All in Good Time
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters are the property of Yana Toboso and Square Enix, Co. Ltd. I don't own them; I just examine all their possibilities.
Author's Note: This takes place directly after the events of "This Immortal Coil" and will probably be a two-part story.
26 September, 1890
Reaper Dispatch Offices — London
The blank piece of paper and those freshly oiled keys taunted William the more he stared at them. He rested his elbows on the desk, fingers ready to get into position on the typewriter and his mind already locked on the right words, though he was frozen from doing anything. He took another look at the clock, then another look at that expense report off to the side that he tinkered with too many times this morning. The ink on the ledger was smudged and certain sections of paper from another report were showing wear marks from being typed upon and erased too many times; all in the process of keeping him preoccupied and avoiding this one important task.
A voice in William's mind considered this a form of validation. This was the conflict of interest he had been trying to avoid for the better part of a century; this was proof positive why getting too involved with one's subordinates was a bad idea. Now he was in a position of crucial decision with a subordinate in such a position; what could he say that would be fair for all parties?
William sighed hard, then put his fingers to the keys. He knew exactly what needed to be said, it was that voice of warning in his head that needed to shut it.
To the Esteemed High Councilors,
I present to you my summary report of the discipline history of Dispatch Officer Grell N. Sutcliff as I have observed in the past sixteen months that he has returned to probationary duty following his suspension in November of 1888 for the charges of: 1) Killing those not on the List of the Dead and 2) Using a modified Death Scythe without application for said use.
As has been well-documented in your records, Mr. Sutcliff was reinstated to probationary duty in March of 1889. He was due for a one-year review in March of 1890. On the 15th of March he suffered from and, by the grace of the deities, survived a Voice of the Almighty Attack. This incident that has been thoroughly investigated and reported on by your offices.
William re-read the last paragraph, a sad smirk coming across his face. It felt bizarre to describe this so matter-of-factly, it was like a summary item being described like it happened in ancient history. He realized that was something he should be happy about. If only he knew on that fateful day that in six months time he would be writing up Grell Sutcliff's disciplinary review. His fingers went back on the keys, but froze; the full realization made him numb.
William's hands fell to his desk and he let out a small sigh. Writing this very document was writing a part of history. This was a disciplinary review for a reaper who suffered a Voice of the Almighty Attack six months ago: an attack that burst several blood vessels in his brain, an injury reaper healing could never touch, an injury that was a death sentence for all but two…no, now three reapers in Britain.
It had been over six months since that day. It had been over six months after getting the initial reports from Watch, after shaking Sutcliff's limp body, after the update from Dr. Kingsbury on the surgery that may or may not save his life, after hearing the statistical probability Sutcliff would either die or be permanently incapacitated, after waiting five tense days for him to open his eyes for longer than a minute.
Six months later William was now reviewing Grell Sutcliff's disciplinary history four months since his full reinstatement. William wasn't reviewing Sutcliff's death certificate, he wasn't reviewing his convalescent care, he wasn't reviewing his welfare post-retirement, he was writing a report for his bloody disciplinary review.
William put his chin in his hands and took a deep breath. A voice in his head barked at him to get moving, though he allowed himself the pause. He was learning to allow himself some emotion, especially regarding Grell. If that incident taught him anything it was emotions need to be addressed and let out at appropriate moments. He pushed back the nagging thought he had allowed himself too much emotional vulnerability with Sutcliff, that was why he was having such difficulty writing this.
William straightened right up and put his fingers back on the keys; it was time to write out the happy ending in more matter-of-fact details.
Mr. Sutcliff was reinstated to provisional duty from Medical Leave on the 28th of April and was declared fit for full duty on the 19th of May. I was informed by your office that his disciplinary review would take place four months after this time and was recently advised by your office of the current proceedings.
I present my summary report in Mr. Sutcliff's disciplinary history in the time he returned from suspension in March of 1889 and accounting for the four months since he has returned to full duty after recovering from his grave injuries. I trust Dr. Sutherland will provide you with any reports on the current status of his health should you request them.
William knew from reports and from the occasional conversation with Sutcliff that he was seeing Dr. Sutherland weekly since his reinstatement. That schedule had been reduced to every few weeks for basic examinations and updates; mainly checking his reflexes and neural responses and getting the occasional head scan. Thus far the only lingering health concern was possible seizure activity. A small bit of scar tissue was left in his brain left from the surgery to seal the blood vessels Cassius the Vengeful burst in that attack.
The more Sutcliff healed, the less likely it was such seizures would be spontaneous. At last report from the good doctor, his anti-seizure medication was reduced further; the only lingering concern was any electric shock could set it off. This concern would go on his record for advisory purposes; a small notation was all that was left of his injury.
Enough description, now was the time to get right back into this. William paused for a moment, he thought to consult the files he had been pouring through for the last few days. However he already knew what he was going to write, he couldn't doubt his judgment lest any over-caution choke him.
Ever since his return to probationary duty in March of 1889, Mr. Sutcliff's record has contained no major indiscretions. He has received some demerits from my office. Full documentation is provided in the accompanying file, though in summary most of the charges have related to a few outbursts on duty, lack of punctuality, and disorganization in reporting.
There were a few demerits for purposefully keeping company with a demon: the entity named "Sebastian Michaelis." However, as you fully know, I am now aware that said visits were likely done on the request of the Library of Extraplanar Entities and Occurrences.
William rolled his eyes at the mere mention of this, that office had given him enough headaches and anxiety through that whole ordeal. Sutcliff was investigating that blasted demon on their behest, an investigation he was wrapping up when Cassius made his presence known. He was content to list this agency as a footnote with the information he already had; he couldn't blame that office for putting Grell in harm's way by having him investigate the demon. William didn't care to think on what Grell actually did that put him in the middle of that attack.
I rescind my demerits in the case of Earl Phantomhive's butler. I will note, however, I am not entirely convinced all of said visits were official business, though this is mere speculation on my part.
Honesty was always something William would always be capable of, no matter his relationship with the subject about which he was writing.
Any demerits made against Mr. Sutcliff were considerably minor. Considering these factors, his overall performance following release from suspension has been satisfactory. He has adhered well to code and performed his duties dependably. His collection procedures have been on point, if not reckless at times, and his reporting has been dependable, if not somewhat sloppy.
I will note that since his return to full duty from medical leave and related probationary duty in May of this year there has been a marked improvement in his performance.
William paused and looked over that last sentence. No, it sounded too glowing; he pressed the backspace button in a methodical series. The typewriter rhythmically clicked back, cleanly erasing the last few words. He looked at the paper and tried to think up the best way to put this without praising Sutcliff too much.
He sighed again and adjusted his spectacles. He knew he was over thinking this report, though was the difficulty when someone crossed from being a subordinate to a…friend. Yes, friend was the right term. That's the term he and Grell both preferred.
He shook his head and the right words came to him.
I will note that since his return to full duty since that fell incident, his performance has been crisper. I have observed greater efficiencies in his collecting procedure, his reporting has been neater, and his punctuality and subordination have become more reliable. Mr. Sutcliff has been more focused and less prone to distractions. This turn in performance has been consistent for the past four months, however he has proven himself a fickle being and I will be watching him closely.
William knew these weren't just his own words but the current state of affairs. Sutcliff was actually getting his professional act together, though more striking was the change in his demeanor. His normal chatter and flitting manners were very much present, though they seemed more reeled in. He was a bit more focused on the task at hand and avoiding too many distractions. There were fewer random visits to William's office, Sutcliff was actually sitting at his desk more and not sliding around the room as much.
William also knew he wasn't the only one who noticed this, he couldn't count how many "blow to the head" comments he heard from the idiots.
"Ya think he's less barmy now? Maybe he got a brain transplant."
"Instant reaper, just smash in head."
"You think he really did get lobotomized?"
William guiltily admitted he too had some thoughts in this direction. Everyone watched Grell through the entire recovery process expecting some hindrances. The thought occurred to William a few times that perhaps the brain injury had muted his normal spirit; maybe he did lose parts of his personality. He was his usual self right after waking up, though perhaps there were farther reaching consequences everyone was only seeing now.
Or perhaps this brush with permanent end made him take his job a bit more seriously; nothing seemed more a motivator than nearly losing one's life. William also knew Grell was exceedingly restless during his recovery process. Even after waking up he was fidgeting around, he complained on several occasions about wanting to just get out there are do something. Now he was at his full capacity, perhaps he was making up for that lost time.
There was a possibility he was trying to impress a certain someone. Regardless of the motivation, William was hardly complaining about the results.
Overall I cautiously recommend that his puniary probation be lifted, though strong scrutiny should be maintained. In the meantime he should be trusted to continue his duties without the additional provisions that were placed on him. I will say I am cautiously optimistic that he will maintain his clear record, though I can afford little optimism for this particular officer.
I am prepared to make any further reports to the Council should you request them.
William almost wrote his closing salutations, but paused again. His eyes scanned over the words he had just written. It was a fair report; accurate without being too scathing or glowing. He had used the utmost care and honesty writing this, though something was off. Perhaps some full disclosure was in order.
In the interest of transparency, I must address a measure of personal connection I have with Mr. Sutcliff. In the wake of his recovery, we did reestablish a friendship that had been strained for the past few decades. From a personal standpoint I have observed changes in his demeanor from over-distracted frivolity to a more pensive professionalism. His eccentricities remain, but are muted. I can only speculate that his brush with permanent death has lead him to take his job a bit more seriously.
I do assure you my personal involvement with Mr. Sutcliff is entirely separate from my duties as his superior officer. I will fully acquiesce to any requests to recuse myself from any matters of judgment relating to him.
William leaned back and read that last paragraph, mentally debating whether the memorandum was satisfactory or perhaps over caution. No, It was always better to err on the side of caution.
William didn't care to get close to any of his subordinates; he was their boss, not their buddy. Recent events, however, had somewhat changed his thinking. Then again the bosses were pushing morale these days. Among the Councilors' staff meeting recommendations included how everything from daily small talk to even the occasional pint between supervisors and staff could lead to optimum productivity.
William doubted the bosses had in mind the relationship he had with Sutcliff now, though he doubted they would actually care all that much. Reapers weren't exactly forbidden or even discouraged from sharing intimacies with colleagues. There was a bit more weight placed on rank and age, though that didn't stop anyone. Regardless everyone was entitled to their own business as long as they did their jobs and followed the rules. Technically he and Sutcliff were barely that "intimate" as of late, though that was another story.
He quickly wrote his salutations, then yanked the last sheet from the typewriter and read over it again; trying to focus only on grammar and spelling and not dwell on the contents. This was as honest and as accurate a report he could write for Sutcliff. He knew if he were writing this under the status quo six months ago, the report would be much more strongly worded with no praise for anything Sutcliff did. The turn of events changed everyone involved; William was still convincing himself this was all for the better, especially for himself.
William had tea and a couple scones waiting when Grell arrived. William poured him a cup like a good gentleman, lightly nudging the cream and sugar containers toward him.
"I don't recall if I've positively raved about this yet already, but you are indeed a wonderful host," Grell said, watching as William poured him a cup. "In these last few months, I cannot recall any one you haven't has some sort of refreshment; light tea, a few finger sandwiches, sometimes wine. Such a gracious host you are indeed."
William then poured his own cup and smiled a little in response.
"Coming from a man of nobility, I will take that as a high compliment," William replied, putting the kettle down on a wood tray and picking up a small cream server.
Grell chortled a bit.
"Yes, I certainly know a master when I see one," Grell said, taking on a comically stuffy manner of speech. "I am sure you had experience hosting prominent men aboard your ship."
Grell winked, William gave him a knowing look and a quick smirk.
They had taken the habit of chiding each other about personal, no, forbidden details; details sparse few reapers would willingly share with each other. These were details of their past lives, details both held as guarded secrets. In one afternoon nigh on six months ago Grell and William opened up to each other, sharing deep secrets of simple details exchanged across an infirmary bed. Now these little chides and knowing words were verbal intimacies to Grell; they were sharing each other in polite conversation, they knew things about each other no other soul would know.
"Limited experience," William said. "Though I certainly knew how to host our buccaneer guests."
Grell gave a dirty cackle.
"I can only imagine how much hospitality you gave them," Grell snickered. "Oh that had to be a sight to see."
"Yes I'm sure you would find it entertaining."
"Though now I'm curious, did you ever entertain some prestigious guest? High admiral, member of George's brood, maybe some foreign dignitary from some exotic country: African chieftain or Persian princess perhaps?"
William gently blew on his tea and took a cautious sip.
"You make my post sound so romantic," William replied. "In truth we were lucky if some lower commodore inspected the vessel every few years. The pirates were our most prestigious company. Though what of you? I'm sure someone as high bred as yourself hosted a few royal guests."
It was an occasional game of quid pro quo; if one slipped a detail, the other had to serve up a related one.
"No direct hosting to my knowledge, just being at the right party at the right planned time," Grell said, spooning some sugar into his tea. "I did have an audience with his and her majesties themselves when I was a small thing. I remember bowing so regally, George patted me on my little head." Grell put his hand out and delicately patted the air. "I felt so special."
William snickered and nodded.
"I can certainly understand," William replied.
"Pleased for your wonderful experience."
"Though you actually did something for your king than go to a bunch of insipid parties."
"Though I suppose socializing is a form of diplomacy, perhaps you do possess a useful skill somehow."
"Now you're just making fun of me."
"Nothing gets past you, does it?"
Grell giggled, putting one leg over the other and reclining against the couch. William noticed how his hair touched the center of the back cushion. At one point the would have had to shift his position to keep from sitting on it. That mane of red hair fell victim to his condition six months ago, all of it had to be shaved off in the process of saving his life. It was a miracle when he was able to grow it out an inch at a time. Now he was fully healed and could have grown it out to its former glory. Instead he was keeping it just below the bottom of his shoulder blades.
This was just one little aspect of his normal vanity Grell had toned down; it wasn't just his behavior that has changed. William noticed he was wearing less make-up in general, a point emphasized now. He saw a little light powder and slight kohl around the eyes but only that, even those gaudy fake eyelashes were staying off.
Perhaps he was caring less about vanity and frivolities; having a working body was enough, why devote too much time to decorating it? William couldn't help but wonder if another factor was involved, as in the lack of trying to get a certain supervisor's attention. He had said supervisor's regular attention, especially after hours. William looked down at his tea and held back a smile, then looked at Grell again.
Grell met his gaze and flashed a pointed-tooth grin.
"Are you admiring my stunning beauty?" Grell said.
"Merely deep in thought," William replied. "I can't help but observe a few little changes you've made."
"Oh? And what observations would those be?"
"You look a little more…natural perhaps. I haven't seen you cake on any make-up in a while, nor have you grown out that calamity of hair."
William reached over and gently ran a hand through Grell's hair. Grell snickered and leaned into the touch.
"A little change keeps one fresh," Grell replied. "Maybe I just want to let my natural beauty glow for a change. Or maybe I got lazy after being laid up for so long."
William let out a small snicker as well.
"That is one form of sloth I'd rather you indulge in than others," William replied.
"Oh you can be honest with me, love; all these years I tried to paint myself to charm you and all along it was natural beauty you preferred."
"I'll let you indulge that fantasy."
Grell chuckled, then leaned over and planted a soft kiss on his lips. William smiled a little and joined in. Grell gently placed a hand on his shoulder and leaned in further, his fingers delicately brushing the hairs on the back of William's neck. William lightly caressed his hair, running his hand down his back. His hand reached the tips of his hair, then found a hold on the small of his back.
Grell let out a small sigh and pulled him in harder, their tongues finding each other. He positioned his leg over William's and partially straddled him, the bulge in William's trousers gave him away. Grell's leg took a firmer hold and he pressed his own excitement against William's, grinding his pelvis against him. William let out a sharp moan; this felt good…too good.
William suddenly snapped back, his hands going from their gentle hold shoving Grell back. Grell fell back with a yelp, bracing himself against the couch with his hands. He looked at William, though held back a glare. No, he knew exactly why he reacted this way. William looked at him, his features sinking and he shook his head.
Grell simply gave him a somber smile, straightening his position and taking a seat back down on the couch. William sighed hard and looked out at the other end of the room, then adjusted his spectacles. The back of Grell's hand caressing the side of William's face, William remained still for a moment, then slowly leaned into the touch.
"That was my fault," Grell said. "I guess I got a little too eager."
"No, I was the rude one," William replied, his voice slightly breathy.
"You were simply abiding by our agreement, I should have as well."
Grell's tone was polite, though there was a clear strain in his voice.
"You sound happy about that," William said.
"You sound a bit flustered yourself," Grell replied with a small grin.
William grimaced, Grell lightly tapped his face.
"We were having such a lovely evening too, I do hope it's not ruined," Grell said.
"I would rather not say that," William said, running a hand through Grell's hair. "Simply another moment of forgetting oneself on both our parts."
"And how many times has that been as of late?" Grell said, William heard a slight whine. "At least every other time we meet like this?"
He was getting impatient, William just heard it in his voice.
"We have our arrangement in place for a reason," William said.
"By our mutual suggestion, I hope you're not forgetting."
"No, I apologize, it was our mutual suggestion."
"Thank you. William if you bear any suspicion that I'm just going along with this to coddle you than have it out now."
William sighed hard; Grell was asking for honesty, may as well let him have it.
"Perhaps I still have my suspicions," he said. "Though I have been given ample reason to have them, at least give me that much."
"Guilty as charged, dearest, though you know bloody well how I feel about this whole matter. I've said it before, I'll say it again; I want to make passionate love to you, not fuck you and go our merry way."
William nodded, feeling somewhat remorseful for saying anything.
"And you know I want the same," William said, looking Grell right in the eyes. "I don't want another series of shallow trysts that end with me running away. We went through that already far too long ago."
Grell looked at him thoughtfully. He knew exactly what he was saying even though he wasn't saying all of it; he wanted to be with a man when he was good and ready. He didn't want to explore his passions only for his mind to make him scared of them. Deep down, William's heart and his sex yearned for something that his mind found repulsive. The dear was learning to follow his heart a bit more and put his head in a bit more balance. That was going to be a tough process, Grell wanted to give him ample time if it meant he would have that ultimate prize: William as the man in his life.
"William I want you in my world; not just over my cubicle and not just in my bed. I want you in my life however that may be," Grell said. "Games just exhaust me and unrequited love holds no passion for me anymore. I just want you in your best form; I would rather see that evolve than waste that for a few cheap fucks."
William gazed at him, seeing the sincerity in his face. He took his hands in his own and kissed his fingers.
"You know you're making that process a bit easier," William said. "And for that I thank you."
Grell smiled, then leaned in for a light peck on the lips. His kiss was soft, though William felt a slight quivering tension in his lips. William pulled back and looked at him, the words coming to his tongue; his mind wanted to silence them but was overruled.
"I do believe your four-month review is coming up soon," William said.
Grell rolled his eyes and groaned playfully, though he was glad for a little change in conversation. Perhaps it would make the desperation in his trousers a bit less, though he knew he and his hand would be having some alone time later anyway.
"I have a little soiree with the Council next Wednesday," Grell sighed. "But then you knew that, in fact I believe you're putting together a report on my behavior this year. You'll be telling them how much of a bad girl I've been, won't you?"
"That remains to be seen," William said, leaning in and putting a light kiss on the side of his mouth. "Most of it is up to you, you know. How about you make me proud."
William kissed his lips, seeing Grell's curious glance for a moment. William just looked at him, then Grell's eyes slightly widened with a realization. He pulled back and looked at William with slightly raised brows.
"Why Mr. Spears, you can't be saying…" Grell started.
William kept his mouth shut, this conversation was going into dangerous territory; it was a matter of wording things the right way,
"All I'm saying is do your best, that's what you know I would love," William replied.
Grell looked at William curiously, then slowly nodded with some understanding. He was being professionally coy; it was both frustrating and exciting at the same time. There were so many vagaries in his words, though it seemed as if they contained some breakthrough.
"I shall do so, you have my word," Grell said, giving William a kiss.
William smiled, then kissed him again. A low chime then went off from somewhere. Grell gently pulled back and reached into his pocket and producing his watch.
"My little reminder," he said.
Grell put his watch back in his pocket, then reached into his waistcoat and took out a small brown bottle. William nodded. Grell twisted off the top and pulled out a dropper, putting a few drops of clear liquid in his tea.
"Wouldn't want to mar another date," Grell said, putting the dropper back in the bottle.
"Indeed," William replied.
"We're beyond the stage of the dramatic kiss after the harrowing health crisis," Grell said, putting the bottle back in his waistcoat. "The moment where the handsome hero and the ailing girl, former lovers now reconciled, kiss again and seal their love as she recovers from her horrifying fit."
"Yes, after the heroine of this tale clumsily forgot to take his medicine." William replied. "Then again it was only a partial seizure that time; you said so yourself."
"You just know how to ruin the mood."
Grell flashed him a sour look, then smiled. William held his stiff, mocking smirk. Grell toasted his tea and drank it down, lightly licking his lips. The medicine tasted slightly metallic, though not overly unpleasant.
"I understand your dose was lowered," William said.
"It was, I just have to take it before bedtime and that's all," Grell replied.
William nodded, progress indeed. The nagging thought remained in his head that there needed to be more of it.