Ah, Licorice, look what happened! Never mention pretty Gothic manga to me so close to Hallowe'en - I've come over all moonlight and roses.

I'm new to this wonderful, surreal world, so please forgive any glaring errors. I googled like a thing possessed, but couldn't find out whether or not reapers have souls. If they don't, please consider this AU.

An Inexpensive Soul

Sometimes at night, while Ciel is sleeping, Sebastian likes to wander the grounds of Phantomhive Manor alone. In the white moonlight the mansion is a beautiful ghost of its daytime self. Sebastian loves (if a demon can love) the ways in which the night plays with solidity – turning stone to molten silver, making sharp-edged shadows more real than the objects that cast them. Tonight is the best kind of night – high streamers of cloud, gossamer thin, too insubstantial to do more than trail teasingly across the face of the full moon - a wild wind whipping the branches of the trees into a frenzied dance and scattering the water droplets from the fountain at the very doors of the manor like an offering: handfuls of diamonds – broken pearl necklaces.

Sebastian stands on the crenellated parapet above the main doors of the Phantomhive ancestral home and looks out beyond the foaming fountain to the moon-washed lawns where the shadows cast by the restless limbs of the trees writhe like the tormented souls he hunts so assiduously. His eyes gleam, following the subtle supple motion of a black cat that flows, liquid, over the lawn and leaps with admirable and butler-like precision onto the narrow balustrade that runs along the top of the wall of the kitchen garden. Sebastian smiles, and the cat turns to stare at him – moon-reflecting eyes impassive, acknowledging no superior.

There is someone else watching him, Sebastian knows – out there, beyond the topiaried yews and the ha-ha – someone whose breath catches looking at him despite having no need to breath. Even with his demonic vision Sebastian can see no more colour in darkness and moonlight than an ordinary mortal could – even than the cat can, turned to a statue upon its precarious perch. The world is painted silver, black, white, grey – but Sebastian can sense something else – the scent of blood on the wind, or the silent vibration of a colour so bright that night is unable to dim it.

Leaping from the parapet, lithe as the cat and landing with more grace, Sebastian stalks across the lawn. Something shifts in the darkness – frightened. Hunger surges in Sebastian – a feeling of power that is a dark joy. This creature is immortal like him, as powerful as him in many ways – and yet it fears him because it has human weaknesses – desire – something it claims is love. How utterly foolish. How contemptible. In daylight Sebastian would eject it from the grounds without a thought – with a kick and a whispered curse (because one must always remain polite in front of the young master). It would flee, cowed not by Sebastian's strength, but by the force of its own yearning. Pitiful – if a demon could feel pity.

And yet, on nights like this, Sebastian finds himself weary of his role. He's one hell of a butler – yes. But his master is endlessly demanding, and the winning of a soul is a tedious process at times. Contractual obligations… so much bureaucracy – and the struggle of subjugating the internal demon that occasionally roars to be free. It's almost depressing, his enforced submission to this soul-hunger. It's a weakness nearly as binding as love seems to be.

Sometimes Sebastian needs a new challenge.

He stops in the dead centre of the lawn, and bows towards the darkness where the presence lurks.

"Grell," he says, and although he doesn't raise his voice it carries clear above the wind's moans. "I know you're skulking there. You need not fear me tonight." Sebastian straightens and holds out one white-gloved hand. "My Lady, will you dance?"

The reaper appears, walking slowly out of the darkness. His hair is so vividly, vibrantly red that it glows visibly even in the night – the one patch of colour in a monochrome world. Grell is unarmed, it seems, and lacks his usual exuberance. The coat he took from Lady Red's corpse is done up to the neck, and he holds his arms across his narrow chest. He stops well short of Sebastian and his open hand. Behind the glasses, Grell's eyes are narrowed, suspicious.

"This is a trick," he says. "What is it, Bassy? You want me close so you can kick me harder?"

"Perhaps that's it," Sebastian says, cruel as Grell will always allow him to be. "Or perhaps I really want to dance. Why don't you come here and find out?"

"It would be worth it though," Grell muses softly, almost to himself. "All right then." His shark-sharp grin flashes, catching moonlight. "What's life without a little risk, eh, Bassy? It's death that makes life so worth living after all – wouldn't you agree?"

Sebastian's smile is smoother than Grell's but just as deadly. "What would you know about it, Reaper?" he asks, taking Grell in a secure ballroom hold. "You're as deathless as I am."

"Ah," Grell replies, moving easily into the steps of a waltz, "but I see it every day in the records of the lives I take. They fight for life so hard, these wretched mortals, that it must be worth something, or where would be the pleasure in ending it?… I don't know. I feel it in my own soul sometimes – the sadness that the play is over. It's worse with the young ones – cut off mid-act."

"Your soul?" Sebastian scoffs, spinning Grell across the lawn. The skirts of the coat spread wide like a floating ball gown, and whatever music it is that Grell hears in his head above the sobbing wind it's perfectly in time with Sebastian's imagined violins. "Reapers have no souls!"

Grell comes to an abrupt halt, the wild wind tugging at his long hair, making of it banners, streamers, ribbons. Whatever else the reaper is, tonight he's beautiful. "You're misinformed, Bassy my love," Grell says, smiling. "Demons don't have souls – reapers do."

"The soul of a reaper?" Sebastian whispers, and suddenly the hunger is very strong. "I would do – a great deal – for a soul like that."

Grell dances out of Sebastian's grip, light as the young debutante he often wishes himself to be. He almost flies across the lawn, jumps, lands on the edge of the fountain pool. "What reaper would accept that contract?" Grell asks, striking a dramatic pose, the water of the fountain a cascading curtain behind him. "We know what happens at the end, don't forget." One hand over his heart Grell mimes a swoon – the very picture of a fainting heroine from a melodrama. "I would give you anything else, Bassy. You know I would. But do not ask me that, my darling…"

Sebastian holds out his hand again, and Grell takes it, stepping down from the rim of the pool, haughty as a princess. Sebastian sweeps Grell into his arms and says softly, "I would do anything…"

Grell stills, and his eyes are as wide and frightened as Sebastian has ever seen them. "Don't…" he whispers. "You think they don't train us to resist demonic temptation?"

"I would love you…"

Sebastian by moonlight is Grell's image of perfection – all light and shade, hair and eyes dark as a moonless midnight. "You would melt any girl's heart," Grell sighs. "But you're a demon – you can't love."

Sebastian's mouth is tantalisingly close to Grell's as he says, "Who knows whether that's always the case? You would have an advantage no one else has ever had – I would be contractually obliged to try."

"I couldn't. William would kill me!"

Sebastian's tone is suddenly bitterly sarcastic as he moves away, leaving Grell shivering. "Oh well. I thought you were the one who thought life was worth nothing without the risk of death. But there's nothing to you but empty lines. You're a bad script, poorly acted. You don't even believe the things you say."

Sebastian moves away, back across the shadow-mottled lawn, his body secretly tensed in anticipation of the word before Grell speaks it.

"Wait."

Sebastian smiles his demon's smile into the darkness, then turns, assuming a mask of indifference. "Yes?"

"You would be contractually bound to try to fall in love with me?"

"Yes."

"And in the meantime you would behave as if you were in love with me?"

"I would."

"You will – give me children?"

Sebastian barely pauses, noting the tense change. "If there is any way to achieve such a thing in Heaven or Hell, I will."

"But – you're bound already – to that brat Earl."

Sebastian waves his hand. "Details. We can discuss all that later. All I need for now is your consent, my Lady."

Grell knows that his answer should be no, of course. Who ever entered into a contract with the devil without the secret belief that he would be able to find a loophole at the last? But the night is bright with moonlight, and a high wind, and scudding, broken cloud, and Sebastian is everything that Grell has ever wanted or dreamed of. Grell laughs, and summons her female guise – a rose-red gown to match her blood-red hair, trimmed with black lace, and a corsage of trailing crimson roses, their thorns sharp as cats' claws. She looks up into Sebastian's eyes and laughs again. "Yes, demon," Grell says, made brave by love and longing. "Love me – love me truly - and my soul is yours."

Sebastian kisses Grell, his eyes closed, disguising his triumph. Such a small price for so rare a soul - merely the promise to try to love. Demons cannot love. Grell will be signing his soul away for less than most mortals do - certainly for much less than Earl Ciel Phantomhive has done.

Tonight has been a perfect night. Sebastian can't help but feel a little smug. It has to be admitted – he really is one hell of a demon.

TBC?