As promised, I present to you the epilogue. It is not lengty, but it might answer and resolve some unfinished business. I have little to add here. All has been said and done. I hope you can all find some peace of mind after this, because I know I can.
I terribly enjoyed writing this for you, and I can only hope you will find said enjoyment within these sentences.
The coach ride had been an awfully silent one, the thick tension broken only by Alois's sobs and whimpers. It took them two days to get to Paris where they met all of the other employees at a floozy motel near the Sacre Coeur. Apparently, Beast's mother had been running it while she had still been alive.
"They didn't make it?" The woman asked, tears already building up her crimson eyes even before one of the four could answer. Alois bursting into tears had been answer enough and while Beast and Lizzy tried to comfort him, Ciel walked out. Outside, there was no cool sea breeze, no market sounds and no sultry air. It was busy with traffic, cheap whores, selling their infected bodies and quacks, selling their fake life elixir. He sank down on the doorstep and pushed his hands in his navy hair. He couldn't stand Alois's his crying anymore, the suffocating anxiety he had endured, listening to his endless misery. He inhaled deep, the sour smell of rot and sewer leaving a burning irritation in his nose.
From inside, he could hear the persistent wailing still, and it started to annoy him immensely. It made the reality that he had lost something more real, while he had put so much effort into denying it. Sebastian wasn't really gone, he just wasn't there.
The sudden hand on his shoulder made his entire body jerk and he snapped his head around, calling his name. Joker smiled apologetic and shook his head. "Sorry, it is only me." Ciel forced a sardonic smirk at his own expense and gazed ahead again. "Of course, it was foolish. I apologize," he whispered.
Joker squinted, sank down next to him and bumped the younger male's shoulder with his own. "How are you holding up?" Ciel shrugged, his eyes following a blonde tramp lure a drunk gentleman to a dark alley. "Better than Alois, I suppose."
Joker, despite his best efforts, chortled softly. It were nerves, because he too didn't know how to handle a delicate situation like this. For as long as he remembered, he had worked with Claude and Sebastian at the Circus, and the suspension was killing him. He had no knowledge whether they made it out in time, but making an educated guess, he knew it would've been quite impossible.
"What are you going to do?" The ginger haired man asked. Ciel pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around his legs. "I suppose I will make for England; there is nothing left for me here."
"How about friends?" Joker asked, once again touching the boy's shoulder and squeezing it. Ciel angled his head and sniffed a laugh. "Reminders," stated he. "I can't stay here, because I want to forget about all of this as soon as possible."
"You can't possibly mean you want to forget about Sebastian?" Joker exclaimed surprised. "Not after everything he has done in order for you to be safe." Ciel just nodded. "I will always be thankful for what he did for me, but there is no point to dwell on the past. It is gone, and I am still here. I need to acknowledge that and move on."
"You can give yourself some time to mourn. Nobody will think less of you if you cry."
Ciel hissed. "Crying is useless. It will not bring him back and it only causes me a nasty headache and a runny nose. Besides, with the way Alois is at it, I am sure he's crying for the both of us. Somebody needs to keep a clear head."
Joker knitted his brows together, tilted his head and looked down on the boy. He was staring ahead, his gaze dull, almost lifeless. Nothing sparkled about him anymore, not like it had done before. It made him realize that he was probably suffering more than he'd ever admit. Sighing, he retrieved a holder from his pocket and clicked it open. "Want one?" He asked, offering Ciel a cigarette. Ciel sighed and reached. "Might as well," he mumbled and put the smoke between his lips. Joker lit his and the boy inhaled deep, withstood a fit coughs and a gag reflex and huffed out the tobacco.
"I'll go with you to London," stated Joker after moments of silence. Ciel looked up at the man's profile. He was calm, and stared thoughtful at the orange sky. "Why?" The boy asked. The ginger head squinted and took a drag of tobacco. "I promised Sebastian and Claude that I would keep you and Alois safe."
Ciel frowned, his voice a low hiss when he spoke. "You knew about that plan all along, didn't you?"
Joker exhaled, closed his eyes and gave him a firm nod. "I did. I wanted to tell you Ciel, but I was sworn to secrecy. Both knew that if either of you had found out, you would've tried and stop them."
"Of course," Ciel snapped. "Did they never stop and bother to think how it is to live with this kind of guilt? Knowing they're dead because of us. Because they assumed we couldn't protect our own asses from those idiots. They should've talked to us. We always managed fine before they decided to play our heroic martyrs."
Joker grinned. "Indeed, a large portion of this operation was to protect you, but do not stop and think for one minute that they did this just for you two. Did either of them ever tell you how they got contracted by Madame Red?" The ginger head inhaled one last drag, expertly flicked the cigarette away and leaned back, placing his hands behind him. "There is so much more to this story than you could've ever fathomed, Ciel Phantomhive."
He told him about Sebastian's and Claude's parents selling them for opium money. The arrangement that they would never show their faces at the Circus again. The contracts and the conditions. The false illusion that they could buy their parents freedom. Their burning hate for the Madame. He told them about the plan, and how Sebastian and Claude secured their future by giving Joker the spare key to the safe. How they made sure everybody got out safely before they lit the mansion on fire. "And as a bonus. The Undertaker made a sudden guest appearance," Joker added, his voice too sardonic to fit the subject properly. "I can only reckon what Claude did to him."
Ciel swallowed, and swallowed again. Half way through the story, he had lost his ability to think of suitable words. There were none, and in light of the newly uncovered truths, he could no longer hold back his tears. "Stupid idiot," he said. "You fucking asshole," he now screamed, repeatedly smashing his fist into the doorframe. "I hate you for making me this depended, for making me care about your wellbeing. I fucking hate you!"
Alois turned up in the doorway, his eyes wide while he watched his friend punch his knuckles to a bloody mess, cursing and accusing a person who was not there.
"Ciel," he cooed, sinking down to his knees. "Ciel, stop this. You're hurting yourself," he begged and reached out to grab his wrists. However, Joker raised his arm and stopped him before he could touch the screaming male. "Let him," was all he said.
Both stayed by his side until Ciel was too tired and had lost all will to punch. Now, he just cried, covering his face with his bloody hands. Alois exchanged a quick look with Joker, silently asking him permission. He nodded and the blonde tightly wrapped his arms around his friend, whispering meaningless words of comfort in his ear and stroking his hair. And it was not until Ciel had calmed down a little that Joker stood and walked in to get water and bandages to tend to the boy's wounds.
That night, neither Ciel or Alois slept. They lay wide awake, staring at the dark wooden ceiling. With the window closed to ban out the foul smells and noises of the wild nightlife, it was too damned hot in the room to even try and think about anything else but the warmth.
"What are we going to do?" Alois asked, rolling onto his side and propping up on his elbow. Ciel rolled his eye to the blonde. "Survive. Like we've always done," he answered. Alois nodded approving and lay back down. "Where?" "London," stated Ciel. "Alright," the blonde agreed without protest. "Goodnight Ciel." "Goodnight Alois."
In the morning, Joker had informed the others that he would be leaving with Ciel and Alois, by the afternoon, everybody had packed their belongings to come along with. Finding their way back to England had now become a lot easier with the large sum of cash they had on them thanks to Sebastian's and Claude's careful planning and a place at a large cargo ship was secured easily with the right leverage. At nightfall, they set sail for England, trying to leave every bad memory behind in France.
Arriving in London, they used a portion of their money to buy a large estate on the outskirts of the city. It was situated on a steep slope and surrounded by woods and water. The purpose of the purchase had been clear from the first moment and it took them only two months to turn it into the Faustian Manor, the most exclusive male escort club in and around London.
The rules were simple. You signed the contract by own free will and became a part of the crew. Everybody was treated like family, and nobody stood above another. The veil of dominance that had been so awfully present at the Circus was completely absent in the manor, banned by the old Circus crew.
Joker took the task of manager upon himself with William, who proved to be an excellent secretary, as his second man. Beast taught Ciel all the tricks of being a bartender and together, they managed the beverages while Alois, Grell and Lizzy preferred to look after the entertainment. Jumbo was reinstated as bouncer with some help from Snake, and Finny helped out Mey-rin in the kitchen while the triplets served. Their lives went on, the changes drastic but sometimes hardly noticeable.
Conversation about Sebastian and Claude was mostly avoided, knowing it would only bring back painful memories. But there were evenings when the profit was excelling and the numbers were celebrated with a bottle of champagne. On nights like these, they commemorated their lost friends and drank to their sacrifice, fondly thinking back and laughing about anecdotes. Tears were never shed, neither by Alois or Ciel, those came at night, when they were alone and left with their own thoughts and memories.
It was on the morning that heralded their third month. Christmas was near and William had gotten it into his head that they had to make good use of that occasion to draw in even more customers. Seamstresses were hired, measurements were taken and costumes were produced. Ciel was hauling a box of new Christmas ornaments to the bar when a loud knock on the front door startled him. Turning, he frowned and squinted at the white French doors.
"We're no open yet," he called and continued on his way. A second knock followed, and a third. Annoyed, he walked to the door, balanced the box on one arm and turned the key in the lock. Yanking the handle down, he opened the door and repeated himself. "I said, we're not open-"
His sentence got caught in his throat and he dropped the box. It crashed at his feet with a loud thud and shattered the glass ornaments to thousands of pieces. "You- you," he stammered, his eye wide and his trembling hand slowly rising to cover his ajar mouth.
"I assumed you could make an exception for weary travelers," the honey-like voice spoke, followed by a most handsome grin. Ciel blinked, inhaled the fresh wintry air and stepped out of the way, a shocked and sheepish smirk around his lips. "Naturally," he said, gesturing inside. "Welcome in the Faustian manor, gentlemen."
Why not continue with a good selling product? I thought it was only just to let them create their own 'Circus' possibly without Madame Red's flaws. The ending is an open one, because I want you all to fill in the blanks to your own hearts content. I am satisfied, although I am normally not a big fan of such open endings. Please, leave a review, tell me it did not suck horribly and that you will not give up on my writing skills. Many-a-more stories to follow with updates on Indebted and Opium this week.
I have but two things I still want to share with you. As I have mentioned before, I am working on an original novel loosely based on Kuroshitsuji. To do my research properly, I have created a fansurvey. You can find it on my tumblr account: 23-oscarwilde
Also, I posted the last chapter to Motivate Me, so if you're following this story as well, here's your chance to know that ending as well. Reviews are also appreciated.
Thank you all for being patient and bountiful with reviews.