Disclaimer: Kuroshitsuji belongs to Yana Toboso
A/N: Quotes at the beginning and end of story taken directly from the subtitles on YouTube. Reviews always welcome.
Summary: After abandoning their glasses and the claims of the Dispatch, the two reapers on the run risk time for a heartfelt detour. Eric x Alan. Oneshot.
In Sickness And In Health
"Me, who is covered with sins... can I really be at your side?"
"Didn't I say so already? I can't see anything without my glasses. All your sins up till now, are invisible now."
They were still running. It had long since grown dark and it was beginning to rain but they had to put some distance between themselves their glasses. Neatly set down in a clear sign of deliberate resignation, Alan could scarce believe he was the one who had suggested that shocking dereliction of duty first. Being a reaper, and an exemplary one at that, had been his identity for so long that leaving it all behind both excited and terrified him. There was no turning back now. If the Thorns didn't get him the Dispatch would.
While Alan might still get away with only being captured and questioned, earlier his colleagues, no, former colleagues had been prepared to kill. Eric, his Eric, had only deflected Ronald for long enough to get away even though he was much stronger than him and Alan would willingly follow the larger reaper to the ends of the earth and beyond. Suddenly, Eric strafed left and Alan followed suit, trusting his partner's judgement. With a wry smile, Alan realised he was probably placing his trust in instincts Eric honed during the many illicit soul collecting missions. It was better not to dwell on that.
Eric had wanted to do this for a while now although would not have pictured things working out quite this way, he had plans before this chain of events started and it all went to hell. The older reaper was no fool, he had never expected to get away with his crimes forever, but because he was so close he had begun to dare to dream a little. Spending eternity with Alan had been painfully consigned to his deepest unspoken desires but for the rest of it Eric had it all worked out. He would save his partner from that wretched curse, bind them together in every way possible and live out his remaining time with him in simple domestic bliss... until the Sword of Damocles fell. Happily ever after did not exist.
Eric's vision was slightly impaired without his glasses but he knew the place he was looking for was around here somewhere. There. A church which had long ago been abandoned by its congregation, not much more a chapel tucked away in a forgotten corner of the city. He had stumbled across it when adding the soul of a poor but pious beggar woman to his collection. It was missing some of the roof but it provided some shelter. There was no way he could claim sanctuary. Dragging a pew across to secure the door after them, Eric pushed his dripping hair back out of his eyes and crossed the stone floor with quick strides, placing his hands on his shorter partner's shoulders.
"Marry me, Alan."
"Sweetheart, I'm sorry to pressure you but we don't have much time." This wasn't the way things worked but Eric was almost convinced that Alan was three parts angel already, to borrow the romantic notion humans held rather than the actual other-world beings he came in to contact with as a neutral reaper. Could he even be considered neutral anymore? Probably not. "Do you love me?"
"You know I love you?"
"Yes." The smaller reaper's voice cracked on the confession. How could he have doubted him earlier? It was no secret that when it came to personal life Eric really wasn't the model of constant best behaviour, and of recent weeks Alan had seriously begun to suspect the handsome reaper of cheating on him. Alan should have known him better than that. Stupid man, why did it take him so long to see that he meant just as much to him?
This time, the larger reaper got down on one knee and took hold of Alan's left hand. Eric's voice was as accented as always but the look and tone he gave to his partner were so earnest that Alan felt his heart constrict. It had nothing to do with the Thorns.
"Alan Humphries, will you marry me?"
Eric had been watching for the tiniest change in detail in the other's demeanour while he made his decision. When the whispered acceptance came the older reaper found emotion temporarily forced his eyes shut while he breathed a close-mouthed sigh of relief.
Still on bended knee, Eric gently tugged both his own and his partner's gloves off. Alan seemed to be in a mild state of shock while Eric took hold of Alan's bare hand in his, bowing his head to hold his lips reverentially to his fiancé's ring finger. Keeping hold of his hand, Eric got back onto his feet and turned towards the altar while taking a few steps down the aisle.
"Sorry, no engagement ring, but it's not like you're a girl anyway so... hey! Shh, no crying. We'll cry together later, ok? Hush... Here, look." Reaching into his pocket Eric carefully brought out two rings. Lining them up on his palm he then passed the larger of the two over to his partner, closing that slender right hand around it to keep it safe.
Alan sobbed, it was only partially muffled by the rain lashing against the windows and further background noises gave the impression that more of the church roof would creak away and fall. Eric simply took another half-step forward to hold the smaller reaper close to his chest until he composed himself again. It didn't take long. Contrary to popular opinion, of recent days Eric was the more likely of the two of them to break down in private. Alan had a lot more emotional strength than people gave him credit for.
Once the feeling of overwhelm faded, Alan stepped away from the reaper who was once again his rock with a small smile. He said the first thing that came to mind, even if human conventions didn't really apply. Anything to break the silence and keep them moving forward. "We're not lawful."
"You're really worried about that?"
"So we'll drop that bit from the vows. Make any edits you like, only make sure you mean them. Swear it to me, Alan." He wouldn't usually be so pushy and demanding but Eric knew he was a doomed man. Both of them were.
"I swear." Defiant now as he met and held the older reaper's gaze. Alan was not stupid; he knew exactly what he was getting into when he abandoned his glasses. If anybody had told the Honours Student he would one day be eloping with his mentor, let alone a proven criminal, he would have thought them a fool.
Eric took a long moment to sear this into his memory. There was the expression he had first fallen in love with. Headstrong and unfailingly kind, training the young reaper had been a right pain in the ass at times due to his habit of switching between dangerous vulnerability and transforming into a little firecracker when pushed enough. By the time Eric had realised he was falling for the boy it was already too late.
"Heh," turning away, Eric walked on towards the end of the aisle while continuing the conversation, taking his place at the right side of the altar, "we would have to adapt them anyway. No priest or parson to marry us."
"A reaper priest? What a thought." Alan hesitated a moment, taking in the sight of Eric standing at the head of the church waiting for him. Waiting for him. This was the reason they were born alone. It was all so they could... He made a concentrated effort to push all other thoughts aside and focus only on the present as he walked down the aisle to join Eric. He stood facing him, feeling faintly nervous while he looked up into his eyes.
"Alan," the older reaper's tone was solemn now, "do you take me from this day forward, forsaking all others, keeping only unto me for as long as we both shall live?"
"I do." Kept himself back from adding 'Of course I do.' The lead in to the vows proper was truncated but it still sent a thrill through the younger reaper. This was an impossibility on so many levels. Naturally, reapers did take mates but to borrow and adapt this human ceremony was absurd... and Alan was taking this as seriously as his partner.
"Eric, do you take me from this day forward, forsaking all others, keeping only unto me for as long as we both shall live?"
The rain had passed and the only sound was the occasional drip from the roof echoing through the chapel while the two reapers exchanged a long speaking look similar to when they had turned away from their glasses, away from the Dispatch, away from their lives... Reaching for the other, Eric took Alan's hand lightly in his, meeting and keeping the other's gaze once more.
"I, Eric Slingby, do take thee, Alan Humphries, to be mine," Alan couldn't help smiling at Eric's first noticeable edit to the main part of the vows, "to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honour, and cherish, 'til death do us part, and thereto I plight thee my troth."
Only one edit. With a little thought it was not that surprising as Eric could be surprisingly traditional about some matters, he had made it easy for Alan to start leaning on him. As his illness progressed he found himself resting on Eric as his own personal shield and defender. His friend. Loved one. More. He took a slight breath before replying firmly.
"I, Alan Humphries, do take thee, Eric Slingby, to be mine, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health," there was the rub. Alan's sickness meant he was failing fast and Eric was throwing his health away to carry out a fairytale, "to love, honour, and cherish, 'til death do us part, and thereto I plight thee my troth."
'May this ring be blessed so he who gives it and she who wears it may abide in peace, and continue in love until life's end.'
Eric couldn't say it, even in an adapted form. He was in no position to bestow a blessing on anything and he had no right to even request one. Far from a boon, what he was giving was close to a curse. There would be no abiding in peace while fugitive. As for life's end... he didn't want to think about that right now. Eric turned Alan's hand in his hold, stroking his thumb lightly over the knuckles before starting the next part in their ceremony.
"With this ring I thee wed. Wear it as a symbol of our love and commitment."
The older reaper spaced out for a moment, staring at the ring he had just placed on Alan's finger, the ring he had accepted from Eric and was now wearing and-
"With this ring I thee wed. Wear it as a symbol of our love and commitment."
Alan kissed him. They had jumped right ahead but in under a second Eric started kissing him back, suddenly hyperaware of the ring from Alan now on his own finger. He broke away for a moment to look at it before urgently seeking Alan's lips once more.
It wasn't just love. It was desolation, desire, despair and a sickening foreknowledge that this would likely be the last unbroken night they would ever spend like this. The net was closing in, it was only a question of how it would be cast.
They had lost so much time. It was unlikely they would be able to outrun the demon now but when it came down to it Eric would shield his... soulmate. The wedding bands they were wearing under their gloves were only a visible token of something much deeper, unspoken but understood.
Eric had cut down so many innocents but Alan was the innocent he would die to protect. He was already planning on breaking that one extra, non-marriage, vow. If a chance came up for one more pure soul he would take it, he had to. He had gone into this with his eyes wide open and held no regret for abandoning the name he once served. For Alan he considered himself no longer a reaper, and from now on he would only raise his deathscythe in order to keep him safe.
"Alan! Are you ok?"
"I am fine. Just let me rest for a bit."