A/N: Firstly, thank you all so much for your sweet reviews and your support! You guys are what keeps me writing this fic, so keep letting me know you're there and please be patient with me, lol!
Beta credits go to the wonderful Carrie2sky, as always!
Secondly: (this is going to be very long but please bear with me)
This is a preventive warning so please read.
I know I updated the last four chapters in a very quick succession. This will not happen anymore. (I should have told you not to get too used to it… did you?) In fact, this might be the last chapter in a while because real life is taking up in pace again and I cannot invest much time in fanfiction. The 13th chapter is halfway done but then a block hit me and we will have to see when it lifts again.
As always, I will try to find time for this ff. We have maybe two or three more chapters to go, meaning that Hymn for the Living will end at chapter 14 or 15. Again, real life, so I cannot say when these chapters will be posted. If we're lucky I could present you with them in, idk, two weeks. It can just as well take me two months or more, depending on the severity of the current block, how much time I have, and, truthfully, my motivation. Not gonna lie with that one.
Now, I can understand that you might not like this, and I'm not asking you to. You must think I'm a pretty shitty author at this point and I'm not even blaming you (although lemme just throw in the fact that my last two mulit-chpas were updated with a regularity that might surprise you if you didn't follow them). All I'm saying is that I don't know when this fic will reach its conclusion, but I do know that if you're willing to wait I won't let you down. At least I'll try not to. Ahem.
Thirdly (and this is possibly going to cost me some readers): You might have noticed the change in genre. Hymn for the Living is not going to have SebaCiel as a romantic pairing. There is just no romance happening. When I planned this story it was supposed to be a slowly building romance between Sebastian and Ciel, but the story isn't going that way, so I'm not going to force the romance for the sake of quality. I therefore finally changed the genres to Hurt/Comfort and Friendship. If you're here for a romantic relationship, you're wrong. If you're okay with a SebaCiel that is more of a platonic relationship and don't mind the lack of romance, please read on =)
Thanks for reading this if you did.
If not, well, you will find yourself surprised by the lack of updates and romance in the future. Always read the A/N, lol!
Okay, I'm done.
When Sebastian hears the scream he immediately runs into Ciel's room, barging in. He now stands in the room, staring at Ciel – who looks perfectly alright, if not for the distress that is marring his features.
"Ciel?" he asks quietly. Ciel's shoulders twitch. Apart from that Sebastian receives no reaction. "What happened? What's wrong?"
Ciel slowly tilts his head up. There is something unrecognizable in his eyes that Sebastian immediately dislikes. He is only half ready when Ciel jumps to his feet and at Sebastian's throat, small hands closing around it. Sebastian takes a step back in his surprise, the back of his knees hit the corner of the bed and the two fall onto it, Ciel snarling and now pushing his weight into the grip on Sebastian's throat.
Sebastian, on the other hand, can't help but notice that there isn't a lot of strength in these fingers anymore.
He carefully closes his own hands around Ciel's wrists. It takes one sharp tug to get the demon's hands off him and Sebastian takes a deep breath before locking gazes with Ciel who freezes.
Ciel tries to free himself from Sebastian's grip but to no avail. Sebastian is the stronger one now.
Sebastian is the stronger one now.
"Oh god," the doctor mumbles, letting Ciel go. The boy lets out a frustrated noise and the next moment he's at the other end of the room. It's not because the demon has been fast but because the doctor's brain is too busy processing the information.
"My wings are gone," Ciel spits. "And it is all your fault."
Sebastian shakes his head. "I offered to end the contract. You didn't take the offer. This is entirely your fault now. What is happening? If you don't tell me, I'm going to find my answers one way or another."
"My nature has changed!" Ciel screeches. "I'm not a demon anymore!"
"What are you?" Sebastian hasn't meant to raise his voice, but he tells himself it is a very ordinary reaction to another person raising their voice.
Ciel opens his mouth, but all that comes out is a choking sound before he turns his back to Sebastian and stares out the window.
Sebastian takes it as the sign that it is, but he isn't going to leave without answers. "Ciel, if you won't talk to me, I know somebody who can determine what you are."
"You mean your damned reaper neighbour?" Ciel snarls, whirling around to face him. "Are you threatening me?"
"He isn't there to hurt you," Sebastian says. "He's got a human to look after."
"I'm not going to see him. I don't want to become involved with any of these creatures. They can easily kill me now."
Sebastian swallows thickly. "How can you be sure that you aren't a demon anymore?"
"Because my wings dissolved into smoke." Ciel raises his eyebrows almost challengingly. "Because you managed to stop me from strangling you. Because I eat human food. Because I get tired once in a while. More often now. Because I met somebody who changed, and he was so bitter about it. I can understand. I feel vile." He crosses his arms in front of his chest. "I'm not going to see your reaper friend."
"I can call Grell," Sebastian says, "but I dare suggest you have Undertaker determine what you are."
"Why do you trust this man's judgement?" Ciel asks.
Sebastian shrugs. Why not? He likes to think he and Undertaker aren't on bad terms. "I don't trust him. But I know hurting you isn't in his interest. Attracts attention. It's the last thing he wants and he knows I know Grell."
"Leave it be," Ciel says, sounding pained. Sebastian immediately wants to apologise but he keeps his mouth shut.
In the end Sebastian doesn't need to drag Ciel to Undertaker, because Undertaker comes to them. He suddenly appears in the doorway, Gregory at his side, and he smiles as Sebastian steps aside to let them in.
"I am going to assume this isn't a friendly visit," Sebastian says after a pause, but he goes into the kitchen to put the kettle on. "I'm afraid I don't have any biscuits here."
"Don't bother," Undertaker calls from the living room where he basically cradles Gregory who seems to be trying to merge into the corner of Sebastian's couch. "Tea's fine."
"My flatmate is going to be very angry once he leaves his room and finds out you're here," Sebastian says when the tea is ready. He doesn't miss the tremble in Gregory's hands as the young man accepts his cuppa.
"What a shame," Undertaker says. "We came for him." He tilts his head to one side. "Or rather, Gregory wanted to see him. He's got some tips, you see."
"Tips on what?" Sebastian asks, looking at Gregory who is very pale.
"Well, Ciel isn't the only soon-to-be ex-demon here," Undertaker says pleasantly. "Gregory's been there, done that."
Sebastian eyes the young man with a horrible feeling inside his chest. "Do you mean that Gregory was a demon?"
"I don't know, did I say that?" Undertaker murmurs, almost analysing Sebastian's face.
"Sebastian. Why is the reaper in our flat?" Ciel enters the room with anger written all over his face. When he sees Gregory he stops in his tracks. "You are dying."
Gregory nods in acknowledgement. "Slowly and painfully."
Ciel's expression falters. Sebastian watches as Ciel puts as much distance between himself and their guests without losing track of their every move.
"Just the not-quite-demon we wanted to talk to!" Undertaker croaks happily.
"Wait," Sebastian says, still hung up on one fact. "Gregory said he was human."
"That I still am," Gregory corrects absently.
"Are you telling me he was something else before that? Are you telling me he changed into a human?"
"Long story," Undertaker says with a wave of his hand.
"Why do you avoid the topic, reaper?" Ciel speaks up. While his voice is firm he looks decidedly uneasy. "This is the reason you two are sitting here, yet you don't want to talk about it. How come?"
"It reminds him of his selfishness," Gregory replies. "I don't find it to be a flaw. Though it is the reason I'm dying, at any rate."
"I thought he bought you some time," Sebastian says.
Undertaker murmurs something into his tea, but nobody picks up on it.
"What were you before?" Ciel asks.
"There is only two things I could have been before becoming a human," Gregory says vaguely, and this is the first time Sebastian has wanted to punch someone. Undertaker looks strangely pleased at the fact that Gregory is behaving a lot like him.
"Spill, mortal," Ciel commands with a frown. "Or I shall hurt you. I am still a demon."
"You aren't," Sebastian murmurs, eyebrows raised.
"Yes, he is," both Gregory and Undertaker say. "To your credit, he barely is," Undertaker continues. "But he isn't going to change into an angel anytime soon, that's for sure."
Ciel flinches at the word 'angel'. Sebastian can only guess that it has to do with the wings he lost.
"Is somebody going to explain this?" Sebastian asks.
"Well," Gregory says at length, "that would require words. I'm rather tired." He looks pointedly at Undertaker.
The silver-haired man claps once. "Well, then. We'll be leaving. Thanks for the tea, Sebastian, you're a darling, and your flatmate is charming."
Of course Sebastian hasn't known Undertaker for a long time, but he's pretty sure that Undertaker rarely reacts to a topic like that. "I'm not going to let you leave," he says. "You say you're a reaper but Ciel isn't quite a demon anymore. There shouldn't be any animosity. Help us out, will you."
Undertaker doesn't look ecstatic about this, but he puts his empty cup on the couch table and begins. "Gregory was a demon and I was a reaper working for the Dispatch Society. We met over some unfortunate soul he'd contracted. It came to a fight, he left. With the soul. We just constantly ran into each other over contracts he'd made until he started seeking me out. I started seeking him out because he was interesting. When he was completing a contract I let him go, and once in a while he'd let me reap the human's soul without interfering. It was all very romantic."
Gregory still has the strength to roll his eyes, which he does very well. "It wasn't romantic at all. You're like a brother to me."
Undertaker grins. "Hey, artist's license. Anyway. I never heard about it before but Gregory became attached. We had been seeking each other out for at least a century when he surrendered a soul to me without batting an eyelash, telling me he couldn't extract it. Every time we'd see each other something about him had changed, so I asked him what was wrong and he said he wanted to be my friend and wished that the animosity between our species wouldn't hinder us from that. The month after that he was completely human. I stuck around a lot, neglecting my work, admittedly. But hey, humans grow old, you never know when it's over, so I pushed my work onto rookies and visited as often as I could. At the beginning everything went just fine, but…Two, three years passed and he got sick."
Sebastian can almost feel the nervousness coming from Ciel.
"I moved heaven and earth to buy him more years… I, uh, quit my job and we ran." Undertaker looks at Gregory who is fiddling with his teacup. "I didn't know that buying him more years doesn't change the fact that his illness is still gnawing at him. He cannot die until the extra time is over, but he's going to suffer through it."
"It's not a big deal, you didn't know," Gregory says, sounding like he says it six times a day. Undertaker shakes his head, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
The two of them leave not very long after that, Gregory claiming that he's having a particularly bad day today. Undertaker's smile is wide but strained, and Sebastian can't help but feel sorry, which is quite strange.
Ciel stays where he's been for the duration of the conversation, staring at his feet as if he'll find an answer there. Sebastian doesn't show Undertaker and Gregory out, too busy trying to gauge Ciel's reaction to this. In any case he must be pretty devastated.
Ciel looks at him only once before he ignores Sebastian for the rest of the day. It… is probably the mildest reaction that the doctor expected, so he lets Ciel process the information.
Sebastian will remember the day and time for the next few months as he goes to bed that evening. It is a random brush of his fingers through his hair, but the pads of his fingers touch the scar tissue of his contract mark. It pulses at the touch, almost making Sebastian black out.
He knows for a fact that the back of Ciel's hand has lost its mark today.