to hear the answer that he'd never thought he'd get to know. "Then they…?"
He didn't need to finish the question. And thank goodness for that; Ciel wasn't even sure he'd have been able to. With each passing instant, his reedy voice was growing smaller and smaller— and in the process, was becoming harder and harder to find. But Lilith, like her son, knew everything that the fledgling could ever wish to know… She nodded, pulling away enough to offer a serene smile. "Unfortunately, the angels are rather stingy when it comes to who is and isn't allowed to leave Heaven, even for short periods," the demonical queen explicated, in the same professional tone of anyone discussing the tedious realities of business. "There is a great deal of paperwork involved that we devils— as is our prerogative—tend to, shall we say, conveniently forget, when it is in our best interest. That said…" Smoothing back Ciel's rumpled bangs, Lilith dipped forward to brush a blithe kiss to her new darling's forehead, cupping his chin as he gazed up at her with eyes as round and wet as a forlorn ten-year-old's. "Wherever they are up there, I know that they are proud of you, love. Proud, and so, so happy…" With a charmed giggle, Lilith again retreated a few inches—bopping the blushing, befuddled once-boy on the tip of his button nose. "After all," she reminded, mellifluous, "now that you have found eternal contentment, Ciel, they can, as well."
…the revelation nearly stole the strength from his legs.
His parents… their souls… their consciousness… peace. It was a realization nearly as powerful as an epiphany, and (in that moment) just as meaningful. Profound. Enough so, in fact, for Ciel to forgive himself the soft, snotty sniffle that echoed through the bedroom in its wake, puerile in its vulnerability. Later, he'd claim it was a cough. But for now… Rubbing the back of his quivering hand across his face (for no, he still refused to acknowledge the tears), the young devil sucked down a few shallow breaths, then fashioned his mouth into a wavering smirk.
"Do you two have aphrodisiac for saliva, or something…?" he subsequently grumbled, though the complaint was less a scathing gibe and more of a shy taunt. Playful, in a way, as he tried to dry his moist, mantled face. But though the wetness could easily be removed, the color couldn't; the once-earl continued to grouse as Lilith snickered and pinched the apple of his cheeks, seemingly trying to further darken their hue. Her efforts and laughter increased tenfold when Ciel began to struggle against her ministrations, batting at her hands and wriggling from her hold. "Stop it! Honestly! It's obscene."
"Well, now you know where Sebastian gets his perversions from," Lilith chuckled, forcibly holding Ciel's head still enough to plant a second (sloppier) kiss upon his temple. The little demon squeaked, squirmed, and immediately attempted to scrub away the spit before it had a chance to… er, take effect. He refused to ruin the ironed perfection of his slacks. "And I can hardly blame him— your indignation is simply adorable. Mallie-bird certainly has more restraint than I gave him credit for… Oh, just look at you blush, you precious creature!" With a squeal of her own, the demon queen gave her son's intended one more squeeze—effectively smothering him with her sizable bosom (funny, Ciel hadn't thought of Ran Mao for decades)— only to immediately tear herself away with an airless gasp and a snap of lithe fingers. Well, the snap was hers, at least; the gasp was mostly his. And it was more of a wheeze, to be honest. "Speaking of Mallie-bird, I nearly forgot!"
With that—and with a lack of ceremony boarding on nonchalant brazenness—, Lilith proceeded to casually stuffed her fist down the front of strapless gown, fingers happily rifling around in the valley between her breasts.
Busy though she was with her searching, the demonic sovereign nevertheless took the time to bequeath upon her son-in-law a casual grin, as if randomly deciding to groping one's unmentionables was perfectly acceptable behavior in polite society. (…then again, considering his earlier escapades in the closet, perhaps Ciel hadn't the right to judge.) For a moment, the once-earl couldn't decide which left him feeling more disconcerted: Lilith's actions, or how little they truly surprised him. Eventually, he decided upon the latter.
"Huh. I'd have hardly thought that you would need to stuff," the not-child dryly commented, arching a single slim eyebrow over his red-rimmed eyes. While speaking, he dispassionately watched the she-devil dig— as fervently determined as if hunting for lost gold. "But I suppose that vanity is one of our entitlements."
Lilith, undeterred by the goad, responded to it with an elegant jeer, gaze narrowing in humored irritation. "That's a smart mouth you've got, there, love," she retorted equably, the very picture of indifference, "But if you were a smart boy, you'd know to keep an eye on it. Ah~ there we are." With a flick and a flourish, she retracted clenched fingers; from within those pallid confines peeped three glossy feathers. Sleek and shiny, their bases fluffy with down, the ebony plumes shone with an ethereal darkness through the room… and Ciel recognized the aura immediately. On instinct alone, he reached out to touch them—only to have his grabby hands batted away by Lilith, clicking tongue catching on a tutting sound. "Ah ah," she scolded, even as her lengthy leer licked at her eyes, "these are not for you to play with. These are for your hair."
"My hair…?" That seemed rather… tribal. Brow furrowing in faint bewilderment, Ciel nevertheless allowed Lilith to physically wheel him around, forcing him to take a seat on the edge of the mattress. The bed groaned; his bustle sighed. In the silver of the mirror, the fledgling could see his own confusion reflected back upon himself, as well as Lilith's teeming zeal: scurrying around, she made a swift grab for a gilded brush and a length of ruby-colored yarn. Soon after collecting, she returned to the small devil's side, and was once again combing his locks into submission.
"Demons do not often engage in commitment ceremonies," the she-devil explained, skillful fingers weaving through hoary tufts of silken hair. Within a span of seconds, she had isolated his right forelock; she wasted no time in braiding the strip of red thread through those strands of silver-blue. "As you can imagine, such vows are often challenging for those in our line of work to respect, much less uphold. That said, however," Lilith persisted, deft digits working faster than Ciel could keep up with, "it has happened often enough over the eons for our people to develop a custom or two. Of which this is one." As she expounded on demonic history, Sebastian's feathers were artfully laced beneath the burgundy bands in his charge's bangs, falling to rest against his temple, cheek, and chin. The dark down tickled Ciel's flesh, even as it framed his inquisitive features. A tradition, was it?
"What's its purpose?" the demonling demanded, lifting his head to try and search out his companion's eyes. Lilith wasted no time in stopping him: placing a heavy hand atop his crown to forcibly still his movements. She had much work to do, yet; she couldn't have him fidgeting. "If you're going to bother with ritual, it must at least have a meaning, yes?"
Another smile— china-white teeth winked and glimmered in the diamond-sheen of the looking glass. "Of course it does," the queen assured, bending at the waist as her palm squeezed his shoulder. She seemed… very close, now. Ciel felt a shiver cascade down the length of his spine as her warm breath teased at his nape, just as her fingers teased at his new adornments. Her low laughter reverberated throughout the room, amplified by the shell of his ear; he leveled her his umpteenth glance of disapproval, but for the time being said nothing else. He rather wanted an answer to his question, first… "The cord," Lilith began, the camber of her talon catching on the curve of it, "symbolizes the red thread of fate, which binds destined souls to one another. It has twined around not only you— as suggested by its presence in your hair— but also the being to whom these feathers originally belonged. The plait shows how the two of you have been united by way of its magic… and by wearing the other's plumes, you both publically acknowledge your oneness." Giving the slender braid a gentle flick, Lilith hummed jubilantly and straightened once more, grinning down her nose at the awed devil beside her. "Do you understand, my dear?"
For a tentative spell, Ciel offered no response. His muscles had seized; his insides had solidified. It was only through a herculean show of effort that, a minute of dithering later, the young demon managed a simple nod. And that alone was impressive, really; what with the lump that had formed in his throat (perhaps a tumor, he muse drolly, remembering a particular song), he could do or say little else. In the hollow of his lap, the once-child clenched his quaking fingers, trying vainly to suppress the flustered flush that was swiftly laying siege to his face. That was… a rather cheesy practice, wasn't it? Overly romantic. Maybe a bit tawdry, too. But for as asinine as it was, it was also… kind of beautiful, Ciel had to admit.
…this was really happening, wasn't it?
Shyly, the devil's dainty digits darted up to toy with the fringe of his decorated forelock, a silly little grin worming around on his thin lips. "…I understand," he finally breathed, coughing to clear his throat of all unwanted sentimentality. (It didn't help much.) In return, Lilith's sunny beam brightened.
"…huh? What're y— ouch!"
"Then you understand why I needed to do that," the perky queen sang, brandishing the three hairs that she had just ripped from the base of Ciel's tender skull. Clutching at his abused noggin, a foul curse banging on the backs of his teeth, the little demon shot his mother-in-law a spiteful glower as his stolen strands morphed in her grasp: ribs of pliable plastic unfurling like the petals of a flower as the simple hairs lost their Glamor, changing back into the plumage of crows. "We can't have your fiancé underdressed at the altar, after all."
"You forgot to buy an mp3 of The Wedding March?"
"I didn't forget! I just… don't remember crossing it off of my To Do List, that's all! Besides, weren't you the one who made today's playlist?"
Bitingly aware of every supernatural eye upon them, Ronald's expression twisted from one of barefaced exasperation to some strange mix of sardonic laughter and unreserved frustration. Really? That was her argument? Beside him, poised on the edge of a strip of red carpet, a pouting Grelle angrily brandished her bouquet— black petunias and diamond frost, to match the countless garlands strewn about the room—, and only just managed to stop herself from beating her underling over the head with it. He wasn't worth a bunch of ruined flowers, let alone the risk of getting sweaty.
"Well, weren't you?" she then pressed in a furious hiss, electric green eyes sparking behind the rims of her glasses. Surrounding the arguing reapers on all sides— squished together in neat rows like supernatural sardines— angels and demons sat patiently atop their metal folding chairs, watching this newest entertainment unfold. So long as something amusing was going on, they didn't particularly seem to care if the wedding itself was delayed. They were all pretty easy like that.
"Yeah, but I was never officially put in charge of music," Ronald defended in a swift whisper, as if keeping his voice down might somehow help matters. Not so much, unfortunately. It was a small room. And it was full of people with excellent hearing. "Besides, the only reason I made that playlist was to keep you from submitting everyone to that terrible music you've been suggesting all week!"
"Yeah. Good job on that," someone muttered sarcastically from the depths of the waiting throng.
"Oh, shut up, Leviathan," Ronald snapped in return, spinning to shoot the demon (fifth row, eighth seat in, still suckling on a flute of wine) a mirthless glare. He then reverted to using quiet murmurs, because that had clearly been working so well thus far. "Look," the reaper gritted, raking a hand through his rumpled locks and trying very hard to keep from snapping at his friend—she already looked half-way to tears—, "the fact of the matter is that we don't have the song. Fuck, we don't even have a laptop anymore— those cherubim stole it to watch cat videos on youtube, and I haven't seen it since."
Down the length of the scarlet carpet— separating the two groups by, perhaps, a few yards— a dapper-looking and deadpanned William grunted softly, in what must have been (for him) a show of riotous amusement. "Old acquaintances of yours, demon?" he drawled, casting the devil beside him a sidelong glance. Sebastian— who had yet to lower his hand from his throbbing temple, hiding his eyes as one might while watching a scary movie—, responded with a similar snort.
"W-well… We'll just have to postpone the wedding, then!" Grelle decreed with a wet-eyed sulk, stubbornly crossing her gloved arms over her chest. Upon her breast, a necklace of garnet chips trembled in the wake of repressed emotion; the shawl she'd looped and pinned so carefully about her shoulders and back threatened to fall loose. Soon, the whole of her draping gown had begun to shudder, heeled feet stamping in an exemplary example of immature obstinacy. "Everything needs to be perfect for them, and it can't be perfect if we've forgotten something!" the reaper snapped with a snivel, one fist gripping her battered blossoms and the other clutching the folds of fabric that made up the base of her bodice. "We'll just have to try again after buying that song… There's no way we can precede without it! I refuse to compromise the integrity of Sebastian-darling's wedding!"
"Oh, for the love of—"
From across the congested room, still poised with Will before the television and book cases, an annoyed Sebastian (finally) decided that enough was enough. Giving his eyes a mighty roll, the demon proceeded to yank his cell phone from his pocket and snap it open with a crack; in the same fluid motion, his thumbs began flying across the keyboard he'd revealed. As if the brisk sound was some kind of warning shot, the entirety of the gathered mob turned collectively to face him— wings rustling and leather squeaking—, looking mutually baffled. "Sexting already?" one guest genially proposed, nudging the angel beside him meaningfully. "Maybe he has youtube on his phone," another offered, similarly amiable. (A gaggle of cherubim straightened in their seats, suddenly looking more interested.) "Or tetris!" a third tried. Too busy finding a solution to offer an answer, Sebastian himself said nothing; no sooner had the proposals begun to fly did the devil close his blackberry and give his foot a tap, waiting for something.
Sha-la-la-la-la-la, music play! Do what the music say! You wanna kiss the gi—
As a singular mass, the crowd spun 'round once again, risking both falling from their chairs and giving themselves whiplash in order to see what was happening behind them. Beyond the overstuffed living room (and the kitchen's ransacked hors d'oeuvre table), a muffled Disney song echoed jauntily, serenading the shadows. It tickled at a few hundred ears for a spell, only to be swiftly silenced by an identical snap of slipping plastic. More keypounding ensued, equally speedy and skilled; half a minute later, Sebastian's phone began singing a tinny midi of the song that Grelle so longed to hear.
Doo do doo doo~ Doo do doo doo~
"Better?" Sebastian flatly queried, arching his brow as he regarded his blubbing best friend. The reaper in question— tears all but startled from her eyes by the demon's brusque curtness and ingenious compromise— mechanically nodded assent. Once the faint shock of his snippiness had faded, Grelle busied herself dabbing the base of her palm beneath her nose, subtly attempting to stem the liquid flow of maidenly despair. It was a gesture that Ronald noted with his usual perceptiveness.
"Need a tissue for your snot?"
The earnest inquiry was answered by an immediate bristling. Lowering her wrist, Grelle responded to this kindness by smacking her friend pointedly in the stomach. With the hand in question, of course. Ron's nose scrunched in disgust (and maybe a bit of pain), but he knew better than to whine about either. It would just start another fight, and no one fought on "perfect days." (Rather, so help them if they did.) "Right," he coughed instead, rubbing at his abused belly. "Can we do this thing, then?"
"Please?" seconded a familiar voice from the depths of the hall, deadpanned in his mounting malcontent. "I'm not getting any more married just standing here."
"An' I wanna chuck these!" Alois added eagerly, drawing the crowd's attention temporarily towards the dining room. The blonde—just in case anyone had forgotten who he was, or that he was there at all— waved exuberantly upon garnering everyone's notice, posing atop his bar stool like an extra from "Flashdance." At least Hannah had managed to convince him not to dress like one. "Been practicing with that plastic rose for ages. I'm totally ready to throw around the real deal! And Luka can't wait to dole out jewelry, right?"
Alois shot a cheerful beam to his left, where his little brother was fiddling with some pony figurines. Finny had dug them out to amuse the young demon when chasing the pets grew tiresome; since then, Luka had fully submersed himself in his little make-believe world—to the point where he didn't seem aware of the fact that he was being spoken to. Instead, he was caught in the act of decorating the toys' heads with the silver rings he'd sworn to protect. The sight made Sebastian cringe, reaching out as if to say something, but he was spared the bother of doing so by Hannah, who gently removed the make-shift circlets from Discord and Fluttershy's heads. A good thing, too; a moment later, Alois began swinging his basket of petals in quick circles, as if to mock gravity, and gravity decided to fight back by staking a claim on Fluttershy. As the pony tumbled from the countertop, Luka blinked and started, finally seeming to realize that a whole bunch of people were staring at him. "…huh?"
"That's a yes! Olé!" Alois translated, leaping to his feet with so much zest and zeal that one could almost literally see a trail of sparkles alight behind him. Actually, strike that "almost;" Hannah shook her head in mild exasperation as Claude lowered a handful of cracked party poppers, his expression comically sober amidst swirls of rainbow confetti.
"Those were for after the ceremony, Claude."
"Actually, they were for after we found Ciel Phantomhive and congratulated him on his impending marriage."
"And it will be 'impending' forever, at this rate!" griped the distant voice of Ciel, a sliver of his profile peaking out from around the edge of the corridor. "What are we waiting for? A heavenly edict?"
"I could give one, if need be," Raphael offered, half-standing as he lifted an obliging finger. A few other angels murmured approvingly at this, while the demons instead found themselves contemplating the unintended irony. Neither was of much help.
"I think it's more a lack of music, love. There's nothing with which to cue everyone up," Hannah explained, forever the calm and rational one, as she leaned over the countertop and spoke in the direction of the provisionally ostracized demon. To her right, still clumped together on the far end of the red carpet, Grelle and Ronald were forced to agree with awkward nods. The timing of their planned procession had been based on a melody that they no longer had access to; without it, they were as lost as actors who'd missed their entrance cues.
The back of Ciel's head met the wall with an audible thud of irritation. "Do I need to text Sebastian once more?" he demanded, the words terse with understandable annoyance. "Would you like to turn the radio on? Or perhaps you could just have our guests hum a little ditty for us? I honestly don't give a damn, anymore— just let me marry Sebastian!"
In the wake of this passionate outburst, a murmur of agreement rippled through those beings gathered, all of whom were growing a bit tired of sitting there for no reason. It didn't help that their rears were starting to hurt, either; collapsible seats weren't known for being incredibly comfortable. "Well, I'd vote against the radio—mostly commercials and sports reports, right now," Azazel advised helpfully, glancing at his watch. "Plus, I don't want to have the scores spoiled for me. I'm TiVo-ing the game as we speak." This confession was instantly augmented by a wave of audial empathy, in which others made noises that alluded to similar situations. One or two muttered gravely about what a sin such spoilers would be. Sebastian fought the urge to switch on the television and immediately ruin their day. It was an urge that Baalberith didn't bother battling.
"The Braves won."
A beat. The smug announcement hung suspended in the air for a strained spell… then the implications settled and were answered by a communal groan, interspersed with scattered cheers and exchanges of cash. Sebastian beat his forehead against his knuckles; William looked peeved on principle. A few crumpled napkins flew through the air, thrown in the general direction of the blind devil. Baalberith evaded each one, looking very pleased to have substantiated his reputation as a gigantic effing twat. As if to reward himself, he nibbled on a Jordan almond from his goodie bag.
"Now that that's settled…!" Grelle said loudly, vainly attempting to re-establish order by frantically waving her arms. Why she thought measures that never succeeded to calm a disorderly gathering of human preteens would even sort of work on an inebriated bunch of paranormal demigods was a mystery, but hey. At least she tried.
Unfortunately, 'trying' was no longer good enough for Ciel. "You all have three seconds before I kidnap Sebastian and we head to Las Vegas," the fledgling warned darkly, looking the very picture of seriousness. (Or, at least, he sounded like he did. They still couldn't see him fully, hidden as he was.) In the back of his brain, the not-child couldn't help but wonder why they hadn't just done that in the first place… Oh, yeah, something about wanting to celebrate with friends and family, using his own face. Huh. Those were rather stupid reasons, in retrospect.
"Well, then… if no one else objects, I might have an idea." With a graceful clatter of bangles on aluminum, an angel seated in the front row clamored to his sandaled feet, raising his voice so that all could hear. Gabriel, it seemed, was the creature in question, a smile on his face and his fingers twined around two strangely-shaped cases. Curiosity piqued, a number of others tipped dramatically forward, watching nosily as the first of these black boxes was set upon the flat of his chair. The second Gabriel offered to Azazel, who had been seated a few rows behind. "We intended to play together, anyway, did we not?" he reminded as he passed along the sheathed violin. "Why save for later fun that you could have right now?"
With that, the angel extracted his own instrument—a shimmering brass horn—and lifted it to his pursed lips, blowing the opening notes to…
Well, some song that Ciel could have sworn he'd heard before, if many years ago. Something… theatrical? Meaningful? Whatever it was, he could not immediately recognize it, though Azazel had no problems doing so. Within moments, the elder devil had discreetly managed to squeeze his way out of the throng, joining Gabriel near the windows at the front of the room. Even as he meandered, his bow danced across the strings of his fiddle; the oddly melancholy, oddly familiar tune crescendoed briefly after a simple introduction, the notes and melodies growing more and more complicated as the tune progressed. For a few moments, everyone stood in a reverential silence, simply appreciating the music… But then someone finally made the connection that Ciel had been struggling for, and decided to broadcast his insight quite vocally.
"Aaa!" Finny cried aloud thirty seconds into the first verse, pointing dramatically at the playing pair. "I get it! 'On His Way!' Because the young master is on his way down the aisle!"
This explanation (which, apparently, quite a few others had needed) paved the way for a string of differing reactions: a few "oo"s, a couple of "ah"s; some merely groaned at the pun. But such reactions went largely ignored by the blonde, whose green eyes shone with even more eagerness as another realization struck him: "Hey, I know this one!"
Unable to think of a better way to contribute to the wedding, the excitable ex-gardener bustled over to the flimsy electric keyboard that Sebastian kept hidden in the corner, set aside to pick and plunk at on the occasional rainy day. And while no, it hadn't rained for a week or so, it still seemed an appropriate time to turn it on; Finny—who had actually grown quite skilled in music over the span of two centuries— managed to ease his way into the harmony by the first interlude, and by the time the second verse began, he'd become integral to the descant.
"…well?" Chin upon its rest and violin propped upon his shoulder, Azazel leveled Grelle a prompting glance from across the living room. "We've got eternity, but let's not take that long. Or would you rather we play Yackity Sax?"
"Oh…" Poised behind the piano—its plastic frame shuddering mightily under the passionate fingers of the blonde— Finny frowned a trifle, obviously concerned. "I don't know how to play that one…"
"Well then, what the hell are we waiting for? Let's do this thing!" With the boundless enthusiasm of a hyperactive antelope, Alois threw himself-head long down the makeshift aisle: bouncing, bounding, and skipping as if (once again) trying to show gravity who was boss. As he pranced, he scooped handfuls of marigolds from his wicker basket, tossing the golden heads high into the air. One or two caught in the ceiling fan and exploded; others landed in unfinished glasses of champagne with wet plops. And yes, there were more than few "ow!"s from the observant crowd: towards the end, the demonling's throws became decidedly less "artful" and far more "violent." He giggled madly, as if the back of each bystander's head was worth a certain number of points…. Hitting a sneezing Baalberith earned him an even 60, as well as a smattering of grateful applause from the more vindictive guests. Before too long, his basket empty, Alois had successfully managed to migrate to the front of the room; upon securing his post beside William, he spun around, waved vigorously, and screamed out: "Claude! Claude, did you see? Hannah, did I do a good job?"
His pseudo-parents, barely more than 10 feet across the way, offered encouraging and congratulatory responses. Claude blew into a noisemaker he'd found. Alois beamed with the pride of one who had just accomplished a very important, very difficult task, like invent the polio vaccine. Or discover a way to keep Ronald off of the counter. "Your turn now, Luka!" the Trancy boy then yelled, gesturing for his younger sibling to join him on this end of the carpet. "Bear those rings like you've never born rings before!"
"…but I never have born rings before," Luka reminded, sage in his literalness as his lashes flickered owlishly. As if to seek out her wisdom and guidance (as well as the rings, since they were still locked in her fist), Luka turned his hazel eyes upon Hannah, silently asking how to proceed. The she-devil offered a simple smile in answer, pressing the matching bands into his tiny palm before giving her child a gentle shove in the right direction. He stumbled; he frowned. He shrunk back a bit, suddenly and bitingly aware of the fact that he was once again on full display. But there was no turning back now, and the faster he got this over and done with, the faster there'd be cake. Mind preoccupied with the question of how one properly bore a ring (or, at least, how one bore it without accidentally copying someone else from history)— the young devil began to traipse warily down the length of the carpet, step by anxious step, clinging to the jewelry and to the promise of sweets. His head whipped to the left, then snapped to the right; he seemed half-afraid that one of the invitees would swoop down and scoop him up, like some sort of overly affectionate pterodactyl. (And from the sound of some of the females' giggles, these fears weren't entirely unfounded.) With a waffling façade of courage, Luka forged and tripped his way the first few yards… But upon growing level with the third row of chairs, he decided that'd been a job done well-enough. As the music swelled, the fledgling scampered: dashing to hide behind Will's legs and cower there like a frightened animal. The abruptness of this decision startled a number of those present, but no one more so than the reaper himself; not only was this brat a virtual stranger, but in general William wasn't the person kids ran to. Nevertheless, the pink-faced death god allowed the fledgling to grasp at his pants and burrow his face in the crook of his knee, hiding from the amused eyes of the masses.
"Here," the not-child eventually mumbled, words and fingertips trembling with nerves as he spoke from behind the shinigami's thigh. "I dunno why you gave 'em to me if you were just gonna have me give 'em back, but if you want 'em again, you can have 'em." With that, Luka lobbed the rings at Sebastian, recoiled a foot, then darted off to seek further comfort burrowed in the bell of Hannah's dress.
Well, he'd certainly done as tasked: he'd born the rings like no one had ever born them before. Sebastian, perhaps the only one not surprised by Luka's lackluster performance, plucked the bands from midair and held them tightly to his chest, mentally agreeing with Luka's assertions of ridiculousness. In fact, the devil had a whole barrage of barbed opinions he felt rather keen on sharing at the moment, all sorts of laments and irritations and questions as to why he was bothering to go through with this front in the first place—
But then Ciel— finally!— rounded the corner… and everything else in the entirety of the universe ceased to be, let alone matter.
The music fell away. The crowd fell away. His impatience, crossness, and escalating vexation melted into a mire of molasses in the muddled pit of his belly: sweet and warm and ensnaring. A sticky web of emotion, bound around his soul. As anticipation turned the butler's insides into saccharine mush, he almost felt inebriated— drunk on a sugary sensation that nearly overpowered him as he gazed down the path of the claret carpet and into the face of his handsome young master. Sensing Sebastian's awestruck stare, Ciel's rosy lips had coiled into a small, bashful smile… a small, bashful, stunning smile that was exclusively for him. Radiant— the young devil was radiant, almost physically glowing: skin like porcelain, eyes like sapphires, and a hidden heart of gold… the only thing on Earth that the demon treasured, cherished.
Sebastian's chest constricted—his lungs emptied. His heart trembled like a newborn butterfly.
Ciel was so beautiful.
The little demon said nothing as he made his way down the aisle—every inch of him the elegant, poised, refined nobleman that he'd once been raised to be. Each step was measured, dainty and certain; he held his bouquet of otherworldly roses (black and white in color) with visible pride, the halo of their silvery nebulous adding an ethereal glimmer to his own features. And swathed as his charge was in that long-forgotten suit—once as detested as the transformation that had stolen his meal away— Sebastian couldn't help but reflect upon their volatile past … the good, and the bad, and how extremely thankful he was for absolutely everything. Every moment, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, decade, century, God, please, he prayed— yes, prayed; for the first time in who knew how many millennia— let there be ten thousand more…
The young demon reached the edge of the runner just as the ragtag band's song faded into a hush, the memory of the final notes lingering in the air as audial ghosts. Without once turning away from his intended, Ciel gave his flowers to William and accepted his train from Grelle, who had been merrily bringing up the rear of the procession: flashing everyone they passed a watery, million-watt smile, already accentuated by smudges of mascara. A swishing of fabric, a clatter of heels, and the once-earl had swung himself around to face Sebastian— one dainty hand landing lightly atop his butler's in a move reminiscent of a ballroom dance. And as if it were the beginning of such a dance, Sebastian could not stop himself from lifting the back of that hand to his lips, dusting a reverential kiss against his tamer's pale knuckles. Some part of his mind registered (with a distant curiosity) that his little one's nails were not their usual shade… But he was too far-gone, too lost in breathless veneration, to wonder on that mystery right now.
"…well?" The word was a muted whisper, more mouthed than spoken. Sebastian glanced up at the gentle prompt, gazing into blue, blue eyes as soft as summer skies, their gem-bright depths warm with an affectionate fire. His gloved fingers gestured delicately to his hair, suit, bustle, subtly showing them off. "Was I worth waiting for?"
Sebastian barely spared the outfit a glance. "Always," he murmured in return, reaching out to capture that hand as well. With one last kiss, one last squeeze, the butler straightened to admire Ciel's demure blush— his own smile visibly widening when his intended finally recognized the feathers woven into his forelock. Much like the once-earl's human hair, Ciel's penna was of a smoky gray hue; the plumage matched the silvery adornments on Sebastian's suit, and the red thread complimented his shimmering cherry wood eyes. For an instant, Ciel looked tempted to reach out and touch the plumes, as if to make certain they were truly his own… But he knew that answer already, and in the end stilled himself with a pleased grin.
The happy love birds (no pun intended) would have gladly stood in that humbled silence with one another for eons, blissfully oblivious of the actions and reactions of the throng surrounding them. But that sounded rather boring to the others in attendance, to be honest. Especially since the alcohol was so far out of reach. It took a few minutes, but soon the younger creatures in the crowd had grown bored of sitting in a respectful silence; a faint buzzing began to bounce off of the walls, anxious and irked. The couple at the head of the room didn't pay the noise any heed, at first, but when someone (Leviathan) cried out "So is anyone gonna marrying you two, or…?" even they were forced to pause and frown, blinking twice.
…who was marrying them, anyway? Grelle had never—
"Alright, I'm comin', I'm comin'~ Jest hold yer horses, heehee…"
Ah. That was probably why she'd never said anything.
Expressions flattening into something identically deadpanned, both Sebastian and Ciel glanced up in time to catch the Undertaker moseying out of Finny's closed bedroom, where he'd apparently been busy sprucing himself up. Those who knew him could spot the change in an instant: his usual outfit of knits and pleather had been made classy by the application of a clip-on bowtie. With a smile as wound as clock springs, the hoary-haired reaper glided to his proper place before the demons, allowing the Bible in his hands to fall heavily open. From the book's hollowed depths, he retrieved another bone-shaped cookie and giggled. "Hiya~" he affably greeted the men before him, flexing bejeweled fingers in a juvenile greeting. "You two ready to tie the knot?"
Ciel's response was a pokerfaced stare. On the one hand, the death god's selection as their pseudo-pastor made sense; it wasn't as if they'd have wanted a real priest to wed them, even if that had been a legitimate option. And the thought of anyone else in the room giving it a go (Asmodeus, Lilith, Ronald, Finny, God-forbid-Claude…) made the fledging feel both leery and dimly ill. But at the same time… well, c'mon.
"Hey now, what's that menacin' lil' look for, my lordship?" the reaper lilted, cocking his head as if he'd been offended. But his unwavering Cheshire sneer gave the joke away; chuckling as hard as he was, he could have easily choked on his last swallow of biscuit. Too bad he didn't. "If yer worried 'bout payin' me, don't. Can't remember the last time I've laughed so hard, fer so long. I dare say this even covers yer tab from so many years ago~"
"Oh. Thank goodness."
If Undertaker picked up on the palpable sarcasm oozing from the not-boy's droned retort, he didn't show it. Instead, he offered an amiable nod and spread his skeletal arms wide, as if welcoming all those gathered as bosom buddies. "As a reaper, whose power lies in life and death—in examining, judging, prolonging, and conjoining souls," the mortician loudly proclaimed, filling Ciel with the sneaking suspicion that he had prepared for this moment by studying Evangelical acts on the television, "should we not also have the ability to unify two beings in the bonds of unholy matrimony? Can I get an 'amen,' heeheehee~?"
"Amen!" the angels in the crowd responded exuberantly, some going so far as to throw their hands in the air and trill a brief Hallelujah chorus. The devils, on the other hand, vacillated over a few points of confusion, such as whether or not they were allowed to use that word anymore, or if the Undertaker had wanted them to tack on that bit of laughter, as well. In the end, a few of the braver souls muttered hesitant "amen"s (eyes darting back and forth to make sure none of their brethren had heard it), while others decided that adding to the maniacal laughter portion of the proclamation was good enough. "Heeheehee~!"
William, in turn, did what both Sebastian and Ciel privately wished they could. He face-palmed.
"Ah, there, you see…?" Regaining its usual crackly rasp, the Undertaker's voice lowered as he again turned to regard the devils before him, sharp canines flashing as he offered a heartening grin. "They acknowledge my authority in these matters… You two should have no problems doing the same~"
Perhaps so, in theory. After all, these creatures gathered were their brethren, and thus the beings needed to legitimize their nuptial vows in a public sense. (It wasn't as if their marriage would likely be recognized by humans, after all.) But in reality… Ciel and Sebastian exchanged a succession of chary glances, arching slender eyebrows as if in silent communication. I don't even know what this is, anymore, the younger devil's features confessed, and his servant was forced to agree. But at the same time, had this ceremony ever been anything less than a bundle of chaos and a gigantic mess? And besides, it didn't really matter anyway, seeing as…
"…have you ever even conducted a wedding before, Undertaker?" Sebastian asked lightly, carefully, his voice the epitome of bland civility as his thumbs massaged the backs of Ciel's hands, a small gesture of comfort. The touch, ginger though it was, drained a good deal of the tension from the once-earl's shoulders… He sighed, and no longer bothered looking distressed. After all this time, all of these hitches and comical snags, what was one more bizarre setback? The fledgling set his jaw, preparing himself for the inevitable answer of—
"Nope," Undertaker chortled, and somehow everyone knew—behind the opaque veil of his bangs—that his vibrant eyes were alive with mirth and delight. Atop his favorite counter in the ransacked kitchen, Ronald succumbed to the urge to face-palm, as well. "But I've watched Princess Bride at least two dozen times… and a whooooole bunch of other romantic comedies. You needn't worry about a thing, heehee~"
Somehow, that made it impossible to do anything but worry.
"…well…" Torn between evident exasperation and the realization that things were going to get no less ridiculous from here-on-out, Sebastian wavered— concerned stare darting towards his beloved even as his face remained trained on the death god. But as his father liked to say, "well" was a deep subject; he wasn't quite sure where to go from there. Ciel had a few suggestions at-the-ready, though.
"There's always Las Vegas," the not-boy muttered under his breath, eyes hooded in sardonic seriousness. A sensible suggestion; whether or not his master was kidding (it was occasionally difficult to tell), the butler considered his proposition. True, it was out and about amongst the judgmental mortals, but hey— they could always claim that Ciel was some sort of midget, if anyone was sober enough to ask about his looks. "Or we could just go back to the amusement park bathroom."
That, at least, was likely a joke. Reeled back from his musings, Sebastian offered his frustrated fiancé a tender smile, squeezing their twined fingers. "We'll do as you wish," he gently avowed… nudging his shoulder a bit towards the window, in case Ciel chose the Vegas option. They'd need a quick escape, if that was the case.
Noticing this oh-so-subtle signal, Ciel's eyes darted, swift and contemplative, towards what could very easily become a makeshift exit, if they were so inclined. And there was some degree of temptation, there, to take the $325-replacement way out… But— his eyes slid again, gaze brushing over the faces of their guests, their friends… Grelle… "…it'd take a while to get to either of those places," the demonling decided with another heavy exhalation, features set with the same grim determination as one about to suffer a root canal. And in all likelihood, this ceremony was going to prove to as painful as such… but wasn't that what celebrating with family was all about? It was an agonizing torture that, in the end, proved worth enduring, in some capacity. "Let's just do it here."
"Heeheehee… Most excellent~" At the sound of the snicker—so close to their faces— both Sebastian and Ciel stiffened, straightened, seemingly startled. Oh yeah, there was a grim reaper looming crazily over them at present, wasn't there? In the back of his mind, Ciel gave the Vegas option one more moment of deep consideration, shuddering as the Undertaker leered: talons tapping soundlessly against the wall of his ivory teeth. "Then shall we get this show on the road~? Ahem…!" With his usual fervor, the death god leapt up upon the coffee table, which had been moved behind the wedding party to make room for folding chairs. His thick rubber soles left black skid-marks on the glass; his heavy footfalls made the entire contraption screech and shudder. But if one could ignore Sebastian's squawk of displeasure (which most found very easy to do), it made for an excellent improvised pulpit. With a chortled cough to clear his throat, the mortician again raised his arms and preached: "Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam... And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva~!"
"I thought you promised not to steal your sermon from that movie!" Grelle groused, lashing out to kick at the base of the coffee table with the tip of a red high heel. (As the glass and reaper rattled, Sebastian couldn't help but wince. What was it with the death gods and destroying his furniture—?) "I gave you very few guidelines, but I distinctly remember 'no plagiarizing' being one of them!"
"Eeeh~?" Bending bony knees as if to brace himself against the redhead's assault, the Undertaker's homily broke off with a guffaw and a grin. Already in a low crouch, he poked his shaggy head through the gap between Sebastian and Ciel's bodies, turning his face (and presumably his eyes) towards the grimacing Grelle. "Would you rather I quoted the Bible, instead…?" he wondered aloud, giggles fizzing just-beneath the polite veneer of his drawl.
Feeling vaguely uncomfortable—and understandably so, what with the Undertaker's twisted mouth unnervingly close to his stomach— Ciel allowed his face and voice to drop low, dully regarding the one who had so violated his personal space. (Though at least he hadn't started violating anything else. Small miracles, and all that…) "Please don't."
"Alrighty then~" Retracting his head like some sort of tropical turtle—a retreat assisted by a pointed shove from a displeased Sebastian— Undertaker pulled himself upright with a clap and a rub of his hands, as if finally ready to take things seriously. "As if" being the key phrase, there. This was Undertaker, after all… he never took anything seriously. "I'll jus' take the liberty o' skipin' over all o' that religious crap, then, shall I?" he lightly posed, before turning his creeping leer upon Gabriel and offering a cordial nod. "No offence, o'course…"
"Oh, none taken," Gabriel returned sunnily, waving a prompting hand. "Please, continue."
That seemed as much a blessing from Heaven as anyone could ever hope for on their wedding day; how ironic that such a miracle should be wasted upon demons. The thought had the reaper gagging on his umpteenth snicker as he returned his attention to the pair before him, their hands knotted and their eyes locked. What a disgustingly romantic picture they made… "Let's get on with it, shall we, hmm~?" Undertaker thus cooed, as if this hadn't been the couple's desire from the start. Ebony talon dissecting the squirming white worm of his lips, the death god posed in a sweet rasp: "Do you, Sebastian Michaelis, take this here little lordling t' be yer not-really-lawfully-but-what-the-heck wedded husband?"
The devil didn't miss a beat. "I do," he murmured, and with a gentle tug removed one of Ciel's decorative half-gloves. A moment of soundless worship rang in its wake; Sebastian clutched desperately to that precious hand, the hand that had saved him time and time again. Touched his heart as much as his body; lead him from the lonely abyss of solitude; rescued him from the sorrow of an eternity spent on his own. With a silent swallow that tasted of cloying emotions, Sebastian tenderly slipped the smaller of the silver bands onto his master's delicate finger, savoring every poignant second of the significant act. The smooth slide of the ring— teasing against pale flesh— sent a shivering tickle of wonderment from the curve of Ciel's knuckle to the pit of his belly, turning his cheeks a sentimental shade of scarlet. For a moment, blue eyes followed the predicted path of the glistening band (inevitable; destined, really—almost like a metaphor), then flicked back up to meet ruddy irises of velvet vermillion, warm and bright as embers. "Of course I do."
Ciel smiled. There was a brief pause for the Undertaker to grunt a laugh, and for Grelle to fish a handkerchief from the depths of her sequined clutch-purse. Somewhere in the conjubilant crowd, Lilith was doing the same… Only she'd kept her Kleenex, er, elsewhere.
"And do you, Ciel Phantomhive," Undertaker eventually continued, turning his skull-like smile upon the demonling in question, "take yer ol' butler t' be yer number one squeeze in this life an' the next?" A sneer, a snort; the reaper seemed awfully proud of his word choice. Not even the writers of Princess Bride could hope to be so eloquent. He should copyright this shit when he was done. But for now…
"I do," Ciel agreed mellifluously, reverently, ignoring the way the reaper beside him had erupted into a geyser of poorly-suppressed chortles, flailing like some sort of deranged muppet. Instead, the not-boy gladly focused his attention on Sebastian's wedding band, handed to him with such palpable affection it was almost enough to make the ring feel physically heavier. One hand gingerly supporting the devil's cocked wrist, the other began to pluck at the ends of Sebastian's cotton gloves: finger by finger, leisurely loosening its hold. With only a sigh of resistance, the second skin was shucked and shed; a tattoo of rotted epidermal shone black beneath the overhead lights. Fingers whiter than purest porcelain poised the burnished loop before its new home… then suddenly paused. Wavered— as if waiting. But for what, that was the question—encouragement? Discouragement? For the dream to end and them both to wake up? The very edge of his bottom lip caught between his teeth, Ciel chanced a brief glance upwards, nerves apparent in the glitter of his gaze… but he found nothing but patient anticipation in Sebastian's composed countenance, confident and adoring. It was more than enough to calm the dregs of anxiety.
"I do," Ciel said again, and without hesitating this time, slid the ring deftly into place.
His servant's subsequent shiver of delight—the sight of mismatched hands made a set by silver rings— had the fledgling's heart throbbing and aching with so much happiness, he was half-afraid it might burst in his breast. Literally. And wouldn't the macabre mortician enjoy that dramatic finale…
As if waiting for just such an explosion to occur (because c'mon, how amusing would that be?), the Undertaker glanced from demon to demon, head tipping back and forth like some sort of demented owl's. When no one spoke (or combusted), he shrugged in vague disappointment and declared: "Then by the power invest'd in me by… well, Grelle, mainly—" A titter of laughter from the supernatural throng; Grelle herself was too busy snotting into a tissue to comment or correct— "I pronounced ya married. Fin'ly. Since neither o' you wanted to be th' bride, I guess ya can jus' kiss each other."
Like they ever needed to be told twice.
Already in the process of leaning low (swiftly snatching their discarded gloves from their place on the floor), Sebastian wasted no time in using this downward momentum in a kiss's favor. Bending at the waist, fingers curling loosely around Ciel's thin shoulders, the devil's serene smile was soon pressed firmly against his beloved's warm…
Looking mildly taken aback (wouldn't a kiss on the lips have been more appropriate? Even inhibited couples allowed themselves that much under these circumstances), Ciel frowned faintly, brow crumpling in discernible disappointment. He just… the cheek? That was like… how one would greet a crush. Or greet anyone in Europe. It was just a step away from a kiss on the forehead, which was the epitome of paternal displays of affection. Wasn't one's first kiss as a married couple supposed to convey far more love? Far more passion? Far more …oh Lord, he was starting to sound like Grelle, wasn't he?
Features hidden from their guests by the round of Sebastian's dipped head, the little demon nevertheless accepted the modest embrace without a show of fuss, surrendering simply to a dumbfounded blink. Well… maybe Sebastian would make up for this later. After everything else that had gone wrong today, Ciel supposed that he should just be thankful they'd managed to marry at all. For a while there, even that had seemed too much to expect. So when his fiancé— no, husband— retreated an inch, his loving stare enveloping his master like the softest, warmest of quilts, the once earl offered a tiny grin in return, saying nothing. He couldn't ask right now. Not when Sebastian looked so very happy. Not when there were so many around to overhear his discontent. Not when—
"Fuck yeah! Time for cake!" the shrill voice of Luka shrieked, as boisterous as if he was already high on sugar. Or possibly cocaine. Excited squeak ricocheting through the linoleum kitchen, the not-child yanked himself from Hannah's cosseting embrace and stampeded over to the dining room table, scrambling atop a chair as if he was planning to throw himself, swan-style, into the tiered pastry upon it.
"Heeeey, Ciel!" Still bouncing and bounding as if springs had been permanently affixed to his heels, Alois propelled himself towards his contemplative comrade with as much power as a freight train. With a final kiss to his master's forehead (oh, perfect, that really helped, Ciel internally drawled), Sebastian deftly sidestepped the oncoming assault, for once allowing someone else to wrap loving arms around his tamer. He must be in a very good mood indeed. "Ciel, I was rifling through your new wedding gifts during the boring parts of the ceremony (so, you know, all of it), and I found some fabulous sex toys! Even a gold-plated prostate massager— damn, you guys have some rich friends! Wanna check 'em out with me?"
Not when Ciel should be thrilled. Because he should be. About more than expensive sex toys. But still…
Lips pursed and squirming in the wake of a gnawing puzzlement, Ciel watched as his butler-turned-husband rolled his eyes, grinned brightly, and spun spryly away— reportedly off to steal his beloved a slice of cake before Luka had a chance to slobber over the lot of it. Alois continued to cling to his neck as if a gaudy choker; Grelle and Lilith, sobbing like the mothers they were, had collapsed against the other's heaving bosom and where wailing like banshees; Finny, Azazel, and Gabriel struck up another familiar tune that Ciel couldn't quite remember the name of, but could swear had something to do with hallucinations. And all the while, the young devil couldn't help but think…
This all seems rather anticlimactic, doesn't it?
Anticlimactic or not, the ceremony was over… and those gathered were all more than happy to bid it goodbye, and good riddance. After all, weddings were really only excuses to party, weren't they? And, much akin to any other party, the cake had been out for approximately 86 seconds before someone (Azazel, in this case) concluded that food should enrich more than just one's body. It should also enrich the carpet, the ceiling, the walls… the experience of merrymaking in general. There was, he claimed, just not enough pandemonium yet to be considered a true shindig; the best remedy for this was a food fight. When this arguably juvenile conclusion elicited groans of distaste from creatures both holy and damned, the demon pouted, obstinately smeared streaks of frosting beneath his eyes, and immediately organized a demonic squadron to attack all those who had jeered at his suggested version of fun. ("We're wasting food that could be used to feed starving orphans in Africa!" the devil Verrine pointed out as they rounded the troops, ignoring a whining Beelzebub as he tried to snatch away his plate of 'weaponry.' "So we can mark this on our tally sheets, right?") In the end, the makeshift war played out like any other: there were no winners, only losers. A whole roomful of messy, messy losers. After thirty minutes of enduring flying pastry missiles and a "suicide brigade" that doled out buttercream-coated hugs, half the kitchen and a third of the guests were covered in dessert toppings.
Eventually, it was collectively decided that something was needed to wash the sugar down with. The beverage of choice was unsurprising, to say the least; more alcohol had soon been called for, in the sort of vivacious (and glass-shattering) manner that one might expect from Norse Vikings. (Though perhaps in this case the broken dishes were mostly an accident; current company was rowdy, no doubt, but not intentionally rude.) This was all much to the chagrin of Will, who—poor thing— had been charged by his wife to keep an eye on that particular section of the table… which was rather like being asked to tend to a pot addict's marijuana farm while said addict and their friends were loitering nearby.
"Taking into account that a good number of you were personally acquainted with him," the reaper grumbled as he hefted another three caskets of liquor into the overcrowded kitchen, ignoring the raucously appreciative applause of the demons and angels gathered there, "I wouldn't think that I'd have to point out that I am not Jesus. When this is gone, it's gone; there's no 'water into wine' about it."
"Oh, you needn't worry." Clapping Will's shoulder in a soothing sort of way, Asmodeus flashed the red-faced death god (er, red-faced from physical exhaustion. Right) a debonair smile. "We wouldn't dream of drinking you out of house and home. Not without giving you anything in exchange…" With a sly little smirk and a magnificent flourish, Sebastian's father pulled a glass bottle of his own from… well, no one asked from where. Full of a pale, frothing liquid that fizzled most deviously, the glimpsed label christened the ale "Catnip Tequila." Brow dubiously arched, Will couldn't help but think that it'd be more appropriate to call the beverage "Liquid GHB," what with the glazed, lusty looks on the faces of those who helped themselves to a swig. But then again, they were all standing rather close to the king of the second circle, right now. Perhaps that was it.
Though he rather doubted it.
In any event, another few hours of drinking found everyone present much more at ease with themselves and those around them… in all senses of the word, if the number of closed closet and bedroom doors was anything to go by. Even those who'd abstained from inebriation by spirits had since lost themselves to other entertainments and the virulent aftereffects of sugar. The karaoke machine was back on, with DDR and Mario Party cued up for once the seraphim lost their voices; a number of demons had rediscovered the discarded My Little Pony figurines and were playing with them on the couch. After much egging, Ciel had thrown his bouquet into the remainder of the crowd, and had watched in mild amusement as three dozen frosting-faced entities fought and scrambled for the floral prize, feathers flying and horns butting. After a (nearly) bloodless battle royale, an archangel named Sabrael finally lifted his flower-filled fist in victory, looking incredibly pleased with himself… despite the fact that the roses in question had become little more than a mass of squashed petals and a collection of broken stems. Cradling arms slightly more bruised and gauzy robes a fraction more rumpled than they had been five minutes before, Sabrael was nevertheless bright-eyed in his enthusiasm as he turned to an equally battered Leviathan and asked if he'd seen Uriel, lately. The eager inquiry soon became a glower and a grumble, however, when a nearby Baalberith cackled, proclaiming that the silly superstition had been "wrong" this time.
Sabrael opened his mouth to… um, "protest," might be the courteous way of phrasing it—as did a number of others who'd grown sick of the omnipotent one's interminable trolling. But just as he spat the first of his venomous retort—
"Baalberith, I cordially invite you to kiss my holy a—"
—Ronald finally succeeded in his self-appointed quest. After a fruitless hour of hunting for his lost laptop, hoping he might be able to drown out the ruckus with some… well, noisier, slightly-more-melodic ruckus— he had instead turned his attention to the kitchen's CD player, which had been one of the first casualties of the earlier food fight. It had taken the better part of forty-five minutes, but he eventually managed to cleanse the abused electronic of stickiness and crumbs, as well as peel away the sugar-roses that had essentially super-glued the lid shut. Twisting the volume knob so far to the right that he almost snapped it clean off, the reaper crossed his fingers and smashed his fist against the "play" button, hoping against hope that whatever CD was in the tray was slightly more appropriate for a wedding ceremony than Yackity Sax. Because yeah, Azazel and Gabriel really did know how to play that one.
And for once, seeing as it was a special occasion and all, Lady Luck decided to show the Michaelis household some small degree of pity. Thus, Sabrael's cussing was soon tastefully censored by the audial explosion that was the opening chords of Alex Goot's "Pretty Eyes," which—would wonders never cease?—actually seemed a good song for the newly married couple, in retrospect. Good enough, at least, for Sebastian to turn to his partner, offer a hand, and flash a suave smile.
"As I believe I am entitled to at least one… " the demonic butler purred, as if a living photograph of that distant day— poised before the antique desk of a flustered and pouting earl, "May I have this dance, my lord?"
A pause. Some laughed; others nudged nearby spectators and shared in a smirk. For a moment—rather, for the sake of this little reenactment— Ciel considered being petulant: refusing the invitation with a scoff and a huff before trying to edge away. But that was a game for another time, another place. (Another time and place when Grelle wasn't around, more specifically: Ciel was half-afraid that she was going to run over and physically attempt to shove them together, at this rate.) In lieu of his usual brand of sulkiness, then, the young devil responded to his beloved by way of a demure grin, lightly setting his fingers upon the palm of the other… before immediately (and intentionally) stamping down on his demon's toes, posing himself atop them. Like a little child, grinning mischievously, the not-boy then clung to his husband and gave an imperial nod. If Sebastian wanted to dance with him, he'd have to do all of the work—Ciel sure as hell wasn't going to embarrass himself in front of these people.
More laughter, more nudging; the supernatural throng cooed and giggled as the newly wedded couple twirled out onto the makeshift dance floor—some unmarked space between the foyer, kitchen, and living room. The carpet had been inadvertently decorated with scatterings of black and white petals, which added delightfully to the ambiance; those in the vicinity moved gracefully aside as their hosts breezed past, for once content to leave a perfect moment alone. Someone near the front door (Lilith, likely), flicked the proper switch to dim the lights, and for the briefest moment in time, the insanity of this impromptu ceremony faded into something… magical.
A twist, a turn, a lift; Ciel soon found himself dancing by his own volition, but he was so busy blushing and beaming and holding to the equally contented Sebastian, he neither noticed or thought to complain. Nor did he bother taking heed of the others who soon drifted out onto the floor—polkaing, tangoing, fox-trotting and even breakdancing to the later cover tracks on the CD. "Dynamite," "2012," "Hold it Against Me," and "ET"… Perhaps not the best songs to waltz to, but even still, those gathered continued to boogie down to the best (or worst) of their abilities. (Raphael, for example, only seemed to know the Macarena. And Asmodeus proved to be rather fond of "The Chicken Dance.") Claude tap-danced in the corner; Alois performed some strange rendition of the Spanish Bull Fighting dance; Grelle consented to sway sensually back and forth with her rhythmically challenged husband, and laughed every time he smacked her wandering hands away from his rear.
But in Sebastian's eyes, as in Ciel's eyes, there was no one else in the world.
"'Cause every time we touch, I get this feeling. Every time we kiss, I swear I could fly," crooned the newest song on the CD, and the once-earl snorted a bit at the irony as he was delicately spun beneath a lifted arm. The elder devil chuckled softly as well, not missing the joke; as he drew Ciel safely to his chest once more, he leaned low and murmured sweetly into his charge's pierced ear:
"If you wished, we could always fly away, baby bird… I only thought you might be having fun."
The hot breath scuttled down the not-boy's spine like a set of spidery fingers: meandering to massage and caress the inward dip at the base of his back. Hip to hip, torso to torso, Ciel's husky chuckle mingled with the expelled air and sexual tension that lingered lovingly betwixt their bodies, tickling the jut of Sebastian's collarbone. "I would much prefer to be having fun with you exclusively, right now."
"Oh…? Is that an order?" The former servant of Phantomhive teased, his playful goad ending in a chortle as he pressed another kiss to his tamer's temple. And for a moment, the little demon was tempted to turn it into one— perhaps demand a proper kiss while he was at it, as well: one which employed tongue and teeth and effort. But even as he opened his mouth to respond, Ciel suddenly… realized something. Rather, his eyes finally strayed from Sebastian's handsome face long enough to notice where they were, and where they were not. When their dreamy dance had begun, they'd been smack in the middle of a gaggle of deity, surrounded on all sides by angels doing the disco and devils performing the rumba. Now they were now more closely associated with the walls and closet door, bodies half-masked by the shadows of the entryway. The pace of their rhythmic retreat had been so gradual, so natural, that their escape had yet to be noticed by anyone… Not even Grelle, who'd since forced Will into a rather exuberant salsa.
"Why Sebastian," Ciel simpered, dropping his voice all the more— lest somebody hear his laughing whisper over the blasting refrain of the remake. "You sly devil."
Sebastian, in turn, offered a mischievous leer. "Have I ever been anything but?"
He then opened the door on silent hinges and bowed his young master out.
At first, Ciel didn't give much thought as to where they were going. It didn't really matter, as far as he was concerned; the amusement park, Las Vegas, the moon. As long as they were together (cliché as it was), the young devil couldn't be bothered to give a damn. So once they'd made their clandestine getaway and Sebastian laced their hands, tugging his little lover pointedly through the pallid halls of the complex, Ciel made no protest. Neither did he resist, or seem particularly surprised, when his eager husband urged him to enter the cement stairwell— half-pulling, half-coaxing the fledgling to climb flight after flight of cracked and dusty steps. Sebastian's visibly mounting enthusiasm was a touch out of character, perhaps, but considering the occasion, the once-child didn't waste much time analyzing it. Rather, he cheerfully did as he was told, assuming the plan was to take off from some loftier post.
Then again, maybe not.
Bemused and startled, Ciel glanced down at the hand splayed purposefully across his chest, disconcerted by the faint pressure that was preventing him from passing through the door to the roof. That was clearly where they were headed; there was nothing else around and nowhere else to go. So what was the big deal? Stumped, the young demon blinked puzzled eyes up at his butler, wordlessly asking what the hell he was playing it. "Sebastian…?"
Sebastian, his winding smile markedly more mysterious, shook his head in a patient sort of way. "Not yet," he purred, palm and fingers rubbing soothing circle's over Ciel's skipping heart. "Not just yet… I need a minute or two to prepare. Is that alright?" Hand still pressed possessively against his beloved, the devil dipped down to nip a final kiss against his cheek. Temple to temple, pulses synchronizing, the elder demon paused then, waiting for a possible display of dissent… but the once-earl could hardly object when he had no idea what was going on. In the wake of this subsequent silence, Sebastian carefully pulled away—gingerly, gradually, as if to make absolutely certain that the flummoxed demon didn't dash as soon as he was set free. And no, he didn't; Ciel was far too bewildered to do anything more than watch his excited butler in a blatant show of bemusement.
"When you hear music, you may enter, alright?" Sebastian prompted, slipping backwards through the conspicuously branded 'emergency exit.' Vigilant in his quest to keep from spoiling whatever surprise lay beyond, the butler squeezed himself through the smallest crack he could manage—his eyes never straying from Ciel's mystified countenance. When only his head remained visible through the gap between door and frame, the demon's toothy grin became as earnest and excited as a little boy's on Christmas—confident in the promise of good things to come. "It'll be but a moment~" Sebastian swore, and then—though seemingly loathe to do so—broke their locked gaze and vanished with the sound of a metallic thud.
"…um…" Not entirely sure how to react or respond, Ciel offered a deferred nod of agreement… not that anyone was around to see or comment on it. Which was a good thing, really, for if there had they would have also paid witness to the fledgling's succeeding moments of dull-faced stupidity, bamboozled by his temporary abandonment atop the landing. It took a few seconds, but eventually Ciel's indignation caught up with his brain; the tiny devil scowled when he remembered that he should maybe try emoting something. After a bit of consideration, he ultimately decided upon "desperate curiosity," and— not particularly concerned about whether or not it was cheating—dared to strain his hearing just a tad… tip-toe up to press his ear against the cold aluminum barrier, listening for any stray sound that he might be able to translate into meaning. Immature? Maybe. But dammit, he had a right to know; he'd only just begun to get over the whole kiss-on-the-cheek shtick, and the general chaos of their zany ceremony. And now Sebastian was intentionally adding to the reckless insanity? That wasn't fai—
Music. An orchestral melody, first denoted by the reverent humming of strings: calm and unrushed. The flourish of a harp; a plangent lilt of harmonious horns—the sounds swelling and sweeping as each note resonated through the metal of the door. But just as the instruments neared a crescendo, there fell a swift silence: a breath in which a silvery flute sang a nostalgic solo, establishing the piece's haunting refrain. And for the third time that day, Ciel realized that the ballad he was hearing was a familiar one— one that he knew… Unlike those previous instances, however, the once-child recognized thisdescant in an instant. With a sardonic snort, the not-boy gave the heavy handgrip a mighty shove, rolling his eyes as he affectionately droned—
"Did you really choose music fr—?"
But the sarcastic taunt withered and died on the tip of Ciel's tongue, jaw and eyes falling open as the squeaking door swung shut.
The little one had yet to see the realms Above. Even now, as an immortal, he doubted he'd ever have the chance… but it hardly mattered, no, not anymore, because nothing would ever be able to match the beauty of this rooftop. Thrust nine stories into the rosy blush of dusk, the dome of the sky had become a private pantheon— stars of ethereal mercury twinkling to life as the panoramic cityscape acted in kind, distant buildings (like crystalline, straining fingers) glinting white against the gradient hues of heaven. Though their perch was not nearly as extravagant as the glass temples beyond, the rust-red brick of the ivy-swathed ledge was far more striking, in the fledgling's mind— particularly after having been so lavishly decorated. Rows upon rows of erected tapers, half-melted and molded together into scarlet sprays, illuminated the breadth of the compound; the warm crimson of their beading wax complimented the flicker of each firefly flame… the color of Ciel's train, and flush, and the ruby-hued carpet that had been unfurled beneath his feet—a forged path through a fascicle field of fragile flowers. The posy of charmed roses that Grelle had earlier provided had come as something of a surprise; when had she the time to visit the Edge, he'd wondered? Now, facing down a meadow of moonlit monochrome, it was easy to tell where the bouquet had originated. With each stunted shuffle of readjusted boots (shifting as Ciel turned this way and that, drinking in the view), the otherworldly blossoms were jostled; the velvet perfume of their parted petals perforated the cooling summer air, wafting in the wake of gentle gusts.
The awed breath escaped the demonling's parted lips without his notice or consent; his feet, likewise, had begun to move on their own accord— arms half-reaching towards Sebastian, who awaited him with a smile (and Ronald's missing laptop, hooked to an unobtrusive speaker) near the most picturesque of the hedges. Behind him, the distant metropolis glittered, adding a nimbus of florescent white to the roseate flush of the innumerable candles which haloed the devil, now lacking a disguise. With some degree of pride, the elder demon had shed his butlery façade; though Ciel's slate-blue feathers continued to decorate his hair, other traditional beads and baubles now accompanied the plumage, adding a feel of ethnic authenticity to the custom. His ears were cuffed by drops of mercury; his forearms and chest were bound in ornamental ribbons of glossy leather. Starched white cotton and trailing black swallowtails had been replaced by a clinging second skin of sleek ebony, ending in boots with heels like pins. As Ciel toddled closer, Sebastian extended a helping hand— careful not to scratch his charge with the tips of recently elongated talons.
"Sebastian, what on earth…?" Practically breathless, speechless, and dazed by disbelief, the diminutive demon finally managed to peel his gawking gaze away from the wonderments around him, instead focusing on that which was truly amazing—the creature before him, devout and devoted. As if his heart was simply not large enough to contain so many impassioned feelings, Ciel could feel Sebastian's interminable adoration lingering in the air— encircling his body and filling him with a tingling warmth. "Sebastian…?"
The devil first answered with a halcyon chuckle, melodiously velvet as it coiled through the twilight.
"When I asked you to marry me…" he then quietly clarified, gingerly guiding his master to a perch directly beside him, "this was rather closer to the ceremony that I had in mind." Chest-to-chest before the shimmering haze of the city, stars, flares, the demon caressed the camber of his charge's cheek with the back of two lithe fingers, savoring the silken sensation of satin skin. As he gazed upon the once-child, Sebastian's ember-hued eyes burned with an inner fire: faceted vermillion gemstones, full of a love more precious than any jewel. And to know that, despite the improbability of it all, that precious love was his… it was like the summer sun had vanished from the sky in order to take up permanent residence in the once-earl's ribcage. No wonder his chest suddenly felt so tight… "Something private and special. Something just for you and me. Because that is what this is all about… that is what this has always been about. That is all that has ever mattered— all that will ever matter. You… and me."
A lingering hush, natural in the aftermath of so somber a confession. Sebastian took the opportunity to again stroke Ciel's face, delighting in the grin that played with the pinches of his tamer's coral lips. Ciel, in turn, held that velveteen palm pointedly in place, pressing a kiss to the pink of his calloused flesh. And the music played, and the skylights sparkled, and the other's smile softened in the ruddy dimness of candlelight, the mauve and azure nightfall silhouetting his tender beam. And as this most-romantic of moments harkened to its inevitable climax, Sebastian leaned closer and murmured:
"…do you remember Star Trek: The Next Generation?"
Another hush. Perhaps not quite so natural this time, though neither was the silence awkward, per se; Ciel merely leveled his butler an incredulous stare, fingers frozen atop the back of his cupping hand. Star Trek? Really? Alone on an impeccably decorated rooftop with his newly-wedded husband and Sebastian wanted to talk about a flamboyant sci-fi show from the early 90s? Why, exactly? And why was Ciel not surprised? Well… you either had to laugh or cry, and after everything else that had happened today, laughter seemed the more appropriate response. Or the better medicine, as it were. So the fledgling allowed himself a husky chuckle, his amusement highlighted by the flutings of exasperated affection. "Of course I do," he then assured, rolling his eyes as he pressed another kiss to the heel of Sebastian's palm. "In '93, I bedecked myself in whipped cream and gave you a Star Fleet insignia pin for your birthday. You nearly wept with happiness. And even if I hadn't remembered before," Ciel continued with a meaningful smirk, allowing his servant's hand to slip from his cheek and instead rethread through his own, "I surely would now. This music… It's from the show, isn't it? Back in the day, you wore out your copy of the soundtrack listening to it over and over again."
"…why, yes. Yes, indeed, I… I did," Sebastian agreed after a startled pause, his burgundy eyes a touch wider in a show of honest amazement. Never having been a fan of the program, the butler hadn't expected his master to recall minutiae as trivial as past displays of nerdiness… But then, he, too, cherished those small, day-to-day details from years gone by; it was heartening to know that he wasn't alone in doing so. An endearing chortle was Ciel's reward for his excellent memory. "And yes, it was. This is the orchestral suite version of the theme to the episode 'The Inner Light.' Did you ever see it…?"
The placid prompt hung idly between them for a spell: patiently waiting as Ciel rifled around in his mind for an answer. He'd certainly caught bits and pieces of a few episodes, over the years, but… As he haltingly shook his head—features contorting in curiosity as he wondered why it would matter, anyway— Sebastian grin's gained teeth, as well as an edge of relief… as if foreknowledge might have spoiled something grand.
"Prior to that particular installment," the doting devil fondly elucidated, looking fleetingly like the fanboy he so vainly pretended not to be, "the character Jean-Luc swore that he had no need of family, children, a home... He saw himself a loner, too strong for any of that. But then— though the events of the episode prove to be nothing more than a dream, he is nevertheless given a taste of such domestic bliss... And he can never let it go." In flagrant emphasis, Sebastian underscored Picard's revelation by holding all the more tightly to the fingers laced with his— his excited eyes as vivid and shining as the nebula of galaxies traversed by the captain in question. "Like the explorer of time and space that he was, Jean-Luc discovered the inner light— the peace, the joy of loving, and of being loved. Of family. Oh, for so many millennia, little one, I was like him... Caring for nothing, for no one, thinking I had no need to love or be loved in return. But then… then I met you... And the entirety of my universe changed." Features animated and awed in the wake of so passionate a truth, Sebastian lifted their tangled fists to his chest and held them there, urgently, as if his heartbeat might be able to properly portray the earnestness and reverence that his bumbling words could not. Beneath splayed fingers, the powerful thrum of each zealous throb resonated through the earl's palm, his heart, his soul; the sincerity, the openness, the honest adoration of it all painted another blush upon his cheeks, nearly as radiant as the fire-glow. Sebastian's returning smile positively ached with affection. "Now," he then continued in an exhilarated rush, as if the miracle of this fact was still enough to leave him in a breathless euphoria, "now, no matter where I am, and no matter where I go, so long as I am with you, baby bird, I am in Paradise. It is… it is a blessing the likes of which I do not deserve. Did not ever think I would be given, considering who and what I am… But perhaps I should have known from that first moment— when you paid me my first compliment, drinking from your cup of warm milk and honey." The murmured musing evoked an airy laugh, as well as a shy shrug; indulging in the elixir of so many suppressed and forgotten memories, Sebastian, too, flushed a pastel pink, trembling as he confessed to far more than ever before. "Cast from Heaven as I was, wandering aimlessly as I did, I was like so many other forsaken peoples... Peoples to whom God had promised an oasis, a land that would flow with milk and honey. And for me, that promised land— that precious place I want to be— …is with you."
Distantly, belatedly, Ciel could hear the music in the background—reprised melodies braiding and swelling into a dramatic crescendo that echoed poignantly through the midsummer night. And if his life were some sort of television show, the young demon might have perceived the perfect timing, the dramatic flair— the way each note accentuated Sebastian's ardent vows… But despite the power of the piece (and of Ronald's amplifiers), the tune had been all but smothered by the rush of heady blood in his ears. By the vivacious song of his heart. By every spoken spirant of sound that fell from Sebastian's beaming lips, pearling like the tears that dewed in the corners of their locked eyes. Through that sudden sheen of moisture, the incandescent wreaths of gold surrounding the tapers seemed to expand, enveloping everything in their shimmering embrace. And maybe it was cheesy to think this, but… right now, staring up at his begirded butler, Ciel found himself marveling that his 'inner light' had been personified, too, and now stood before him like a prince from a dream. Or from Hell, at the very least.
As if sensing his tamer's tender thoughts, the devil's throat constricted—too full of emotion, of sensation, of sheer happiness, to allow for easy whispers. But he continued all the same, crooning the words that he hoped to God and back that Ciel would never, ever, ever forget, regardless of whatever might happen in the future. Because yes, while devils could only speak the truth, not all truths are created equal. And this— this… This was the pinnacle, the epitome, the crux of all that Sebastian believed in and all that he held dear. It was the start, the finish, and everything in between. It was the only thing worth saying, and he would never be able to say it enough… But dammit, he would try. "My baby bird," Sebastian breathed, "my darling little one, my proud and beautiful young master… You are my family, my home, my heaven, my inner light. My everything. We will live until the very end of existence, explore the furthest reaches of time and space together, and yet… And yet I still know that I will never be able to express the true depths of my feelings for you. It is, quite frankly, not possible. And maybe… maybe that is why this song feels so perfect to me. Maybe that is why Grelle could never find a proper wedding song for us."
Despite the gravity of his admission, the absolute sincerity in every syllable uttered, a touch of humor gradually dyed the lilt of Sebastian's fervent proclamations; his grin spoke of giggles as he offered one last confession, as sweetly as if spilling a secret. His final secret. "After all, she kept looking at the lyrics, didn't she... and what I feel goes beyond words. Beyond language. Beyond anything. Still, for lack of a more eloquent phrase… I love you, Ciel Phantomhive. With every fiber, flake, and filament of my being, I love you. And I will love you eternally."
As the butler's cloying voice and dulcet tones slowly lowered in volume and pitch, so too did his resplendent face—dropping down to meet the delicate knuckles that his hands were deftly lifting to his lips. For a moment, the fledgling—wholly distracted by the lump in his throat— thought little of the gesture, assuming that the sweeping spectacle was merely a familiar, genteel demonstration of ardor. However, when the elegant kiss brushed over the arc of his new wedding band, Ciel found it difficult to ignore the way the ring began to glow: the mist of Sebastian's amorous admission morphing into a scrawled flash of Enochian text, which soon melted into the smooth surface of the ring.
Sensing his beloved's noiseless surprise—feeling a jolt of startled stiffness tensing each of his sinewy muscles— Sebastian glanced up at his master through the lacy mesh of his half-lowered lashes, deviant and sensual. Always one to have fun with Ciel's befuddlement, the rascally creature wasted no time in exacerbating it: applying another kiss to his little one's trembling hand and grinning when his charge gradually realized that this second embrace only birthed sparks within, rather than without.
"It is called animus argentum," the devil then informed, slender fingers lifting to knead the shock from Ciel's thin wrist. "In English, soul silver. It is a rare and expensive alloy, manufactured only in my parents' domain. Fascinating, isn't it…?" Having lowered himself to one knee in order to lavish affection upon his charge, the servant now straightened himself, standing. Still, his eyes remained soft and downcast— the pads of his thumbs burnishing the band as he teased the once-boy with a tutor's grin. With every nimble stroke, the text appeared again, if but briefly; the rounded symbols smoldered in shades of mint green. "In the Middle realm of Earth, silver has been used since ancient times to prevent infection, to keep water potable… A sort of charm of health and longevity, as it were. It is much the same Below, but to a different degree. Animus argentum strengthens nothing corporeal; rather, it empowers the soul. Rings of this sort not only signify a bond between beings— the metal also literally strengthens that bond, helping it to endure, to grow."
Under any other circumstance, Ciel would have been horrified to see how innocuously honest, how openly sincere his expression had become. How his quavering lips had parted; how his sapphire irises shimmered… almost as if he were 10 and human and innocent again. But that hardly mattered. For now, his concern and consideration began and ended with Sebastian, with this ritual, with this priceless ring upon his finger—which, even when untouched, seemed to gleam a faint white. It was almost as if it were alive… or, at least, subsisted on the same heartbeat as a certain lilac brand, carved into his eye like stigmata. "And that script…?" Ciel posed, nearly inaudible, though he was fairly certain that he knew. And indeed, Sebastian's response simply served to confirm his suspicions.
"My name. Well," the butler clarified with a second demonstration of uncharacteristic sheepishness, "my original name. In my mind, I shall forevermore be Sebastian Michaelis… But unfortunately, my essence is still that of the devil Malphas. And in these sorts of ceremonies, it is our essence that is bound… together...?"
Statement faded into question. Volume dwindled in kind.
Brow furrowing faintly, Sebastian watched—notably dumbfounded— as his valiant attempts at explication fell upon pointedly-deaf ears, then morphed into silence. For, rather than pay attention, Ciel had chosen to busy himself by contorting his features in pinched disapproval, head cocked and button nose scrunched. "'Sebastian Michaelis?'" he then echoed blandly, unrepentantly interrupting his servant's faltering explanations. After all, he was addressing the wrong problem; no need to waste time on that. "But you're not Sebastian Michaelis anymore, are you?"
It was his servant's turn to look properly confused. "My lord?" the demon prompted, the old endearment soft with incomprehension. "What're you—?"
"You're Sebastian Phantomhive now."
And with no more warning than this blunt declaration, Ciel lifted Sebastian's willowy hand to his own lips— amused, as always, by how very pliant his lover's joints became when staggered. The blackened flesh of an otherworldly seal shuddered in delightful anticipation… In the wake of additional attachments, already-shared sensations were deliciously heightened, resonating all the more powerfully throughout Ciel. It was gift that he looked forward to further exploring soon. But first, reciprocity was in order…
"Back when you were a servant, back when you were a stranger, it was I who gave you the name Michaelis," the once-earl reminded with a honeyed purr, watching in escalating exhilaration as his cascading breath wafted over the polished ring, staining it an iridescent indigo. Wherever his shallow exhalations landed, loops of lettering temporarily appeared; it looked rather like the ghost of his signature, penned in perfect calligraphy long ago. "It seems only right that I should be the one to change it now, in light of this new covenant."
His eyes flicked upwards, catching Sebastian's. Holding the gaze. Holding his hand. Holding his breath. Holding everything in—every thought, memory, feeling from the past, present, future… for that instant, merely basking, relishing, savoring all of the good and the bad, all that had happened and someday would, all that they were and would be. It was as if, for the briefest of moments, the entirety of the universe opened itself up to Ciel… and his mind expanded, and his soul extended, and he understood. He understood everything. And in doing so, knew—knew without any shadow of a doubt—that the one thing worth understanding, worth hurting and fighting and living and dying for, was this. Was him, this enigmatic entity who had somehow snuck into his heart and claimed it as his own. This creature who, without even pretending to try, had managed become the only being that Ciel would ever need. His guardian, his family, his friend, his lover… for a time, even his god. With reverence, with intention, without ever once looking away, the little demon allowed these musings to ebb and flow…and then pressed his lips to the enchanted ring, his smile glowing along with ethereal band.
Someone was crying; a single tear fell with a soundless plop, dewing atop a velveteen rose petal. Ciel beamed, lowering Sebastian's arm as he took a ginger step backwards.
"And with this, the Contract is sealed," the younger devil husked, releasing their woven hands with a suggestive little smirk. Yet, while the coquettish irony and playful flirtation of the action was not lost upon Sebastian, his joyful contentment was notably dampened by a resurgence of perplexity. Blinking owlishly, tipping his own head in turn, the elder demon looked on in mild bemusement as his tamer retreated a few steps more, fingers plucking provocatively at twin rows of burnished buttons. "And how appropriate that is…"
"Ciel…?" Uncertain—but in no way discouraging, oh no— Sebastian watched as his young master undid the front of his jacket and shirt, exposing flesh as white as snow… loosening ribbons and laces and hooks and eyes, socks and shorts slipping from sinuous thighs and rounded hips. The suit coat crumpled about his feet with a clatter of heavy embellishments; other garments he tossed aside without a second thought. His vest caught on a whorl of wind and fluttered dangerously close to the ledge, but preoccupied as they were, neither paid it any mind. Instead, their gazes remained glued to Ciel's crimson train, which—with careful, deliberate movements—the not-child was swiftly unpinning, unbuttoning, unfastening. Adroit hands had soon taken the decorative bustle and transformed it into a single swatch of scarlet, much akin to a tarp or a blanket or an altar sheet…
Sebastian's eyes widened. The fledgling unfurled the ruby shroud, wrapping it loosely around his naked body; the vibrancy of the hue handsomely accentuated the china pallor of his lithe limbs, the sensuality of his slight curves. And what with his pale nails, and his azure irises, and the absence of his bitter façade, he nearly looked as he had That Day... Determined, diminutive, desirable. But why—?
He was answered without having to ask.
"Any event which calls us to look towards the future asks us simultaneously to consider the past," Ciel helpfully expounded, the plumage in his hair pirouetting as another fragrant breeze danced through their sanctuary. "To think about what has brought us here, to this point. And this… That Day… that was our beginning, Sebastian. For as much as I once loathed what happened to me, for as much as I hated and cursed, now I… I am thankful for it. Because it is what led me to you." A bashful blush; discomfort etched itself into the camber of his chagrined smile. But still, the little one pressed on, because this was important. Because he needed to say it. Because he wanted to say it. "And so," the once-child persisted gallantly, indulging in a shudder that anyone else (anyone but Sebastian, anyway) might wrongly attribute to chill, "so today… today, as we celebrate this second Covenant, I wanted to wear something to acknowledge our first. It seemed fitting… after all, just as I did That Day, I am, in essence, offering myself to you. Or, should I say… I am finally offering the correct part of myself."
With a lilted laugh, Ciel's small smile— which had been charmingly demure in the wake of shy professions— gained a visible edge of amusement, coaxed into a captivated beam by Sebastian's continued stupefaction. Though one petite hand remained knotted in a fistful of fabric, the other lifted to cup his butler's colored cheek; the sweep of his thumb smeared a bubble of wetness, the remnants of which sparkled like stardust in the guttering candlelight. With an equally caressing glance, the fledgling stepped forward once more—breast meeting breast in a flurry of harmonized heartbeats…
"On that distant Day, hundreds of years ago, I promised you my soul. I never said anything about my heart," the demonling reminded, his whispered words no more than a rush of breath on the scales of a fading symphony. The roses rustled; the mantle did likewise. "So it only seems fair that I should get to keep the former… seeing as you have long-since stolen the latter."
And this time—this time— when Ciel tripped urgently closer; when he wrapped an arm around stiff shoulders; when he pushed himself onto his tiptoes and grazed his mouth against his husband's ear… he did not need to revert to avian form in order to say that which they both so yearned to hear.
"I love you, Sebastian."
His lips (the words) lingered sweetly, the perfume of his breath mingling with the piquant scent of evening flowers. Even without his supernatural senses, the little demon was confident that he'd have been able to hear Sebastian's heart in that moment: pounding, throbbing, whole chest expanding as it swelled and ached with purest passion. It almost seemed an agonizing experience— features flushed, eyes watering, like the internal pressure brought about by these sensations was too much for any one creature to handle. But as a servant of Phantomhive, it was only natural that the devil should know the cure, whatever the ailment; in this case, that pressure merely needed to be released. And oh, did Sebastian release it then— Ciel nearly choked on a wanton moan as (finally!), his demon's lips crashed down upon his own, fevered and fervent: teeth clicking and tongues battling as their mouths worked furiously against one another, the outpouring of emotion draining the pair of the energy required to do such basic tasks as 'remain upright.' But standing was overrated, anyway; the couple allowed their knees to crumple beneath them as their greedy limbs tangled and their mismatched bodies mashed. Heedless of anything but the sound-scent-feel-taste of the other, they tumbled back into the vases of black and white blossoms, the crushed flowers sending glittering puffs of pollen into the sultry summer air…
"That… being said… I do not recall you wearing… a red lace garter… on That Day…"
A breathless chuckle, sonorous and soft; the hollow thud of capsized containers, leaves and petals scattering hither and thither. Though the cushioning foliage managed to muffle the sharpest of undulations, the swish and sweep of billowing drapery made the reality of the situation readily apparent. The raspy echo of a mewled keen further underscored the not-secret, quickly curtained by a heavy sheet of metal.
"Oh...? Are you more for… historical accuracy, then? Well… if you don't like it… help me take it off~"
That was quite enough of that.
As quietly as he was able, Ronald ducked away from the emergency exit, his face turning the same garish hue as the chipped maroon paint that clung to the door. "Congrats, you two," he mumbled with a perturbed cough, scurrying down the stairwell with one hand in his pocket and the other coiled around the rail. What with how fast he was planning to skedaddle, a bar to brace himself on seemed a sensible precaution. Soon, his grunts were drowned out by the reverberating patter of thick rubber-soles on cement. "Consider this your present, since I ain't got the money to buy ya anything els—"
Still a spiraled flight above the redhead, the reaper in question paused in his prattling long enough to look down… and found a whole flock of otherworldly creatures gawking boorishly back at him, waiting to take the party to the next level. Literally. Feathers in her hair and dress slipping from her shoulders, Grelle stood tipsily at the head of the throng, balanced precariously on her own high-heels. She offered a drunken smile (as well as a giggled hiccup) before waving a prompting hand (that landed with a resonant slap upon her husband's rear). Already—and appropriately— wine-red, Will noiselessly yelped, his skewed glasses almost tumbling from his nose. "Is the roof unlocked or not~?"
Ronald, perhaps the only sober soul in the entirety of the complex at this point, wasted no time in shaking his head. "Sorry," he expounded with an easy—albeit apologetic—grin, shoulders rising and falling in a bland shrug. "Must be closed for maintenance or somthin'."
There. A white lie. That was better than a gold-plated prostate massager, right?
"Every breath you take
Every move you make…"
"So you found your laptop… but did you ever find Mr. Sebastian and the young master?"
"Nope." With a languid stretch, Ronald shook his head and draped himself over the now-immaculate countertop, relishing the orangey scent of cleaning solution after so much cake and booze. Pillowing his arms beneath his head, he gazed up at the ceiling and gave his feet a musing kick, lips pursing into a thin line when he realized that he hadn't fully tamed the mess quite yet. Frosting had gotten up there, too? And had been smeared into the Seal of Solomon? Damn… that had been one intense food fight. Well, he'd save that bit for Will to reach and tidy with his Scythe. "Musta skipped off to the Corn Palace for their honeymoon when no one else was looking."
"Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you…"
"Huh." Looking vaguely surprised— but generally unconcerned—, Finny paused mid-sweep, resting his chin atop his broom handle. All across the kitchen floor, flower petals, crinkled confetti, discarded candies, and cake sprinkles had been artfully littered, making the room look strangely like a painting of shattered stained glass. Sebastian would be horrified. But it was nothing a dose of good, old-fashioned housework couldn't fix, and the blonde was determined to give it—and the rest of the house—just that, with or without anyone else's help. Which was convenient, considering that Ron seemed rather comfortable, now, curled beside the stove… and William and Grelle were busily snoring away on the couch, dead to the world. (At least, Finny assumed they were snoring. If not, they'd revved up two chainsaws and were likely hacking away at the upholstery, which wouldn't have been a particularly nice thing to do.) "Well, whatever makes them happy… it was their special day. Too bad they didn't have a chance to say goodbye to everyone, though…"
"Oh, I'm sure that was fine with them…" Ronald snorted, sliding his spectacles down the bridge of his nose in order to scrub at his weary eyes. He could hardly blame the couple for taking off; neither was particularly sociable in nature. Hell, they hadn't even wanted a party to begin with—and this one had raged until well-past midnight, even as sloshed angels and plastered demons started dropping like flies. That port of Asmodeus' sure was potent… It might have been legitimately worrisome if any of the lot were able to die from alcohol poisoning or liver damage. As it was, Gabriel had laughed and called up a number of ophanim to escort the inebriated back home, wherever "home" might happen to be. But that had only been around 1. Prior, there'd been limbo (much like the tequila, no one asked where Hannah had pulled the provided pole from), a pole dancing contest (using the same pole, ironically), a fist-fight (which may or may not have ended with a broken lamp and a make-out session), and the most inappropriate version of 'spin the bottle' that the reaper had ever seen. It had been headed by Asmodeus and Alois, of course, who seemed to have adopted one another as a sort of long-lost grandfather/son team; no one wanted to touch the bottle when that game was over.
"Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay…"
To summarize, then: "we supernatural sure know how to party," Alois had smugly asserted, even as he'd succumbed to a jaw-cracking yawn, snuggling up beside his unconscious brother on the torn loveseat. (Luka had only made it until 10, having "caked" himself into a sugar high, then a subsequent sugar crash. He was still drooling the remnants of buttercream.) "Jello-shots and pin-the-tail-on-Baalberith's-ass all up in this bitch…"
With as dramatic a flair as one dying in Grelle's Brazilian soap operas, the young devil had then proceeded to topple gracefully sideways, a sleepy smile painted upon his deceptively angelic face. (Luka merely grunted as his brother bellyflopped atop him.)
"…I'll be watching you."
Seeing as both of their babies were very much asleep—and they had a 6 AM flight to South America to consider— Claude and Hannah took their leave just past midnight, each scooping one slumbering boy into their arms. Undertaker, his effervescing giggling exacerbated by who-knew-how-much campaign, joined Baalberith in cackling as the family departed. Maybe their amusement had been in response to Hannah's awkward and immediate rejection of her pole; she'd seen what'd been done to it—she didn't want it back. Or perhaps they had been laughing at Claude, who'd once again donned his Groucho Marx disguise and had a headful of shimmering confetti bedazzling his hair. But it seemed most likely that the pairs' snorted simpering stemmed from the faltering way in which Claude had opened the door for his companion, growing louder when— with a callow flush pooling in his cheeks— he deliberately brushed his free hand against the back of hers.
Forever a troll, Undertaker cheerily decided to put an end to any more romantic nonsense (they'd had more than enough of it for one evening) by leaping up and capering over to the ungainly demons, pushing himself between them as he draped heavy arms over their shoulders. "Blimey, I can't remember the last time I was groggier~" he hiccupped over their grunts of discontentment, blithely swinging himself from his self-made perch. His grin wriggled and squirmed, as if tickled by the carbonated spirits still fizzling in his throat. "Get it? 'Cause we've been drinkin' grog~!"
In response to his own horrible joke (no wonder he asked for good humor as payment), the reaper giggled shrilly, the gesture all the more annoying knowing that he wasn't nearly as drunk as he was pretending to be. Claude leveled him an irked glare that wasn't nearly so intimidating when decorated by a faux mustache. In fact, it only served to widen the death god's smirk. "Since yer headin' that way, guess I'll have ya take me home, too~"
"Oh can't you see
You belong to me…"
Sometime after the Trancys departed (hefting the Undertaker along like a sack of snickering potatoes) and the pseudo ophanim taxi service had escorted home the first few rounds of smashed supernaturals, Grelle had—with the same poise and elegance as a one-legged ballerina— swooned atop the sofa with her shoes clutched to her breast. (The logic being, she'd earlier slurred, that no proper lady would be seen without shoes to embellish her outfit, but at the same time her heels were making the world annoyingly tipsy. Will had argued that no, it was the margaritas making the world tipsy, but Grelle's flawless counterpoint had shut him up quite effectively. It was hard to say much, really, when kissing.) Her husband joined her soon after, collapsing atop the cushions as if his knees had been physically knocked out beneath him. For a moment, the death god had seemed enraged by his own body's unwillingness to cooperate— he had a table to man! He must soldier on!— but less than a minute later he had passed out beside his wife, an arm and a leg curled around her as if she were some sort of teddy bear.
"How my poor heart aches
With every step you take…"
And maybe that was a good thing, all in all. With the couple's deafening snores drowning out the music and the realization that the booze would soon run dry, a number of other entities decided it might be wise to say their adieus. Especially if they wanted to avoid clean-up duties. Beelzebub was the first to head out, muttering something about wanting more Jordan almonds in his goodie bag; Azazel and Gabriel group-hugged Finny, then each other, as they said their merry fare-thee-wells and promised to meet up and jam again sometime in the immediate future. ("Maybe in 130 years, or so?" "Ooo, I'm afraid I'm busy then… how about in 127?") Sabrael next, still clutching his fistful of wilted flowers; then Raphael, then Baalberith, who was still shaking his head over the bouquet-fiasco, as well as a million other little things that everyone ignored. No one was particularly sad to see him go.
"Every move you make
Every vow you break—"
"Badness me~! That was quite the success, if I do say so myself. Do you not agree, my pet?" Perky boobs swelling as she primed for a happy sort of sigh, Lilith nimbly sashayed over to her beaming husband, reaching out to thread dainty fingers through his own. Asmodeus, acting equally as if he were from some sort of B-rated film, spun Lilith once before pulling her firmly to his bosom, free hand falling upon the licentious curve of her hip. Perfectly poised and pretty, the pair almost looked like Grecian statues, sans the fact that they were (thankfully) wearing clothes. And, well, weren't made of marble.
"Oh, whole-heartedly, my precious one," the devil-king cooed in return, rubbing his nose against his queen's in a surprisingly chaste Eskimo kiss. She giggled and blushed like a schoolgirl; those still present shifted guiltily, hating themselves for being so aroused by such an innocent scene. (Oh, they were a conniving couple, those demons of lust…) "Never before has there been a wedding of such pomp and grandeur. And I rather doubt there shall ever be one again!"
"We can only hope," the caustic Leviathan droned, rolling his eyes as he, too, took his leave.
"Every smile you fake
Every claim you stake—"
And so it was that the remainder of the guests trickled from the trashed apartment, often with the same, sluggish reluctance as blood coursing through a cholesterol-clogged artery. It was nearly as painful a process, too, by the end; as the only two with their wits still about them, Ronald and Finny were eventually forced to play exorcist, going through closets and bedrooms and bathrooms and asking those discovered there to leave as soon as they'd made themselves presentable. For the most part, this task was serenated by grumpy grumbling and the sheepish rustle of discarded clothes. One of the angels they found, however—trapped in the master bathroom via a chair shoved beneath the outer knob— was only too happy to clear out when located.
"I have a niggling suspicion that Ciel did not particularly want me to be at his wedding," the creature chuckled when asked how he'd managed to get locked in the lavatory in such a creative fashion. He did not seem particularly perturbed by having been held hostage in the toilet, however; rather, he stood from the throne, stretched, and politely asked if either had seen Sabrael around. He then smiled, blessed them, and went on his merry way.
"I'll be watching you."
Which brought them back to the present, more or less, where both Ronald and Finny were lounging in the kitchen, side by side atop the counter. The floor was reasonably free of debris, and the table mostly cleared of crumbs… Between his parted knees, the blonde loosely clasped the handle of his broom; the reaper gave up toying with his computer, instead pursuing an equally unproductive course of action: cursing the universe for its mockery. Whatever he tried, he couldn't get iTunes to skip to the next damn song; they were stuck listening to "I'll Be Watching You" on repeat. Perpetual, unending repeat. He couldn't even make his sound controls work. Allowing himself the pleasure of a passing (but justified) Police-related tantrum, Ron growled and chucked his tie across the room, much as he had discarded his suit jacket earlier. (Still asleep atop the couch, the redheaded reaper purred a rather vindicated snore.)
"Every single day…"
"…well," Finny hummed after a long, thoughtful pause, wriggling his toes in a pensive manner as he watched Ronald exasperatedly shove away the serenading laptop. "It's still a stalker-song, and a terrible piece to use in a wedding. But…" Musing and amused, the once-gardener twirled his broom handle in between his folded hands, the wispy hiss of agitated bristles nearly inaudible over the music. The shinigami, in turn, looked curiously upon his pondering friend, prompting him with a blink. "But… I dunno. Maybe it's because Mr. Sebastian's parents gave us… um, such affectionate goodbyes… but I can sorta see where Mrs. Grelle is coming from." Finny scrunched in nose, still pink in the wake of an earlier blush. "Kind of."
"Every word you say…"
Ronald said nothing for a time, rather busy trying to process Finny's abrupt change of mind. Or heart. Or something. And yes, maybe it was the hormonal aftereffects of Asmodeus and Lilith's sloppy so-long kisses (gifted with a somewhat ironic parting of "good night, and good luck" from the former), but if he thought about it (not too hard, but if he thought about it), he could sort of see it, too. If one could ignore the creepy beat of the base, and the obsessive lilt of the vocalist, and simply consider the lyrics themselves… well, it was still, as the blonde had said, a stalker-song through-and-through. But…
"Every game you play—"
Tentative, shifty-eyed, and flustered, Ronald felt himself shuffle a fraction, suddenly a mite too warm. Poised beside his hips, he felt the hands he'd clenched in irritation loosen, slippery with unanticipated perspiration. Huh. That was— …well, maybe not thatunexpected, but…
Mentally reassuring himself that this was (mostly) the remnants of lust-demon-aura… um, talking (or whatever verb was appropriate there), the death god allowed his slender fingers to cautiously unfurl: brushing, seeking, bumping against Finny's mess-stained thigh. The touch visibly startled the once-boy; he straightened instinctively, as if his spine had been struck by invisible lightning. And maybe that was where his new glow came from… The rosy apple of his cheeks once again taking on a magenta sheen, Finny shot Ronald a bemused glance that the reaper made a concerted effort not to notice. Instead, he deliberately busied himself picking invisible lint from his kneecap, gaze downcast as his face turned a flattering shade of cerise.
"…well," Ronald mumbled after clumsily clearing his throat, still careful to cast his eye on everything except Finny, "…if you… like it… I mean, Sebastian and the brat didn't use it, so… Maybe someday, if… um, if you ever get… I mean… It could be a song for you and… er…"
"Every night you stay—"
Slowly, adorably, the expression of confusion that had overtaken Finny's childlike features melted into something pink and warm and saccharine. With far more grace and composure than his supposedly-charming companion, the bright-eyed blonde grinned, set aside his broom, and slipped his smaller hand into Ronald's. Instantaneously, that invisible lightning struck again, this time making a target of the death god; the jolt of electricity that raced through and through his body was powerful enough to make the blonde jump, as well. In a pleasurable sort of way. With a final, sidelong glance—lingering just long enough to catch the reaper's poorly-suppressed grin of bashful glee— Finny, too, turned his attention towards the icing-smeared distance, staring off into sweet nothingness with the reaper.
"Maybe someday," he then lightly agreed, closing his eyes as the song played on.
"I'll be watching you."