A/N: Hello and welcome to my new multichap Crescendo!
We have a large cast here, from the reapers and the Phantomhive staff to anime-only characters such as Claude and Alois and Ash. You'll even get to see Edgar Redmond, Maurice Cole and Gregory Violet. (I don't know why I'm doing that when I know that my take on them could stray very far from the development that Yana Toboso has planned)
I hope you enjoy it! =D
Overall warnings: AU, Shounen ai, Shota, violence, trauma, mentions of non-con, harassment of a minor, obsession. Some really twisted stuff. May appear macabre and/or morbid from time to time. More warnings to come, but I don't want to spoil anything.
For this chapter: Introduction galore! Trust me, I usually don't do that, but considering where the story starts and that you all know the characters already, I guess I can get away with it.
Genres: Hurt/Comfort, Friendship, Drama, Romance, Angst, mystery and the occasional humorous moment, as well as a dash of horror and tragic elements (used sparingly).
Pairings: Sebastian/Ciel is the main pairing; Claude/Alois, some one-sided pairings that you will see when the time comes)
Disclaimer: I do not own Kuroshitsuji in any shape or form.
Story inspired by this one: 'Temptation' from Silverwing26. Check it out, guys, it's great and I'm really thrilled by it! =D
Crescendo (ital. growing. Used in music, the marked part becomes gradually louder.)
The Boy and The Demon
(Oil on canvas)
He didn't know what to paint.
Standing in front of a completely blank canvas he accusingly stared at his oil colours which were neatly lined up on the small table next to him, just waiting to be used. After not having lifted a brush to a canvas in two months, Sebastian's need to draw, paint, sketch, anything was immense. The desire was there, but this must be one of the worst blocks he'd ever had. He could stare at a blank piece of paper for hours and nothing would come out of it. He was often outside these days, out in the forest or in London which was only twenty minutes away from his home. He was among people, observing, listening to stories. Usually he was already inspired by seeing a blank space, the need to create something was great enough to produce image after image in his head, so the additional excursions with which he was trying to inspire himself should have worked.
Still, he was pathetically unsuccessful.
"See, I told you he's staring at a canvas again. You owe me."
"We didn't bet, dear."
Sebastian sighed and put away his painting utensils. "You should ring the bell when I'm at home, not just barge in."
He could hear the grin in Undertaker's voice as chiming keys were put away. "Who says we didn't ring? You didn't hear us."
"Again," Grell's annoying voice sounded.
Sebastian turned, ready for an answer, but then his expression relaxed in pure surprise. "… Goodness. Why are you strutting around in a hooker dress?"
Grell, dressed in… pieces of red fabric that were more revealing than nakedness could ever be, looked exasperated. "It's not a hooker dress! Claude designed it."
"Well, Claude has no taste," Sebastian retorted dryly, earning manic giggles from the Undertaker. "Or did you bribe him?"
The silver-haired photographer already had his hands on Sebastian's sketch book. He only got to see old drawings, which Sebastian was almost ashamed of. This block had been there for way too long.
"I asked him nicely," Grell said. He walked over to the Undertaker, looking over his shoulder at the sketches. "However, I can see that you should be worrying about your own problems. At least your cousin gets something done. Give it a few months and you won't have much ready for the exhibition."
Undertaker started humming, demonstratively excluding himself from the conversation.
Sebastian remained calm, even though he felt like crushing Grell's windpipe beneath his fingers. "Tell me why you came here. It's almost ten pm."
"The ball," Undertaker said, "you're not at the ball."
Sebastian was obviously not when he had been standing in front of the empty canvas. He pried his sketches from the other male's fingers, briefly noticing that somehow the other had managed to get another scar around the base of his little finger.
Better not to ask about it.
"It seems I forgot about the time."
"You definitely did," Grell said, "as you're two hours late."
Sebastian rolled his eyes. "I don't even know why you're in my house."
"And I don't know why I'm not in your bedroom, but that's not the point." Grell raised an eyebrow at him. "The Viscount is one of your most important benefactors. It will be disastrous if you don't come."
"I have many other important benefactors," Sebastian said, his eyes moving back to the empty canvas. "I almost had an idea here."
Undertaker watched him as Sebastian put away his sketches. "Coming with us might help you, since your pond of inspiration seems as dry as the Sahara."
"That was almost poetic," Grell said, faintly surprised.
Undertaker cackled. "I had to leave the cookie stand for you," he said to Sebastian. "Come, get dressed. I promise you it will be worth your time, hehe~"
Sebastian rolled his eyes. "I hardly believe that." Knowing that they were right, though - the Viscount was an important benefactor -, he went to his room, the Undertaker at his heels. He didn't let Grell follow, seeing that the redhead would probably pounce on him or do something equally disturbing.
"I told you not to bring him along," he told the silver-haired male as he put together an outfit.
Undertaker shrugged. "He was the one who kidnapped me to your house. I did love the cookies they had there."
Sebastian stared at him. He'd always wondered why Undertaker and Grell were friends, but he started to guess that they probably were so that Undertaker had something to laugh at.
While he changed his clothes, the other male made a tour through his house, as he often did. There had always been paintings Sebastian wouldn't even dream of selling, so he'd hung them in the corridors. The whole Michaelis Estate had been transformed into an art exhibition since Sebastian had bought it back.
When he was dressed, Sebastian got into his car with Undertaker while Grell took the lead in his own car. The radio was switched on the minute they passed the gates, and Sebastian could listen to Undertaker singing along. It was rather strange how he knew the lyrics to every song that was played on the radio even if he only listened to gothic metal and classical music. Sebastian, bemused, kept his eyes on the road, leaving Undertaker to his singing. With his raspy voice, he was surprisingly accurate when it came to music. Every note was correct. So Sebastian didn't mind the additional noise in his car.
The Viscount's mansion was well-hidden behind a line of trees that led into a forest. Sebastian would have passed the gate had Grell not taken the lead. Undertaker wasn't a great help either, for he was busy rocking from side to side to the song that was currently playing. "What was in those cookies?" Sebastian asked as he followed the driveway.
"Chocolate," Undertaker said.
"Are you sure about that?"
The other male only giggled.
They got out of the car and had a boy - his driving licence must have arrived just yesterday - drove it away. Sebastian followed him dubiously with his eyes, but seeing that the kid managed, he decided to put any kind of damage on Lord Chamber's ('Call me Aleister!') bill.
When Grell joined them, they were led into a lavishly decorated ballroom. He immediately recognized piece played by the string quartet as one from Bach. From where he stood, seeing the musicians wasn't possible. Women In elaborate dresses were chatting in small groups scattered across the room while men were watching the dancing couples or the paintings and statues presented. Sebastian could see that five of these paintings belonged to him, as well as a statue. Aleister Chamber had bought them only a year ago.
Among the observers were Claude Faustus fashion designer, and his doll Edgar Redmond, the promising face of the Faustus brand. As he approached them together with Grell and Undertaker the blond male smiled sweetly at Sebastian who wondered whether he was planning something again. He always seemed to. "Good to see you," Edgar said.
"Certainly," Sebastian returned dryly.
Edgar's smile froze slowly as he dismissed him with one elegant movement. He started talking to Undertaker and commented curiously neutrally on the redhead's dress.
What was even more curious was the shock that was in Claude's eyes for a split second.
Sebastian almost laughed but decided against it.
"Fancy seeing you here," Claude then said, adjusting his glasses, "you've finally managed to part from your empty canvas at home."
"Fancy seeing you here," Sebastian retorted lightly, "since you've adopted the little brat now. You shouldn't be out."
That caught Undertaker's attention. He looked up from listening to Edgar (who didn't say much) and Grell (who talked faster than anyone else in the room) at the same time, effectively silencing the two men. "You're a daddy?"
Claude shot him A Look. "I'm certainly not a 'daddy'. He's my godson and his mother died from her excessive smoking and drinking habits. What else can I do but take him in?"
"You probably tried to avoid bad publicity, then," Undertaker chattered on, completely unaffected by Claude's gaze, "I knew you were heartless."
Grell seemed as if I he didn't know on whose side he should be.
Edgar actually grinned.
Claude adjusted his glasses again, his face a mask of indifference. "He is here."
"Even worse," Undertaker said, his giggles becoming more and more disconcerting, "you know that Ash Landers is around. He might abduct him."
"Oh, hush." Grell slapped the silver-haired male playfully. "You only wish the rumours were true so that you'd have something to laugh at."
Undertaker merely shrugged, smiling widely.
Hearing the name of the other artist, Sebastian sought him out with his eyes. Finding him turned out to be rather easy for he always dressed in pastel tones which contrasted with the dark colours all the other men were clad in. Ash was well-known for his… interesting sculptures but was also a decent painter, even though he rarely indulged in the latter, just as Sebastian didn't often indulge in sculpting, preferring the brushes and pencils and the joy of painting and carving shapes into inanimate objects.
At the moment Ash was standing next to a white crib that would fit into the Victorian Era. He had probably built it himself. Black wires were wrapped around the crib and Sebastian was quite sure that there must be the sculpture of a baby inside. Ash's art was never finished when there wasn't a sculpture. They were his most precious objects, made with care and over a very long period of time.
One of the Viscount's so-called songbirds young women and girls that lived here - was bringing him a glass of red wine. Sebastian memorized the high, laced collar against her throat and her pale blue dress and found it distinctively ironic that those girls were called songbirds when the entirety of them was mute.
Ash accepted the glass and took her chin into his hand at the same moment, startling the poor girl badly. He carefully twisted her head to the left, then to the right while taking a small sip. His gloved hand wandered over her shoulder down her arm. He kissed her hand and Sebastian could read the word 'beautiful' on his lips.
Nudging the Undertaker, Sebastian nodded at the white-haired artist who was now talking to people interested in his sculpture. "What's this one called?" he asked.
Undertaker brushed the bangs out of his eyes and pursed his lips. "I think it was 'Sin'," he then said.
"It's quite morbid," Edgar said, stepping forward, too. Sebastian almost asked him whether he had the manners to tune out a conversation that didn't involve him but decided against it.
While the Undertaker found it wonderful, Sebastian couldn't decide whether he liked Ash Lander's art or not.
A scantily clad boy made his way to Claude, rudely brushing past Sebastian to wrap his arms around the designer. "Not kidnapped yet," Sebastian heard his cousin murmur. He couldn't help the startled laugh that escaped him. Edgar, who always stood close to Claude, seemed very amused, too.
"Claude," the child whined. He was surprisingly pretty with his blond hair and angelic face. "You promised me a dance! Come on, Claude, let's dance."
Sebastian studied Claude's faintly annoyed expression and loved the kid.
Wrapping his arms around the taller man's middle, the child looked up to his guardian. "Please?"
Claude remained perfectly still.
The music had changed. A band was now filling the room with entertaining but reserved jazz music. A woman clad in an outfit that reminded of the 1920's was using her voice as if replacing an instrument. There were no lyrics, only sounds, always harmonizing with the other instruments, sometimes sultry, sometimes harsh. A few guests were watching the stage now, listening quietly.
"I can dance with you, Alois," Edgar offered, probably not without hidden intentions that involved Claude, but the boy just snarled at him. The model recoiled a little, his expression carefully guarded behind the frozen smile.
Sebastian loved the child even more.
His malicious feelings dimmed though when he spotted the Viscount himself walking towards the little group, dressed in a stark white suit that called for everyone's attention. In one hand he held a glass of champagne, on his other arm he was leading a woman who must share Grell's preference for the colour red. He toasted to the air, smiling amicably at Sebastian and the others.
"Mr Michaelis! You have finally arrived!"
Sebastian nodded. Now that he had both of them in close distance, he quickly picked up on the similarities between Edgar and Aleister. "It's nice to see you." It wasn't. "I must apologize for my delay, but I was working on something new."
"Oh, that is perfectly alright!" The Viscount slid his arm away from under the woman's to shake his hand. "I already guessed that you'd have lost track of time. As long as I will be able to see your new works at the next exhibition, I shall forgive you."
Smiling tightly, Sebastian assured him that there would be a decent number of new works. Aleister motioned to the woman in red. "I wanted to introduce you to this lovely lady here, a dear friend of mine. Her name is Angelina Durless and I managed to get her interested in your wonderfully ingenious art. I hope you don't mind."
Sebastian bowed and kissed the lady's hand. "I don't mind at all, Viscount Druitt."
He politely exchanged a few words with Miss Durless or rather Madame Red, as she preferred being called while Aleister found entertainment in having a one-sided dialogue with the rest of the group. Alois kept on clinging to Claude as if he was scared that Edgar would snatch him away. Aleister unintentionally solved the problem by pulling the model to him, praising his beauty because he looked 'exactly like our dear mother.' He gushed over his half-brother, spreading his feathers like a male peacock in his pride of him. Edgar managed to seem faintly embarrassed, though Sebastian knew that he secretly drank in all the praise.
Alois stared at them, then - as if in afterthought - resumed his efforts to monopolize Claude.
Madame Red was agreeable company. She gave Sebastian an excuse to turn his back to his… acquaintances without making a rude impression. Even though she found it necessary to take in everything his clothed physique had to offer, she kept the conversation impersonal. He only found out that she was a doctor and looked after her nephew of whom she seemed very proud. The rest of their conversation was based on more trivial matters.
The finely dressed lady ended the last song on a high A, her voice fading slowly as the room almost magically fell quiet. People started applauding.
"Ah, now it's time for this evening's highlight," Madame Red said as the band and singer disappeared. She chuckled. "At least I like to think of it."
From where he stood, Sebastian had a good view of the podium on which only a concert piano stood. The Viscount got on the podium, carrying himself in his usual flamboyant manner. His guests' conversations stilled. "As an admirer of the arts, I always search for promising talents," he said to the newly-won audience, "many of which I support until they can stand on their own two feet. If they are very talented, they get to see my money a bit longer." Low chuckles filled the air at that and the Viscount self-importantly brushed stray strands out of his face. "This young violinist has a lot to offer at the tender age of thirteen, which is why I am introducing him to you this evening. He will soon have England lying at his feet, for he plays so marvellously that any other interpretation on a piece will seem naught! This is why I told him he should rather play an original piece. I introduce to you: Ciel Phantomhive!"
The crowd, obviously people that were quite used to the Viscount's hyperboles, clapped politely as the Viscount paraded over to the piano and sat down.
Then the boy appeared.
Clad in black shorts and a simple white shirt, Ciel was a sight to behold. Sebastian watched him as he languidly strolled to the centre of the stage, a small violin in his left hand and a bow in his right. He wore an eye patch over his right eye, which confused Sebastian slightly. What had happened to his eye?
Ciel came to a halt, his back straight and his facial expression unreadable. He lifted the violin to his shoulder and had a brief exchange with Aleister who openly leered at him before he turned to the audience and began to play.
It was a song with a distinctive jazzy character, which sounded very interesting with only a violin and piano. The boy didn't seem nervous in the slightest, he regally stood there and played with a controlled passion. There was substance behind the melody, behind the violin's answers to the piano. He was remarkably far for his age; Sebastian, having learnt the violin himself, could see it right away. The boy didn't even seem old enough to have so many years of experience on the instrument, but there he was, proving Sebastian wrong.
The audience was spellbound as the song went on, balancing the line between playful and serious, between mindless entertainment and musical virtuosity. It was blatantly seductive, yet also very naïve. And as the final crescendo caused Sebastian to stop breathing for a split second, the boy's gaze found his.
Ciel quickly looked away as he played the final note in fortissimo, the piano decorating the single note with a flourish run before it too came to a final chord.
Ciel lifted the bow from his instrument and the audience burst into loud applause. The Undertaker was clapping fascinatedly while Claude was pushing up his spectacles. Next to Sebastian, Madame Red was practically glowing.
Alois, though, seemed torn between uncertainty and wonder. It was disgustingly easy to read in his face. He carefully looked up at Claude. "How did you find that?"
Claude barely paid attention. "Very good."
Alois pursed his lips. "He's pretty."
"And what about me?"
Sebastian focused his attention on Madame Red again. "Is this the nephew you were talking about?"
She beamed at him. "The one and only."
"He is very talented."
The boy climbed off the stage with his small violin which gave him an excellent excuse for not shaking the hands of his new admirers. Madame Red waved and fighting his way through the crowd of guests, Ciel arrived at her side while the string quartet returned to play something more contemporary than Bach. She introduced her nephew to Sebastian who was a little bit surprised at the constant seriousness that the boy oozed.
He was also infatuating.
Smiling at the boy who didn't return the sentiment, he felt watched by numerous pairs of eyes.
"I was wondering," Madame Red said then, stopping him from turning around and seeing to whom the eyes belonged, "whether you accept commissions."
Sebastian blinked. "I do, actually. What is it that you would like me to paint?"
She put a hand on Ciel's shoulder. "My nephew."
Feeling satisfaction rising in his chest, Sebastian politely inclined his head. "I would be honoured to draw a young, talented musician."
Ciel chose to say nothing, instead searched the room with a certain tension in his beautiful features. When they relaxed, Sebastian wondered what he'd (not) seen.
One pair of eyes had left the burning place between his shoulder blades.
The Viscount's party continued until well past one a.m. Sebastian politely stayed until all the other guests also left, including his own group of acquaintances.
"When are you going to paint him?" Claude asked.
Sebastian shrugged. "You'd like to know that."
"Worth a shot."
"We aren't that close."
Claude did his completely bland equivalent of a huff. "What, pray tell, is closer than family?"
… Well, that was an argument. Sebastian chose to stay silent.
Alois was holding Claude's hand even though Sebastian had been told that the boy was turning fifteen very soon. Edgar had to endure poisonous glares, but the model took with a charming nonchalance and sent the boy a dazzling, yet humouring smile every time their eyes met.
His car was brought and Sebastian noted with great satisfaction that there wasn't even a minuscule scratch on the precious vehicle. After saying his goodbyes and keeping Grell at a distance so that he wouldn't receive a hug Sebastian drove home. It was already morning, but he couldn't say that he was tired. On the contrary, he was full of ideas. The evening had been an interesting source of inspiration. And Ciel… Ciel was his new project. He wanted to open the boy and read him like a book. He wanted to understand the curious emptiness and that scarred look in his visible eye.
He wanted to know what lay underneath that eye patch.
He only hoped that Ciel would allow him into his life.
In the Michaelis Estate, he threw his keys and coat into a corner in the entrance hall, as well as his shoes, and he jogged up the enormous flight of stairs. In his painting room, he changed the small canvas for one that came up to his hip and prepared his colours. Only when the first layer was finished did he realize that he was painting again. It came to him like a shock. After all these weeks of effortless trying, applying colours to a canvas was almost inappropriately wonderful. He stepped back, looked at his wristwatch and decided to call it a day.
His future masterpiece wouldn't run away anytime soon.
So, the first chapter of Crescendo! I hope you enjoyed it. I guess with this plot I can go over 14 chapters, so we'll see how long this one will get.
Since this story will only be told from Sebastian's/Ciel's POV, there will be additional interludes from time to time that focus on the other characters (not many, though. We'll only get to four interludes). I suggest you read those, too, since there will be some that could be insightful to the plot up to then and/or foreshadowing. While every new chapter comes out on Wednesdays, the interludes will be updated to this ficafter an act's conclusion. I'll announce them, since there could be two updates in those weeks.
Please leave a review and tell me what you think. Constructive criticism is always appreciated. If there are questions, don't hesitate to ask them. This counts for future chaps as well. =D Don't worry, I'm not the type that bites without consent XD