Warnings: attempted rape, but nothing to graphic, human trafficing

Ciel Phantomhive was not having a good day. He had awakened that morning with a splitting headache, which was not alleviated by Sebastian's smirking query, "Are you feeling all right, Young Master?" His tone, of course, carried the precisely appropriate degree of concern, but Ciel caught the twinkle of amusement in the devil's eyes, and he was in no mood to deal with Sebastian's cheek.

Ciel was in the process of delivering a tongue lashing, which made not the slightest impression on his impertinent butler, when a resounding Crash! reverberated through the manor. The young earl's bad temper was somewhat mitigated by the long-suffering expression on Sebastian's face as he excused himself to clean up whatever mess the other three servants had made.

Finally, Ciel turned to his paper, only to encounter news that reinforced his unpleasant mood.

Third Factory in Manchester to Burn This Week! beneath the headline was the ominous exclamation: Death Toll Rises!

Normally Ciel would have assumed such fires to be accidents, but three in one week? All belonging to the same company? He knew it wouldn't be long before he received a letter from the Queen. Ciel closed his eyes. He had just finished a case and had hoped for a chance to rest, but clearly that was not to be.

Throwing the newspaper aside, Ciel massaged his throbbing head.

"Young Master?"

"What is it, Sebastian?"

"Are you quite sure you are well?"

No, he was not at all sure. He had a pounding headache, for God's sake! But he also had too much to do to be ill.

"I'm fine, Sebastian."

Sebastian frowned, clearly disbelieving his master's assurances. Ciel was notorious for two things: eating sweets and overworking himself. He focused obsessively on every case that came before him, regardless of his own health.

It was particularly irksome to chase around after an ailing master who refused to rest. Ignoring Ciel's glare, Sebastian placed a gloved hand on the boy's forehead.

"What are you doing?" Ciel groused.

"Checking your temperature."

"Through gloves?"

"Very well, Young Master," Sebastian sighed. Pulling his sleeve up, he checked again, using his forearm.

"You appear to have a slight fever, My Lord."

"It's just a headache."

"But, Young Master. . . ."

"Sebastian!" Ciel snapped. "Leave it!"

The demon sighed; as always, his master was being difficult, which inevitably made his own job difficult.

"In that case, Young Master, it's time for you to get dressed."

The letter Ciel had been expecting since reading the morning paper arrived just after lunch.

"Sebastian."

"Yes, My Lord?"

"Make arrangements for our stay in Manchester. We leave tomorrow."

Sebastian bowed, his hand over his heart. "Yes, My Lord."

Ciel didn't miss the slight glint in the demon's eyes.

The hotel was merely adequate: the rooms slightly too small and the mattress just a bit too hard. Nevertheless it would serve.

"We will visit the crime scenes tomorrow. I'm tired. When you finish unpacking, draw me a bath."

"Of course, Young Master."

A demon needed no sleep, but it was still a luxury Sebastian enjoyed, so he went to bed soon after Ciel had turned in for the night. Barely two hours later Sebastian awoke to the sound of thrashing and moaning coming from his master's room. Moving swiftly, he entered to find Ciel in the throes of a nightmare, tangled in the covers from tossing and turning, his eyes squeezed shut and his skin soaked in sweat.

Nightmares had plagued Sebastian's master since the day he had contracted with him, not because of the contract, but because of the circumstances that had led to the contract. The first month afterwards Ciel had been unable to close his eyes without being dragged into a vicious dream. But the young master was nothing if not determined; he refused to allow his torture to continue to disturb his sleep. Nevertheless, he still had the occasional nightmare. Approaching his distressed master, Sebastian first removed the pistol from under his pillow. It wouldn't have harmed Sebastian, but the noise would provoke inquiry.

"Young Master, wake up. It's only a dream," Sebastian murmured soothingly, gently pinning Ciel's shoulders to the bed to end his thrashing. It took several minutes to awaken Ciel, and when the boy finally did open his eyes, he immediately went for his pistol— only to find it gone from under his pillow. Panicked, he struggled frantically against the hands that held him.

"Calm down, Young Master! You're safe. Breathe."

Sebastian could hear Ciel's pounding heart and his sharp breaths. If he didn't calm down soon, he would have an asthma attack. Finally Ciel's breathing and heart rate leveled out and he regained his composure.

"Young Master?"

"Fire," he said.

Ah, the factory fires and the workers' deaths must have reminded him of the way his own family had been murdered. Frowning slightly, Sebastian carefully untangled his master from the bed covers. Free of his restraints, Ciel lay back down.

"Stay with me."

Sebastian knelt next to his bedside. "Of course, My Lord. I will never leave your side."

He stayed well past the moment when Ciel finally fell asleep.

They visited the factories in the order in which they had burned. The first two yielded no clues, as most of the damage had been cleared away. That in itself was suspicious. Normally such a thorough cleanup took weeks, yet the company had managed it within just a few days' time.

"They're hiding something," Ciel remarked on the way to the last factory.

"Indeed, My Lord. The question is what." Sebastian replied.

Ciel frowned. Thus far all the burned factories belonged to a company headed by Jeremy, Earl of Lincolnridge. Ciel didn't know Lincolnridge personally, having met him only a few times in the company of his late father, but as far as Ciel knew (and he knew quite a lot when it came to the underhanded dealings of noblemen), Lincolnridge had no involvement in the underworld, or at least none that would warrant the destruction of his factories.

Which brought up another set of questions. The fires were obviously deliberate; three factories in one week were too many to be accidental, but was the culprit Lincolnridge—or someone else?

"We have arrived, My Lord."

Quickly suppressing the signs that Sebastian had startled him (not that the devil failed to notice anyway), Ciel rose and allowed the butler to help him to the ground. While Sebastian discussed their return trip with the carriage driver, Ciel approached the hollow shell of the factory.

Entering the building carefully, Ciel noticed immediately that the doors had been locked. While Ciel was not surprised that the workers had been locked in while they worked, he was surprised that no one had unlocked the doors the moment the fire began. Moving past the fallen doors, Ciel gazed around at the blackened insides of the factory, replaced for a moment by the image of his own home similarly destroyed by fire

Shaking off the ghosts of his past, Ciel stepped further inside, careful of any falling debris. Kneeling next to a charred wall, he examined the burnt remains. They had a slight gleam to them. Oil? But why would there be this much oil, unless . . . he was about to call Sebastian when movement caught his eye, just as a few loose pieces of the ceiling gave way directly over his head.

"Shi! . . ." The breath was knocked out of him before he could finish, as he was jerked out of harm's way.
"Really, My Lord, such vulgar language is unbecoming of your status."

Ciel scowled at his smiling butler. "Shut up," he snapped, but Sebastian just continued to smile pleasantly.

Untangling himself from Sebastian's grip, Ciel looked around for the source of the distracting movement .

"My Lord?" Sebastian queried, noting his master's preoccupation.

"I saw movement over there," Ciel said, nodding in the direction of some blackened equipment. Sebastian's eyes narrowed slightly. Scanning the area for whatever his master had seen, his inhuman eyes quickly detected the presence of a small boy, hidden behind the machine. In a flash he darted over and hoisted the boy up by his filthy collar.

"Is this by chance what you saw, Young Master?" Sebastian asked. The butler crinkled his nose at the boy's grim state, irked that his pristine white gloves were now marred by indeterminate filth. The child struggled desperately, dirty fingernails clawing at Sebastian's hand.

"Get off me!" the boy screamed.

Ciel rolled his eyes. "Shut up! We're not going to hurt you."

Sebastian resisted the urge to chuckle. He could have told Ciel that his brusque manner would not calm the struggling child, but where would the fun be in that?

Overcome by fear and hopelessness, the boy suddenly went limp in Sebastian's hold.

"Finally." Ciel growled irritably. "Come, Sebastian, we're done here."

"Of course, My Lord, but might I ask what I should do with him?" Sebastian gently shook his captive.

Ciel gazed thoughtfully at the boy for a moment.

"Bring him along. He might know something."

"Yes, My Lord." It was difficult for Sebastian to bow and place one hand over his heart while maintaining his grip on the small vagabond, but he managed. He was, after all, one Hell of a butler.

Back at the hotel Sebastian ordered dinner for both his master and their "guest." Ciel examined the food unenthusiastically, but the boy's eyes widened in amazement.

Ciel studied the child as he shoveled food into his mouth, quickly losing what little remained of his own appetite in the presence of such repugnant eating habits. As soon as the boy had finished, it was time Ciel got down to business.

"I am the Earl of Phantomhive. Who are you, and what can you tell me about the factory fires?"

" Name's John, don' got n'ther." The boy showed none of his earlier distrust. Apparently food had persuaded him of his captors' benevolence.

"I worked in the factory, with me little sis', Isbelle." John's face grew sad.

"Your sister—she was caught in the fire?"

John nodded, his eyes brimming. " 's my fault."

That piqued Ciel's interest. "You started the fire?"

John shifted uncomfortably, "No, sir, no. Didn't start it. I 'scaped, you see."

Sebastian and Ciel shared a knowing glance. Turning back to John, Ciel imbued his voice with what he hoped sounded like sympathy. "I'm sorry for your loss, but can you tell me what happened? What you were escaping from?"

The boy's eyes darted wildly around the room. "I-I can't, sir! 's bad 'nuff I 'scaped—If I say why, 'm a goner!"

"I can offer protection in exchange for information," Ciel promised.

Sebastian placed a "comforting" hand on John's shoulder and smiled widely, revealing pointed canines. John swallowed audibly and scooted his chair a bit closer to Ciel's.

"'lright. I'll tell ya."

Ciel's smile matched his butler's. "Excellent," he murmured, as John scooted his chair back to its original position.

Beneath a torn awning, a child shivered in the rain. His clothes were obviously inadequate for the weather, but that wasn't why Ciel was shivering. Memories of another rainy night occupied his mind—a night that had ended with his aunt's violent death.

For the past four days Ciel had been wandering the slum streets, hoping to be spotted by John's "sponsor." Perhaps today would be the last day. According to Sebastian, he was being watched.

I wish they would hurry up, Ciel thought darkly, wrapping his arms around himself. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind when a man stepped out of the alley.

"Whacha doin' out in the rain, boy?" the man asked, voice dripping with concern. Suppressing a glare Ciel forced himself to act frightened and vulnerable.

"Run away from 'ome, sir. Me mum died and da' took to drink. I figgered to make me own way, but it an't been easy."

The man nodded sympathetically.

"You lookin' for a job then?"

Ciel nodded enthusiastically and the man smiled, sending chills down his spine. Ciel did not like that look.

"Tell ya what, Sonny, I gots a job that you'd be perfect fer."

Swallowing back the bile that rose in his throat, Ciel forced himself to stay in character.

"Really, sir? I'd be mighty grateful!"

The man chuckled, "I'm sure you will be."

The stranger took Ciel to an abandoned warehouse. Stepping inside, Ciel came face to face with one of his worst nightmares—cages. The room was filled with children locked in cages. It didn't matter that Ciel had been expecting something of the sort; the moment he saw cages, he panicked. He turned to run, but the man grabbed his arm with bruising force.

"Let go of me!"

The man ignored Ciel's desperate cries as he dragged him over to a tall, dark haired man.

"Aye, Boss! I got a cute one fer ya!"

Ciel froze as the man turned toward him. So this was the man John called the Manager. A bit of digging had revealed that one Anderson Smith managed the company for the Earl of Lincolnridge. As far as Ciel could tell, Smith ran all of Lincolnridge's factories. According to information gleaned from numerous sources, the factories were just a front, a cover for the real business of human trafficking. The question was whether Lincolnridge was Smith's boss or his dupe.

Smith looked Ciel up and down, eyes brutally raking the boy's slender form. Ciel gave an involuntary shudder.

Fingers grasped Ciel's chin, forcing his head up.

"He is rather pretty," Smith said. "Pity one of his eyes is messed up, but I can still sell him as a pleasure slave."

Ciel's blood froze.

"Want me ta put him up for ya, Boss?"

Smith gazed at Ciel, considering, then slowly shook his head.

"No, I think. . . . Just leave him."

Ciel's heart hammered as Smith shoved him into a small room at the back of the warehouse. Regaining his balance, Ciel fled to the farthest wall. Oh, how he longed to call Sebastian, but he simply couldn't until he discovered the mastermind behind the operation.

"W-what's going on? W-who are you?" Ciel's stutter was not faked. He'd hoped that Smith would be a braggart, but his questions were answered with a hard backhand that sent him reeling into the metal wall, dazed, though still conscious.

Taking advantage of Ciel's confusion, Smith quickly unbuttoned the boy's shirt, but when Smith nipped at his neck, Ciel's head cleared, just in time to notice the man fumbling at the button on Ciel's trousers.

No! Nononononono! Ciel's mind screamed, and momentarily fortified by terror, he managed to kick Smith away.

"SEBASTIAN!"

Eyes clenched shut, Ciel curled into a tight, panicked knot, hoping that would keep his attacker at bay. When hands touched his shoulders, he let out a blood curling scream and flailed wildly. The grip on his body loosened, and he was pressed against a distinctly familiar chest. He became aware that someone was repeatedly calling his name.

"Young Master, you are safe now! Open your eyes."

Ciel ceased his futile, desperate struggles and opened his eyes, to meet the red-slitted eyes of. . . .

" . . . Sebastian."

The demon nodded reassuringly, but his countenance wore an uncharacteristic look of concern. When Ciel mentioned that he felt strangely numb, Sebastian looked even more worried.

"I believe you are going into shock, My Lord," the butler said. Ciel distantly registered that going into shock was not a good thing, but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to care.

"What happened to Smith?" he asked distractedly.

"He's alive. . . ." Had Ciel not currently been disconnected, he might have found the butler's—anger?— amusing. In truth, though, Sebastian's reaction hardly registered at all. Ciel's head lolled forward, too heavy to hold upright.

"Young Master, I need to get you out of here."

Yes . . . leaving sounded good . . . wait! Ciel snapped to just as Sebastian scooped him into his arms to carry him to safety.

"We can't! I still don't know whether Lincolnridge is involved!"

Ciel's breath caught in his chest; suddenly it was oppressively difficult to breathe. Sebastian, noticing his master's sudden panic, eased him back to the ground.

"Calm yourself, Young Master. Everything is under control."

Ciel forced himself to breathe normally, as Sebastian gently took his hand.

"What do you need me to do, My Lord?" he asked softly. "Just say the words."

Closing his eyes, Ciel drew a few more deep breaths.

"We must determine whether Lincolnridge is involved," he began valiantly, though barely maintaining his composure.

Sebastian nodded, "Of course. How do you suggest we obtain that information?"

Small, trembling fingers gripped the butler's coat.

"Where's the other man? The one who brought me here?" he asked.

"Still up front—unconscious."

Ciel nodded. "Good. Tie Smith up and leave him here. We won't get much out of him, but we might have more luck with the other man."

Sebastian smirked, "Right away, My Lord."

His master rarely ordered him to interrogate someone, normally preferring to allow his target to incriminate himself, so an interrogation was an unexpected treat for Sebastian. He genuinely enjoyed scaring the fools senseless.

The demon's eyes slid away from the still motionless man to his master. Sebastian's overcoat covered the small boy completely. Ciel tried to seem unaffected by his close call, but he could not hide from Sebastian the slight trembling of his limbs or the way he clutched the coat around himself. The small signs of Ciel's distress reminded Sebastian how close he had come to failing his duty. That would not happen again.

"Young Master, there is no need for you to be here." Ciel jumped in surprise then glared. The butler smirked. That was more like it.

"Don't say such stupid things, Sebastian!"

"My apologies, My Lord."

A low groan alerted them to the other man's awakening. He opened his eyes slowly, taking in his surroundings. When he tried to move, only to find himself bound, Sebastian smirked at his obvious discomfiture.

"W-what's goin' on? W-who 're ya?"

Ciel snapped, "Shut up. You are in no position to ask questions!"

The man stared wide-eyed at Ciel. "Y-you! How the 'ell did you escape?"

As Ciel tensed, Sebastian quickly stepped between him and the bound man. Smiling widely to display his sharp canines, the butler leaned uncomfortably close to his captive, placing his hands on either side of the man's body

"It would be in your best interests to cooperate. My master is not a patient man, and I must obey his every order," Sebastian purred silkily. The man gulped audibly.

"Let's start with your name, shall we?"

"C-Charlie."

"Well, then, Charlie, why don't you tell me everything you know about this operation?"

"I-I . . . I don't know anything! I don't! I swear I don't!"

Ciel snorted derisively. "I doubt that, and I find your recalcitrance annoying."

Charlie looked back and forth between the butler and his master, hesitating just a moment too long.

"Sebastian. . . ."

"Wait!"

Ciel tapped his foot impatiently.

"All right— I'll tell you what I know!"

"A wise decision," Sebastian sneered, standing up. "Let's start with how you came to be in this business."

"I w-was one of the kids the Boss picked up on the street, but I wasn't pretty , so he kept me for a helper."

"And how long have been you been in Mr. Smith's employ?"

"Dunno, maybe ten years?"

Sebastian shot a look at his master. That was just one year after Smith had been hired.

Have you ever seen anyone other than Smith inspecting the operation?"

Charlie frowned. "Don' think so. I mean, there're other ones like me that go looking for kiddies, but there ain't no other boss but the Boss."

Sebastian turned to Ciel, "My Lord?"

Ciel nodded, signaling that they had all the information they needed. Sebastian turned back to Charlie, smiling once more.

"You have been most helpful. We will encourage the police take that into account at your trial."

"W-what? . . ."

Smiling serenely, Sebastian knocked Charlie unconscious.

"Your orders, My Lord?"

"Confirm Charlie's statement and be quick about it."

Bowing, Sebastian set off to locate the other workers.

Ciel closed his tired eye. This day had been incredibly long and trying, but it would be a while yet before he could relax fully in the relative safety of his own manor. A rattling noise issued from the room where he and Sebastian had left Smith. Ciel glared at the door as he tried to calm his pounding heart. It disgusted him to show such weakness.

"I have returned, My Lord." Sebastian announced. Ciel dragged his attention from his inner struggle to address the butler.

"And?"

"All confirmed Mr. Charlie's story. Mr. Smith appears to be in the only one control."

"So Jeremy Lincolnridge has no knowledge of what goes on in his factories? I find that hard to believe. He should have sensed something was wrong when he visited his properties."

"You misunderstand me, My Lord. It's not just warehouses like this one that he has never seen. It's his factories in general. I have just visited all of them to question the workers, and as far as I can tell, Lord Lincolnridge has never once set foot in any of them."

Had Ciel been less a gentleman his mouth would have fallen open in astonishment. He made periodically inspections of his own factories in England and even made regular trips to visit his factories in other countries. It was his duty as head of the company to ensure that his managers adhered to all rules and regulations. Ciel's nose wrinkled in disgust. Clearly Lincolnridge cared only for the profit his workers produced and nothing at all for their welfare

"Very well. We will question Smith, though I doubt he will give us anything of substance, and then we'll pay a visit to Lincolnridge to inform him of his incompetence and irresponsibility."

Steeling himself for the confrontation, Ciel entered the room where Smith was bound to a chair. Clearly Sebastian hadn't been as gentle with Smith as he had been with Charlie. Smith's arms were tightly bound in an awkward position, and he sported some painful looking bruises. Ciel felt absolutely no pity for him.

"Anderson Smith, you have been caught in the act of attempted rape, and evidence shows you to be guilty of selling humans for prostitution and slavery. I suggest you cooperate, as the Queen has authorized me to use any methods I must to extract pertinent information."

Smith snarled, "Who's gonna believe a kid like. . . ." A resounding crack rang through the small room as Sebastian backhanded him. The demon watched coldly as the man spit blood.

"I suggest that you reconsider how you address my master."

"Sebastian," admonished Ciel.

The butler's entire demeanor changed as he turned to face his master, smiling pleasantly.

"Forgive me, Young Master, but I simply could not contain myself."

"Yes, well, try not to break him before we have the information we need. "

"Of course, My Lord."

Comprehending his situation at last, Smith spoke more politely, "L-look, I'm just an underling. I take my orders from Lincolnridge!"

Ciel's eye narrowed irritably. "Really? Then why have none of your own underlings even heard of Linclonridge?"

Sebastian loomed threateningly over Smith, hand twitching to strike. Smith opened and closed his mouth, unable to invent an adequate explanation for Lincolnridge's total invisibility at the scene of such a complex operation.

"Lincolnridge never visits his own factories," he said.

Ciel responded, "Apparently that is so, but I believe Mr. Smith, that this operation is yours alone. You kept it quiet for a long time, but when John escaped, you realized that you risked exposure."

Sebastian gave Smith another wicked smile before picking up where Ciel had left off. "You burned down the factories to destroy the evidence, including the people you had enslaved. Of course the deliberate destruction of three factories would not go unnoticed, but you planned to disappear and leave Lincolnridge to shoulder the blame."

Smith's panicked eyes darted everywhere and sweat trickled down his brow.

"L-look, I'll cut you twenty-five percent of my profits," he stammered.

Ciel's story expression did not change.

"O-okay, fifty percent!"

"Sebastian. . . ."

"F-fine! Name your price!"

"Take care of him," Ciel snapped, turning away in revulsion.

The butler's eyes turned blood red as he loomed over the helpless man, devilish smirk firmly in place. A shriek of agony followed Ciel as he exited the room.

The carriage rattled over the cobblestones as Ciel gazed lifelessly out the window. He had no desire to visit Jeremy Lincolnridge, but he couldn't bear to leave any loose ends. All Ciel really wanted was return to his manor to pull himself together, but his duty as the Queen's guard dog required him to confirm Lincolnridge's innocence. This case had hit a little too close to home. Despite having shoved Smith's assault to the back of his mind, Ciel could not entirely escape its impact.

Lincolnridge's home was quite elegant, though not as grand as the Phantomhive manor. Nevertheless, the butler who responded to Sebastian's knock clearly did not meet the demon's standard of service. Sebastian could barely suppress his contempt as he commanded Lincolnridge's manservant to summon his master.

Ciel and Sebastian were ushered into a well-appointed parlor, where Ciel ensconced himself on a lavish couch while Sebastian assumed his customary place just behind his master's left shoulder.

"I'll inform Lord Lincolnridge of your arrival," the butler murmured respectfully.

A few moments later a maid entered, wheeling a cart with tea and biscuits. Sebastian stepped in quickly to serve Ciel before she could usurp his prerogative. Ciel grimaced slightly as he sipped at the tea, but as their wait stretched into twenty insulting minutes, that grimace deepened into a genuine scowl. By the time Lincolnridge finally graced them with his presence, Ciel was in a very bad mood indeed.

"Forgive the delay, Earl Phantomhive. I had pressing matters to attend to and was not expecting you," the earl apologized haughtily. Ciel bristled at his tone, and his fingers tightened around the tea cup.

With a sharp nod, Ciel his set his still full cup back on the tea tray.

"Let's get down to business, shall we? I am here about the destruction of your three factories," Ciel began without preamble.

"That was a bit of bad luck," Lincolnridge remarked rather indifferently.

"Actually, no, it wasn't," Ciel replied. "It was a lot of bad judgment as it turns out, you have poor choice in managers, Lincolnridge. Anderson Smith was using your business as a front for illegal human trafficking."

Lincolnridge paled, "I-I don't have any idea what you're talking about! And I'll have you know that I won't be accused. . . ."

"Shut up. I am already aware that you are not involved in the operation."

Exhaling in relief, Lincolnridge queried, "Then why are you here, Earl Phantomhive? The only matter that concerns me is my financial loss."

Ciel glared. "I said that you were not involved in the human trafficking ring, Lincolnridge, not that you were free of responsibility. This crime took place in your factories."

"But you said. . . ."

"I know what I said!" Ciel snapped. "But as head of the Lincolnridge Company you are responsible for knowing what goes on in your factories! Your neglect allowed this crime to happen. As far as I am concerned, you are just as guilty as Smith."

Standing, Ciel leveled a penetrating look at Lincolnridge, "Which is why I am buying your company."

Lincolnridge flew to his feet. "You can't do that!"

"Actually, Sir, you'll find that I can. The papers for the transfer of ownership will arrive in a few days' time, and I strongly suggest you sign them immediately. Good day, Lincolnridge. Come, Sebastian. We are finished here."

Back in the carriage the butler turned to his master, smirking, "Such concern for the workers. How very kind of you, My Lord."

"Kindness? No," Ciel snorted. "Just business. I saw an opportunity and took it."

"Of course, My Lord, how silly of me even to suggest."

They sat for a while in silence, Ciel leaning against the window and gazing pensively at the passing scene. Sebastian observed his master thoughtfully.

"The truth is, Sebastian, I hate people like him, people who care only for the money and nothing for how that money is earned. It disgusts me because it reminds me of what I would have become had it not been for. . . ."

"Indeed, My Lord, but I think you need not worry. Even if the event that had brought us together never happened, I doubt that you would have become like Earl Lincolnridge. You are much too clever for that."

"Yes, well, no matter. What's done is done." Ciel closed his eye, wearily.

"Are you well, Young Master?"

"Yes, I am just . . . tired. I wish to return to the manor as soon as possible."

Return to the manor to put ugliness out of mind—until the Queen called on him to unravel the next gruesome case. Oh, well, as he had said, what was done was done. Cracking open his eye, Ciel gazed quietly at his demon butler. At least he would never be alone, not even at the end.

Seeming as always to know just what Ciel was thinking, Sebastian remarked with a conspiratorial smile, "Yes, My Lord, I shall never leave your side, not even at the end."

"See to it that you don't."

"Yes, My Lord."


Author's note:

Hello! This is my first Kuroshitsuji fanfic and I am quite proud of it since it won first prize at the KC anime convention, Naka Kon. I hope you all have enjoyed it. Thank you for your time and reviews.

Until next time,

Zx14ninja