Part 1 – Calcification
The fire in you is the stirring of desire. Feed into this scintillating blaze, so you are alight with passion, illuminating your potential essence.
Friday, 13 February 1891
When the young master insisted on bathing himself without my aid, I had reasoned that this change was normal for a boy in his fifteenth year. My initial thought was a young man is entitled to his space when it comes to private matters, but the events of that first night led me to a different conclusion. Ciel's shift in tendencies would not be as simple as a demand for independence.
Having prepared a bath for the young master, I entered the study where he sat in his Queen Anne–style armchair by a crackling fire, his back to the door. With his left leg squarely crossed over the other, he propped a book that did not appear to retain his interest. Instead, his lazy attention was set on the flickering hearth fire.
From the doorway I crept to the other side of the room, staying in the shadows. Looking at the contents of his desk, papers were strewn everywhere: contracts, an accounting book with never-ending columns of numbers, letters from distribution companies and design proposals for a new line of stuffed rabbits. No doubt the Earl had just ended his work for the evening, or rather left it unfinished for tomorrow. Firelight indicated the dark circles under that unfocused gaze. His chin rested on a bent arm crooked on the armrest as he let out a soundless yawn.
"Might I suggest," Ciel jumped at my abrupt announcement, "that the young master retire for the evening?"
The book fell from his lap as he shot from the chair. "Damn it Sebastian, announce your presence next time!" He reached down and retrieved the tome that had tumbled to the floor.
"My apologies, young master." I bowed slightly.
"And another thing… I don't need you to tell me it is bedtime." Ciel crossed his arms with all the stubbornness of a child.
I decided to play along. "Very well. I do believe that at your mature age, I am in no position to mandate a strict bed time for you." Pointing to the grandfather clock standing by the door, its face read half-past eleven. "However, being as late as it is, I only wish the young master be rested for his company tomorrow."
Ciel groaned at the mention of company.
"I presume you are finished with your paperwork for the evening?" My polished shoes glinted as I paced toward the fireplace on the opposite end of the room.
"For the evening, yes, but my accounts are hardly complete." He grumbled, "And I would rather finish them tomorrow than spend the day entertaining…"
"Did you expect you would get it all done tonight after putting off the work for the better part of the week?"
"Sebastian, I don't need your criticism." Ciel looked ready to hurl his book at me.
"It appears you are rather tired, young master." Plucking the book from his hand, I placed it in its rightful slot on the shelf behind him. "It would be beneficial for you to relax in a bath before retiring. You appear to be a little tense." From the stack of books I walked over and placed my hands on his shoulders. The muscles were tense. Perhaps he had sat hunched over his desk all day in a desperate effort to sort out his accounts.
He shrugged off my gloved hands. "And I suppose you want to bathe me too?" he retorted with sour expression. What elicited this comment, I wondered?
I folded my arms. "This has been the norm for some years, young master, unless you would prefer otherwise?" Never had I heard him voice a remark like this, as if he did not want me to do something for him. His cheeks tinged pink, he looked off to the side in that, "I do not wish to discuss it" manner. If I ever brought his inhibitions to light, he would lash out at me. Perhaps Ciel is ready for more self-reliance when it comes to his own private matters, I considered.
I smiled, trying to mask my slight annoyance for his petulance. "Well, I already drew a bath for the young master. Everything is set for you. In the meantime, I will prepare your bed." On my heel I turned in the direction of the door.
"Sebastian –," Stopping at the threshold, I glanced back. Ciel looked dazed, lips parted as though he had a word to say but no breath to say it with. The hearth fire gave a soft pop, as if it intended to break the silence.
"Yes, young master?" It was customary for the boy to spit out commands whenever the desire presented itself. However, for the past few weeks, I often heard hesitation in his requests; it was a curious vicissitude. "Anything you need, I am willing to provide."
"No, really, I'm… thank you. Please, do as you will. I'll just… go to my bath…" From beside his chair, Ciel picked up the oil lamp on his side table. Light in hand, he bolted to the door, trying hard to keep a measurable distance from me, as I was standing just at the threshold. "I have it. I mean, you can go… now…" As he swerved around me and out into the hall, he kept his eyes averted, as if there was something fascinating about the floor that was worth his notice.
"I hope you find it relaxing, my lord." He nodded without saying another word. His light jounced from his wide gait down the hallway, to the other end where his bath was waiting.
As I stood in the darkened hallway, save for the dim light that leaked from the study, I ruminated on my bond to Ciel. In the five years of our contract, my charge was nowhere near to exacting his revenge. He lived an illustrious life building his corporate domain, presiding as an Earl of his estate. On occasion the Queen would employ him on some nefarious case but such assignments were increasingly rare, and they failed to bring the master any closer to solving the mystery of his own traumatic past.
His was a soul who drove himself with such ambition, despite having knowledge of his inevitable, grim demise. There was something palatable to that tenacity and I had spent years encouraging that alongside encouraging his path to revenge. I considered the possibility that there was no one left for him to seek revenge against, that those responsible could have met their fate by some other means. If that were the case, I was not about to end the contract when my charge had not yet ripened.
These truths were considered because I could sense something smouldering deep within the young master, a new sensation that I had never observed in him. He had gazed into the fire of his study and I recalled a look of longing set on his features. Sometimes the fire can show a man what he truly craves – and Ciel emitted the aura of one who desired to be consumed by it.
After banking the fire and organizing papers in the master's study, I walked to his bedroom. The fire was stoked and a grate placed over it so the light would not keep the master awake. A freshly pressed outfit was laid on the bench by the foot of the bed. Turning down the covers, Ciel's scent wafted from the linens: musk, honey and jam, bergamot, lavender. A new essence accompanied his usual bouquet, a musk that was redolent of prurience. Being honest with myself, I found it intoxicating.
The young master had no inkling of the depth of our bond, an occult vinculum that tethered us. When he demanded of me five years ago to be given as much power as possible, that sealing of our infernal covenant, he had little idea of all of its implications. I too was given as much influence over him as he over me. Being the sly devil I am would one honestly think I would divulge all the conditions of the agreement?
The boy never asked, so I never saw fit to tell him.
I sensed his relaxation in the bath, but soon there was a shivering, a quickening. His heart palpitated, not as though distressed, but in anticipation, tension mounting. I saw the rosy tint on his chest, his cherub face strained by his own pleasure. My speculation was confirmed; this was his reason for wanting privacy. Was he too ashamed to admit his natural, carnal inclinations?
It was then the word escaped his lips, silent and breathy, but to me it rang as clear as a bell.
My body tensed from the force of his release. My acute perceptions could feel the heat of the young man's flesh, smell the sweetness of the blood that coursed through his flushed skin, and taste the tang of the sweat on his brow. In a flash these sensations left me.
My normal response to his call would have been to present myself, but I sensed no urgency on his part: utter relaxation, contentment, and… the slightest twinge of guilt. It seemed prudent to not answer his beckon for me.
This is unexpected, I thought to myself. Having never allowed myself to venture a thought to this prospect, I had resigned to a reality where I could not indulge in carnal lust with this contractor. Now it appeared that such a possibility could be feasible, even advantageous.
He sauntered into the bedroom, towel dried, and in the night clothes I had set out for him. The fatigue in his features indicated he was quite ready for bed, except his hair was still sopping wet. Procuring a towel from the armoire nearby, I said, "My dear master, you cannot hope to sleep with your hair in such a state. I would hate to see you catch your death." He walked to the bedside table to set down his oil lamp he had carried from the bathroom, only to cross his arms in that defiant manner.
As I approached, he grabbed the towel out of my hands and worked it over dripping, tangled locks. His frostiness was surely due to crankiness, I reasoned. My palm settled on his shoulder, steering him to the bed. "Please allow me." The young master had not yet taken off his eye patch. What a ridiculous child; he had worn the blasted thing in the tub. Tugging at the ends of the bow, the wet ribbons giving a slight resistance.
Ciel plunked down on the exposed mattress and cut me that sneering look, his violet right eye gleaming in the warm yellow lamplight. "Why must you always dote on me?"
After laying the eye patch next to the lamp, I seized the towel. "Ever since the master has requested this treatment. Might I remind you, it has been such for a number of years." Looming over him so as not to skirt away, I blotted at wet hair.
He huffed in that impatient manner of his. "Well I… don't know if I need your pampering."
The towel was tossed aside and opening the drawer in the bedside table, I reached for a comb. "I did not think it was ever a matter of need, young master." A smirk crept to the corners of my lips.
The boy slumped with a look of frustration. He very well knew how much he had grown accustomed to my doting, and the comfort it brings. It was always a matter of want with him; he preferred the attention.
I did not mind paying it. My gentle voice suggested, "I will comb your hair."
A mild flush of red seethed on his cheeks, but he did not disagree. How could such a simple gesture warrant this reaction? Amused, I pondered if it I could get away with giving him a real reason to blush.
Then I decided to do something I had never done before. I sat behind him on the bed.
He smelled of musk and lavender and a fresh sweat beaded on his forehead. He knew just how unprofessional I was acting. He also knew that I was extremely close and did not know what to feel about it me combing the unruliness from his hair.
The lamp light reached only to the corners of the bed, constraining a large room to feel closeted, as if there was only enough room for the two of us to occupy the dim space. All there was to be heard was the master's soft yet quick breathing, and the welcoming crackle of the fire. Most humans hate this sort of tension, this awkward silence, yet I revel in the uneasiness.
"Sebastian," Ciel said with slight hesitation in his voice, "Why don't you take your gloves off while doing that?"
"While I am combing your hair?" I was only slightly surprised by the suggestion.
"It just seems… well, don't you just hate the feeling of wet gloves?" I snickered. Only my master would be keen to point out life's little discomforts. He turned and glanced at me with those mismatched eyes. Focusing on his blind right eye, I saw his arcane thoughts: the shame, the yearning for something that he was either too afraid to admit or too ignorant to comprehend. He wanted something from me, but was uncertain of how to formulate a request.
Setting the comb in my lap, I pulled the gloves off with my teeth. They were folded and secured in a breast pocket before continuing to work. My naked fingers combed through a few locks of hair… I could seriously get lost in this, I fancied. Jet nails grazed against the back of the boy's neck and his calm exterior could not mask the hot pulse that surged through him, coupled with laboured breathing from high in his chest. It was only proper for a butler to be wearing gloves when handling the master in these private matters, and now I understood why. This was far too indecent for good English gentlemen, but then again, I never considered myself either of those things.
In need of some distraction, Ciel declared, "Sebastian, I have a problem."
"What is it?"
"I haven't a valentine for Lizzie."
"Oh, that is a problem," I chuckled.
Ciel was not at all looking forward to Elizabeth's stay for Valentine's Day. It was not so much that he did not care for the girl, even if he considered her too ebullient for his low key character at times. For the young lady, Valentine's Day was comparable to Christmas.
"Never mind that, young master," In order to set the comb on the table, I had to lean in a little too close. "As far as Lady Elizabeth is concerned, I will procure a valentine for you to gift to her."
"But this still doesn't solve the situation concerning my work."
"You work yourself hard enough. You do not seem in a calm enough state for sleeping." I ventured, "Perhaps you would care for a massage?" It was true that I wished the Earl be well-rested, but that is not to say I did not want another excuse to touch him. The tense muscles in his shoulders begged for some relief.
He turned himself to face me. "What are you playing at?"
"I wish for you to be well rested for tomorrow. Also, you have been hunched over your desk for most of the day."
For a moment he eyed me suspiciously, and then conceded with a nod. Turning away, he unbuttoned the front of his nightshirt, and slipping his arms through the top, he let the gown pool around his waist. I beheld the ivory flesh, marred solely by the brand he received years ago. With slight hesitation my hands spread over tight shoulders. Kneading with light touch a breathy moan escaped his lips.
"You have been holding so much stress here for the last couple of days." Ciel moved to lie on his stomach. "So, the young master permits me to relieve him of this tension." Having full access to his back permitted me to work deeper into the tissue.
The skin grew pink, increased circulation, from the pressure of my pale hands. "You have this knot—" I pressed down just underneath the left shoulder by the base of the neck and he hissed. When I released, he exhaled, the muscles relaxing in tandem. "How unfortunate that the young master should work himself so hard…" He was like clay in my hands, willing to be forced into whatever form I wanted. He whimpered from the pain I exerted, and sighed when I released my grip.
Plying along the spine that raised the skin, I reached his waist. He turned his face away from me and the lamp light. A sharp nail grated down that white surface above his hips and he shuddered. When I performed the action once more with more force he attempted to stifle a yelp. There was no doubt that this was an erogenous zone, and here I was trailing my bare hands over it. Open palms found purchase on the small of his back, taking in the sensation of his heat. He moaned into his pillow, and I was amazed by how a simple gesture could affect him so. To smell the arousal in his skin… it was all I could do to not pursue this further.
Muffled by the pillow, he muttered, "Are you quite finished?"
"I suppose I can be." The boy sat up and faced me with his bare chest, the night shirt still pooled around his hips. "I hope you feel relaxed enough after that." I helped him lift the night wear up and insert his arms into the sleeves.
"Hardly." Ciel began fumbling with his buttons.
"Allow me," I said in response to his apparent difficulty. Making quick work of the buttons, I made sure to let a finger slip across his collarbone, acting as though I had not noticed the hitch in his breath, or the flush on his cheeks.
"Sebastian, I would prefer to start dressing and bathing myself," he declared.
"Very well." Let him have what he wants and see what comes of it.
Silence remained stiff in the air as Ciel's gaze grew more resentful. "You don't think I can manage – do you?"
"I imply nothing of the sort." Gloves were pulled from my pocket and I slipped them back on my tingling hands. I rose from the bed as Ciel shifted into the covers. Picking up the lamp and used towel from the floor, I headed to the door.
"Goodnight, young master."
Before I could close the door behind me – "Sebastian."
"Yes, young master?"
He hesitated. "You enjoyed that, didn't you?"
Damn it all. I cannot tell lies.
"Yes." That answer would have been complete. "Very much, in point of fact," and then door was drawn shut.
Author's Note: originally published June 28th 2012. Revised July 6th 2014.