A/N: Thank you everyone for your support! It means a lot to me :3 I hope y'all enjoy the chapter
Disclaimer: I don't own Kuroshitsuji
Claude stared at the list he held between his fingers and read Sebastian's neat handwriting. There was nothing strange about doing errands on the weekend, or anytime during the week for that matter. Except Claude would leave tomorrow for his convention and they would usually spend the day together. However, as it was, after Claude's disastrous attempt to propose on Friday, Sebastian had shut himself up in the study.
It started Saturday morning and when Claude woke, he found himself alone in the bed. Sebastian had already started his day and the smell of coffee lingered in the air along with the hint of toast. Claude had assumed that Sebastian would be in the kitchen, but found the kitchen void of life. He backtracked to the office and found the door shut, the light tapping of keys filling the room beyond the door.
Soot curled around his legs, crying at him. Or rather she cried for Sebastian and hoped that Claude would let her inside the office. But the door remained closed despite Soot's begging voice and, to Claude's surprise, the door stayed locked.
Sebastian rarely locked the office door. The only time he did was when he needed to make a deadline and he found himself severely behind schedule. But as far as Claude knew, Sebastian was on schedule for his draft and the draft wasn't due until mid-November. The situation left him uneasy and Claude had taken to pacing their small house for the majority of the day.
Soot deemed it fit to follow him, pestering Claude in hopes that he could get Sebastian to answer the door, and on more than one occasion, tripped him during his pacing. Then had the audacity to give him a look that said it was his fault.
Claude scowled and shoved the last item into the basket before heading to the checkout line. He didn't know if Friday night had somehow upset Sebastian and Claude felt the failure of that night press even harder against his shoulders. He wondered if Sebastian felt ashamed that he had broken down so easily to a simple owl. Not so simple in Claude's mind but he didn't expect anyone to understand.
And even if Sebastian didn't feel embarrassed about the situation, Claude certainly did. The emotion choked him, even more than the bitter taste of failure that filled his mouth. It stayed lodged in his throat and every time Claude tried to free himself from the feeling, it somehow dug itself even tighter into the base of his throat. Tiny barb like daggers sinking their way into his flesh until Claude could taste the mix of blood and bile on his tongue.
He swallowed again as he climbed into the car, trying his best not to think about that night or the ones that loomed ahead. Would Sebastian even want to go another date with him after last time? A small logical part in Claude's mind told him he was over reacting, but Claude pointedly ignored the voice as he gripped the steering wheel tighter.
When did logic ever fit perfectly when dealing with love? Never. Wasn't there a saying that people did stupid things while they were in love? Claude thought he heard that before, or something like it at least, and found that it canceled out the logical voice inside his mind.
For whatever reason Sebastian had locked himself in the study, Claude knew that he was somewhat partially responsible. The timing fit too well and he refused to dismiss that theory unless Sebastian told him otherwise. It made him nervous though, as he pulled into the driveway and slipped the keys from the ignition.
He could sit inside the car all day or take a drive to give Sebastian his space. But Claude quickly dismissed the thoughts from his mind. He had to leave tomorrow for three days. That would give Sebastian all the privacy in the world. Besides, they weren't fighting. Sebastian still slept with him at night and let Claude hold him.
That was all the motivation Claude needed to leave the car. He shrugged off the majority of the self-pity, even though some still remained, and walked up to the front door and let himself in, bags swinging lazily in his grip.
Claude kicked the door shut behind him, letting it slam loudly throughout the house. He locked the door and juggled the bags in his hands, cursing slightly as the binders smacked against his legs. They had probably bruised the bananas too, but he couldn't bring himself to care. A quick look at the clock showed that it was five in the afternoon and Claude still had to pack for his trip tomorrow.
"Sebastian!" He called and toed his shoes off. "I'm back! Come get the stuff you wanted, you lazy ass."
The house remained quiet and Claude growled under his breath. It seemed that Sebastian hadn't left the office once again and Claude ground his teeth together, feeling frustrated. And slightly confused if he could admit it. He didn't know why Sebastian had decided to lock himself in the office the weekend Claude had to leave, but the thought settled uneasily in his stomach.
He didn't bother to call Sebastian's name again, knowing that Sebastian wouldn't answer. Instead, he headed towards the kitchen so he could put up the few articles of food on Sebastian's list. After that, he would start packing. Might as well get that done and perhaps drown his sorrows with a movie once he finished everything.
The bags rustled as he entered the kitchen, knocking against his legs and overall getting on Claude's nerves. He paused, the bags swinging back and forth, and the handles twisting uncomfortably around his fingers. They cut off the circulation and dug into his skin, but Claude could barely feel the biting pressure as his body grew numb.
He swallowed around the lump in his throat, probably his heart because it pounded painfully somewhere in the location of his neck, and tried to will his body to move forward. His toes curled in response but his legs refused to move and each movement of the second hand ticking on the clock in the living room screeched in his ears.
Claude's mouth parted ever so slightly, just enough to let air pass between his lips and he finally had enough sense to draw in a sharp breath. He almost choked on the sudden intake of air and his shoulders jerked as he coughed. The bags jumped in his grip as his shoulders shook, alerting Claude to their presence.
Finally, his mind forced his fingers to uncurl and the bags crashed to the floor. The binders smacked loudly against the linoleum but the sound remained dull in Claude's ears. Everything in his world, minus the still loud ticking and the roar of his heart in his ears, which almost drowned out the ticking sound, had narrowed down to a tiny pinprick.
It focused on the empty kitchen table. The one they bought three years back after the old table collapsed. Probably due to the sex they had on it the night before, but that was neither here nor now. Two things about the table struck Claude as odd.
The first being that the normally cluttered table, filled with Sebastian's manuscripts, medical reports for Claude, stacks of bills, and other random items haphazardly thrown on the surface, was oddly clean. For a brief moment, Claude marveled at how clean the table looked and wondered if they should make an effort to keep it that way more often.
The second, and probably most important piece of information that struck Claude, were the lone two objects that sat on top of the now cleaned table. He finally forced his legs forward and tripped slightly over the bags on the floor as he walked towards the table. His eyes focused solely on the small box that sat innocently, Claude snorted at that, on the table.
He knew that box. He knew it intimately after looking at it every day since the day he bought it. The velvet still looked the same and Claude reached out to touch the soft fabric, just to make sure he wasn't hallucinating. His hand jerked back quickly though at the fuzzy touch over the pads of his fingers and Claude sucked in a deep breath.
Claude's mind sputtered to a grinding halt, crashed, and refused to reboot. The tired clogs and gears squeaked in protest as he tried to make them work, and Claude felt confusion override his system instead. Why, for all that was good and scared, was the ring box sitting on their kitchen table? So blatantly visible and just…sitting there! Why was it there?!
His mind lurched forward, trying to supply answers to all the questions that suddenly flooded his mind. Perhaps the dresser and kitchen table had decided to connive against him. A conspiracy? Maybe the couch was in on it too. Or this was an otherworldly sign that Claude shouldn't give up? Or, or… His thoughts slowed down and rational began to seep into his mind.
It soothed his frayed nerves and reminded him that something else sat on the table along with the box. Claude sighed, deep and shuddering, as his mind properly started to assess the situation before him. It rebooted properly, like a freshly reformatted computer, and started to shift through the proper commands needed to function.
First things first. Claude picked up the other object that accompanied the ring box and felt its weight settle comfortably in his hand. He knew this object as well, a small black binder and similar to the ones Sebastian used to store his stories. Each binder held a story, complete with handwritten notes in the margins, maps, and other details Sebastian made while writing. Claude preferred to read the binder version of the story compared to the published version.
He pulled out the chair and took a seat at the table. Claude's heart still raced, but it no longer hammered painfully in his chest/throat area anymore. He could breathe properly, despite the confusion that still ran rampant through his body. His fingers tapped the binder, nervous to open it and see what hid inside.
Finally, he let out another long sigh and opened the cover. A title page greeted him, as it always did and Claude hovered over the binder as he started to read.
"There once lived two black cats. One had amber eyes, soft as the suns yellow rays, and a short, sometimes ruffled coat. He was the older of the two cats, if only by a few months, and was very smart. The other had auburn eyes, deep as a rich red wine, and a sleek black coat. It looked very regal."
Claude snorted and could barely stop himself from rolling his eyes again. "Honestly Sebastian?" He mused and traced over the small illustration of two black cats playing with each other.
They grew up together as friends and as time passed, they slowly grew to care more for each other. Years passed and their relationship blossomed. It wasn't without its bad times, as no relationship could claim perfection, yet it was theirs. After several years, the older cat, Faust decided to propose to the younger cat, Bast."
Claude's grip tightened on the binder at the words and the uncomfortable lump in his throat made itself known again. He knew Sebastian had found the ring, obviously, as it sat on the table before him and through that, probably knew about the proposal. But how much did Sebastian actually know? He leaned back and swallowed, hoping to dislodge the feeling in his throat.
He looked back at the binder and its colorful illustrations. His answer lay within the pages of the binder and Claude flipped the page again, losing himself in the story once more.
"He first tried to propose at a restaurant. But oh no! Crash! Boom! Thunder and lightning filled the skies. And before Faust could ask Bast the magic question, the lights went out. Poor Faust, he felt so sad."
Claude's lips twitched slightly at the words despite himself. His fingers brushed across the page, stroking the cat that supposedly represented him. Or at least how Sebastian interpreted him as a cat.
"But Bast tried his best to cheer up Faust. He didn't like seeing the other cat so sad. So, they played in the rain until Faust seemed happy again and then they went home. They were very happy that night."
"Very happy indeed," Claude murmured as the memory of the night surfaced once more.
"The second time Faust tried to ask Bast, they stayed inside. Faust brought treats and movies, and offered cuddles all night long. How could Bast say no? But a close friend to Bast fell sick and Bast had to take her to the doctor. Faust wasn't happy and tried to get Bast to stay. They had a small fight and Bast left Faust alone. No cuddles for Faust or Bast that night. They were both very sad. But no matter what, Bast still loved Faust."
An illustration on the next page showed Bast carrying Soot in his mouth while Faust watched him leave. Both their ears pressed flat against their skulls and they had their eyes downcast. Soft blues filled the background, invoking a melancholic tone that tugged at Claude's emotions.
"The third time, Faust found a visitor in their home. Bast's little brother came to visit, but the kitten and Faust didn't like each other. They hissed and yowled terrible things and Bast could only shake his head. He loved them both, but sometimes he thought they acted silly. But when Faust suggested they go for a walk together, Bast happily agreed.
"Faust planned to propose during the walk, but alas, he couldn't find the ring. His tail hung low when they left the house, even though Bast tried his best to make him smile. They looked at the pretty fall leaves and as their walk continued, Faust seemed a little happier. They shared a kiss behind the trees against the setting sun. Bast didn't know if Faust was happy, but Bast had enjoyed the walk. Especially the kiss at the end. It made his little heart beat faster."
Claude didn't know whether to laugh or shake his head at the illustration of the two cats kissing. In reality, their noses simply touched and their eyes had closed, but Claude understood the simple picture. It made his heart swell and race just a little more. His shoulders relaxed more and Claude turned the page. He already knew what would happen each time, but hearing it from Sebastian's perspective, although told in a rather simple and childish way, made him smile and he wanted to know more.
"After that, Faust surprised Bast with tickets to see his favorite composer. The news made little Bast very happy, especially when Faust came with him. It meant the world to him. Not that he would tell Faust that. He had his pride after all. They went to the concert and had wonderful seats. Bast could see everything!
"However, Faust had a long day and felt tired. He tried to stay awake, but the music only made him sleepier and he ended up falling asleep. Bast thought Faust looked endearing, especially when he leaned against him to sleep. Bast couldn't help but nuzzle the sleeping Faust and he purred happily through the whole concert. But poor Faust felt bad when he woke up, because he missed his chance to propose. His ears lowered and he looked sad again, even though Bast told him he had a good time.
"Kitty kisses did nothing to cheer Faust up, even after they went to sleep. So Bast let Faust hold him all night long and hoped it would make him feel better. He liked it when Faust smiled."
Another page turned and Claude lingered on the illustration that covered two pages. One showed the two black cats sitting side by side, watching a person play the piano in front of them. The taller of the two cats had its head resting against the smaller one and their tails curled around each other. Warm colors, reds and yellows, helped contrast the page and Claude felt his body warm at the sight.
He knew Sebastian had enjoyed the concert but Claude didn't think he had liked it that much. Yet Sebastian's words spoke true, dark and flowing across the crisp pages before him. They were thoughts that Sebastian couldn't say aloud as he knew Claude wouldn't truly listen. But on paper, Claude could see the truth behind Sebastian's words and he traced over the print.
His hand slipped down to brush against the second picture, the two cats still together. But the way they curled around each other, Claude couldn't tell where one began and the other ended. Their coats blurred, taking away the need for any borders between them and Claude's breath caught at the meaning behind the seemingly simple picture.
Claude lingered longer on the page, tracing the picture with his eyes until it burned itself into his mind. He didn't want to turn the page and leave the beautiful illustration, but he forced himself to continue. Only a few pages remained and Claude wanted to see the end of the story.
"Finally, Faust took Bast on a hayride in the countryside. The fall leaves displayed themselves in all their splendor and it was beautiful for them both. They sat together under a blanket and watched the leaves pass by overhead as they ate dinner. It made them very happy and after dinner, they cleaned each other's faces. After that, they stretched out under the blanket, Bast content in Faust's embrace.
"But then, a monster appeared and attacked poor Faust. His tail fluffed out and his whiskers twitched uneasily. He wasn't happy and tried to hold a brave face for Bast. But Bast pulled him into an embrace and soothed his puffy tail as he purred loudly, keeping the monster at bay. He groomed Faust's fur for the rest of the hayride; content and happy that Faust trusted him enough to lower his guard."
"Oh," Claude murmured and sat back in the chair before rereading the words. They settled in his mind and Claude turned them over several times before a small smile crossed his face. "Sebastian," he said with a laugh and shook his head. He never thought that Sebastian would find an unseen benefit from his last attempt at proposing, but the words didn't lie.
The previous humiliation from that day faded away with each beat of Claude's heart until it no longer sat heavy in the pit of his stomach. With the weight lifted from his shoulders, Claude found that he could think clearly again and his confidence came back once more. Yes, that day was a blow to his pride, but Sebastian had accepted his fears with only the smallest bat of an eye. If anything, it brought them closer together and was one less secret between them.
He turned his attention back to the book. Only two more pages remained and Claude had trouble trying to figure out what they would say. Sebastian couldn't say anything else, because the hayride was Claude's last attempt at proposing. The unread pages tickled his mind and before Claude could ponder them any longer, he quickly flipped the page.
"They returned home that night, Faust saddened and upset that he couldn't propose to Bast once again. His head and tail hung low, and his eyes lost their spark that Bast loved so much. But no matter how much Bast mewled and tried to cheer Faust up, nothing worked. Faust looked like he wanted to give up. And it made Bast very sad too."
"Poor Faust, if only he knew that even though Bast loved all the attempted proposals, they were unneeded. Bast still would've said yes if Faust had just flat out asked him. Even if he asked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Bast's office."
Claude blinked and reread the last sentence. 'Even if he asked on a lazy Sunday afternoon in Bast's office.' His mouth parted slightly. Oh. The ball finally dropped. Oh!
Claude jumped to his feet. He scrambled to grab the ring box, knocking it from his grip at the first attempt and finally grabbing it on the second try. His sock covered feet almost slipped on the linoleum as he spun quickly and Claude grunted in exasperation. Getting flustered clearly wasn't doing him any good.
He took a second to compose himself, taking the time to check his attire and run a hand through his hair. His glasses needed cleaning and Claude tugged them off, rubbing the lenses with the bottom of his shirt. Sebastian had waited this long already; he could wait a few more minutes. Once his glasses perched on his nose, Claude calmly walked out of the kitchen.
The ring was a comforting weight for once in his grip as he approached the office and Claude carefully tested the door handle. It was unlocked, as he expected, and Claude stepped inside the office. He truly had no plan and for a moment, Claude stood dumbfounded in the doorway until Sebastian's voice broke him from his stupor.
"Close the door, Claude," he said and Claude honed in on a voice he had known for the majority of his life. "You're letting the cool air in."
A grunt left Claude as he shut the door behind him and took a step towards Sebastian. "What are you working on?" He asked, pulling the ring from his pocket. Sebastian's back still faced him and he seemed focused on the computer, his fingers still typing steadily on the keyboard.
Sebastian hummed. "One of your favorites," he teased. "I still need to write the last chapter. Will you read it when I finish?"
"You know I read everything of yours," Claude answered and stopped behind Sebastian. "And I have yet to find a story from you that I don't like."
"That's nice to know," Sebastian said and Claude could hear the grin in his voice.
It helped ease Claude's nerves just a bit as they fell into a familiar banter and Claude decided to go with what seemed right. His chest pressed against Sebastian's back, at least the part that wasn't resting against the chair, and his arms embraced Sebastian from behind. "Sebastian," Claude murmured in his ear and opened the small box in his hand. "I love you. Will you marry me?"
It probably wasn't the most ideal proposal or position because Claude couldn't see Sebastian's face, but he could feel the way Sebastian's heart started to race and he could feel the heat rise to pale cheeks. Then, Sebastian turned his head and Claude could see crimson eyes, bright and shining like rubies glistening in the sun.
Claude swallowed as he took in every detail, backwashed against the soft overhead light that illuminated the finest of garnet specks in Sebastian's eyes. Sebastian shifted slightly and soft lips pressed against his own, and they shared an affectionate kiss that had Claude drowning in Sebastian's taste. They separated with a quiet noise, nothing but a whisper between them as their foreheads pressed together.
"Yes," Sebastian said, their eyes locked. "Yes," he repeated and his eyes closed as he laughed breathlessly.
The word took a second to register in Claude's brain and once it did, his knees nearly gave out under him. He found himself laughing alongside Sebastian as he slipped the ring on Sebastian's finger, missing the first time because he didn't want look away from Sebastian's face. Once the ring sat snuggly in its proper place, Claude drew Sebastian into another searing kiss; the empty box falling forgotten to the floor below.
Sebastian's hands came up to cup his cheeks and Claude felt the warm touch of metal against his skin. He sighed happily into the kiss at the feeling and his fingers traced under Sebastian's eyes, trailing down the sides of his face. They pulled apart again and Claude ran his hands through Sebastian's hair. "You," he started and shook his head. "You imp," he finally said.
Sebastian chuckled. "It took you long enough to ask," he teased and twisted in his chair.
Claude stepped back and guided him away from the desk. He wanted to feel Sebastian against him and having the chair against him wasn't cutting it anymore. They collapsed on the small couch and Claude pulled Sebastian down to sit on his lap. "How did you know?" He finally asked. "Rather, how long did you know?"
Crimson eyes lowered slightly. "I didn't know you wanted to propose the first three times. But well," Sebastian trailed off and the decency to look guilty. "You remember the weekend Ciel came to visit?"
"Yes," Claude said simply.
"Ciel must've snooped in our room and found the ring. I'm guessing it was in the dresser, after your little stunt with it that night," Sebastian said and tucked a piece of hair behind Claude's ear. "He came to me after our walk while I was making dinner. You were in the bedroom cleaning up your mess at the time. He told me that you wanted to propose to me but I didn't believe him, so he gave me proof and made me believe him."
Claude stiffened. "He took the ring that night," he said, everything clicking into place. "The dresser didn't eat anything, your vile little brother did. And you call him innocent. Do you know how stressed I was after that? I thought I lost the damn thing!"
Sebastian made a humming noise as he pressed a kiss to Claude's temple. "I know and I am sorry that he did that. I thoroughly scolded him for that and Ciel knows he's still in trouble with me."
"I'd like to get my hands on him right now," Claude grunted but his hands relaxed on Sebastian's hips. He let out a long sigh and looked back up at Sebastian. "So you knew all along."
"I connected the dots after that and figured out what you had tried to do the first three times," Sebastian said. "But I never knew what you had planned next. You could've asked at any time or anywhere, so I didn't dwell on it too much. I just let you surprise me as you went."
Claude grunted. "Some surprise," he said. "The last two tries were the worst. I wanted to give up after the last one."
Sebastian smiled. "I figured that much. I wasn't lying in that story, when I said that your eyes lost their spark. I hated seeing you hurting so much, so I offered my help. Although it was much harder to find the ring this time around."
Claude blinked behind his glasses. "That's why you locked yourself in the office this weekend," he said. "You were writing that story and getting Lau to illustrate it."
"I couldn't have you finding out, now could I?" Sebastian teased and held up his hand to examine the ring. "It's stunning, Claude. You outdid yourself. It's simple, yet elegant."
"I just know you," Claude said and caught Sebastian's hand. He brought it to his mouth and kissed each knuckle until he reached the silver band. It glimmered under the light, the band a few centimeters wide, and Claude kissed the ring. "I love you, Sebastian."
Sebastian smiled and leaned down to steal another chaste kiss. "I guess what they say about third time's a charm is true," he said when they parted.
Claude scowled. "It took me six times to make you say yes," he said and ticked off each one on his fingers. They wiggled in front of Sebastian's face. "I count six here, not three."
"But isn't six just three doubled?" Sebastian asked and pressed his lips to the pad of Claude's finger, looking smug.
"Hush you," Claude said and his hands fell once more. They settled around Sebastian's waist in a loose grip as he gazed at Sebastian's hand. Sebastian twisted the ring around on his finger, silently admiring the ring that Claude had so lovingly picked out all those months back. He felt a great sense of pride and triumph at seeing it nestled snugly on Sebastian's finger, where it belonged.
It may have taken a few tries to get it there, but it was there now and that was all that mattered in the end. Despite the difficult journey and all the roadblocks that life threw at him, Claude found he didn't regret his past attempts. And in a way, they both worked to make the proposal happen. How many people could say that?
Leave it to Sebastian to put Claude on the proper path to proposing to him. Claude rolled his eyes at that; somehow he wasn't surprised at all. Sebastian always did like things done his way.
"You know," Sebastian said suddenly and he tore his gaze away from the ring. "The first time you tried to propose, at the restaurant?"
Claude hummed to show that he was listening.
"I don't know why you didn't propose then," Sebastian finished. "The setting was right, considering how much I like storms and with the power out, only the two of us would've known about the proposal. I thought it was a very romantic setting at least."
Claude groaned and pulled Sebastian down for another kiss. "Don't tell me that," he murmured before sealing his lips over Sebastian's. Lips quirked against his, a smile to suggest amusement but Claude didn't let it bother him. He knew Sebastian was just teasing him, whether the statement was true or not, and wouldn't rise to the bait.
Not when he had Sebastian pressed so intimately against him. His hands rose and grasped Sebastian's left hand, feeling the warm ring slide against his skin in a way that sent chills down Claude's spine. Something so simple, yet it meant the world to Claude to see and feel Sebastian wear it. It was a physical testament to their love for each other, a metal that would never dull or rust. But their true love, the one that no one could see, far outshone the simple metal band. And would only continue to grow as they passed through the years together.
A/N: This is the last chapter! I didn't want to put that at the top cause I thought it would ruin the surprise, haha. Thank you everyone for your support throughout the story! ^^