All characters © Toboso Yana
Summary: Every year the Dept of General Affairs holds exams for all scythe-wielding Shinigami. William helps Grell study, and finds out that Grell's actually a genius mechanic in the process. Early 19th century.
Author's note: oh god, I haven't written a Kuroshitsuji fic in months. This is mostly due to the way the manga is going. Kuroshitsuji used to be so good, but now it's kind of fallen, and the way things are progressing is turning me away from the fandom. However, I finally got around to seeing the Shinigami OVA, and I couldn't resist this. The fic is not really about molly houses in Soho, unfortunately. Though I am sorely tempted to write one now.
Molly Houses in Soho
"What number am I, William dear? Honestly."
William T. Spears grit his teeth and tried not to look like he was chewing on a mouthful of sour patch kids. "Twenty-nine."
Grell sighed and shook his head with over-dramatized sympathy. The beads of miniature skulls depending from his glasses clacked together. "Think of those poor twenty-eight souls before me," he lamented, slowly rotating a pencil between his fingers, "never getting the chance to study with you."
"I only agreed to help you because your case is so utterly hopeless," William replied, straightening his glasses with a black-gloved finger. "You would have been the laughingstock of the London Division and an embarrassment to me. Not that you aren't already."
Grell ruffled his shoulder-length red hair. He was letting it grow out, and had it tied away from his face with a velvet bow (although a few errant strands managed to slip across his eyes from time to time). "People come to you for help every year for the exams, and you always turn them down." He grinned. "I'm just special, aren't I, Will?"
"As I said, your case is laughable."
"If you had a sense of humor," Grell pouted. "Can't I just skip the exams? They're easy enough to get out of."
"The Department of General Affairs insists that all scythe-wielding Shinigami take the exams," Will said, narrowing his eyes. "And after you were conveniently absent for last year's I'm responsible for making sure you don't do that again."
"Not exculpated from that still, I see?"
"You are supposed to set an example for junior officers, not an opprobrium," William replied, putting a certain emphasis on the word example. His patience was abrading with every new tooth in his partner's widening grin, and he internally reminded himself why he had agreed to study with Grell in the first place.
"But it was so much fun," Grell winked, waving a hand donned with speckled nail polish. "What's the point in repetition if you know everything already? I shouldn't have to take the exams every year," he protested.
"Alright, then. What was the Main Branch called before Angelin Mordred took over in 1247?"
William gave a smile of his own and opened the first old tome, which bore the title Shinigami and Myopia. They were in the archives section of the library, and the quiet, fluttering sounds of rustling pages was magnified by the high ceilings. The smell of dust and old binding was exquisite. At least to William, anyways. "Let's get started," he said.
Grell skimmed his notes, honest-to-god bored. With a grimace he observed the books on the table: Notable Shinigami of the Personnel Department, Branch 14A, A Detailed Account of the History of the London Division, Collected Works of Lawrence Anderson... and so on and so forth. Yawn.
"Ah, here we are," William nodded satisfactorily, eyes coming to rest on the rules and regulations page ("Shinigami with vision whose denominators exceed 20/400 should not be allowed to operate oversized weaponry...").
"Really, Will," Grell groaned, slumping over the table and burying his head in his arms, "that's so boring! Can't we do scythes? I want to do scythes!"
William sighed. The only way to counter his partner's levity, he found, was to give him what he wanted for the time being. "Fine. But just so you know, we're getting to this later, Sutcliffe," he said, ignoring Grell's muffled "whatever."
He set aside Shinigami and Myopia, reluctantly taking out Scythe Modification According to Gen. Aff. Guidelines. "Now," he began, opening up to the first chapter, "I'm sure you know the basic modification rules, so let's move on to the assembly."
Grell clapped his hands together. At the time, William took it as mere enthusiasm for getting past the insipid stuff. He should have known better.
"The next most important fact aside from your scythe being able to cut is needing a hand-guard," William stated, watching as Grell actually put his pencil to use to scribble down some notes. "Right now, still being recently graduated, we only have the metal scythes with the default hand-guard..." he then proceeded to launch into a tirade of rudimentary scythe modification.
After a few minutes, Grell held up his hand. "Will?"
William paused. He was just getting into screws, which was always the fun part. "What is it?"
"If you wanted to use an electric-powered scythe, can you put the spark plug on top of the cylinder that goes around the throttle trigger?"
Grell looked at William pointedly. "Well I was going to put it under the motor but then I realized it could go by the vent valve..."
"We're...not supposed to use electric-powered scythes," William said slowly. It was all he could manage at the moment. "It says so in sub-clause 9. Do we have to go over the guidelines again?"
"Please," Grell waved his hand, "I have those memorized—the only thing I bothered with, actually. Doesn't mean I care for them."
Naturally, Grell would be cognizant of all the rules and choose to ignore them. And wait. "Vent val—throttle trigger?" William blinked rapidly and gave his head a little shake. "How exactly are you planning to modify your scythe, Grell Sutcliffe?"
The latter giggled, wiggling his index finger. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
William felt his right eyelid give a sporadic twitch. "Sutcliffe..."
"I mean, do you know how difficult it is to get an isolator plate?" Grell asked him, abruptly changing character. "And don't even talk to me about where to find a chain more than four feet long. They don't even make those anymore—excuse me—yet, so I had to do it myself."
"—and I wanted to put little skulls on my starter handle to match my glasses but that messed up the pulley..."
This seemed to finally bring Grell back from his ramblings. He looked at William with vibrant butterscotch eyes and a look that was deceivingly innocuous. In shorter words, the Puppy Face. "Something the matter, Will?"
William could feel the first makings of a headache behind his eyes. He should have known, really, but sometimes it was so easy to forget that Grell wasn't as stupid as he acted. He drew in a breath, mentally counted to five, and exhaled quietly. "What you're saying to me now displays highly advanced modification that you couldn't possibly have knowledge of, giving your current marks," he said.
Grell flipped his pencil to the other hand and wrinkled his nose good-naturedly. "Please, Will. What did you think I've been doing for the past year, going to molly houses in Soho?"
When it came to sarcasm William was a pro, but Grell...not so much. Grell was too mercurial to ever tell if he was being serious, which made most of the higher-ups just want to dump him in some obscure Division and be done with it (and to make the point worse, Grell actually had been to a molly house in Soho. But that is a story for another time and place). After a year William discovered that Grell only used sarcasm when he was genuinely offended, which brought home the inexorable realization that the fruitcake actually knew what he was talking about.
"We don't have the authorization yet to modify out scythes," William said finally, not knowing what else to say. "The prelim forms aren't even issued until December."
"Wait don't tell me, you went ahead and did it anyway." Grell only grinned like a shark, exposing perfect white-pointed teeth. William felt his mood sink a little further into the mud.
"Putting the legality issues aside, you know the humans might notice that you're about a century too early with the electricity," he pointed out.
Grell shrugged. "They think everything is the work of the devil these days," he replied. "Besides," he cupped a hand around his mouth, adopting a stage-whisper, "I've never really blended in. Not the style of an actress."
Grell did have a point there, so William sighed and asked, because he had to, "What is it?"
"You'll see!" Grell replied. "Something that will make quite a splash of red!"
William pinched the bridge of his nose tightly. He now found himself wishing that Grell had been spending more time in the molly houses.
"I fear for your subordinates one day," he said aloud, and gave his glasses a rough push up the bridge of his nose. He closed Scythe Modification According to Gen. Aff. Guidelines, because having it open seemed fruitless at this point. "I'm not covering for you when the General Affairs finds out about this," he told Grell.
"Yes, yes, I know how they are about paperwork," Grell said, flapping his hand dismissively, "but my scythe is a beauty. And I'm really good at the alterations!"
That was what was so infuriating about this whole thing, William thought. Two years with this nutter and William had no idea he was this advanced in mechanics. Then again, Sutcliffe obfuscated his genius with nauseating asininity, so William couldn't blame himself too much in the end. Let the Personell Department take care of him when he and his scythe got into trouble.
"Fine, Sutcliffe, study session over. Do what you want." William wasn't a babysitter, and if Grell wanted to get his senior's license taken away, that would only mean one less fruitcake to worry about. Not his problem.
If he could hear himself ninety years down the road, he probably would have rephrased.