Chapter One: My Butler, Reaped
This was something I had never wanted to be involved in, it seemed dastardly and unnecessary. Yet the higher ups had ordered it, and it was my solemn duty to obey, even if the order did tug at my moral strings.
It is the duty and purpose of a Grim Reaper to judge and guide the dearly departed, the names and dates of death appear in our ledgers along with the details of their passing – be it murder, suicide, accidental, execution, old age – a Reaper must not interfere with the natural course of human life, nor are they permitted to take the lives of mortals whose names are not scripted in our ledgers. We must be neutral, impartial to the grievances and sins of the dying, exacting the will of God unto his creations.
The rules of being a Grim Reaper seem pointless to me, which is one of the many reasons that I don't tend to adhere to them often, but even I know that one of the most crucially important rules is never, under pain of death, interfere with Angels or with Demons. While we may despise both as a corruption of nature and treat them with equal disdain, a mere Grim Reaper has no right or authority to in anyway intrude upon their influence on the human world.
Angels and Demons are allowed, by the higher ups, to commit whatever foul audacity they desire as long as they do not impinge upon our domain; they are God's children, whether they be righteous or fallen, the Angels of Light and Dark are not to be dealt with by us.
And that is why I feel such confusion and scorn as a result of my orders. That is one of the two reasons I do not want to be here, doing this. For once I want to follow the rules, for once I want to be sat behind my desk filling in paperwork and for once I want to be forced to endure dearest William and his verbal abuse of me.
Because the moment Sebastian Michaelis's name appeared in the ledger of every Reaper with enough experience to handle such a quest, I knew something was seriously wrong. Even more so when the cause of death was listed quite simply as: Unexplained. No death was unexplained in our line of work. We are the cause of death!
The reason for the higher ups decided to risk provoking the ire of the Demonic World is beyond me entirely... Why they would order us to break the most sacred and golden rule of all? Not a clue. But the most puzzling thing in my opinion was that they had placed the order in everyone's ledger... It was like they were putting the order out to tender, like an assassination contract! Whoever kills the terribly sexy demon gets a prize! I find such actions sickening.
Regardless of my personal feelings towards the entire scenario I still found myself in a contingency of six Reapers, along with dearest William and sweet Ronald. You might question our logic, six Reapers for one demon? If you need to ask that question then you know nothing of Sebastian Michaelis, or his brat master Phantomhive. I may not be the strongest of my kind, but the fact that Sebastian was able to hold me off in battle is still a terrifying ideal. He is powerful, terrifyingly so! Ah such men give me the chills! My goodness, yes. The six of us might stand a chance against him, if not... Well we will soon become pretty red smears on the floor under his well slicked shoes.
Touching down at the same time, and sparing a glance at William I once again convey my dislike for being here, for doing this... But it goes ignored by him. Damn these sexy stoic men! Apparently, according to the higher ups, I am for once worth while having around, as my... Association with the demon meant that I knew intricate details about his fighting style and his habits. I don't normally like to remind people of my failures but the last time I tried fighting Sebastian I ended up in the Reaper hospital recovering for six weeks with a concussion. I don't really remember much about it!
In that scenario this was also something of a last chance for me to prove that I am not as worthless as everyone believes me to be, especially dearest William. He told me as such, 'This is your chance to make the Reapers proud, Sutcliff, do not let me down.' Of course it was the "don't let me down" which told me that this was my final chance to make an impression that was better in his eyes.
A final sigh escaped from between my lips before steeling myself for the task at hand as we flitted casually towards the mansion, the Phantomhive Mansion. Sebastian probably already knew that we were there, he probably already knew that we had a purpose, he was probably prepared to squash us like bugs...
I shook my head to clear it, I needed to stop thinking so much, it would distract me from our goal and that would lead to failure and death, painful death be it by Sebastian's hand or dear William's. The two of them are scarily alike, not that they would admit it, they are both too proud. Still, my seeing the connection remains.
We reached the water fountain, and that was when I saw him: Sebastian was stood quite calmly atop the fountain, standing on the head of the feature with a feline litheness that made me quiver from head to toe.
"My goodness, what a sight," the demon half purred, the noise making it feel like he was speaking only to me, making the other Reaper's melt away, "So many Reapers for just one man... I am honoured. But pray tell me, gentlemen, what has brought you to this mansion of ours on such a fine and auspicious day as this?"
"Hold your tongue vermin!" I hear William bark, nudging his oblong spectacles up his nose, "Your magic will not work on us."
Magic? What magic? Oh... Demons could enthral people with only the sound of their voices... Damn, so that was what I had been feeling. I need to keep on my toes!
"A pity, were it to work we might all resolve this without needless cloth-hacking becoming involved. I am slowly running out of spare uniforms you know?" Sebastian sighed and brushed his gloves hands down his chest, smoothing the miniature crinkles from his tail coat.
"To be so concerned with one's clothing when one's life is in danger is a foolhardy and pointless exercise." William answered simply, unmoved by the display of bravado.
The butler smirked slightly, "Tell me that again when it is your own uniform going through the mill."
It never escaped my notice to see how much Sebastian enjoys winding dearest William up, when he talks to me he is stoic and unmoved but when he consults Will... He smirks and plays on words, its like he knows what buttons to press to get a reaction, in fact he probably does know!
"So, allow me to consider the purpose of your visit..." Sebastian murmured as he leapt down from the fountain and touched down lightly on the cobbled ground just ahead from our position, "Your masters have decided that having a demon in the city is too much trouble and they have piously decided to eradicate their rat infestation."
"If that rat might be referred to as yourself then yes," Will sneered, his distaste obvious, "Yes it is well overdue that these streets be combed free of such dirt."
"Hmm, there is a small problem with that however, as I am sure you are aware, you are not supposed to be allowed to attack me like so... Sure you of all people know the rules of your kind?"
"We have been given authorisation. That is the only knowledge I need."
"So you opt for naivety? Tut-tut." Sebastian wagged his index finger at us and I saw his eyes settle on me for just a moment before he scanned the gathering of six Reapers, most likely gauging his chances of success.
Those chances must have been pretty high because he smiled afterwards and reached into his jacket, drawing out two handfuls of silverware, the battle was about to begin.
I had known that we were in for a world of pain, but even then I had no idea just how much. Two of our Reapers were already immobile and it had only been a matter of fifteen minutes at the top. William and Ronald were doing better than the rest of us by any standard, they were both light on their feet and just as flexible to outmanoeuvre the majority of Sebastian's attacks. But by the same token so was Sebastian, he hadn't been touched since the start yet he had successfully overwhelmed two of us already.
Revving the engine of my trusty and beautiful machine of death I ran back into the fray, ducking under Ronald's lawnmower and slashing outwards, my eyes widened as the tip of the revolving blade snagged Sebastian's abdomen and splashed my face with his warm blood; he looked just as surprised, apparently having not expected me to be so stealthy.
I could hear William urging me on and I brought the chainsaw up again, catching him straight across the chest and sending Sebastian stumbling back as blood spilled from the searing wound. I straightened slowly and swallowed, lifting my arm and wiping the blood spatter from my face, for once not enjoying the scarlet perfection at all.
The look of shock mingled with pain which was now crossing Sebastian's face tugged at my heartstrings and I allowed the engine of my Death Scythe to die out, lowering the tool slowly and faltering as I heard William shouting at me to finish the job. It was only when the man grabbed me by the shoulders that I really heard him however.
"Sutcliff what are you playing at?! He is right there!" the suited Reaper exclaimed, his anger and disliking for me trickling into his tone and stinging my feelings with a familiar pain, "For goodness sake..."
I felt numb but the surprise of having my Death Scythe snatched from my hands sent shock waves through me as I heard the engine revving up before William, dearest William, shot towards Sebastian who was still clutching at the deep lacerations in his chest and abdomen and wasn't anticipating an attack of any kind and...
By the Gods my body was moving by its own accord. I had always been faster than William, merely weaker and not as prone to showing off, I easily over took him amidst his run and before I, Sebastian, William or Ronald knew what was happening I found myself stood in front of the demon, protecting him just in time to receive my own Death Scythe in my gut, penetrating straight through to the other side of my body and causing a world of pain and damage to my form; as a spattering of blood left my mouth I doubled over and watched as my chainsaw was yanked a little unceremoniously from my limp figure.
The world was spinning around me as I crumpled, expecting to hit the ground but instead feeling a pair of strong arms around me, pulling me into the owner's body; my head lolled back and it might have been because I was about to die but I could have sworn that I was in the arms of my darling Sebastian. What a nice sight to die to.
Well had been blissfully unexpected, seeing a flash of red hair before Grell literally threw himself in the path of the impeding chainsaw that had been heading for me, shock was almost too tame a word to describe the bombardment of feelings I felt in response to the annoying Reaper's selfless actions. They were almost noble enough for me to regret considering him to be annoying at all. Never before had someone done something like this for me. It was most... Sobering.
Anger pulsed through my veins as William apparently ignored the striking down of his comrade and made a second attempt upon my life. Dodging would be impossible while weighed down by the surprisingly heavy (not that I would ever insult him by telling him as such) body of Grell Sutcliff was in my arms. Yet me... Honour prevented me from abandoning him; thus I stayed put, risking life and limb for principle alone.
The chainsaw came towards me, coming within inches of my throat and tousling my hair with the motorised mechanism; I refused to close my eyes, determined as I was to see my death through till the end, I bored into William's cold green eyes willing him to chicken out. But he didn't.
In fact it was the most happen stance occurrence that led to my life being spared, there was a billowing black robe, followed by a sweep of white-silver hair and the clash of metal on metal as the most unexpected person appeared.
"Undertaker?" I breathe, undoubtedly the Reapers know him by a different name and certainly in my world we have a name for him also but I shall not utter it without permission, for I hold great respect for this man, even more so after he appeared and saved my neck from the chainsaw.
"Heh, heh, heh, what have we here? Such a mess! Such macabre! Such melancholy! Why not spice things up a little I asked myself and pleased am I to have done so!" the crazed ex-Reaper giggled madly.
Undertaker twisted on the spot, ducking under the arm of the younger one and booting him hard in the stomach, kicking him aside with an ease that only I would have achieved. Such strength I saw in his nimble yet wizened form that it made me abashed to still be so young, damnations this is why I so loath being around other 'non-mortals' so to speak, at least among humans you can feel completely superior. Tch.
It did not take long for the clearly senior Reaper to overpower the ones still brave enough to try and fulfil their goal, and very soon Undertaker had them backing down the drive, with a crazed grin on his face and his Death Scythe in his hand. He was truly a sight to behold. But my own gaze was now focused on the scarlet rose in my arms, trying to stem the blood loss from the gaping wound in his gut was no easy feat – even for such a butler as myself – and I could sense by the scent of death in the air that I was, for once, failing at my given task. Grell was dying.
Another pair of hands appeared over my gloved ones and I glanced up to see the ex-Reaper knelt opposite me, his hair still falling in his face and making it impossible for me to see his expression. However his swift hand work left just a tinge of panic palpably in my mouth, I followed his instructions to the letter, working to save the redheaded Reaper before us. It appeared that if Grell lived I would owe him my life. Such an odd occurrence.
"How did you get here, Undertaker?" I asked, making small talk for the sake of disguising my concern and my confusion.
"Heh, your name was scripted into every Grim Reaper's ledger who is of a strength to be able to accomplish such a task... Heh, heh, heh, to put it simply I forgot to hand my own ledger in when I retired so I still have it." he answered, his voice still light and free despite his concentration.
"So you also got the message saying that I was... Easy meat?" I frowned.
He paused for only a moment before continuing to work, "Indeed, however, Mister Butler, I have no intention of claiming the bounty."
"I am glad to hear it. In my current condition I would likely lose a battle with you."
"Modest as ever." he breathed, "That's what I like about you."
I raised an eyebrow, "You like me? Do all Reapers not consider demons to be vermin?"
"Indeed they do. However, I am no longer a Reaper, am I? I am allowed my own opinions." he smirked slightly, "But those I shall keep to my own counsel."
"Of course." I looked back down at Grell, my lips tightening into a hard line as I saw how pale he had become, "Will he live?"
"Yes... But he will be scarred."
Sighing heavily I look away, "Well at least it wasn't his face."
"Heh, heh, heh! Indeed, undoubtedly that would be so very offensive to him!" the other laughed with a tinge of insanity creating an uneasy tang in response, "Although one's appearance is not everything... It is a pity more people so not realise that."
I remained silent, I didn't want to mention that I heard a tone of ancient sadness in his voice, instead I watched him work, continuing to follow his orders before finally we were able to move Grell. And between us, demon and Reaper working together, we moved Grell into the Mansion behind us. And I found myself hoping that Grell would live. It... Would not be the same without his quirky annoying habits floating around.
I smiled slightly in spite of myself and chuckled, shaking my head and ignoring the look Undertaker flashed me.