-:- 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:

Apologies and excuses, everyone, but here we go! Chapter 45! I took a look back at this story and it's really really REALLY long. And we're over the half-way mark, I believe!

Woo – anyway. I hope you guys can all enjoy this new chapter; it's not up to my normal standard because of study and personal issues and stuff gunking up my motivation, however i'm pretty happy that I got this done (finally).

GO FORTH. READ. REVIEW. BE ONE WITH THE HIVE MIND.

I mean what?

- Mercy

Fun fact: about a month ago, I went to my very first nightclub. It was a fairly small affair, but quite good fun.


Chapter Forty-Five: Emocean

-:-

Almost an entire twenty-four hours had past and there had been no more hallucinations yet. At least, that's what Ciel had to keep telling himself. Yet. With the distinct possibility that he would suddenly see another one; at any time or place. He chided himself for jumping at shadows, and knew that Sebastian had been keeping a particularly close on him all throughout the day.

But the visions had yet to appear. It was almost like they were goading him, dancing somewhere outside of his sight – he knew he'd see them at some point, it was a matter of time until they showed themselves. In the meantime, Ciel had spent the day doing his best to ignore the heavy thoughts that weighed upon his mind, and had instead taken part in another excursion to the secluded stretch of beach with the group – all except for Bardroy and Sebastian, who had left Ciel the care of the others whilst they did a reconnaissance run around the town and surrounding area. Ciel hadn't been too chuffed with the idea of Sebastian not being around, but he pushed the selfish feeling aside and dutifully followed the others down through the waist-high grass and underbrush, down the little worn track and between the rocky crags.

He couldn't stay miffed or cooped up with his thoughts for long, though – if there was one thing he was incredibly grateful for, it was that Finnian, Mey-Rin and Pluto hadn't lost any of their fun and character between this life and his fake one. The two latter still danced and played amid the waves, shrieking and hooting like excited children as the cold water rushed around their ankles, spray splashing them and soaking the hems of their jeans and freckling their shirts with drops of water, and Pluto was still cool and collected, though he too gave in to Mey and Finni's cries for him to join them, and seemed to be sincerely enjoying himself as he scooped up cupped handfuls of water to toss at them. Ciel found he was losing himself to the heady scent of the sea, the salty tang in the air catching on his tongue and stinging in the wind across his cheeks when he turned his face to the breeze. The sand was soft, the harder edges of the shoreline crunching and crumbling into the smooth grains beneath his feet, and he wandered along the line of the water as the others played in it's fray; the cold of the water sent a chill running through his body and gooseflesh prickling over his arms and legs, so he only the shallowest of waves rush over his feet, feeling the heady spin as the sand beneath his feet sunk, and as the waves retreated he felt like he were being spun, though he wasn't moving at all, merely gazing in wonder at the connection between ocean and earth around him.

With sand caking his feet with every step, Ciel continued his wander, and when Pluto called out to him to be careful, he promised not to roam too far away with a smile and a wave. The smile felt a little forced, as even though he felt far better out in the open, far more peaceful, he still felt a little uneasy. Something wasn't sitting right in his stomach – although that may have just been Bardroy's attempt to make breakfast.

He made his way up the sand bank, where there was more underbrush and coastal plants covering the slightly hardier ground above the sand of the beach. Tough stalks and grabby leaves snagged at his shirt and grazed his bare feet as he wove through a worn track he'd found, but he carefully picked his way through the undergrowth, small rocks kicked out of his way as the path turned from sand to dirt and stones. Curiosity lead him further, until he was wending his way among some of the taller yet gnarled and hunched over trees that had grown and adapted in the hardier coastal environment. Winding his way among them, he'd nearly lost sight of the beach through the shrubbery that was slowly growing taller when he came across a run-down shack. From the outside, it looked like an abandoned scene from a child's horror story, with broken boards over the cracked windows and door frames, spray-painted messages and graffiti from previous beach-wanders who'd stumbled across it, even complete with a garage style shed attached, the empty, darkened area occupied by only a few old oil cans and other litter stashed in one corner.

Ciel was tempted to turn away and go back to the safety and certainty of the beach with the others, but his curiosity got the better of him. Instead of heading back, he found himself creeping closer to the shack, treading carefully, just in case there was still someone there.

As he reached the front step that creaked and groaned in protest under his meagre weight, but didn't crack and splinter any further than it already had, Ciel tentatively reached up and pushed the front door open. It groaned like the step had, but swung open obligingly. The front hall was layered with a light coating of dust, and from a first glance there was no furniture or furbishings within the small shack at all – he could see two rooms leading off from either side of the hallway, with a small staircase at the far end of the hall. Stepping back and looking up the front of the shack, Ciel could see a small second-storey window set up the very top of the shack's front wall – obviously, there wasn't much more than an attic up there, since the interior ceiling was fairly high and spacious, not leaving much room for any upstairs movement.

He took a deep breath, inhaling a bit of dust and the musty scent of the shack, and took a step over the threshold. The floorboards squeaked, but held steady, and he padded down the hallway to the first door. A kitchen, except the bench top was bloated and warped from a puddle of water that had obviously dripped down from the ceiling from the last downpour of rain – a mouldy patch in the ceiling confirmed Ciel's suspicions about that. The space where the sink was supposed to be was instead replaced by an empty void, a pipe end sticking out of the wall and a bucket sitting beneath it. The stove top had no knobs on the gas lighters and the oven door was hanging off it's hinges, exposing its gaping maw.

There was a small dining room connected to the kitchen, but the furniture was a simple three plastic chairs that looked more rickety than the front step, and a broken outdoor table that had been cracked in half. Stepping back into the hallway, Ciel turned to the next room – an empty one that was wall to wall in dust and the occasional cobweb draping across the open space. No furniture at all except for an overturned dresser, a broken mirror that sat tipped to one side next to it's face-down dresser companion forlornly, an a mattress that was propped up against the opposite wall, limp and smelling like wet foam and mould.

The two room shack had nothing else to show but the staircase, and Ciel looked over the steps dubiously from where he now stood at the bottom of them. Two or three of the stairs had broken, and the banister was missing a couple of bars beneath the hand-hold railing. Upstairs was dark, and Ciel could see the only way up to it was by climbing the stairs and slipping through a man-hole sized opening at the very top. Almost certain he was going to regret it, Ciel placed one foot on the first step, and started climbing.

To his surprise, the stairs held relatively well, creaking only when he stepped gingerly on certain areas to test their strength, or when a gust of wind blew through the shack, making the walls and boards outside rattle. He first poked his head through the man-hole, and was surprised to see the shack's attic area was actually probably the cleanest part of the whole place. There were cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling, both sides of which slanted up to meet in the middle, not unlike the beach house, and the floor was coated in a thin layer of dust and sand grit, but there was no real signs of any desiccation and disrepair other than a small patch of floorboards that sagged from mould and mildew – Ciel guessed that this was where the mouldy patch of ceiling in the kitchen was below. The only source of light was from the window that looked over the front of the shack, and he moved carefully over it, stepping as lightly as he could without causing any of the boards beneath his feet to collapse.

The sight was unbelievable – the Cornish coastline of beach Finnian had discovered rolled away in all directions, the sea stretching out as far as Ciel's eyes could see. The brush and scrub land almost directly below him seemed drab from where he was standing, and the area in front of the shack was mostly blurred out by the grime and smudges on the window, but he gave the frame a solid shove, and it creaked open, swinging outwards and letting the wind rush in and over Ciel's face – the first breath of fresh salty sea air he'd had since stepping into the abandoned hut. It made him feel alive, and he couldn't help but close his eyes and smile as he inhaled deeply as the breeze whipped through his hair and over his skin – flecks of sand and salt stinging at his features, but in comparison to the clinging feeling of the dust and mildew in the air of the shack, it was a welcomed change.

Looking out, Ciel could even see the stretch of beach he'd wandered away from – there were several tracks in the sand where he'd walked, and obviously where the others had been walking. And out in the shallows of the ocean, he could still see Finni and Mey-Rin frolicking in the waves, Pluto now up on the beach and letting himself dry in the meagre sunlight that came piercing down through the cloud cover. He could hear drifts of their cries and conversation, but not enough to make out full sentences. The serenity of the scene before him was so calming, that he allowed himself to slide down to his knees and rest his elbows on the window sill. He knew they had been left in charge of him, and he'd wandered away without telling them and they hadn't yet noticed, but he felt far too peaceful to bother going all the way back there now.

Besides, he thought as he felt his eyelids getting heavy. This place, whilst a little creepy and quite unsafe, felt almost like a sanctuary, a secret place that only he knew about.

He kind of wanted to keep it that way.

-:-

Ciel was startled into waking when he heard his name being called. Rubbing the grit from the wind out of his vision, he cast his eyes out the window, expecting to see Mey-Rin, Finni and Pluto calling and searching for him. But the sunlight was gone, and it was dark outside now. There was little moonlight to see by, but as his eye adjusted, he could see things a little more clearly. It didn't stop his heart from pounding. Why hadn't they found him? Where were they?

There was that voice again, snagged on the wind. Panic rose in his chest as he scrambled back to the man-hole, climbing as quickly down the stairs as he dared, stumbling back through the hallway of the shack and out the front door, still swinging in the breeze on its hinges. The sand and grass beneath his feet was cold and damp, like it had been raining lightly. Ciel found himself trembling in the chilled night air, the wind once cool and refreshing, now, with the fear of being alone, it was more like a vicious whip over his body, and he stumbled through the underbrush, trying to find the little path that had lead him to the shack from the beach in the first place. The shrubs snagged and grabbed at his clothes, scratching over his arms with spined leaves and rough bark he hadn't noticed before. Panting and feeling a cold sweat running over him, Ciel struggled through the undergrowth until he was within sight of the beach – there was a faint reflection of moonlight across the turbulent waves, crashing over the shoreline with sprays of white foam, but the sky was still dark and high with coiling clouds. Looking out over the water again, Ciel spotted someone – wading out into the water, hands cupped to their mouth, calling.

It must be one of them. Finni, Mey-Rin, or Pluto - Ciel's heart leapt as he started forwards again, crying out to the figure's back, his voice hoarse from the salty air and the words he called barely more than shouted whispers. The figure didn't turn, didn't hear him, but kept wading further out. Desperate to reach them, Ciel launched himself onto the beach, only to have his feet sink and slip on the softer sand. Struggling to get onto a sturdier part of the shoreline, he soon found himself plunging into the cold waves as they rolled in to greet him. The splash and spray was enough to make him yelp and almost run back to the safety of the sand, but the figure had finally stopped and turned. Teeth chattering and hugging himself as he stood shivering in the shallows, Ciel could almost make out their features. Tall, slim – a woman. She reached back for him. Through the half light, Ciel could almost see her face – soft, delicate features. Kind eyes. A mouth that still called out, and this time, he heard his name again.

It was his mother, Rachel Phantomhive. She began to make her way back towards the shore, the water lapping up and around her torso, but a hard, swift current dragged her back out towards the sea. Her reach became a desperate grab, and Ciel cried out and began wading in, as fast as he could, ignoring the cold water dragging at him with every step he took, his limbs trembling with exertion. His mother was being swept away, panic now washing over her face as she was dragged deeper with the waves.

"No!" Ciel screamed, "Mother! Swim, Mother!"

Her face disappeared beneath the surface of the churning ocean, and she was gone. Ciel wailed in despair as he struggled to get deeper, and a wave reared up and crashed over his head, nearly dragging him off his feet before allowing him to find air again. Completely drenched and feeling the cold air stinging at his wet face more than ever, Ciel coughed and spat out a mouthful of sandy seawater, about to continue his attempt to reach the drowning figure of his mother, or at least, the last spot where he'd seen her, when another voice hit his ears. This one was truly terrified, a horrified shriek from behind him on the beach.

Half turning and half being turned by the waves, Ciel caught sight of someone else on the beach – oh good, they could help – help reach Rachel and save her where he couldn't. But his attempts to call out to them were drowned out as another wave he hadn't seen coming came down and washing over him. Spitting out more water and gagging at the taste of the salt water in his throat, the figure on the beach had disappeared by the time he resurfaced. Feeling the undertow dragging at him, Ciel struggled against the pull of the receding waves, but his strength was waning – soon he'd have to surrender himself to the pull.

Two seconds before he was pulled under, arms gripped him from behind, and Ciel felt his body strain in two directions – with and against the tug of the tide. There was someone out there with him, dragging him back to the shore – someone much stronger than him and clearly a better swimmer. It wasn't under they were back in the shallows when Ciel managed to muster the strength to look up at his rescuer.

Finnian.

"F-Finni...my mo-mo-mother..." the words came through chattering teeth, and Finni half-dragged half-carried him up onto the sand bar, well away from the waters edge.

"What the hell, Ciel?!" Finni was out of breath, shaking water from his dripping hair and trembling with cold and exhaustion. "What the hell were you doing?"

"My mother...she's...she's..." Ciel tried to see past Finni into the ocean again, but the waves showed him nothing.

"Your...mother...?" Finnian looked behind him, still cradling Ciel to his chest before turning back to him. "Look, Ciel, she's not out there. We don't know where she is. I dunno what you saw but it wasn't her. No one's out here but you and me."

Bundling Ciel up into his arms, Finni lifted him clear off the ground. "We gotta get you back to the house, we've been looking everywhere for you."

Ciel nodded numbly, eyes still scanning the water for some sign that what he'd seen, the phantom that he'd been chasing, had been real.

-:-

He was propped up in bed when Sebastian and Bardroy returned; they too had joined in the search that afternoon after the trio had discovered Ciel's disappearance. Finnian and Mey-Rin had bundled Ciel up in towels, then run him through a hot bath, and then bundled him up in luxurious fluffy blankets and had then confined him to bed – minor hypothermia was enough to risk Ciel contracting pneumonia again, and neither of them was prepared to risk it. While they'd been working, Pluto had called Sebastian and Bardroy back to the beach house, and had been preparing hot soup down in the kitchen when Sebastian had burst in through the front door.

Ciel heard the crash of the door, breathless words exchanged between the trio downstairs and Sebastian – Sebastian demanding answers and the others hurriedly trying to fill him in all at once. Then, Ciel could hear the sounds of Bardroy calming them down as Sebastian's footfall headed for the stairs. Seconds later, the doctor appeared in the door frame, and Ciel could see the visible trembling of his features, the tension in his shoulders – nonetheless, Sebastian forced himself to knock.

"How are you?" the words were terse, trying not to overcrowd Ciel with questions.

"Mm'k," he murmured in response, and Sebastian crossed over the floor in a heartbeat and was at his side, his overturned hand against Ciel's brow, feeling for a temperature. Cold fingers slid over his throat, finding his pulse and scrutinising it for a long, silent minute. Sebastian checked him over thoroughly, and even though it wasn't as if Mey and Finni hadn't already done, but Ciel let him – he knew Sebastian wouldn't leave him be until he was satisfied.

The doctor rose from the bedside and crossed over to a bag of supplies that had been left on the dresser, hunting through it until he found his stethoscope. Plugging the two earpieces into his ears, he motioned for Ciel to sit forward slightly, before rubbing the chest piece in between his hands to warm it for a moment. Then, he lifted the lip of Ciel's bed shirt and ducked his hand beneath – Ciel shivered at the cold touch of Sebastian's hand finding it's way to the place over his heart, his mind flicking back to not more than two hours before. The feeling of the freezing waves tugging at his body washed through him, and Ciel had to concentrate on Sebastian's actions to not get swept up in the memory of seeing the vision of his mother being pulled beneath the waves.

Sebastian reached around to his back next, almost cradling Ciel to his chest as he listened to Ciel's lungs from behind, before sitting back, his face slightly ashen.

"It sounds as if there may be some water in your lungs, but not a lot. You'll have some chest pain and if you cough up any water, that'll be good. You're on bed rest for the next week."

"A week?" Ciel repeated feebly. "B-but what about-"

Sebastian's frown silenced him. "Right now here is the safest place for you – here, in bed." he said, removing the stethoscope from his ears and hanging it around his neck. "You're very weak right now – it's a wonder how you weren't pulled out with the swell of the tide in the first place."

Ciel nodded slowly, remembering how relief and exhaustion had mixed and flooded through him as he'd felt Finni drag him back up into the sand of the beach.

"You were lucky Finnian found you in time." Sebastian continued quietly, his voice low. Ciel couldn't meet his eyes – instead he just stared down at the blankets that cocooned around him.

"Sorry."

"What were you thinking?" there was a note of strain in the doctor's tone. "For God's sake Ciel you nearly drowned. If Finni hadn't reacted as fast as he did, he might not have been able to save you. Even if he had managed to reach you, he might've been too late."

"I know," Ciel mumbled. "I said I'm sorry."

Sebastian sighed and let his shoulders droop. Downstairs, Ciel could hear the sounds of the others talking, some of their conversation hushed under the sounds of cooking and utensils being used in the kitchen.

"I thought I saw my mother."

The doctor glanced up at him from where he'd been staring it his hands.

"I...found this old shack. I wandered away from the others, found the shack, and then I must've dozed off. When I woke up, the others were gone and it was dark. I heard someone calling my name, and I thought I saw my mother walking on the beach. She started to go into the water, and then the tide caught her. She just let it take her. I...I wanted to help her..."

Sebastian listened in silence, and when Ciel had turned red in the face from the recollection of such a pathetic sounding tale, he nodded.

"I see."

"I really am going crazy, aren't I? First visions of me and you, now of my mother."

Sebastian chuckled softly, bitterly. "No, you're not crazy, Ciel. A little careless and irresponsible for your actions and not thinking things through before you act, but you're not going crazy."

"I'm sorry I scared everyone."

"Don't apologize to us; apologize to yourself." Sebastian replied. "It'd be no good apologizing to us if your body is floating lifelessly out in the middle of the ocean. You'd only have yourself to blame."

Ciel nodded, readjusting the blankets around him a little bit. After a moment of quiet, he heard more footsteps coming up the stairs – a second later, Mey-Rin appeared at the door, a bowl of something steaming and incredibly good-smelling cupped in her oven-mitted hands.

"Hey," she said softly. "Am I interrupting?"

"Of course not," Sebastian stood to greet her, and took the bowl of broth from her. "Excellent – just what he needs."

Mey-Rin nodded and came over to sit on the edge of Ciel's bed. "How're you feeling?"

"A bit better, I guess," Ciel nodded, and his stomach grumbled at the smell of the soup. "Um, hungry." he added sheepishly.

Mey-Rin smiled and Sebastian brought the soup over. "Here," she said, dipping a spoon she'd had sitting in the bowl and bringing a spoonful to Ciel's lips. "Blow on it first; it's hot."

He did what he was told, and then accepted the mouthful, feeling a shiver run through his body as the savoury broth slid down his throat. "Mm – taste's good," he offered them a small, weak smile.

The two of them beamed, and Sebastian set the bowl down on the bedside stand before patting Mey-Rin on the shoulder. "I'll leave you to it."

"You better go check on the guys downstairs," Mey-Rin chuckled. "When I left it sounded like Bard and Pluto were ready to rage kitchen warfare on each other."

"Oh dear..." Sebastian's voice faded away as he left, heading downstairs to stop World War Kitchen before it started. Mey-Rin turned back to Ciel, offering him another spoonful of soup.

Once he'd had nearly half the bowl, he could feel his eyelids beginning to droop, and Mey-Rin helped to tuck him down properly into bed, resting his head against the plush pillows. She whispered goodnight, drew the curtains to cut out any invading moonlight, and dropped a kiss onto his forehead before taking the bowl and leaving quietly, the door clicking shut behind her.

Ciel's thoughts were a mess, but he shoved the jumble of them to one side and let out a deep sigh – he was definitely ready for a good long sleep.

"That was certainly a close call."

In a flash he was bolt upright in bed again, the voice startling him. He looked around the room, looking for the source.

"Who's there?"

As his gaze came back to what was directly in front of him, the shadowy figure of the Other Ciel appeared on the edge of his bed, sitting with one leg crossed over the other, examining his gloved hands, his fingers decorated in the gold and silver rings of his family.

"You're really intent on destroying yourself, aren't you?" Other Ciel said lightly, and Ciel blinked rapidly, hoping the figure would disappear. However, Other Ciel stayed stubbornly where he was sitting. "Honestly; you have to be more careful."

"Go away!" Ciel snarled. "Leave me alone! Get out of my life!"

"Impossible. Sorry, you're stuck with me." Other Ciel smirked. "Really – I am you. You can't get rid of me."

"Just stop appearing everywhere! You scared the wits out of me the other day and I nearly drowned tonight – I'm sick and tired of you popping up."

Other Ciel raised an eyebrow. "Oh please. It wasn't my fault you followed a phantom and nearly turned yourself into fish food." he said. "You need to have a clearer definition of what's real and what isn't. Stop grasping at shadows. Focus on what will keep your alive. Focus on what you know for sure is real."

Burying his face in his hands, Ciel groaned and shook his head.

"But I don't know anymore. I don't know what's real and what isn't. I'm talking to myself, for God's sake!"

"It's not as mad as people think," Other Ciel replied. "Come on, stop sulking."

"I'm not sulking!" Ciel shot back, but the Other Ciel merely shrugged.

"You're acting like a child. It's rather pathetic to watch, honestly. Look. You know that Sebastian and the other's are real. Stay with them. They're there to protect you." Other Ciel said, all traces of mocking and sarcasm gone from his voice. "Think about it – did the Watchdog of the Queen ever run off chasing ghosts? Were you ever really that lost?"

"W-well, I..."

"The answer is no. You were always guided by something or someone. Most of the time it was Sebastian. Don't stray from him. You're not a great detective and you're not a famous Earl – your father might be, but he's not dead in this world. You're a child. A child without a decent grip on reality."

"I've got a grip on reality!" Ciel argued, but the Other Ciel raised his brows again.

"Uh huh. Listen, you're not stable right now. If you really want to make progress, listen to me. I'm your sensibility, remember?"

Falling back against the pillows and rubbing his eyes, Ciel sighed. "Fine. We'll do this your way."

"Good," Other Ciel nodded sagely. "Now get some sleep. Remember, Sebastian is your immovable rock in this sea of turmoil, pardon the pun. He's the one you can count on."

Ciel nodded, shuffling himself back down to pull the covers back to his chin, finding a comfortable spot to relax into the sheets. "Okay..."

As he drifted off, he could hear the Other Ciel humming a tune, a soft, mellow song he vaguely recognized as Scarborough Fair. Something his mother had always sung him to help him sleep. The figure on the end of his bed faded from view as his eyes fluttered closed, but even as the shadowy boy disappeared from the room, the notes of the melody remained and sung their way through Ciel's dreamless sleep.

-:-


AfterNote:

Another overdue chapter finally done!

Okay, so my excuse of study and shit is really lame, but it's nearly the end of my first semester and so i'll have more time to get some more writing done when i'm not having panic attacks and freaking out. At least I don't have any exams to worry about – that makes me uber happy.

Sooo...i guess I could tell y'all how i've been doing otherwise. Still doing parkour training, now I can do a range of vaults and rolls, and surprise surprise all this training has helped me lose a little weight and turned it into muscle. (And yet I still find time to study? Hmm...) well, I also have been doing some animation work in one of my classes (and it's pretty fun, fairly simple stuff – frame-by-frame gif making on photoshop. It takes it's time though ;A;) i'm considering trying to make some Kuro animations...hmm...

uuuh what else? Well i'm currently living with some friends of the family, on the top bunk of my friend's bunk bed in her cluttered little room. I've been playing too much pokemon and doing a big huggy bunch of research for a new Kuroshitsuji fic i'm going to be starting probably after Subject 13's Butler reaches it's conclusion (so...yeah it's still a long way off) ^^"

Not much else to report. My horse hurt herself on my mid-semester break while I was home to see her a few weeks ago, so she got tonnes of cuddles and attention. Apprently she's doing much better now. We've also got a friend agisting his two horses in our back paddock, so while I was home from the city I got to meet them (they're lovely boys – Mac's HUUUUUGE like 17 fucking hands tall dudes! And Marriano is a sweet gelding who's struck up a real frienship with my mare.) in other news my gelding Zero is still a big sweetheart.

Anyway – i'll sign off for now and get some more gif-making done! Don't forget to review, guys! Your kind and loving words are what motivates me to keep writing!

I LOVE YOU ALL YOU ALL ROCK LET'S SET THE POST OFFICE ON FIRE YEEEEEEEAAAA-

- Mercy