-:- Subject 13's Butler -:-
.:A Kuroshitsuji Fan Fiction:.

Author: AoUsagi

Summary: Ciel takes the leap into Oblivion, only to wake into a strange white-washed world of beeping machines and white-coats doctors. The only thing that seems real is Sebastian, who steals him away from the hellhole laboratory to save him from the sick sake of science.

BeforeNote:

I'd like everyone to look up a song for me; listen to it while reading this chapter. It's called "Ezio's Family" from the Assassin's Creed II soundtrack and let me tell you it's music like this that make the games stupid protagonist (Ezio the smarmy bastard) worth putting up with all the way to the end.

Yes, I finished AssCreed II last night when I should have been sleeping =_="

My sibling is stupid and selfish.

My horse whacked me in the face with his nose.

I'm going to see a counsellor about my depression and anxiety,

But I hope your day is beautiful, sweet readers.

And with that, I present to you this chapter.

- Mercy

Look to the North. Keep looking. There's nothing coming from the South.


Chapter Forty-Two: Look to the North

-:-

"This is video journal entry ten – it is currently…six thirty in the evening, Tuesday the seventh. April." There was a moment of static before the video feed registered, and the picture faded in with a slightly blue hue. "I am Doctor Sebastian Michaelis, age twenty-four." A pause, a sigh as his eyes flicked away from the gaze of the camera. "Uh, welcome to this evening's recording."

The camera was lifted up from it's position on the tripod by someone behind it, recording him. "As is becoming custom, we have our ward engineer, Pluto Landers-Bloque on camera," the camera was turned to look into the face of the silver-haired young man handling it.

"Howdy."

"And in our private ward tonight we're here with Doctor Bardroy Atkins-Brown," Michaelis said, the camera being turned back to focus on him and the tall, broad-shouldered blonde doctor behind him, who was taking a blood sample from the arm of the young boy that lay on the bed.

"And as always," the blonde doctor chuckled, a slightly bitter tinge to his voice. "We have our guest of honour, Mister Ciel Phantomhive."

"Indeed," Michaelis nodded, ignoring the ironic joke before addressing the camera again. "Ciel's condition has been stabilized after the excitement of yesterday's debacle with IV pouch that was leaking – now his vitals are all good and his blood pressure has returned to a good, stable rate. Uuum…we're attempting a new strain of antibiotics to bring down the inflammation in his lungs, and it will take a few more hours before we see any more real progress."

Pluto the Camera Man moved the camera closer to the hospital bed that Dr Atkins-Brown was standing next to, zooming in on the face of the patient laying unconscious with an oxygen mask strapped to his face, and several catheters and needles taped into the creases of his elbows, one drawing blood, which Dr Atkins-Brown was managing carefully, and the others seeming to be drip-feeding the unconscious child while he slept.

"Hey, hey – step back kid," growled the blonde doctor, and the camera was shuffled back as the broad-shouldered doctor finished with the blood sampling and wheeled the small cart that carried the samples along with the used syringes away and out of the frame. Meanwhile, Dr Michaelis was fixing a small cotton-bud patch with some white tape to the spot on the boy's arm where Dr Atkins-Brown had been drawing blood from the vein.

"We can't afford to take any risks," Michaelis was saying as he worked, not looking up. "We nearly lost him once, I'll be damned if I let it happen again."

Dr Atkins-Brown was chuckling quietly somewhere off-screen, and Pluto the Camera Man stepped forward again, the camera getting a good shot of Sebastian's Michaelis' face. The twenty-four year old looked incredibly tired, as if he hadn't been having more than a few hours sleep for the past several nights, if any at all. But he was solely focussed on his task, the slight breeze from the ward air-conditioner ruffling his black bangs of hair around his face. He reached up absent-mindedly to tuck one back behind his ear before readjusting his thin wire framed glasses and continuing his work. The camera moved down to show his long, pale hands drifting over the childs body, checking pulse, temperature, double-checking all of the tubes inserted through needles into the boy's arms, making sure they were all secure.

"Tell me, man," came Pluto's voice from behind the camera, and Michaelis looked up briefly. "Where's Finnian and Mey-Rin tonight? Why are the ward's so empty?"

"Right now," Michaelis said, sounding a little distracted. "They're off attending one of the routine staff-checks. Primary doctors and consultants are exempt from it because our first priority is to the patient."

"Pfft – test subject more like," said Dr Atkins-Brown somewhere off camera. "This whole set-up is complete bullshit."

"Bardroy," Michaelis snapped shortly, chiding the other doctor. "I know we're all in a bad situation right now, but we can't afford to raise any alarms that might have us thrown out of here or, worse, killed, before we can really do anything to turn the tables."

"You're serious?" Dr Atkins-Brown said incredulously. "We've been locked down here for days, how the hell are we ever supposed to escape, let alone smuggle out thirteen comatose children as well? You remember what they said when they brought us down here – the experiments were to start in a few weeks. You really think you can come up with a decent plan to bust outa here before then?"

There was a huff from Michaelis, a sound of frustration.

"It's not ideal, but we might have to wait. It's no good rushing into things; they'll expect some of the Keeper's to baulk and not co-operate, and they'll use force to maintain our co-operation if need be. You saw what happened to Dr Landsdale, Bard."

Pluto swung the camera around to look at the face of Dr Atkins-Brown, and though he still had his eyes on his work with the blood samples over by a large machine in the corner, his face had turned a couple of tones paler, his eyes widening slightly at whatever Michaelis had been referring to.

"That's right." Michaelis continued, his tone almost scolding. "We can't afford to let them think we're up to anything."

"Then, uh, what's the point of this recording?" Pluto asked, his shifting from foot to foot a little uneasily making the camera shift as well. Dr Michaelis fixed him with a small smile.

"This is the recording that stays private; I conduct a solo record myself that I hand in to the Director – this is proof of what has happened here. And you, Pluto, are going to be the one who will plant it, in time."

There was the sound of Dr Atkins-Brown scoffing off screen. "Plant it?"

"Indeed. Someone will undoubtedly come looking for me; the parameters surrounding my so-called 'death' are far too suspicious to merely accept at face value. Once the experiments begin, all our access to the outside will be cut off. We might have limited time until then, so we must make the most of it. Finni and Mey-Rin are both conducting investigations into the Directors big plan, what he really intends to do with these thirteen children, what he really wants to accomplish. Until then, all we can do is record our progress on Ciel's well being, make sure he stays alive and give hope to whoever finds this, give them reason that, should they find this and be able to track our whereabouts down, they can bring in whatever law enforcements they can to put an end to the experiments, hopefully not too long after they've begun."

A pause, and the two doctors continued their work on either ends of the room, the boy laying on the bed and the camera man between them.

"So what you're saying," Pluto said slowly. "Is that you'll gather and put in here as much information as you can, piece by piece, so if it is found by someone, they can put it all together and help liberate our asses out of this mess."

"That's…pretty much it, yes."

"That plan sucks, Sebastian." Came Dr Atkins-Brown's voice bitterly, and the camera was once again swung around to see him. His expression had changed, now, to one of bitter defeat. "How the hell is that supposed to work? You're basing our survival, our…our saving of these kids…all on some bleak hope that someone will miss you enough to go looking? Where will they look? And anyway, how many people do you know that don't hate you for being so successful that would even think to start looking?"

Michaelis sighed and shook his head, not answering a moment. He began to take the child's blood pressure, wrapping a dark green velcro-secured wrap around the boys upper arm, a grey plastic tube going from the wrap to a white machine that sat on the bedside stand next to the hospital cot. Two button presses later, and the machine began to hum, the numbers indicating the boys blood pressure slowly but steadily rising as the green wrap slowly constricted around the boy's arm. Completely oblivious, the unconscious child slept on, still breathing regularly with the help of the oxygen mask.

"I have faith, Bardroy. After all, you're forgetting who this brave young man is," Michaelis said, his voice softening, a certain fondness in his tone as he stroked a few stray strands of slate hair away from the boy's closed eyes, his dark lashes resting upon his pale cheeks. "This is Ciel Phantomhive; and his father is none other than the great Vincent Phantomhive, Watchdog to the Queen."

"Watchdog? You mean, like…" began Pluto uncertainly.

"I mean, Guardian of the Underworld. Funny the things you learn when you get to know the lad's family." Michaelis finished. "In any case, Bard – Vincent Phantomhive won't take the supposed death of his one and only heir lying down; I believe that he still refuses to believe that Ciel died ten days ago. I believe he'll exhaust every possibility – search every corner of the globe until he has a solid clue to follow. If we plant these video recordings somewhere he's bound to someday look, who knows how much hell and high-water he'll bring down upon the Hospital."

"Upon us, you mean," muttered Bardroy. "Even if this does work, how the hell will we know if he won't turn a gun on all of us for what we're being forced to do to his poor kid?"

With that, Sebastian Michaelis smiled a little – a knowing smile, a smile that, though it was tired and strained, held hope. He looked directly at the camera.

"Well, that's the whole point of this video journal." He said. "I'm hoping he'll see we're doing our damndest to keep his son safe and alive, even if for the moment, we are complying with the Hospital and whatever nefarious scheme the Director has in store. If all else fails and no help comes, we'll move to plan B and rescue the children ourselves – but it'll mean everyone but myself concocting a reason to run away and leave this place."

Pluto snorted a little. "Wow, coming up with a reason why anyone would want to leave this hell hole would be so hard."

"I'm serious, Pluto," Sebastian said with stern eyes as he went back to work with the blood pressure machine. "It'll have to happen slowly, over time – if you all try to take off all at once you'll most likely be killed. Security has been hiked up like never before around the facility now; this is the critical phase where many of the Keepers will be likely to try and back out of the operation. Witness Dr Landsdale and what the Director had done to her."

"True," Pluto responded quietly. "How long til these experiments are due to start?"

Michaelis shrugged. "A couple of weeks, it depends on the Directors orders." He turned and looked to the camera again. "And when they do, Pluto, you're going to have to be the first one to run away. After all, we'll be counting on you to plant the video journal somewhere that the Watchdog is most likely to look. After that…well, you'll be more or less on your own."

"Right." Nodded Pluto, the camera shifting with his movements. "Uh, any particular orders, boss?"

Michaelis looked over at him kindly. "Stay alive." He said. "At least long enough to ensure these words get out there where the Watchdog can find them." He flicked another look directly at the camera. "Then, it's all up to him."

-:-

The screen went dark as the recording cut off suddenly, and then the video player closed down the full screen window and the bright desktop screen lit up the dark room around him. His heart was hammering, strangely. Was it from what he had just seen? The way Michaelis had just looked right through the camera lens, as if looking right at him? Or…or was it…

…was it seeing Ciel again?

Vincent Phantomhive shook himself. How could he have been so blatantly stupid? Why, of all places, did he not think to scour Sebastian Michaelis's apartment three years ago after the doctor had disappeared following the mysterious death of Ciel? For three whole years, he had the answers sitting right under his nose, but he'd completely overlooked them. Overlooked them and retreated away from London. How could he have let this slip by him?

Michaelis had faith in him – faith that he'd come swooping in to the rescue and bring down the Hospital at the same time; of course he would have tried. The Aristocrats of Evil were nothing if not resourceful – they could have formulated a plan, a strategy, had they had this information a few years ago. But the experiments were already underway, Ciel had already been put through God knows what trauma…didn't that then make Sebastian Michaelis Vincent's enemy? No. Michaelis had done everything he could for Ciel. Ensured his safety, his survival – he had trusted Vincent to be able to find the video journal before now.

Vincent had completely missed it. He couldn't believe how stupid he felt.

It was nearly midnight; he'd been scouring through the folder he and Tanaka had found in Sebastian's old apartment the other night, finding only records of the child's illness and possible causes and treatments preceding Ciel's supposed "death". Then he'd turned to the USB drive for more clues. There he'd found a folder entirely comprised of the video files, some of them damaged and glitchy, but watchable to an extent. Some had their data so badly damaged they were merely audio without any visual, and even then the audio was scrambled and almost indecipherable. The first nine videos had mostly been that way – the tenth, the one Vincent had just watched, was one of the first to have decent picture and sound. Now he had a start, he would keep watching them – all forty videos that ranged from five minutes in length to about twenty.

All this time, he thought, sitting back in his chair. All this time, Michaelis had been waiting on him, hoping that he would find and put together the clues and mount a rescue.

He'd let down Dr Michaelis.

No, he realized. He'd let down Ciel. Ciel was the one undergoing the experimentation; he'd been the one suffering. Michaelis had been there, of course, to guide him through and ensure his survival. God, Vincent couldn't decide whether he wanted to hug Michaelis or to shoot him. On the one hand, the raven-haired doctor had good intentions, and had never once failed to protect Ciel despite the circumstances. Then again, he'd done some incredibly underhanded things and other completely unforgivable things to protect Ciel. Like, say, using experimental drugs on Ciel. How did Michaelis sleep at night, knowing what he's done? Vincent wondered. It had taken a long time for he himself to even consider sleep again, he remembered – three years ago, he'd worked day and night to solve the mystery, never getting very far. He'd returned home to Rachel, night after night, empty-handed and head low.

"Sir?"

Vincent nearly jumped right out of his seat, not realizing that Tanaka had materialized at his side without his noticing.

"Jesus! God, Tanaka – don't sneak up on me like that." He heaved in a breath, trying to calm his pounding heart.

"I apologize, sir – I did call you several times, but you were well and truly lost in your thoughts." The gentle old butler said kindly, his soft hands finding Vincent's shoulders and gently massaging them in the darkness that enveloped them. Despite himself, Vincent found himself relaxing into the firm pressure of Tanaka's thumbs rotating slowly over his spine, around his shoulders. He rubbed his eyes tiredly.

"It's been here this whole time, Tanaka," he muttered into his hands. "I've failed Ciel again – I should have looked into Sebastian Michaelis's old apartment three years ago, but it never once crossed my mind."

For a moment, Tanaka said nothing, merely continuing to work the knots of tension out of his masters neck and shoulders – Vincent groaned occasionally as the butler would hit a particularly sensitive spot at the very base of his skull. In Vincent's entire life as the Watchdog, there had been many times where Vincent would find himself alone at night, puzzling over a case while his wife and child slept soundly. Sometimes Rachel would wake from her slumber at his side, and with her kind words and gentle hands, would coerce him back to bed. His musings would wait, and he would surrender to sleep with his arms holding the most precious woman in his life. Sometimes Ciel would come knocking at their door, mostly on stormy nights, when the thunder scared him, and Vincent would wrap his arms around both his wife and son, who would be snuggled between them like a family sandwich. Those were the releases he found from the mysteries and the stresses of the Watchdog back then.

Ever since, however…it had been harder and harder to fall asleep beside Rachel. He couldn't help but watch her grow weaker, wearier…he'd spend hours up and about, pacing, going over anything and everything he'd managed to pull together, fruitlessly searching for something he might have overlooked the first time. Those were the times when he found Tanaka approaching, the old mans hands gingerly working their magic over his shoulders, almost forcing him to relax and give in and let the tension go. The butler had been at his side since the death of Vincent's own father, the Watchdog before him – Tanaka had watched Vincent Phantomhive grow up, make mistakes, go through school, make friends and enemies, take on the name of the Watchdog; he'd watched Vincent fall in love and woo the woman of his dreams. He'd been at Vincent's wedding, he'd been there to calm the two frantic newly-weds two or three months into marriage when Rachel had discovered she was pregnant. He'd even been there at Ciel's birth – he'd been the one who had seen Vincent through every stress, every hardship, with the calm and strong aura of someone who could understand, who could share comfort and bring peace.

God, Vincent was grateful that Tanaka was here now.

"What am I to do…?" he murmured, and at last, the grey-haired butler spoke.

"When we feel lost, where do we look?"

"…North?"

The butler chuckled softly. "We look inside ourselves, when we have nowhere else to look, my boy." He said quietly. "What do you see, when you look inside yourself?"

Vincent let his eyes drop to the keyboard of the computer in front of him. The video player was still running, but none of the files were playing – the computer, like Tanaka, sat patiently, as if also awaiting his answer.

"I don't know. I've failed so many times…how can I ever set this right?"

Tanaka gently pulled the office chair Vincent was seated in around, the wheels turning over the thin carpet that lined the floor of the basement level of the tenement building where they had made their base. The elderly butler knelt down in front of his master, taking Vincent's limp hands in his own.

"You might have missed a chance, but Sebastian Michaelis, as he said they would, moved on to their plan B. They've rescued Ciel. At the very least, you can now work to track them and help them keep Ciel out of there, and maybe even bring down the Karnstein. It's all possible, Master. You just need to open your eyes and see it."

Vincent felt something stir in the back of his mind – open your eyes and see it. Those were the same words Tanaka had said to him when he thought he'd lost Rachel to someone else. He'd been on the verge of giving up; throwing away the beautiful ring he'd inherited from his great grandmother that he planned to propose to Rachel with. Then Tanaka had said those words. At first, Vincent hadn't known what to do. The next time he'd seen the girl of his dreams, she'd been out and about with another man – but as twitterpated as she outwardly seemed, Vincent realized she looked as though she could be anywhere but at that mans side. He'd intervened, just casually, and the way her face had lit up at the sight of him, her knight in shining armour to her rescue – he'd known for sure, he had done the right thing.

Tanaka had said those same words when Vincent had been overcome by grief at the news of Ciel's death. So sudden, so shocking and heartbreaking…but then Tanaka had given him that look, the gaze which seemed to look right into his soul…did he really believe that? Didn't that sound like a cheap, easy lie? Vincent had opened his eyes and began to see that Ciel's death was not the only one that had 'occurred'. There were other incidents. And so had begun his investigation into the mystery behind the front that was the Karnstein Hospital.

He realized then that it didn't matter that he'd failed Ciel once. He had the chance to fix it, to be reunited with his son and there was no way he could let go of this opportunity.

"We have to find my son," he said slowly, and Tanaka nodded.

"And we will. But you must know, one of Lau's men ran across a known associate of Sebastian Michaelis – Aiden Frost reported back to Lau that the young intern on Ciel's medical team had been going through the supermarket, collecting items that might suggest an exodus of sorts."

"An exodus?"

"The lad appeared to be preparing for a long trip of sorts. I was going to tell you sooner, but you were quite preoccupied with the files."

Vincent chewed his lip. If the intern was as loyal to Sebastian Michaelis as some of the video files had suggested, then the lad wasn't going to be going alone. Sebastian must have some sort of plan, perhaps moving Ciel to a more secure location? Hiding him for a time? But…but for what?

"Sir. Sir?"

He broke out of his train of thought, blinking and looking back to Tanaka. "Y-yes?"

"Please sir, we must not be hasty. Jumping to conclusions or going in without all the information could prove very dangerous."

Vincent thought for a moment more, before letting out the breath he'd been holding in. "So…what do you suggest?"

The butler looked a little taken aback. "Well, I am but a servant, Sir, but I suggest for now we lie low, keep our eyes on the lookout for them, and for any activity from the Hospital. We move and plan around their movements and plans."

"That's… that's a good idea," Vincent nodded tiredly as he rubbed his eyes again, trying to will away the headache that was building in the back of his skull. The massage had been painful, but he could feel the muscles relaxing and loosening somewhat already – but it didn't stop the headache from gathering. "Let's…let's call it a night, Tanaka."

"Yes, Sir." The greying butler nodded, and Vincent stood, offering a hand to the ageing man, helping him to stand. Then, with a small smile meant to offer comfort, Tanaka held out his arms to his charge, and Vincent leant into the embrace. He hadn't been held by a fatherly figure so similar to Tanaka since the death of his own father a good five or six years ago now. Tanaka wasn't a very big hugger, so Vincent relished the kind display of affection – in that moment, he didn't mind feeling as small as he did. Everything at the moment was making him feel small, and so, he supposed, that until he was strong enough to be more confident, he was okay with this.

"You can't be the strong one all the time," Tanaka said softly in his ear, and Vincent nodded, wrapping his arms around his butler. He let out a long, deep sigh, and though all he could think of was Michaelis's piercing gaze into the camera, and the sight of Ciel laying comatose on the hospital cot, all manner of drips and tubes plugged into him, Vincent knew that now was the time to rest. Rest, and be better for the next day and whatever it was to bring. "Have faith that, for now, Ciel will be safe."

God, he wished he could.

-:-


AfterNote:

Uuurgh – filler chapter ahoy! Anyhow, I'm off to work soon, but I thought I'd just post this chapter first…I actually quite enjoyed writing it – and after reading one of the reviews from last chapter (god I'm so behind on replying to them all, please forgive me guys), I knew I had to write in something to do with what was on the USB drive that Tanaka and Vincent found in Sebastian's apartment.

And yes, there was also a folder on the USB full of cute kitten pictures. Just so you know.

- Mercy