Quality Control

Summary: Set during modern days. Ciel and Sebastian follow a woman around a supermarket and solve a mystery. How will this affect the younger demon?

Disclaimer: The characters are not mine.


"Do you sense anyone desperate enough?" Ciel asked Sebastian as they entered into the massive supermarket, pretending to shop for groceries. He knew they would most likely buy something, just to have something in their stomachs even if it wasn't a soul. Besides, eating was a habit he hadn't entirely given up yet. He still loved Sebastian's cooking.

"Not really, although several here do seem to have problems of one sort or another but that is to be expected – still you know most people these days don't believe in us. To them we are but a myth and science rules. Even if we were to offer our aid, they would not take us seriously." The demon replied as he entered the produce area. He was dressed plainly in a black T-shirt and jeans to better fit in and not attract undue attention. Most people mistook Ciel for his son.

"Well, I hope we find someone soon…" The young boy countered as he paused to check the price on green vegetables while really scanning those around him. His single blue eye landed on a young woman who had a child about six or seven years old. Worried energy was coming out of her in waves as she studied bags of fresh apples and would then put them back unhappily. As far as he could tell, she was reading what the bags said and not actually looking at the apples within, which to him was very odd indeed. "Let's follow that one."

"As you wish." Sebastian replied as they set out to follow the young woman with the child. They watched as she put celery, carrots, onions, radishes, bananas, spinach and lettuce into her cart. She then went to the store's small organic section and put a few apples and cucumbers into bags, placing them into her cart.

She left the produce area and went right past the in-store bakery without looking at it at all, even passing up the free samples they tried to offer her. In fact, when the store employee tried to give her child a free sample of cake, she grew upset. "Please don't offer stuff like that to children! It's not safe!"

"It's just a piece of cake…" The store employee replied sounding annoyed as well as confused. "A little piece of cake isn't going to hurt anyone. It's on sale, you know!"

But the woman ignored the employee and hurried past, pushing the shopping cart faster. By the way she was breathing, Ciel could tell the seemingly harmless incident had clearly upset her greatly and he pondered why. He stopped to get a piece of the cake as did Sebastian. It was handed to him on a little napkin and he studied it with interest. He didn't see anything clearly wrong with it. There was no obvious mold or anything on it. Sure, it wasn't gourmet or anything but it certainly didn't look dangerous to his single blue eye. He tasted it and while it was kind of bland (when compared to Sebastian's expert baking) it certainly wasn't totally disgusting either.

"Why do you think she grew so upset?" He asked his loyal demon butler as he took another bite of the cake sample. "It seems to be not proportionate to the offense…"

"I cannot say." The demon replied as he too tasted the cake. "It seems very typical for these in-store bakery items."

They ventured out of the bakery isle and soon found her again, this time in the isle with cans and jars. Sebastian pushed their cart into the same isle and started to study items on the shelf nearby or pretended to anyway. He could see the woman was looking at jars of dill pickles and other types of pickles. He noticed her frown as she read the labels, picking up each brand and then putting them back. Finally she left without taking any pickles at all.

"What do you think that was about?" Ciel asked him, confused. He picked up one of the jars and glanced at it, but had no clue what to look for. "It looks like your typical pickle jar to me…"

"I cannot say without further study." The demon replied as he pushed their cart out of that isle and started looking for the woman again. They found her in the pasta isle. She was putting boxes of pasta in her cart and then she moved over to the next isle, where the pasta sauces were located. Here she ignored the jars of prepared pasta and instead was looking at the canned tomatoes, once again reading the labels. Satisfied with what she read, she started to put cans of tomato paste into the shopping cart.

An old woman approached her then, riding in one of the wheeled motorized carts. "Can you help me find the flavored tomato paste?"

"Can't you add your own spices to the plain paste?" The young woman asked, her hands pausing in the act of grabbing cans.

"Is that the flavored stuff?" The old woman asked her, indicating the cans in her hands.

"No, this is the plain tomato paste." The woman replied as she placed the cans into her cart. "It's only ingredient is tomato."

"Well, I like the flavored stuff. It tastes a lot better."

The young woman sighed heavily but searched the shelf until she found the flavored ones and handed them to the old woman. "You really don't know what's in that stuff. You should be careful."

"It tastes good. That's the only thing I care about." The old woman replied as she moved away.

The young woman sighed again but started to push her cart out of the isle, ignoring the rest of the stuff on the shelf. She headed to the baking isle where she picked up bags of flour, sugar, a canister of salt, envelopes of yeast, baking soda and baking powder. She studied the cans of cocoa and then chose one particular brand, putting it into her cart. Ciel noticed she didn't even glance at the boxed mixes, which he knew is what most people bought these days.

Sebastian picked up the same brand of cocoa the woman had, reading the ingredient list. "This is one-hundred percent pure cocoa, unsweetened. The tomato paste was pure tomatoes as well. And I would say it's clear she must do her own baking from scratch based on what she has put into her cart. Not very many people do that these days."

"So she's looking at the ingredient lists?" Ciel asked as the mystery was starting to come into focus.

"It would seem so." The older demon replied.

They followed her next into the meat department where they watched as she put raw meat into her cart; raw chicken, ground beef, cuts of beef and pork. She paused at the frozen whole turkeys, once again reading the package. "Why must they soak them all in some solution? What happened to the plain frozen ones they used to carry?"

The butcher happened to be walking past and he must have overheard her comment. "Those weren't selling, so we discontinued them. The national brands are better, anyway. Everyone loves them. Besides, they are much tastier!"

"But I can't buy these." She replied.

"They'll go on sale in a few weeks and then you can. I know everybody is pinching pennies they days…" He said as he walked away, smiling that he had helped his customer.

"But that's not it…" She said to herself, as the butcher was already long gone.

"Mommy, can we get some sausage, please?" The little boy asked as he waved his hands towards the packages of lunch meat on the shelf.

"I'm sorry, sweetie, but it's all filled with junk. It'll just make you sick."

"Can you make sausage then? All of my friends can eat it! I want it, too!" he cried unhappily as he continued to wave his hands towards the lunchmeat display.

"I really don't know how." She replied sadly. "I can make us Italians but that's it. I think they have some sliced ham that's safe…"

The boy pouted unhappily but seemed to accept the sliced ham.

Of course, she had to read the ingredient list first before adding it to the cart.

She picked up some hard cheese and then headed to the milk department, choosing organic milk. The milk she wanted was almost sold out, as the store stocked very little of it and she took the last gallon that was left. Turning, she passed through the frozen food area, avoiding the employee that was handing out free pizza.

"What do you think she's trying to avoid?" Ciel asked as they continued to follow the woman around the store.

"Some ingredient in the food obviously," The demon replied. "Although I'm uncertain what it could be. These days they add a lot of things to the food, various preservatives, dyes, chemicals with long names, additives, flavors and so on."

They followed her towards the check-out area, which was lined with candy displays on both sides of each lane.

The little boy's eyes lit up at the sight of the sweets and he eagerly reached for it only to have his hands pulled away. "I told you not to touch it!"

"But can't I have some candy, please?"

"The last time you took a bite of candy bar you almost died!" His mother exclaimed, clearly agitated. "You're face turned blue and you couldn't breathe. I was just lucky to get you to the ER in time. No one makes candy the old fashioned way anymore, with just sugar and the other simple ingredients. They have to add lecithin and other junk to it."

"But isn't there something safe I can eat?" The boy looked up at her hopefully. "There are so many candies here on the shelf! Surely one is safe?"

"I'm sorry, sweetie. They're all made the same way and contain the things you're allergic to. I wish it were otherwise. I've looked all over and just can't find any safe candy."

The news that a simple piece of candy could kill a child shocked Ciel. Wasn't that whom he had made his candy for years ago, for children and those children-at-heart? And now here was a little kid who couldn't enjoy it because of extra ingredients that companies apparently added on their own, for unknown reasons. Had the recipes really changed that much over the years?

Apparently so.

But Ciel had made his decision already and he spoke with a firm voice. "Sebastian, it's time we restart Funtom and start making candy the old fashioned way, with pure ingredients. We still have the old original recipes. It shouldn't be that hard to do. Children should be able to enjoy candy without worrying about some extra ingredient that might kill them."

"As you wish." The demon replied. "I would think the candy should sell well in the specialty market. There's a strong trend these days towards organic food and cooking the old fashioned way, as people want to get away from all of those unnecessary fillers."

"I'll do it for that boy and all of the other ones like him."

Maybe they hadn't found a contract today, but he found a purpose and that was good enough.

"Since when are you so generous?" Sebastian asked. "It is not like you to care about strangers so or anyone for that matter."

"They will be my pawns, of course, my buyers and costumers." Ciel replied thoughtfully as he stared up at the demon. "I'm sure with clever planning and a bit of demon magic; we can take over the market. And perhaps we can expand to other foods as well. The humans would be clueless. We should be at the top of the food chain, don't you think Sebastian?"

"That would be refreshing."

"Come; let's go look for a contract. We can plan the return of Funtom tonight."