Defending the Sky
by Shu of the Wind
He was always lying, and she always knew it. When he gave her That Smile and touched her hand That Way and said, "It's nothing, Lizzy, so don't worry," she always knew.
He was a better liar than he'd been when they were both small, and giggling about stealing lemon drops from Mama's secret stash in her desk drawer, and Ciel would never be able to keep his face straight; he would crumple at the look on his father's face and confess all. And then they died, and he returned, and his face was closed off. His eyes shut down. So pale. Still so small. So young.
She put her arms around him and cried for him then, but there was nothing in the hug he gave her back. It was light and delicate, and she could feel the trembling in his shoulders. He didn't want her touching him, and it broke her heart.
He tolerated her after that, but she knew he was tolerating her. She wasn't sure if he knew she knew. Frankly, she doubted it. Lizzy was good at concealing things when she wanted to. She had learned it from her mother.
Chin up, Elizabeth, and eyes straight ahead. Look a man in the eyes when you're killing him. Respect him and respect the death you offer, because you will walk with it every day.
He tolerated her because she was too bright. There was something dark in Ciel after his return. She wasn't a fool. She knew something was different about him, something off. Something had happened to him that he was desperately trying to conceal. Her light was too bright for him to be near her often, and no matter how much she longed to tell him that was what he needed – he needed the light – she kept her mouth shut.
She didn't ask.
When he first sparred with her, honestly sparred with her, after the incident on the RMS Campania, she knocked him back onto the floor. She expected him to throw a fit, and she was already halfway on her knees beside him when he waved her back. Ciel wiped his mouth, collected his weapon, and stood.
"Again," he said. And: "Again," when she knocked him down a second time. When she reached for the epee, however, he added, "Teach me how you did it."
He didn't need to ask her to teach him. She thought he might have preferred never knowing how to fence. By his own admission, he disdained having to defend himself. He had his butler for defense, and every single servant in the hall. That devilish, devilish butler with the dried-blood eyes and those hands that crush skulls. And if that failed he had that pistol that never left his side. He thought she didn't see it creasing the cloth that covered his back, but she did. Of course she did. She'd been trained to pick out weapons since she'd been a child. It had been one of her favorite games.
He didn't have to. But he asked her, and in spite of herself she felt her heart swell up.
He didn't hate her, and for the first time in her life she began to look forward to fencing practice.
She still had nightmares about the Campania years later, when she was no longer the innocent that Ciel swore to protect. No matter how foolish it was.
Sometimes she wondered if his promise to protect her had included protecting her from himself.
She grew tall. He grew taller, but he was always an inch or two below her. She always wore flat heels, and he always wore heeled shoes, so eventually, when they celebrated his sixteenth birthday, she realized that their eyes were even for the first time since they'd been small. When she was nineteen and he was almost eighteen, he beat her at fencing for the first time, and though she'd pulled back and let him win, his delight reminded her of the old Ciel, the child who couldn't lie.
A week later she convinced him to let her help him in one of his investigations. "I will be your wife in six months, Ciel. I will be swept into this world whether you like it or not. And I am not a weakling."
He glanced at Sebastian, and she saw it but didn't comment. Then he looked at her, and that half-bitter smile turned his mouth again. "Well, of course you're not."
So she went. She shucked her corset and dressed in boys' clothes and loathed every moment of it because she was definitely far from cute with all her hair shoved up under a cap and her breasts bound down and exposing herself the way she was in those trousers she borrowed from Ciel, but it was worth it when she drew her sword and fought alongside him. And it was worth it to see the look in his eyes when she left the dressing room and he had to clear his throat and look away.
It was the first time that she realized maybe 'cute' wasn't what she needed to be. 'Cute' made her a child. 'Cute' made her ignorable. But 'beautiful,' 'intoxicating,' 'powerful'…she could be of use if she was those.
She killed one of the men they were after, when he had a knife to Ciel's throat. And when one of the man's associates pulled her back against his chest and threatened to kill her, Ciel shot him in the head. He shot him again and again and again. When he was out of bullets, she put her arms around him, and he hugged her back, the way he hadn't when he'd returned. He'd been shaking in her arms, and she'd been shaking in his, and he'd dropped his gun and put his hands on her cheeks and drew her to him. He'd kissed her, and his mouth had been warm against hers.
The kiss tasted of fear and blood.
She had to bully him into taking her out on his assignments after that, and bully him she did. Low-heeled shoes, Mother's teachings, a sword to protect you – those are the 'nice things' that my current self is made of. "I can't protect you if I am not there, Ciel," she said. "I will be your wife. For better for worse. I will share this with you, and there is nothing you can do to stop me."
He could stop her if he wanted to. He was the husband, she was the wife. But he never did, somehow, and it was only by the grace of a god Ciel no longer believed in that they made it through it all.
Sometimes she pronounced her fiancé's name the French way, rolling the soft 'C' in her mouth. She loved his name. She wanted to remind him what it meant. "Your name is a sky," she said, and she always fiddled with her gloves when she said it.
"Oh?" His voice was light, but there was something in it that gave her pause. "And what does that make you?"
"Why, a sparrow, of course. Sparrows are cute." Tiny, which she was not. Cute, which she hoped to be. And vicious, vicious creatures when roused. She thought it was accurate.
"Are you really?"
"When I can be."
"I'm not a sky." He said suddenly. "Not in the way you're thinking."
Impulsively, the way she'd been when she was fourteen, she took his hand. "You are my sky, no matter what you think. There may be clouds in your sky, Ciel, and they may be dark, but someday the wind will come. The sky always returns bright and blue again."
He held her hand tight when she said that, and the sweat from her palms made her gloves go damp. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw Sebastian close the door.
She loved his scars. Every single one of them, from the burn mark on his back that he never explained to the sword scars on his hands from the fencing practice to the shiny scrape on the inside of his wrist from a burn that he'd taken shoving her out of the way of a bullet. They'd been in a moving train, after all, and he'd clapped his wrist against the boiler. She loved them, and she told him she loved them every single time he was uncomfortable showing them to her, and when he married her and told her he hated them, she made certain that she found and kissed every single one of them.
If you are the sky, then I will be a sparrow. I will be a hawk. I will be an eagle. If you are Uranus, I will be Hyperion and Selene and bring light to the thunderclouds. I will be Artemis and give you the moon. I will be Apollo and give you the sun. I will protect the sky. I will be Theia, the shining light of the clear blue sky. I will be the one thing you believe you can never have again.
He never told her what had happened when he'd vanished. He never told her many things. He lied to her. He kept things from her when he could. Sometimes she didn't push. Sometimes she did. Sometimes she bullied. Sometimes she threatened. Sometimes she cried and used her tears and entreaties as her weapons. Sometimes she worked with him, and when she did, she was the secret weapon.
I am Elizabeth Ethel Cordelia Middleford Phantomhive. I am the daughter of the Leader of the British Knights, Marquis Alexis Leon Middleford. I am the wife of the Queen's Watchdog, and I will walk your path with you.
Ciel didn't want her on his path. He pushed her back. He deflected her questions. Sometimes he ignored her or tried to bully her, and she retaliated by forcing him into clothes he hated or beating him at fencing. (She always could beat him at fencing; she usually pretended otherwise.) Some of the Watchdog's associates called her Lady Knight, and she hated the title, but used it when she had to.
She was the Knight. She was there to protect the sky.
But how can you protect the sky, when it is so far out of anyone's reach?
My salutations to the weekend! I gift you, Saturday, with a fic of your very own. :D
I blame you for this, Serenade In The Moonlight. I really, really do. (But not really, though, you know that, right?)
Elizabeth always struck me as annoying until the last few chapters, when, somehow, she morphed into a total badass. I now adore her, and LizzyCiel; they're now an OTP for me. ;D