A/N: Hello there ffn readers! Welcome to Masquerade! Thanks for stopping by! As stated in the summary, this story is AU. Please enjoy the story.

Warnings: cynicism. . . that's about it for this chapter though. XD

Disclaimer: Kuroshitsuji. . . do not own it. I believe these characters belong to one Yana Toboso.

It was dark. The only light illuminating the spacious ballroom came from dull spotlights, covered by deep indigo screens. They danced 'round the room teasingly, leaving certain areas completely black for a few short moments. The flames on the ornate, golden chandeliers above them had long since been put out. Now, the men and women spun about aimlessly, identities hidden by ridiculous half masks.

Ciel Phantomhive scoffed behind a wine glass full of water, doing his best to avoid interacting with anyone until this dance was over. He certainly couldn't avoid it the entire night, as it would be absolutely unheard of for a noble of his caliber to be so unsociable. Even with a mask, he was sure almost everyone at this silly little masquerade knew who he was. After all, he was most certainly the shortest person in attendance. It wouldn't take a genius to know he was a child.

Dozens of feet moved in perfect rhythm to the flouncy orchestra music. One step. Two step. So on. . . Ciel found it all so pointless. He found most of the lessons his dear aunt insisted he learn to be quite pointless, in fact. Such a great waste of time.

The little Earl managed to locate the blur of red that was practically floating across the dance floor, in the arms of a masked stranger. A tall man, with long blond hair, a white feathered mask covering his eyes and the bridge of his nose. Madame Red, as she so liked being addressed, was wearing an elated red grin and laughing playfully as the blond stranger spun her around for the fifteenth time. Honestly, why did she insist on going to these soirées in the first place? Better yet, why did she insist on bringing her nephew along with her?

"You can't sit in the manor and feel sorry for yourself forever, Ciel. You need to get out and mingle with the other nobles. How else do you expect to make connections? You won't get very far in the industry by yourself."

Oh, yes, of course. That's why.

The boy let out another scoff and rolled his eyes. When would this torture end? He had better things to do with his time than "mingle" with useless fools who wouldn't benefit him at all. That was all he cared about; pawns. People with savvy skills that he could exploit for his own purposes, then dispose of when they are of no further use. That is how successful businesses are made; by stepping on people who are clearly beneath you.

A young boy he may be, but he was certain he could outwit any grown man in that ridiculous ballroom. Quite honestly, it was boring. Stepping on toes was no fun at all when it was made so incredibly easy. Ciel sighed deeply. His face was beginning to sweat under his mask. He so wanted to remove it but felt as though it would be rude. The added body heat from the dancers made the room feel something like an oven. As if this trip wasn't miserable enough. . .

The air was much more thick than Ciel's sensitive lungs could handle. Without a word, he slipped out of the room through the French doors. He managed to make it to the gardens behind the manor. With a deep breath, he allowed the cool nighttime air to fill his deprived lungs. Unlike the ballroom, the lights in the gardens were bright, bathing the trimmed hedges and the spitting fish fountain in a calming shade of blue. Knowing it may ruin his coat, but not really bothering to care, Ciel sat on the edge of the fountain.

He gazed down into the water, staring at his own melancholy reflection. When had he gotten so pale? 'I've always been pale. . .' he thought to himself, chuckling mildly, like a madman, at his own nonsensical thinking.

He turned his attention back to the water, expecting to see only his own pallid face and the scowl that was now painted on it. Instead, just behind him, was a different ghostly white face. At least the lower half of one. The top half was covered by a jet black raven mask, feathers spewing from the corner like an elegant black wing preparing to take flight. A long black beak came to a point at the end of his nose, giving Ciel the illusion, in the rippling blue water, that he was being stalked by an actual raven.

Though the man had startled him, he remained so controlled so as not to let it show. He wasn't sure if the inaudible gasp he let slip was noticed by the intruder. The annoying smirk the man wore under his beak was a clear indication he was amused. By what, Ciel hadn't the slightest.

"I'm quite sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," the man assured. Ciel finally allowed himself to turn towards him, only to find the man was a great deal taller than him. Though, most everyone was, so this wasn't too big of a surprise. In fact, the raven man stood a good foot and a half taller than the thirteen year old Earl. His hair, jet black, just like almost everything on him, was combed back on his left side, resting peacefully behind his ear. On the opposite side, his fringe fell haphazardly to the contour of his face. Ciel stared in shock at the man's blood red gaze, peering at him from behind his beaded disguise. It was almost enough to send shivers of dread down his spine. Almost.

"It's alright," Ciel said with a smile, in the most pleasant voice he could manage through his annoyance. The raven man just continued to smile down at the smaller boy, his crimson eyes sliding closed as his smirk grew. Honestly, some people. Ciel's smile faded, his exposed cerulean eye darkening as the man chuckled playfully.

"Tell me little one, where are your parents?" the raven man said, his eyes still closed. Ciel allowed himself to shutter. It wasn't like the man would notice it anyway.

"My guardian is inside. In fact, I should be getting back as well. To be honest, I shouldn't even be out here," Ciel muttered pleasantly.

"Allow me to escort you," the raven man said, offering his left hand to Ciel, who stared at it skeptically for a moment before politely taking it.

The two slid back into the ballroom just as a new song was beginning, Ciel's right hand resting awkwardly atop the raven man's left. It was strange enough already that the raven man would exchange such a courtesy with another male. It became all the more strange when the raven man released Ciel and knelt down in front of him on one knee, offering his right hand this time.

"Would the young master be so kind as to allow me a dance?" he said, staring up expectantly at the boy in question. Ciel could do nothing but stare, wide eyed. What a foolish thing to ask. This man was an imbecile.

"Absolutely not!" the smaller boy finally screamed, sheepishly sinking when he realized people had turned to look at them.

"Please don't deny me, young master. It's only a dance. At the very least, tell me why it is that you would refuse me?" the raven man asked, his smooth voice cutting through Ciel's soul like butter.

"I am refusing you because we are both men. Not to mention you are . . . far too. . . tall," Ciel sputtered rather ungracefully. The raven man smiled wider.

"Could it be that the young master, who, by the way, is not yet a man, doesn't know how to dance?" Ciel just turned his eyes away, pretending to be focusing on something elsewhere. The raven man laughed when his question wasn't graced with a response. "Come now," he continued, taking Ciel's hand and leading him out to the dance floor, "Allow me to guide you."

Ciel tried desperately to pull back but found his efforts futile. His weak body could do little to stop the taller man.

"Please. . . I don't. . ." He said, trying his best to keep his voice low, so as not to draw too much attention to himself. "What will people think?"

"Not too much, I assume. You are just a child, it's not so unreasonable that I should like a dance. They'll likely find it endearing," the raven man said through a condescending smirk. He whirled the young boy to the center of the ballroom floor. Ciel scowled.

"I am not a child," he hissed through gritted teeth, sounding just like the very thing he was claiming not to be. The raven man's smirk grew as they whizzed past extravagant ball gowns and glittering masks. Ciel felt quite sick.

He stepped on the raven man's toes several times, most of them on purpose, in hopes that the man would get frustrated and release him. No such luck. The more the two spun around the violet ballroom, the worse off Ciel felt. His constricted lungs weren't of any help to his nauseous stomach. It wouldn't be too much longer before he released his nausea all over the raven man's nice black lapel. Wouldn't he be sorry then?

Ciel tried to hold it back as best he could, it would only make this already horribly embarrassing encounter all the more humiliating. How dare this fool degrade him in such a way? Did he have the slightest idea with whom he was toying?

Young Earl Phantomhive glanced around the room, noting that a bulk of the people surrounding them were looking in their direction. Some seemed to find the display adorable, while others seemed to think it was strange. While Ciel wasn't sure if anyone could recognize the raven man through his disguise, he was positive that most of the masked onlookers recognized him. Which made this whole scenario that much more demeaning.

Thankfully, the song came to an end just as Ciel felt his restraint slipping. Once the raven man released his tiny hand, the boy fell to one knee, his chest heaving desperately. The raven man kneeled so that he was almost eye level with the teen and lifted the boy's head with his hand.

"It was a pleasure to dance with you, Young Master," he said with that hateful smile before kissing the boy's hand and disappearing so quickly that, for a moment, Ciel thought he imagined the whole thing. But, looking around at his peers, he realized it was all very real. Suddenly, he was being pulled up onto his feet by his Aunt Red.

"Ciel, are you alright? What are doing on the floor?" she asked her nephew, who was still struggling to breathe. He pointed to his chest, hoping she would catch on that he was having some breathing problems. "Is it your asthma?" He nodded. "Well, what on earth were you dancing for?" He scowled again.

"Ladies and gentleman, I thank you all for such a wonderful evening!" The host, Viscount Druitt, screamed from his perch on a second floor balcony. "Unfortunately, the night has now come to an end, I wish you all a safe and pleasant trip home." The attendants clapped and began the trek to their carriages. Ciel searched frantically for the raven man, but he was nowhere to be found. In that moment, the boy vowed to himself that he would track down that foolish fowl. Such humiliation as this could not go unpunished. A Phantomhive never loses.

A/N: Well, that's it for now friendly readers. Tune in for chapter 2 please, it gets more interesting, I promise. XD Please review if you have the time! Thank you for reading! ^w^

Regional Disclaimer: I feel compelled to point this out, only because it has offended and put people off before. I was born and still reside in the USA. Obviously, there are very distinct differences between Britain and the US, both from a linguistic standpoint and in terms of cultural normalities. This story is set in a region I am not entirely familiar with, thus it may contain some US English, despite my absolute best efforts to avoid it. I've been asked why I don't just set the story in my home country, but, not only is the location and time period very important to the plot, but also, to do that would be straying too far from the spirit of Kuroshitsuji. So, if you are from the UK and notice bothersome Americanisms in the story, feel free to let me know, but do so politely. I know it can be annoying and really take away from the reading experience when there are cultural inaccuracies throughout. So, if they are there, I do want to know about them. I hope that, if you do find any, they don't deter you from reading and I apologize in advance. XD