Lucian Dickens strode briskly through the winter night with his two precious parcels, homeward bound. Other people skidded and stepped mincingly on the pavements slippery with sleet, but Lucian was sure-footed as a cat, and eager to be indoors again where the fires were blazing and he would be sure of a warm welcome.
Oh, the welcome would be warm, no doubt. Positively fiery. Because his two boys adored his attention as fiercely as they competed with each other, and they would be as perky and eager as they could possibly be, in their own unique ways.
They would not throw themselves at him – that was not their style. They would not prattle childishly either, clinging to his hands – that was most certainly not who they were. But he would know without a doubt how pleased they were to see him, their adoptive father, because he knew them through and through. With so much experience looking after children, he knew these two were something special.
Once, the orphanage he owned had been full of little imps whom he had generously rescued off the streets and given shelter, food and warmth to. He had found good foster or adoptive homes for the smaller ones, one after the other, and good jobs for the older ones over the years, until times improved, and families in the city became wealthier. As parents held down better jobs and became longer-lived thanks to improved health-care, and couples grew more careful about how many children they could afford to have, the number of discarded children here declined.
He was soon able to scale down the orphanage and leave it in the hands of the trust he had set up, under the supervision of competent caretakers, while he relaxed and enjoyed his retirement. But he had continued to personally foster one or two children in his own home at a time, as and when he came across little ones he felt the greatest sympathy for.
Sebastian and Claude, however, the two four-year-old boys with him now, were the first he had actually adopted. He had taken that unusual step of making them his very own, because he had felt a deep connection with them. Oh, yes, those two little devils were something special. They were highly intelligent, destined for a greatness in life that he swore he would help them achieve. They were beautiful boys too, both dark-haired, pale-complexioned and perfectly formed. They had been abandoned separately as infants and turned in to the orphanage by different parties. The names pinned to the shawls they were wrapped in were also in very different handwriting. Thus, it was unlikely that they were brothers, but perhaps they were cousins, or related in some other way.
Because their outward mannerisms were very similar, both uncannily in control of their emotions even at such a young age, never throwing outright tantrums, but always biding their time until they could find a way to get back at someone else for a slight or an injustice. Perhaps some parents would find that kind of restrained cunning in such small boys unnerving, but Lucian could be quite the devil himself, and enjoyed seeing a reflection of himself in the two chosen children.
"I'm home!" he announced cheerfully as he opened the door, wiped his feet free of ice and snow on the mat outside, and quickly stepped inside to shut out the chilly night air.
Ah, the blissful warmth. Fire blazed from the hearth, filling the house with light and heat. And right there before him was the enthusiastic welcome from the little ones: silent turns of the dark heads from the toys they had been playing with on the carpet, a silent rising to their small feet in front of the fireplace, and a formal greeting of "Welcome home, Father."
But it was in their eyes that he could most clearly see their pleasure. The heated gleam of excitement in Sebastian's garnet pair along with the slight upward curve of the lips gracing his pleasantly beautiful face, and the sparkling glint of delight in Claude's golden orbs along with the increased alertness of his sternly beautiful face, were the subtle signs that Lucian had come to learn were in fact the boys' unusual ways of displaying their great joy at sight of him.
"Come and see what I've got you," Lucian said with a chuckle, settling into his armchair and setting on his lap the two parcels he had carefully carried home.
Buying presents for the little monsters was always a tricky affair. They did not like to be reminded of the ways in which they were similar to each other, so purchasing identical toys for them was out of the question. On the other hand, if the gifts were too different, they would start comparing them with one another, finding all kinds of reasons why one was superior to the other. Then the silent war to possess the "better" one would rage in violent undercurrents for weeks while all the servants tiptoed about on tenterhooks.
So Lucian always had to search for presents that would be somewhat similar without being too similar, and hope that his little demons would weigh them on their own mysterious scale and find them equal.
Lucian held his breath now as the boys came forward to receive their presents. Claude's presents were always wrapped in gold-coloured paper, and Sebastian's in platinum, for Lucian had after much painstaking effort discovered that those were the shades of wrapping paper that each liked the best.
"Go on, open them," he said with a smile as each boy took the respective parcels their father held out.
As the ribbons came off and the paper was unfolded, Lucian could see the shine of pleasure in both pairs of eyes, and he let himself breathe just a little. Oh, they both loved cakes, they did, and these were exquisite dark-chocolate works of art made from the very finest ingredients. The one for Claude was covered in a perfect, satiny-red icing, and the one for Sebastian was equally beautifully covered in rich, velvety blue.
"You can eat them now," said Lucian indulgently. "We can always have dinner served a little later."
The little cakes each came packaged with their own tiny cutting knives and forks – gold for Claude and platinum for Sebastian, of course – and the boys wasted no time cutting themselves elegant little slices and tasting the wonderful chocolate. Lucian sat back and watched them with relief that they seemed very pleased with the cakes, but waited to see when they would notice that the cakes came with another gift each.
Sebastian was the first to observe that the cake box was much larger than necessary for such a petite confection, and that something else was nestled amidst the blue tissue paper that surrounded the platinum base on which his cake rested. A little exploration with an elegant hand slipped into the rustling paper was all he needed to find the doll.
"Ah, yes, the patisserie was selling these cakes as a gift set with a doll each, made by the very best dollmakers," Lucian chuckled as Claude too found his doll. "Aren't they wonderful?"
The father had no fear that his boys would refuse the dolls. They were unusual children, as he well knew, and unlike most other boys their age who liked playing with train sets and model ships, his two darling devils liked their boy-dolls, tea sets, fancy dress outfits, and plush toy cats.
These dolls would certainly meet their high standards. They were crafted by master doll-makers from the finest bone china that was brilliantly jointed and delicately painted, with real hair on their heads, and eyes of the very best-quality coloured glass. Their clothes were beautifully stitched from silk, velvet, cashmere and lace, and their shoes and gloves from softest kid leather, sewn to fit them as if they were real little boys dressed by the most finicky bespoke tailors and shoemakers. They even had tiny pieces of jewellery on them – brooches and rings – made from genuine precious metal and gems.
Lucian exhaled more of the breath he had been holding in as Sebastian took plain delight in his doll – a bluish-black-haired beauty of a boy-child with deep, midnight-blue eyes, a blue silk coat, lace shirt and black cashmere shorts, black silk stockings and lace-up shoes with heels, complete with a blue ring on one of his tiny fingers.
He prepared to breathe out all the rest of the held-in air from his lungs as he looked over to Claude, whose doll was just as perfect – a blond boy-child with sky-blue eyes, red velvet coat, silk shirt and black cashmere shorts, also with dark silk stockings and heeled lace-up shoes, and a red ring on his hand.
But Lucian's breath hitched again when he saw, with a sinking feeling, that Claude's golden eyes were sliding away from the blond doll to the dark-haired doll that Sebastian was admiring and stroking carefully with a fine-boned finger as he prepared to undress it.
"That doll is better," Claude said sourly, and the familiar sense of dread crept over Lucian.
"They are each as good as the other, in different ways, Claude," Lucian said, although he knew it would be no use.
"Sebastian has the better doll," Claude insisted evenly, with the kind of grim determination that Lucian had seen a lot of over the past four years.
"Well, it's mine," Sebastian said, with an equal level of quiet obstinacy.
"I'll trade my doll for yours," Claude offered, the first step in his attempt to attain his goal of the blue-coated boy-doll.
"I don't want yours," was Sebastian's firm answer.
"Let's draw up a contract," Claude tried next.
"You can take your contract to hell, Claude," was Sebastian's response, spoken so pleasantly and politely that Lucian had no heart to chide him for his language.
"You could lend him to me for a while," Claude said, rather persuasively, considering his general lack of emotion.
"He's mine, and I'm keeping him."
Lucian could see the wheels turning in Claude's head as the child assessed the situation and then backed down for strategic reasons, turning away from Sebastian and the desired doll to play with his own blond doll. Claude absorbed himself in the toy, undressing and dressing it with the greatest care just as Sebastian was undressing and dressing his doll, sitting it down for tea across from Sebastian's doll at the miniature tea table with the cakes they had been presented with, and generally behaving as if he had no interest in anything other than the blond plaything in his hands.
But Lucian knew him better than that. So did Sebastian, it seemed, for despite the garnet-eyed boy's apparently full absorption in his delightful doll, he was on alert for any sneaky moves from his adopted brother.
Lucian sighed. There would be trouble, that was for sure. One doll was going to end up snatched, or substituted for the other, or hidden away, and counterattacks in a uniquely Sebastian style of battle would then be launched, and the entire household would be on hot bricks again as the silent and stealthy war raged.
The father shook his head, then chuckled softly to himself, because that was what his boys were like – and wasn't he proud of them? They were going to rule the world.
Still, he sighed again and steeled himself as he glanced at the dolls. Because for the next few months, at least, he wasn't going to be able to relax much.
Oh, yes, all hell was about to break loose at home.
Note: This oneshot came to me out of the blue – must have had something to do with the dolls I saw at a fair recently. An additional observation is that the name Lucian comes from the same Latin root word as for "Lucifer", and "Dickens" is a euphemism for "devil". I thought it would be appropriate, considering the little devils he's father to.
Disclaimer: I don't own Kuroshitsuji, and make no money or profit from writing this fanfic; Yana Toboso has all the rights to the original manga and anime and the characters in them.