Ciel sighed, his head throbbing as he dropped it to the desk. He had just received a missive from the Queen, and it looked like it was going to be rough. He'd have to go in as bait…again. He was loyal to the Queen, and would do anything to stop Her tears, but that didn't mean he had to enjoy it.

The door to his office opened and shut almost silently, but Ciel didn't move, just waiting, his eyes closed as Sebastian moved to stand in front of his desk, silently awaiting his orders. Sitting back, Ciel clasped his hands on his desk and stared steadily back at Sebastian.

"There has been a series of child kidnappings throughout the country. It appears to be a relatively large organization that's responsible, as multiple kidnappings happen in several different jurisdictions, all at the same time. This saddens the Queen. She has ordered that I rescue the children, find the ones responsible, and bring them to justice." The Queen hadn't specified more than that, but Ciel and Sebastian both knew what hadn't been said; any crime that involved child victims were to be dealt with swiftly and without mercy. The criminals would die at Sebastian's hands when they were found.

The demon bowed, in that perfect manner of his. "Understood," he murmured in reply, and Ciel rose to his feet, his eyes determined. Sebastian straightened up and met his stare, his crimson eyes already amused. Ciel had to stop himself from rolling his eyes; anything that inconvenienced Ciel was bound to be entertaining for him.

"The quickest way to ascertain the location of those children is to have the criminals bring us directly to them," Ciel scowled, still not happy with his plan, even though it was almost foolproof. "We'll have to go out of town for a few days, so prepare for the journey," he ordered the demon. After all, everybody in this town knew who Ciel Phantomhive was, and what he looked like. So he'd have to leave.

Sebastian nodded his understanding. He'd pack for a several day journey, and would inform the other servants that they were going on a vacation or something similar. After all, it would do no good if anybody suspected what they were actually doing.

Ciel moved towards the door, and Sebastian was just suddenly there, having moved in that preternatural way of his, so that he was wherever Ciel needed him to be at any given moment. He opened the door for Ciel, bowing as his master exited the room. Head held high, Ciel strode down the hallway, heading for his room. Dinner had been served already, as had dessert. He would sleep now, and would awake early the next morning to begin their journey.

His face remained expressionless, almost bored, as he walked into his room. Again, Sebastian had arrived before him and opened the door promptly. Ciel moved to the center of the room and stopped, and Sebastian worked swiftly and silently to prepare him for bed, slipping off his clothes to be washed, and sliding his night shirt over his head. Ciel stood stoically, allowing his butler to work.

The shirt slid down without a snag, covering the scars that marred his back, before sliding down over the slave brand that served as a sharp reminder of Ciel's humiliation and suffering at the hands of his own kidnappers. This mission was going to dredge up lots of unpleasant memories, and already, Ciel was feeling a little cracked around the edges, as if those memories were trying to leak through his tough exterior, trying to break him from the inside.

Ciel scowled as Sebastian stood, his hands carding once through Ciel's hair as he sought the tie for the eye patch. He undid it, and the patch slid off, revealing the sigil burned into his pupil, a physical manifestation of their binding contract.

The bed was already turned down, and Ciel crawled onto it, burrowing under the covers as Sebastian tucked him in. He hated that he was still a child in this, at least, but there was little he could do about it. The bed was far too large for just him – it had been his parents' bed before their deaths, and now it was just another reminder for him.

He closed his eyes, well aware that Sebastian was scrutinizing him. He would not be weak tonight and ask the older man to stay. Their mission hadn't even begun yet, so there was no way that he was going to become weak before they'd even started. Still, he knew he would not get much sleep tonight, regardless.

Sebastian bowed after a moment. "Good night, Bocchan. Sweet dreams." Ciel's eyes snapped open and he glared at the demon, who was smiling back at him sweetly. They both knew that 'sweet dreams' were not to be had tonight. Determinedly, Ciel closed his eyes again and turned over onto his other side, so that his back was turned towards Sebastian.

He couldn't hear the chuckle, but knew that Sebastian was laughing at him nonetheless. A moment later, the room was plunged into darkness as the candles went out, and Sebastian left, closing the door behind him. Ciel shuddered and closed his eyes tightly, curling deeper into the covers and trying to force himself to sleep. After all, it was unlikely that he'd be sleeping anywhere comfortable for the next few days, while they hunted for their prey, pretending to be prey themselves.

Eventually, through sheer will, he managed to fall asleep, but it was a restless sleep, plagued with nightmares and visions of a future – his future, and Sebastian's – if they made a miscalculation during this mission. He dreamed of the great fire again, the one that burned down the Phantomhive mansion. He relived the deaths of his parents, their mangled corpses seen through the blazing fire that had nearly claimed his life as well, and would have, if Tanaka hadn't pulled him away from the burning building, injured and near death himself.

Tanaka managed to get them both out of the mansion before collapsing, but as a result, he had been helpless to rescue Ciel when the boy had been kidnapped by the evil men that wished to summon a demon, and needed a human sacrifice to do so. They had left the butler for dead and drugged Ciel, so that he didn't know where he was going, or why.

Ciel tossed and turned as he remembered those tormented, agonizing days in his dreams. He felt the whip strike his flesh, the knives carving deep into his chest, felt the white-hot agony of the slave brand as it was burned into his back by a laughing, masked man, while eight others held him down.

He felt the pain and humiliation of all the tortures he had suffered, including the rape and the ritual whereupon they had used his blood and pain to summon a powerful demon. Pity that demon had proceeded to make a contract with the intended sacrifice, and then kill them all.

He bolted upright in bed, his eyes wide as he panted, unaware that he was home, safe. Movement to his side, and his hand swung out, curled into a most ineffective fist. His hand was caught easily, and went from a fist to an open hand, his fingers curling around the long, slender ones that had caught his weak strike. Crimson eyes stared at him, flickering in the candlelight, so that splashes of color flashed through them – the brilliant red of fresh blood clashing with the darker color of old bricks.

"Bocchan," Sebastian murmured quietly. "It is time for us to go. I have everything packed. The carriage is waiting for us out front." His smooth timbre was soothing and gentle, and Ciel found himself calming down, his breathing falling back under control. His fingers tightened briefly around Sebastian's, before he forced himself to let go and stand on shaky legs, his pride overriding his need for comfort.

Sebastian just smiled at him, obviously pleased with his determination, and proceeded to slip the nightshirt over his head. His traveling clothes were already picked out – a simple outfit that wouldn't be out of place among peasants, which is what Ciel needed. These guys probably wouldn't risk themselves to kidnap a child who was obviously from wealthy origins, not if they wanted to avoid a whole lot of unwanted attention from the local police force.

"You won't dress down?" he asked the taller man, not really expecting an answer. After all, Sebastian was a butler first, and a demon second. The men they were seeking would never even know that he was there if he wished to remain invisible. Sebastian just smiled at him benignly, and Ciel sighed quietly to himself. "Very well, then. Let's go," he muttered, turning and walking out the door on silent feet.

Once outside, Ciel cast a critical eye over the carriage. The usual decorations had been removed, and the carriage was now a solid black, easily hidden in the night. The horses were solid black as well, and Ciel knew that they would be left at a stable somewhere until Ciel and Sebastian were ready to return.

Approaching the carriage, Ciel stumbled, unused to walking in the simpler shoes. Strong hands caught him from behind and lifted him clear off the ground. "Careful, Bocchan," Sebastian murmured, setting him right into the carriage. Ciel flushed and hoped vainly that Sebastian couldn't tell. A small chuckle as the butler bowed and closed the carriage door made him drop his head, mortified. Great, now even the demon was laughing at him.

The carriage started moving shortly after that, and Ciel allowed his head to lean against the side of the carriage, his eyes closing. Sebastian would wake him when they had arrived, if the rising sun didn't wake him up first. He just hoped that no more nightmares plagued him on their short journey. He had a bad feeling about this mission, and not even Sebastian's presence could change it.

For the first time since he had forsaken his childhood and offered up his soul in exchange for revenge, Ciel found himself praying, though he knew that nobody, save perhaps Sebastian, would hear him. Please let this go smoothly. Please.