Her husband has many names. He is called Lord Phantomhive, the Queen's Guard Dog and others as well… Those are the ones she hears most often, the ones that many use, these are the ones that she never uses but recognizes. These names are the ones spoken at high parties, behind his back and sometimes to his face; the ones that make him smile (that false smile that he sometimes wears) as he moves another piece on the chessboard. To him these names are not quite as significant as they are to them, they are only false titles bestowed upon him, in the end they mean nothing. She knows there are other names but these are the names she doesn't know; the ones she wouldn't recognize if she heard them.
Elizabeth loves her husband; she truly does. She has always loved Ciel and from the moment he returned from the abyss she continued to love him. But sometimes she feels as if she is loving a mask and that the man underneath is not her husband and is not named Ciel.
She tries not to think things like that.
It's very nice at the mansion; she likes the hustle and bustle of things, she always has, and she's happy that now she's living in it. She can see Ciel whenever she likes, she can make him happier now whenever she can, she can stop worrying because he's out of sight.
She gets along well with the staff, there's only the four of them god knows how they get anything done, and they're very friendly. They've been with Ciel for a while now, six years they say, and like her they do everything within their power to make him smile. But then, sometimes, sometimes she thinks they have secrets too. Sometimes a look will come over their faces and then Sebastian is there, taking her to another room, one away from the windows.
She was warned about this, partly, by her father. "The Phantomhives," he said, "Are not like the rest of the nobility. They live in the shadows of England, do their duty for their country in a more unsavory fashion than the rest of us. I'm sure you know this Elizabeth but, don't be surprised at what the guard dog brings into his home."
But she had already known that, everyone had, Ciel is a very conspicuous guard dog but a very good one too. She is proud of him; she's told him so many times but when she does he looks at her sideways out of that one blue eyes and sees stark doubt flashing through them as if breaking her down into pieces and deciding what truly runs in her mind. She often wonders what he would say to someone else if they had told him that; what secret he might let go. But then she isn't one of those people she's just Lizzie, she's just his wife.
It was a beautiful wedding and everyone came. She remembers now planning it with Ciel; they had been in salon, it had only been a year ago he was sixteen then. He sat in the chair behind his desk surveying the invitations with a critical eye, silently remarking on the quality, texture, lettering; all the little details that seemed so very important to him. In a dark business suit, with a single eye patch, he looked different than he had when he was younger. He had finally grown to a respectable adult height, and with it he had decided to 'tone down' his wardrobe. She remembered screaming over it in fits of agony because he had been just so adorable in his old outfits. He didn't seem to care, he hadn't even smiled, he'd just given her this look and walked out of the room rubbing the bridge of his nose with a hand as if to drown out the headaches.
"It looks fine." He had said, remarking on the invitation held in its hand. "It's good to send out."
"Well, Ciel, who do you want to invite?" She asked as he set down the invitation on the desk, to be scattered among the business papers and case files that would inevitably find their way to its surface.
"No one." He said sharply. His eyes clouded then and he sighed appearing to reconsider, "No, you're right Lizzie, there are some people that must be invited."
"Well, my family's already coming. But what about your side of the church? Have you thought of anyone to ask?" She asked.
He gave her a sharp and dubious look then, as if doubting her sanity, and then returned his gaze to the invitation, "Business associates certainly, the staff will come… I suppose I'll have Sebastian make up a list."
(And Sebastian, there was always Sebastian, even when he was in another room his ghost breathed through Ciel. Yes, there was someone who once said that the butler was Ciel's shadow. Standing behind his throne with that knowing smile on his face.)
"Sebastian?" She had asked rather taken aback trying to hide the dreaded understanding that had come over her, "I know he's a good butler…"
"One hell of a butler." Ciel interrupted with a small smile (and she had the feeling that she was missing out on some unknown joke. She had heard that phrase before but…)
"Ciel," She continued looking him in the eye, "I think you should pick, not Sebastian. He may be a great butler but, he's not you. It's your decision. Not his. It's not his wedding."
Sebastian picked anyway. Even though Ciel had looked at her so softly after she said that, with a small compassionate smile, even though he had walked her to the door politely and kissed her on the cheek. Somehow, it wasn't enough.
So the wedding came, and it was beautiful. Together they made the perfect couple, even with his one eye and his reputation, she wouldn't have taken anyone else. She danced with her father and then with him. She remembered when he had first learned to dance, he had been so slow and awkward, his face flushed. Over the years he'd gotten better, he even smiled.
(And in the background a familiar waltz played, in a minor key, on a violin played by a butler in black; and Ciel's eyes darted away from hers for only a moment to stare at the stage where there stood a lone musician.)
Still, some of those at the wedding she was certain her husband or Sebastian hadn't invited.
Lau had come with the woman he called his sister, whatever their relation. He had even spoken to her for a little while. He stood in traditional Chinese outfit with the golden eyed girl hanging on his arm, he didn't seem to notice the blatant stares at her outfit, or at the way she clung to him like a silent paper doll.
"Quite a man you've picked out for yourself." He remarked to her casually, though she swore she had never spoken to him before. She blinked at him in confusion and then smiled deciding it didn't really matter, it was her day after all.
"Oh, you must be Mr. Lau. Yes, I'm very happy." She said smiling and turning to find Ciel somewhere in the crowd.
"It's funny, I never suspected he'd stay collared for this long. But then, the earl is more of a spider than he is a dog." The man mused then turning his head to look down at the woman in his arms, "Wouldn't you say, Renmao?"
"I'm sorry, I'm not quite sure I understand what you're…" Elizabeth trailed off as the man lifted his head once again to stare straight into her eyes. Before turning his head to find Ciel in the crowd, talking to an Indian prince with a look of dismay on his face as if he desperately wished to be somewhere else, looking at the young earl with an expression that was a cross between compassion and amusement.
"Even a well-trained dog may become impatient without proper excitement or incentive." Lau said still staring at Ciel with that strange intensity, "But spiders, spiders wait, they wait in the corners unseen, spinning webs that are both delicate and strong. Spiders can be patient." Lau turned back to her then with a brighter smile that spoke of less secrets, "Of course, this is no conversation for a wedding, is it?"
She never got the chance to ask him why, and most of the time she's certain she wouldn't want to.
Then there were the others, the ones that she couldn't quite name, the ones that waited in the shadows and spoke only to Ciel, before mysteriously departing without speaking to another soul. These were the nameless things, these were the doll makers sitting in their shops humming an ode to the fallen bridge and a fair lady.
There was a tall man with long gray hair and scars all over his face, he wore a broken top hat, and seemed to find everything funny. He waited in the corner of the room, a drink in hand, a slice of cake in the other watching Ciel through silver hair covering his face. Eventually Ciel went over to speak with him, leaving Elizabeth dancing in the arms of her father.
She found her way to Sebastian who was watching the pair of them with narrowed, suspicious eyes. When she approached the eyes softened as they turned to her, the true thoughts hidden behind the façade of familiar butler, the man who had been at the earl's side and service for seven years.
"Congratulations Elizabeth," He said with a slight smile bowing his head slightly, "The ceremony was magnificent."
Elizabeth had looked at him only for a moment before her distracted gaze caught sight of the pale man in the top hat and her husband again. Sebastian's gaze followed but she couldn't make out his expression.
"Sebastian, that man Ciel's talking to, I've never seen him before. Who is he?" She asked looking at him.
"An old acquaintance of my master's," He said in an almost uninterested tone those his eyes were watching the pair of them carefully, "They've worked together for many years now."
"Oh so Ciel did invite him then, I was wondering because he looks so…" She trailed off as Sebastian's gaze turned to hers looking distantly annoyed but still with that gleam of interest.
"He has a terrible habit of appearing to events without invitation; I did not expect to see him here today. Still, at least he has the decency to hold in at least some of his eccentricity, I can't say anything for the Indian prince." With that the butler motioned to said Indian prince who had brought too many dishes of curry to count, several dancers, and an elephant that waited outside.
(She had found that, in the course of their relationship, Ciel's guests tended to be a lot more interesting than hers.)
Yes, it was a beautiful wedding, wasn't it? Such a beautiful wedding…
But that was the mask, and the mask was not reality.
Reality was the night afterwards, Ciel simply looking at her with that one eye, that one single blue eye in the darkened bed chamber. They stood there left without words or ceremony, no more white dresses, no more rings, no more smiling. His hand reached for the eye patch slowly, touched the hidden eye (she had never asked how he lost it, she'd never dared) and then shakily fell back to his side. He smiled weakly then.
"Well, here we are." He said.
Her husband the Queen's Guard Dog, the earl of Phantomhive, and head of the Phantomhive estate and that was all he had to say.
The butler came the next morning announcing the brand of the tea and the pastries that accompanied it. She said nothing, only watched as he and his master went through the mechanical routine they'd honed through seven years. It struck her then that Sebastian had been with Ciel for almost half his life, for Ciel there hadn't been much of a time without Sebastian.
Sometimes people would come up to her, or to Ciel, and remarked how he looked like his late mother or perhaps even his father. He would smile and thank them politely saying that he hadn't had the time to look at photographs and that he had almost forgotten their faces. In the corner the butler would walk silently into the room and she would know that they were wrong, they were all wrong, the one Ciel had come to resemble most was the butler, and no one else.
There have been times when she's thought about asking Ciel to fire him. But then, she thinks, that she can never quite come up with a reason why. Sebastian has been undyingly loyal to his master, almost like a father, but… Sebastian is not a kind man, he is cold, and untouchable. He stands above all of them almost indifferent except for the few moments of emotion that pass fleetingly across his features. She has the feeling when she looks at him that he is there for Ciel, not out of affection or compassion or even the loyalty really but out of some ineffable reason that haunts her like a shadow.
No, she has no reason to. And even if she came to him, begged him to do it, Ciel would never let Sebastian go. And why should he? Sebastian was there when no one else was. It would be Sebastian who stood by Ciel's side at the end, not her, never her. No, Ciel would only look at her sharply and say it was just her imagination (lying very carefully) and storing the incident away for further notice. Playing the game, playing the game of chess as he always did, and waiting for her move.
So she plays the wife and him the lord of the underworld. She has come to suspect that there are two underworlds, not one. Sometimes the underworld is Lau and opium other times it is something else entirely. It is an undertaker, a butler, or something called a reaper.
When he plays the earl of Phantomhive she is allowed to sit in on his meetings and watch him play chess with his many opponents. These are the nobility, the ones she invited to the wedding, business associates, and all those who walk the path of the light. They find her charming, enough so to dispel their dislike for Ciel (and to them he is ruthless, a powerful tyrant who plays and wins by any means, but then that's what business is, even a business centered on children's happiness.)
He plays other roles though; when he is the Queen's Guard Dog it is different. Sometimes she isn't allowed to sit in on the meetings. She's never told directly that she is forbidden to come but there is a certain look in Ciel's eye and then the butler will appear and she is cleverly diverted to another room to try a dessert perhaps or to look at the latest fashion from Paris. All the while she'll watch Ciel disappear with Lau or some other lord of darkness behind solid oak doors. (There are so many closed doors in his life).
Then there is the other Ciel; the Ciel that is what Lau calls the spider and not the dog. He rarely has visitors. She only knows when he does because she finds the bed empty, without notice or explanation, and when she leaves and calls for him she finds the butler instead and the long hallway back to the master bedroom. His name is the one she doesn't know and isn't entirely certain she cares to.
She loves Ciel, more than anything, but sometimes she thinks she is loving a mask and that the Ciel she knows and knew is in fact nothing. He's nothing more than the butler's façade.
So she sits alone in the salon holding back the tears and thinking of the good times they've had. All the wonderful moments; all those smiles, grudgingly but finally coming into place, all the timid steps across the dance floor. She thinks of his thirteenth birthday, and the warmth inside his home, his slightly annoyed expression, and the snow and darkness left on the outside and not in their hearts. Yes, there are good times.
She had announced last night that they were going to have a child. The staff was thrilled, they always were. Meyrin, Finnie, Bard, Tanaka; all of them smiling and laughing and opening the champagne making an absolute mess of things. She had laughed too, running to her husband, and hugging him kissing him and then leaning back with the widest grin she's ever possessed. (She didn't dare tell herself how he had looked at the moment she announced it, the struck look in his eyes, as if he had been shot unexpectedly and now lay bleeding on the carpet.)
"Isn't it wonderful, Ciel? We're going to have a baby!" She said drawing him close, ignoring the shadow of the butler hanging over her.
"Yes," He said distractedly his voice softer than she expected. He then turned to her his smile returning slowly and repeated, "Yes, it's wonderful, Lizzie. We're going to have a baby."
"We should pick out names. For boys and for girls, start early that way by the time the babies born we'll have the best name ever. What do you think?"
"Yes, yes, that's a good idea." He said trailing off his voice becoming softer as he stared ahead into an abyss she could not see.
"I'm thinking something interesting and exciting, but not too exotic, like your name Ciel. I've always thought Elizabeth is kind of boring, but Ciel, Ciel's such an interesting name. So we should look for names like that."
But he wasn't listening, he wasn't listening at all. It was like that day with the ring, when she had broken it, he had brought up his hand for reasons she could not fathom and then had stopped as if seeing her lack of understanding. She had thrown it to the ground and in that moment of a childish fit she had done far more than break a ring. In the moment she announced her pregnancy she had told Ciel something quite different, something she'd never be able to understand.
She didn't see him the rest of the evening.
It was only by accident that she walked past his office, the door ajar, and saw him with his head on the table and a glass of whisky in his hand. She crouched by the doorway to get a better look watching as the light glinted off the bottle and a gloved hand reached to re-pour into the half-filled glass.
"You do know that if I die of alcohol poisoning it will break the contract." She heard through the doorway, his voice a soft sound both amused and broken.
"Of course, master." Came the words of the butler, indifferent as always, or perhaps there was amusement for him as well. She could never tell his emotions for Ciel. With others it was easier. Frustration for the servants, arrogance and sheer amusement for his master's rivals, and for her distaste. Yes, it's almost distaste, for her.
"Then why are you so intent on pushing the bottle?" Ciel asked in that harsher tone that he never used to address her, that he kept hidden from her.
The butler's hand disappeared and she heard the shifting of furniture as if the man had taken a seat. She wondered if it was true, she had never seen the butler sitting, or in casual conversation with anyone. But then, she was not Ciel and the butler put on quite a show for anyone who was not Ciel.
"To be frank master, it's because you need it."
The clinking of glass as Ciel lifted to drink and set it back down on the table. Not quite empty but not nearly as full as it was.
"I shouldn't be a father." He said more strength in his voice.
"No, you shouldn't." Sebastian reaffirmed, "But then there are other things that shouldn't be yet simply are. We must learn to accept the fates which we cannot change."
A small harsh laugh from Ciel, "I've been told that before, but not by you. Is this a lecture on revenge?"
"No," And she could hear it then, the smile in the butler's voice, "If you'll remember correctly master, you yourself have quite a different take on revenge than the average human."
A moment of silence passed between them and in that silence Elizabeth simply breathed by the door willing to be unseen and yet to know and hear. She didn't understand but she wanted to, she wanted to, and then she didn't.
"No child deserves me for a father." Ciel said with more conviction in his voice, "Abberline was a father…"
"How generous of you, to spare thoughts for a pawn." The butler said in a droll tone of one who questions the statement and yet knows the true answer.
"Not thoughts, truth, even dead that man was a better father than I will ever be." Ciel replied harshly, "They're taking their time. Seven years, seven years I have ruled the underworld, made my name known. For seven years I have waited… The doll maker, the angel, I thought… It seemed so very clean. I suppose not, though, life isn't a play and the world not a stage."
"Yes, it seems there are more lunatics in the world than you thought." The butler mused.
"Hamlet would have killed himself by now. You were wrong; I wasn't the Prince of Denmark after all. Claudius is dead and yet it doesn't seem to mean anything, it turns out that ghosts do lie." She heard a sigh and the clinking of glass again, the whisky was gone and the butler reached to refill the bottle.
"No, I wasn't wrong." Sebastian said, Ciel raised his head to look at him his eye still sharp despite the alcohol.
"Then perhaps they're dead. Perhaps it was Claudius and we simply didn't know it. Perhaps the contract is a farce after all." Ciel picked up the now full glass and observed it, "I've had too much."
"Perhaps." Was the butler's only response.
"The best I can offer that child is a few years, a few years of distracted attention, closed doors… And then I'll be gone. The contract fulfilled." Still looking at the glass with a kind of emptiness Ciel proceeded to drink again, "I've had far too much."
She couldn't stay, she couldn't make herself stay. It wasn't the words she didn't understand, the secrets, or the closed doors it was that emptiness in his eye, an emptiness he had always attempted to keep hidden from her and yet it was there like an abyss. That empty gaze, that empty man, was her husband. She just couldn't stay.
He wandered into the bedroom sometime later, he said goodnight, smelling all the while of whiskey. And she couldn't manage to say anything back, she didn't think he even noticed. She knew though, that the next day he would try to dispel whatever worried her; he'd give into parties, plaster that false smile on his face, all an elaborate show just for her own happiness.
She didn't want that, she didn't want the show anymore, she wanted to see him screaming if it meant that it was real.
So she went to find the butler instead.
She had never truly talked to Sebastian, he was always present, always polite, but he remained unapproachable. He wasn't like the other servants, he wasn't friendly or kind, he was something other. Everyone spoke high praise of him but in the end she could tell he made everyone uneasy; everyone except perhaps for Ciel himself.
"Lady Elizabeth, I believe congratulations are in order. Did you need something?" Asked the butler who was still in the office clearing out the various signs of life into their respective hiding places.
She just looked at him, past the charming butler and said, "I'm worried about Ciel. He's been drinking, I saw him before I retired."
Something of the act of the butler slipped away and Sebastian began to look at her more critically, he didn't say anything merely continued performing his task.
"Why can't he be happy? Especially with a child…"
The butler interrupted her rather coldly, "The master is not an angry drunk, rather, he is an honest one. It was better for you and for him if he was honest to himself now rather than after the fact."
She made her way closer to the butler in order to look at him fully in the face. She stopped before getting too close watching those amber eyes (always with that hint of crimson) stare back at her, "You know him much better than any of us, I think."
"You're too kind; you're his wife and I'm simply his butler."
(Ah yes, they did seem to love that particular line.)
"No, that's what you two play at." And as she said it she saw the change in his expression the slight reassessing of the situation, "I'm not the one who brought him back after his parents died and he disappeared. That was you, and it's been you by his side ever since. I just, I just wish it was me." Her voice was soft but it seemed to echo through the room, dim the lights, and take the mask away from all the actors.
Lizzie looked away from him for a moment, having an instinctive need to duck her head, "I really don't know him at all, do I?"
"No, you don't." The butler said, and just like that all the illusions were shattered precious dreams upon the pavement.
She met his gaze again seeing there that same distant enjoyment as if he was viewing his master.
"But this is not uncommon, there are very few who know the master." Sebastian drawled, "He's a man of many faces."
She had known. She had always known that there was a truth behind him that she had never seen. She just, she just didn't want to hear it from anyone else. The whiskey was gone but in that moment she pictured herself in his place, that bottle in front of her, and that delicate clink as the bottle touched the empty glass and the whiskey began to pour in.
"I only want him to be happy. Why can't I even do that much?"
He only smiled, that was all and then somehow she was alone he having left to perform other duties before retiring himself. As he left he wished her plesant dreams. And so there she is, there she is, and she can do nothing.
She imagines that to others they will seem happy; it's all about the seeming for her and Ciel, the show they put on for each other. And yet, the actors, although they tried to forget for the performance itself eventually they found themselves backstage staring in the mirror. The show was only for a moment, the truth was eternity.
Who knows, maybe she'll think they're happy too, maybe she'll forget the whiskey and the closed doors, the butlers and the drug lords. Maybe she'll forget, and think that those soft smiles are enough, that they are real.
In the meantime she sits in the darkness, holding back tears, thinking of all the names and all the masks her husband wears.
Author's Note: As you can tell AU, the basic premise is that while the showdown with the angel occured (as in the anime) the angel was not solely responsible and Ciel was forced to continue searching in the mean time marrying Elizabeth. Thank you for reading, reviews would be excellent.
Disclaimer: I don't own Black Butle