Wow, I just can't seem to focus on a single story. However, on the bright side, while writing a more serious fanfic, I totally veered off the intended path and before I knew it, this little one shot of fluff was born. So be nice to it and give it lots of tickles, 'kay? While you guys are doing that, I'll work on some of these chapters I need to update *sneaks away*
Father's day is a special day not only for sons and daughters to show their appreciation to their great father, but a day where it would be acceptable for any child or youngling to show their gratefulness toward an elder male of a father-worthy status, or even just an extraordinarily talented caregiver. And such happened to be the case at the stately Phantomhive manor.
It was a beautiful morning; the sky a healthy clear blue, peppered here and there with only the puffiest clouds, the sun a gentle peach orb, its morning UV rays harmless. The birds tweeted to each other in a few remaining skull-shaped bushes; a black cat roamed listlessly about. And Pluto, the great demon hound, was not causing havoc; bless his eager-to-please, adoring heart.
And in the midst of all this carefreeness, somewhere in the manor, an earl—none too pleased at being woken—was charitably allowing himself to be dressed, with only a minimal amount of fussing on his part.
Sebastian knew exactly what kind of day it was as he knelt down to pull up the earl's socks. A day where little boys and girls flocked to their hard-working fathers and thanked them for their effort and promised to behave nicely, so that their fathers could relax. It was a human-invented holiday and not one Sebastian would ever find himself participating in. And besides, say he even had wanted a little 'thank you' once in awhile or a kind, appreciative word, he had no children of his own to give it to him. And he probably never would. Scratch that—he never would. The butler gave a charmingly polite smile, bending slightly at the waist to tame down his young lord's unruly bed hair.
Ciel was unaware of the two tufts of navy hair he had sticking up, so there was no way for him to know that with careful imagining, he could quite possibly look like a cat—which the kitten-fiend of a butler had been undoubtedly doing. Now if only the master would say 'meow'. Sebastian smiled slyly and only bowed humbly when the earl gave him a suspicious look.
"Sebastian, if my hair's that bad, then get a brush. I will not be petted!"
"Forgive me, young lord. Your hair is fine." The butler knelt down gracefully, putting a hand over his heart. "Breakfast shall be waiting downstairs for your convenience."
"Good morning Master! A beautiful morning, yes it is," Mey-Rin gushed enthusiastically, holding an alarmingly towering armful of porcelain plates. She stopped in front of the kitchen, peeking around the pile of dishes to properly look at the young lord. "It may not be my place to suggest so, but Master should go for a stroll—fresh air will do you good, yes it will!"
With a free schedule and no one to play respectfully with, Ciel was in no mood to be 'suggested' to do anything. But a look at the well-meaning, bumbling maid, and he lost his glare. "Perhaps you are right."
Excited that she'd been able to ease her master's boredom, she tottled off, completely oblivious of the wooden step that led down into the kitchen.
"Mey-Rin, please do be careful of that step," the butler advised, seeming to have appeared out of nowhere, but really had just walked down the hall from the servants' quarters incredibly fast—because he was just one hell of a butler.
Blushing redder than an over-ripe tomato and nodding furiously, the maid promised to watch her step. Fortunately, Bard happened to be in the kitchen, an unlit cigarette resting between his lips.
"C'mere and gimme that stack before ye hurt somethin'."
With a courteous nod to the young charge, the demon butler left, off to finish the ridiculous amount of chores he had on his list. His silver pocket watch had been the unfortunate victim of Bard's helpfulness—it turned out that dynamite did not restart watches that were simply in the need of a new battery. And because he couldn't constantly check the time to see whether he was behind or ahead of schedule, which seemed to be a near compulsion for the demon, he could not afford to waste a second of the day's time mildly entertaining the young earl.
And so Ciel was left on his own. There was a light tap on his shoulder and the boy quickly whipped around to find the old steward smiling down at him. "Forgive me for it seems I have startled you. Shall I accompany you for a walk, young master? Around the manor if you wouldn't mind, the sun is a bit too much for me in this state."
Now Tanaka had been his father's butler and had delivered parental punishments in his father's stead, and while he certainly wasn't in the place to do that anymore, Ciel still had a deep found respect for him, even if it was slightly out of childish fear. "Of course," the boy replied amiably.
"I am sure you're aware that today is Father's day," Tanaka started, both hands clasped behind his back. "And though I've been with your family for many years…"
Suddenly, an uneasy grip clutched the earl's stomach. Please Tanaka, tell me you aren't expecting me to… It was true he practically considered the steward to be more of an indentured family relative…but still he didn't think he'd ever thank him for those services!
"Sebastian has given the word 'devoted' a whole new meaning that I don't believe any butler, given any length of time, would be able to match, including myself." Tanaka gave a chuckle. They neared the master's study. "He is a very strange man indeed and where you picked him up, I suppose we shall never know."
Devoted? Only because he has something to gain. But even so, there were moments where the demonic butler downright doted on him—in such ways in fact, that Ciel became quite curious as to what his ulterior motives could possibly be. "He is a loyal butler, as his jobs befits him to be," Ciel said coolly, entering the study. The steward followed.
"I'd expect such an answer from a noble, but what about perhaps the young boy? Does he have a say?" His seniority gave him certain implicit privileges, but the old man knew he was overstepping his boundaries by implying Ciel had not answered truthfully. He could tell by the growing scowl on the lord's face.
How dare he! Ciel stood in front of his desk, hands on his hips in a defiant pose. He glared, but said nothing.
Tanaka nodded. So he understands. "It is no butler's job to comfort a sniveling child."
"Tanaka, I have had enough—you'd better quiet your tongue." The boy looked away. Sebastian was no ordinary butler and his job was anything Ciel ordered it to be. But still…
The steward smiled gently. "My master is not cold-hearted." He turned around to leave.
"Fine!" the earl snapped. His face softened. "But you're to help me find him. Sebastian could be anywhere in this mansion."
The old man followed the lord down hall as they searched for the butler. "Ah, so you even have a gift," Tanaka observed.
"Shut up." Ciel walked briskly, coming to a quick stop when he noticed the library door ajar. He held up a hand, causing the steward to stop as well. So how am I…supposed to do this? He couldn't very well just go in there, say thanks and hand him a present. No, he had too much pride for that. Besides, no one but him really knew what Sebastian was, and the demon would probably get a kick out of seeing his prey thank him. No, that stupid butler's ego is big enough as it is, there is no need to humiliate myself in front of him further more.
The demon knew when he was being watched, and now he was hindered by their eyes. He couldn't very well move with inhuman speed and dust all the books. Master, how do you expect me to do this when you bring an audience? I am immortal, but I am as susceptible to exhaustion as you are. He turned around, putting on a passive smile.
Ciel's mouth opened a little, his hands tightening around the velvety dark blue box he held. "Se-sebas—"
"Young Master, please pardon me," the butler hushed, holding a gloved finger in front of the boy's lips. "You must find someone else to entertain you. Or else I will never finish and tea will not be served on time, and if that should happen, then dinner will also be late." He bowed, russet eyes downcast. "Excuse me."
Ciel was, once again, left standing there. He huffed, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "Stupid butler," he muttered. All you had to do was just stand there a little longer and listen to me.
"We can search a little more if you'd like, but soon will come the time for tea and I myself need a few moments rest. Shall we continue after?"
The noble boy turned on his heel and began to walk away. "Go on as you please, Tanaka. You may join me again once you've caught your breath." He really didn't want the steward following him around anyway; it was eerie—he got a jolt every time Tanaka uttered words that reminded him of Sebastian, because he also expected Sebastian's voice, not some old withered one. Sebastian…I could always just order you to come to me…but that wouldn't help my pride any.
With tea having been served, the demon was well on way to almost being halfway finished. But he was slightly troubled. He entered the secret passage that would lead to the earl's study; it had been designed with purpose of being an escape route—the manor had quite a few of them and they all needed sweeping. Being a child, his master had tendencies to become reasonably needy in his demands, such as wanting the demon to stay with him until he fell asleep or wanting to be reassured that the demon wouldn't break the contract and just leave; though to actively pursue him…Sebastian couldn't figure it out.
Outside of the safety of the estate, the guardian butler was never far from the earl's side. But in the manor, it just wasn't necessary for Sebastian to keep a constant eye on the boy—his superior hearing was enough. And the young lord never minded before, in fact, there'd be times where he'd order the demon to leave. So why is the master so intent in getting my attention? A grim smile crossed his lips. Or better yet, why won't he order me?
The entrance had been concealed by a one-way mirror, which was also covered by a shelf of books with a couple books cleverly missing to grant access view. Moving closer to clean the mirror, he found the young earl still in the study.
In all his nobleness, the boy was sitting on the floor, gazing dejectedly at his fallen toy soldiers. His clothes which the butler had so carefully ironed, were rumpled and wrinkled; the blue satin bow had come loose, now just two tendrils hanging down the boy's ruffled white shirt. His cobalt morning coat had been unbuttoned prior to play, but it was still riddled with creases. Sebastian frowned; the child was only sitting there—what could've turned him into such a mess?
The answer was revealed when grasped in a sudden violent fit, the young lord snatched a soldier and hurled it harshly against the ground before throwing himself to the floor, rubbing his eye with the back of his hand. As if I do not have enough to clean up… Sighing, the butler turned around and left.
Ciel was suffering from a tantrum born out of frustration. Four times he had corned the raven-haired immortal and four times he'd been brushed off. Why was he trying so hard anyway? Was it the instinctual need to finish the little game it'd become? Or something deeper? Stupid, stupid—
Two quick knocks on the door had the Earl Phantomhive scrambling to his knees, shoving the toys—a few broken—under his desk. However, the person entered without waiting for permission and Ciel hadn't the chance to pick himself up off the floor. He narrowed his eyes at the polite-faced demon. While the butler was busy picking up the teacup and saucer, setting them on the cart, the boy got up with as much dignity as he could muster.
"Oh Master," Sebastian sighed, his voice tinged with the slightest disapproval. "What have you been doing?" With swift, deft fingers, he retied the bow, buttoned his coat, straightening out wrinkles before doing the same to his shorts. For good measure, he readjusted the eye patch and smoothed down the soft locks of his hair. "There, perhaps you can stay this way a little longer?"
He had endured the quick groom in silence and was now ready to forgo his bitterness and take another chance. Ciel took in a breath. "Sebastian—"
The butler shook his head. "Forgive me for interrupting, but I simply cannot stay a moment longer. There is still much to be done, and it would be foolish of me to depend on those incompetent servants."
"You hired them," Ciel managed to quip.
"That I did." Sebastian bowed, offering an apologetic smile. "Now I must be off. There seems to be something troubling you today, but if it were dire, you know that I am but a mere call away. I promise to make this up in any way that may please my young master as long as that day be not today."
"I don't care anymore Sebastian," Ciel said softly. A small, barely audible sigh escaped his lips. "I am tired." For a young child, his stamina was less than to be desired. A concerned caress grazed his cheek.
"Master? Are you unwell?"
The boy turned away. "Leave me be."
"As you wish…"
Nestled between desk and chair, the child began to doze off, only to be interrupted by the wise steward. Determined to not be outdone by an old man, the twelve-year-old slid from the seat and the two continued the hunt to track down the supremely talented butler. Regrettably, they had no more success than they had in the morning and after dinner proved to be just as fruitless. Who knew the butler could be such a white rabbit! Even Tanaka showed signs of irritation.
"Hohoho, what an extremely elusive butler Master has," he'd said before retiring to his miniature size.
Night had come, vanquishing the last glowing shine of the sinking sunset and Ciel felt equally defeated as he was readied for bed. He said nothing as his damp hair was gently tousled dry and stared at the floor when the butler began to button his nightshirt.
"Master, do you feel ill?" Sebastian tried again, smoothing down the thin fabric. He carefully hoisted the boy onto the bed and there the child sat in his sullenness; a subdued air of hostility surrounded him and was evident in his glowering eyes, though no eye contact was established. Sebastian held his weary sigh in check and neatly folded the strings of the eye patch, placing the article on the bedside table.
Ciel was seething on the inside. He'd come to the conclusion that Sebastian had known along what he'd been trying to do and purposefully avoided him—just to mock him. An act of kindness repeatedly thrown back in my face!
He waited until the boy had climbed beneath the covers before taking the candelabra. He bowed at the waist. "Once more I beg for your forgiveness, for it seems I have upset you considerably today," he said softly. "Such behavior is deplorable for a Phantomhive butler."
The earl remained silent.
"If you require nothing more of me, I bid you good night." The door closed gently.
For quite some time or perhaps not, since Ciel really had no sense of time in a dark room, he laid awake, staring at the canopy of his bed. Snippets of the one-sided conversation floated through his head and he couldn't help but notice how strangely exhausted Sebastian sounded. Maybe…I had been too harsh. Ciel barely cleaned anything, but he knew enough of it that it was nothing fun; it was tasking and depending on the item being cleaned…it was also tiring. And if the item was a mansion... Along with a time limit…what a vexing job! The boy's conscience took a guilty dive when he entertained the notion that maybe Sebastian hadn't been mocking him, that maybe he really had been seriously trying to finish up chores.
Sighing, the boy pushed back the covers and slid from the bed. He pulled open the bottom drawer of the nightstand and grabbed the box. Quietly slipping out of the room, he padded down the hallway, down the long curving stairs and into the corridor which would lead him into the servants' quarters.
Standing in front of the door, it took a couple of minutes for Ciel to gather up enough courage to actually knock on it. His small fist was clammy and Ciel swallowed nervously, weakly knocking a few times on the wooden door. His heart pounding against his chest for fear of the butler making a fool out of him, his eyes widened when the door opened, revealing a rather sleepy-eyed demon clad in dark pants and an open shirt.
"…Master, you shouldn't be down here. And certainly not dressed like that, you'll catch cold."
Ciel blinked, gluing his eyes to Sebastian's face, fighting the reddening of his cheeks. He tightened his grip on the box. "I-I I thought demons don't sleep," he stammered.
Sebastian continued to hold the door open. "We do not. Like I've said, sleeping is a luxury…I thought perhaps I'd indulge myself—"
"Good night." The earl promptly turned around and started to walk away.
"My lord, please don't walk away. At least come in and let me give you my coat. If not, then allow me to accompany you back to your room."
Sebastian bowed slightly when the young lord passed him. He closed the door quietly behind him. "Pardon my appearance," the butler said, fingers moving to re-button his undershirt. "I am not properly dressed."
Ciel gazed around the room, feeling suddenly self-conscious. Neat and orderly with very few things to distinguish it as Sebastian's room. "No need." He turned around, backing himself into the table. "I came unannounced." Without wasting any more time, he held out the small box with both hands. He watched the demon approach him slowly, interested mahogany eyes gleaming. He stopped a few feet in front of him, head tilted quizzically.
The boy bit his lip. "Erm…I wanted to…thank—" before he could finish, Sebastian smiled and knelt down.
"There is no need to thank me, Master. You hold a covenant with me and thus I shall fulfill my end of the bargain until it comes to yours."
Completely honest as always. Ciel sighed, willing his fingers to stop shaking. "Be that as it may Sebastian, I am a human and a…child at that and cannot help feeling slightly…grateful towards you. For without you, I would've had no second chance and my life would've ended two years ago. So, thank you." He couldn't believe it when he actually felt hot tears prickling his eyes and he blamed on it being tired. But what he couldn't blame on tiredness, was himself moving forward to hug the butler. Because he wouldn't do that even if he was tired, so why was he doing it now?
Baffled for only the slightest bit, Sebastian looked down, wrapping one arm around the boy's small frame and patting his head with the other. The demon knew and he wisely decided to not say anything that might irritate the young earl. It was a true moment and Sebastian didn't want to stain it by teasing his master.
Coming to his senses, Ciel quickly pulled away and handed him the box. "I shall leave now." The demon stepped in front of the door.
"You must wait until I open it so I can properly thank you, my kind lord." He looked down curiously. "I must admit, I am a bit shocked. No master has ever given me a gift and after my behavior today, I do not think I rightly deserve it."
Ciel's eyes widened. Swallowing thickly, he shook his head. "No, I really must leave now," he said, his face flushed. He couldn't believe he would be the first. I will never live this down. Though despite his embarrassment, he felt saddened. True, demons never established contracts to solely benefit the human, but…they couldn't help what they were and what they needed—and he certainly didn't think any less of Sebastian for wanting his soul. In fact, he was rather relieved knowing how his death would come.
"Are you running a fever?" Sebastian held out a hand, touching his cheek. The brief touch turned into a lingering caress; his master did seem warm. "Very well, I will take you to your room." He set the wrapped box down and grabbed his coat, draping it gently around the boy's shoulders. Sweeping the child into his arms, he made his way out the door.
"Sebastian?" the sleepy earl murmured.
"Yes, my lord?"
The demon butler was unable to hold back a pleased smile. "I will be your faithful servant until the very end," he promised.
Once the boy was tucked rather tenderly into bed—something that the child was aware of and passed off as a doting tendency—the demon went back downstairs, to finally indulge in sleep. But before that…
Inside the dark blue box, which just happened to be the color of his master's soul, was a silver, shining pocket watch. His demonic eyes took on a fuchsia sparkle when he saw the engraved pentagram—the same one that adorned his left hand and marked the boy's right eye, binding demon and prey together. His master was truly one of a kind.
Smiling slyly to himself, he laid in bed, his hand on chest and in his hand, the silver gift, which he gave a reassuring click. And after checking the time, hazy eyes drifted closed and he waited for the hour to come when Ciel's soul would be his.
A quiet, cunning chuckle echoed faintly throughout the dark mansion.