Disclaimer: nothing owned, nothing gained.
A/N: for BlackInkStains, who inspired me, and promocat, who keeps me delighted.
Warnings: fluff. Crack-ish-ness. Dry humor.
General warning for Readers Who Like (Only!) Smut/Lemons/Porn/Hard-Core Yaoi...
I DON'T write smut / lemons. Don't expect this warning on every chapter, either. I will never write lemons.
I write what I call "Light Romance." Sebastian and Ciel tease each other romantically, but they aren't going to be kissing passionately at any given opportunity. (I find that out of character).
On with the light fiction...
Regular Customers... (The Reaper's Bookshop)
"Ciel," the Undertaker calls, his voice sing-song and light.
The young man pushes a strand of blue-black hair out of his face, and his visible eye trains on his employer. "Yes?" he asks quietly.
The Undertaker—his preferred title in the novelty-and-book shop—smiles, uncannily covering one eye with this grayish fringe while keeping his expression and gaze unfocused. The combined effect was rather like talking to a dead witch. "Did you see a box on your way in?" a lazy smile parts his lips, and just after he has Ciel's attention, he turns away. His gaze begins to wander for the illusive box, presumably.
"…there were a few empty ones in the staff-room…" he admits, just as slow.
With a small laugh, the Undertaker shakes his head. "Take care of the customers for a minute, would you? I'll see if I can find it."
Ciel looks around the small store, past the decorative spider webs, the leaning coffins and other gothic decorations. There isn't a person in sight…at least, not anyone who looks ready for 'help.' They'd only just opened for the day.
"….ok." he says finally.
Ciel comes out from behind the café counter, walking over a handful of paces. He looks experimentally at the cash registers. There's a little "social voodoo doll" decorating the display, handmade by the Undertaker in a weird cute-gothic combination. He occasionally makes so-called authentic dolls for interested parties, but Ciel remains unimpressed.
After all, his family is a well-known toy company that specializes in plush toys. Granted, of course, it is declining in popularity as compared with cheaper, mass-produced toys with no sense of elegance or longevity.
Ciel picks up a bigger plush from the counter—a ghoul with wings—and examines the stitching, weight, and materials. He's almost ready to pass critical judgment on it when the bell rings. A new customer has entered.
The young man is tall, fair of complexion, and dark haired. His lips are spread into a long, ironic smile that shows a bit of teeth, and his eyes are still half veiled. "Excuse me." He has made a leisurely path for Ciel. Perhaps he recognizes his "period" costume as the store's uniform, or maybe it's Ciel's proximity to the registers.
The young man regards Ciel calmly, open expression and faint smile unchanging. He lifts his gaze a little, and Ciel notes with surprise the deep mahogany red and long, thick lashes.
For a moment, Ciel says nothing. Then he puts one hand on his hip and frowns. Pouts, really, though he'd never admit to it. "Can I help you?" he asks slowly. Nearly demands it, but his tone is too calm. Almost bored, so the customer only sees it as soft, refined arrogance.
"I'm looking for," and he pauses here, meeting Ciel's gaze with equal attention. He enunciates quietly, crisply. He takes care to show his tongue just barely. "…a book."
Ciel scoffs, annoyance flashing on his delicate features. He shrugs, expertly rearranging his expression to that of the cool, unfazed school boy. "Are you?" He smiles slightly, mockery or something like it on his tone.
"Yes. I'd like a good read, that is, if you can spare the time to suggest one?" amusement licks at his voice, as though Ciel's haughty attitude only serves to heighten his content.
Caught now in an emmployee's bind to serve, Ciel offers a minute nod. "I can help you…" he starts, "but I ordinarily work in the café. Any specific questions about our more unusual tomes will have to be redirected to the Undertaker."
"Ah, yes. I had asked for a particular one over the phone…do you have anything in for Sebastian Michaelis?" he asks, moving closer to the boy.
Ciel looks at him for a moment, and then to the registers. "Wait here." He bites on his lip slowly, trying to remember where the Undertaker keeps his list of call-in-orders. Or whatever they're called… he thinks darkly. Why is he bothering me?swiftly follows that thought.
While he bends down to look at the shelf and loose papers bound up, he hears a quiet snicker. The Undertaker is a few steps away, peering out from behind a display of doll coffins. His smile is still wide, showing his teeth, though Ciel is a little uncertain as to his motive.
"…Undertaker, where is the list of special orders?" he asks, still bent over the folder. He glances up just briefly to see the tall man stoop again. His long fingers are made skeletal by the awkward pose, and his long, decorative nails. He vaguely picks at a few items, moving them around in an effort to appear otherwise engaged.
"It's in there…" he murmurs, stepping away from the pile. "I'm still looking for the box, so…why don't you help the young man, and I'll just…" he turns to a nearby stack of displays, looking unconvincingly in clear places. He snickers some more, and instead of finishing the sentence, he gestures with his too long sleeves in an indistinct way.
Sebastian smiles slightly. His demeanor is rather professional—as though he is accustomed to pleasing others.
"If you're too busy, of course I understand," he purrs, meaning to trap Ciel into the conversation. Polite convention demands that he deny any work in order to help the customer.
Not that Ciel has much work to do.
The pastries are already made, brought in by a local chef, and the coffee or tea is made for each customer. Aside from polishing the counter and chairs, Ciel has no other duties.
Sebastian looks at Ciel expectantly.
Ciel coughs. "It's no problem. What sort of book are you looking for? I mean, besides the special ordered one." He fumbles through the file some more, but Sebastian is only smiling at him. Still.
"What do you have on…dark magic?" he asks eventually, mulling over the words and looking only at Ciel.
Ciel begins to suspect that the question is meant to be baiting. "…were you looking for a Grimoire, or a history?"
The two stand not a meter apart, but they might as well be sitting on opposite sides of a chess board. Ciel continues pretending at nonchalance, while Sebastian examines Ciel blatantly.
A moment passes. "Grimoire." He says, his tone as bland as if he were ordering a familiar vintage of wine, though in fact, he's not entirely sure what a Grimoire is.
Ciel puts the files down, and walks over to a tall bookshelf. He sets a footstool down, and gestures as he unlocks the display. "The third shelf from the top is all we have."
Sebastian wonders if having a whole shelf on Grimoires is unusual. Considering the decor, he imagines that it might be. "I see." He smiles. The books do not have titles, he notes, so much as they have ornate bindings and deep, richly dyed leathers. "Have you studied them closely?"
Ciel shrugs. "I don't have much time for reading on dark magic," he admits, "but I have heard that even one of these is a collection maker." He steps onto the footstool and pulls a small tome from the top. His small hands are delicately formed, and Sebastian immediately notices a silver ring...a signet ring? Or a class ring?
Sebastian accepts the black tome, and inspects the violet pentacle on the cover. He opens it to find a hand-written, paper tag inserted between the velum and the first page.
Some knowledge of Latin and Greek may help your understanding. You will require some magical implements for certain spells. Return when you know which spells you wish to attempt, and the Undertaker will assist you with creating a supply list.
"Authentic Grimoire, Handwritten, early 1800s. £250."
"Hm," Sebastian remarks, and leafs through the first few pages.
Sebastian considers the diagrams and spells and dismisses them as New Age rubbish. Or, if it actually was written two hundred years earlier, then it was the fantasies of some long-dead crazy person.
Ciel stands to the side, watching the older man flip through the pages, making sure the customer doesn't damage or outright steal the handwritten tome. He follows Sebastian's hands back to the home shelf, smiling with satisfaction. Ciel tries to go back to his domain (only after locking the display), but a touch to his elbow stops him.
"If I can trouble you further….make me some tea, please." The young man's request rings of proper upbringing, but his thin, half-smile together with his handsome face makes it more of a veiled demand. "Do you have Ceylon Silver Tea?"
Ciel snaps his eyes away from the long, elegant hands. "Pardon?"
Sebastian is quiet. "A white tea." He clarifies. "Or Assam?"
Ciel continues looking blankly in his direction.
"It's an Indian tea, known for its malty, full-bodied flavor." Sebastian supplies. He smiles charmingly once again.
"We have Jasmine tea, Black tea, Earl Grey, and Her Majesty's Blend." Ciel lists. He moves behind the counter. "We also have a Café Late, Café Americano, Chai, and…drip-coffee." He tilts his head to the side. "I have under good word that the Chai is very authentic."
Sebastian nods. "Hm." He appears to consider it, and in the end shakes his head. "Jasmine tea, then." Instead of sitting down to wait for the tea to be brewed, Sebastian leans on the counter, watching Ciel prepare the tea. His eyes follow Ciel's hands, from his carefully measuring of the tea leaves, to the testing the temperature of the boiling water and painstakingly measured-out, proper quantity and all, into the small teapot. He sets a kitchen timer, and then readies a tray, napkin, spoon and cup on a tray.
Three minutes of steeping later, he places the ensemble in front of Sebastian. "Would you like a pastry or biscuit?"
"Watching you brew tea is like watching a science experiment." Sebastian replies slowly. "Tea is not a science—it's an art." He pours a cup, taking a spoonful of the clear-but-golden tea. "But his is passable." He smiles at last.
Ciel nods again, and makes himself busy cleaning up the bar, feeling Sebastian's gaze on him for a moment.
"Do you go to school around here? Studying the A-levels, perhaps?"
"I'm a senior this year."
"Well, now." The smile widens, and Ciel notices the other man's deep red eyes. "Do you know what you're doing after graduation? University, perhaps, or employment?" He raises an eyebrow.
Ciel barely keeps from scowling. "Do you need milk with your tea, Sebastian?"
"I'm sure the Undertaker would love you to stay part time, but I know of several places that might hire a young man such as yourself. If you're willing to work with the occult and dress so charmingly," his eyes go up and down Ciel's body, fixing on his eye patch, "there are many opportunities for you."
Ciel frowns openly. "I'm not interested in 'occult friendly' employment." He sniffs, and abandons his post in favor of helping the Undertaker find the specially ordered books.
"Hello Ciel." Undertaker looks up from a box of Sok-Sok key-chains. He dangles a pirate in one hand, and a tiny, string-wrapped figure clutching a heart. "Could you tell Sebastian that he'll have to come back? It looks like there was a mistake in the order sheet."
"You tell him. I'll set up the key-chain display."
Undertaker smiles, showing too many teeth. "Only if you give me a first rate laugh." He looks at Ciel expectantly, as though he'll come up with a joke on the spot.
Ciel sighs. "Do you have a box in for the café?" he pleads.
"Do you need help with the key-chains?" whiny, but hopeful, Ciel persists.
"He's an interesting man, that Sebastian… you ought to talk with him, He might have something you're looking for."
"Hah." Ciel snorts. "That guy just suggested I work for people interested in the occult. He sounds like a pimp, if you ask me."
"Pimp?" Sebastian's lips curve into a frown. "I like to think I offer better services than that."
Ciel whirls around, color rising to his cheeks. "Services?" Ciel arches an eyebrow with contempt.
Sebastian sighs, a properly offended expression on his face. He decides to explain…after a fashion.
"I work for the people." He says airily. "But I find it's hard to get new ideas into the industry when people think they can do the same thing with help of a blog." A hint of amusement pulls at his lips.
Ciel purses his lip, coloring all the more. Something like amateur porn?he wonders silently.
The Undertaker nods absently. "It's hard to get an authentic, but artistic atmosphere that still fits the customer's mood."
Atmosphere? Mood? Increasingly alarmed, Ciel's gaze darts to the little heart-holding toy. Trying for orgasm faces?He wonders.
"Yes, of course. The mood is most important in all things. For example, it's always a challenge to make an elegant but dignified space with a limited budget." Sebastian agrees, and his gaze wanders around the slightly cluttered bookshop.
The Undertaker laughs, his eyes trained on Ciel's red face. "Yes, but some people prefer honesty." The Undertaker smiles continuously. "People naturally have things, you know...We cement our lives with objects, though none come with us in the end." He continues laughing to himself, and twirls one of the key-chains.
Sebastian bows a little. "In your case, the online web services are probably quite a disadvantage…"
"Whereas in yours, it's a definite plus." Ciel mutters.
Raising an eyebrow, Sebastian shakes his head. "Not as much as you might think." He cocks his head a fraction. "An increasing presence of people who think they know what they're doing online makes it hard to distinguish a professional from a tinker."
Ciel blinks, finally floored. He's a porn web designer?Unbidden, the words fall out of his mouth.
"What are you, an amateur porn director?"
Sebastian's cool demeanor crumbling into outright laughter. His thin shoulders shake with laughter. The Undertaker looks on with a confused frown. But he laughs too, always ready to join in on amusement.
Ciel turns on his heel, escaping behind the tea counter.
Sebastian Michaelis, in the throes of helpless laughter, only watches. This "sweet" child is more suspicious than he had expected. He certainly wasn't expecting that…Said boy, pink in the cheeks and refusing to meet his gaze, has all but disappeared into the background.
Sebastian excuses himself shortly after, intent on coming back when the good Undertaker is away.
Ah, but this was a good morning.
Where their next conversation will take them, he does not know. But he looks forward to it…
I intended this story to be quick, which is why the action picks up suddenly in chapter 2. But my friends and readers encouraged me, so I wrote more. ..thus, the pacing on this one fluctuates. XD
If you want darker, more serious Kuro, see my other fic, "The Secret Name" It is chalk full of seriousness...and plot.
If you want better structured fanfic, see "A Demon's Pursuit." I actually planned for that one to be long.