Actions

Work Header

De Morte ad Vitam

Chapter Text

Years passed by after that night fate reared its ugly head and stole away the lives of Vincent and Rachel Phantomhive. Ciel had returned as Undertaker had hoped; however, the young ten-year-old had returned in possession of a demonic contract. Said demon at his side posed as his butler, who took care of every little struggle the boy would face when he took over his father's legacy.

Little innocent Ciel...his heart turned cold; his destiny: a demon's stomach. But there was nothing Undertaker could do about it. Ciel was alive; and safe as long as his contract wasn't completed.

Undertaker had begun research and experiments pertaining to bringing back the dead. His 'Bizarre Dolls', as he named them. His research was funded by a rather twisted viscount who had his own dreams of using the dolls as weapons of power. But Undertaker had only one ultimate goal when it came to his Dolls.

One very special doll.

And he wouldn't stop until he got it...no matter the cost.


 

It's a strange twist of fate, that the son of my dear mortal lover should hold in his small hands the very locket that houses his father's cinematic records. After the conflict aboard the Campania and my subsequent failure to rid the boy of his demonic guardian, I should have sought out Ciel Phantomhive and liberated my belt of treasures from him. However, I feel it will be safe in his hands for some time. Ciel is far too determined to discover the "how's" and "why's" of everything—a thing which hasn't changed much since he was an ankle biter. He'll hold onto my locket collection and he'll try to glean clues about me from it. I'm content with that. Ciel will unwittingly keep his father's very soul safe for me, until my work is perfected and the time comes to retrieve it.

I must keep a low profile...or at least as low a profile as my work will allow. Dispatch is now aware of my experiments, and they will try to intervene, if they can. I'll reap them all like wheat if I have to. I'm close...so close to perfecting my efforts. The school boy was able to speak on his own. He demonstrated the first hint of true sentience I've seen in a dollie, since I began making them. I must build off that; take what I did to enable that and improve it. One day, I'll be able to bring a dollie to life with complete awareness, with its old personality and most—if not all—of its memories from before death. When I can do this, I know I'll be ready for my crowning achievement...and I'll have my beloved back.

-The Retired Reaper



"My grim little bird!" A dramatic voice interrupted Undertaker as he wrote in his journal, "I've just heard what happened at my dear Nephew's school. Your work—it was interrupted?" The Viscount Druitt, dressed in all white as usual, asked, twirling into the room.

The Undertaker glanced up from his journal, absently marking his place before shutting and locking it. "Only temporarily, Lord Druitt. Just a minor setback."

He pocketed the journal and stood up, approaching the flamboyant blond man with barely a whisper of sound. The smile that stretched his lips wasn't quite friendly. "And on the subject of winged creatures, I'm more akin to a bat than a bird."

The man shivered. "I don't like bats." he shook his head, "I simply wanted to know if my investment is still a good one. Word of your little Dolls is starting to spread." He draped himself over a plush leather chair. "I heard you got one or two to talk?"

The mortician nodded. "Indeed, my lord. Sadly, I had to leave him behind on account of a meddlesome young Earl and his butler. I do recall exactly what I did to enable the power of speech, however. I intend to build on that and see how far I can take it with the next subjects."

He took a seat on the sofa across from the Viscount and he crossed his legs, relaxing in the cushy, expensive piece of furniture. He watched the diabolical yet oddly charming mortal with quiet amusement. Druitt could wear on the nerves with his chatter at times, but for the most part he was entertaining. "When do you expect the next delivery to arrive for the laboratory?"

"Tonight. I pulled some strings after you left Weston. So, How far are you trying to take all this? It's all already quite impressive, even without speech."

The Undertaker tapped his nails slowly on the arm of the sofa. "As far as I can, friend; until I'm convinced I can go no further."


 

With a loud groan, a young blond reaper stretched and stood up. "Too much overtime lately..." With a sigh, he scooped up a pile of paperwork for the investigation he was working on. He turned and walked down the hall to his Boss's office. A silver nameplate on the door reading "William T. Spears. Dispatch Supervisor".

He knocked on the door and opened it, "Sir? I updated all the reports."

William glanced up from his paperwork, and he nodded at the organizer box on his desk. "Put them in the 'to be filed' slot, if you please. I shall review them when I've finished this stack from Sutcliff."

He sighed as he said the name of their redheaded colleague. Grell found numerous ways throughout the day to find his last nerve and jump on it repeatedly. It didn't help that he'd suggested William prod him with his pole for added incentive to perform better...and right in front of a district manager, too. While Ronald's addiction to partying could be troublesome, it was nowhere near as problematic as his mentor's endless quirks.

William's thoughts immediately went to the night he'd pulled them both out of the ocean, after the luxury liner sank. He looked up at the approaching young man as Ron put the stack of reports in the requested slot, and he wondered at the peculiar feeling of relief he'd felt when he got confirmation that he was still alive. The boy looked tired. William had to give him credit; he'd been trying extra hard to garnish his favor since the disaster aboard the ship. Grell, on the other hand, remained unrepentant for his failure to bring the situation under control.

"Take the rest of the afternoon off, Knox," instructed William, his refined features aloof and unreadable.

"Really?" Ron looked up at William. It was unheard of to be able to leave work early--especially junior reapers like him. "I can go home early?"

Normally he'd be excited and would rush out and to one of his favorite pubs, but he was tired. Maybe he'd take a nap before going out to enjoy his evening.

William was faintly surprised by his own generosity as well, but he didn't allow it to show in his expression. "You're clearly exhausted, and an exhausted reaper makes mistakes that this organization cannot afford. Please keep it in mind that I'm making an exception this time because you've completed your work for the day and I want you sharp and alert for the Undertaker case. If I find you've used this time off to party rather than get the rest you so clearly need, there will be consequences."

He said the last in a chill voice that left little doubt those consequences would include more overtime and fewer breaks on the clock.

"Drinking while exhausted would just make me pass out anyway. There is no point in it. Don't have any dates planned, either." Ron reassured his boss. "Thank you, sir."

William inclined his head gracefully. "You may go, Knox. Enjoy your respite and be sure to arrive on time for work, tomorrow."

He returned his attention to his paperwork, dismissing the younger reaper. From his peripheral vision, he saw Ronald scratch his head before heading out the door. William glanced up just as the blond disappeared behind it, and he again pondered his own generosity. Yes, Ronald had endearing qualities about him, but the same could be said of many reapers. It wasn't like William T. Spears to cut anyone slack, and he blamed it on his own exhaustion. Since the Campania, the organization had been in a scramble to locate the rogue deserter and bring him into custody before he could meddle further with the natural order of life and death.

William sighed and propped a chin in one hand. He'd always respected the Undertaker...even looked up to him. He'd heard stories of the sort of reaper he'd once been, and he'd always aspired to earn such a shining reputation himself. Now he was forced to track down the ancient so that he could answer for his crimes.

Were he not so rigidly invested in following the rules, William might have considered imbibing in some alcohol himself. This was going to be a long investigation.

"William~ Darling, I just saw Ronnie-boy leave early." Grell announced, sweeping into the quiet office in a flurry of red, soon draping himself over William's shoulders, his long red hair falling all around the younger man.

"Are you in a good mood for once? If Ronnie can go party early, I want to go see Sebby! It's been so long since I've gotten to gaze into his lovely red eyes."

William suppressed a groan, and he shrugged the redhead off of him irritably. "Fraternize with demon filth on your own time, Sutcliff. Unlike you, Ronald Knox had performed his duties in a timely manner and has worn himself thin doing so." He glared frigid daggers of green and gold at Grell. "He is being granted early leave today so that he may rest up; not to find a party. If you desire an early day, then you must demonstrate to me the same devotion to your job as he has. Now, get out of my office and return to work."

"But I actually have news for you because I was working!" Grell pouted, slipping around and sitting in Will's lap, leaning in to whisper into his ear, "Unnie was spotted recently, darling, Posing as a principal of a public school and turning students into his Dolls~" He nibbled on the man's earlobe with expert care not to bite it off with his sharp teeth.

William got up abruptly, dumping the hapless redhead onto his rump on the floor. "Which school, Grell Sutcliff?"

"Weston Public school for boys~" He giggled, "Apparently Sebby and the brat was there at the same time." He stood up and leaned into William, "Darling, you need to learn to warn a lady before you get up."

William pondered the matter, ignoring the flirtation he had become so used to from Grell. He could send the outrageous crimson reaper to question Earl Phantomhive and his butler about it, but he suspected he would spend more time fawning over the demon than attempting to get answers, if left on his own. Ronald was already gone for the day, Alan was in the medical ward getting treatments for his condition, and Eric was with him. That left only himself to accompany Grell on this endeavor. How troublesome.

"Prepare to leave for the Phantomhive estate," instructed William. "You and I will approach the Earl and his butler and take down their statements of what occurred."

He looked at Grell suspiciously. "How did you get this information to begin with?"

"Darling, not all handsome men push me away. Some are actually nice to me and some happen to have connections~ Or more in this case; a son who got expelled because of the incident. He never mentioned Unnie, just said 'The Principal was this crazy guy with long silver hair and a wide smile'. Not too hard to know it's Unnie."

"Would you please stop referring to him with pet names?" A faint scowl made its way onto his lips. "It's entirely inappropriate. As for what you do with men who allegedly don't push you away, do me the courtesy of keeping it to yourself."

He walked over to the window and he adjusted his glasses with the end of his scythe, looking out over the reaper city. "Is there any other evidence to support your supposition that this principle is indeed the Undertaker? There have been humans to fit such a vague description, you know...however unlikely the coincidence may be."

"He mentioned a dead student actually biting his son, darling. Tell me that isn't a Bizarre Doll! It has to have been Unnie!"

William raised an intrigued brow. "I want a full report of the details as you heard them, Sutcliff. If you haven't already done so, fill it out now. As soon as you've completed that, we'll pay a visit to the Phantomhive estate and afterwards, this 'Weston' boys' school. I want the name of this man, his son and any information we can get that might lead us to the Undertaker."

"Thought you'd say that." Grell reached into his pocket and pulled out a crumpled paper, "Here's your report, darling."

William took the paper briskly and made an annoyed sound at its condition. "Really, Sutcliff...I can see that we need to invest in a refresher course for you on how to properly file a report. You've been slacking off...again."

He adjusted his glasses once more, and he read over the document. When he finished, he folded the paper and pocketed it to be filed away later.

"Hmm." He turned to regard the redhead again, his features aloof and dignified despite the vague sense of excitement he felt. "Well then, let's pay a visit to the Earl, shall we?"

"It's a date~" Grell giggled, slipping his arm through William's. "And give a girl her credit! It's hard not to wrinkle paper in a pocket! I filled out the paper like you'd want it without you telling me too, first!"

William smoothly withdrew his arm from Grell's hold. "Quite. I would appreciate it if you would keep your hands to yourself and conduct yourself as a professional in this endeavor, Grell. In fact, I expect you to allow me to do the talking. It's no secret that the Phantomhive boy dislikes you as much as you dislike him."

Grell rolled his eyes, "I don't go there for the brat, anyway. Come along! No dodling! I want to be able to enjoy this as much as possible~" Grell grabbed the younger reaper's hand and pulled him down the hall and into the lift, hitting the main floor button with his hip.


 

Ciel was working on his studies when his butler joined him in the library to inform him that they had two reaper visitors. The boy put aside his economics book and frowned up at him from his seat on the wingback chair. "What do they want?"

"They did not say, my Lord. But if I were to guess, I'd say it is likely about our last encounter with the Undertaker." The handsome butler said, placing the used books back upon the shelves. "Shall I see them in?"

Ciel sipped his tea and set it aside. "Yes. I'm curious as to what they could possibly want with me. Just be on your guard, Sebastian."

"Of course." The butler bowed and disappeared, returning shortly with the young earl's 'guests', the red one hanging off him in attempt at stealing a kiss, much to his annoyance.

"Awe, come on, Sebby-darling~ Why must you be so cold?" Grell pouted.

Ciel scowled at the annoying crimson reaper. "Stop that. Keep your fool antics away from my butler." He looked at William Spears. "What is this about, Mr. Spears?"

William adjusted his glasses with his scythe and he gracefully took a seat on a nearby lounger. "I apologize for my companion's behavior." He nonchalantly popped Grell on the head with his scythe, stunning him and distracting his amorous attentions to Sebastian. "We have come to hear your account of what occurred at the boys' school you attended, Earl. As we understand it, the principle matched the description of the Undertaker."

Ciel nodded gracefully. "Quite right."

"Did he allude to you any of his plans?" queried the reaper.

Ciel glanced at Sebastian, silently warning him not to give anything away. He shrugged elegantly. "He is a madman. He does as he chooses; regardless of any societal expectations. He certainly didn't inform us of his next move; else we would already be going after him. Don't you Shinigami have ways of tracking your own kind?"

William bowed his head, and he smacked Grell's hand when it began to inch toward Sebastian again. "We do, but the Undertaker has learned to elude such measures. That is why we came to you, Earl. I would appreciate it if you would share with us the details of your last encounter with the fugitive."

Ciel shared a smirk with Sebastian. "And what's in it for me?"

"The satisfaction of taking down someone who betrayed you, as well as the gratitude of the Reaper establishment."

Ciel pondered the offer, his blue gaze dropping to the book in his hands. "I would like to think on it," he murmured. Looking up at his butler, he kept his features blank. "Show our guests out, Sebastian. I will contact them with my answer once I've thought it over."

"Sorry, sweetie. Not happening." Grell giggled. This was where his lusts came in handy. William would likely leave it there, likely making the whole trip a waste of time.

"I'm not leaving until we know what you know. Don't worry, I'll keep Sebby company the entire time~" He hopped up, embracing the demon with both arms and legs, holding him tight and pressing a sloppy kiss to his cheek, leaving behind bright red lipstick kiss mark.

"Sutcliff. Remove yourself." The butler said flatly.

"Nope~"

William groaned inwardly and deftly stepped aside as the demon butler's eyes lit up from within.

"Oh Sebby, why do you still deny the heat between us?" Grell demanded passionately. "There is no shame in our love!"

Ciel stared coldly at the crimson reaper. "Sebastian, you have my permission to employ violence, if you must."

"Darling, that'd only excite me~ Ah~ Ignite the fire of our passion~" Grell chirped.

William took another prudent step back as the butler's gloved hand closed around Grell's throat.

"Then I suppose you'll enjoy this quite a bit," said Sebastian; and then he peeled the redhead off of his tall form and threw him like a rag doll across the room. Grell crashed into the wall with a shout of protest—or was it delight? Sebastian smoothed his suit and began his advance upon the stunned reaper, a cruel little smirk adorning his mouth. "As I recall, you can be quite the screamer, Mr. Sutcliff. I must admit I rather enjoy the sound of your pain."

Realizing this could turn into a full-fledged brawl if he didn't put a stop to it, William sighed and extended his death scythe, blocking Sebastian's way with the pole. "Pardon me," he announced politely when the demon paused and looked at him, "but we did not come here for a fight; regardless of my associate's behavior. Grell Sutcliff, do pick yourself up and come along. The board will not be pleased if word reaches them that you sabotaged a peaceful mission with your loathsome advances."

"But Will!" Grell hopped up, "Things were just getting interesting!"

"Indeed, I was about to rid the world of an annoying pest." Sebastian stated. "Take him with you, but please leave him behind next time you choose to call."

"I'll keep that in mind," said William coolly. He gave a cordial bow to Ciel. "We shall await your correspondence, Earl. I would advise you not to wait too terribly long to contact me, if you do happen to have information that could lead to the fugitive. Time is of the essence."

Ciel inclined his head calmly in acknowledgment. "I will consider that. Sebastian, show our guests out."

"It's no fun visiting my darling Sebby with you tagging along, Will!" Grell complained loudly as they were shown out.

"I suspect it would be a short visit, without me to keep you in check," sighed William. It had been a mistake to bring Grell along; he saw that now. Hopefully the boy would overlook his crass behavior and have the sense to cooperate.


 

He held out a pallid, nearly colorless hand to the blindfolded young woman, his mouth stretched into a wide, toothy grin. She reached out instinctively for the hand, knowing her master immediately. He helped her rise stiffly from the coffin and he supported her as she stepped out of it on shaky legs.

He bent over her to murmur into her ear as his companion watched. "Now, my dear; tell me who you are."

Her face grew tense as she struggled to comply with his order. "I…I…I…"

The Undertaker's eyes flashed beneath his long, silver bangs, and his grin changed from anticipation to excitement. She had self-awareness. None of the other dollies before her had any concept of 'I' or 'me'. The boy from the school was the closest he'd ever come to bringing a body back to life with a concept of what it had been before death.

"Take your time, love," he encouraged. He stroked her tangled brown hair back from her waxy, stitched forehead. "Think back. What did your family call you?"

"M-m-my family," she repeated in confusion, bruised, plush lips tugging into a frown of concentration. This one didn't have her mouth sewn; the mortician had perfected his art to leave fewer scars and stitching. "Pa…Papa?"

The reaper shook his head. "No, I'm not your Papa, little lamb. I'm your guardian—your keeper. What name did your Papa call you by?"

She thought on it some more, drawing a ragged breath with which to speak. Her lungs only needed to function so that she could make sounds, now. Oxygen was no longer a requirement for her. "I am…I w-was D-D-D…"

She trailed off, her cold hand grasping the Undertaker's harder as she fought to get the name out. "D-Daria."

Aleister Chamber sat up straighter in the chair he was watching from, his violet gaze flicking to the Undertaker questioningly as the tall, retired Shinigami visibly tensed with excitement. The Undertaker nodded in satisfaction, quite obviously thrilled with this newest development. "That's right, my dear," crooned the mortician. "You are Daria Lanchester. Do you recall what happened to you?"

Her mouth opened and closed, and she moaned. "D-drowned," she choked. "P-please…don't m-make me…remember!"

Undertaker wasn't completely without sympathy for the doll. He was lucky they brought this one to him before her cinematic records had been collected or faded. This was the furthest he'd ever gotten before, however, and he couldn't release her from this life just yet. He needed to study her; improve the process and then, if she still wanted release after he'd learned all he could from her, he would grant her desire.

"It's very important to me that you recall the details, Daria. We can stop for the night and allow you some rest, but I can't grant you eternal rest for a bit. There's much work to be done…exciting work that will bring about fantastic things. You won't defy your master, will you?"

She whimpered and shook her head, well-aware of her position. Undertaker smiled and scooped her up easily to lay her back into her coffin. "Very good, my dear." He settled her into the casket and he waved a black-nailed hand over her blindfolded eyes. "Sleep now, Daria. Your rest will be free of dreams or nightmares, and you should be strong enough tomorrow to proceed further."

She immediately settled down, her chest going still as she fell into the sleep of the undead. The Undertaker closed the lid and secured the lock—both for the safety of the mortals he was working with and to ensure nobody tampered with his latest breakthrough.

~And what would your beloved Vincent think of you now, if he could see the dark things you've been up to for his sake?~

The question sprung unbidden to the reaper's mind as he turned to face his associate, and his smile faded a bit. Indeed, what would the man he was trying to revive think of the reaper he'd become during his absence? For that matter, how would he react to being brought back to life…turned into an immortal creature neither dead nor alive? Undertaker wasn't delusional enough to believe the man would be grateful and happy at first, but his grief had driven him to desperation and sunk him further into a state of madness that he'd never quite crossed before.

Shaking off his doubts, he forced the smile back onto his lips. "Well, Viscount; what do you think?"

"I'm wondering what purpose it is to have them remember...speaking is one thing. they could be used as spies as well as weapons, but remembering their pasts?" Allister tilted his head questionably, but there was a real interest on his face.

"The ability to recall who and what they were in their past lives is part of my side project," answered the mortician. "Not to worry, chap; I reserve that little feature for my special subjects. Those I manufacture for you will be blank slates—though a bit more intelligent and self-aware than the previous dollies. Can't have them too lucid for your purposes, can we?" He winked. "After all, if they can talk and have a will of their own, they might slip the leash and go chirping to the authorities."

The noble raised an eyebrow, "Personal project? I hadn't been aware you were working on such a thing. For what purpose are you making yourself some little birds, might I ask?" He stood up and strolled over, flamboyantly flipping his long blond hair over his shoulder.

"You can ask, but that doesn't guarantee an answer," said the mortician smoothly, grinning sharply at the young man. "Those details are mine to keep, and our agreement was that I have complete autonomy. It's no skin off my back if you choose to back out, Viscount. I can find my own bodies to work on, if necessary. Your coffers simply make it a bit easier for me to obtain my goal."

"Yes, yes, of course. But you can't blame me for being curious. Your private life seems so non-existent. All you do is work."

The Undertaker turned back to the coffin; his strange, hidden gaze intense on it. "All I have is work, my dear Viscount. That, and laughter—which is harder to come by these days than ever."

He started to cackle; darkly amused by his own pathetic situation. The reaper he once was never would have resorted to such measures to reclaim the love of anyone...let alone a mortal. He'd known Vincent's life was fleeting when he allowed himself to sample his lips and body. He'd known it was temporary. He had gone into the arrangement with full knowledge that he would lose him, thinking he could keep his heart separate from his lust.

"So much for that, old fool," he muttered beneath his breath. A part of him was still sane enough to know what a mistake he would be making, if he succeeded in bringing his human lover back to life. A bigger part of him was too selfish and far-gone with madness to care. He'd given enough to the world of the Divine and the Flesh. It was long past time for him to get something in return for it. His only doubts lay in how Vincent would react, when and if he succeeded.


 -To be continued  

Chapter Text

"Sir?" Ronald slipped into William's office a week after he'd been given time off to rest back up. It had been another long day, and William had been in his office for twelve hours straight.

The blond carried two mugs of tea, and he set one down for William on his desk, "You look more stressed than usual."

William rubbed the narrow arch of his brow and looked up from his paperwork. He nodded in subtle thanks for the beverage and reached for it. "We have a lot of work ahead of us, Knox. Have a seat."

"I don't like the sound of that." The blond sighed, pulling up a chair and flopping down in it, "Sounds like overtime potential."

William sighed and lifted his cup of tea to his lips. "There's always potential for overtime, Ronald. You should know that, by now." He took a sip and he shifted his tired gaze back to the documents on his desk. "The Phantomhive boy is taking his dear, sweet time getting back to me and our search thus far hasn't yielded many results."

He set his cup aside and he sighed. "It rankles me," he admitted, "to have to rely on a child and a demon to fulfill my duties. Have you anything helpful to report to me?"

"...'fraid not, sir. If anything, I only know something stressful." Ron sighed, rubbing the back of his neck, "We got more short-staffed. Alan-senpai had an attack and Eric-senpai rushed him to the infirmary. May be a few hours before we get them both back. Grell-senpai is running a bit late on returning from a collection as well."

William nodded. Lately, Alan Humphries' episodes due to his condition had increased in frequency and severity. When these happened, his spouse refused to leave his side and so they were both effectively out of commission. William supposed he could order Slingby to put his personal life aside and get back to work. By all rights, he probably should do so, but contrary to popular belief, he wasn't completely heartless. Short staffed though they might be, he wasn't without sympathy for the couple, and he thought it was a shame that they stood to inevitably lose one of the best Dispatch agents on the payroll. He predicted that Eric wouldn't be fit for duty for some time, when the thorns eventually dug deep enough to kill poor Alan.

"Well, there's nothing for it," sighed the brunet. "We'll make due with what we have and…and…"

He put a hand to his head and frowned, suffering a moment of exhausted vertigo. The room was spinning. Had he eaten today? He couldn't recall. William gulped, feeling nauseous. He started to reach for his tea—and he kept going over. He vaguely heard Ronald call his name as he fell to the floor, and he barely felt the impact.

"Oh, honestly," he sighed in exasperation, struggling to pull himself back to his feet and into his chair. He collapsed again, his arms too shaky to support his weight as he tried to rise.

"Fucking shit, senpai!" Ronald hurried to the older reaper's side, checking his condition as best he could. "Shit, did you even eat today or anything?" He asked, trying to remember if he saw William leave his office at all. "...And people say I'm an idiot...come on."

He heaved William up. He couldn't carry the man bridal-style so he half-carried, half-dragged his boss towards the door and into the hall, making his way towards the infirmary, "You work too hard." he scolded lightly as he waited for the lift doors to open, "Stress out too much...breaks are okay to take once in awhile."

William's head lolled on his shoulders with his fatigue. In the back of his mind, he was frightfully embarrassed to demonstrate such weakness in front of Ronald. Maintaining a cool, strong professional demeanor was a technique he'd used for years, and to be this vulnerable before a reaper that he admittedly found attractive—and even a bit endearing—was an insult.

"I'm fine," he insisted, even as his feet dragged. The lights seemed too bright, and he closed his eyes. His face turned toward the shorter man's cheek of its own accord, and his lips brushed against Ronald's smooth skin as he spoke. He found it…pleasant. "I just need…a moment."

He wasn't even sure what he was saying. He was starting to black out, and he stubbornly clung to consciousness. He heard the voice of one of the medics asking Ronald questions about his condition, and he wondered how they'd reached the infirmary so quickly.

"I'm just a bit overworked," he tried to say, but his words came out as a tired mumble.

"Bollocks. You are not 'fine'." Ron said, laying William down on one of the infirmary beds, "You are finally over-worked and overstressed and it's about time you get some proper rest. I was worried this would eventually happen." He sighed, "I'm going to run out and get you something to eat."

William tried to reach for him. "Knox, I don't need—" His stomach growled loudly in disagreement as he tried to say he didn't need food, and he flushed slightly when the nurse chuckled knowingly at him.

"You can't be any good to your department if you don't take care o' yerself, Mr. Spears," admonished the nurse in an Irish accent. "Let Mr. Knox fetch something ta put in yer belly."

William sighed, his head turning against the pillow. "Very well. I have no intention of staying overnight, however."

"Of course," said the nurse, shooting a wink at Ronald that said the Director really had no choice in the matter. "We'll just see what happens, sir."

The brunet mumbled something and sighed again, fighting a yawn. "No ham," he ordered, guessing that Ronald was going to the cafeteria to get him a sandwich.

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Ron smiled hurrying out on his food run. He knew exactly what to get. He'd seen William bring in the same lunch most every day from a small sandwich shop just around the corner from the dispatch building.

Ordering the same sandwich, with some help from the workers who knew William's preferred condiments, he paid for the meal and rushed back to the infirmary.

"Here. No ham. Promise." he smiled, handing the bag to William.

The supervisor took it with shaking hands, barely able to focus enough to retrieve the sandwich within. He began to eat, and he noticed Ronald watching him intently from the visitor's chair he'd taken a seat on. It was making him uncomfortable…and not necessarily in a bad way. That unrelenting stare began to provoke thoughts best kept to himself.

Too well-bred to speak with his mouth full, William chewed and swallowed before talking. "What?" Remembering his manners, he tried to be more graceful. "Ah…thank you for the sandwich, Knox."

"No problem," Ron shrugged, leaning back into the chair and crossing his leg over his knee, "Feeling better?"

No, he wasn't feeling particularly better, but William nodded and fibbed. "Much. As soon as I finish eating, we can leave and get back on the case."

The dark circles under his eyes betrayed the truth and he knew it. His ears were ringing and he wasn't sure he could stand on his own, if he tried to escape the bed. Still, William T. Spears was nothing if not determined and dedicated to his work—no matter how often he complained of overtime.

Ron shook his head, "I know...I'm in no position to say this but...I think you should take the rest of the day off to rest, sir! You have literally worked yourself to the bone and it's not healthy! Please--just one day...take a break."

William tried to sit up straighter, but a wave of dizziness overcame him and he fell back against the pillow, panting softly. "Very…well," he wheezed, finally conceding the point. He really couldn't do his job in his current condition anyway. He fought against the blackness trying to creep up on him, and the nurse returned. Seeing that she had two cups in her hand—one with a pill and the other with water, he tried to wave her away. "No medication."

"Now Mr. Spears," she admonished, "ya've overdone it an yer beyond tired. This will help relax ya a bit so ya can go to sleep. It's just a mild sedative, so don't ya be giving me a rough time over it."

William sighed, shot Ronald a look that said he blamed him for this, and took the offered medication. "Fine. I expect to be released the moment I wake up."

"Of course, sir," she agreed, relinquishing the items to him.

He swallowed the pill and handed the cups back to her, before taking another bite of his sandwich. He watched Ronald from the corner of his eye as he ate, and he tried not to notice how concerned he looked.

"That's a good big boss-man." Ron said with a small smirk when William took the sedative, "And don't worry about the investigation; I'll get to work on it right away and will leave a report on the progress on your desk for you to go over in the morning." He stood up and made for the door, pausing a moment and looking back as if he wanted to say more, but shook his head, seemingly deciding against it as he left.


 

The ancient reaper's heart skipped a beat as his latest subject sat up on his own and looked around with a very human expression of confusion. "Where…where am I?"

A bright, ivory smile manifested on the Undertaker's face. "Where do you think you are, chap?"

The blond man turned his head this way and that, looking around in a disoriented manner. "B-basement," he said at last, his swirled green-blue eyes fixating on his creator. "But where? What…what is this place? Why am I here?"

The mortician could barely contain his excitement. "Safe…but one thing at a time, chap. Tell me your name, if you can."

"My name?" The young man's scarred face crinkled. He'd been the victim of a stabbing, but the Undertaker had no intention of telling him how he'd met his mortal demise. He waited in silence, with baited breath.

"Fredrick," said the doll after a moment's reflection. "Fredrick Wallace. Are you…a doctor?"

The Undertaker grinned again. "In a manner of speaking. How old are you, Fredrick?"

The doll thought on it again. "Twenty-two…no, twenty-three. I just…celebrated my birthday."

The reaper nodded. "Indeed. And do you recall what happened afterwards, perhaps?"

Though the young man was already pale, his skin lost further pigment and his eyes dilated. "I was…attacked. A man wanted my coin. I…I wouldn't give it to him and he…he…"

The doll clutched at his chest, where a freshly sutured new scar arched over where his heart was. "He got my face, first," he reflected, touching the stitching on his left cheek. "Then he went…for my heart. Am I…alive?"

"Yes and no," answered the Undertaker.

"What in bollocks does that mean?" sputtered the doll in alarm, eyes widening.

"I'll explain in a moment," assured the reaper. "But first, I need you to tell me about your childhood."

"Why? Where am I and who are you?"

The Undertaker stared into his eyes. "I'm Death."

The doll began to cry, his shoulders shaking with quiet sobs. Undertaker sighed and patted him on the shoulder. "Now, don't start with that. I've delivered you from death; you should be happy! You could even hunt down the bloke that put you in here…after I've gotten what I need from you."

"And…and what is that?"

The reaper tilted his head. "I need to know how much of your past history you remember. I need you to tell me everything, Mr. Wallace…everything you can recall. When you've given me the information I've requested, I'll explain your situation to you."

"I'm…thirsty," complained the doll, "and h-hungry."

The mortician offered him a pitcher of water that he'd brought down into his current basement laboratory with him. "By all means, drink. I can't help you with your hunger until you've divulged what you know to me, however. After that, we can find out what's suitable for your pallet."

Obviously confused about his meaning but too thirsty to argue, the doll took the pitcher in shaking hands and drank. Smiling happily at his success, the Undertaker waited for him to satisfy his thirst and begin talking.


 

"I'm so close now," announced the mortician several hours later as he strode into the dining hall and casually took a seat at the long table. He took a serving of meat and vegetables from the silver trays lining the table and he tore a hunk of the former from a chicken leg with his teeth. He was famished by now, having spent all day interrogating his newest acquisition in the basement. "A bit more tweaking, and I'll have my process perfected."

The viscount sat at the head of the table, with a pretty young woman to either side of him. Unfortunately for these young ladies, they were bound to their seats and it was obvious that they weren't there willingly. The Undertaker glanced at them each, a flash of distaste crossing his features. He was in too good of a mood to let their plight dampen his spirits just yet, though. He could see to correcting their situation later.

"You know, Druitt," said the Undertaker thoughtfully between bites, "if your desire for female companionship is so strong, I could always make a special dolly just for you. These poor, frightened lambs can't possibly be that entertaining." He gestured at the crying, scared girls with the remains of his chicken leg, before plucking a grape from the fruit platter and popping it into his mouth.

"Little birds sing the prettiest when in a cage." the blond smiled, looking to the brunet on his left, "Isn't that right my little bird~?"

The young woman whimpered, and the viscount clicked his tongue, "Come on, sing for me little bird~"

"Ch-cheep cheep."

That's a good girl~"

Undertaker felt a flash of distaste. While he enjoyed giving people a good scare as much as anyone else, he knew what fate awaited the ladies once Druitt was bored with tormenting them. He generally tried to stay out of the viscount's affairs, and he expected the same thing in return. However, he might soon have his dear Vincent back and he knew beyond a doubt that he would not approve of this at all. He said nothing aloud; his associate had to sleep eventually, and Druitt usually kept his captives for at least a couple of days before seeing to their disappearance. He wondered how many of his recent subjects were actually victims of the viscount's sadism, and the thought made him frown. He covered it up with a sip of wine and he scooped some potato mash onto his plate.

"I hope to have it all perfected within a week; or perhaps two," the Undertaker went on casually, smiling as if he weren't plotting to liberate the viscount's captive little birds as he slept. "This one is nearly perfect."

He began to eat with vigor then, feeling half-starved.

"Oh?" The blond's eyes turned on him, ignoring the girl tied at his side, "And if you have perfected it, then how will you proceed?" He lifted his glass, looking at the light from candles on the table's center through the deep red wine.

Undertaker grinned and swallowed his food. "Why, I'll create my masterpiece…along with the agreed number of dollies for you and your associates, of course. This process isn't for them, though. You could never fully control an army of fully sentient dollies with their own free will, of course."

"I am still wondering about this masterpiece of yours. Why it seems so important to you that it has free will." He gave a dramatic sigh, "It's much more fun to cage them up than to let them fly free~"

"That's a matter of opinion," said the reaper as he reached for his wine. He took a swallow and he considered the half-finished meal on his plate. He'd already tested his newest dolly to see if he could stomach ordinary food. That was the one problem he'd found; he still craved human flesh. He didn't really care one way or another what the doll downstairs ate, but he didn't want to condemn Vincent to a lifetime of cannibalism. He needed to do more work on the cerebral cortex, to correct the issue with taste receptors and appetite. Once he could achieve that, he could bring his love back nearly whole. The man in the basement seemed to have nearly all of his memories, when his testimonies were compared to the cinematic records that Undertaker had reviewed.

"I'm perfecting this process for my own reasons," finished the reaper. "Call it curiosity, my dear viscount. I'd like to know just how far I can go."

He still had no intention of confiding in the man and telling him about Vincent. Amusing as he could be, Druitt was not a man to be underestimated. The Undertaker had told no-one about the perfectly preserved Earl he kept in special storage, or his ultimate intentions for him. He lifted his glass and he smiled.

"Cheers, Viscount. Here's to your pleasure and my success."

"Oh, if you insist~" The man downed his drink and returned his attention to his two 'birds', and leaving the reaper to his thoughts.


 

After finishing his dinner, the Undertaker returned to his lab and began his work on his latest acquisition, deciding he was best off building his research off the most successful subject, he put the doll under and began testing. Brain surgery was quite a tricky field in this day and age, but he'd had thousands of years to study and learn his way around the human body. His long years of experience made him more adept than most modern surgeons, and he probably could have made a living as a doctor to the living, had he chosen to do so. Having access to mortal psychology and physiology that no human of the age could match, he believed he had a fair chance of eventually correcting the flesh craving issues.

He was so consumed with his work that he didn't realize how much time had passed until he heard the cuckoo clock in his lab go off at the hour of midnight. He looked up from the open skull and exposed brain he was working on, blinking through the glasses he wore to aid his sight. They were no Shinigami glasses, but they aided his vision enough for him to see clearly up close for delicate procedures.

"Oh dear," muttered the Undertaker when he realized what time it was. The viscount was likely in bed by now, and with any luck, he'd left his little "birdies" caged up and still alive for the night. With a sigh, the reaper closed his doll's skull and pulled the scalp back over it, before wrapping it up with bandages rather than suturing it. There was no point to suturing when he intended to operate each day until he got the procedure right. He checked the drip bag to ensure the doll would stay under, and he removed his gloves and glasses to wash up.

Unfortunately, he'd been wrong about Druitt's attention span. When he snuck into the holding area in the basement where the viscount always kept his captives before killing them, he found the giant iron birdcages to be empty. There was no sign of the girls, and it looked as if the room had been recently cleaned up to await the next victims.

"Perhaps I'm not too late," he whispered hopefully. "They could be in his room, still alive though worse for the wear."

He didn't truly believe that himself, but he'd done enough foul things as it was, and he wanted to at least do right by those girls, for the sake of his lover's memory, if nothing else. Undertaker went back to his laboratory to seek out the skeleton key he had hidden, and he found the bodies of the two women in there, wrapped up and bloody on the floor. Druitt's henchmen must have delivered them while he was checking the holding area. He wasn't worried about them snooping around; nobody in this house—including the master—had the gumption to dare. They all feared and respected him too much to risk being turned into a dollie themselves by invading his privacy or offending him. They must have dropped off the fresh bodies for his collection and gone quickly, probably relieved that he wasn't in the laboratory.

The reaper stepped over the bodies, his boots touching down lightly on the floor as he frowned down at them. A sigh of regret passed his lips. He had no compunctions about turning bodies brought by the morgue, regardless of their cause of death…but these lost little lambs had been murdered under his very roof. He hadn't even sensed their deaths happen, because he was so obsessed with his work on his recent sentient doll.

Undertaker shut his eyes briefly, before closing and double-bolting his door to ensure nobody would come into his laboratory again without his invitation. He went over to the far southern wall and he found the hidden impression in it. He pushed in on it and a hidden panel opened up, revealing the special coffin he kept in there. He opened it up and a bone-chilling white mist flowed out of it. When it cleared, he could see the pale, still features of his lover. He might have been asleep; his handsome features looked so peaceful. Vincent hadn't changed during his time in stasis.

The reaper knelt down before the coffin and he rested his hand over one of the cadaver's cold ones, folded serenely over his chest. "How disappointed you must be in me, Vincent," he murmured. "I wonder sometimes if it's really a conscience that troubles me from time to time, or if it's merely the thought of your disapproval that brings this guilt."

He bowed his head and sighed again. "I always told you that death is inevitable for all mortals, and we can't weep for the empty shells they leave behind. I know you would have wanted me to save those girls, however. I meant to, love. I truly intended to spirit them away in the night and deliver them to safety…but I misjudged how much time I had."

He could practically hear Vincent's voice in his ear as he imagined his response. ~"Perhaps, but the least you could do is give them a decent burial…not turn them into one of those abominations you've created."

He visualized the disapproving look on the Earl's comely face, and he sighed. "Right. Abominations. What I intend to turn you into, if I get the chance."

He began to suffer doubts again. He didn't know if he could bear Vincent's hatred when he woke up and discovered what he'd been made into. Perhaps he should just…let him go. He looked at his deceased love again and he shook his head, his eyes stinging with tears he hadn't allowed himself to cry since the day he found him in the manor, lifeless in a burning room.

"I've come too far to stop now," insisted the reaper. He lifted the Earl's limp hand—a result of the preservation process he'd used to prevent rigor mortis and keep his body free of decay—and he kissed the top of it. "I can't give you up, my dear. Despise me if you must when you come back to life; I'll even let you cut me down with my own death scythe if you must…but I have to finish this."

He gently laid the hand back down and he leaned over to place a kiss on the cold, still lips. "But I promise you, those girls won't walk amongst the bizarre dolls. I'll pretty them up, give them their last rites and consign them to the ground…just as you would want."

Having sworn his vow, he stood back up and closed the coffin, sealing it and locking it tightly before stepping out of the nook and closing the secret door again. He wasn't smiling as he turned to the bodies to assess how much work he was looking at.


 

Ciel sighed, leaning back in his chair as he held up a chain of delicate mourning brooches--Undertaker's chain. He had grabbed it during their scuffle on the ill-fated ship The Campania and had been told that it was the crazy old fugitive treasure.

The man was a reaper, and from what the young earl could tell, was as old as dust. It surprised Ciel in two different ways that the man had such trinkets.

On one hand, it was surprising that there were so few lockets on the chain. Living as long as the ancient reaper had, the boy would have thought there would have been more special people in his life than the mere handful that these few charms represented.

On the other hand, however, to a being that lives forever, why even bother getting close to those who held such short, fleeting lives? Why care about them at all?

Maybe most of these were fallen reapers that had been killed?

Whatever the reason for them, whomever they had been to the crazy old man, they were important to him. And he was sure that the reaper would not abandon his treasure forever. He'd be back to take it. He'd face Ciel and his demonic butler at least once more...and they would be ready for him.

The question was, however, was he to share this information--this secret with the reapers? It was risky. This chain was the only bait they had to catch the old god of death. If the reapers were to take it from them to bait the man themselves...no. He needed to be the one. He and Sebastian.

If he let Spears know about this...he'd have to know first that he could trust the man to work with his plan, and not get in the way.

Sighing again, Ciel shifted his thought to another issue--or two. First off, was the locket belonging to Claudia Phantomhive...and the other...the fact that every single locket had a name on it--every one, except one. The one that held a strangely familiar feel to it... A comforting presence. One that tugged at the boy's heart whenever he let his guard down.

But why?

There was a knock at the door, and Sebastian stepped into the office. "Master, Director Spears of the Reaper Dispatch is on the line for you. I presume you've disabled the ringer on your telephone in here. What shall I tell him?"

The boy sighed, setting down the chain of charms and looking at his butler a long moment. "I still haven't decided on whether or not we should let the reapers in on what we know. I don't know if we can trust them."

"Of course we cannot trust them, my lord." Sebastian smirked. "But their assistance may prove useful in learning the answers we seek. You could use them to help us ensnare the Undertaker and discover the history behind those lockets, or we could continue with our own investigation and leave them in the dark. You could even mislead them in another direction, if you prefer to keep them out of your way. The choice is yours."

"I don't want them getting in the way or taking over. But the man needs to be dealt with, and he's already proven to be able to slip through your fingers twice now."

Sebastian arched an elegant, black brow. He could have reminded his master that the Undertaker was no mere mortal…nor for that matter was he the average supernatural. It didn't become him to make excuses for himself, though. "Of course, master. Will you speak with Mr. Spears, or shall I brush him off for a later time?"

The earl sighed, resting his chin on his palm as he thought, "Call him over, I suppose. I'd hate for him to send the red thing out here to bother us if we take too long."

"Agreed, sir. I will see to it that brunch is served when he arrives, and I shall make it clear to him that Mr. Sutcliff is not welcome to join him…though I daresay after their last visit, he wouldn't be especially keen on bringing him along anyway."

"I doubt that'd make a difference. The man is uncontrollable--and he's infatuated with you. Just keep an eye on them when they get here." he stood up, "With any luck Spears will come alone."

Sebastian inclined his head. "One can hope. Should you require anything before our guest arrives, I will be in the kitchen overseeing brunch." The demon bowed gracefully and left Ciel alone in his office.


 

"Ronald. Wake up."

William nudged the young man dozing in the visitor chair by his infirmary bed. When he got no response, he considered slapping his cheeks but he decided against it. Knox had stayed by his side all night long, according to the nurse that came in an hour ago. The doctors were convinced he was rested enough to be released, and William immediately changed back into his work clothes and called the Phantomhive estate. Now he found himself standing over Ronald Knox, wondering when he'd come back in the evening before, and how late he'd stayed up on the investigation before deciding to wander back here instead of going home to his flat. The blond appeared to be sporting some shadows beneath his eyes, too.

William reached out and stroked aside a wisp of yellow-blond hair that had fallen over Ron's eye, and before he knew what he was doing, he traced the smooth line of his cheek. His fingertips skimmed down to the parted lips and he found them very soft to the touch. Ronald snorted in his sleep and William jerked his hand away as if burned, blinking like one who'd caught himself nodding off.

Just what in the hell was that? He'd been contemplating kissing a subordinate…a young reaper he was trying to groom to reach his true potential. William cleared his throat and nudged him with his shoe again.

"Ronald Knox, wake up. We have a meeting to attend."

The boy moaned, shifting to hide his face in his folded arms, "Dun' wanna go t' school...th' cake's n fire...get...mmm...cheese..." He mumbled.

William's lips twitched. "I have no idea what you're dreaming about, Ronald, but you must wake up." He shook him...gently. That damnable urge to kiss him was back full-force again. "Don't make me ask again."

~Else I might forget you are my subordinate and do something we'll surely both regret.~  

It took a few moments longer, but finally the younger reaper blinked his eyes open, a confused frown tugging his lips, "...Where..Senpai?"

William lifted a brow. "And whom else would I be? I need you to come with me, Ronald. Ciel Phantomhive has agreed to discuss the situation with the Undertaker with us and perhaps, if we are persuasive enough, they'll aid us. I dare not alert Grell to this meeting. His presence would only hinder negotiations. That means you have to keep silent about it as well, understand?"

Ronald groaned, "I'd rather sleep than deal with that brat and his smirking crow-servant again..." he yawned and rubbed his eyes.

William could sympathize with that, but he had a job to do. "We'll both just have to set aside out distaste for the greater good. Come now; we'll have a coffee before we go."

The boy groaned and pushed himself up, "Stupid old geezer doing stupid law breaking and making me lose sleep to talk to a stupid kid and demon..." he complained.

William smirked slightly as he turned his back on the complaining blond. "Just keep our objective in mind. The sooner we locate and detain the Undertaker, the sooner you can stop complaining about his antics."


 

"Master, our guests have arrived," announced Sebastian as he poked his head into Ciel's office. "Shall I bring them in here, or would you prefer to take audience with them in the parlor?"

"I'll meet with them in the parlor." Ciel said, standing up, "I'll be right with them."

He paused, eying Undertaker's lockets before pocketing them, unsure yet as to whether or not he'd share it with the reapers.

"Very good, sir." Sebastian paused before leaving the room, his crimson gaze narrowing on the lockets. "If I may suggest it, you might want to consider keeping that prize to yourself. Chances are that if Spears sees it, he will demand it be handed over to Shinigami authorities as evidence. Should that occur, the Undertaker will have no immediate reason to seek us out. You said yourself that as long as we have his treasure, we have a lure to bring him to us eventually."

"Yes. Say nothing of the lockets, Sebastian. I will decide when and if to reveal them to the reapers."

Sebastian gave an elegant nod. "As you wish, my lord. I shall get our guests settled and serve them tea while they await you." He smirked. "And don't worry; Sutcliff is not with him, this time."

The boy nodded, "Good."

Ciel lingered a bit before moving to the foyer to meet with William--and Ronald, as he found out. The blond reaper was slumped in a chair, his arms crossed, and it was clear he didn't want to be there. William, on the other hand, was waiting by the window, looking out at the garden where the gardener Finny could be seen causing more damage than good as he weeded the flowers right out of the ground.

"You ought to look into having your staff better trained," suggested William without turning around as he sensed the boy's approach. He sipped the hot tea he'd been served, his narrow eyes following the clumsy movements of the boy in the yard. "It's a wonder you have any flora left at all in your garden."

"My staff is very well trained...just not for their daily jobs around here. Sebastian keeps things in order and if he couldn't handle it, he'd work more on training them. But my staffing is none of your concern."

William turned and smirked at the butler. "Yes, you do rely heavily on your pet demon. Very well, let's get to the point, shall we? You have connections to the Undertaker that we lack, and he seems fond of making appearances for your benefit. I won't bother to guess why, and I'm sure you wouldn't tell me even if I asked. Suffice to say your butler has failed to detain the fugitive, as have we. What are your terms for an alliance in this matter, temporary though it may be?"

His gaze shot to his companion and he frowned. "Knox, do take your feet off the coffee table. There is no reason to be slovenly and rude."

"I can think of plenty of reasons to be such, here." Ronald stated, "Besides, it wasn't my choice to have you wake me up early for this."

But the blond lowered his feet, anyway.

Ciel ignored them and walked over, taking a seat in a high-backed chair, "I want it to be under my terms. After all, I'm the one with the information you lack. I won't have you taking over."

William's expression tightened, but he nodded curtly. "Name the terms, Earl Phantomhive." He clenched his jaw with agitation as he saw Sebastian's smug little smirk out the corner of his eye.

"You will follow my plans and work with, not against Sebastian. And once he is caught, You are not to whisk him off to who-knows where. You will allow me to finish my own business with him."

William exchanged a glance with Ronald. "You understand that he must eventually be brought in to face Shinigami justice, I presume. We can allow you to finish your business with him, but afterwards we must bring him before his peers to stand trial. You must vow to relinquish him to Dispatch, once you're done with him."

"And what would I do with him when finished?" demanded Ciel irritably. "Our jails would not hold a man like the Undertaker."

"No, they likely wouldn't," agreed William, still in admiration of the fugitive and his clever madness. "Even in our maximum security, the Undertaker won't be easily held. Are you certain that you are prepared to condemn him to imprisonment, given your family history with him? Up until recently, he's been quite loyal to the Phantomhives."  

"He chose this, not I," reminded Ciel coldly. "Besides, Just because he was supposedly loyal to my father and grandfather hardly means he's been loyal to me. He's only ever given me small bits of information, usually useless in the long-run. He's lost his mind too much to be of any real help, it seems. However, that does not make him any less of a threat. He's caused the queen, and myself, quite the headache with his antics and I will see to it that he is stopped."

William nodded in satisfaction. "You seem resolute in this course. Good." He approached the boy and he offered his hand. "Shall we conclude this meeting as a success and close the agreement, Earl?"

The thirteen-year-old nodded, taking his hand and giving it a professional shake. "Now, what information do you need, exactly?"

"You described the events that occurred in the boys' school and why the Undertaker was there, but you haven't explained why it is he let you live."

Sebastian raised a brow. "What makes you think the Undertaker 'let' my master live, Mr. Spears?"

William's expression remained aloof and cool. "Because you're obviously unable to defeat him yourself, and while he's never been known to harm children, you and your master did get in his way quite a bit. My associates reported that he had the opportunity on the Campania to do the boy harm, yet he did not. He could have abducted Ciel at the very least, if he truly wanted to."

William walked back over to the window. "Lord Phantomhive, I would like to know what he really was to your family, besides an informant. Surely you have some memory of him before your parents' untimely death. How did they act around him? What makes this reaper so hesitant to do you real harm? Have you ever considered that?"

The boy fell silent, his cocky attitude fading as he frowned, "You are asking me to remember back to a very painful time in my life, Reaper." He said slowly, "A time I have long ago suppressed. I already mourned my parents, I do not wish to be reminded of that pain again. I've moved on."

"Bollocks." Ronald interrupted, "You feel the pain of that loss every day, even if you do not show it. And we need you to remember the old geezer, what he was to your family if he is so intent on not harming you. Hell, it may even help you answer some of your own questions."

Ciel glared at the blond, but leaned back in his chair, closing his eyes as he reluctantly willed himself to remember.

The seconds ticked by in silence, the soothing sound of the clock starting to echo in the earl's ears...and then, all at once, he found himself back in time.

He could see himself, a small boy playing with a new toy his father had brought home for him. He was smiling--he was happy. God, how long had it been since he had ever felt such a thing?

Ciel shook the thought from his mind and watched as the miniature past him got up and rushed out of the room when his nanny wasn't looking. He giggled, running down the luxurious halls, stopping to press his hands and nose to a window, watching his mother outside in the garden, walking with her sister; Madam Red. Auntie Angelina. His mother always looked happiest when she got to see her, and Ciel remembered how happy he had been when his father and mother had told him that he'd get a little brother or sister of his own to play with soon...a promise that had never come true.

A tear rolled down Ciel's cheek.

He then watched himself as he continued down the Hall, skidding to a stop outside his father's office, out of which another voice could be heard. A voice Ciel hadn't heard for years... He peeked into the office, his eyes widening as he saw the Undertaker, standing tall over Vincent.

The Earl had a smirk on his face, and Ciel couldn't make out their words, probably because his younger self hadn't been truly listening to them, but his father looked so happy... his cheeks stained red as if he'd been laughing at something the old reaper had said.

Ciel followed his younger self into the room. He could remember...that he had always liked it when the man had visited them...he had always called him...Uncle. Yes, Undertaker had been like family to him...

Undertaker was smirking, and he stepped closer to Vincent, backing him up against the window behind the desk. The action looked controlling, threatening...but Vincent only smiled, reaching up and pushing white fringe out of the man's face, knocking his hat from his head. Young Ciel picked up the hat, plopping it onto his head; unnoticed by the two men--and then, Undertaker leaned in, his lips locking with Vincent's, a muffled moan leaving them both as they held each other closer--

"Daddy?" Little him asked, and the current him gasped out, his eyes snapping open in shock.

The two reapers looked at each other with interest, and Sebastian's mouth pulled into a subtle frown. "Master, are you alright?"

Ciel's eyes were wide as he looked around the room, "No...no, that can't be right...I have to have been remembering wrong..." He gasped.

William watched the unusually flustered boy with interest. "And what exactly are you recalling, Earl?"

"...He was...The Undertaker was with my father..." The boy whispered.

"...So? Kinda obvious that the geezer was spending time with him as he was an informant or whatever." Ronald shrugged, obviously missing the point.

"I meant he was with my father, you idiot!" The boy snapped. "Like how My father was with my mother! They kissed!"

Both of William's brows lifted. "Surely not in front of you."

The Undertaker might be careless enough to do so, but all accounts of the former Earl Phantomhive indicated that he was a discreet man and a responsible parent. He noticed Sebastian smirking and he gave the demon a scowl of distaste. Only a cretin would find this amusing.

"It wasn't supposed to be in front of me--I was three and walked in on it happening!" Ciel snapped, then turned his scowl on his butler, "It is not amusing--that was my father he was doing that to! There was no way my father would do something so disgusting!"

Ronald's amused smile dropped, his arms crossing, "Sorry--but just what is disgusting about two men kissing?"

"He is still a child," William reminded the younger reaper hastily, hoping to Death that he wouldn't start bringing up their personal relationship. "Young boys tend to find kissing of any sort disgusting."

Sebastian put two fingers to his lips, but it hardly concealed his quiet smile. His ruby gaze flicked to the little lord. "I rather suspect young master's objection has more to do with the shock of seeing the family informant kissing his father than gender or an aversion to kissing."

The demon's smile grew wider; one could almost believe he found Ciel's reactions endearing.

"He clearly was taking advantage of my father, at any rate! Why would anyone want such an old decrepit mortician placing his lips on them?"

"Old geezer, maybe," said Ronald, "But you humans need to learn that love has no gender. Maybe your father did want the geezer to kiss him."

"He would not!" Ciel insisted childishly. It was rare for him to show such behavior.

"I would remind my lord that regardless of personal preferences, noble-born people are obligated to wed and produce heirs," Sebastian pointed out. "Many of which only tolerate their spouses in order to procure the legacy, and it's quite common for noblemen to take mistresses or in your father's case, a consort. He may very well have been fond of your mother; he probably even loved her…but Vincent Phantomhive obviously had needs that he could not fulfill with his wife. From everything you've told me, your father wasn't the kind of man to be taken advantage of."

William looked at Ronald, a faint expression of surprise on his face. "They were lovers. That would explain why the Undertaker is reluctant to harm the previous Earl's son. It is even possible that he's taken it upon himself to safeguard Ciel, in his own strange way."

Ceil didn't like it...he didn't like it at all. The idea that he father had taken the old Undertaker as a lover? He shivered.

But then again...why else would he grow up calling the man 'Uncle'? Why else would he be considered part of the family? What about his mother? did she even have a clue what her husband had done when she wasn't around?

Ronald sighed and leaned forward, putting his weight on his elbows—which rested on his knees. "What if that is Undertaker's intent? To protect the brat? He probably had plans to do so right after the fire but instead, the kid goes and contracts with a demon. Suddenly, he can't protect him close up and he started thinking of other ways to do it? I mean, think about it! Every time we get a report about the man's Bizarre Dolls, The earl is there and somehow involved. Maybe its not him that's the problem, but him going to protect the earl from the problem. The dolls are a perfect distraction...he could be dispatching the real problem and then take the blame for whatever is going on there."

A subtle expression of surprise registered on Sebastian's face, quickly wiped away by his usual mask of indifference. He glanced at his master thoughtfully. "The theory does have merit, my lord. It does beg the question of what threat the Undertaker could be attempting to protect you from, if not myself."

The retired reaper had managed to impale Sebastian with that monstrous scythe of his, aboard the Campania. He'd even said something about removing the cause of Ciel's unhappiness before it happened. He never completed the job though…and Sebastian was humbled enough by that experience to admit that he may very well have been able to, given enough time and effort. He could have at least done enough damage to sever the demon's ties to the mortal realm for a while, thus forcing him back into Hell and giving Ciel the opportunity to break the contract.

Perhaps the Undertaker chose to hold back because he thought Ciel needed Sebastian's protection more than he needed his soul to be safeguarded…which could mean that he knew who was responsible for the fate of Vincent and Rachel Phantomhive. He could get to them before Sebastian, which would remove the threat and…render the contract null and void. Failure to fulfill his part of the bargain would destroy any claim he had on Ciel's soul, unless he took it by force. The Undertaker—if this was indeed his plan—would stand between Sebastian and his meal to ensure that would not happen.

A faint scowl curved Sebastian's pale lips. Suddenly he didn't find Ciel's epiphany so very amusing, and he genuinely disliked the wacky mortician. He'd starved himself, belittled himself, enslaved himself for a taste of ambrosia that this brazen old reaper was now trying to steal out from beneath him.

Unnoticed by the pensive demon butler, William approached Ciel with a new perspective, studying the boy intensely. "He's always made exceptions for you, Earl. I believe my associate may not be far from the mark. Well done, Ronald."

Ronald seemed to beam at the praise, "Thank you, sir."

Ciel sighed, "I don't need his protection. I have Sebastian's."

"Sebastian's protection comes with the ultimate price though." Ronald shrugged, "The geezer's comes for free. If he was in love with your father, then you are probably like a son to him. Or have you forgotten what love is like, little earl?" Ronald pointed out.

William felt his cheeks heating as Ronald's gaze flicked to him. He turned toward the window smoothly, keeping his back to the assembly just in case. "Let's view this in the simplest way possible, shall we? We now know that the Undertaker was involved with young Lord Phantomhive's predecessor, and by all appearances, he is reluctance to do him harm and could in fact be working to protect him. This could provide us with a lure, gentlemen."

"...You want to use me as bait?" Ciel asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Why not? You wouldn't be any real danger." Ron shrugged, "Even if you have given your soul to a demon, we reapers don't take the lives of people not on our lists. But we can make it look like you're on the list."

William nodded. "And the Undertaker has an uncanny knack for sensing it when someone is marked for death. We won't need to find a way to get word to him, if he has been monitoring you as closely as we suspect."

"Excuse me, but is that not a contradiction in itself?" Sebastian pointed out. "If you Shinigami do not harvest the souls of those in a demonic contract, why would my young master make it onto the death list at all?"

"Even those lost to you filth are documented," William explained with a distasteful look at the butler. "We simply have no records to harvest, once you've devoured the soul. Many things could happen to a fragile young boy, even one with a guardian such as you."

"And just because a soul is contracted doesn't mean we let it be consumed. We do try to collect the soul when the time comes. However, you demons have the advantage and usually have taken the soul before we have the chance to show up for collection." Ronald said.

Sebastian smirked. "Perhaps you aren't as cunning as we are."

William bristled, and he started to retaliate to that but he calmed himself immediately. "We are here on a common purpose. Do put the smug attempts to goad us into an argument aside for another time, Mr. Michaelis. We can at least attempt to keep civil tongues with each other until this is over."

The butler gave a slight bow. "As you wish. How do you intend to put my young master on the death list without endangering him?"

William thought about it, his gaze flicking to Ronald. He didn't want to tell them too much about how Shinigami catalogued life records. "As an administrator, I have access to certain restricted files within the library. With my associate's help and the correct tools, I can…commit a forgery."

His mouth twisted in distaste at the very thought, but there were times when the ends justified the means. He despised violating protocol, though.

"It'll be cool. Fun stuff like this never happens!" Ronald grinned, "Extra paperwork, but worth it for the added excitement on the job."

"And you wouldn't be putting your job at risk?" Ciel asked, not particularly interested in the answer.

William adjusted his glasses and lowered his gaze thoughtfully. "With any deviation from protocol comes the risk of penalties or demotion. Given the situation, however, I find myself in a position that requires me to put the greater good above protocol."

He glanced at his blond companion. "It will require no small measure of tact and focus. Can you manage that, Knox?"

"Please!" The blond rolled his eyes, "Have a bit more faith in me. Just because I came into work late once or...thrice with a hangover doesn't mean I don't do what needs to get done on the job!"

The brunet cleared his throat and glanced meaningfully at Ciel and Sebastian. "This isn't the appropriate forum to debate your work ethic, Ronald Knox. We have a delicate task ahead of us and we must take time to prepare."

He gave a small, cordial bow to Ciel. "If you will excuse us, young Earl, my companion and I have work to do. We will contact you when everything is in order and we can discuss our course of action to detain the fugitive once it is put into motion, should he take the bait. Come, Ronald."

William nodded at the younger reaper expectantly, and he summoned a portal back to their realm. Trusting that Ronald wouldn't linger behind, he walked through it without looking back.

"Ah, That guy has no sense of fun..." Ronald pouted, standing up, "I guess I'll be seeing ya." He saluted the Earl and his demon before running through the portal as it started to close, disappearing with a flash of light.

"I trust I do not have to tell you, Sebastian, to keep your eye on them throughout this plan? I do not wish to end up on their 'list' for real." The boy stated, standing up and walking to the door.

Sebastian inclined his head. "Of course, young master."


 

"William T. Spears, executive supervisor of Dispatch Management Division." William drew his identification badge and showed it to the librarian. "I have need of access to the greater vaults."

The librarian looked at the badge, then at William. "What is this in regards to, Mr. Spears?"

The brunet adjusted his glasses and answered calmly: "I believe there has been an error in our records, and I need to confirm it. If I leave it be, it could throw off our entire information base. I'm sure you know what a bother it is to sort out misplaced records, once a single one begins a chain reaction."

The librarian shuddered at the thought, and he turned the check-in book around and offered William a pen. "Sign here, please. I can give you access for twenty minutes; no more."

"That will be fine." William signed his name in neat, flowing script and he replaced the pen in its holder, before taking the key offered to him by the librarian. "I will do my best to be quick about it."

"Very good, sir."

William left the lobby and went straight to the staircase leading to the top floor. Once he was there, he approached the gilded, reinforced double-doors that closed off the greater vaults from the rest of the library. Once he unlocked them and got inside, he locked them once more behind him and he went straight to the cabinet containing the Death Bookmarks, and once he selected one of them he went over to the window overlooking the cliffs below. He opened it and he poked his head out to look for his companion.

"Knox?"

He heard a grunt off to his left, and he spotted the blond clinging to the wall like an odd species of spider. William held his hand out expectantly. "I trust you have the book?"

"Yeah," Ron grunted, letting William help him in through the window, "But next time you be the one playing monkey. A pigeon thought my head would be a good place to nest. Almost fell shooing it away." He brushed his gloved hands off and reached into the bag slung over his shoulder, pulling out a leather bound book with Ciel Phantomhive's name on it. "Wasn't easy to check this out, either, Because it's of a living soul I had to turn up the Knox charm to max. Librarian isn't into guys..."

William found himself briefly and inappropriately distracted by the thought of Ronald flirting with the librarian. It hit him like a brick, and he reacted before he even knew what he was doing. "Do you often flirt with men, Ronald?"

He felt his temperature rise in his face and he hastily took the book and turned away, carrying it over to the book stand near the marker cabinet. He opened it up and flipped through the pages, absently scanning the life events until he came to the part that was still being catalogued.

Ronald shrugged, "Well, yeah, sometimes. But the Librarian is a woman. Hardest thing ever is to flirt with a lesbian. Straight men, I can charm, Lesbians seem immune." He stated, leaning against a shelving unit as there were no chairs he could see in the area of the room they were occupying. "I save my real flirting for after work. While at work, It's mostly to see those poor secretaries smile a little... Their jobs are so dull and they can use the pick-me-up I offer them. Helps moral and all that."

William couldn't really formulate a decent response. "Lesbians...I see. Very...interesting."

He didn't even know how to react. He couldn't seem to tear his mind's eye away from the thought of shoving Ronald against a bookshelf and having his way with him. He was a bit surprised that his thoughts immediately led him to that. He thought that Ronald would slake his desires on females, and yet he could not stop imagining what it would be like to...

William shook his head. It wasn't like him to allow personal desires to conflict with his duties, yet this annoying young reaper seemed to have a knack for bringing it out in him without even trying. He avoided staring at Ronald and he put his mind to the book before him. He placed the Death Bookmark in to stop the cinematic events in their tracks, and he considered his course of action.

"Well then, let's see what we can do to tempt our quarry. Be ready to make yourself absent, should anyone come to investigate."

Ron rolled his eyes, "Who'll come up here? Its so restricted. Most reapers serve and retire without once even touching the door. They only know you are here and you are pretty high up in rank and trust. So as long as we're quick, we should be safe."

The blond pushed himself away from the heavy shelf and walked over, popping up onto his toes to peer over his boss' shoulder, "...I've never actually got to see a record be halted like that..."

William again found himself distracted as his companion's warm breath tickled his ear. He briefly closed his eyes and called upon his discipline, lest he be tempted to turn his head and claim Ronald's lips. He found a convenient spot to halt the script before it could write itself further, and he retrieved the fountain pen to write into the book where the previous script left off.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

He was just finishing up with his latest adjustments to his most recent creation's brain when he felt it. The Undertaker went still, his normally sleepy gaze going wide beneath the thick fringe of his bangs.

"No." He spoke the denial in a pained voice, his pale hand pressing against his chest, over his heart. It couldn't be...but his foresight had never failed him before. He generally didn't sense the death of every mortal; if he did, he would never have a moment's piece. Those that had touched his life in some way, however...

"No," he gasped again, shaking his head in denial. "Not the little lord...there must be a mistake!"

He'd been so sure that as long as he had Sebastian by his side, Ciel's life would be safe until the day he fulfilled his goal to avenge his parents. Knowing the boy still had no idea that the monarchy was directly involved, the mortician was confident that he had plenty of time to spare before Ciel was in any real danger. Apparently, he'd been wrong. Somehow Sebastian had failed to protect him, and unless his sight was completely off, the child was dead. Undertaker knew that the demon couldn't have devoured his soul; the constraints of the contract would have prevented him from supping on his soul before he'd fulfilled the bargain he'd made.

The reaper bowed his head and stared unseeingly at the unconscious doll on his examination table. "Vincent...Rachel...your son. I meant to save him for you, but I..."

His vision blurred and he hastily wiped his eyes. "No...I need to be certain. I've been working my old bones to death and I could be mistaken."

It was possible. Perhaps what he was sensing was just Ciel in distress. It had happened before. Hoping against hope that he was mistaken, the ancient death god put away his surgical tools and left his laboratory.


 

Ronald whistled and stepped back from William, "I suppose we ought to hurry back to ambush the geezer if he takes the bait, then?" he stretched and walked back over to the window, "Will we have to sneak back in to undo it, or will it fix itself? I never did quite understand the use of Death Bookmarks and pens."

William closed the book, with the bookmark still inside of it. "It will retain the information I've put into it until the bookmark is removed. Once it has served its purpose, we can return it and the book to the library."

He handed the book over to Ronald. "Keep it safe and meet me back outside. We need to return to the Phantomhive manor immediately. If this worked, I doubt the Undertaker will wait for long to investigate."

"Got it!" The blond slipped the book into his bag and leapt out the window, falling down the four stories to the ground, landing on his feet like a cat and taking off to meet William at the doors to the Library.


 

Sebastian showed the two reapers right in, the moment they arrived at the door. Ciel was sipping tea in the sitting room.

"It's done," confirmed William with a nod, "and I've contacted some associates to come and assist; not Sutcliff, of course. I haven't told them the details of how we intend to lure the Undertaker here, as much to protect the integrity of their career as my own. I trust this is acceptable to you?"

The boy nodded, "As long as your men can abide by my requirement of interrogating the man before he is taken away."

"Hey, don't worry about it so much, kid, Everyone's scared shitless that Spears here would give them overtime or a pay cut if they don't take every order of his seriously!"

William sensed the presence of other Shinigami approaching, and he calmly excused himself to meet them outside. Alan Humphries appeared from the portal on the lawn, followed by Eric Slingby. The administrator greeted them cordially. He didn't quite trust any other officers to get involved in this, without asking too many questions.

 "Good evening," he said once they gathered their bearings. "Your participation in this operation is appreciated."

"Evening," greeted Eric. "We thought of bringin' some recruits ta help, but given tha circumstances..."

He trailed off and glanced sidelong at the slender brunet at his side, who appeared just as curious as he was. Thankfully, they were both loyal enough and clever enough not to ask too many questions.

"Would you mind at least briefing us on what the goal is, sir?" Alan asked, "It would save us from confusion later."

"Of course," agreed William. He gave them the basic details, without mentioning how they'd sent the lure to the mortician or his scandalous past with Vincent Phantomhive. "The young Earl has in his possession an item of the Undertaker's...something he holds dear. We have staged it so that it would appear that item could be lost to him, and should he get word of this as we hope, he should theoretically come to investigate the matter. That is when we will strike, and attempt to take him by surprise. I dared not share this with any other reapers. The risks are too great."

"What about Grell?" questioned Eric. "Did yeh send fer him too?"

William shook his head, frowning. "Absolutely not. Sutcliff would be too distracted by the presence of Mr. Michaelis and his own passions, and the demon and his master have made it quite clear that he is no longer welcome on these grounds. I'm afraid it will be just the three of us and Ronald Knox, tonight...with the demon butler's aid, of course."

Eric's brows lifted. "Tha' yur willin' ta work wi' a demon is shocking enough. Will tha four of us and Michaelis be enough, do yeh think?"

"I realize it may be a difficult, close battle, but if I did not believe we could do this, I would not have bothered trying this method. You are both seasoned reapers, and two of the most capable officers in our division. At the very least, we can weaken him and then you two can call for reinforcements if it appears he's going to escape. You can say that Ciel Phantomhive contacted me when the Undertaker appeared on his property, and there was no time for me to call more reapers to this location before confronting the fugitive."

Eric held up two fingers. "Pardon me, Sir, but why cannae yeh just do that now?"

William lifted an elegant brow. "Because the fugitive is not yet here, Mr. Slingby. This is an ambush. It would appear suspicious for me to request backup on a mark that has not even arrived. Only after we have an actual sighting and confrontation can you or Mr. Humphries make that call."

Eric grinned and stroked his goatee. "I'd love ta know just wha' ye've done, Mr. Spears."

"And I would appreciate it if you did not question it further," answered William coolly, "for all our sakes. Desperate times call for desperate measures."

"Eric, focus on out task." Alan stated, nudging him in the side. "We'll get in position to be on the look out for his arrival, Sir." he reassured William before taking Eric's wrist and pulling him with him to take cover.

The Scotsman stumbled after his partner with a shrug, and William sighed and adjusted his glasses. "Heavens help us."


 

The ancient chose an alternative route to the Phantomhive mansion, keeping to the forests peppering the hills, rather than the road. He needed to see with his own eyes...needed visual proof that the Earl was indeed deceased. He came upon the grounds of the manor and he peered at it uncertainly. It really didn't look as though a funeral had taken place yet, but perhaps it was due to take place tomorrow. There had been no announcement in the paper, yet the Undertaker knew that the household would have kept it quiet under Sebastian and Tanaka's orders, until the estate could be dealt with.

He wondered if the demon butler was still even there, for that matter. He couldn't have consumed his soul, so what was there to keep him around? The ancient shook his head, his usually smiling mouth pulling into an unhappy frown. He was distracted, and he was still a wanted reaper. Other reapers were bound to show up; if he'd sensed Ciel's death, then Dispatch surely must know about it too. He needed to stay on his toes, confirm his fears and seek out his treasure. If it was true...Styx help him, he didn't know if he could go through with his plan to revive Vincent. Learning that his son was alive and well was the one thing that might give Vincent hope and the will to go on in his altered form. If Ciel was dead...

No. He had no proof, yet. "Get your noggin out of the pit and focus, Khronos," muttered the reaper to himself. A bit startled at hearing his own voice speak that name again after so long, he giggled. "My, I never even told him."

He sighed. He'd never shared the name he'd once gone by with his lover, figuring the past was better left buried. He would have to remedy that, if he got the chance. Cloaking himself from mortal eyes and doing his best to mask his presence from supernatural senses as well, he sought out the best route to enter the grounds from the back.


 

Ciel lay as still as he could on his bed, pretending to be 'dead' as he'd been instructed. It was his only real roll, after all. And if Undertaker found his way in...it may tempt him closer before he realized that the young earl was still quite alive.

But it was dull as he listened to the clock count the passing seconds.


 

Mey-Rin busily dusted the shelves, trying to keep her mind off the conflict that was sure to happen in these walls. Reapers made her nervous—almost as nervous as Mr. Sebastian did. They were so mysterious, and not a one of them she'd seen so far was unattractive. Well, she supposed the Undertaker could be considered more creepy than attractive, now that she thought of it. She had only met him a few times and she assumed the face half-hidden beneath all that silver hair was disfigured by the scars. Still, she was oddly drawn to the macabre and the chills he gave her weren't particularly unpleasant.

The little maid shivered and hugged herself briefly, feeling one of those delightful tingles shoot up her spine and make the hair at the nape of her neck stand on end. "Oi, I'm such a lecherous maid, I am!"

She looked around the corridor when she felt a cool breeze, suddenly on guard. Where was it coming from? They said the Undertaker would likely take the quickest route to Ciel, but the mad old codger wasn't dense. "Crazy like a fox, 'e is," she muttered, pushing her thick, round glasses further up on her nose. "I'd best keep my guard up."

Keeping her hands low in case she needed to draw the pistols hidden beneath her skirts, she followed the draft to locate the source. The manor sure was creepy at night. The dimly lit corridors were foreboding; especially when one was alone. She shivered again with delight, in spite of herself. Finny would probably scold her for being crackers, if he knew how excited she was over this dangerous situation. He probably already did, and simply didn't want to bring it to attention.

Mey-Rin located the source of the draft in one of the spare bedrooms, at the end of the hallway. Peering in, she could see the curtains fluttering in the cool autumn breeze. Someone had left a window open. Carefully taking a candelabra from the wall and holding it high for light, she kept one hand close to her thigh and stepped into the room.

"Hello?" she called; just in case it was one of her fellow servants. There was no answer. Of course, and intruder wasn't likely to answer her back, either. She tip-toed over to the window and looked around. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, she nonetheless drew one of her pistols and took a quick look outside, ready to fire on anyone she saw. There was nothing.

Breathing a little sigh of relief—or was it disappointment?—she stuck her head back in and closed the window, locking it securely. "Cor, 'ere I am, jumping at shadows..."

She trailed off, her eyes widening behind the chunky lenses of her glasses when said shadows seemed to coalesce into the tall form of a man, the moment she turned around. She started to shriek with surprise and draw her pistol, but the darkness solidified and a cool, bone-pale hand wrapped around her wrist, while another clamped over her mouth. She was shoved up against the wall and the candelabra fell from her other hand to the floor. A hard, lean body pressed tightly against hers, trapping her arm against her torso before she could reach for her other pistol. Booted feet trod over the flickering candles, extinguishing their light, and she saw the face of her assailant in the chill moonlight.

The Undertaker grinned cheerfully at her, his bangs parted to reveal his face. He was not ugly. He wasn't ugly at all. In fact, he was downright beautiful, despite the scar winding over his face. His strange eyes bored into hers and Mey-Rin found herself entranced by them.

"Evening, little maid," greeted the mortician in a dulcet, seductive murmur that wasn't a bit like the scratchy "old man" voice she was used to hearing from him. "Aren't you a pretty little cockney? But then, you aren't exactly what you seem to be either, are you love?"

She shivered and mumbled behind his hand, terrified and exhilarated at once. Creepy old man, dark angel...he was two sides of a grim coin that she couldn't help but be drawn to. A blush arose in her cheeks. She squirmed against him, trying to free herself. She could have done it, were he an ordinary man. This was not the case with the Undertaker, however.

"Now, now," chided the mortician gently. "I'll release you unharmed as soon as you help me. Look into my eyes, my dear."

Mey-Rin closed her eyes and tried to shake her head, guessing the reaper intended to hypnotize her somehow. She didn't know much about their kind yet—had only recently learned they existed—but she guessed they had all sorts of dark powers at their disposal.

"Tsk, tsk. Stubborn lamb. Seems I'll have to wing it."

The maid expected him to strike her or cut her, and she braced herself for pain. Instead, she felt his cool, silken lips press against hers in a kiss. Her eyes popped open with surprise and her blush deepened. The Undertaker drew back abruptly and he stared into her eyes, trapping her with his otherworldly gaze. She couldn't look away, and she stared back, transfixed by the overlapping irises of emerald and amber.

"Now, my dear," purred the mortician, "I need two things from you. Well, make that three. All right...four. Firstly, I need you to tell me if the little lord is dead."

"N-no, Sir," she whispered, her words tumbling past her trembling lips before she could help it.

The Undertaker smiled, and there was some relief in those riveting eyes of his. "Wonderful! Now tell me; am I meant to believe he's dead, or was it just my tired old senses playing tricks on me?"

She tried to deny it; she really did. Despite clamping her lips shut, the words again poured out like water. "It's a...trap."

He chuckled. "Orchestrated by Ciel or Dispatch, I wonder? No matter; someone from the reaper organization had to be involved, for me to sense his 'death'. I wonder who fiddled with the records? Couldn't possibly be that Spears chap; he's far too anal retentive to break the rules by falsifying a death, that way. Sutcliff, maybe?"

He seemed to ponder the matter for a moment, and his hold on her lessened. She began to struggle again and his gaze snapped back into focus, once more enrapturing the maid. "Doesn't matter who, I suppose. Final question, love; where did your master put my treasure? You know, the chain of lockets I left in his care."

"Th-they're with him," she obliged. She bit down on her tongue, trying to stop it from wagging further. The Undertaker clucked his tongue again and he kissed away the blood that trickled from the corner of her mouth.

"Hmm, salty," he approved. "Now my dear, I need one last thing from you. I need you to come with me. The little lord might not hold your life in high regard for sentimental reasons, but you are more than a simple maid. I think he would hesitate to waste a lady of your talents, and his allies will try not to harm you to get to me as well. Come, darlin'."

He stepped back, releasing her from his vise-like hold, and he offered a black-nailed hand to her. Mey-Rin placed her smaller, trembling hand in his and though she tried to fight his compulsion, she was, after all, only mortal.


 

"He's here," William announced, his narrow gaze flicking around. "I cannot pinpoint his location, but I can sense him. He must have slipped past Slingby and Humphries, somehow. Ronald, be ready...and contact the others to begin searching the home."

Ronald nodded, "Got it." he slipped over to the window and sent out a message to the other two reapers before concealing himself in the shadows, crouching in the top corner of the room near the door. He liked having the higher ground, after all, and he could use it to his advantage.

While his companion did that, William turned to Sebastian. "I'm sure I don't need to remind you how slippery our adversary can be, Mr. Michaelis. It would make perfect sense for you to stand guard over your master, but the element of surprise would be completely lost if I were standing in plain sight."

Sebastian nodded, smirking slightly. "Of course. How it must sting you to slink in the shadows to ambush your legendary reaper."

William stiffened, but he held his composure with typical stoicism. "The Undertaker is not above the laws of Dispatch, regardless of his past reputation. Keep your barbs to yourself until this ordeal is finished."

Amusement flickered in the demon's crimson gaze, but he nodded in accordance. Annoyed but determined to put an end to this, William concealed himself behind one of the billowing curtains, seeming to evaporate as he slipped between the folds and the wall. Shortly thereafter, Eric and Alan stationed themselves outside the windows.


 

"This isna' gonna work," predicted Eric with a grunt as he climbed onto the balcony beside his partner. "He'll sense us as soon as he gets in there."

"With your half-hearted attempt at concealing your presence, maybe." Alan whispered, "Stop losing focus, and we'll have a chance at least."

Still, time ticked by without the appearance of the Undertaker, and Ronald grew bored, wondering if William had had an off-moment in sensing the legend.

Mey-Rin suddenly stumbled into the room, her glasses askew. It appeared as though a cloud of darkness surrounded her, and part of it formed the shape of crescent against her throat. She whimpered an apology to Sebastian as the demon turned to regard her with narrowed eyes, and as he parted his lips to speak, a voice came from the darkness.

"Hi, hi. Sorry to barge in like this, Mr. Michaelis, but I've come to pay my respects to the little lord...and to retrieve my treasure. Where might that be?"

The Undertaker materialized from the darkness, and he held the little maid tightly against him. The wicked curve of his scythe rested firmly against her throat and the gleam in his eyes left little doubt that he would reap her in a heartbeat, if the butler made a move against him.

"The 'treasure' of which you speak is safely put away," answered Sebastian coolly. He glanced down at Ciel; who was still maintaining his pretense and lying completely still. "I presume word has reached you of my master's demise."

"Hmm, 'demise'." The silver reaper smirked. "Funny word usage, considering the boy is no deader than his pretty servant, here." He pulled Mey-Rin closer, bending over her to lower his grinning mouth to her ear.

"How do you like that, my dear? He's trying to call you a fibber...or else he's trying to lie right to my face. Which is it, do you think?"

"M-Mr. Sebastian," quavered Mey-Rin, "I didn't mean to tell! 'E hypnotized me with his gaze, he did!"

Sebastian raised a brow. "Interesting. Well I suppose one can't expect a reaper to mistake a live body for a corpse, for very long." He began to remove his gloves, tugging them loose with his teeth.

The Undertaker chuckled. "Not for long," he agreed. "The little lord plays possum well, though. Wakey, wakey, Ciel. It was a devious trick to play on your Uncle Unnie, but my mind's not quite far gone enough to fall for it. Oh, and you may as well tell your Shinigami friends to come out as well. The one behind the curtain and the two on the balcony, respectively."

William checked a sigh. So he'd sensed them after all. As he, Alan and Eric revealed themselves, it occurred to William then that the Undertaker had made no mention of Ronald—which could either mean he hadn't yet detected him, or he was planning to toy with them. He resisted the urge to glance in the direction he knew the blond was hidden, and he hoped Ronald would remain hidden and ready.

"Well then," said the Dispatch supervisor as he too dropped his cloak. "How do you expect for this to end, Undertaker? We have our duty to bring you in, of course."

"I expect this to end with myself cheerfully leaving with my trinkets, the pretty maid to keep her life, and you chaps returning to your realm empty-handed." The Undertaker shrugged. "Pity it's probably going to end in bloodshed, though."

"Not even a legend is immune from the laws, sir." Alan said, gripping his scythe, "Why not just give in and come with us?"

"And answering a few questions first." Ciel said, sitting up, looking across the bed at the man he thought he remembered kissing his father.

"Asking me to 'just give in' would be like asking Mr. Spears to lighten up and relax," the Undertaker retorted to Alan. "Come now, lad...don't be silly. As for you, little lord, I might be inclined to answer some of your questions, in exchange for my lockets."

"Only if you are truthful." Ciel pressed, getting out of the bed and crossing his arms, "...Who was my father to you?" It wasn't what he had planned to ask, but he couldn't help but inquire about it.

"Hmm." The Undertaker tapped his nails against Mey-Rin's shoulder thoughtfully. "Are you so certain you're ready for that particular grain of truth, Ciel?"

He studied the young noble, measuring his fortitude. He was still just a child, but in a few short years he would be a man by society's standards, and Ciel already demonstrated maturity beyond his years. He'd suspected the lad might one day come to him with questions, after all. He'd always been a sharp one, and children tended to notice some things that adults often missed.

"Fair enough, my lord," said the mortician at last with a nod. "As you may have already worked out, I was a bit more than an informant to your father...and your mother, for that matter. Vincent and Rachel Phantomhive were...my friends. Dear friends. Possibly the only people I could truly call my friends, you understand. It went even further than that, where your father is concerned. I think you're still a bit too young to hear the details, but there was a reason Vincent Phantomhive never took a mistress like other gentlemen nobles his age, and that reason was me."

"...You were his mistress." he accused, "You had him betray my mother."

"My Lord, I don't think now is the time for questions concerning that. You had other matters to ask of him." Sebastian reminded in a silken tone.

The Undertaker chuckled. "I think the word you're looking for is 'paramour', my dear. Well, it can refer to something more illicit too, but that's the closest thing to a male mistress. Vincent didn't betray Rachel, either. She knew about us." He deliberately ignored Sebastian's reminder that Ciel had other things to ask him, curious to see how the boy would cope with knowing the whole truth of his connection to his parents. "She was a gem, your mum. She had a big, generous heart and she understood she was better off than most noble wives, with the arrangement I had with your father. She loved me too, you know, and I her. Just not in the same way as Vincent and I loved each other."

He stopped and frowned, annoyed with himself. He hadn't meant to be quite that detailed, but then, there was a part of him that wanted to soften the blow to the boy—make it easier to accept by admitting it wasn't simply an affair of lust. He kept watch on the other reapers in the room, relaxed only on the surface. If Sutcliff were there, this conversation would have already been cut short, he was sure. The redhead wouldn't have paused to spare the maid and he certainly wouldn't have sat there listening to this conversation. As it was, the three there now were quite good; the only reason he'd sensed them was because he came in looking for signs that they were there.

Ciel was silent for a long time. He didn't like it. He didn't want his memory of his father and mother to be different. They were gone and would never come back.

"If you loved my parents why didn't you save them?! Where were you that night?"

"Young master," Sebastian placed a hand on the boy's shoulder, but the boy swatted his gloved hand away as he approached Undertaker.

"Or do you just go down my family line saying you love us all? What about Claudia Phantomhive? Why is she on your lockets but not my mother or father? Who was she to you?"

The Undertaker was slightly taken aback, but only for a moment. "I arrived too late to save them, child, and you had already been taken. Suffice to say I failed to retrieve you from your abductors before you called on this one and bartered your soul to him." He nodded at Sebastian. "As for Claudia...ah, Claudia. That one was special. I admired her quite a bit, but don't you worry; she and I never had relations of the intimate sort. It was because of her that I chose to stay in the service of your family. I thought if her son or daughter turned out anything like her, the Phantomhives might be worth serving for a few generations longer. Your father proved me right about that."

The Undertaker's expression went pensive. "I was able to collect a memento from Claudia, but your parents...well, I was too late to do even that."

Were they alone, he might have hinted to Ciel that his father's locket was on that chain, at least. He thought it best not to do so, however. He didn't want anyone to know just how important that blank locket was, until he'd retrieved what he needed from it.

"Well then, little Earl. I've answered your questions. Will you honor your part of the bargain, or was there something else you wanted to ask me?"

"What is the blank one?" Ciel shook his head, clearly not done. "Who is it intended for? Me?"

Ronald gripped his scythe. he had been honoring their deal with Ciel to let him talk to the criminal, but he was wasting so much time. As far as he could tell, his position was safe--for now. He needed to use the element of surprise before it was wasted.

William glanced at his visible companions while the Undertaker considered his answer. He dared not so much as flick his gaze toward Ronald's hiding spot, for fear that the perceptive ancient might notice. The mortal boy was doing a fine job of keeping him distracted. They might just succeed in bringing him in, yet. He only hoped that Ronald hadn't fallen asleep somehow, tucked up over the door like a slumbering mouse.

"No, little lord," answered the Undertaker. "I haven't chosen a locket for you, yet. The blank locket hasn't been engraved because I'm saving it for myself."

It was an honest enough answer.

"Don't try to pull that," snapped Ciel. "That locket is the one you want back, isn't it? there's something special about that one--even I can feel it when I hold it."

Yes, Undertaker was getting distracted, Ronald could even see him loosen his grip on the pretty maid. Good. He'd hate to accidentally get her caught in his scythe when he made his move.

"Never said it wasn't special," corrected the mortician with a grin. "Like I said; I've been saving it for myself. They're all special though, young Earl. Each one is a keepsake of mortals I was fond of...and I've seen countless numbers passed my eyes—reaped quite a lot of them myself, too. I'd like all of them back, but if you like, I'd be willing to part with Claudia's. She was your grandmother, after all. I think she would have liked for you to have her locket, and you've kept the rest of them safe while in your care."

"The blank one." The boy insisted, "Tell me about--"

He was cut off when Ronald made his move, leaping from his perch, legs spread wide as he descended from the high ceiling room, Scythe in hand. He kicked Mey-Rin's shoulder with a twist of his body, knocking her to safety as he pinned Undertaker to the ground, his scythe pressed firmly to the elder's back, his finger ready to flip on his scythe's spinning blades.

"Surprise!"

William acted immediately to help neutralize the dangerous ancient before he could recover from the attack, extending the pole of his scythe to pin the Undertaker down by the back of his neck with it. A few strands of the fugitive's long silver hair got sliced away as the blades of William's scythe fit around the nape of his neck, and Eric jumped forward to pin down his legs by the back of the knees.

"Well done, Knox," approved William. "Mr. Humphries, please ensure that he does not kick out."

"Yes, sir!" Alan said, moving to do so.

"Hey, Miss, sorry for kicking ya, had ta." Ron apologized to Mey-Rin, who was pushing herself up.

"I wasn't done!" Ciel scolded.

"Yeah, but I couldn't wait up there forever. my leg was starting to get all tingly." Ron said, "I gave you plenty of time."

Mey-Rin scrambled over behind Sebastian and wrung her hands. "They aren't going to hurt him, are they?"

Sebastian turned his head to give her an exasperated glance. "No more than necessary, I'm sure. Now if you please, gentlemen, my young master still had—"

"I can bring your father back."

The statement came down like a hammer on an anvil, making everyone in the room freeze. The Undertaker turned his head just enough to up at Ciel from his prone position on the floor, and his gaze was intense, a little desperate and slightly pleading.

"I can give him back to you, Ciel...to both of us. Your mother was beyond saving, but your father...everything that he was, I can resurrect. I've perfected it, little lord. I've perfected my methods. What do you think my Bizarre Dolls were all about? I had to see if I could, you understand? I've done it...I have a completely lucid dollie that I can show you as proof! You can see for yourself."

"Don't listen to his madness, Earl," warned the Dispatch supervisor with a frown. William stared down at the reaper at his feet with an expression of regret-stained loathing. "He is too far gone to speak any sense, let alone truth."

"I've seen your 'Dolls'. Moving corpses, one or two you could get to talk--but they were empty shells of who they had been like in life--don't you dare say you plan to do that to my father!" Ciel hissed. "He's dead! He's dead like my mother is, and like how I will be once I get my revenge!"

"...Ehh, kinda more than dead in your case, kid..." Ronald muttered.

"Ronald, concentrate." Alan said, snapping the younger reaper back to their task as he worked to bind Undertaker's wrists behind his back.

The Undertaker's eyes gleamed beneath his bangs. "Oh, little lord...I won't allow that. Death is a journey to fate, but having one's soul devoured..."

"Oh, honestly," grunted William as the ancient began to try to rise. "All of you...quickly!"

"I can show you," promised the Undertaker, and he twisted onto his back like a snake. Blood spurted as William's scythe cut into his throat—directly over the old scar already encircling it. "But, I must have...my treasure first."

The last was said in a gurgle as the flow of blood interfered with his speech, drowning part of it out. The glass to the windows suddenly shattered. The Undertaker reached out with both hands and Eric drove his scythe down into one of them at the wrist, nearly severing it. A sotoba manifested in the other one, just as a swarm of bats came in through the windows from heavens knew where.

"Young master," called Sebastian, immediately pulling the boy to him to shield him from the sudden flight of winged creatures.

He was in no danger, though. The animals went straight for the reapers. Eric swore as they flew into his hair, and he reached for his partner when he saw him stagger. William—quite accustomed to standing amidst winged creatures—ignored the bats and he yelled at Ronald. His scythe was on the Undertaker's chest, and while it would do a great deal of damage, it wouldn't be an immediate and complete death. If William operated his own right now, he might behead the ancient.  

"Use it now, Knox! Operate your scythe!"

Ronald shouted over the screeching of the bats, having been distracted, "Tryin--there!" The scythe roared to life, it's engine echoing off the walls of the large bedroom chamber. Blood sprayed up, drenching the four reapers' suits.

There was a horrible grinding sound, and the Undertaker flailed for a moment and went still. William gestured at Ronald to get him to cut his scythe off, and the flair of cinematic records lit up the room. Sebastian stared at them narrowly and he tried to hide his master's view, but Ciel had already been between worlds, and he could see them.

He saw confusing images of a young Undertaker, before he was scarred. He was brandishing the same scythe he'd used against Sebastian on the ship, and his pale hair was gathered into a ponytail. He saw the first meeting of his father with the Undertaker, he saw the first kiss, he saw his mother hugging him, he saw the mortician tripping himself up and nigh knocking himself out when he got news that Ciel was being born, and he saw himself as a toddler, cradled in the Undertaker's arms, while the old reaper proved to him that there were no monsters lurking in the shadows. He saw every important event of the Undertaker's life relating to his family, including the moment when the reaper found his parents. It cut off after that, as if snapped off in mid-play.

"Enough," coughed the Undertaker. "That's all...you get."

Eric looked down at the torn figure beneath him. "Sir, he could die if we go on. His records are buried deep. Far deeper than we can go wi'out...unless we outright reap him."

William looked at the ruin on the floor that was his idol, and his stoic mask cracked briefly. "Earl, I'm afraid we cannot afford further questioning, at this time. He needs immediate Shinigami medical attention."

"And I rather not be the one to fully reap the geezer. He is an icon of our people, after all. I don't wanna be famous for killing him." Ronald said, pulling back his scythe.


 


Ciel gripped the chain of charms around the blank locket...the strangely familiar one...

'I can bring your father back'

Tears pricked at the boy's bright eyes.

'I can give him back to you, Ciel'

Undertaker's words echoed in his mind.

'I've perfected it, little lord. I've perfected my methods.'

Wait...the locket...

'Your mother was beyond saving, but your father...'

Did this plain locket--the special one...

Was his father's soul trapped in it? was that why he felt so drawn to it? because it was his father? And all that was needed was to give him a body?

"Tch."

Sebastian glanced at the boy, and he frowned upon noticing the tears in his eyes. "Young Master, are you injured?"

The Shinigami gathered their bleeding fugitive up carefully, and the bats had long since fled the room to go back to wherever they'd been summoned from. Sebastian glanced at the reapers mistrustfully and knelt before his ward. As a creature lacking the ability to cry himself, he couldn't be sure whether Ciel was upset over the Undertaker's claims that he could revive his father, or if his tears were a result of seeing the reaper in such a bloody state.

"Do you wish for me to stop them from taking him, my lord?" pressed the demon. "I know that you had further questions for him."

"If you do, Legendary Death could very well die." Alan stated, "That was a large chunk of records that had been exposed. I understand that a deal had been made, but stopping us would only result in his death. You still won't get all your answers."

Sebastian looked at the Undertaker—whose already pale complexion had taken on a gray-ish tone—and he looked back at Ciel. "Will there be an opportunity for my young master to resume his questioning of him, once he has recovered?"

"It can be arranged," agreed William, "though not easily. Demons aren't allowed in our realm at all, and I would have to go through a ridiculous amount of paperwork to gain approval to bring a mortal boy into our detainment facilities. I may be able to grant him a ten minute visit."

"His heartbeat is slowin' fast," warned Eric after checking his pulse. "We'd best get him to a physician now, if he's to survive."

"...Save him." Ciel said, turning and walking out of the room, "Sebastian, clean up the blood. I expect a chance to finish speaking with him."


 

When he woke up again, he was fastened tightly to a bed with special, Shinigami designed restraints. Undertaker groaned softly, his voice rasping in his throat. He felt the fresh sutures in his flesh as he impulsively strained against his bonds, and he lifted his head off the pillow weakly to look down at himself. He was shirtless, in a pair of hospital pants. His injuries had been dressed with bandages, and he could see spots of blood on the dressing wrapped around his torso. He was curious to see the condition of his wounds, but he supposed he wouldn't get a good glimpse of them until they came to clean them off and change the bandages.

Foolish...he'd been too careless and too eager to retrieve his trinkets. The rest of them didn't even matter to him anymore, but Vincent's locket was paramount. If he hadn't been so distracted and chatty, he might have noticed that fourth reaper before he sucker-punched him. He hadn't even believed he was in real danger when they had him pinned to the floor, because he'd arrogantly assumed they wouldn't dare to actually cut him. How wrong he was about that.

"They sure showed me," he croaked, chuckling painfully. He'd endured this kind of pain before and sewn his injuries closed himself, nearly dying in the process. He rather hoped their methods of today yielded better results than his own had, so long ago. He'd tossed vanity out the window years ago, but he didn't want Vincent to be too shocked by the sight of him when he awoke.

That was, if he awoke. The Undertaker wasn't so certain that would happen, now. Dispatch would probably keep him imprisoned indefinitely, if they didn't have him executed. For all the tricks he usually kept up his sleeve, not even he could break free of the detention center of this realm without help. If he was going to escape, he'd have to do it before they moved him from the infirmary to the prison ward.

He just needed to bide his time for the right moment. He tested his bonds and he grimaced at the pain in his injured wrist, which had been surgically repaired. They'd taken care to strap his arms down by the biceps and forearms, not the wrists. The restraints would likely hold him no matter how he tried to squirm free of them, but someone would eventually have to unfasten them.

No matter; nobody could play dead like the Undertaker.

"You're awake." a feminine voice cut into the reaper's thoughts. A nurse stepped into the room with a clipboard, "How are you feeling?"

"Bugger," muttered the ancient under his breath. Aloud, he spoke in a voice gone hoarse from the abuse to his vocal chords. "Hullo, my dear. I'm feeling a bit dizzy...and thirsty. Could you bring an old reaper a drink of water?"

"I'll bring you one shortly, but first, I need to know of your injuries. any higher levels of pain?"

He glanced down at his left arm. "My wrist hurts. I think I may have torn a stitch or two when I woke up. Didn't know where I was and I—" he coughed painfully, his sentence cutting off with the fit. He bit his tongue as he did it, hard enough to draw a substantial amount of blood, and he spit it out with the next cough.

"Think my lungs might be...bleeding, love," he croaked.

"Your lungs weren't damaged." she said with an annoyed look on her face, "And I'm not removing your binds. We have been warned of your tactics and so you'll forgive me for taking your word with a grain of salt." She checked the monitors attached to Undertaker and jotted a few things down before moving to look at the wounds.

"Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed, this morning," observed the ancient with another cough. "My lungs weren't damaged, but my throat was slit open and I think it's bleeding down my windpipe."

He coughed again, more violently. Blood began to seep into the dressing around his neck from the agitation to his sutures. Of course, he didn't need to breathe, but nearly all reapers did it reflexively.

"This is...really uncomfortable," he complained. "Have a heart, darlin'."

"I was chosen to tend to you because I don't have one." she stated, taking a look at his wrist. "I also don't care who you are. You are in he custody of Reaper Authorities, and you'll be staying that way."

"Ouch. Your words scald me." He grimaced with discomfort as she unwrapped and cleaned his wrist, and he checked the damage. "My, they did a wonderful job. That scar isn't going to be nearly as noticeable as my old ones."

He studied her, noting the cool expression on her face. He coughed again to clear his throat before speaking again. "You're much too pretty to be frowning that way, my dear. I'll bet I can make you smile."

"Good luck with that." she stated, wrapping his wrist with a clean bandage and then moving to his neck.

"I'll take that as a challenge, then." The ancient mulled it over for a moment, and then he brightened. "Let's start with puns. Ahem... Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I’ll show you A-flat minor. Get it? A flat miner!"

He started to laugh at his own pun, and he grimaced in pain when it strained his vocal chords. "Oh come now, that was funny! Hmm, let's try another one. You can relate to this one: A pessimist's blood type is B-negative."

He thought he saw her mouth twitch, so he went on. "The little old woman who lived in a shoe wasn't the sole owner - there were strings attached."

He kept telling her puns and jokes of varying nature until a chuckle escaped her lips, and he grinned up at her. "You see? I told you I could make you smile. What a lovely smile it is, too."

"I'm not here to smile. I'm here to make sure you don't die before you appear in court."

"Court, schmort," he snorted. "Everyone should laugh at least once per day. It's what reminds us we're alive...even Shinigami. I think—"

The door to the hospital room opened, and William Spears walked in. "Good afternoon," greeted the supervisor cordially, "I have come to get a report on the Undertaker's condition, nurse."

The Undertaker sighed. "Wonderful. Another unfortunate born without a sense of humor. The two of you really should consider marrying. Your children—were you able to have any—would be as mute as the Sphinx."

William raised a brow. "I see you haven't lost your engaging sense of humor, sir. I'm afraid you will be needing it, once you are well enough to be transferred."

"I'll be the life of the cellblock, I'm sure," said the mortician lightly. He coughed, and he blinked. "I'm feeling a bit light-headed, actually. I fear I may actually vomit."

William's expression remained unreadable. "The medical staff will take care of your needs, I'm sure."

"Including the need to have a piss?" challenged Undertaker. "The old bladder is starting to feel a bit full, and I'm not comfortable allowing the ladies to handle my goods, if you know what I mean."

"You'd rather have a male nurse handle them," guessed William with a nod. "That can be arranged."

The Undertaker huffed, betraying some annoyance. "You know, if they intend to kill me I'd rather them simply do it."

"Execution hasn't even been brought up as a consideration," explained William. "Rehabilitation is on the agenda, instead. You are too important a figure for Dispatch to have you destroyed, yet you are too dangerous to be let free. For what it's worth, I regret that it has come to this."

"One of the many times I wish my old identity stayed buried," grumbled the Undertaker. "A clean death is preferable to an eternity of boredom."

"You could one day be released," William pointed out, "once our psychiatric doctors confirm that you've regained sanity and aren't a danger to our organization or the balance between life and death."

"Ah, so it's to be little white pills and long-sleeved jackets, then." The ancient glanced down at his restrained body as the nurse finished redressing his injuries. "Can I at least request my lunatic attire in black? Flat white isn't really my color."

William sighed. "You brought this on yourself, sir. Nurse, I'll need a copy of his chart sent to my office for my files. Undertaker, you still have the respect of this organization, Though lost its trust."

The mortician compressed his lips. "Pity the feeling isn't mutual."

William lowered his gaze. "I expected as much. Good day, Undertaker."


 

When he made it back to his office, William sat down in his chair and let his head sink into his hands. The burden of leadership was a difficult weight to bear at times; particularly when he had to follow protocol to detain the reaper that had inspired him so much. He wondered if it would ever get easier.

"Sir?" There was a knock on the frame of the open door, Ronald Knox glancing in, "Might I come in?"

William straightened up and took his head out of his hands. He nodded curtly. "Lock the door behind you." He'd forgotten to do so himself.

"Uh...alright..." Ronald stepped inside, closing and locking the door behind him before approaching the desk, rubbing the back of his neck, "So, I heard that you didn't have overtime for once...and I was heading out, so I thought maybe you'd like to do something different for once? I mean, we got the geezer finally, so that's a big load off your back as District supervisor... you deserve to sit back and relax for a few hours, I think."

"I still have paperwork to do," excused William with inner regret. "I can't leave until it's all properly filled out, reviewed and filed."

His stomach growled and he placed a hand over it absently as he reached for the top document on the stack. He couldn't tell if he was hungry or nauseous. Explaining to his superiors how he'd managed to come across the slippery fugitive had been an exercise in self-control, and returning Ciel's book to its original state and replacing it in the library had been nerve-wracking. There was an unpleasant feeling of guilt twisting his gut, too; an emotion that William neither liked nor was accustomed to. He kept picturing the Undertaker lying there like an invalid for two days, unconscious and helpless. It was a sad sight, and knowing he was responsible for it just made it worse.

"Ronald...perhaps I can entrust some of this paperwork to Mr. Humphries and take an early day, after all.," he said after a moment's reflection. He'd already collapsed once, and while he didn't feel he deserved any amnesties for what he'd done, the thought of spending a bit of downtime with the young man he secretly harbored an attraction to was appealing. He chose to look at it not as a reward, but as a reprieve from the depression weighing on him.

He looked up at the younger reaper, covertly appreciating his youthful good looks and the concern in his eyes—concern for him. He could pretend it was something more than worry for a coworker that inspired Knox's friendly gesture. "What did you have in mind?"

"Really?" Ronald perked up. He had been sure that William would insist upon turning him down...he actually wasn't prepared for the response he had received and now he had to rack his brain for an idea that didn't sound awkward or too date-like...or like something William would disprove of.


-And he was having trouble with it; standing before the man with a gobsmacked look upon his face.

William's mouth twitched. "Honestly, Knox...you should have a location in mind when you invite a coworker to go out with you somewhere. I'll leave you to think on it while I phone Mr. Humphries with my request.

With that said, he picked up his phone and entered a number sequence. "Humphries, it's Spears. I have some paperwork that I would like you to fill out and file for me, if your schedule allows it. Yes, I'm going to take the rest of the day off. Just do what you can, and you will have my gratitude. Yes, I am in the process of arranging a visit for the Earl, but that will take another two days, I'm afraid. Thank you, Alan. Have a pleasant evening."

He hung up the phone and looked at Ronald expectantly, threading his fingers together on top of his desk. "Well, have you decided where we'll be going?"

"Dancing?" Ron stiffened, he'd just carelessly spat out the first thing that popped in his head. No, wrong! Wrong suggestion! How embarrassing. "I-I mean we could have dinner and maybe a drink...or five..."

William surprised himself, then. "Dancing and drinks would be fine...after a meal, of course."

He was well-versed in ballroom dancing, after all—though it had been a while. He gave a mental shrug. If he was going to spoil himself a bit, he might as well make it good. He could use a couple of drinks after the month he'd had.

"Really?" Ronald asked, surprised that the man would be interested in all the option he'd blurted out. Especially dancing. He could see no reason why William would want to dance with him. Sure, William was a rather...classy kind of guy, so Ron could see him knowing how to waltz, or something. and while Ronald knew such dances from his human life, he never really did that kind of dancing anymore.

"Please don't make me repeat myself, Ronald. I may retract my accordance, if you do."

Secretly though, William found his surprise and excitement endearing.

"Sorry, I was just...not expecting you'd want to go dancing with me..." Ron shook his head, "Usually only the ladies are interested in that."

The supervisor was grateful that he had a high blush tolerance. Had he just agreed to go on a date with his subordinate? No, this was simply an outing. He needed to make that clear...for both their sake. "I expect this won't be the sort of dancing that involves drunken grinding, Knox. A night of leisure with a colleague may clear my head a bit for the tasks ahead of me."

His stomach growled again and he stood up, deciding they should go before he lost his nerve. "Well then, let's clock out and decide where we want to eat, shall we?"

Ronald nodded and walked over to the door, "But give me more credit, would ya? I have much more class than drunkenly rubbing myself up against people. Even if I'm drunk, I'm actually dancing." He smirked and opened the door, "Rubbing against people is an activity for afterwards in private."

William honestly had no response for that. He shoved the mental picture of doing just that with Ronald out of his head and he retrieved his jacket from the back of his chair.


 -To be continued  

Chapter Text

"So what kind of food do you like for dinner? I only really know what you normally have for lunch, so…" The blond shrugged, holding the door for William.

"I think I’m in the mood for Japanese fare," answered the taller man as he passed through the doorway.  He shrugged into his jacket and locked his office door behind them.  "There is a place a few blocks from here that I sometimes dine at.  Would that be acceptable to you?”

"Sure, as long as they offer forks. I suck at using those sticks. That’s no way to pick up food!" Ronald said, tapping his finger and thumb together, "I can’t seem to ever get them to pick up food."

William hid a smirk.  "Yes, they offer forks and training chopsticks for those who aren’t familiar with the traditional eating utensils.  You may find it easier than you imagine to use theirs, however, with the proper tutelage.”

His tone indicated that he intended to teach him how to handle chopsticks, and William T. Spears did not half-step when it came to training people. 

"But it’s more satisfying to stab your food before eating…why only pinch it?" The blond shrugged, skipping forward a few steps to press the button to summon the lift.

"Because chopsticks are more elegant," William tried to explain, "more civilized.  Are you a gentleman or a troglodyte, Ronald?”

The elevator door opened and William stuck his scythe out, holding it for Ronald to go in first.  "After you."

"I guess I’m a troglodyte, then." Ronald shrugged, slipping into the lift, "I like stabbing things to make sure they’re dead before I eat them."

"Barbarian."  William sniffed disdainfully, but there was a faint hint of a teasing sparkle in his eyes.  "However will I civilize you, Ronald Knox?"

He deliberately leaned closer to the blond to push the button to the floor they needed, brushing against him in passing.

"Good luck with that. Knox big dumb caveman. Stabby da food critters." Ronald snickered, "Come on, Nothing wrong with using a fork. Even the queen of England uses forks."

William nodded.  "Yes, but I daresay she uses them with far more grace than you.  I’ve seen you eat.  There will be no speaking with your mouth full at our table tonight, Knox.  No burping without covering your mouth either, and for pity’s sake, don’t plant your elbows on the table the way I so often see you do in the cafeteria.”

"Now ya sound like my mother." Ron sighed, "Nothing wrong with enjoying a meal…and I don’t burp." The lift slowed to a stop and the doors opened, letting the two reapers out on the main floor.

"Actually while we are on the subject," William said as they passed through the lobby, "In some cultures, it is considered a compliment to the chef to burp after a meal.  You may not be so uncultured after all, Ronald.” 

He smirked sidelong at him…just barely.  He nodded in greeting to other agents as they passed through the area and to the expansive doors leading out.  "I suppose some moderate expression of gratitude for a meal could be acceptable."

He hailed a taxi, and the shiny chrome automobile pulled up on the curb for them.  Humans still had quite a ways to go before they mastered such vehicles, but the Shinigami realm was ahead of them.  He cordially opened the passenger door for his companion and gestured for Ronald to get in first.  When he did, he slid in beside him and gave the driver directions.  He found himself relaxing a little for the first time in months…truly relaxing.  He wondered how the night would play out, and he hoped that he wouldn’t lose his composure and do something foolish in his exhaustion.


 

Undertaker awoke from his latest drug-induced haze when someone slapped him rudely on both cheeks.  "Nunh…stop that now.  M’ awake.”

He squinted against the dim light, trying to bring the blurred figure hovering over him into focus.  He forced a grin, trying to appear chipper despite the hopelessness he felt in his breast.  "So you must be preparing to transfer me to the prison."

"Not quite, old friend."

Recognizing the voice, the mortician frowned.  "Anderson?"

The blurred figure nodded.  "You recognize my voice.  Good.  We haven’t much time, so be quiet and—”

"How did you get in here to see me?"  He was feeling the effects of the medication leaving him.  "What did you—"

"That isn’t being quiet," admonished the head of the Glasses Division, his voice hushed.  "For God’s sake, man, stop chattering for once and pay attention."

The captive ancient’s senses perked up like a dog’s ear’s.  "I’m listening, chap.  What’s happening?”

"I’m repaying a debt," answered Lawrence Anderson.


 

William took his seat on the cushion at the traditional Japanese low table they were shown to, and he gestured for his companion to join him.  "Bring a flask of warm sake to start," he instructed the waiter, "and we’ll have some fried pickles while we decide on our entree.  Ronald, would you like anything else as a beverage or appetizer?”

Ronald shook his head as he sat down, crossing his legs as he got comfortable, “Those are fine.” he picked up the menu and opened it, “Oh good! English! I went to a French place once with Grell-senpai and it was all in French and Grell had to read the whole menu to me…he read it as if it was a child’s bedtime story…”

William nearly snorted.  He could easily imagine Sutcliff putting on a show like that.  "Fortunately, you won’t have to endure that with me.  Take your time.”

The waiter returned with the Sake and cups, and he poured a serving for both of them before bowing and taking his leave, reminding them to call on him if they needed anything else.  William thanked him and returned his attention to the menu.  "The sashimi here is quite good, if you enjoy that sort of thing."

Beyond hungry now, he sipped his drink and grimaced as he felt it burn all the way down.  Perhaps he should have started with tea instead of sake, since he hadn’t eaten all day long.  The last thing he wanted was to pass out and end up with Ronald playing nursemaid to him again.  He set the drink down and decided to ask for water when the waiter returned with their appetizers…just in case.

"Yeah, well, you are more mature than he is, and you are practically the only one in the office that treats me as an adult…" Ronald said, scanning over the menu, "Even the secretaries that want in my pants baby me…hate being the youngest…"

William nearly dropped his menu at the mention of other people trying to get down Ronald’s pants…though it really didn’t come as a surprise to him.  The blond could be cocky and impulsive, but he was a good worker and he was—at times—utterly charming. 

"Well, it isn’t in my nature to ‘baby’ anyone," he said as evenly as possible, keeping his eyes carefully glued to the menu.  He stared at the same menu thrice without even comprehending the words, though he knew it by heart now.  He risked a glance up from the menu at his companion and he found that Ronald was poking the tip of his tongue out the left corner of his mouth in thought.  He wanted to reach across the table and pinch it for reasons that had nothing to do with chastising him about proper behavior.

For a lack of anything else intelligent to say, he announced his choice without really even seeing it before his eyes.  "I think I’ll choose the sashimi medley with a side of the house salad."

The waiter had just returned and he hadn’t even set down the pickles before William made his choice.  He bowed at the supervisor, and then he looked at Ronald questioningly.  "And for your companion?" 

"Crap, you already know what you want? Uh…I guess I’ll try that." Ron said, pointing to a item on the menu that had earlier caught his attention, "Please."

The waiter looked at it and nodded.  "Good choice.  Will there be any dessert, or would you like to look at the menus again after your meal?”

Feeling particularly famished now that he was in a dining venue, the answer was easy for William.  "Fried ice cream for me.  Ronald?”

"I’ll…get back to ya on that." Ronald said, not knowing anything on the dessert menu yet, and not knowing how filling his meal would be.

"Very well."  William gathered the menus and handed them over to the server.  When the man left, he poured some warm sake for himself and his companion.  "You should try it, Ronald.  It’s quite nice…a bit like tea.”

"I’m getting to it. I was distracted by food choices." Ronald shrugged, picking up his cup and taking a sip, "And I have tried this stuff before. If it has alcohol, I’ve tried it."

"I might have known."  William sipped his own sake and he held it in his mouth for a moment before swallowing, rolling his tongue around to savor the taste. 

After swallowing, he gazed at Ronald quietly for a moment before offering some gratitude.  "I really don’t get out often enough to enjoy this.  I…appreciate your considerate suggestion, Knox.”

"You work too much. Breaks are healthy." Ron shrugged, "I’d like to see you stress less, and this was the only thing I could think of."

"So long as I don’t get into the habit of slacking," answered the supervisor.  He lifted his cup to the blond.  "Cheers, Ronald."

"This is hardly slacking, you know." Ronald grinned, raising his drink.

William lowered his gaze and shrugged fluidly.  He took so much pride in his work that he sometimes forgot to slow down and enjoy little moments like this.  His coworkers generally saw him as a cold, unfeeling automation that had no personal life outside his office.  Perhaps they weren’t entirely wrong about that, but right now he had the company of an engaging, attractive young man and a nice meal to look forward to.  It was the little things that made his hard work worth the effort, and he intended to enjoy this night while it lasted. 

As he sipped his beverage and began to feel the subtle effects of the alcohol, he covertly studied his companion and a most unprofessional plan began to take form in his mind.  He was always the one following the rules, never doing anything that might cause a scandal or arouse gasps of shock from his fellows.  Maybe it was time to see if he could make Ronald gasp…just a bit.


 

Undertaker peeked around the corner of the building, absently rubbing his smarting wrist.  His injuries pained him, but he wasn’t about to complain when his path of freedom was open to him.  Not one to hesitate when an opportunity came along, he looked back at his friend, standing in the shadows behind him.  He smiled broadly and stuck out his uninjured hand for a goodbye shake, and Lawrence took it and smiled quietly back.

"Thanks, old chap," murmured the ancient.  "I owe you one for this."

Anderson shook his gray-streaked head.  "No, this makes us even.  If you get caught again and mention my assistance, you know I’ll deny it vehemently.”

The mortician chuckled.  "I’ve no doubt of that.  You needn’t worry, though.  I’m not in the habit of tossing the people that help me under the carriage…especially very old friends.”

Lawrence sighed.  "I would try to convince you to abandon this plan of yours, if I thought it would make any difference.  You’re too bloody stubborn to bother, though.”

The Undertaker nodded.  "Right-o.  You know how important this is to me.  I hope you understand why I can’t acquiesce your desires, my friend.”

"I do."  Lawrence nodded.  "I’ve loved and lost myself, and I know how the pain can drive a man to do reckless things.  For what it’s worth, I wish you the best of luck, Khronos.  I don’t agree with what you’re trying to do, but I understand why you’re doing it.  Now make yourself disappear from this place, while you still can.”

Undertaker smiled warmly at him—the sort of smile he reserved for the few in his life whom he genuinely loved.  "When this is over, I’ll be in touch.  I’d like to at least treat you to a nice dinner sometime.  Cheerio, Pops.”

He made a hat-tipping gesture at the other reaper, though his head was bare.  Checking his borrowed garments, he tucked his hair down the back of his jacket and wrapped the scarf up around his neck.  Thankfully the season was right for warm, concealing clothing and nobody would question why he was bundled up.  He put on the glasses provided to him by Anderson after brushing his bangs back from his eyes and donning the fedora hat, and he blinked in shock when the world suddenly came into sharp focus.

"Goodness, I’d quite forgotten what it was like to see the bark on the trees from this distance," he whispered, eyes wide behind the lenses of the new spectacles.  They were rather plain; not like his original glasses at all.  Wire framed and rectangular, they didn’t draw much attention.  He hadn’t expected them to be functional, though.  He’d expected Lawrence to give him demonstration lenses.  He looked at his old friend with mild surprise. 

Lawrence smirked in satisfaction.  "I’m quite sure you need something stronger by now to obtain 20/20 vision, but your last known prescription should suffice.  Don’t worry; I did not install a tracer in them.  It wouldn’t make sense for me to help you escape, just to give you something they could track you with.”

Undertaker grinned.  "Can’t say I’ll make regular use of them since I’ve gotten so used to blind fighting, but these will certainly help me enjoy a show now and then.  It’ll be nice to actually see the actors on the stage or sit further than the front row when they play the films, now and then.  Thank you.”

Anderson nodded eloquently.  "My pleasure, old friend.  Good luck to you.”

He watched for a moment as the Undertaker walked away, strolling casually out into the open like any reaper going about his daily business.  With his attire, his bangs held back and the hat and scarf masking some of his features, he probably wouldn’t be recognized by anyone he passed…provided they weren’t specifically looking for him.  He hoped the mad old eccentric would have the sense to avoid any Dispatch agents on his way out of the realm, or at least give them a wide berth.  With a sigh, he took another route and he hoped his friend would make it back to the mortal plane safely.  He’d done what he could for him, and it was up to Khronos now.


 

After enjoying a tasty meal, dessert came and William allowed Ronald to have a taste of his before choosing his own.  The blond took a liking to the fried ice cream and he decided to order the same.  Feeling relatively relaxed, he chatted with Ronald as they enjoyed the final treat and he tipped the waiter generously, seeing as Knox insisted on paying for the meal.  They left the restaurant and went to the lounge William fancied, after that.  The administrator smirked when Ronald expressed some insecurity as they stepped onto the dance floor.

"I’ll lead," he offered, extending his hand.  They weren’t the only same-gender pair on the floor; Shinigami tended not to fret over such things, the way the mortals did.  Perhaps it was because no two reapers of any gender mix could produce offspring together, and therefore it really didn’t matter if two men or two women chose to partner up romantically.

Ronald took his position, placing his hand on William’s shoulder, “It’s been a really long time since I’ve danced this way…no hard feelings if I step on your toes? Or lose balance…or forget the steps…” He hadn’t been all that great with it to begin with. His best had always been ‘acceptable’ and at his worst he’d find his dance partner, who back then had been his older cousin, storming off in a huff, cursing his ‘two left feet’ to hell where they ‘belonged’.

Free-style type dancing was much more his style. Not so much the ‘drunk grinding’ as William had assumed, but still a far cry from any Ballroom type dances.

However, as a human, he had always had to lead as he was a boy. maybe following would help him, and William seemed to know what he was doing as the next song struck up.

"Just relax and follow my lead," advised William calmly.  The sake had warmed him and granted him confidence.  He started with his left foot, guiding his companion into a simple waltz.  Ronald followed gamely and a charming blush suffused his cheeks.  He stumbled a little and when he muttered an apology, William shook his head.  "Ease into it, Knox.  All you need to do is step where I step, and I can do the rest.”

Seeing a balcony off to the left at the far end of the dance floor, William began to tactfully steer his dance partner toward it.  "Perhaps a less populated area is best to start out with," he suggested, not letting on to his true intentions.

"Huh? I’m not so bad you are afraid I’d embarrass you by stepping on other people’s toes, am I?" He asked, watching their feet as they moved.

"I’d be more concerned that you might stumble into another couple," answered William dryly, "but no, you aren’t that bad.  I simply think you might feel less pressure if we aren’t out in the open.”

He guided the blond further, keeping up the guise for a while once they were at the edge of the dance floor.  "You see?" he murmured.  "You seem more confident already."

"Confidence isn’t my problem. Execution is." Ronald muttered, following William’s lead, "This dance is really slow, as well…I’m used to faster dances."

"You’ll adjust to it with practice," assured William.  "You’ve always adapted quickly."

Praise from him was a rarity, but lately he’d found more and more reasons to bestow it upon the young blond.  With more training and discipline, Ronald might eventually become a top agent of Dispatch.  He wondered if Knox was as quick to learn in the bedroom as he was in the field, and the train of thought led him to toss his reservations out the window and pull his companion off the dance floor and out to the balcony with him.  He closed the French doors behind him and looked at Ronald’s confused face, hesitating for a moment.

"Sir?" Ronald asked, confused, "…Is this your way of telling me I will have a pay cut or something from lacking in the ability to waltz?"

Rather than explain his actions verbally, William backed the younger reaper up against the balcony railing, put one arm around his waist and cupped the back of his head.  He lowered his mouth to his and kissed him, putting all of his previously restrained desire behind it and relishing in the softness of Ronald’s lips.  When the blond gasped in surprise, William took advantage of the opportunity to plunge his tongue into his mouth, ravishing and dominating Ronald’s with a hunger that surprised even William.

Stunned, Ronald stood in the kiss as if under a spell. William was kissing him… William T. Spears was kissing him… His boss, Dispatch Supervisor William T. Spears was kissing him…

Why was this happening..?

No, did it matter why right now?

All at once, Ronald came back to life, sliding his arms around the brunet, pulling his body closer and flush against his own as he pressed back up into the kiss the taller male was bestowing on him. Giving him a taste of his own passion.

William’s lust escalated, even as he felt relief that his companion hadn’t rejected him.  As soon as Ronald’s tongue caressed his willingly, he couldn’t resist pushing him onto the balustrade and wedging his hips between his thighs.  His fingers slid through the darker hair at the base of the blond’s neck, before pushing through the longer yellow hair feathering over his brow.  He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been intimate with anyone, and now that he knew Ronald was receptive, all of his hesitation and doubt vanished.

He’d spent his life as a reaper following the rules, putting aside his own desires for the good of the organization and generally ignoring his basic needs.  Companionship, the simple pleasures in life…even nourishment when his work load got too heavy.  It was time for him to collect his reward.  He slid one hand down to Ronald’s hip, while cupping the back of his head with the other.  The kiss deepened and his desire increased…evident by the bulge forming in his trousers. 

"Holy shit, senpai…" Ronald moaned, feeling the bulge in the older reaper’s crotch. "Where did all this come from?" he trapped the man against him with arms and legs, not wanting him to pull away again.

William’s lips migrated from Ronald’s to kiss a heated path down his neck.  "I’ve decided to stop depriving myself of what I want."  He accentuated the statement by sliding his hand around from Ronald’s hip to cup the blond between his legs, palming the evidence of Ronald’s answering lust.

"And…you want me?" Ron asked in surprised. "Damn, I knew the ladies wanted me…had no idea you did…you should have said something sooner, Senpai." He said, grabbed him by the tie and yanked him back against his lips for a moment. "I’ve fancied you, but thought you had no interest in the idea of dating so I was trying to respect that…but since you are interested…" he pulled him into a kiss once more.

William’s heart annoyingly skipped a beat when he heard those uttered words, and Ronald’s actions sent it pumping at a quick tempo.  He squeezed and fondled the blond’s now straining crotch, nibbling his animated lips for a moment before letting his tongue dance against Ronald’s.  He would normally consider himself too restrained and proper to do something like this; making out with his subordinate on the balcony of a popular lounge.  It really wasn’t like him at all, but then, he hadn’t taken the time to discover who he really was.  He wouldn’t have guessed he even had such a side to him, and he supposed he could thank the combination of sake and tightly wound emotions for that.

He’d finally captured the fugitive with Ronald’s help…his idol.  It was difficult to feel relief or accomplishment when those emotions warred with guilt.  The Undertaker had forced Dispatch’s hand.  He knew this, and yet it pained him to be the one responsible for orchestrating his capture.  His mind had been on what would eventually happen to the Undertaker, when it wasn’t toying with fantasies about Ronald.

"Yes, I want you," he admitted breathlessly, breaking the kiss long enough to say it.  Ronald moaned in reaction to his fondling and he crushed his mouth against his again, muffling the sound.  His phone began to vibrate and he tried to ignore it.  He’d completed his task.  The paperwork would be finished and filed by tomorrow afternoon, and then he could contact Ciel to arrange the visit he’d promised him.  There was no pressing reason for the office to be calling him right now.

William removed his hand from Ronald’s package and he cupped his hips with both hands, grinding himself against him intimately.  It was ironic that he’d made the disparaging comment about drunken grinding, and here he was doing that very thing…or close enough to it.  He wasn’t drunk, but he was pleasantly buzzed from the rice wine and he was certainly grinding against Ronald.

Ronald smiled into the kiss, his lips moving pleasantly against William’s. “Then…is it okay if I keep you?” Ronald asked, moving his lips from Wills and kissing along his jaw.

William’s breath caught.  Somehow the little terror had found one of his obscure weak spots, and he closed his eyes at the feel of the soft lips caressing his jaw line.  Unwittingly, he put his arms around the blond and held him in a tight embrace.  "If you believe you’re up for the challenge of it, yes."

The blond smiled, sliding his free hand along William’s cheek as he trailed the kisses down his neck to his collar and then back up. This was not the place to test clothing removal. Balcony or not, they were in public, and this was surprising enough.

“Then…I want to keep you…but that means no overtime every single night until you pass out again.” he breathed against William’s soft skin.

"I can’t promise anything," cautioned the brunet prudently, "but I’ll attempt to avoid that in the future.  I loathe overtime as much as you do, believe it or not.”

His phone vibrated in his pocket again and he grimaced.  Whoever it was evidently had no intention of stopping until he answered.  He retrieved the device with a sigh and reluctantly pulled out of Ronald’s embrace, avoiding looking at him for fear that he might impulsively toss the phone over the balcony in favor of ravishing the blond a bit more.

"This is William T. Spears," he greeted as he answered the pone.  "Good evening."

He listened to the response, and his heart began to pound heavily again for entirely different reasons than before.  He couldn’t hide his expression of disconcertion from Ronald as he looked at him.  "I see.  Yes, I will be right in.  Thank you.”

William ended the call and he sighed.  "The Undertaker escaped the infirmary."

"Whaa? But that’s impossible! We went through a hellish amount of paperwork to instate the highest level of security in that place before he is moved to lock-up!" The boy complained, "Awe man… Now we gotta start all over again!"

"So it would seem," murmured the older reaper, his passion cooling.  In addition to his frustration, he experienced and unforgivable feeling of…relief.  What a horrid inconvenience it was to have his personal feelings interfere with his work.  First the Undertaker, and now Ronald.  He wasn’t willing to give up the latter now that he’d established the blond felt the same, and he didn’t know if he could muster the energy to capture the elusive ancient again.

William put the phone away and he straightened his clothes.  "Come, we need to check in at Headquarters and discover how this was done.  He had to have outside assistance, or he somehow managed to trick someone into freeing him.  If it’s the former, than we have a traitor in our midst’s who is sympathetic to the Undertaker’s plight.”

"Maaan…" The boy groaned, pushing himself upright and shifting his legs, "Little Knoxie isn’t going to settle down for a while, either…this is gonna suck more than it already does…"

William shifted uncomfortably, wholly sympathizing with Ronald.  "Perhaps we can stand to wait for a little while, before reporting in."


 

Sebastian was tempted to slam the door in his face when the Undertaker showed up unexpectedly on his master’s doorstep.  Ciel would have sensed it though, and it would have raised questions.  He restrained the frown trying to form on his lips as he cordially greeted the slippery old reaper with a nod.

"Undertaker.  What an unexpected…pleasure.”

The mortician grinned widely and winked.  "Try not to look so pleased, chap.  Is the little lord available?”

Sebastian pulled out his pocket watch.  "It is late, but my lord hasn’t yet retired.  Do come in; I’m certain he will want to have audience with you.”

Undertaker snickered under his breath.  "I’m sure he would.  Don’t look so worried, Mr. Michaelis.  I have no intention of challenging you for the boy’s soul, just yet.  This visit is strictly for business purposes.”

The demon butler noticed the wrappings around the Undertaker’s wrist.  "You seem to have made a remarkable recovery, sir."

"Yes, we Shinigami tend to heal fast," agreed the mortician with a glance down at his bound wrist.  He flexed his fingers and winced.  "Not quite so fast from scythe wounds, though.  Fortunately our medicine has advanced to the point where my new scars won’t be as obvious as the old ones, though.  Now, are you going to show me in or not?”

"Of course."  Sebastian chose not to respond to his barbs.  He bowed politely and gestured for the reaper to come in.  He showed him to the main parlor and he rang for Mey-Rin to bring him some refreshment. 

"Do try not to flirt with the maid this time, sir.  I would also advise you to refrain from taking her hostage.”

Undertaker chuckled and relaxed against the back of the leather chair he sat in.  "I’ve got no reason to do either…unless you and your master decide to call Dispatch on me again."

"I believe the young master has more pressing concerns on his mind, than seeing you captured again.  I suggest you not overstay your welcome here, once your business with him is finished.  I cannot promise Dispatch will not be notified the moment you’ve concluded your meeting.”

"No need to hit me over the head with it."  The reaper kept grinning.  "I understand I’m only welcome here as long as I’m useful to the lad.  How brief this meeting is depends on Ciel.”

Sebastian nodded.  "Very good, sir.  Mey-Rin shall have your refreshment shortly.  If you are suffering any pain, feel free to request some medication.”

"You’re too kind."  Undertaker pressed a long-nailed fingertip against his lips to control his smile, and he watched Sebastian leave the parlor to go and fetch Ciel.  "Well, this ought to be interesting, Vincent.  Let’s see if your son has the good sense to relinquish your records to me so I can finish what I started.”


 

It wasn’t long of a wait before the door reopened and Ciel entered the room, saying nothing until after he sat down in a chair across from Undertaker, his bright blue eye studying the reaper.

“I’m surprised you are here. It seems the reapers are just as unable to hold you as I would be.” He stated.

The Undertaker looked up from his cup of tea with a grin, and he shrugged. The motion was eerily graceful—a subtle reminder that he was not human. “What can I say? I’m a slippery old get. My work is too important to be delayed for very long, young Earl.”

"Your work…bringing my father back?" Ciel asked. The topic had been heavy on his mind since Undertaker’s capture.

The reaper nodded, still smiling.  "Indeed.  As I told you; my dollies were a means to an end.  I’ve discovered the secret to manipulating the cinematic records to extend life beyond death.  I was fortunate enough to collect your father’s records before Dispatch could do so, and with them intact, I can bring him back to both of us.  I can do nothing of the sort for your mother, unfortunately…she was…too far gone.”

Undertaker frowned and looked away, recalling the moment he found Rachel’s charred body.

"So you want to put his soul in some random partially decayed body? How is that helping my father?" Ciel asked. He pulled the chain of lockets out of his pocket and held them up. One charm missing from it’s place. "If you want the last charm you will tell me everything." he said, setting it down on the table.

The Undertaker glanced down at the chain of lockets and he smirked.  "If that’s how you wish to play it, my lord.  Very well; I’ll do my utmost to tell you everything you want to know.”

He propped his elbow on the arm of the chair, and he dropped his chin in his hand.  "First, however, I think you should know that I’ve got no intention of dropping your Daddy’s soul into a decaying corpse.  I assure you that Vincent Phantomhive’s body is still quite preserved and ready for the transfer.  Secondly, I can’t do this without that one specific charm that you’ve so cleverly decided to remove from the chain.  That charm holds everything that is Vincent Phantomhive within it, little Earl.”

"I assumed as much." The boy stated, "Which is why I am keeping that one safe with me until I am convinced of your intentions." He picked up his teacup and took a sip, "I know Sebastian is not happy of your being here. I have ordered him to keep away during this conversation. This is between only the two of us."

The Undertaker hid his annoyance well.  After all, he’d had a part in this boy’s upbringing—and Ciel was the only child of his two dearest mortals.  "I thought I explained my intentions quite clearly, little lord."

He kept smiling.  "I know you suffer no compunctions of religion, to keep you from getting your father back.  What exactly is it that you want to hear?”

"It is unnatural. People die—they stay dead. There must be consequences and my father would be dragged into the middle of it. How do you even know it would work in the long term? His body could start to decay away as he ‘lives’ on. Your other dolls have not lasted long due to battle. You don’t know if they would have lasted or not and it is cruel to give me my father back, only to make me watch him die all over again as his body fails him."

"His body will not fail him,” objected the reaper.  "I have living proof of that.  Do you think I would resurrect that which is most dear to me, if I weren’t certain he’d stand the test of time?” 

He spread his hands, displaying his long nails.  He did not smile.  "I would never even consider bringing him back, if I weren’t sure I could do it.  You’re a bit too young to completely understand how much importance I place upon this, and Vincent would never forgive me if I were to elaborate.  The question remaining, my dear, is whether you’ll allow your father to remain dead for eternity…or whether you’ll allow to bring him back.”

The Undertaker dropped the hand supporting his chin and he leaned forward a bit, pinning the Earl with his strange gaze.  The scratchy mortician voice vanished; replaced by the low, droning voice of the reaper behind the act. “I could take it from you right now, if I choose.  Your butler could not stop me and you know it.  I’d rather you give it to me willingly.  Your father would prefer it that way, I’m sure.  What is it that stops you, I wonder?  Fear of Vincent coming back wrong, or fear of what he might say when he learns you sold your soul to a demon?  You may not even have to be devoured, in the end.  Your soul could be yours, to ascend or descend as it will.  I know that you honor your contract, but what if I could fulfill your wish before the demon?  I think that might be worth something to your parents.”

The boy glanced away, “…The contract is unbreakable. He is mine, and my soul is his. There is nothing to change it.”

"Never say never, my boy," insisted the Undertaker with a shake of a white finger.  "If he fails to fulfill his part in the bargain…well then…he loses all claim to your soul, doesn’t he?"

The mortician smiled.  "You didn’t really think Uncle Unnie would let the only son of his dearest friends get devoured by Hellspawn, did you?  Everything I do has a reason behind it…even if it seems insane to others.  But we can discuss that later.  As long as your raven remains clueless as to who is really behind the attack on your family, he can’t sup on you without breaking his contract.  Doing so would cause his immediate ‘death’ on this plane and banish him to Hell for centuries, you see.  So back to the matter of your sire; will you return the locket I ask for, or must I be aggressive?”

"And if I choose to stay within my contract? Father or not, I want my revenge." Ciel pulled out the simple locket containing his father, the light glinting off it’s silver surface. "I’m surprised Sebastian never noticed there was a soul in here."

"Ah, but he’d have to be actively looking for it to stand a chance of detecting it,” chuckled the reaper.  He waved a hand gracefully.  "I took certain measures to ensure nobody would easily discover the true nature of that locket, my lord.  How could I not, with something so precious?” 

He eyed the locket wistfully, unable to completely mask his desire.  "I had to safeguard him, else Dispatch might have taken him from me."

"But I could sense it." the boy stated flatly, "I knew there was something about it…something familiar. and after what you said, I knew it was my father." He gripped it, "And now you want me to hand him over."

"Of course you could sense it," sighed the Undertaker in exasperation.  "He’s your bloody father, after all.  You’ve got a connection to him that your pet demon can’t duplicate.  Yes, I want you to hand him over.  You can’t hug a memory, child.  You can’t talk to it, either.  You could keep that locket beneath your pillow at night, you could talk to it, but it will never talk back or respond to you in any way.  You may fulfill your goal and end up as food for Mr. Michaelis, and your father’s soul will remain in that locket, helpless to do a thing for you.  Is this your desire, little lord?”

"…How long?" The boy asked, "How long a wait?"

Undertaker tapped a nail against his teeth in thought.  "As I’ve said; I’ve perfected the process.  My latest crowning achievement was awake and fully functional within a week.  I’ve also learned how to curb the craving for human flesh, if you’d like to know.  Daddy dearest won’t be trying to snack on you or any other mortal, so no worries of cannibalism.  He won’t be shambling around like a drooling invalid, either.  I can assure you that aside from some mild scarring around the hairline, Vincent Phantomhive will be just as you remember him—with some notably enhanced attributes, of course.”

"Will he have to be kept secret? Everyone knows he’s dead… How could he be happy having to keep his head low?"

The reaper shrugged.  "Believe it or not, your father was never happy being the Queen’s Watchdog.  He disliked the grim tasks his position sometimes required of him.  'Evil Noble', indeed.”  Undertaker snorted and waved a hand.  "Vincent Phantomhive was a good man at heart; regardless of the things he had to do in the name of the Crown.  He was too good for his own good…or his wife’s, for that matter.  Her Majesty couldn’t squash that with her demands, nor could he.  I’m confident that Vincent won’t miss his former duties or the title that came with them, my boy.”

Undertaker watched Ciel thoughtfully for a moment, and he put his teacup aside to steeple his fingertips.  "He might try to interfere with your fate, though.  I’m sure you know that already.”

Ciel glanced down at the locket in his palm—his father. Of course his father wouldn’t want him furthering such a contract as he held in his eye. Vincent Phantomhive had been such a loving and devoted father…he always made time for Ciel’s young self, even if it was just letting him sit in his lap as he worked…

But his soul’s fate was his own choice. and Vincent hadn’t been there when Ciel had been captured and abused. He hadn’t been there to protect him… Sebastian had. Sebastian had been the one to save him. Ciel wasn’t the same little boy Vincent had raised…not by a long shot.

Still…the child in him, deep down in his heart, held out the locket in offering to the reaper. He wanted his daddy back…

The Undertaker took the locket solemnly, seeing the vulnerable look that Ciel was trying so hard to mask.  He rubbed a thumb over the smooth, cool surface of the item, feeling no small measure of relief at having it back in his hands again.  He pocketed it and he stood up slowly, gazing down at the boy with quiet regret.  Of all the promises he’d failed to keep, safeguarding his godson was the one that troubled him the most.  He forced a smile on his lips.  Ciel was alive and safe, for now.  That was something, at least. 

"You’ve made the right choice, little lord.  By the end of the week, we’ll both have Vincent Phantomhive back in our lives.”

He bowed to the child.  "Farewell, Ciel.  You can keep the other lockets; I no longer need them.”

Goal accomplished, the mortician created a portal and stepped backwards into it, waving goodbye to Ciel with a cheerfulness that he didn’t truly feel.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

"Won’t be long now, my dear." Undertaker smiled down at the body of his lover, peacefully preserved in the special coffin he’d been keeping him in. He stroked Vincent’s cool cheek with one hand, while grasping his locket with the other. "I appealed to what’s left of your son’s sentimentality. I didn’t want the little lord to get this involved, you understand. I thought I’d leave the treasure with him for a little while, get it back when it was time and keep the rest hush-hush. Bloody Dispatch spoiled that plan, though, and Ciel is so stubborn, I had to give him a reason to relinquish it to me compelling enough to make it worth it to him. It was either come out with it, or employ force. I’m sure you’d rather the former than the latter."

The reaper bent down and he kissed Vincent’s still, pale lips softly. “I know you’ll want to see him too, when you wake up. Could be this way is better, after all. Ciel knows I’m reviving you now, so he’s not going to be surprised to see you…well, not unless he doesn’t really believe I can do this. Then he might be surprised.”

Undertaker shrugged and pocketed the locket again, so that he could slide his hands into the coffin underneath his lover. He lifted Vincent carefully in his arms, and he carried him out of the secret alcove and into his laboratory. Limp in his arms thanks to the methods the reaper had used to preserve his body, the Earl’s head lolled against his shoulder. The Undertaker impulsively nuzzled his hair, stopping for a moment to close his eyes and recall a time when he’d done this very thing many times, while Vincent was still alive.

"We will have those evenings back, my love," promised the mortician in a whisper. "Just please forgive me, when you wake up."

He wanted to believe Vincent would adjust well to his new life, once he explained it to him. He wanted to believe he would be happy eventually, now that he had virtually no limitation on how long he could live. They could be together, and he could watch over his son and any future heirs Ciel might produce, if they saved him from his butler. Wouldn’t that be worth it to Vincent? He’d accepted his mortality when he was alive, yes, but there were times he expressed frustration that he would grow old and die, while the Undertaker remained timeless.

"Now you’ll be timeless too, darlin’," promised the Undertaker. He sighed and opened his eyes, carrying Vincent the rest of the way over to the table. "Maybe you’ll be miffed at me, in the beginning, but I believe you’ll understand why I did this and adjust to it. I know you’ll forgive me."

He lowered the body onto the examination table and he strapped it firmly down to ensure it wouldn’t roll off when the first breath of life awakened the nervous system and brain. There would be some twitching at first; they all twitched when the synapses fired back up. There might be some moaning as well, before Vincent even came too. Undertaker was prepared for all of this…or so he thought. Once he rolled out his instruments, dampened Vincent’s hair and brushed it back from his forehead to begin, he ran into a dilemma. He put on the surgical gloves and mask and when it came time to begin, his scalpel hovered over the Earl’s pallid forehead, and he couldn’t bring himself to start the cut that would allow him to tug his scalp back and expose his skull.

The wickedly sharp instrument glinted in the lamp light as its wielder’s hand trembled, and the reaper frowned. “What are you waiting for, old chap?” he muttered to himself. “Get it together and get started.” He had his hair pulled back, he had his human-made glasses on to aid his poor vision enough to see clearly close up, and everything was ready to go. He considered wearing the Shinigami glasses given to him by Anderson, but he didn’t want to do anything different and risk buggering up the procedure.

Still, the blade came no closer to Vincent’s skin. Was it performance anxiety, or was it just the thought of cutting into his beloved mortal and operating on his brain? It was a delicate process, feeding the cinematic records back into a body and making the right neurological adjustments to allow that body to accommodate them again and come back to life. He couldn’t afford to make any mistakes with this one. It was his one and only chance to bring Vincent back. One little slip, and—

Someone banged sharply on the locked, reinforced door to his lab, startling the Undertaker badly enough to make him drop his scalpel. The instrument clattered to the floor and he grunted with annoyance. He’d have to sterilize it again. “What do you want?” he called out. “I’m rather busy right now!”

When he recognized the viscount’s voice calling through the door, he had a moment of panic. He didn’t even comprehend what the blond noble was saying, because all he could think about was how quickly he’d recognize Vincent Phantomhive lying on his table if he let him in. His plan was to use the laboratory and get out with Vincent as soon as the procedure was a success, without ever revealing him to his host. Looking around, the Undertaker spotted the folded sheets he kept on hand to cover his dollies between procedural sessions. He grabbed the top one and pulled it off of the shelf, shaking it out quickly and draping it over Vincent’s body. When he was completely covered from view, the mortician breathed a little easier and he picked up his fallen scalpel before going to the door to answer.

Aleister was asking where he’d been for the past few days, and Undertaker knew he wouldn’t go away until he got his answer. Once the door opened, the monarch let himself in, his wrist flicking as he pushed his hair back. It was clear the man had never stopped talking since knocking on the door.

“—And I just don’t understand why it’d take so long for you to return, what with your old colleagues looking for you. I was starting to worry for you and our little operation here~ Ah!” Druitt finally spotted how Undertaker looked; ready for operation and the body upon the table under a pristine white sheet. “Out finding new little Dollies for me? You know I have men for that dirty job!”

He spun around dramatically. “By the way, the doll you had down here woke up and started screaming… his brains all exposed… We didn’t know what to do without you here so we sadly had to sacrifice that one. I just don’t understand why you would leave one like that.”

Undertaker grimaced. He’d forgotten all about the poor sod in all the hassle with Dispatch. “Not to worry; I’m back now. I ran into a bit of a complication with some old associates, but all’s well now.”

His gaze went to the covered body on the table. “This particular dollie is one of my own; separate from the ones I’ve been creating for you. Naturally, I’ll continue creating yours as well.”

~At least until I’ve succeeded with Vincent, and then you’re on your own.~

He kept his smile bright and cheerful, giving away nothing of his inner thoughts.

"One of your own?" The eccentric man raised a thin, platinum eyebrow, "You have not yet made yourself any, though you mentioned wishing to do so…making them talk and the like…Not to be used as a weapon…makes me wonder if you are making yourself a lover or two~" he chuckled to himself.

“Ah, I wonder what kind of lady is your type~” He moved quickly, grabbing the sheet to pull it back, yanking it upwards.

To Undertaker, time seemed to slow as the Viscount moved, the sheet fluttering lightly up off the deceased Earl to reveal his perfectly preserved form. Only scarring from bullet wounds marring his once perfect flesh in the head and hand. His skin as pale as death. The body of a man who had been dead for years, yet, strangely enough, looked as though he had only just died maybe an hour before at the most.

The nosy Viscount’s eyes widened and he took a few steps back, the sheet fluttering to the floor next to the table. “He…looks familiar…he…” the man swallowed, unable to tear his gaze away from Vincent, “…But that’s impossible…”

The Undertaker snapped out of his daze, and he sighed. “Not impossible, my prying friend; not for me. Now you’ve gone and done it, though. I can’t very well leave the memory of seeing this in your records, if I don’t want word to get out.”

He locked the door and he approached the Viscount as he removed his surgical gloves. “Now, let’s not make this any harder than it has to be, chap.” He manifested his death scythe. “This will only sting a little, and then everything will be tickety-boo.”

"Wait—what?" The man backed up, "You’re mad! Get that thing away from me—I know what it does to people! I’ve seen you use it! —I’m your partner in this!"

"And you’ll remain my partner until I’ve finished what I set out to do," assured the reaper. "So sorry Viscount, but you’ve left me no choice. You won’t even remember this when you wake up, and we can go back to business as usual."

The Undertaker closed the distance between them in a flash, and he popped him smartly on the head with the heel of his scythe, knocking him out cold. The blond man crumpled to the floor and Undertaker sighed again. “Someone’s always got to create more work for me, don’t they?”

He shrugged. No lasting harm done. He’d draw out just enough of the viscount’s records to locate those last few moments, give them a snip and then wait for him to come too. He looked over at Vincent and he stroked his chin in thought. Best not to leave him out on the table for the nosey twit to have a peek at all over again.

"Sorry my love," he apologized, "seems we’ll have to wait until my business partner is too busy entertaining or asleep to begin."


 

Some twenty minutes later, the viscount awoke on the floor with a groan. Undertaker hovered over him with his customary grin of greeting. “Well hullo again, Viscount. That was quite a fall you had! You had me rather worried. One moment we were discussing what kept me away for a few days and the next…whoosh! You slipped and went down like a drunkard before I could catch you. Sorry about that. I had just mopped up and the floor is still a tad slippery. Here, how many fingers am I holding up?”

He held up the first three fingers of his right hand.

The blond groaned, slowly sitting up and cradling his head with a gloved hand. “Three. I…slipped?” his head ached. He must have cracked it hard when he fell. “I’m sorry, maybe I should go turn in for the evening. You may take dinner alone tonight…” he muttered.

"Of course, of course," agreed the reaper solicitously. "Let me help you up." He caught the viscount by the arm and assisted him back to his feet.

"You might want to think of calling your personal physician to come and have a look at you, if you start having blurred vision or dizziness. I could examine you myself, of course, but you know my forte isn’t with the living."

"I’ll have him called over—The last thing I want is you messing with things." He stated, sounding a bit dazed, "I’ll see you in the morning—if you need anything you may request it of my servants." he took a few slow steps to the door.

Undertaker saw him out of the lab, and he grinned in satisfaction as he shut and locked the door behind him. “Toodles, Viscount. Now perhaps I can get back to what I was doing.”


 

"So the Undertaker somehow managed to slip out of his restraints and leave this facility without you or any of your staff seeing him. Is this correct?"

The doctor looked at William T. Spears with the expression of a man awaiting the gallows. “That seems to be the case, Supervisor Spears. Not even the security monitors picked up anything. We had him being intravenously sedated. I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how this could have happened!”

William sighed and he looked at Ronald and Grell. The redhead had met up with them at the hospital to assist with the investigation. “He had to have assistance,” reasoned the brunet. “Someone in this building helped him. Even without being sedated, he was in no condition to manage something like this in his condition…not on his own.”

"Oh~ I wouldn’t know about that, Darling~" Grell cooed, draping over William’s shoulder as he always did, though this time it caused Ronald’s eye to twitch in irritation. But the blond said nothing as the redhead continued.

“Unnie is full of surprises! Look at everything he’s done that we know of. He’s a man of a whole other level.” He let go of William and spun around, hugging himself, “What I wouldn’t give for him to embrace me all night long~”

“Yeah, yeah, you say the same thing about Spears-senpai and that Demon ‘Sebas-chan’.” Ronald huffed.

“Oh?” Grell blinked down at his junior, “Jealous, are we?” He swooped in, taking Ronald into his arms and spinning him into a dip, pressing in close with a smirk, “Darling, I’m sorry, but you just aren’t my type. Too sweet and inexperienced. I like my men cold, mad, and able to give me a thrill in a fight~”

“I-I never said I was interested!” Ron protested, “You had better not drop me!”

“Shame, You don’t know what you are missing, darling.” Grell said, doing just that and dropping the boy onto the floor of the hospital lobby.

“Ow!”

"Enough of that," snapped William. "Sutcliff, focus." He helped Ronald up from the floor. "We need to learn how the Undertaker escaped, and we need to track him before he gets beyond our reach again."

"If not already…" Grell sighed, sitting on the counter of the front desk, "We got lucky last time from what I heard. Lucky for us Ronnie’s so good at hiding in dark corners. But Unnie wont make the same mistake again."

"Probably not," William was forced to agree, "but if we can find the culprit responsible for helping him, we may be able to find out where he intended to go after escaping. I want every staff member interviewed and every account of who came and went from the Undertaker’s hospital room. Even if someone did not willingly help him, there has to be a link somewhere. He could have taken a hostage, so pay attention to any staff that might be missing. We can’t overlook anything."

"Ugh, such a dull assignment," Grell muttered, "Why not go look at Sebby’s place? The brat said some things that make it sound like Unnie would keep going there."

“This soon? He knows we would be going after him again.” Ronald pointed out.

"Ronald is correct," agreed William. "Stop fishing for an excuse to go there. Ciel turned him in, so it is unlikely that the Undertaker will be making a stop there again right away. Nevertheless, I will assign people to have the manor watched—not you, Sutcliff."

"Ahh, You’re so cruel and cold, Will-darling." Grell sighed dramatically, "Fine, But I want a nice date tonight~" He tried.

“…Spears-Senpai will be too busy.” Ron snapped, “As will we all.”

“So snippy…what, did a hot date get cut short because of this?”

William smirked the tiniest bit, his eyes seeking out Ronald’s. “I presume this date was hotter than average.”

Ronald flushed and looked away, “Yeah, One I have been wanting to go on for a long time…”

The supervisor looked away too, but his smirk remained. “I’m sure your date was just as disappointed to have it ended early.”

"They all would be. Ronnie has them lining up for a chance at a date." Grell shrugged, "In the end it’s just a date, I’m sure."

“Not this time!” Ron insisted, “This one is someone special…that could change everything.”

“That doesn’t sound like you…” Grell shrugged and turned back to William, “Willl~ Please, please let me handle the Sebby-space!”

"And have you throwing yourself at that demon as soon as the moment presents itself?" William scoffed. "You would give us away. No, I need people that can be quiet and subtle on this assignment. I’ll leave you in charge of questioning the infirmary staff, Sutcliff."

He looked at Knox and he nodded. “You, Mr. Knox, will accompany me to collect reports from all immediate secured areas. We need to examine all rift reports and see if we can pinpoint when and where the unauthorized exit portal was created—that is, if it was detected at all.”

"Yes, sir!" Ronald saluted.

“But that’s so boring!” Grell grumbled, “The most action I’ll get is a paper cut…”

Suddenly imagining Grell peppering his hands with papercuts just to watch the blood trickle, William sighed. “This situation is more important than your entertainment, Grell Sutcliff. Complete the task I have given you in a timely and professional manner, and I may allow you to clock out early. You are forbidden from visiting the Phantomhive estate without my expressed permission, however—on or off the clock.”

"Willllll!" Grell complained, hanging off his shoulder, "You’re so mean!"

“We have work to do, Grell-senpai.” Ron sighed.

“Yes, but I can’t hang off Unnie because he went and made himself a wanted criminal! Now I can’t go see Sebby, and Will never lets me express my love for him! You can’t cut a lady’s heart off from her affections!”

"You should find yourself a hobby, instead of chasing after men that aren’t interested in you," suggested William coolly. He nodded at Ronald. "Come along; we have work to do."


 

A day passed, and another after that. While Dispatch was diligently trying to find him, the Undertaker was occupied with the first stages of the alteration process that would allow him to resurrect his love from the dead. He only allowed himself a few hours on Vincent per day, preferring to take his time and do everything meticulously, rather than rush it and overlook something vital. When he wasn’t working on the Earl’s transformation, he kept him in the preservation casket and worked on more dolls for the viscount. Only late at night when most of the house was asleep did he put Vincent on the operating table. Replacing the cinematic records would be the final step—and the most important one.

Aleister entertained often, maintaining the image of flamboyant, fun-loving noble to avoid rousing too much suspicion from the Yard. They had already visited once for an inspection, Undertaker learned, while he was hospitalized in the Shinigami realm. Clever lunatic that he was, Druitt was practiced at keeping his secrets guarded. The entry to the laboratory was well hidden in the basement; opening up to a corridor that led to the lab’s door.

On the second third night of his return, the Undertaker kept at it for another hour past his usual allotted time and he glanced up from the operating table when the cuckoo clock chimed. He squinted at the clock face as the little skeleton danced out of the tiny door beneath it, spinning merrily on the track before vanishing into the opposite door.

"Hmm, three o’clock," he murmured, looking down at his subject. "We’ve gone all the way to the witching hour, my dear. I think we should call it a night. You deserve nothing but my full attention and awareness, after all."

He replaced the top of Vincent’s skull, clamped it into place and carefully eased his scalp back over it to cover it. The scarring at the hairline should be quite minimal when he was finished. He’d perfected his methods so much that he could bond the skull back together without the need for clamps, when his work was done. With finer stitching and a special balm he’d concocted himself, the marks of Vincent’s transformation would be hardly visible to those that weren’t specifically looking for them…particularly with the way he wore his hair.

Once he had the Earl’s head put back together, he stood over him and gazed down at him, taking a moment to recall his favorite memories of their time together. “We’ll have it again, love. I promise you. I just wonder how we’ll deal with your son and his pet butler.”

He smiled and he unfastened the straps securing him to the table and he tucked the sheets around him before lifting him into his arms. Carrying him bride-style, he brought him back into the hidden alcove and placed him back into his special casket.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Ronald sighed, leaning back in his chair and removing his glasses to rub his eyes and face, “Too much reading…” he complained. He’d been going over the stacks of witness accounts from the day at the hospital when Undertaker escaped. They had yet to find anything, anyone to go question more in depth…it had been as if the legend had portaled right out of his bed with an untraceable portal…but he shouldn’t have had the energy to do so.

“I need a break…”

William looked up from the reports he was reading, and his lips parted as though he were about to chastise him, but then a yawn surfaced and he covered his mouth instead. “Perhaps a small break is in order. Coffee?”

"Strong." Ron nodded, slipping his glasses back onto his face, "Before this work kills me."

In an unusual display of solicitude, William got up and waved the blond back down when he started to follow. “Relax on my sofa for a while and allow me. Our date was interrupted, after all.”

He gave him a quiet, reserved smile before leaving the office to retrieve the hot beverages.

Ronald smiled himself and nodded, “Though it was our date, meaning, it was yours as well.” He pointed out, moving to the sofa and relaxing on it after he stretched his back. “You should join me while we have our coffee break.”

William paused to consider it. His gaze swept over the reclining blond with a flash of desire in them. “I suppose we can put aside the office relationship for long enough to enjoy a cup of coffee.”

As he left to retrieve the beverages, he tried to banish thoughts of other things he would like to do with Ronald on his couch, besides drink coffee.

Ronald grinned, settling into the cushions and moving the decorative throw pillow out of the way as he waited.

William selected his favorite brew and doctored it up, before selecting Ronald’s and doing the same for him. He went back into his office and found the fun-loving young reaper even more laid-out than before…if such a thing were possible. With a rueful little smirk and a shake of his head, he approached the couch and sat down on the edge of it, before offering Ronald his cup.

"Extra sugar and cream. That is how you prefer it, I believe?"

"Yeah, thank you." Ron smiled, taking the cup, "Have you been watching me? You never made me coffee before, you had to have learned that somehow."

William adjusted his glasses and looked away. “I observe my staff closely. I may have paid a bit more attention to fine details with you than with others.”

"So, what you’re saying is…" Ron scooted a little closer to William, "…that you had a thing for me before I asked you to dinner and dancing."

The supervisor’s first impulse was to try and brush it off, but he made himself turn his face to Ronald and look directly into his eyes. They were on break, and it was because of his conservative nature that he’d gone for so long without acting on his interests.

"Yes. I did."

He followed that up by leaning toward the blond, cupping the back of his head and kissing him full on the lips with no warning.

"Mm!" Ronald hummed in surprise, reaching out to set his cup on the coffee table before he spilled his drink, and so he could freely kiss him back.

He’d done it again; acted on impulsive desire with hardly a care for the consequences. Vaguely wondering what was happening to him lately, William shooed away thoughts of how this would look on his record, should anyone happen to see him doing this with a subordinate. He’d locked his door for privacy. It was only him and Ronald. Technically they were not on the clock right now, so he let himself go and fell into the kiss. Somehow managing to keep holding his coffee upright, he slid his fingers through Ronald’s hair and deepened it.

It was the little things one had to appreciate in life, and a kiss with an attractive reaper was one small pleasure he rarely got the chance to divulge in. Ronald gave off a small hum, leaning into the kiss and sliding his arms around William, his hands wandering across his back and feeling his muscles under the expensive suit jacket William wore. The brunet set his coffee down on the table and put both arms around him, falling even further under the spell of the kiss.

Yes, this was perfect. He wondered why he’d hesitated for so long. There were ways around their work relationship, after all. It wasn’t actually forbidden for coworkers to fraternize, so long as it didn’t interfere with their professional relationship at work. It was still frowned upon though, and William supposed he’d been doubtful that Ronald would be able to separate their work relationship from their personal one.

He almost started to loosen his tie and slip his jacket off, but he knew that if clothing articles started hitting the floor, he might not be able to refrain from going further than this. Kissing Ronald during a coffee break was one thing, but shagging him was quite another. Besides, this was only the beginning and William was a meticulous man. There were more appropriate settings than his office to finalize this, and despite his aggression at the end of their date, he thought he’d like to test the waters a bit, first.

Hearing the click of a mug being set down and feeling both of William’s hands, Ronald let himself spring into action, pushing William over and down onto the sofa, settling on top of him without breaking the kiss. He doubted they had time for much…but he would count it a successful snogging if he got to see William in need of a comb when they were done.

Surprised by the bold move, William impulsively cupped Ronald’s bottom, his tongue thrusting deep into his mouth with greater passion. Propriety be damned; he’d earned this. His hips pushed upwards against Ronald’s and his fingertips dug into the trousers covering that firm little derriere. The coffee sat forgotten on the glass-top table nearby, slowly losing heat as the two Dispatch agents made out with each other.

Ronald hummed, his legs tangled with Will’s as he shifted and rubbed against the older reaper, tempted to see if he could get away with unbuttoning the supervisor’s vest and shirt. Choosing to see if he could, he slid his hand up along Will’s chest, his fingers playing with the first button, silently asking permission.

William probably should have stopped him, but he didn’t. As the questing fingers began to work at the buttons of his vest, he dragged his mouth away from Ronald’s and kissed his throat. His gloved hands began to reciprocate against his better judgment, loosening the blond’s tie before flicking open the buttons of his vest. His breath quickened, all sense of reason evaporating beneath the assault of lust too long denied.

"Ronald," he murmured huskily against the smooth skin of his companion’s neck, "we should be mindful…of our location."

He made no move to stop him though, nor did he cease his own actions.

The blond tugged Will’s tie loose and started on his shirt, “You locked the door…I heard it click…” Ronald breathed, moving to press kisses to his collarbone as he worked open his shirt, his chin brushing lightly against the bit of chest he’d exposed.

William suppressed a shudder of desire. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d satisfied his baser urges, and here he had this wholly desirable young man on top of him, hot and willing. It wasn’t as if they were strangers. He’d already opened the door to a romantic relationship with him and there was no closing it, now. Not usually the sort of reaper to allow his personal needs to trump his common sense, William found it harder to resist by the moment. At the mercy of his lust, he accidentally popped one of Ronald’s buttons off his shirt in his haste to pull it open.

"Pardon me," he breathed politely, even as he tugged his gloves off to explore that sweet, lithe torso with his bare hands.

Ronald shifted his shoulders in a shrugging motion. He popped buttons all the time due to his careless nature. He only had to go to Grell to ask him to fix the button like he always did. Grell was good at sewing, after all. His buttons didn’t matter…William’s probably did. They’d likely be caught if they both were missing buttons.

“Button’s don’t matter,” he breathed, “Just kiss me, Will.”

Too caught up in his desire to care much about his own clumsiness, the brunet readily complied. His tongue delved into Ronald’s mouth as his hands slid over his bared chest and stomach. He stroked the smooth expanse, memorizing each knot of muscle, each rib, and the softness of the skin. He briefly wondered what kind of soap Ronald used, to obtain such silky skin. He brushed his thumbs over the flat surface of the pink nipples, teasing them to an erect state. He felt Ronald’s crotch twitch against his through the cover of their trousers, and he echoed the boy’s soft groan of delight.

William acted on impulse yet again, sliding one hand down to fondle the bulge between his companion’s legs while he toyed with his nipples, one at a time. When the blond eagerly pushed into his touch, he gave his package a possessive squeeze. He never would have imagined himself sitting here like this, feeling up his own subordinate. He’d fantasized it plenty of times before, but never did he dream that it would become a reality.

"I want you," he blurted huskily, beyond all sense of shame or restraint. Damn the rules…he wanted Ronald Knox spread out naked beneath him.

Ronald blinked down at William, biting his lip as a hue of pink spread across his face. He had never imagined that the man would ever say—no, request such a thing. And William sounded so confident.

It no longer mattered that they were in William’s office. Ronald pulled back without a word and stood up, keeping his eyes on William who seemed to look confused—even hurt at first that the blond had pulled away. But his intention soon became apparent as he reached down, undoing his white belt and dropping it to the floor before his nimble fingers popped open the buttons of his slacks. His thumbs hooked in the waist to slowly push them down his legs, his shoes and socks getting caught and coming off with his black slacks, leaving him in his open shirt and vest, and his bright orange boxers.

Ronald shrugged, his shirt and vest sliding off his arms and to the floor in a heap before he slowed down even further to remove his boxer shorts, which he tossed into his one-man audience’s lap with a grin.

Ronald wasn’t one to be shy about his body. He was good looking, and he knew it. Apparent by the pose he took, then, allowing all of his body to be feasted on by the eyes of his superior.

“Only if you like what you see~” He teased knowingly.

William stared stupidly up at him for a moment, his thoughts frozen in his brain. He’d often wondered what Ronald’s body looked like underneath his clothes, but this was beyond his expectations. Lean but not skinny, his fair skin was as smooth as silk, with fine golden hair dusting his legs. He was toned in all the right places, with a tight little stomach, a narrow waist and pectorals that hinted he worked out just enough to stay fit. His groin was in a state of obvious arousal, flushed and glistening at the tip. William suddenly had images of eating sushi off the younger reaper’s nude body, and he didn’t even know where the thought came from.

Yes, he very much liked what he saw, and he wanted to lay claim to it.

"Come here," he ordered, his voice low, commanding and laced with need. He reached out for him expectantly, his expression saying he expected to be obeyed without question. 

"Oh? for a moment there, I thought I was too hot for you to handle, Spears." the cocky youth taunted, stepping closer and moving to straddle the man’s lap. He leaned in close, taking William’s hand and guiding it to touch his hip. "Go on, touch me. No need to be afraid."

The boy kissed along William’s neck, sucking on his soft flesh once he knew he was below where the man’s collar stopped. Though he was tempted to give him a few love bites where it would be seen as well. Give the office something to gossip about, even if they didn’t know it had been ‘Lady-killer Knox’. They wouldn’t even guess it. Only his closest friends knew he wasn’t strait.

He licked up along William’s neck to his ear before whispering, “What do you want, sir?”

The supervisor’s brain again froze. Dear gods, what didn’t he want from this alluring young man? He could think of at least a dozen things he would like to do to him, and some involved activities that he never would have imagined William T. Spears condoning…let alone participating in. He groaned in spite of himself, his fingers digging into Ronald’s hips as he put both hands on them. Heavens, the boy was too sensual for his own good. That simple, seductive little question issued in such a breathy voice had a powerful effect on him; more powerful than he could deny.

The button of William’s trousers popped off without warning from the strain of his arousal seeking liberation, and he glanced down at his equipment with a raised brow of surprise. “Either you’ve added telekinesis to your list of talents, or you’ve got me so blasted randy my clothing is ready to shed itself without assistance. Honestly, Knox…do you take lessons in seduction?”

The button’s escape had only caught Ronald’s attention because it had flown off and hit him right above his hip bone, and he looked down with wide eyes as the little plastic button fell down between William’s legs and out of sight. He had never even heard of such a thing happening before.

“…Or maybe you buy your slacks too tight…” he muttered, reaching down to run his finger up along Will’s shaft and to the moist tip, teasing it, “I know I’m hard to resist, but no one has ever popped their pants for me.”

With a knowing smirk, he slid down the older reaper’s body, settling between his legs, “No, I just do as I feel. I’m glad it’s so effective on you…” he breathed as he took William junior into his mouth, giving him a hard suck as he slid his lips down all the way to the hilt.

William nearly jumped at the unexpected sensation of Ronald’s mouth taking him in deep. He started to make a grab for his hair and he thought better of it. Those lips were too bloody talented and he might just tear out a chunk of Ron’s hair completely by accident, if he took a handful of it right now. Desperate for something to do with his hands to brace himself, he gripped the leather cushion of his couch and sucked in a slow, deep breath. He watched as the boy’s head began to bob, and his vision lost focus at the sensations he was evoking. He never would have imagined Ronald Knox being this good or this bold with him. His impression that the younger man might be too intimidated by him to relax quickly flew out the window as Ronald sucked, licked and slurped on his arousal.

On the desk, William’s phone began to ring and he glanced at it without interest. Let the damned thing ring off the hook, for all he cared. He felt like he was in Heaven. He laid his head back against the sofa and he groaned, low in his throat. “Ronald,” he managed to say, his voice tense with pleasure and need, “that’s…oh…y-you’re…”

He didn’t even know what he was trying to tell him, except perhaps to warn him that he was quickly losing control of his passion.

"Mmmh…" Frustrated by the shrill ringing of the phone; He didn’t want this to be interrupted; he’d waited for so long and now… No, no, he wouldn’t let William push him aside for work.

Gripping William’s hips, he held him in place, pressing his tongue up along the underside of his length, humming low to add vibrations to his bobbing, hoping that it’d be enough to make William ignore it…hoping he would be more to Will than work…

But then William spoke…and it wasn’t asking him to let him up… that was good, and he smiled around William, continuing until the phone’s rings ceased.

he pulled back, a line of saliva clinging to his lip and Will’s tip as he smiled at William, climbing back up, “have you chosen what you want?” he whispered.

William had come damn close to unloading in Ronald’s talented, sucking mouth. Panting in an undignified manner, he traced the mouth hovering so close to his swollen length with the tips of his fingers, trying to find his voice again. He could think of nothing to say, and so he allowed his actions to speak for him. Shaken to his core by the blond’s sensual skills, he lost what remained of his carefully held composure and he grabbed Ronald’s shoulders to pull him up for a searing kiss. He blindly groped at his pants as he dominated his mouth, trying to wriggle out of them fast enough to suit his needs.

Ronald gasped in surprise, running his hands down William’s sides and helping to remove the offending article of clothing, pushing them from his hips and only pausing to cup a firm cheek and squeeze it.

“Ahh…William…I want you, too…” he moaned against his lips, passion dripping from his very breath.

Then he paused. He didn’t have lube…he never carried such stuff with him. He was a flirt, and it never moved passed that. He was unprepared for this…and he’d be surprised if William had anything of the sort…

“Will…do you…maybe….lube?” he gasped as their two straining members rubbed together when William shifted to kick his pants off completely.

The supervisor uttered a curse beneath his breath. No, he did not keep lubricant on-hand, because dating was generally at the bottom of his list of priorities. Saliva wasn’t likely to be enough, even if used liberally. If Ronald attempted to coat him enough to suit their needs, he couldn’t guarantee that he would reach completion before he even finished. The boy was just too bloody good with his mouth.

Common sense said that they should satisfy their urgings in other ways and save the final act for a better time and place. He’d held back for so long, though, and he thought he deserved this, of all things he’d denied himself. There was a pharmacy on the first floor. They would have what he needed to conduct this encounter to its fullest. He didn’t even fret over the assumptions that might be made when he bought it; he wanted Ronald Knox too much to care.

"Don’t go anywhere," he ordered, pulling his pants back up. "I’ll fetch some from downstairs." He pulled his shirt closed and he hastily buttoned it back up with shaky fingers. Thankfully he hadn’t managed to get completely undressed yet. He’d never dressed so fast before in his life, and as the blond relaxed on his sofa and smirked up at him with confident sensuality, his groin twitched in his pants.

"And stop looking at me that way, Ronald Knox. I need to calm down before I leave this office."

"Yeah, but I would rather stay up." Ron said, stroking himself, his legs spread so William could see the action perfectly, "Don’t be long, Will…oh!" Ron grabbed the tie that had fallen off Will’s shoulders, "You’ll need that…and a comb… You’re hair’s not bad…but it’s not ‘Spear’s perfect’. Here." he got up and helped William finish dressing, kissing him as he tightened the man’s tie.

"You aren’t helping with my situation, truly," grunted the supervisor against his lips. He wondered if his zipper might pop off next. "Stop your teasing, Ronald."

He flushed at the thought of going down there to buy lubricant whilst sporting a raging erection.

Ronald gave him a cocky grin, “But it’ll help you get back up here faster!” He ran his fingers through his hair to comb it in place, “You knowing I’ll be up here nude and waiting for you on your sofa, needing you, moaning for you…don’t make me wait too long.” he whispered, sliding his hand down William’s re-clothed backside.

William actually trembled with longing. Whatever he’d been expecting when he decided to make his move on Knox, he wasn’t quite prepared for the magnitude of sensuality he was displaying. He cupped the back of the blond’s head and kissed him deeply, delivering a silent promise to him that he intended to make it well-worth the wait. Pulling away after plundering his mouth for a moment, he straightened his tie and left the office. He stopped outside in the hallway to take a deep breath and try to calm his raging libido, fearing he may have to employ the use of ice on his crotch to calm it down.

With a moment or three of slow, deep breathing, he managed to sooth his condition just enough to keep it from being so obvious, and he hurried as much as he dared to do so, without making it too obvious. He said nothing to the sales clerk when he made it to the pharmacy and selected the most expensive lubricant they had. He flushed slightly at the quiet glance of interest she gave him, but she didn’t dare make any remarks. Once he had the item of salvation safely tucked in its bag under his arm, he made his way back to the elevator and he hoped Ronald hadn’t gotten bored and fallen asleep on him.


 

Ronald sighed as he waited for William to return, laying across the sofa like a French pin up painting, his member thick and twitching in need and the warm sunlight from the wide window lining one wall of the office giving his skin a healthy orange-ish glow. He was lucky they were so high up in the building, no one would be able to peep in on them, even with the windows wide open.

There was suddenly a knock at the door, and Ronald’s heart leap in adrenaline. William wouldn’t knock on his own door. No, that would be silly… This had to be a secretary or someone, maybe regarding that missed call not long ago…

“Mister Spears, sir?” a voice Ronald didn’t recognize called out and the door handle turned.

Panicking, Ronald grabbed his clothes off the floor and ducked in under the high couch, pressing his back against the wall and hugging his clothes close, hoping he wouldn’t be spotted.

Just as he pulled himself out of immediate sight, the door opened and a woman with long black hair pulled up into a bun stepped in, her arms full of folders and she looked around with a frown. Spears hardly left his office for long unless he had to go out onto the field, from what she understood, and the secretary outside hadn’t told her that Mister Spears had left. Best to wait. She walked over to the sofa and sat down to await his return.


 

William came back to his office expecting to see a naked, blond treat reclined on his couch waiting for him. Instead, he found his contact to the Higher-ups sitting there and he was briefly thankful that his recently purchased goods were concealed in the shopping bag under his arm. He cleared his throat, trying to appear casual.

"Miss Halloway, have you something to report to me?"

He covertly looked around for Ronald. He saw the top of the younger agent’s blond head poking out from behind the couch that the woman sat upon, and it was only through his great discipline that he managed not to let his expression give away his discovery. Ronald peeked out at him from behind the woman and put a finger to his lips, and William forced himself not to look directly at him.

"Yes, I was surprised you were not in." she eyes the bag from the pharmacy, "Are your headaches still bothering you? You should think of taking a vacation." she said, standing back up and walking over to him, "These have been sent over for you to look over from different departments. Mostly Medical staffing. Apparently, not all of them had been sent over concerning the escape of Legendary Death."

She paused and glanced back at the coffee table, “And you need to cut down of your coffee…there is no need for you to drink two mugs at once.”

William maintained his stoic front, glancing at the coffee and somehow keeping his expression neutral. “The first grew cold while I was going over paperwork. You needn’t worry; I will be fine. I intend to enjoy some well-earned pleasures, soon.”

He didn’t dare glance Ronald’s way as he said it, but the statement was a subtle reminder to his hidden guest that he hadn’t abandoned his intentions for him.

"Good. No one can last as long as you do without breaks. It can’t be healthy for you…and it is starting to show. Your cheeks are flushed. Perhaps you need rest sooner rather than later."

She handed him the files and turned towards the door, reaching for the handle, “Take care of this case, sir, but take care of your own needs. We can’t afford to lose you. You are the hardest worker we have seen since, well, since Legendary Death…You know, before he snapped, went mad and left dispatch. Hate to see that happen again.” she said, slipping out of the room, “Good day, sir.”

The door closed with a click.

“I hope you didn’t run into problems on your mission…” Ronald grunted as he slid himself out from his hiding place, “My stay here was quite the adventure in itself.”

He stood up and grinned, his abs rippling as he pushed himself up and approached William. He reached out, grabbing William’s tie to pull it loose again, eager to get the man just as naked.

William would have responded if it weren’t for his companion trying to suck his tongue down his throat. All he managed to get out was a muffled grunt, and then he dropped his newly purchased package to the floor and embraced the tawny glory before him. He somehow figured out how to lock the door behind him before clutching Ronald’s naked buttocks almost desperately, pulling him hard against his body. The desire he’d just managed to strong-arm back under control reared its greedy head once more, and his trousers once again began to poke out obscenely at the crotch.

Ronald pulled William’s shirt and vest open again, this time with less care and nearly popping the buttons. a few even got loose and would have to be secured again later. But he had waited too long under the couch to care.

He pushed them off Will’s shoulders and let them drop to the floor.

“No more interruptions…” he muttered against his lips.

"I quite agree," answered William. He ran his hands over Ronald’s body, his touch leisurely and sensual despite the powerful need that he was feeling. After all, rushing this encounter would diminish the pleasure of it. He had him now, and he could put his work on the back-burner for a little while to enjoy him. It was only through his tenacious discipline that he was able to calm himself down to take more time with it. He stroked the tight little stomach, the narrow hips, the firm buttocks. He procrastinated on touching the swollen erection, though he dearly wanted to. He again had to admire how soft Ronald’s skin was, and he began to kiss his neck and shoulder to have a taste of it. The hint of whatever cologne the boy used lingered on his skin, and he tasted like sunshine to William.

The supervisor huffed a little at his own romantic notions. It wasn’t possible for someone to taste like sunshine, of course. Sunshine had no scent or flavor. Still, as he kissed and nibbled the smooth skin, he couldn’t rid himself of the comparison. He spread his hands over Ronald’s hips as the blond finished removing his upper garments, and he stepped out of his pants, shoes and socks as Ronald removed them for him. When the blond straightened back up to embrace him again, William finally allowed his hands to explore the jutting arousal begging for his touch. He curled his fingers around the velvety, flushed length and he stroked it slowly, while fondling a pink, hard nipple with his other hand.

"You are," William breathed huskily, "perfection."

He never would have imagined himself uttering such a blatant compliment to anyone, but as bodies went, perfection was just what Ronald’s was. He had the exact build William fantasized about in a lover. Combined with that soft skin, the mischievous smiles and the boyishly handsome visage, he was exactly what William wanted in a partner. In fact, now that he’d demonstrated his sensuality, he was more than the supervisor had ever dreamed of.  

"Yeah, I know." Ronald smirked, "But so are you."

Ronald pressed his lips to William’s neck, sucking and licking again to create a second mark there. He stepped back, guiding William over to the sofa, using his lips and kisses as a leash to guide him. William tactfully paused long enough to scoop up the tube of lubricant he’d bought, and when they made it to the couch he pushed Ronald down onto it with a hand to the chest. He smirked at the brief expression of surprise on his face, but Ronald Knox apparently wasn’t the sort to be caught off-guard for long. The blond’s returning smirk held a bit of a challenge in it, and William was all too happy to answer it.

He joined him on the sofa, guiding him onto his back for the time being. He wanted to explore that tempting young body for a few moments, before things went too far. A quick shag didn’t interest him in the slightest, pressed for time though he always seemed to be. He wanted to savor it, because he knew what a rare treat he was about to get.

Ronald slid his hand along William’s arm, smiling up at him as he was joined on the sofa, “So, do you know what you want, now? You seem like it.” He connected their lips, relaxing back against the cushions. “Tell me what you want, William.” His hand slid up into Will’s hair, gripping it. “Tell me you want me as much as I want you…”

"I think that should be rather obvious by my current state and the fact that I just ran a marathon downstairs and back to procure lubricant," stated the older reaper, wincing a little as his hair was pulled, "but yes; I do want you as much as you want me, Ronald."

He kissed him again, grinding his arousal against the blond’s. His tongue pushed for dominance in Ronald’s mouth as he tried to assert himself again. He groaned in spite of himself at the feel of the blond’s hardened cock rubbing against his, and he reached down to grip both shafts. He broke the kiss to look into Ronald’s eyes as he began to stroke, his fingers unable to meet around the girth of both erections.

"I’ve wanted you for longer than I care to confess," he whispered, gazing into the passionate eyes of his younger companion.

Ronald shivered under William’s touch, his mouth gaping open and his eyes closing in pleasure. It had been so, so long since he had last been touched in such a way by anyone but himself…and this felt so much better! Trembling, he gripped William’s shoulders and moaned out William’s name.

He opened his eyes, lids hooded as he gazed up at the older reaper, his cocky gin having softened without his knowing to a softer, longing look of love. “I’ve wanted to be with you since the beginning,” he admitted softly. “Not just because of admiration; I wanted to be with you romantically.”

The declaration made William’s heart pound. He couldn’t decide if that was annoying or exhilarating. As a man whose first priority had always been his work, he had difficulty imagining himself in a relationship with anyone…but Styx help him, he thought he could make an exception for Ronald Knox. He continued to stroke his hand up and down their lengths, pressed tightly together, and he kissed him again.

Ronald smiled into the kiss, getting the feeling that William was accepting his confession. it made him feel he didn’t have to worry about this happening only once…and his smile turned genuine.

He let one hand feel around, his fingers finding the bottle of lube and popping it open behind William’s back before squeezing some out onto his hand and reaching down to help rub their lengths together. William’s breath caught as Ronald’s hand intermingled with his, gliding over their taut, aroused flesh with skill. He decided to leave it to him, and he rested his own hand overtop of the blond’s encouragingly as it massaged the slippery substance over both erections.

He decided to do a bit of marking of his own; though he chose a more discreet spot to do it than Ronald had. He took his lips away from Ronald’s and he moved down his throat to his shoulder, sucking strongly at the spot where it met his collarbone. A raspberry stain appeared on the soft skin as he drew the blood to the surface and he smirked a bit, feeling like he’s marked his territory. He’d always considered hickeys to be crass; practically vulgar. After all, who with any class would advertise their romantic forays? Such things were meant to be private, not shown to the world.

But he was finding himself conducting a lot of behavior with Ronald that he would have otherwise deemed scandalous. The blond had awakened a side of him he hardly knew existed, and he was too driven by desire now to care much for propriety. He reached with his free hand for the lubricant that Ronald had just so cleverly employed, and he removed his hand from on top of the blond’s so that he could apply some to his fingers. He knew how he wanted this encounter to go, and he was sure Ronald would speak up if he had any objections. William began to guide the younger reaper onto his back, intending to make him comfortable while he prepared him. How they proceeded after that…well, he would see if Ronald had a preferential position. William had frankly been fantasizing about bending the smug, sexy little terror over his desk and shagging him cross-eyed, but that wasn’t quite the most romantic way to conduct a first-time encounter.

Ronald was too distracted with the sensations he was feeling from running his slick hand over his and William’s shafts, he hardly realized he’d been lain down until he felt slick fingertips rubbing and circling his tight entrance, drawing a gasp from his lips.

His eyes snapped up to meet William’s, a blush crossing his cheeks as the man held his gaze with a serious but gentle look, the corners of his lips twitching slightly into a smile, making Ronald’s heart pound.

He was surprised, he hadn’t expected William to take initiative like this. He thought he’d have to help guide William to do it. But then again…William wasn’t the kind of man who would act inexperienced in anything, and he always made the effort to do it perfectly, first time or not. It made him wonder if William had done this before with someone else…he didn’t like that thought but he shoved it aside as he dropped his own length, focusing on making William’s slick and ready.

Charmed by Ronald’s blush in spite of himself, William lowered his mouth to his for a kiss. He eased a finger in at the same time he entered his mouth with his tongue. His lips swallowed the resulting gasp, and he rocked into the blond’s touch. Ronald was tight; tighter than William anticipated. He’d have almost suspected he was about to bed a virgin, but that seemed ludicrous to him with all the dating Ronald did. Surely he’d been with at least one other person before. He gently pumped his finger forward and back, exercising the entrance to make it relax. He stroked the boy’s tongue with his own and he groaned softly with pleasure as Ronald’s hand steadily moved along his length.

Ronald shivered, his stroking faltering slightly when Will’s finger first penetrated its way inside him and began to move in and out, coaxing the walls and ring of muscles to loosen and relax.

He slipped his free arm around William’s shoulders, grunting pleasurably as William’s finger slipped in deeper. “Oh Rhea!” Ronald gasped, their kiss breaking just long enough for the words to slip out, “William!”

He spread his legs a little wider, speeding up his hand’s stroking motion. His lips greedily stealing kisses and generously giving them in return. Lips upon lips, cheeks, neck, jaw… Passion beginning to take over his mind completely.

His actions spurred the older reaper to greater lust, and William found himself wanting to rush it so that he could be inside of him sooner—which was unacceptable. He never rushed anything important, and he could tell by how tight Ronald was that getting hasty would be a mistake. It was quite difficult to maintain that logic while the boy’s hand was stroking him with such skill and enthusiasm, though. William broke into a sweat and he rested his forehead against Ronald’s bare shoulder for a moment, trying to master his desire.

"Calm down, Ronald," he breathed, thrusting into his touch in spite of himself. "I’ve waited too long for this, to give a poor performance now." He kissed his moaning lips again, and he added another finger to the penetration.

"Saying that—ahhn!—i-is one thing…” Ronald panted and moaned, “D-Doing is another…”

Ronald peeked open an eye and looked up at William, “You over estimate my self control. I want you—and you are making me feel good…”

He paused, moaning as the two fingers inside him scissored and stretched him more, “Do you want me to stop touching you, here?” he asked, briefly squeezing William’s thick member in his hand, “I can focus elsewhere…”

William grunted softly at the feel of having his sex squeezed that way. “I think,” he said breathlessly, “it would be wise for you to leave off that, for a bit.” He would have returned the favor, if he wasn’t using his other hand to keep himself propped up. He kissed the blond again, pleading silently for patience so that he could make this an encounter Ronald would remember for the rest of his days. He was starting to loosen around his invading fingers…soon he might be ready for his shaft.

Ronald nodded and withdrew his hand from William’s shaft, sliding his fingers up over his hip and side before he wrapped his arms around his torso to keep his touches a little more chaste. But he couldn’t help but tease William one last time; rolling his hips and grinding their groins together. with a sultry moan. “Will…”

The supervisor was startled to hear a growl issue from his own throat. He’d never made such a noise before, and it was further proof of how easily this reaper managed to shred his self-restraint. A bit embarrassed over it, he flushed and made it a point to pay closer attention to the noises he made. He pumped his fingers a little faster, putting more force behind them as he claimed Ronald’s lips again and plundered his mouth. Closer…Ronald was getting so close to being ready for him. He only needed to hold back for a little while longer, and then he’d be his. William wasn’t usually the sort to use the word “hot” to describe anyone, but Ronald certainly matched that description—especially right now.

The sound William had made had brought another cocky smirk to Ron’s lips, but it didn’t last long before it was lost under another heated kiss, a few more moans of his own muffled into William’s mouth.

He let his hands explore almost freely. Keeping to his back, chest, arms, and a few times, his firm backside, giving his cheeks a good squeeze.

“Will…Will, I can’t wait much longer…” He gasped into William’s lips, “Take me! Please!” he begged, heart pounding in his chest so hard he was sure Will could hear it.

"Shh," warned the brunet with a smirk. "We can’t have the entire floor alerted to what we are doing, Ronald."

It was a hollow warning, though. He’d often wondered what it would be like to hear Ronald call his name in such desperate passion, and it was as intoxicating as he’d imagined it would be. Feeling he’d exercised him enough, he withdrew his fingers from within him and he grasped his aching arousal, lining it up with the boy’s prepared entrance. He stared down at him as he nudged in slowly, watching his face as he began to fill him with his length. It felt exquisite, and for a moment his eyes went blank and heavy-lidded at the sensation of it. He withdrew a little and pushed in further, a low noise of pleasure arising in his throat. It was going to take a bit of finesse to fit his entire length inside of the squeezing, narrow entry.

"God, Knox," breathed William in a strained voice. "H-have you even ever…been with a man before?"

Ronald’s eyes were closed securely, his breath hitching as William pressed in further sending shivers through his body, an aching throb asking for more despite the small shoots of pain every once in a while. He had expected it to hurt more than it did…it was a nice surprise that it was more pleasurable than not.

So caught up in the sensation, he nearly missed William’s question, and it took a moment to register in his mind. He opened his eyes to look at him, panting as he parted his lips to speak.

“I—I have but…not like th-this…never all the w-way…” he admitted.

Stunned, the supervisor stared at him. It seemed preposterous to him, that Ronald Knox, Playboy of Dispatch, could possibly be a virgin. The evidence was currently squeezing his swollen length, however. As tight as he was and as open as his expression of wonderment, William quickly deduced that he had to be telling the truth. He never would have guessed it, believing the charming little flirt had to have at least bedded one man before him.

A slow smile subtly curved William’s lips. He was Ronald’s first. He found that inordinately pleasing, even as he wondered how Ronald would feel knowing the same wasn’t true in reverse. William was no player, though. He’d only slept with two people in his years of being a Shinigami, and he’d never wanted either of them as much as he wanted this blond. He eased in further, his breath again catching as more of him was sheathed. When he had it all the way in, he eased back and withdrew, before repeating the motion. He took it slowly, and he began to grip and stroke the blond’s stiffened sex as he pumped, to make it more pleasurable for him.

Ronald flushed deeper under the stunned look on William’s face. He’d never admitted such a thing to anyone before, and he wondered why he had told William. but the thoughts faded when William started to move again, drawing more soft moans from his lips.

“H-have you?” he panted, “Y-you seem to know what you’re doing…you feel good…hardly any pain…I thought the first time was supposed to hurt a lot…”

Pleased to know he wasn’t causing him more discomfort than he could help, the brunet caught his breath and tried to consider his answer carefully. “I have. It was a long time ago since the last.” He kissed Ron’s neck and caressed his flushed face, thrusting a bit faster but avoiding too much force. “I’ve maintained a staunch record of celibacy since then…until now.”

"Nnyah!" Ronald dropped his head back, the leather couch creaking slightly as his sweaty skin stuck to it’s upholstery, his body being rocked back and forth with William’s quick movements inside him. "Will—!"

Instinctively, his tilted his hips up into William’s movements, his arms encircling Will’s shoulders and holding him closer. The brunet groaned in response, putting a little more force behind it. He was breaking into a sweat and getting flushed like his companion, driven to a state of need and pleasure he couldn’t recall ever experiencing before. The clever little terror was clamping down on him each time he withdrew, squeezing him delightfully. The tight coil of heat in his belly and groin kept getting more intense with each moment.

"Ronald," he gasped, brow furrowing as he fought for control.

In William’s hand, Ronald’s member twitched, the pressure building up from the pleasure growing close to his limit his shaft aching in need of release.

“Close!” He cried out in warning, his body stiffening as William seemed to speed up just a little more. “Oh—Sweet mother Rhea, too good! I—!” Unable to take it anymore, and not wanting to let his cry of completion out unmuffled, he hide his face in Will’s neck, crying into his flesh as the pressure released and his completion spilled over, coating his abs and William’s hand.

"Unh," grunted William as the little pulses and spasms made Ronald’s entry constrict even further, making him breathless. He tried to last, but it was all too much for him and he threw his head back and spilled himself inside of him. Ronald was still coming as William pulsed inside of him, tensed over him. He held himself up for as long as he could on trembling arms, his length twitching within the younger reaper until he had nothing left. Finally he collapsed, his skin dewy with perspiration and his stomach slippery with Ronald’s libation.

Panting for breath, William managed to lift his head to look down at the blissful expression of his underling. “I believe,” he gasped, “I shall need this lounge cleaned.”

There was no bite to it; in fact, he actually smiled as he said it.

"Nah," The flushed boy panted, "We just broke it in is all…it’s leather, it can wipe down easy…" He trailed off, closing his eyes and pressing his lips to William’s in a kiss, "Because as far as I’m concerned…this isn’t going to be left at a one-time-thing."

Ron chuckled, “Best coffee break ever…”

The supervisor found himself smiling again as well. Ronald had a way of coaxing smiles from him. It was an unfamiliar expression to feel on his own face, to the older reaper. His lips weren’t used to smiling, and laughter barely ever escaped them at all. He relaxed on top of his companion, his softening length still wedged inside of him. He stroked Ronald’s sweat-dampened bangs back from his eyes and he admired the way he looked in the afterglow.

"It certainly won’t be a singular event," he promised softly, and he kissed Ronald’s sleepy eyelids. "Don’t fall asleep on me though, Ronald. We eventually have to peel ourselves off one another, tidy up and get back to work."

"We could always peel ourselves off each other after a nap… or get back to work before tidying ourselves up…really, it doesn’t matter as long as we get tidied up before we leave the office. As hot as I am, I doubt I’d be helpful to production should I leave here in the buff." the youth joked, his soft whispers in William’s ear.

"You are enough of a distraction fully dressed," William said with a smirk. "If you remain unclothed, I won’t accomplish anything at all."

"Yeah," Ron gave him a cocky look, "But now you know what’s under those clothes. Can you keep your mind from imagining me naked?" he teased, running his fingers lightly over William’s cheek, "Which would be more distracting?"

William raised a brow. “There isn’t so much as a single drop of modesty in you, is there?”

"Nobody’s perfect. I’m hot and I know it. I don’t see why I should hide or deny it but it doesn’t mean I’ll act like an office whore or that I can’t be loyal to my special someone." he settled his hands on Will’s hips, "Who happens to be just as hot under his suit."

"Hmm. That’s a difficult argument to counter." William kissed him and sighed, wishing they were done for the day so that he could just remain there like that for a while. "Care to go out for a bite when this work day is finished? I feel like spoiling the both of us, before this case buries us too far in paperwork."

"You’re kidding, right? You know I love going out after work!" Ronald grinned, "Whether its out to a party…or as a party for two. You have to wear me down quite a bit to make me want to go straight home to my couch."

"I suspected you would say something like that." With reluctance, the supervisor eased off of his blond companion and got up to make use of the handkerchief in his discarded jacket. He wiped himself off with it before obliging Ronald by doing the same for him, cleaning up traces of the evidence of their encounter. He bent over to kiss him once more, before balling up the cloth and tossing it across the room into his wastebasket.

He began to slip out of the lover mode and back into work mode, though his tone was significantly more relaxed than usual when he put his pants on and spoke to the blond again. “Let’s get this day over with.”

He glanced up when he got no response, and he sighed. Ronald had fallen asleep with a contented grin on his face. “Oh, honestly.”


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

"Vincent…Vincent, can you hear me?" 

His poor old heart hammered in his chest as he gently spoke to his subject.  Undertaker stroked his lover’s twitching hand as his body began to wake.  He knew from previous experience that it could be hours before he saw more than reflexive responses.  He had deliberately customized his treatment to allow a slower re-awakening and give the mind more time to catch up with the body.  He did this in order to spare Vincent undue trauma, though he dared say he would still suffer some in the beginning no matter what he did.

Undertaker checked the fluid bag he’d set up to feed into the IV.  His dollies tended to wake either very hungry or very thirsty, so he was taking measures to ensure Vincent would be at least marginally hydrated.  The pallor of death had already left the Earl’s skin, to be replaced by a healthier, pinkish tone as the cells came back to life and the heart began to beat again.  He had him strapped down securely so that the inevitable spasms of waking would not result in Vincent rolling off the table.  The Earl’s eyes were blindfolded by the bandage that the reaper had wrapped around his head, and a tray of basic equipment sat nearby for the Undertaker to keep monitoring his vitals.

"You may not be able to hear me yet, love," whispered the mortician, smiling with hope and excitement, "but I’ll not leave your side.  I’ll be the first thing you see when you can open your eyes, and I’ve ensured nobody will disturb us."

In fact, he’d taken the liberty to drug the Viscount, his household and all his guests.  A simple colorless, odorless vapor wafting through the manor was all it took to make every mortal inside succumb and fall into a dreamless sleep.  By the time they awoke, Vincent should already have regained fine motor control and the power of speech…and Undertaker would be long-gone with him. 

"Where I’ll be taking you won’t be as nice as this place," apologized the Undertaker, "but it will be safe.  Humble, but cozy.  You can recover in peace, and I can fill you in on everything you’ve missed during your sleep."

He softly stroked the blue-black hair on Vincent’s head as the twitching became more pronounced, impulsively attempting to soothe him.  Everything was intact, though his scalp might feel tingly and itchy for the first week of his new life.  The stasis had done away with the need to keep Vincent’s hair trimmed, halting the growth of both hair and nails and literally freezing his body in time.  Undertaker briefly wondered if he would prefer to keep his customary hairstyle, grow it out or cut it shorter.

"I suppose we’ll find that out when you come too," he reasoned, smiling at him.


 

Time slowly ticked by as Undertaker waited, lovingly watching over his long lost love with a nervous excitement. With each twitch of Vincent’s body, he came closer and closer to his renewed life. He came closer to waking up…and Undertaker became closer to knowing if Vincent would hate him forever, or stay by his side. Either way, Vincent would be alive… and maybe, he’d eventually forgive him if he could save Ciel.

Vincent’s eyes began to move under his closed eyelids and the bandages covering them, as if he was dreaming. It was a sign that his brain functions were starting to kick in.

An hour passed, then half of the next before a low, barely audible moan sounded from the Earl’s throat. The first Undertaker had heard of that expressive voice since the night his life had been taken.

The twitching in his core and limbs began to die down, and his head turned ever so slowly to the side as Vincent began to awaken, as if he’d only been asleep over these long years. Kind of like Sleeping Beauty…or in his case, Sleeping Handsome.

He couldn’t move.

Why couldn’t he move? His arms felt heavy like something was holding them down, and his eyes didn’t want to open. Why didn’t they open? He managed to open his mouth, a line of drool he wasn’t aware of rolling from the corner of his lips and down his cheek to the pillow under his aching head. But the only sound that would come out was a rough, dry moan. as if he hadn’t spoken in—who knows how long. It confused him.

What had happened? Why couldn’t he move or speak? Why couldn’t he remember anything?

He tried to call out again, this time his voice managing to sound a little more normal as he was able to form a single word. The first word that came to him.

“…H-help…”

The reaper immediately squeezed Vincent’s hand, his heart leaping in his throat. “Vincent…”

He reached for the overhead light and he dimmed it. “You’re safe, love. I’m right here. Do you recognize my voice?”

Vincent turned his head in the direction of the voice…it was familiar…but he couldn’t place it. The name that was said was familiar, too…and it seemed to fit…his name… he was sure it was his name.

“Help…” he repeated; for some reason it seemed the only word his tongue was willing to form.

Undertaker loosened the straps securing Vincent to the table, releasing his hand long enough to do so. “There now, that ought to be better, my lord. I know you’re mightily confused right now, but I’ll explain everything to you very soon. Here, can you squeeze my hand?”

He lifted said hand from the table, now that Vincent’s arms were free. He kissed the top of it and applied gentle pressure.

The hand—the one that had suffered a bullet wound clean through before Undertaker operated on it to fit up the bones and tissue, twitched from the touch. a sharp pain shooting through the old wound, as if the pain from the bullet was still remembered by his nerves, only re-awoken from the movements. Vincent gasped.

“Help—no…it hurts!”

Something had happened to him…something bad…something that had scared him… Fear, worry…his heart racing, his mind buzzing….

Undertaker gentled his hold on the hand, and he reached out to stroke the top of Vincent’s head with his free hand. “Shh, love. I’ll give you something for the pain, but you’re recalling old hurts. Let your mind catch up to your body, Vincent. You’re safe, now.”

The ancient closed his eyes. He had expected this reaction, and yet he wasn’t prepared for it. Nothing could have prepared him for seeing Vincent in such a state, no matter how many times he’d seen it before. He tried to comfort him, hoping some part of him would recognize his voice and calm down enough to ride it out.

"I’m right here. I’ve always been right here, and I always shall be, my lord. I haven’t left your side. Just try to relax.”

Vincent’s breathing quickened slightly as he struggled to remember. Flashes of a scene played out in his mind.

A wall of shelves, filed to the top with books, a warm hearth lit with a crackling fire, a leather bound book open across his lap, and a glass of scotch on a table near his hand.

Then the fire was surrounding him, it had leap out of the fireplace and onto the area rug. A dark figure silhouetted against the flames…

The barrel of a gun and…

Vincent cried out, his head feeling as it was splitting in half as his body arched up off the table, his hands flying up to his head and grabbing it as his body remembered the pain.

Undertaker kept talking to him, helpless to stop the agony of his recalled death. He would have spared him this pain if he could, but that would have meant bringing him back un-whole. He didn’t want only parts of Vincent back. He wanted the entire man…the entire soul.  Even had he clipped the end of those memories from the records, he would have had to formulate some explanation for why he was here, and why he could never go back to his former life. Vincent Phantomhive was the one being in existence that the Undertaker could not bring himself to lie to.

"Oh, my dear," he whispered, stroking Vincent’s straining arms as he stood over him. "Don’t…you’ll hurt yourself. It’s over now."

Vincent’s body threw himself forward blindly into Undertaker’s arms, trembling as he held his aching head. The pain still deep within his brain. the bandages hiding his eyes darkened with wetness as he began to weep like a child, trying to understand…was he dead? If he was dead why was he alive? If he was alive, why did he feel like he should be dead?

It was a shock to the reaper’s senses to feel Vincent against him again, and his arms stole around him, holding him tightly. He closed his eyes as he embraced him, savoring the moment even as his heart bled for Vincent’s pain…and for his part in it. “Shh, there now, Vincent. It’s all right.”

The reaper stroked the Earl’s hair slowly, holding his trembling upper body against his chest as he wept. “There, now.”

Undertaker’s eyes burned and he blinked back tears himself. He’d waited for so long…so long to embrace him like this again. In a reaper’s lifetime, a few years shouldn’t have mattered so much. For him though, each year without this man had felt like an eternity. He knew now that he should have let him rest, but…

"I tried to let you go," he murmured against his lover’s hair, "told myself all mortals die, and that’s just the way of things. I couldn’t, though. Not that way. Not when I could have saved you."

His tears began to fall then…tears he hadn’t wept since the night he arrived at the Phantomhive manor to find he was too late to save anyone. They dripped into Vincent’s hair as he rocked him slowly, a gesture meant to bring some measure of comfort to them both.

Dead…he did die…he was dead…that figure with a gun had killed him…so where was he? What was he? How long had he been in limbo? That soothing darkness that seemed to be fading from his memory all too quickly. That had been nice…there had been no pain…

After a long moment, his fingers slowly felt his own face, following the bandaged around his head. He wanted it off…he wanted to see who yanked him out of that darkness…where he had been dragged to.

Undertaker noticed the movement, and he drew back to help him as Vincent fumbled clumsily with the bandages. “Here, let me get those off for you.” He swallowed and sniffed, pushing back his emotions and blinking away his tears. “Easy love, you’ll tangle them. Just let me…”

He began to unwrap the bandage with skill, unwinding it from around Vincent’s head. As he did that, he pushed the fringe of his bangs back so that his lover would see his face as soon as his eyes came into focus.

"Just be aware that your eyes will be sensitive to light," warned the reaper in a more level voice. "At least for a time. Might take a while for them to focus well, too. Like your muscles, they need to be exercised."

He spoke clinically, finding it calming. “You’ll feel a bit stiff and sore for a while, but I think you’ll find your senses will be sharper than they were before and your body will be stronger. I’ll help you, my lord. I’ll do whatever you require to recover.”

The bandage was nearly unwound, and Undertaker ached to see his lover’s soft brown eyes gazing at him again…really seeing him, rather than staring blankly in death.  They were swirled with blue now due to the reanimation process, but they were still Vincent’s eyes.

Vincent kept his eyes closed firmly after he felt the last of the bandages fall away, and he took a deep breath, a few lingering tears rolling down his cheeks. He was nervous. Where was he? Heaven? Hell?

His bangs fell over his forehead, making the skin feel itchy, so he quickly pushed them away, not touching his forehead where he would have felt the stitches along his hairline.

Another deep breath, and he slowly cracked open his eyes, taking heed to the warning and letting his eyes slowly adjust to the dim candlelight. Deep, chocolate-brown eyes swirled with an inhuman blue looked around. All he could see was rough shapes of things, and he blinked a few times, hoping to help his eyes adjust.

Undertaker dropped the bandaging and took a seat on his stool, holding both of Vincent’s hands in his. He watched his eyes open, watched the pupils expand and contract as his vision adjusted. He smiled as the earl blinked, feeling like he could dance with joy.

"Well?" he asked as that gaze settled on him, trying not to be impatient.

It took a moment more. The shapes began to sharpen, details starting to show…shoulders…a scarred neck…a wide, warm, strangely familiar smile… Eyes of green, lined with gold…long hair like snow.

Vincent studied the face, trying to place where he knew it from. It wasn’t that of the killer…this man was taller, he was sure of it… But as hard as he tried, he couldn’t quite place him. No name came to him, none at all.

Undertaker’s joyful smile faded with the realization that he was looking at a man that did not recognize him. “Vincent, it’s me. Your—”

He nearly referred to himself as his “angel”, as Vincent once used to call him in the dark hours of the night when they were alone together, but it seemed so hollow now. He was no angel…never had been, really…but Vincent used to make him feel like one. The reaper swallowed and revised his title.

"—Advisor. Think back, love. Take it slowly. Do you recall your wife Rachel? Your son Ciel? Me?"

"…Wife? Son..?" Vincent didn’t remember having such a family, their names didn’t ring a bell, either. Maybe this man was mistaken? Maybe not…. He had no idea, after all. Maybe he’d remember if he saw their faces?

“…Are…they here?”

But no, he had died…if they were here, they’d be dead too, right?

“…Are we dead?” He spoke as if he was stunned, trying to make sense of the world around him, “Are you dead?”

Undertaker shook his head, then changed his mind, nodded, and then shook his head again. “Oh mercy, how do I explain this? Vincent…that’s your name, by the way…your wife is unfortunately deceased. Your son is still alive. You are still alive—after a fashion. As for me, well I’m a reaper. I’m quite alive, I assure you, but I’m not like ordinary human beings. Neither are you, anymore. Vincent…it’s so difficult to explain and I understand how confused you must be, but I need to perform some tests.”

His previous subjects for this process seemed to have better memory recall than Vincent did, and he felt a sense of dread. The injury to his brain from the bullet…though he had used all of his skills to repair it once the bullet was dislodged, he’d suspected it might take additional time to heal.

"…What?" Vincent’s hand shot up to his head where the pain (now a dull throbbing) had been, his fingers feeling the scar left from the bullet entry in his forehead. His eyes widened, and then his fingers found the stitches at his hairline, following them around.

No…no!

In a confused panic, he tried to get up, but his body wasn’t used to supporting his weight, and he collapsed to the floor, knocking over Undertaker’s tray of tools, the loud clattering assaulting his ears.

Gasping, the earl grabbed the shiny silver tray and looked in it’s reflective surface at the scars and stitches—and his eyes.

Wrong…this was all wrong…

“What have you done..? What did you do to me?!” he dropped the tray, “Why?!” he cried out, “Why did you pull me from the darkness into this?!”

The Undertaker stood there standing over him, resembling a slack-jawed idiot despite his personal fortifications and expectations of this encounter. “Vincent…I…you shouldn’t have gone the way you did. Not you…not a man like you.”

He curled his fingers into his hair, feeling a sort of mad desperation himself. “You…and your family…they were the only thing that I…I…Vincent, please stop. No! Don’t do that!”

He knelt beside the Earl as Vincent began to try to tear out the stitches along his scalp line, as though it would free him from this life.

"I want to go back! Let me go back!" Vincent cried out, fighting Undertaker’s hold as the reaper stopped him from trying to free himself from his body. Death had been peaceful. Unfeeling… it was relaxing to not exist. No pain, no emotions…he wanted to go back! There was nothing for him here.

Tears rolled down his cheeks, mourning the loss of his death. But as he struggled, he began to calm, having used more energy than he should have, slowly relaxing and letting the reaper hold him.

Undertaker held him and rocked him. “Give it time, my lord. Please. You’ll see. You’ll understand. Even if you hate me in the end, I did this for you.”

He bowed his silver head over the soft, blue-black head nestled against him and he struggled not to cry right along with Vincent.

"Why?" Vincent choked out, "Why bring me back? What even am I? Who am I to you to make you do all this for me?" He felt the stitches again, "…How..?"

"There is too much to explain to you right now, my lord." Undertaker caught up his hand to stop him from attempting to rip out his stitches again. "Please, if you can even recall the sound of my voice, some part of you must know I’d never hurt you intentionally."

Undertaker was getting a sick feeling of dread in his gut, and he wondered if Vincent was capable of remembering him at all. Perhaps he should have ended his own miserable existence, before resorting to this. He never would have considered himself to be one of those suicidal reapers, but that unconsidered option was looking more appealing by the minute.

"No," he growled—more to himself than to Vincent—"I won’t turn away from what I’ve done and leave you abandoned. Not a chance. No matter how much I hate myself for it."

"No, Tell me!" Vincent insisted, not having the energy to yell it, but there was force behind his firm words, "Why am I here?" he stared up into Undertaker’s bi-colored eyes.

The Undertaker fought an inward battle. “You are here to protect your son, my lord,” he finally choked out.  It was the best answer he could give.

"…I don’t remember having a son." Vincent countered, "You aren’t answering my questions."

"You do have a son, whether you remember him or not,” explained the reaper, “and he’s in danger of losing something far more precious than his life. I once made a vow to you that I would protect your family, even if you were gone. I failed to protect your wife, and if I could have brought her back as well, I would have. She was too far gone but you, my love, I was able to preserve and resurrect. Right now your memories are partially hidden from you. Whether it’s from the head injury that killed you or the fact that it’s been so long since you last had access to them, I can’t say. In time, you might recover them and remember the son you loved…and me.”

He lowered his head, letting his bangs fall over his eyes again. “I knew this might happen, but I had to bring you back. I simply…couldn’t let you go.”

"…Maybe you should have let me go… I remember…that someone wanted me dead. Won’t they try to kill me again when they find out? How long have I been gone?" He asked, though, inwardly, he was asking different questions.

Why was this man calling him ‘Love’? Why couldn’t he have let him go? What kind of a relationship had they had, and if he had been married…

He shook the thoughts from his head. He didn’t know what was important to ask and what wasn’t. he needed to stick to one topic and hope that memories would return on their own.

"You’ve been gone for nearly three years, my lord. If they find out you’re alive, they may very well try to come after you again," confirmed the Undertaker. "But those who orchestrated your death now have a new target, should he get in their way…your son. He’s safe, because he has a butler with peculiar talents watching over him and the people that killed you seem content to leave him be…for now."

Undertaker sighed. “And yes, maybe I should have let you go; but I couldn’t.”

~Because I’m a selfish old bastard that got tired of watching every pleasure in life slip away. You were the final straw, Vincent…and now you don’t even seem to know who I am.~

The former Earl sighed and cradled his head. Three years. He’d been dead for three years, and it had felt like nothing to him. it felt like it had only been seconds, yet, at the same time, it felt like it had been eternity.

“…How old is my son? Would he recognize me if he saw me? Would it be safe for me to see him?”

"He’s just recently turned thirteen," answered the mortician, "and yes, he’d recognize you if he saw you—which is why I don’t recommend you reveal yourself right away. Aside from some scarring from your incident and the blue in your eyes, you look the same as you did when he last saw you. It might be better if…if…"

He frowned. “Bollocks. I’d forgotten.”

He’d told Ciel what he planned to do with Vincent’s locket. He’d been desperate, so close to his goal…desperate and careless…and it had been the only way he could fathom to get the locket without having to fight the boy’s butler and take it from him by force. Undertaker sighed. His old head wasn’t what it used to be. He knew he’d gotten worse since the attack on the Phantomhive manor—sunk deeper into the madness of great age and loss. He looked at his former lover—for he could no longer refer to him as such in a current tense, given his amnesia—and he dug through his garments for the pouch of snacks he kept on him. Sticking one into his mouth, he sucked on it thoughtfully the way some men would suck on a pipe.

"Hmm."

"If what? I stay hidden? Then what’s the point of bringing me back if I have to keep away from those who had me killed, and if I can’t see my own son? How am I to remember?" the proud Phantomhive crossed his arms and sat in silence on the floor. Everything he asked or could think to ask seemed to lead back to ‘why’. Why had he been brought back.

Undertaker bit into the cookie, chewed and swallowed before answering with a shake of his head. “Well no…that wouldn’t work all that well, now that I think of it. I…may have informed your son of my intentions to bring you back.”

When the resurrected noble raised an elegant brow at him, the mortician coughed. He’d never been very good at fibbing to Vincent. “Oh, all right…no need to ‘mean mug’ me.”

He stuffed the rest of his cookie into his mouth and mumbled around it almost bashfully. “I tolf ‘im. He knowfs.”

"Then why isn’t he here?" Vincent inquired, then frowned as a thought hit him. "…Is he upset with me for my death? That I left him alone?"

He was starting to feel a longing for the boy he couldn’t quite recall. He wanted to hold the boy and tell him it’d be alright…

Undertaker finished swallowing. “My lord, all children that lose their parents blame them in some way, I think…regardless of how they passed. Ciel is no different, for all his maturity. He isn’t here because I couldn’t have anyone distracting me from my work, and I gave him no guarantee it would be a success. He also has no idea where we are.”

The reaper thought on it, a small grin forming on his pale lips as an idea came to him. “I could tell him a fib…say the process was a failure. He needn’t know until you’re good and ready for him to, and you could watch over him from afar. I’d advise against meeting him in the presence of his butler anyhow. His connection with him is something we need to discuss…something you need to understand. Not to mention the fact that Dispatch authorities are likely going to be keeping an eye on him in case I try to contact him again, seeing as they’re after me.”

Undertaker hesitantly offered the pouch of treats to Vincent. “Biscuit?” He was fairly sure he’d corrected the flesh cravings so that Vincent could eat normal food, but eating seemed to be the furthest thing from the doll’s mind, right now.

"Half of what you’re saying makes no sense." Vincent complained. of course, his own resurrection made no sense either. He waved the offered treat away and looked back down at the tray he had dropped, studying his reflection. Not even his own face seemed real to him anymore.

"You need to take a few moments to gather your wits," said the mortician, "and then, we need to make our preparations to leave this place. It isn’t safe for us to remain here. Once we’re on the road, I’ll explain everything to you in greater detail and we can decide where to go from there."

The earl sighed and nodded, hugging his legs to his chest, “You have to promise to tell me everything. Promise you’ll help me remember.” he stated, looking up at the reaper, “Promise me you’ll let me choose what I do after I know the truth.”

Undertaker hesitated, torn by the fear that this man—whom he’d risked everything to bring back—might try to leave him and get himself killed all over again. The thought of that made his chest hurt, almost as badly as it had that terrible day that took him and Rachel from him.

"I intended to help you remember anyhow, but let’s make an agreement," he suggested softly, lowering his bright gaze. "Stay with me until you’ve recovered your memory of who you are, who your family is and who I am. At the very least, stay by my side until we know how much of those memories we can salvage. In return, I promise not to…interfere with whatever decision you come to, after that. If you still despise me for bringing you back into this world and want me gone from your side, then I will…honor that. I’ll go quietly into the night like a ghost and leave you to choose whether to exist in this world or depart from it, no matter how it pains me. I know that I owe you at least that much, love."

His eyes were burning again, and he turned away for fear that he might start weeping. He didn’t want Vincent to see it…didn’t want to emotionally blackmail him. He’d become a pitiful reaper, indeed. It made no difference how much he declared his love to him. He had done him an evil that he could not easily undo, and his love meant nothing to the Earl right now.

Vincent swallowed, “I won’t make such an agreement until after I know the situation and I understand it. However, I’ll agree to make my decision with a level head, and not let my emotions run away with me. I’ll stay until I know that It is what I choose, and not that I am simply upset with you.” he glanced up at Undertaker, “Would that suffice?”

Undertaker thought on it. What more could he offer? What more could he expect? He finally gave the Earl a painful, slow nod. “As you wish, my lord.”

Vincent nodded and sighed, “…Can you help me up off the floor? I’m not down here by my choosing. It seems…three years out of my body is a bit much.”

"Yes, of course."

Undertaker put his arms around his ex and he helped him up to his feet. There was one problem though; he couldn’t seem to let go of him. Feeling Vincent’s embrace again—even just for this simple purpose—had him drowning in nostalgia. He hugged him tighter, rubbing his cheek against the Earl’s. He smelled good. He smelled…well…like Vincent. Like “home”. It was an odd concept to the ancient reaper; one that he’d never completely understood before Vincent Phantomhive became his lover. He didn’t want to let him go, and he wondered if the embrace at least felt familiar to him.

It did. The actions of the reaper sent a spark of familiarity through the former human, filling him with the urge to pull himself closer to the man, though he didn’t quite understand why he felt such a way. It could have been because it had been so long since he had felt the touch of another. It was comforting, and he didn’t want it to end.

He closed his eyes, savoring the contact, breathing in a deep breath; and with it, Undertaker’s scent. The mortician went still with surprise for a moment, having braced himself for rejection. He began to stroke the other man’s back with slow, soothing motions, wary of spooking him off. It felt like Christmas, and this was the gift to end all gifts for him. He almost wish he had a piece of coal to shove down Vincent’s trousers, just to see if it would ring a bell and bring back more memories for him.

"I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed this," murmured the ancient. "Just speaking with you and holding you, and having you do the same in return…it’s like a dream, love. I’d rather stay asleep forever, if it is."

"…You missed this…" Vincent muttered, shifting against the reaper, "…What am I to you? You act so familiar…but then you pull away and act as if its just a job to bring me back…which is it?"

"It’s complicated," sighed the reaper. "Well, not really. It’s only complicated because of the station you once had and my position in your life…as well as what I am. You were an Earl following the Queen’s orders, hunting down criminals and solving cases presented to you by Her Majesty. I was your family informant, and eventually, you and I became lovers. Your wife was aware of the truth of our relationship behind closed doors, but we kept it a secret from the rest of the world. Rachel was fine with it too, bless her sweet heart. She once confessed to me that at least she knew whose bed you were in when you were not in her own, and unlike other noblemen’s wives, she would never have to worry about you siring bastards all over Europe."

Undertaker grinned at the memories. “I recall telling her that we kept trying for a baby but it simply wasn’t working.” The mortician chuckled nostalgically, and he imitated Rachel’s gentle, breathy voice. “’Oh, you silly mortician. Whatever shall we do with you? As a student of anatomy, you know very well that two men cannot make babies together.’”

The mortician sighed. “I do miss her, your wife. She was a good egg.”

Vincent stayed silent a moment, letting the words sink in. They didn’t feel wrong or deceitful. They felt right, and seemed to help sooth his unsettled soul. They helped him relax a little bit more, and helped him know he could trust this man.

“I still can’t remember your name…You have given me my name, my son’s, my late wife’s…but not yours.”

"Oh, silly me," chuckled the reaper. "Well, you’ve always known me as the Undertaker, but I did go by another name once…quite long ago. I had all but forgotten it and I never shared it with you before, but I think it’s long past time for me to do so. Khronos; that was the name they once called me. My, that sounds odd on my lips. It’s only the second time I’ve spoken it aloud for over fifty years."

"Just how old are you?" Vincent asked, surprised by the ‘fifty years’ comment. The man didn’t look all that old at all, save the color of his hair. "And…you are telling me, I was having an affair with a man I didn’t even know his name?"

"Old as balls…and I wouldn’t really call what we had together an ‘affair’," corrected the mortician. "That would imply something illicit one does behind the back of an unsuspecting spouse. No, Rachel knew about us and gave us her blessing, odd as that may sound. As for the name…well…"

He shrugged helplessly. “You knew my name. You just didn’t know the name I had before we met. If I’d thought it was important back then, I would have shared it with you…but I’ve been the Undertaker for a good spell now and I never really considered asking you to call me anything else. You had a slew of pet names for me, too, but I never went around answering to ‘sexy-boots’ for anyone else.”

Vincent felt his cheeks heat as a hue of red colored them, his mouth hung open slightly, his lip twitching as he searched for his words and hoping whatever came out was intelligent.

“Why on Earth would I call you ‘Sexy Boots’?”

Undertaker smirked, seeing more of the Vincent he remembered coming out in the doll. “That would be because of these.” He grabbed a handful of his long black garments and tugged them up to expose his buckle-laden, thigh-high boots to view. Vincent’s gaze fixated on them and the reaper could see that familiar expression of fascination spreading over his handsome features.

"You had a bit of a thing for my boots," reminded the mortician, holding back a snicker. "Seems you still might."

"My lack of memories don’t change who I am…it just means I need to remember things." Vincent pointed out, looking back up at him, "And that it’d take time for me to be able to fall back into my life—or a life… Whether or not I call you ‘Sexy Boots’ is debatable."

"Believe it or not, you had a fairly wicked sense of humor yourself," said the mortician, "though I confess you were a bit in your cups the one time you called me ‘Sexy Boots’. I’m not sure you would recall it even if you weren’t suffering a form of amnesia right now."

He sighed and sobered a bit, dropping his robes and combing his bangs back out of his eyes to look at Vincent again. “Do you feel you might be ready to load up and be on our way? I’d prefer to get gone before sunrise. Our host and his dinner guests won’t sleep forever.”

Vincent nodded, “Though it makes me wonder why we have to leave without bidding this ‘host’ a good evening. You have much to explain to me, Undertaker.” He knew he’d been given another name to call the reaper, but ‘Undertaker’ seemed more natural to him.

"Because our host would recognize you if he saw you," explained the mortician, "and though he’s proven a useful and amusing ally, Druitt likes to talk…a lot. I’d rather not take the chance of him or any of his guests putting the word out that the Queen’s Watchdog is back from the dead. Trust me, darlin’, it’s better that we leave quietly in the night. I’ll answer more of your questions while we’re on the road."

Vincent nodded, “Where will we be going?” he asked, “If I was as well known as it seems I was, I imagine there are not many places we could go unless I stay locked up out of view.”

"Out into the country," answered the mortician. "Into the forest, in fact…near the moors. It’s not terribly far from London…or the Phantomhive Estate, for that matter. I thought you wouldn’t want to go too far from your son, so I set up a place in between. The paths are overgrown enough that nobody’s likely to come poking around, and I’ve got some tricks in place to hide our little cottage from anyone that doesn’t already know where it is."

He probably could have conducted his work there if he wanted, rather than live in Viscount Druitt’s basement. He chose not to though. The thought of having his Earl living in a place where he’d raised the dead in order to find the key to his resurrection put a sour taste in his mouth. Besides, the Viscount funded the entire operation. It might have taken him years longer to achieve this, without that financial aid.

The former watchdog nodded, “I’m sure…once I remember more of my son I’d want to stay closer to him…and see him again. I already do, to be honest…he may help me remember.”

Undertaker nodded, though he had reservations about reuniting Vincent with his son too soon. “First, I need to explain some things to you about your son’s current situation and what you can expect when you see him. As I said before; I wouldn’t advise you to approach him in person right away, Vincent. If not for you own sake, than for the boy’s. I’m sure seeing you alive again would brighten his gloomy days, but if he sees no recognition in your eyes when you look at him…well, that’s a cruel thing to do to a child…even one as resilient as Ciel.”

The reaper patted his former lover on the arm a bit awkwardly. It was strange, not knowing how to interact with this man. It seemed like such a short time ago when he could just embrace him or kiss him at will in private. His body wanted him to do those things, but his mind cautioned him against it. He was vaguely surprised that his mind still retained enough common sense to do so.

"Well, you just rest for a moment while I take our things to the carriage and get it ready to go, love. I know your legs must be on the shaky side and I wouldn’t want you to have a nasty fall. Your strength will come back once your muscles get used to being used again."

"…Three years…" Vincent nodded, looking down at his scarred hand—the proof that he’d foolishly had tried to stop a bullet with it discoloring the skin. It was amazing that it was a scar at all. a dead body doesn’t heal wounds. The Undertaker must have done something to let his skin heal over. It wasn’t surprising as the reaper had brought him back from the dead. Not just that—but brought him back in his own body.

He waited silently as Undertaker gathered his things he wished to take with him and hurried them to the carriage. His own thoughts starting to wander and search for the memories locked away somewhere within his mind.

However, too much deep thought seemed to irritate his head, resulting in a headache, so he chose to wait until he was a little more used to having a body again.


 

After loading up the carriage and sneaking Vincent quietly out of the manor and into it, Undertaker jumped in the driver’s seat and snapped the reins. It wasn’t the most luxurious ride in the world; it was actually his wagon, and it was pulled by a donkey. The obnoxious he-hawing of the animal would have surely woken up anyone in a natural slumber, but the viscount and his guests remained thoroughly konked out.

"Sun’s going to come up before we reach our destination," predicted the mortician over his shoulder. He’d piled some blankets into the back to cushion his passenger a bit for the ride, and he had a tarp laid out over the top of it to protect from rain. There were clouds moving in from the east, and he could hear the distant rumble of thunder on the horizon. "So be sure to stay covered up. Sorry about the smell, love…and the bumpy ride. I use this cart to transport apothecary goods. I could have nicked one of the viscount’s fancy coaches, but that would have just caused trouble."

He was vaguely thankful that Vincent didn’t yet recall enough of his old life to remember he never would have ridden in such a rickety piece of driftwood. At least, he hoped so.

"Why didn’t you awaken me during the day? Surely it would have been better if we didn’t end up sleeping through the day." Vincent yawned, pulling one blanket up and around himself, "For a dead man, I’m very tired…"

"Because for one, I wasn’t sure how sensitive your eyes would be to daylight," explained the reaper. "For another, I couldn’t very well sneak you out of there in broad daylight, while everyone was up and about. Well, I might have, but given the viscount takes appointments all day long, someone was bound to come by and wonder why the master of the estate and his help were all passed out."

Undertaker clicked the reins again to make the donkey move faster. “Go ahead and rest a bit if you need to, my lord. It will take a bit of time for your strength to come back, and you haven’t eaten anything yet. I’ll stop once we’re off the main road and you can try having a nibble.”

"The late evening, then." Vincent shrugged, shifting himself and closing his tired eyes, only to open them again, "…Aren’t you afraid I won’t wake up again if I fall asleep?"

"Not particularly," answered the mortician with confidence. "Trust me, Vincent; I researched and tested the procedure I used to bring you back extensively, before going through with it on you. I spared no expense or effort to ensure I would get as close to perfection as possible. The only thing that didn’t turn out as expected is your loss of memory; but I think that’s due to the damage your brain sustained from the shot that killed you. You’ve been frozen in time since I found you and took you out of that mansion. I’ve got every reason to believe that the damage will heal over time, and you’ll regain access to those parts of your records that are blocked to you right now."

Styx, but he hoped so. He could give Vincent a more thorough examination when they reached their destination and perform some tests, but thus far the memory loss seemed to be the only sign of diminished facilities. His reflexes seemed good enough, his speech was clear and concise, and he was demonstrating that fine Phantomhive logic that made his family such excellent tacticians. Aside from the memory loss and the muscle weakness—the latter of which was perfectly normal in his situation—Vincent wasn’t demonstrating any signs of deterioration. 

Vincent nodded and closed his eyes again, “Then I’ll let myself rest.” he yawned once more and shifted his arm under his head to use as a pillow, “I’ll trust your judgment…”

Though he made a mental note to question the reaper further on the matter of his ‘testing’.


 

"This is maddening," complained William with a sigh. He rubbed his forehead and he checked his watch. Ronald had woken up again—he’d allowed  him to sleep without interruption—and the blond was pouring over secondary reports while William read over and filed away the primary ones. There had apparently been sightings of a man matching the Undertaker’s description, driving a broken-down cart along the outskirts of London. Agents sent to investigate turned up empty-handed, however.

"The trail couldn’t just…vanish." William put down the document he was reading over and he tapped his pen against his chin, frowning. "But perhaps it could. Undertaker is a sly one, and his tricks seem boundless."

He read over the latest report again and he shook his head. Fog. How could fog possibly deter Shinigami agents? When they’d followed the trail to the alleged sighting, they’d run into a thick wall of it…so dense they couldn’t even see the road.

William curled his hands into his immaculately groomed hair, inadvertently mussing it in his frustration. “How does he do it?”

"By being an old slippery bugger…" Ronald muttered, flipping through his own pile of papers. "I wonder though… Has anyone checked with that Viscount he had been working with on the ship? I haven’t come across any mention of him and I know he didn’t drown or anything… maybe we should look into that guy?" He set down the papers in his hand and looked up at William, "Make sure he hasn’t been in contact with the Undertaker since the ship."

"Recent reports from the Yard state that there hasn’t been any odd activity from him, nor have their been any reports of a gentleman fitting the Undertaker’s description associating with him." William sighed again. "Having said that, I think I agree with you. We should send our own agents to investigate the Druitt estate—if for no other reason than to be thorough. Human law enforcement cannot be counted on for our purposes."

On that note, he picked up his office phone and dialed the number for Personnel. “Hello, this is Dispatch Supervisor William T. Spears. I would like to send agents to the following address…but instruct them to dress as investigators of the Yard so as not to rouse suspicions. Yes? Hmm…I think this should be a mild enough assignment for Mr. Slingby and his partner, Mr. Humphries. Yes…understood. If that is the case, send Mr. Sutcliff, instead.”

He winced even as he suggested Grell…but overall, the redhead was a seasoned agent and he did on occasion demonstrate enough self-restraint to get the job done properly. “Inform me at once when you have confirmation. Thank you.”

He hung up the phone and he looked at Ronald, spreading his hands gracefully. “I think this is the best we can hope to accomplish, at this point.”

"Better to double check rather than to miss out on a lead." Ron nodded, "Too bad we didn’t think of it sooner. Who knows, it could have saved us some time…then again, we may not have had such a nice coffee break." he smirked, teasingly as he reclined on the sofa and propped his feet up on the table.

William shared his smirk. “It was a nice coffee break, indeed.”

And he intended to replicate it again at his earliest convenience. Right now though, he needed to concentrate on the investigation at hand.

"I’m glad you agree." The youthful reaper smiled, picking back up his current stack of papers, tucking his pen behind his ear so he could stay in his comfortable position. "We’ll do it again sometime, then." he added with a sly wink.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Undertaker hopped down from the driver’s seat and pulled the tarp up. Vincent appeared to be sleeping peacefully, curled up in the blankets with his cheek pillowed on his hands. For a moment, the reaper just watched him with a nostalgic, aching little smile. It amazed him as much now as it did before, seeing a grown man look so blasted innocent. He was loathe to wake him, but the rumble of thunder was picking up again, along with the wind. They’d passed through a brief shower during the trip, but by the looks of it they were in for a lot worse, very soon.

"Vincent," called the mortician, hopping lightly into the back of the wagon. He squatted down to gently shake his shoulder to wake him. Out of sheer precaution, he also placed two fingers against his neck to be sure he still had a pulse. He breathed a sigh of relief when he felt it, steady and strong. "Wake up, love. We’ve arrived. Sorry to say it’s not much to look at, but it’s sturdy enough and I recently tidied up."

Vincent gave a low moan, fighting to stay asleep. It was amazing how tired he felt, even after sleeping most of the trip. But he rolled over and blinked his eyes open to look up at the reaper. He sucked in a breath and rubbed his eyes. “Already?” He sat himself up, his shoulder brushing against Undertaker’s cheek. “I’m not ready to get up, yet…”

The mortician grinned at him and lightly smacked his cheeks to startle the sleep out of him. “Don’t be a brat, Vincent…or you’ll get two lumps of coal for Christmas this year, rather than one. You can crawl into your bed once we’re inside and go right back to sleep…but I’ll need to wake you up for breakfast in the morning. You need sustenance, if you’re to regain your strength. Don’t worry; I remember just how you like your eggs.”

He offered a long, pale hand to him and he nodded at the foreboding little cottage in the fog. “Home sweet home, for now. I’ll give you the grand tour—which will amount to all of five minutes, I’m afraid.”

"Coal?" Vincent frowned, wondering why that had made his cheeks heat. obviously it held some significant memory that he couldn’t quite recall.

He took his hand and let the man pull him up into his arms, “I could eat after I wake up, later.” he pointed out, looking over at the cottage—and hoping it looked a little more welcoming on the inside.

"Just so you get fed," agreed the Undertaker with a nod. He helped the weakened noble down from the cart, keeping a supportive arm around him as he guided him through the tangle of undergrowth to the steps of the hovel. He nearly scooped him up and carried him, but Vincent was a proud sort and he didn’t want to insult his pride more than he already had.

"So, you don’t recall the coal yet, eh?" Undertaker smirked. "Watch your step, my lord."

"Not…quite. I get the feeling that you are referencing something important, But I can’t recall it." Vincent admitted, watching his feet as he walked, helped by the reaper. he lifted his leg to step up onto the low steps. "I dreamed about a little boy with bright blue eyes, though…and a big smile."

Undertaker nodded and dug out his keys to unlock the front door, going more by feel than by sight. “That would be your son Ciel. Sadly the boy has little to smile about these days, but I recall when they used to come easily to him.”

He left off supporting his companion long enough to get the door unlocked and opened, and then he put an arm around his waist again as he put away his keys. “Sorry for the lack of electricity. There’s no service running in these parts, so candles and oil lanterns will have to do.”

He waved his hand and with a push of will, he ignited the hearth, the oil lamps and the wall sconces. The warm glow of flickering light illuminated the interior of the building, and he again hoped it would suffice. It was a simple layout. The small kitchen and dining area wasn’t closed off from the sitting room, and the short hallway in the back led to the only two other rooms in the shack—a bedroom and a bathroom. There was a worn but comfy sofa in front of the hearth, and a rocking chair in the corner of the room by the window. A bookshelf against the other corner of the room housed a selection of reading material, and he had his medical volumes in the wagon to add to that. Sparse of furnishings, he had only supplied the place with the basic comforts. He’d put down some rugs to add a more homey feeling and provide some insulation for the wooden floors, but it did precious little to improve the appearance of the place.

Undertaker looked sidelong at his companion, hoping it would suffice. While Vincent had never been a snooty fellow, he’d lived his entire life in spacious luxury. Even the servant’s quarters at the Phantomhive estate were more luxurious than this.

"Plumbing works," he explained as he guided Vincent across the creaky wooden floors. "It’s well water, of course, but we do have running water and the loo flushes into the local sewer system. I was a bit surprised to find there was a sewer system out here, but like I said, we aren’t all that far from the more populated areas.”

He was babbling, but he couldn’t seem to help it. The reaper pushed open the doors to both the bedroom and the bathroom. “Basin’s a bit cracked, but it functions. The tub’s nice and deep, so you can enjoy a good soak tomorrow if you like. Here’s your bedroom, love.”

He helped Vincent through the door and he stood there with quiet anticipation, tempted to wring his hands. He’d put more effort into the bedroom than anything else; squirreling away extra currency specifically so that he could make at least this room nice for his lover. There was a divan by the window for relaxing with a book, an oaken wardrobe and a four-poster queen-sized bed with brand new pillows, sheets and a comforter. This room also had a small iron fireplace in the corner of it, to keep it warm during cold nights. He’d gone through the trouble of hanging a few pictures he’d salvaged from the Phantomhive estate…small ones of Vincent’s family and a couple of landscape paintings.

Vincent went through the tour of the small cottage in silence, his swirled eyes taking in each of the furnishings. But he could tell that the reaper had put special care into this room.

It was warmer than the rest, and newer—less gloomy. His eyes took in the soft bed and the decor before looking at Undertaker—the man who had done all this just for him so he’d have a nice place to sleep once he awoke from the dead.

The thought made his heart seem to skip a beat.

Undertaker helped him further into the room, walking him around to get a proper look once the oil lamps were lit. Old photographs, some with obvious fire damage, hung on the walls, the smiling boy’s face from his dream staring back at him. he reached out, touching the photograph of a two-year-old Ciel playing with a stuffed bear and rabbit. The frame next to it held the image of a beautiful blond woman in a wedding gown. Her image tugged at his heart as well

Vincent closed his eyes, feeling like his heart was mourning, even if his mind was struggling to remember.

“…There’s only one bed?” he asked, changing the subject so he didn’t have to focus on the pain in his heart.

"I’ve got my coffin in the back of the wagon," explained the mortician. He hadn’t been expecting Vincent to want to bed down with him anyway, even without the memory loss. "I’ll bring it in and set it up against the wall by the front door, tomorrow. I can take the sofa tonight. This is your room, Vincent."

He impulsively reached out to gently stroke the Earl’s hair, unable to resist.

"A…coffin?" Vincent asked, raising an eyebrow, "For sleeping in? Wouldn’t that better suit someone who has actually died?" He joked, lowering himself onto the edge of the bed and moving to remove the shoes on his feet.

Undertaker smiled at him. “You used to make ‘casket creeper’ jokes at my expense all the time, love. Still, unless I was sleeping with you I always preferred the coffin. Odd as it may seem, I find it comforting and secure. I think I first started to sleep in one out of curiosity. Yes, that was it; I wondered if the dead slept well.”

He scratched his head when the Earl looked at him with raised eyebrows, and he shrugged. “I never said my logic made sense.”

"…You brought me back fro the dead—of course your logic leaves something to be questioned."

The Earl removed the outer layers of his clothes (Having been raised in what he assumed were the clothes he should have been buried in), Laying them out on the edge of the bed and staying only in his slacks. It’d be more comfortable to sleep in less layers, after all.

“Are you going to make me eat, or can I return to bed?” he asked, looking up at Undertaker, unable to stop a smirk at the look on the reaper’s face from seeing his bare torso.

Undertaker couldn’t stop his gaze from caressing Vincent’s bared upper body and it took him a moment to comprehend his question. “Eh? Oh! Right…food. We’ve still got a bit over three hours to sunrise, so I’ll leave you to rest until morning. Like I said: I still remember how you like your eggs.”

He smiled at him and on old impulses, he started to bend over to kiss him goodnight. He stopped himself when his lips were barely an inch away from the doll’s, his eyes meeting Vincent’s mildly startled ones.

"Ah, old habits," excused the reaper with some embarrassment. He straightened up hastily and went to the door, pausing at the threshold to mumble goodnight to him. With a wave of his hand, he extinguished all of the lanterns and candles in the room and exited, shutting the door behind him.

"Keep what’s left of your head," he whispered to himself once he was in the narrow hallway. Vincent needed time to recall who he was before he conducted such boldness with him. It was bloody hard though, because he was quite used to being able to touch him, kiss him and speak suggestive words with him in private.

With a shake of his head, the reaper went to the tiny linen closet to collect some bedding for the couch. He’d set it up for the night and worry about getting their other things inside first. He could leave the coffin covered with the tarp ‘till morning and it would be just fine.


 

Vincent hadn’t had a difficult time falling back to sleep. Though he seemed to have problems getting a good night’s sleep. Despite the warm, comfortable bed, the earl began to toss and turn in his slumber, awakening himself multiple times within that first hour alone.

Upon the fifth time finding himself jolting awake, Vincent lay in his bed, wondering why he couldn’t get to sleep, even though his body and mind longed for the rest.

But then the answer seemed to come to his sleepy mind. or at least an idea of an answer.

The Undertaker’s face supporting that sad, lonely look he’d given just before leaving the bedroom. It didn’t sit right with him. He shivered, the bed suddenly feeling just as cold and lonely as Undertaker had seemed.

Still technically half asleep, Vincent slipped out of the covers of his bed, and he used the walls for support as he slowly stumbled his way to the door and down the short hall to the main room where Undertaker was fast asleep on the couch. Falling and shuffling across the floor, he reached the couch and slipped up onto it, snuggling down atop Undertaker’s chest and finally falling peacefully back to sleep.


 

When the Undertaker awoke a few hours later, he was puzzled. He felt the weight of a body lying atop his and in his sleepy confusion, he couldn’t fathom why that was. He pushed his bangs out of his eyes clumsily and he lifted his head off the pillow to look down curiously. He actually smelled Vincent’s scent before he saw him, and he froze. The Earl was sprawled on top of him with one hand curled around the single braid he wore in his long tresses, seeming blissfully unaware of his surroundings.

"Oh my," whispered the mortician, cautiously dropping a hand over Vincent’s blue-black hair to stroke it gently. "Did you seek me out in the night, love?"

Apparently so. Undertaker had no recollection of his lover joining him on the couch, but somehow Vincent ended up there. An interesting conflict of pain and warmth stole through the reaper, and those damnable tears blurred his vision again. He’d never loved anything the way he loved Vincent. Whether he’d done it of his own volition or in his sleep, the fact that he’d come to him this way gave the reaper hope that he might just come to forgive him, some day.

Wary of waking him up, Undertaker lay still beneath him for a while, taking the simple pleasure of his contact and stroking his hair with gentle, loving motions. “Dear gods, I’ve missed you,” he murmured unthinkingly, unable to withhold the soft declaration.

Vincent remained in a peaceful sleep for another fifteen minutes before he began to stir; yawning as he shifted atop Undertaker and rubbing his eyes. Again, he felt confused as to what waking up was. His very soul still telling him he should be dead and that this shouldn’t be possible. But unlike the night before, his mind could remember more than just darkness. He remembered what had been done to him.

However, he didn’t remember leaving his bed in favor for a small couch and a god of death with long silver hair which had gotten tangled around his arm. He frowned, wondering how he got there as he pushed himself up enough to gaze down at the reaper.

Undertaker had dozed off again, his lips parted and slack as his sleepy mind wandered through memories he wish he would just as soon forget. He twitched unconsciously as he relived those awful moments when he found both of his beloved mortals slain and their only son missing.

"N-no," he groaned. He remembered touching Vincent, remembered how his head had flopped limply to the side as he tried to rouse him. "Vincent…please don’t be gone…"

Vincent’s frowned deepened, and he touched the reaper’s cheek with his fingers, “Undertaker? —Undertaker, wake up! I’m not gone. I’m right here.” he tried to comfort him. When he didn’t get any real response other than Undertaker’s sleepy, worried mumblings, he gave the man a firm swat on the cheek. Not hard, but enough to snap the man out of his dreams.

The reaper’s eyes snapped open and he sat up with a gasp, nearly unseating the resurrected Earl sitting atop him. He caught him around the waist before he could tumble and he embraced him tightly, still half-asleep and caught in the memories.

"Vincent," he murmured against his bare chest, squeezing him tightly. "Love…I’m sorry…so sorry."

He’d forgotten where he was and what he’d done for a moment. He thought he was holding a memory…a ghost from his past, and he marveled at how real he felt to him. He rubbed his cheek against the warm, smooth chest and he kissed it feverishly.

"Tried," he choked. "I tried to make it…tried to save you and Rachel…"

"…I know…I know you tried." Vincent soothed in a soft voice, "I know you did what you could." he allowed himself to slip his arms around the reaper, returning the embrace. "I’m not sure what to think of what you did after, but I know you tried to save us. I trust that you did."

He was almost tempted to press their lips together, but he held back from doing so. He wanted to remember more before committing himself to this new life.

Undertaker came back to full awareness as his companion tried to comfort him, and he felt distinctly embarrassed. He tilted his head back and looked up at him with his mouth parted stupidly, his tears drying on his face. A section of his bangs covered his left eye, but the right was un-concealed as he stared at the Earl.

"I…was lost in dreams," he murmured almost bashfully. He removed one arm from around Vincent’s waist to wipe his eyes. "Sorry love…forgot where I was for a moment. I didn’t mean to fuss like a scared child."

"It really hurt you, didn’t it? When I died…" The earl cupped the man’s face in his hands, "It must be killing you that I don’t have all my memories of you; only what you have told me."

He slid his fingers up, sweeping Undertaker’s fringe out of his face, “I’m sorry. I remember trying to stop it from happening…”

Undertaker tried to avoid being morose, but his smile trembled on his lips and gave him away. “I saw. You were very brave, my lord. Yes, it…hurt me, when you died. I knew from the beginning what I was in for when our relationship progressed the way it did, but at the time I didn’t care. I knew you’d eventually be taken from me, and I thought I could accept that.”

He lowered his eyes and smirked ruefully. “Shows what I know, eh?”

"I was obviously still young…I didn’t get the chance to grow old. Our time together was cut short—no one can blame you for not being ready for it." Vincent said, feeling the urge to comfort the reaper. "I was special to you…and maybe one day you’ll be special to me again if I remember —even if I don’t…we could rebuild what we had in a way, maybe."

Undertaker looked at him uncertainly. “You’d really want to rebuild something with me after what I did?”

His mind went to Vincent’s reaction when he woke up, and he felt a bit queasy. He’d been so sure in that moment that his love would never forgive him, yet here he was suggesting the possibility of mending their relationship. “Is this because you pity me, darlin’?”

"I didn’t say it was a for-sure thing. I am still unsure of who I even am. But anything’s possible… You even brought me back from death. If that’s not proof enough, I don’t know what is. And it’s obvious you did it out of love, so…" he trailed off and looked down at the floor, "…I can’t seem to stay upset over being alive again."

Undertaker caressed his face, grateful beyond measure that he had retained his generous, forgiving nature. “Then I’ll have to do my best to court you with grace and give a good impression.”

His gaze softened on the Earl, and the desire to kiss him was back and stronger than ever. “Vincent…” He didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to ask for something he’d always just taken before. Once, he was much more confident with his seductive capabilities. Things had changed, though. Back then, he hadn’t done an evil such as this to the young man. Confidence came easy when one knew for certain his advances would be welcome.

The reaper sighed and threw caution into the wind, leaning in to kiss him softly on the lips. He didn’t linger…didn’t want to press his luck. He drew back with an almost shy smile. “I don’t know if that felt familiar to you at all, and I won’t hold it against me if you strike me for it. It just…had to be done.”

Vincent blinked, “…It was so quick I didn’t know it happened until it was over…” he muttered, looking at the reaper, “But you should probably hold off on that until I know it’s what I want or not… I want to know for sure that it’s my choice and not my acting on the emotions I can’t understand because I can’t remember where I got them.”

He stood up on shaky legs, grabbing the couch for balance. “…Lets have Breakfast… Do I know how to cook?”

"My apologies for that, love," sighed the reaper. "I’ve always been an impulsive creature—a thing which you teased me about endlessly. I’ll try not to let my desires get the better of me again. It’s just been…so long since I’ve felt your lips against mine…ah, mercy…ignore the pained ramblings of an old fool."

He grinned at him, forcing cheer he didn’t really feel. “To answer your question about cooking, I’m afraid you’d probably burn down our kitchen. You were a noble, my dear. Your meals tended to be prepared by your house staff. I, however, am a damned good chef if I do say so—particularly when it comes to baking. I’ll make us a nice Shepard’s Pie for dinner later on, but for now I think eggs and toast is on the menu…or would you prefer French toast? I can make that too and you always seemed to enjoy it.”

"Then please make that. It may help me to remember—having favorite foods…" he suggested, trying to gain his balance enough to walk on his own. He didn’t want to have to rely on Undertaker to get around. But…he had gotten out to the main room somehow last night…and he had his doubts that Undertaker had moved him. He vaguely remembered stumbling out of bed with a lonely feeling…

Undertaker avoided reminding him that Vincent was the one that sought out him in the night, figuring he was probably already mortified about waking up on top of him. He could tease him about that another time, when the Earl felt more familiar with him. He shouldn’t have kissed him like that, regardless of the moment they’d shared. Of all the people in the world, Vincent Phantomhive was the last he’d ever want to take advantage of. He’d always respected him, though his actions in the past might not have always reflected that.

"I’ll get started on our breakfast right away," promised the mortician. "French toast it is. Why don’t you browse the trunk I put in the bedroom and select a change of clothes that suits your fancy? I could heat some water in the kettle over the hearth so we can draw you a nice, hot bath if you like."

Vincent nodded, “Thank you, That’d be nice…” He figured he probably hadn’t bathed since he had been alive. Not that his body would have been running around and working up a sweat or getting dirty. But being freshly cleaned, he may feel better.

He took a deep breath and ventured away from the couch, teetering on his feet like a child just learning to walk. But he managed to get to his bedroom door without falling and making a complete fool of himself.

Undertaker watched him for a moment, before going over to the hearth and starting up a fire to heat up the water in the kettle hanging over it. He wished he could offer more luxury to the Earl, but at least he could say he’d made up a nice bedroom for him. He was again mildly thankful that Vincent currently could not recall how he was used to living. Perhaps by the time he did, he would be so used to this frugal lifestyle that it wouldn’t matter so much to him.

With a little sigh, the Undertaker went to the kitchen to begin preparing breakfast. The least he could do was keep him fed well.

After opening the chest and shifting through the clothes at his disposal, Vincent chose a simple button-down shirt, simple brown slacks, and a matching brown vest. Gathering them in his arms, he moved slowly across to the bathroom, setting his clothes aside with a towel to dry himself with.

He waited for Undertaker to bring the hot water, not trusting himself to walk steadily while carrying hot water.

A few moments later, the mortician came in carrying the heavy iron kettle. He advised Vincent to step back while he poured it into the tub, and then he left to heat up another batch. “It’s going to take a few trips, I’m afraid,” he said over his shoulder, “but I think round about four ought to give you enough heated water to fill the rest up with cold to balance it out nicely.”

The earl nodded and sat on a stool to wait for his bath. Once it had been filled and Undertaker left again to finish breakfast.

Vincent stood up and stripped out of his remaining clothes before slipping into the warm bath and relaxing. Ohh, it felt good. The heat soothing his stiff muscles. He closed his eyes, enjoying the feel for a good, long moment before grabbing the soap and running it over his skin. Taking care with the stitches across his forehead and under his hairline. Once he got soaped up, he ducked under the water to rinse off, pushing his hair back out of his face when he reemerged.

The water was starting to cool, and so Vincent climbed out, his legs able to support him better as he toweled off and dressed himself. Walking more normally, he made his way to the kitchen; the smell of food making his stomach rumble.

Undertaker heard his approach and he turned and smiled at him. “Well now, don’t you feel better? You look like it.” He scooped up the toast frying in the pan and he served it up on a couple of chipped plates.

"Yes, Thank you." Vincent nodded, sitting down at the table. "I feel much better, And it’s easier to move around on my own."

"Excellent," approved the reaper. He gestured at the small table. "Have a seat, love. Breakfast is ready and I’m sure you’re quite hungry."

He poured some tea for them, lacking fresh juice at the moment to go with the meal. “I hope that hot tea is all right by you. I’ve got some milk in the little cold storage out back if you would prefer a glass of that.”

"I am sitting already." Vincent said, almost teasingly. "And Tea should be fine, I think." he reached over, pulling out the second chair for the reaper, "Join me for breakfast."

An uncommon blush stole over the Undertaker’s pale cheeks. He’d been so distracted plating up breakfast that it hadn’t occurred to him that the blurred figure of his guest was already seated. “Ah, right. Sorry about that, m’dear. Between my nearsighted-ness and the hair in my eyes, I suppose I didn’t notice.”

Still blushing, he brought Vincent his plate and beaker of tea before retrieving his own and taking a seat across from him. He took three cubes of sugar from the cracked little container in the center of the table, dropping them into his tea one at a time. “So,” he said as he stirred the drink and tapped the spoon, setting it down beside his plate, “perhaps today I can answer more questions for you about your family, and about myself, if you’re curious. I’ll be happy to tell you anything you’d like to know.”

"Well," Vincent said, cutting his French toast with his fork and knife, "Why not start with telling me why you don’t wear glasses if you can’t see well, let alone let your hair in your face." He set down his fork and got up, moving around the Undertaker, pulling his hair back out of his face and securing it back with some twine that had been sitting on the counter. "This would help you see better."

The reaper smirked, heart skipping a beat at the simple gesture. “I gave up my glasses years ago. When one of my kind does that, they’ve officially defected from service. I suppose to make you understand it completely, I’ll need to explain to you about reapers.”

As they ate, he did his best to explain who and what he really was. It felt like he was repeating history, and he fully expected Vincent to scoff at least a little. He recalled the first time he’d confessed his origins to him, and how disbelieving the Earl was until he manifested his death scythe and showed it to him. He rather hoped he wouldn’t have to do the same again today; Vincent had already absorbed a lot of information that would have most people ready for the asylum or accusing him of being the Father of Lies.

"…So why keep your hair in your eyes?" Vincent asked once Undertaker had finished and their meals had been eaten. "You brought me back from my grave," he reminded when Undertaker shot him a disbelieving look, "That should have been impossible for any ordinary person." He leaned back in his seat and looked up in thought, his chin resting on his hand, "I may have doubts about some things you tell me as I struggle to regain my memories. but I can not deny something as impossible as my rebirth into the world of the living. I imagine if anyone can make such a thing possible, it would be Death itself. So, if you are death…you could bring me back as you did."

"Hmm, this conversation went very differently the first time," murmured the reaper with a grin. "But I suppose after what you’ve been through already, you have better reason to believe me this time around. I keep my hair in my eyes because they’re rather conspicuous, and any human that sees them is going to ask questions. We Shinigami have two sets of irises rather than one, each set acting independently of the other. It’s what allows us to see and handle the cinematic records of the deceased, but the downside is that we’re all horribly nearsighted, as a result. Only Shinigami manufacturers know the secrets behind making the special glasses we require to correct our piss-poor vision."

"No one is here but you and I." He pointed out, "You can pull your hair back and not worry about raising questions…" he trailed off, remembering his own strange look in his eyes. the swirl of blue against the brown. He didn’t like the idea of having to hide them with his hair like Undertaker did…and he wondered how noticeable they would be to others.

"I’ll keep that in mind," said the reaper. He tilted his head inquisitively, noticing Vincent’s sudden disconcertment. "What’s the matter, love?"

"My eyes…" he looked up at Undertaker, "…Will I have to hide them as well?"

The Undertaker looked at him quietly for a moment, gazing into his altered eyes. “I would say not. The blue swirls make for an unusual color effect, but your irises are still as human in anatomy as an ordinary man’s. One might assume you’ve just got a very unique shade of hazel eyes.”

Personally he found the effect rather lovely. The warm brown color of Vincent’s gaze was still present. The blue swirls complimented the highlights in the Earl’s hair. He kept staring at him, his thoughts going back to the times he’d made those eyes light up with easy laughter…and other times when they’d smoldered with passion just for him.

"Good…I don’t want to have to walk around like a shaggy dog—ah, no offence intended, Undertaker." Vincent said, putting his hands up.

The mortician snickered in appreciation for the jest. “A shaggy dog, is it? Ruff!”

He stuck his tongue out and panted, lifting his hands like a dog begging for a treat.

"Yes, a dog. And stop that! No begging at the table!" the earl stated as if it was a perfectly normal thing to say.

Undertaker pretended to whine, and he got out of his seat to got over to the Earl and push his head against his hand like he was asking for a scratch behind the ears. He almost licked his hand but he thought better of it. “Ruff!”

His grin was stretching from ear to ear and he was fighting laughter the whole time.

"…You are the strangest man I believe I have ever known. Willing to act like a pup." Vincent pointed out, getting up to take his dishes to the sink.

Seeing that their brief little game was at an end, the reaper finally allowed himself a laugh, and he straightened up to his full height to help him. “Well, it got a smile out of you. I think that’s worth something.”

"A smile?" Vincent set his plate down in the sink and looked back at the reaper. "That’s right…you value smiles and laughter above all else…don’t you?" he asked as if remembering it on his own, "…A smile’s worth more than money…"

Undertaker smiled a bit wistfully at him, pausing in the process of gathering his own dinnerware for cleaning. “Indeed, but some things are even more valuable to me than laughter.”

He carried the plate and forks over and he gently shooed the Earl aside so that he could clean up. “I’ll take care of these, love.”

Vincent nodded. As a noble, he probably had never done chores of any sort, it made sense that Undertaker would automatically take care of them all. but it did leave him not knowing what to do, and wondering how Undertaker even put up with having a love who never did anything for himself. And he wasn’t really a noble anymore…the titles had been passed onto his son upon his death…maybe it was about time he started learning to help out around the cottage.

“What should I do, then?” he asked, watching as the reaper poured hot water into the plugged sink, added soap, and started to wash a plate.

"Hmm, why don’t you browse the bookshelf over there for a read?" Undertaker suggested. "I also picked up a chess table, if you’d like to play a game of that with me after I finish here. It’s not a fancy one like your old one, but it does the job. That covered side-table over there by the couch is actually a chess table. You’ll find the pieces inside the little drawers on the side."

It was important for Vincent to get back into old routines and do things that were familiar to him. It might jog his memory a bit and open more of them up to him. “Oh,” said the reaper upon sudden inspiration, “if you look in the bookshelf, I think you’ll find a copy of one of your old favorites: ‘Camilla’.”

The earl stood there a moment, debating on insisting that he help out with something more useful than reading for leisure or playing games. He didn’t even know if he’d be able to recall how to play chess. “You may have to teach me the rules if you are wanting to play games.” he said, turning and walking over to the bookshelf. he scanned over the titles on the spines of the books and selected the book that had been recommended before sitting down on the sofa.

"I’ll help you with the rules," promised the mortician.

He finished filling the sink and he began to scrub and rinse the dishes, putting them aside in the wooden drying rack. He took the short walk back into the living area and he smiled when he saw Vincent take a seat in the rocker, with the book he’d loved most back in the earlier years. Rather than disturb him, he selected a book of his own and he sat down on the sofa to read a bit as he waited for the freshly filled kettle to come to a boil.

After a few moments, he glanced over the top of his comedy book and he thought maybe they could share another of their traditions. “Would you like a nightcap, Vincent? Not right now, of course…the day has barely started. Tonight before bed.”

Vincent glanced up, “A nightcap? Why? Did I use them before? I was fine without one last night…” he trailed off, choosing not to mention that he was fine only after moving out onto the couch.

Undertaker chortled softly. “It seems you need a refresher on that, too.”

He put his book down and he scooted over a bit on the couch, to be a little closer to Vincent’s seat on the rocking chair. “We used to sit up all night talking, laughing and sometimes over-imbibing. Not often, mind. You were far too proper to allow yourself to become a drunkard but we had our times. I’m not offering to get you drunk, by the way. I’m just offering a little nip before bedtime and some relaxation. We weren’t always all over each other in those days, after all. The pleasure of your company was a delight in any form.”

"I see…" Vincent closed his book and perched it on his lap, "I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to try. Anything could trigger more memories, after all." he nodded.

He took a moment to study Undertaker’s face, “…I wish I could remember and make sense of everything. I wish I hadn’t been shot in the head…it seems my killer had taken more than just my life away.”

Old grief reared it’s ugly head once more, and the mortician lowered his gaze and frowned. “That was the day laughter died for me. Took me years to find it again, and I had to sink further into madness to do it. All that is nothing compared to what you’ve lost, my dear, and I can’t begin to apologize enough for my failure to rescue you and your family.”

"How could you have saved us?" he asked, meeting Undertaker’s gaze, "Unless you were right there when it happened, how could you even hope to stop it? It was a mess…" he shook his head and held it between his hands, "Fire…and a gunshot…then darkness. There was no time…"

Hating to see Vincent suffering that particular memory of all the ones he could have regained, Undertaker got up and knelt before him, putting his hands on his knees. He looked up at him and he called out softly to him. “Vincent, I wish I could banish that memory for you and replace it with a happier one. You’re right; there was no time but as a grim reaper, I should have sensed it coming sooner and moved faster to prevent it. It seems I run into a spot of trouble when it comes to predicting the deaths of people I truly care about. The fates seem to muddy it up, possibly because I’ll try to interfere if it’s someone important to me. Reapers are supposed to accept it when it’s a mortal’s time to go.”

He sighed and lowered his gaze. “I couldn’t, though. Not with you and your family. I’d have brought back Rachel too, if I could have.”

He nearly told him there hadn’t been enough of her left to save, but he didn’t want to traumatize him further with such blunt, cryptic talk.

Vincent studied the reaper’s face, reaching out to touch his cheek, “And you still interfered…you didn’t let me stay dead… I don’t know if that should anger me or flatter me…” he trailed off, his eyes connecting with Undertakers—and all at once a new memory flashed through his mind.

They were standing near a dead body with an opening in his torso, and though Vincent couldn’t quite recall what the reaper was talking about, he could remember the man’s face. the same strange duel-colored irises of emerald and gold behind a pair of simple glasses…the same thin scar marring his handsome face, his pale, full lips moving ever so slowly as he spoke—or that’s what it had seemed.

Vincent blinked, staring now at that same face lacking glasses, now actually there only inches away from his face. His lips were moving again, but no words registered in the earl’s mind. And before he realized what was happening, or that he had trailed off and left his own statements incomplete, Vincent found himself leaving forward, his lips pressed quite firmly against those pale white ones.

Undertaker went still as his words were interrupted in mid-sentence by the unexpected kiss. He swore he could hear the blood rushing through his veins as his pulse quickened, and he closed his eyes and cupped Vincent’s face, returning the kiss with passion. It hadn’t been that long by reaper standards, but every moment without him had felt like an eternity. He shivered and he tried to practice some restraint, afraid of spoiling the moment with too much vigor. It was like spotting a deer in the woods and trying to be still and quiet so as not to spook it and end the special moment.

All the old feelings came pouring back so easily, as if they’d never spent any time apart. The quick little peck he’d given Vincent the night before was nothing, compared to this.

Vincent’s arms slid around Undertaker’s shoulders, and his book fell out of his lap and onto the floor with an ignored thud. Vincent felt a rush fill his entire being. Finally…something in this second life of his felt right and he didn’t want to let it end.

The Earl leaned in closer to the man, breathing in his sweet scent as they toppled over and onto the floor. the old, warn area rug softening the tumble slightly. Undertaker’s arms went around Vincent’s waist as he landed on top of him, and he found he couldn’t hold back any longer. He sought entry to the Earl’s mouth with his tongue and when his lips parted compliantly, he delved in to caress and explore.

"Mmm," he purred blissfully, hands sliding down Vincent’s back to cup his bottom. This unrestrained passion from him was quite an unexpected surprise, and Undertaker intended to make the most of it while it lasted. He was half-tempted to start tearing the other man’s clothes off so that he could commence with reminding him of other things they did together, but he somehow restrained himself from doing so. He hardened against the Earl’s thigh and he felt the evidence of Vincent’s body doing the same, pressing firmly against his hip.

Vincent slowly broke the kiss, his cheeks painted a bright red in embarrassment. “I—I’m sorry, I don’t know why I…are you okay, Undertaker?” he asked, but found he couldn’t withdraw any further.

Breathing heavily, the reaper stared up at him. His whole body was tingling with awareness and his heart was still going like a hummer’s wings. Hands still on Vincent’s bottom, he smiled at him. “After a kiss like that, I’m more than okay. What might have provoked such a sudden burst of passion from you, hmm? I’d like to make a note of it for future reference.”

"…I don’t know…I just…was looking in your eyes and the next thing I knew…we were somewhere else—and you had glasses on…and I just…I couldn’t restrain myself." Vincent yammered, feeling foolish.

"Hmm. Glasses, eh?" Undertaker reached into his robes and fished out a hard, hinged little case. He opened it to take a pair of wire-framed, human manufactured spectacles out of it and he combed his bangs back from his eyes and slipped them on. "These glasses?"

Vincent gave a small nod, “Yes, those glasses… I thought you had said that you didn’t have glasses any longer?” he questioned, mindlessly running his fingers through a lock of silvery-white hair.

The mortician shook his head. “I have no good glasses any longer. Shinigami eyes are complicated things, love. Since I defected from Dispatch, I no longer have access to a proper pair that can allow the visual correction I need to see any significant distance. These are the strongest prescription human optometrists can make, and it only corrects my vision by roughly twenty percent. I find them useful when performing delicate tasks, like autopsies.”

He smirked at him. “You used to rather like the sight of me in glasses. Is that true now, I wonder?”

"They do give you an air of intellect." Vincent admitted, "Why don’t you wear them more if they help you at least a little?" He dropped his head down and rested his forehead against the reaper’s, looking into his eyes, "…But I think it’s more your eyes themselves, that draws me in."

Undertaker grinned hugely, endeared by the admission. Vincent had always loved his eyes. All it used to take to get him in the mood was to shake his bangs aside and give him a wink. His statement about wearing the glasses more often to improve his vision even a little bit reminded him of something he’d completely forgotten about, and he suddenly laughed and shook his head, amused with himself.

"Oh Khronos, you forgetful old codger."

When Vincent frowned in confusion, he held up a finger. “One moment, love. You’ve just reminded me of something.” He eased Vincent off of him and helped him onto the couch, before leaving his side temporarily.

He put away the standard glasses and he got up to rummage through one of the trunks he’d brought in and stacked up against the wall between the kitchen and living room area. After a bit of digging around, he found what he was looking for and he pulled it out. He walked back over to the couch and sat down as he opened the hard glasses case and plucked out the Shinigami spectacles that Lawrence had given him. Rectangular in shape with silver wire frames, they didn’t particularly look special—yet they were.

"You know, I’ve gone without for so bloody long it just felt a bit odd to wear a pair of these again," he murmured thoughtfully, holding the glasses up for Vincent’s inspection. "I’ve an old friend who supervises the glasses division, and he was kind enough to craft me a new pair as a gift. I put them away once I escaped because I didn’t want to change anything about my routine and risk buggering up my process to bring you back. Besides, I worried that if anyone from Dispatch saw me with them and figured out they were Shinigami glasses, my friend would get into trouble."

He put them on and he blinked in disorientation as the world came into sharp focus. “Oh, this will take some getting used to.” He smiled almost hesitantly at the Earl, enjoying being able to see him so clearly without being right up in his face. “Well, what do you think? Not much different than the other ones except for the shape of the lenses, but the vision correction is outstanding.”

"That depends," Vincent said, taking Undertaker’s human glasses and reclining back, pushing the glasses onto his own face, watching the world blur out into fuzzy shaped of color.

“Do I still look as appealing to you when you see clearly or do I look better as a blur? —Good Lord your eyes are horrid if these aren’t even strong enough for you…”

The mortician laughed in delight and slapped Vincent’s knee lightly. “You look even better, because I can see those handsome features clearly without looming over you. Goodness, you look nice in spectacles too…but you probably shouldn’t wear those for very long if you don’t want to get a headache or damage your eyes, love.”

He reached out to ease the glasses off of him and he leaned in to kiss him on the nose, grinning. “Pity. Maybe I could get some non-prescription glasses for you to wear as an accessory.”

"They may disguise my eyes a little." Vincent agreed, blinking as his eyes readjusted properly, again, no longer strained by the glasses. He sat up and leaned in close to Undertaker once more, "But I am currently penniless and you’ve already spent so much on me."

"My coffers aren’t quite empty yet," assured the reaper, putting an arm around him. "And if it makes your life a bit easier, I don’t mind spending a bit more. I think perhaps a light tinting on your glasses might be in order, if I’m going to pick some up for you. We could do it in a color shade or just plain dark, if you like. No worries on money; I’ve got certain skills to make more without resorting to autopsy work. There’s a garden out back that you haven’t seen yet. I can make medicine and sell it to local apothecaries."

"I would like to help." The reborn earl stated, "If I’m going to be living here with you I can’t in good heart waste each day away while you work to provide us both with our lives here. You may have to teach me, but at least allow me to do half the chores around here. You said I’m used to a life of luxury, but while I had servants to do the housework, I’m sure I had my own responsibilities to fill my time."

"Hmm, you might be better at keeping up with finances than I am," said the Undertaker thoughtfully. He tapped his chin with long black nails, looking around at the drab interior. "Probably have a better eye for decorating, too. I set up your room the way I thought you’d like it, but I didn’t put a lot of effort into the rest of the place. Once the funds build back up, mayhap we could take a trip into town and look for things to make the place a bit more homey. I’d also be happy to teach you some botany if you’re interested."

The reaper grinned at him, and he brushed Vincent’s bangs out of his eyes. “You were always a fast learner, my lord.”

Vincent blushed slightly, “…Is it right for you to call me that? My titles are now my son’s… I’m not head of the family, or the noble I once had been. I’m simply…” he trailed off and studied the reaper, “…your Vincent.”

Undertaker’s smile softened to something more tender. “’My Vincent’. You know, I quite like the sound of that.” He cupped the back of the other man’s head and drew him in for a kiss, figuring he wouldn’t object since he’d already initiated one moments ago, himself. This was “home” to him…Vincent’s soft lips and warm embrace. This was what had been missing from his life, and his fears that the former Earl might never forgive him were slowly melting away.

Vincent relaxed into the kiss. The feeling of it so familiar and welcoming—so right. If he had had any doubts about their relationship before his death, they were stripped away. He’d allow them to have that relationship again. But he wouldn’t forget what the reaper had done to him to get him back—and somehow he knew he’d hold it over the reaper’s head should he ever need leverage on something. He got the feeling that that was the kind of man he was.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

"Well, here we are," said Eric without enthusiasm. He looked around at the Viscount of Druitt’s estate, recalling all too vividly past run-ins with the man. The too-pretty blond man had an aura about him that made Eric’s skin crawl. He looked at his partner as Alan stepped off the carriage and came up beside him.

"Jus’ so ya know, I’m no’ lookin’ forward ta this one bit."

"Neither am I." Alan said, crossing his arms with a sigh. "I’ve never met the Viscount, but I have heard stories about him from those who have."

When Even Grell Sutcliff refers to a man as ‘messed up’, then he knew it had to be bad. Though, he still didn’t know what to expect when they were to meet him.

Alan gave his lover’s hand a small squeeze and started his way up to the large white front doors with carvings of roses in the painted wood. In fact, the whole house was gorgeous. Not simply the front gardens, but the details in the walls, molding, and railings. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the inside was just as detailed.

The brunet glanced at Eric before he reached up to bang the knocker firmly to grab the attention of one of the help who would likely open the door.

They waited for several moments before a stately man with salt-and-pepper, collar-length brown hair answered the door. He looked to be in his forties, and he was dressed in a white and cream tuxedo—an unusual color for butler attire. His blue-green eyes scanned them with some suspicion, taking in the strange cut of their clothing with mild interest.

"Welcome to the Druitt estate," greeted the butler in a polite, cultured voice. "How may I help you, sirs?"

"We’re here tae see tha laird of tha manor," said Eric.

The butler raised an eyebrow. “I beg pardon?”

Eric sighed and tried again, toning down his native brogue. “We are here to see the lord of the manor,” he said. He showed the fake identification badge in his wallet. “Detectives Slingby and Humphries, from Scotland Yard.”

The butler examined the badge closely. “I see. And what might this be pertaining to, gentlemen?”

"We believe the Viscount would be able to assist in capturing a wanted fugitive he may have briefly had contact with unknowingly." Alan said, "We will only take but a moment of his time. We wish to confirm if the criminal is still in this area or if he has moved on."

"I shall relay the information to his lordship," said the butler. "Please come in and wait in the sitting room. He will be down at his convenience."

Eric gave his partner a hairy eyeball that warned him to stay on alert, and he waited for the smaller reaper to step through the doorway first before following him. The butler showed them through the grand hall and directly into one of the rooms to the right of it.

"I shall have the maid bring you refreshment while you wait, sirs. Please have a seat."

Eric looked around at the elaborate furniture, some of it garish and some fit for a king. He took a seat on the leather Windsor loveseat and patted the spot beside him. “Seems like tha safest one tae sit in,” he said candidly with a smirk.

Alan rolled his eyes, “We are here on business, Eric. Remember that.” he said, taking a seat next to Eric, “Spears is counting on us to hopefully get a lead.”

"I’ll try tae behave meself," promised the Scotsman with a wink. "Jus’ be warned tha man is a creep. He migh’ even lament tha fact ya were born a lad, when he sees ya."

"I’ve heard stories of how the man acts. Don’t worry, I’ll not stand for any such behavior towards myself—or you." he said, leaning in and slowly kissing Eric’s lips.

The Scotsman grinned and put an arm around him, returning the kiss. “An’ here ye are tellin’ me tae be good,” he admonished softly when they broke the kiss. “But ya lay one on me like tha’.”

"It was one kiss while we are alone." Alan stated matter-of-factly, "But you have a tendency to let your hands wander at inappropriate times."

"Oi, I can behave meself," protested Eric with a mock frown. “‘S no’ like I feel ya up in front of people!"

"Doesn’t stop you from trying when they aren’t looking." Alan teased. He sighed and glanced at his watch, "…I hope he will meet with us…It’d make this a whole lot easier…"

"Well if he thinks we’re from tha Yard, I don’ think he’ll risk brushin’ us off," reasoned the older reaper. "But make us wait? Aye, he’ll do tha’."

He hushed as a pretty young woman with strawberry blond hair and blue eyes entered the room, wheeling a cart of teacakes and champagne. He presumed she was the maid, but her outfit made him flush a little and look down, for fear his partner would catch him staring. She was wearing a black and white number with a corset that boosted her generous cleavage to the point where she looked like she might fall out of her top if she bent over, and her ruffled black skirt was so short he thought she probably shouldn’t risk bending over at all anyhow. She wore a pair of black fishnet stockings and high white heels.

"I’m no’ lookin’," he whispered out the corner of his mouth to his lover as she poured two glasses of the champagne and gave a curtsy.

"The Viscount should be down shortly, gentlemen," she informed in a melodious voice. "Please, help yourselves to refreshment while you wait and should you need me, just ring the bell over there on the coffee table. I shan’t be far!"

With that said, the provocatively clad young maid left them alone again.

"She gone yet?" Eric asked, still keeping his gaze lowered. He wasn’t a shy man by nature, but he was a flirtatious one and he always tried hard not to act on that in front of Alan.

"Yes, she is gone." Alan said, having been too stunned by the young girl’s appearance to even thank her for the—champagne? Normally guests were served tea…

That poor girl…Reaper fashion may be closer to that, but she was a mortal human… Their clothes were, for the most part, very modest. Especially in the homes of nobles. It was likely that her master required to dress as such. He wondered what she thought of it and if she would rather have a more traditional uniform.

“I guess that confirms one rumor about the Viscount,” he muttered, looking at the champagne, “And this another…I was expecting tea to be served.”

Eric plucked one of the glasses from the cart with one hand, and he grabbed a teacake with the other. He shrugged and employed his British accent. “Waste not, want not.” He ate the bite-sized cake and chased it with a few swallows of the bubbly.

When he noticed his partner eyeballing him, he wiped his mouth and grinned at him. “I’m no’ gonna get slammed before our host comes tae speak wi’ us, so dinnae shake yer finger at me, sweetheart.”

"I’m just glad I’m your partner this time and not young Knox. The two of you have no control when it comes to drinking, based on your condition when you come home after an evening out with the kid." Alan said, picking up one of the cakes and looking at it.

Eric laughed, remembering the time he’d had to dial Alan to come and get them because Knox was passing out and he couldn’t walk straight enough to try and lug him home. “Sorry ‘bout all tha trouble we’ve put ya through. Yer right though; ‘f it were me an’ Knox, we’d prolly be three sheets tae th’ wind by tha time th’ Viscount shows his face.”

"I don’t know which one of you is a worse influence on whom. He’s a kid, but you have no restraint at pubs. I don’t know why I let you go drinking with him." Alan said, but his lips curled into a smile.

Eric leaned in to kiss him soundly on the cheek. “‘Cause ya love me.” He winked at him.

Alan sighed and nodded, “Yes, because I love you…for some reason.” he smiled as the doors opened with a bang and, somehow, white and light pink rose petals flew into the room.

"Here it comes," warned Eric out the corner of his mouth. "Get ready tae witness some dramatic posturing tha’ even Sutcliff cannae match."

Alan stood up, turning to greet their host. The man looked like a dramatic painting of an opera; his blond hair blowing in a breeze that he couldn’t place where it came from, the man’s pose dynamic, his face holding an expression as if he was alone with a lover.

“I am sorry for making you wait, oh, good men of the Yard! But I had the most exhausting business to attend to.” He said in a forcefully light voice that made Alan think he was about to burst into song.

Eric cleared his throat to hide a chuckle and he stood up, offering a respectful nod to the blond man and tempering his accent. He never half-stepped when it came down to business—despite his penchant for flirting and partying.

"Viscount, thank you for seeing us. We just have some questions concerning a dangerous fugitive and his whereabouts. Reports state that he was involved with the Aurora Society that you were also a member of, and he was last seen at the school your nephew was attending. He goes by the name ‘Undertaker’ and their are other authorities beyond the Yard that are searching for him. Have you had any contact with this man since the events aboard the Campania? For that matter, has your nephew had any contact with him since he left the school that you know of? We understand he was masquerading of the principal, and there is some concern for the safety of all students that came into contact with him."

"Oh, what a disappointing subject! Come now, Even men of the law should relax a bit. We can get to business later~ Please, make yourselves at home~"

“I fear we are on the clock, sir, we must get about to business.” Alan stated.

“I’m afraid that would mean a waste of your time, Milady, for you have come to see me for naught! I’m afraid The Undertaker has disappeared without a trace. Into the shadows as a ghost or demon from which he once came~ Oh! But worry not, I shall protect such a lovely little bird such as you~” he flirted, taking Alan’s hand and kissing it.

“…I happen to be a man. Inspector Alan Humphries of the Yard, sir.” Alan stated, withdrawing his hand.

Eric stepped between the two of them, his protective urges overcoming his amusement. “Is that really so, your lordship? I hope you realize how dangerous this man is. If you aren’t being truthful to us and he comes for you or your family, we might not be able to help you. Also keep it in mind that if we find evidence you’ve lied, you can be charged with aiding and abetting a felon. That would cause quite a scandal, I imagine.”

"The man has had a mystery agenda of his own since the beginning. As I understand it, whatever he’d done at the school had given him what he was looking for.—Excuse me, sir, You are blocking my view of the pretty little bird~"

“I am not a ‘bird’, Viscount.” Alan said, crossing his arms. “Just tell us what you know.”

“He disappeared! That’s all I know.”

Eric growled softly with frustration—and a little warning. He did not like the way this man kept eyeing his partner at all. He forgot about covering up his accent, and it came out full force along with his aggression. “Fook thaes. Al, stand back. I’m sick o’ this dance an’ I’m takin’ a wee shortcut.”

He manifested his death scythe and raised it, prepared to cut the viscount to release enough cinematic records to find out how much—if anything—the man was hiding.

"Eric!" Alan gasped as the flamboyant viscount screamed—but not in horror or shock.

“You’re like him!” The man hurried over to Eric.

His reaction startled the Scotsman enough to give him pause, his scythe raised frozen over his head as the dramatic man ran to him, rather than from him. Druitt was staring at him with shining eyes and a passionate blush, as if…as if…oh, no.

"Like who?" he asked, though he already had a notion.

~Stop lookin’ at me like tha’, ya ditzy Englishman!~

Now he knew how the ladies and pretty boys felt under the viscount’s attentions.

"Oh you know who I’m talking about~" He said, taking Eric’s hand and leaning in, his ice blue eyes locking on Eric’s face, "Join me~ Oh, Oh, you are quite the strong one…nothing like he had been…"

“Excuse me, I would appreciate it if you would back off, sir!” Alan said stepping around to push the man away from his lover before he found the man hanging off him like a leach.

For a moment, Eric was too flustered to do much of anything. He found his tongue when Alan came to his rescue. “Are ya completely daft, man?” he sputtered. “I’m holdin’ a blasted saw o’er yer head, an’ yeh wanna grab mah hand?”

For all his warnings to his partner about this man’s eccentricity and gall, he hadn’t been prepared to be the object of his…advances.

"Please, little bird, I’m trying to talk to the big little bird~" The Viscount danced around Alan and back to Eric, linking their arms, "Do join me~ I haven’t known what to do since the crazy old Undertaker packed up and disappeared." he traced swirls on Eric’s chest, "And you have better style then him~ I’d suggest more white, though."

Alan summoned his own scythe and swung it, stopping it just shy of cutting the man’s neck. “Your hands. Move them or I’ll remove your head from your shoulders. This ‘bird’ belongs to me, and the only thing you will be doing is taking a seat across the room away from the both of us, and tell us everything you know about where the Undertaker may have gone and why.”

"Uh, r-righ’," stammered the Scotsman, pointing at his partner. "Wha’ he said."

He hadn’t seen Alan get this jealous since the secretary pinched his bottom while he was clocking in, one morning. He’d have found it thrilling and darling, if he weren’t so flustered by this insane human’s boldness. Red-faced and uncomfortable, Eric allowed his lover to take the reins. He didn’t think he could say anything intelligent right now, anyway.

Alan backed the man up towards a chair, “Sit, before your pretty white suit is stained red.” he stated and the noble obeyed.

“Not quite a song bird, are you?”

“Not when it comes to an albino vulture circling my peacock! Now, start talking before you find yourself to be a cooked goose!”

Eric looked at Alan in surprise. “Peacock?” he mouthed. He shook himself out of it, trying not to smirk as he glowered menacingly at the viscount. “Better listen tae him, viscount. Mah partner’s no’ easily riled, but ye’ve gotten on his bad side. Tha’s no’ a good thing…trust me.”

Alan gave Eric a little shrug, as if to silently tell him that he was a show off at times.

“Now, talk.”

The noble sighed and crossed his legs, “Is that amount of force really necessary?”

“Completely.” Alan huffed.

“But I’ve already told you! Undertaker packed up and left…well, not completely packed up. He just took his personal items, from what we gather.”

"So then he was still involved with ya,” pressed Eric. “Wha’ was he workin’ on, a’fore he left?”

"I don’t know! He was super secretive about his own plans!" The flamboyant man insisted, "Please lower that weapon!"

Alan tightened his grip on the handle, “Keep talking until I’m satisfied.”

“I really don’t know! But he had been trying to get them to talk. That was his touch.”

Eric frowned at his partner. Seeing that he looked as perplexed as he was, he tried to get Druitt to elaborate. “Get who tae talk?”

Then he thought on his words and he recalled the reports about Undertaker’s involvement in the events at the boy’s school. A missing boy turned out to be a Bizarre Doll…and he’d spoken. Several more with limited powers of speech, closing in on Earl Phantomhive and his butler…providing a distraction for the Undertaker to escape.

"Why is he tryin’ tae give ‘em powers o’ speech?" Eric was now speaking more to his partner than to the viscount. "Is he jus’ tha’ bored, or maybe he’s tryin’ tae make himself a companion?"

Dispatch had at first assumed he was just pushing the limits to see how far he could take it, but now the Scotsman wondered if there might be more to it than that.

The Viscount shrugged, “Like I said, I don’t know—now please stop threatening me with that thing.”

But the man found himself ignored as Alan glanced up at Eric, “Companion? Why would he want to make one? He’s the most famous of our kind. I’m sure he’d have no problems meeting someone.”

Eric snorted. “Wi’ his current reputation? Sure, tha ‘legend’ could have just abou’ any reaper he wanted, but now he’s…wull, he’s a creepy ol’ zombie maker. Still, I think yer right. He’s evidently still go’ a charm about him tha’ attracts people. Tha’ little maid at tha Phantomhive manor go’ a might upset when she thought we were gonna reap him. Could be he’s after somethin’ bigger than tha’.”

"So, we need to find out what that would be…" Alan said before the viscount interrupted.

“Why not start with finding out why he even wanted to make his little Dolls to begin with? He never told anyone, not even I…and I funded his research!”

Eric thought on it. “Tha reports from Grell an’ Ron said he told them he wanted tae see wha’ would happen if the reels dinnae end wi’ death…but why would he even care abou’ tha’?”

He recalled the Undertaker’s words on the night of his capture at the Phantomhive estate, and his eyes widened. “Al…c’mere fer a sec,” he urged, stepping back a few feet and gesturing to his partner.

"I can bring your father back, Ciel."

When his partner joined him a few feet away, Eric whispered into his ear. “Remember wha’ he said jus’ before we brought him down at tha Phantomhive manor? He claimed he could bring tha old Earl back from tha dead. He also admitted tae being Vincent Phantomhive’s lover. Think tha’s wha’ all this is about?”

"I had forgotten about that…but it’s a good theory…" Alan said, impressed that Eric had remembered something he’d completely forgot about. He bit his lip, "But the previous Earl…his soul had been collected, right? And his body was burned in the fire. Shouldn’t it be impossible? Unless he stole the records and is using another body?"

Eric frowned. “Maybe we ought tae pay a visit tae th’ Library an’ check it out. If Vincent Phantomhive’s records are intact than my theory’s wrong. Otherwise, we ought tae find out who was sent tae gather souls tha’ day an’ request an interview wi’ ‘em.”

Alan nodded and glanced over at the viscount; who had stood up and was brushing the wrinkles from his suit.

“Sit back down! We’ll see ourselves out.” the little brunet snapped and watched as the man dropped himself back down into the plush seat.

Alan then took Eric’s hand and pulled him along out of the room and to the front door, his grip on the man’s hand a little tighter than usual. Eric stumbled along with him, giving the viscount a shrug even as he smirked with flattery at his partner’s desire to get him far away from the man as quickly as he could. Alan was really cute when he got jealous.


 

"Nothin’," sighed Eric as he flipped through the volume that was meant to contain Vincent Phantomhive’s records. "It’s empty. Tha records must’a been taken before Dispatch could collect them, or else tha Undertaker used his connections tae get them from tha library."

He looked at his partner with slight dread. “Wha’ do ya think? Should we bring it up tae Spears or chase it down ourselves for a fuller report, first?”

Sighing, the brunet leaned back in his chair, rubbing his eyes under his glasses, “I’m not sure on this one. It’s the legendary reaper we’ll be dealing with again. He’s stronger than both of us, and he’s dangerous. But at the same time, something like this calls for as much information as we can dig up for our reports.”

Eric snapped his fingers as a revelation came to him. “Yer better at tha bookwork than I am. How ‘bout ya keep digging, while I go and report wha’ we’ve found out so far tae Spears?”

He thought it would be easier on Alan to do the researching while he dealt with William. It might be less stressful on him and truth be told, Alan really was better at that sort of thing than he was, on a good day.

Inhaling through his nose, Alan sat up and nodded, “I’ll go into records to find out which officer or officers were in charge of the Phantomhive fire collections.” He stood up and stretched with a sigh, “Okay, you go put in our report and I’ll get started looking into things. find out why there isn’t even a record marking the soul as stolen or escaped as a ghost.”


 

"There has to be someone within helping him," reasoned William after receiving Eric’s report. He tapped his pen absently against his desk, a slight frown marring his refined features. "I shall question the agents that were finalizing the paperwork on the souls of those who died in the Phantomhive attack. I suppose I’ll have to send someone to actually question young Earl Phantomhive concerning Undertaker’s claims and what he made of it."

He sighed and adjusted his glasses. “Oh dear…more overtime. Since you are already on research for this case with your partner, I shall have to rely on Grell Sutcliff and Ronald Knox, lest I go myself. I’m simply too tied up at the moment, however. Slingby, assist your partner and report back to me anything new you turn up. In the meantime, we shall see what information the boy is willing to impart with us.”

He frowned and propped his chin in his palm. “I daresay if Ciel believes his claims and does indeed know where he may be, he won’t be willing to part with that information. That mongrel demon of his will make it difficult to force the issue…but we can deal with that as we go along.”

Eric nodded. “I’ll get right on it.”


 

The light of the setting sun grew dimmer through the window in which it streamed, falling over the white pages of the book propped open in the once-human nobleman’s lap. Vincent blinked and stretched with a low groan, placing a marker between the pages and closing the book before setting it aside and getting up to walk to the window.

Not too far away, Undertaker could be seen by a small gathering of trees, chopping wood to bring inside fir the fireplaces. The reaper had removed his robes and shirt for the task, allowing the orange light to color his white skin as his muscles flexed with each movement. A steady rhythm of chopping sectioned logs into halves and quarters filled the air, and Vincent found himself staring.

It had been a few days, and while Vincent couldn’t recall everything, Undertaker had been a big help in unlocking many of his memories. They had also fallen into a rather humorous (As Undertaker had pointed out just that morning) nightly ritual. Vincent would turn in for the night in his room, alone in the bed as he insisted that they do things properly until he knew for a fact whether or not Undertaker was ‘in the dog house’ so-to-speak. But then, sometime in the night, Vincent would awaken with that lonely feeling and by morning, they found him sleeping atop Undertaker in the open coffin.

Maybe it was a sign.

Vincent sighed and rested his chin in his palm as he leaned over and continued to watch Undertaker. Maybe it would be best to quit being stubborn and just invite the man into his own bed…

Undertaker split the last log and he decided to take a little break before hauling it all beneath the protective overhang he’d built onto the house to keep the firewood dry. He combed his bangs out of his eyes and wiped the sweat from his pale brow as he turned to go back to the cabin. He’d pulled his hair back into a ponytail for his job and bound the long tail several times with ribbon, all the way down. Short of braiding it or wearing it in a bun, it was the best way he could think of to keep it out of the way. He was wearing his Shinigami glasses, having decided to make use of them more often—not just because they allowed him to see more than three feet before him, but because Vincent seemed to like them on him.

He unraveled his hair from its bindings as he approached the house, combing his fingers through it to loosen it again so that it cascaded down his back. He smiled when he saw Vincent standing on the porch watching him, and he nearly laughed at the way the Earl’s blue-swirled eyes caressed his body. The man seemed in a daze, and it occurred to Undertaker that this was the first time he’d seen him bare-chested since he’d awoken. He was wearing his black leggings and boots, of course, and it came as no surprise to him when Vincent’s gaze traveled from his nude torso to said boots and stayed fixated there. Grinning broadly, he joined the doll on the porch and he leaned lazily against one of the two wooden columns supporting the overhang.

"I’d offer you a camera to take a picture," said the mortician with a grin, "but I’m afraid I don’t have one available." He winked mischievously at Vincent, enjoying his helpless fascination.

Vincent felt his entire face heat up as it flushed pink, “I wasn’t staring,” he defended, but he knew he had been. He just couldn’t help it. The reaper was not only incredibly handsome, but had a sense of something new and unique about him. His skin so pale it was almost pure white; skin lined with thin pink scars that puckered slightly, showing off wounds that he was sure no mortal could have survived. The long white hair that framed his body and made the earl wonder how much better the view would be had the man also removed his tight slacks to complete the view… Though the boots could stay. He did rather enjoy those.

His gaze was drifting again over Undertaker’s narrow hips and down his thighs to his boots, and catching himself, Vincent snapped his gaze back up, “…much.” he added in a small murmur.

What had he come to? The longer he lived with the man, the more he felt a strong attraction to him, and that attraction wasn’t always chaste and platonic—no, it was never platonic. It was simply lustful or less lustful. And right now, he felt it was more lustful with the amount of skin Undertaker had chosen to show off when normally he was hidden under at least four layers of clothes.

Finding his mind drifting towards such thoughts again, Vincent turned away as he felt a heat starting to swirl in his groin, and he didn’t want to be overly obvious as to what sort of things happened to be stuck in his mind.

“We should have dinner before it gets too dark and we have to break out the candles and oil lamps again.”

The mortician chuckled at Vincent’s rather endearing excuses, and he nodded at the suggestion of having supper early. “Capital idea, chap. You know I’m always happy to take a meal break.”

He started to put an arm around him to guide him inside, but he stopped himself in the act. He’d been sweating, and while he didn’t think he smelled terribly pungent, he didn’t want to chance offending the Earl’s nose. “Tell you what; why don’t you do the prep work while I get cleaned up. The ravens tell me we won’t get rain until tomorrow afternoon, so I can finish stacking that wood in the morning.”

Vincent glanced up at him, “Using birds to predict the weather?” he teased lightly as he split away towards the kitchen to gather things to prepare dinner. Undertaker had taught him the basics of cooking, and while his cooking wasn’t the best looking dish, it was edible. The first few tries solo without the reaper’s help, Vincent had managed to burn their meal beyond saving, but he’d gotten better on the simple things.

Undertaker shrugged his pale shoulders lightly and grinned. “Very reliable, my raven friends. They keep an eye out for meddlers, warn me if someone gets too close and let me know if their brethren further away have reported foul weather incoming. They have a network, you see; a surprisingly sophisticated one, at that. Thanks to them, I know everything that’s going on around these parts and in exchange, I give them food and the occasional bits of string and baubles for their nests. It’s been a satisfactory arrangement for years.”

The mortician opened the door for his companion and gestured for him to go first. “After you, my Vincent.”

Vincent slipped inside, glancing out the corner of his eye at the reaper as he passed.

“I’ve been thinking.” He said as he walked to the sink and washed his hands before filling a kettle to put on the heat for Undertaker to use to get cleaned up a bit, “That maybe, given the circumstances…that maybe we should try sharing my bed tonight.” He kept his tone casual.

Undertaker nearly tripped in the doorway. He caught himself and his bangs fell over his eyes. “Oh?” He couldn’t contain his smile, and he warned himself to tone it down before he gave Vincent cause to retract the offer. “Well, you do tend to end up smushed in my coffin with me by morning anyhow; despite having been trapped in one, once.”

"I leave the lid open, even though I’m sleep walking…" Vincent flushed, "I find I don’t like the enclosed feel of things like coffins, so having you join me in my bed may solve the sleep walking thing, and cut down on the risk of the lid getting knocked closed at night."

The reaper pressed two fingers against his lips to quell his amused smile. “Oh, absolutely. I wouldn’t want my Earl to suffer uncomfortable rest, after all. No arguments from me, love.”

He closed the door behind him and locked it. On old impulses, he closed the distance between them and loomed over the resurrected noble, smiling brightly. “I am—as always—at your service.”

He lowered his head to Vincent’s and he kissed him soundly, before stepping away with a mischievous smile and giving him a bow. “Now please excuse me while I clean up. I’m sure you can handle dinner preparations on your own…just try not to cut a finger off, hmm?”

"Why not? I’m sure you could put it back in place." Vincent teased, "Don’t worry, I’ll keep things simple and you’ll come back to a mess, most likely, but not a fire or missing finger."

"Good," approved the mortician with a chuckle. "Stitching your finger back on wouldn’t be the ideal way to spend the evening, after all."

Having faith that Vincent knew his way around the kitchen well enough to get the ingredients ready for whatever meal he preferred, Undertaker got the kettle set up so that he could have warm water for his bath, and he went into the bathroom to run the tap while it was heating. He sat down on the edge of the tub once he was alone in the bathroom and he absently put his fingers under the running water.

He was forgiven…at least partially. There was no way the Earl would invite him to share his bed if it were otherwise. He wasn’t fool enough to believe Vincent trusted him implicitly yet; it wasn’t in the man’s nature to do so, however kind-hearted he might be. Vincent Phantomhive was a bit of a paradox, and he still had a past to recall and overcome before the reaper could declare with any certainty that their relationship was truly mended. Raised a noble with enemies trying to bring him down left and right, Undertaker was one of the only people Vincent could really trust. He needed time to remember that though…and he would need to meet his son eventually. There was no stopping that.

The mortician sighed, even as he smiled. “I’ve done my best…even if that’s not good enough. Maybe there’s some hope for this old reaper yet.”

He reached for the bottle of herbal soak and he poured a small bit into the running water to make bubbles and help ease his tired muscles. He’d fought plenty of battles to be sure, but it had been a while since his body wasn’t used to continuous, repetitive motions. He rubbed his right shoulder absently, wincing a bit. Maybe he could get Vincent to kiss it better for him later. The thought made him chuckle.

Vincent took out things for a simple meal of a soup, carefully cutting crude slices of carrots and other vegetables, along with some left over chicken from the night before. He then knocked on the bathroom door, “I have everything ready for soup—except the broth. Do I use just water for it?”

Undertaker glanced up from the tub, faintly startled by the inquiry. “Not so much, my love. We need to boil some soup bones to flavor the broth, otherwise it’s just going to be flat. You’ll find some in the cold box, I believe. They’re in a sack and it’s marked.”

Vincent nodded and turned to go, “Alright, I’ll get that started as well. About how many should I use?”

Undertaker mentally calculated the servings they’d need, even as he chuckled at Vincent’s darling attempts to try and do a thing which he’d never had to do before in his life. “Put four in and bring them to a boil,” he called, turning off the water now that it had filled the tub enough. “Once it’s boiling, add the seasoning like I showed you and bring it down to a simmer. By the time they’re ready to come out I ought to be finished in here.”

He stood up and opened the door, grinning at the man waiting on the other side. “You really are too adorable to handle, love.” He closed in for another swift kiss. “Thank you. I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

He shot a wink at him as he went to retrieve the whistling kettle from the hearth to warm his bath water.

"I’ll knock should I need help sooner." The Earl nodded and walked back to search for what he needed and putting the water onto the stove to bring to a boil.

It took four boiling kettles to warm the bath to Undertaker’s satisfaction, and he helped Vincent between fillings, checking on the progress of the broth and instructing him to fish out the soup bones to be tossed out for the wildlife once they had boiled for long enough. Once his bath was ready, the reaper disrobed and climbed into it, sinking down with a thankful sigh.

"I’m a bit out of shape," he muttered to himself, wincing as he shifted so that he could submerge all the way to his neck. The heated water felt good on his tired shoulders. Perhaps he should request Vincent’s help stacking the split and chopped firewood tomorrow. The Earl really wasn’t getting enough exercise. When he was still lord of Phantomhive manor, he fenced and trained in combat daily. It seemed wrong to ask him to do physical labor after knowing him as a nobleman for his entire life, but things had changed…and he needed to rebuild strength in his body to make a full recovery.

Fortunately, Undertaker knew that Vincent Phantomhive was one of the few nobles that wasn’t too proud to help with menial tasks. He didn’t imagine he’d get much protest from him—indeed, the man seemed frustrated that Undertaker hadn’t allowed him to do more to help around the home. With a sigh of pleasure, the mortician scooted further down and tilted his head back to submerge his hair completely. He’d have to run it under the cold tap after bathing to rinse it out cleanly, but that was an unfortunate necessity with so much of it to clean. Vincent would never forgive him if he chopped it short.

Undertaker snickered beneath the water at the thought of the horrified look on the former Earl’s face if he came out of the bathroom with shoulder-length tresses. One of the promises Vincent once asked him to keep was to never cut off his hair.

Vincent slipped the chopped vegetables into the broth, followed by the chicken before putting the lid on the pot and leaving it to cook while he cleaned up the kitchen a little.

Once the kitchen was clean, he set the table and walked to the bathroom door, “I think the soup will be done soon.” he called out to Undertaker.

"Wonderful," answered the reaper. "Well done, love. I’ll be out momentarily."

True to his word, the bathroom door opened a few moments later and the Undertaker stepped out…wearing nothing but a flimsy towel around his waist. He shrugged apologetically at Vincent, looking a bit sheepish. “Forgot to fetch a clean robe to change into afterwards,” he excused, carrying his bundled pants tucked beneath one arm and his boots in the other. His long silver hair appeared slightly darker because it was wet and slicked back, and he tossed his pants in the laundry basket in the short hallway before joining Vincent in the kitchen to check on the soup.

"Mm, smells delightful," he complimented after lifting the lid and having a sniff. "We’ll turn you into a cook yet." He winked at him and walked into the parlor to open up his trunk of belongings. He typically brought his clothes into the bathroom to change in there, rather than intrude upon Vincent’s bedroom. He rummaged through his trunk and selected a change of clothes, then walked back through the room to the loo.

"Be back out in a minute."

Vincent nodded, finally tearing his gaze away from the nearly naked reaper. He swore sometimes that man did things intentionally just to tease and get a rise out of him; and knew just how to do it.

He sighed and sat down, letting his mind wander again about everything that had happened, everything he had remembered, and what the reaper had done to bring him back from the dead. It was true, he couldn’t help but forgive the reaper, especially as his feelings for the man grew stronger. But he didn’t know how to feel about everything else.

He still missed the peacefulness of death, but with each day that passed he would forget further what death had truly been like, and life would fill his mind again.

The Undertaker came back out a few moments later, now dressed in his night robes. He smiled at Vincent as if he hadn’t just come shockingly close to flashing his bits at him, and he approached the stove eagerly. “Looks as though it’s ready, darlin’. Now for a taste test.”

He dropped the wooden ladle into it and spooned up a small amount into one of the chipped bowls from the cupboard. He selected a soup spoon from the silverware drawer and tried the soup, smacking thoughtfully. “It could use a bit more rosemary and salt, but otherwise you did a top job…especially for a man that once could barely make himself a sandwich.”

He chuckled softly and gestured at the table. “Why don’t you have a seat while I doctor it up a bit and serve it up, eh?”

He noticed Vincent blushing, and he tilted his head, wondering if he was upset over his teasing comment about his previous inability to cook. “What’s the trouble, Vincent? You did a fine job on the soup, and it really only needs a couple of dashes to balance the flavor. Show me another noble anywhere that could make a decent meal after only a few lessons. You always were a fast learner, my dear.”

Vincent got up and walked over to the kitchen table, standing behind his chair and watching Undertaker. “It’s not the soup…” he murmured, “I didn’t expect it to come out even as well as it has. That’s why you limit which chores I can help with, right? Apart from my needing to get used to having a body again.”

He walked around the table and over to the reaper, slipping his arms around him in a loose embrace, “I’m just still trying to figure everything out. My memories, my feelings, my life. It’s hard sometimes…”

Undertaker placed his hands over Vincent’s, his smile going tender. He could apologize until he was blue in the face, but in truth he couldn’t feel sorry for bringing the man back to life. “I’m such a selfish old man, my love,” he whispered, brutally honest, “but I doubt I’d change anything, if I were to do it all again. I’ll do my best to do right by you and help you find your way once more.”

He turned around and he cupped Vincent’s beloved face, gazing into his eyes. “You and your family became everything to me. Your forgiveness means more than I can ever express.”

He lowered his mouth to Vincent’s and kissed him softly on the lips.

"Undertaker…" Vincent reached up and cupped the reaper’s cheek, "I have forgiven you. There is just so much more to this than that and I’m still learning to cope."

"I know." The mortician smiled at him. "And I swear to help you with that, best I can."

Though it might not be appropriate for another man, Undertaker pulled out one of the chairs and gestured invitingly for his companion to sit down. “Let’s enjoy the result of your efforts, darlin’. I’m famished.”

Vincent took the seat and watched as Undertaker hurried to fill their bowls with the soup. “…It’s not just my memory, is it? That you won’t yet take me to see my son. There’s something more to it…”

Undertaker paused with the soup bowls in his hands, considering his answer carefully. “Vincent, I promise you that I will take you to your son eventually. I’m not trying to hide him from you…I just…”

He trailed off, thinking back on that horrible night when he found the Phantomhive mansion burning, Vincent and Rachel dead, and their precious son missing.

"I failed you," he whispered after a moment. "Failed to protect the boy. He’s alive and well, true, but he’s in a situation I can’t easily correct."

He sighed and bought Vincent’s bowl to him, setting it down before him as he took his seat and crumbled some crackers into his own bowl. “I’ve hinted at what Ciel is going through, but I haven’t properly explained. Mayhap I should try and do that now.”

Undertaker proceeded to give Vincent the details concerning Ciel’s contract with Sebastian as they ate.

Vincent found himself stunned and shocked. His son…his only child…had sold his soul to a demon? It was hard news to swallow. He just wanted his baby boy to live a good, long and happy life. He knew he had always wanted that for Ciel. But now it would never be.

And all because he had died. He had left his boy alone in this cruel world. He hadn’t been there to protect his son.

“…Is there a way to save him?” he asked slowly after a long silence.

The mortician grinned slyly. “Absolutely. If the demon fails to fulfill his end of the contract, he’ll lose his claim on Ciel’s soul and he’d have to take it by force. He’ll have to get through yours truly to manage that, but believe it or not, Sebastian has a code he lives by. He might not be pleased about it but I think he’d honor it and leave if his contract gets broken. Ciel swore his soul to him in exchange for punishment to everyone responsible for the death of his parents and his enslavement. All we’ve got to do is bring them down before Mr. Michaelis can. I happen to know who the guilty party is; I simply haven’t acted yet because like it or not, the demon is a devoted servant and he keeps the boy safe in the meantime. I’ve been keeping tabs on them in case he starts to get too close to the truth for comfort, you see.”

"…The queen…" Vincent muttered, "She had been the one to order it." It was one thing he had remembered recently. He remembered discussing it with his reaper lover at one point. "…Has she targeted my son in turn?"

"Not as of yet," assured the reaper. "So far she seems satisfied with his work as her Guard Dog. He remains loyal to her because he has no idea that she and the monarchy are the ones truly behind his family’s demise."

The mortician sighed and wiped his hands on his napkin. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly spilled the beans, Vincent. Keeping my mouth shut and letting him go on in ignorance has been quite a test, for me. He’s been better off that way, though…safer. I hate to rob him of his vengeance, but I don’t mean to tell him until I’ve brought that bitch down and foiled his contract with Sebastian.”

That old anger was rising again. He could seldom think of Her Majesty at all without fantasizing about wrapping his hands around her waddled neck and strangling the life out of her. A cold, murderous smile found its way onto his lips and he chuckled.

"And that was another purpose behind my creation of the Bizarre Dolls. I knew Queen Victoria's greed would get the better of her when she got wind of them, you see. What ruler wouldn’t want a tireless army that requires neither rest nor food to keep going? The creation of the dolls was twofold. If I had failed to bring you back, I could at least be assured that Her Majesty would eventually hear about my ‘children’ and pay handsomely to have them for herself."

He cupped his hand over his mouth and whispered as if telling a secret. “But there’s a catch she won’t be counting on. They’ll turn on her the moment they see her, my dear.”

"How many are there? How many did you create before bringing me back?" with a serious look, Vincent held the reaper’s gaze, "She has my wife’s blood on her hands. And if she dares to spill my son’s…" a dark look crossed his features, showing a shadow of his ‘Evil Nobleman’ side he rarely showed unless he had to. "Then I want to be part of her downfall."

The reaper nodded. “Indeed. The problem is the monarchy can be like a hydra. Cut off one head and another crops up in its place.” He spread his hands. “Who’s to say the next queen to take the throne won’t be even worse than this one? That’s neither here nor there, though. We’ve got some plotting to do, you and I. How soon her reign ends depends on what you’d like to do. I’d personally like to see the look on her face if she saw the man she had killed alive and well.”

Undertaker snickered with delight at the thought. Inspiring terror was just as rewarding as laughter, to him.

"As long as the plot doesn’t involve you locking me in a coffin." Vincent sighed, "I seem to remember us trying that once. Didn’t work out at all. But she needs to be taken care of. It’s the only way to save Ciel. I don’t care that she targeted myself; but she caused Rachel’s life to be lost and my son to suffer and turn to a demon. I’ve missed so much of his life…I just want him safe and no longer a demon’s meal. If I can save my son, or help save him so he can live his life… then this second chance at life you gave me would be worth it for me. Even if he can not forgive me and let me into his life, I could let myself live again…see what a life with you would truly be like." he took Undertaker’s hand and gave it a fond squeeze.

“I suppose my boy takes after me. I’m longing for something similar and plan to get what I want with the help of a supernatural being.” he looked up at Undertaker, “But know I don’t mean to use you. I’ll stay with you because I want to. Because that’s what my heart wants.”

Undertaker returned the pressure of his hand. “It does my heart good to hear you say that. We should probably discuss when and where you would like to see Ciel again. I was of the mind that you should wait until you regain more of your memories, but the boy is your son and I’ve no right to try and keep him from you.”

"I’m not sure, myself…I’m worried on how he’ll react…will he run into my arms…or pull away… Before we free him from the demon, or after… Would he resent me more for waiting?"

The mortician thought on it for a moment. “Your son isn’t a very predictable little fellow, Vincent. I wish I had an answer for you, but I’d hate to give you a false assumption to go by and find out I was completely wrong. Of one thing I can assure you though; he wants you back. He relinquished your records to me without a fight, and he misses you. Truth be told, I think the boy resents me for failing to stop what happened, more than he could ever resent you for dying.”

"Then…I want to see him before. And I want to see that this demon isn’t a threat of going after my son when he no longer holds claim to my baby’s soul." Vincent stated after some thought. "I want my son back."

Unsurprised, the Undertaker nodded. He still had his doubts that Vincent should be reunited with Ciel before he’d recovered more, but perhaps seeing him and speaking with him again would jog his memory a bit and help more than hurt. He could lie and manipulate with the best of them, but never to this man.

"Then I’ll make the arrangements in the morning. Ciel is a busy lad, but I can’t imagine anything he’s got lined up taking priority over seeing his Daddy again."


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Early the next day, Sebastian approached Ciel while the Earl was having his breakfast, and the expression on his refined features was carefully neutral. “Young master, you have a telephone call…from the Undertaker. I presume you will want to speak with him concerning your last encounter.”

Ciel looked up, “Yes, I shall take the call. Please leave me to it and go about your chores.” He nodded casually, dismissing the butler with a bored wave of his hand before he used it to pluck the phone from it’s cradle on his desk. He raised it to his ear and waited to hear a click as Sebastian hung up the other line, leaving Ciel alone on the connection with the reaper.

“I expected to hear from you sooner than this, Undertaker.”

"Would you rather it be done fast or done right, little lord?" countered the mortician’s voice with a chuckle. "At any rate, I think you’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve someone in my presence who’s rather eager to meet you. In fact, you could speak to him over the bell if you’d like—oh, don’t look at me like that. If you’re ready to see him in person you’re ready to speak to him on the telephone."

Undertaker’s voice became muffled slightly as he spoke to someone in the background. He resumed speaking with Ciel after a moment. “We need to agree on a safe, neutral location of course. I’ve no doubt Shinigami authorities are having your property watched and I don’t care to risk our mutual friend’s safety by showing up on your doorstep for introductions. Sorry my young friend, but my companion made a valid point a moment ago when he said a phone conversation might not be a good idea right now, in light of that fact. Why don’t you meet me at the bright place you used to like to visit with your parents and I, hmm? You ought to know the one. Think back on the giggles we shared with mirrors.”

"Today?" Ciel asked, struggling to contain the eagerness in his voice. His father…he was getting his father back… or was he? What if something was missing? he hesitated, "…He’s not…like the others, is he?"

"Not a bit," assured the mortician. "Why do you think I worked so tirelessly for perfection, child? There are some very minor physical differences you may notice and some memory problems to work through, but I think you’ll find him to be almost exactly as you recall. Do we have an agreement, young Earl?"

Ciel nodded, though he knew the action would be completely unknown to the reaper, “I can be there in an hour.”

The boy hung up and took a moment to school his features before pushing himself up, “Sebastian.” he waited for the butler to appear, “Ready the carriage. I require a trip to town.”

The butler bowed. “As you wish, my lord.”

As he left to do his master’s bidding, the demon considered what the future may hold for him. It seemed the old reaper had managed to do what he’d claimed he could do, and Sebastian knew that he would have a fight on his hands when the time came to claim Ciel’s soul. He would need to be on his guard. He’d come to respect the Undertaker’s craftiness and prowess in a fight, and there were other ways the mortician might go about robbing him of his meal.


 

"Just try to be patient, love," Undertaker advised his companion an hour later. They were standing near the house of mirrors at the fall carnival, waiting for Ciel to arrive. "I’m sure the boy was able to read between the lines and figure out where to meet us. He’ll come."

Vincent nodded, his form hidden under a large coat with a high collar and a warn, casual top hat that helped hide his face from the public. After all, rumors of a dead man walking around wouldn’t have been helpful for their plot against the queen or staying hidden from the reaper officials.

“I’m sure he will…” he agreed, but he was nervous, his stomach twisting as he stood in anticipation of seeing his son again. He still worried he’d be rejected once the boy did see him.

With a sigh, he leaned against the wall of the hall of mirrors and nervously tugged his white gloves tighter onto his hands.

“But what if he changed his mind? What if he doesn’t wish to see me again?”

The mortician shook his head. “That won’t happen, chap. You’re his father and regardless of how mature he acts, he’s still a boy and he misses you.”

He walked up behind Vincent and he squeezed his shoulders, peering at him through the reflection in the glass. “Just breathe and…oh, I believe that’s him and his butler approaching right now.”

Undertaker spotted the familiar forms approaching through the crowd for a brief moment, when the carnival-goers parted enough. He smiled at his nervous companion and patted his shoulders. “Turn around so he can see you, love. He’ll recognize you straight off—of that, I’ve got no doubt.”

Vincent’s heart leapt in his chest and he spun around to see the young earl walking through the crowd. a cane in his hand, a blue top hat upon his head that matched his fine coat. A silk black eye patch hid his eye from view, and a sadly serious look showed on the boy’s face.

It was wrong…Ciel always smiling…every memory he had recovered of the boy showed his large, bright smile…and it was missing.

“Ciel…” Vincent took a step forward, paying no heed to the tall butler only steps behind the young nobleman. The demon didn’t matter at the moment…only the boy—his son.

Ciel’s stride faltered and he slowed to a stop, his eyes widening when he spotted the man standing next to the Undertaker. He swallowed and took a deep breath. This was it…his father…back from the dead. A miracle he could have never predicted, even after contracting with Sebastian. Was he ready for it? Suddenly, he wasn’t sure.

"You should go to him," Undertaker muttered to Vincent out the corner of his mouth.

Across the distance, Sebastian noticed his master’s hesitation, and he looked at the man that had sired him with interest. Ciel surely favored the previous Earl in looks, if not in eye color. A handsome, refined gentleman with blue highlights in his hair, dark eyes and a mole beneath his left eye, he cut a dashing figure.

"Young master?" he queried, wondering why the boy hesitated.

"…What if he’s not the man I remember?" The boy asked, more to himself, "…I know I’m not the boy he remembers. What if he’s disappointed in what I’ve become?"

Vincent made himself take a step forward, then he took another step and another. Before he knew it, the former Earl was running to the boy and sweeping him up into a tight hug, tears gathering in his eyes. “Ciel…”

Ciel gasped in surprise, but hugged the man, his own emotions, old ones he’d long buried deep inside his heart and left to be forgotten, overflowed in the form of his own tears, rolling in thick beads of moisture down his cheeks and soaking his eye patch. “D-Daddy…”

Undertaker watched with a pleased grin, secretly relieved. For a brief moment Ciel had looked like he might turn and run away, but it seemed his desire to see his father won out over his uncertainty. As father and son embraced and wept, Sebastian Michaelis’ eyes met the mortician’s across the distance and they glowed briefly, the pupils elongating into slits. His features remained coolly impassive, but that subtle glow betrayed his feelings about this reunion.

~Sorry chap. I understand demons need to eat too, but you chose the wrong meal.~

Undertaker smiled benignly at him and waved hello, unable to help himself. Sebastian nodded curtly in greeting, but his narrowed eyes said that he’d much rather be sharpening his claws on the reaper’s innards.

Vincent lowered the boy to his feet, kneeling before him as he leaned back to take a look at the boy, “…You’ve grown so much…” he said, brushing the boy’s hair out of his face, “…No longer my baby boy… You’ve grown into a strong young man…” and he’d missed it all…

Ciel’s hand, gloved in black velvet, touched the scar left from the bullet that had taken his father from him. proof that the man had truly suffered a fatal wound. He said nothing, in fear of looking himself further. in fear of becoming that same, scared little boy he had been.

Undertaker approached them, not so much to offer any commentary himself but to be close enough to intervene if Michaelis got it into his head to try anything. He could see the gears turning behind the demon’s crimson gaze, and while the constraints of his contract with Ciel wouldn’t likely allow him to harm his father, he was a cunning chap…and he was starving. A ravenous demon was a dangerous creature, indeed.

"I’m sorry…" Vincent whispered when his son said nothing, "I’m so sorry I couldn’t be there for you…Undertaker told me what had been your fate after that night…And I—" his voice cracked as he caressed the boy’s face, "My sweet little boy…I wish I could have protected you from all that…"

Ciel closed his eyes, “There was nothing you could have done. You were gone before they found me—I had seen you in the fire…you were already taken…” he said in a voice that sounded all too adult to the father’s ears.

Undertaker bowed his head, recalling that night far too vividly for his liking. The heat of the flames, the reek of burning flesh, the charred remains of one beloved mortal and the lifeless body of the other…and then the desperate search for their child. How many times had he wished he could truly manipulate time as the mortals of old believed, and wind the clock back enough to make it there to save them all before it was too late?

But even death gods could not stop fate from happening. Alter it at times, yes. Give it a new outcome, yes. But halting it completely was a task beyond anyone.

The resurrected man sighed and kissed his heir’s forehead, “Still…I am your father…you are my greatest treasure…” Vincent looked at the boy with sad, swirled eyes, “…And a part of you had been lost because of what happened…Ciel, I… —Ciel!” he pulled the boy into another heartfelt hug.

"He has become stronger for it," Sebastian remarked softly.

Undertaker looked at him with a brief frown, and then he grinned in a subtly aggressive way. The cockney accent of the mortician came out stronger in his effort to mask his annoyance. “Too right, Mr. Michaelis; but li’l ones shouldn’t have to learn lessons like that before they’ve sprouted enough to take care of ‘emselves. Y’know…without callin’ on bogeymen to do it for ‘em.”

Sebastian raised a brow. “So says the grim reaper.”

"Former." Undertaker shrugged, his grin remaining intact. "And even when yours truly was in the ‘business’, the nippers weren’t the ones that feared me."

"Perhaps they were too naive yet to see you for what you were," suggested the demon.

Undertaker chuckled and gestured at Ciel, still embraced with his father. “Think so, eh? Funny story; your li’l master figured it out when ‘e was still in nappies.”

Sebastian frowned at Ciel. “I sincerely doubt that. My master would have shared that information with me, had he known you were a reaper—at least once you betrayed him.”

The mortician shook his head, his grin going wider with a sly sort of glee. “Oh, ‘e didn’t know what ‘e was lookin’ at, chap. All’s ‘e knew was ‘is ‘Uncle Unnie’ had a funny shadow and could do li’l tricks nobody else could. Didn’t know wha’ a reaper was, I imagine, but ‘e figured out I wasn’t normal…and it never gave ‘im a fright.”

"Would you please stop with that deplorable gutter speech?" demanded the butler with disdain. "We are both already quite aware it is an act, and you sound like a drunken actor in a stage production of ‘Oliver Twist’."

The mortician cackled. “Bother your ears, does it?”

Vincent finally looked up at the demon, his gaze taking in his form as he stood up, still holding his son close, “Ciel was always strong. He didn’t become stronger because of you or what happened to him. He grew up because of what happened to him. He lost his childhood because of those men. I can not blame him…it’s what he had to do. But it is still tragic. Don’t belittle what he went through so easily, Demon.”

Sebastian smirked slightly. “I offer no insult to my young master by stating the obvious. Indeed, I have the utmost respect for him and the strength of his…soul.”

His eyes glowed briefly again, and he looked at Ciel with a veiled, unwholesome hunger that had nothing to do with sexual lust.

"I am quite aware of your intentions. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I whole-heartedly do not approve." the former earl stated frankly, "And were it up to me I’d have you banished from my son’s side. Starving or not, I’d have you look elsewhere for your next meal. But lucky for you I have no say in this. Therefore, I request that you allow me to spend some time with my son without you breathing down our necks. Unlike me, Undertaker will not be able to bring him back if you take his soul, after all."

The butler looked at the Undertaker, his eyes reverting back to human form in appearance. A wicked little smile curved his lips. “Yes, I imagine he couldn’t. Unfortunately, senior Earl Phantomhive, I cannot acquiesce your desire. Your son is bound to me and I to him…by his own choosing.”

"Things can change," murmured the Undertaker with a toothy half-smirk of his own.

"And I don’t remember asking you to back off your contract. I requested to spend time with my son without having to see you smacking your lips out the corner of my eye.” Vincent placed a hand on his son’s shoulder, “You already aim to take my son from me for eternity. The least you could grant me is a few hours of what little time he may have left on this earth. After all, what have you to fear? I pose no threat to his life. I’d sooner give my own for his.”

"If the young master wishes me to leave his side, I cannot disobey him," Sebastian said calmly. "As you say, sir; you pose no threat to his safety…and I can find him wherever you may take him, should you attempt to hide him from me."

The butler looked at Ciel. “What would you have me do, my lord?”

"Leave us." Ciel stated, "I'll call you to me when I'm ready to return home. I wish to spend time alone with my father." he looked at Undertaker, "That means I want you to leave us, as well."

Undertaker was used to Ciel trying to boss him around, but his true lord was the boy’s father. He looked at Vincent questioningly.

“What would you like me to do?”

Vincent nodded, “I’m not going to argue with my son’s wishes…the time has passed by much slower for him than it has for me.” He looked down at his son, fondly, “A father-son outing is long overdue. We have a lot to catch up on.”

"Hmm." Undertaker tapped his teeth with his nails, and then he shrugged and smiled, his oversized sleeves flapping with the motion. "Fair enough, my lord. I s’pose Sebastian and I can find somewhere else to busy ourselves for a while. I’ll come back here in a couple of hours and wait for you."

He reached out and unceremoniously slapped Sebastian on the back. “Let’s go, chap. The night waits for no reaper…or demon.”

"Do you honestly believe I intend to go anywhere with you?" scoffed the butler.

Undertaker shrugged again. “Don’t much care where you go, just soes it’s away from the little Earl and his daddy. You can go and brood wherever you please once we’re outside the carnival grounds.”

Sebastian sighed softly, casting his master one last look that said he was not pleased with being sent off with the old mad man. He walked away with the mortician, hunger pangs striking him with each mortal soul they passed. Undertaker evidently picked up on his suffering, for once they were at the edge of the carnival he sat down on a bench and looked up at the demon curiously, his gaze hidden beneath his hair.

"Ever considered snacking on any of them to relieve it?"

Sebastian closed his eyes briefly. “The thought has occurred to me once or twice,” he confessed, “but my meal will be all the more satisfying if I abstain.”

"Hmph…silly demon." The mortician sighed, looking suddenly morose and a bit childish as he folded his elbows over his knees and stared at the ground. "I can appreciate wanting to accept no substitutes, though."

Sebastian smirked. “It must rankle you to be so casually dismissed by the man you moved Heaven and Earth to bring back to life.”

It was the reaper’s turn to betray annoyance. “Shut it, fancy-pants.”


 

In the carnival, Father and son strolled along the crowded paths between the attractions and booths. It was awkward, the two both not knowing how to act or what to say to the other.

But finally, they sat down in a food tent with fatty carnival food, and the conversation they needed to have was finally brought up.

“Did you betray Mother with the Undertaker?” Ciel asked, making Vincent freeze, a chip half-way to his mouth.

The older Phantomhive sighed and lowered the fried potato slice, “…Yes…and no.” he met Ciel’s gaze and held it before explaining, “I grew up knowing Undertaker. He’d been my father’s and my father’s father’s informant. He was a man who had always been in my life…and as I grew into an age where I began to have more…adult feelings, I found I was attracted to other men over women.”

Ciel was still young, but he did have a right to know.

“As a student at Weston, I had relationships with other students in my year, but nothing lasting. After Graduation, I met Undertaker once more and things had long changed since I had been naught but an innocent boy more interested in playing games and causing my father headaches. Things began to happen between us, and eventually…we became lovers—in secret. Around the same time I had to choose a bride. I met your mother and her sister and I became quite fond of them both. Your mother became my closest friend, and eventually, I took her as my wife. She knew of my relationship with Undertaker, and she supported it, even after she became heavy with child.”

“…And, are you and Undertaker…still like that?” The boy asked.

Vincent frowned, “Not quite. I cannot deny I have feelings for the man, or that they grow stronger with each passing day. But we have not yet engaged in rekindling what had once been. I am not quite all I used to be yet…” he touched the scar on his forehead from the bullet wound, “…I awoke not even knowing my own name. I have spent these past weeks searching my mind for my memories and slowly piecing myself back together like a puzzle. Undertaker knows my wishes to find myself first before we make our relationship official once more. But you—you are the biggest piece. I needed to see you most of all… Ciel…my sweet little boy… You are safe, currently, I know that. But, are you happy?”

Ciel adverted his gaze as he thought, “…No.” he finally said, “I am not happy. I haven’t been happy since before the incident. But I’m not looking for happiness. I’m looking for resolve. Vengeance before my time is up. However…” The boy looked at his father whist a ghost of the smile Vincent remembered, “It does make me happy to have you back, Father.”


 

"I must commend you on your success," Sebastian said to the Undertaker, "and your cunning. You do know this will not end peacefully between us."

"Wasn’t expecting it to," answered the reaper with a grin. "We all do what we must, butler. You need to eat, and I need to keep serving the Phantomhives."

Sebastian half-turned to look at him again. “And would your loyalty be as strong if Vincent Phantomhive was not your lover?”

"Probably not," replied Undertaker candidly. "But the whole lot of them have proved interesting, through the years. Acting as their informant has kept me entertained."

He sat back and crossed his legs, steepling his fingertips together. “Some mortals bore my boots off, to tell you the truth…but bless the clever ones, the witty ones…and even the wicked ones. They fascinate and amuse me. It’s what drew me to Vincent in the first place, you know. He’s not a wicked man despite his reputation, but he is one of the most clever men I’ve ever known…and the most ruthless. Kind-hearted though he is, he doesn’t let that get in the way of what needs to be done, if someone crosses him.”

The demon smirked quietly at the grinning mortician. “I take it you are presenting this information to me as a warning?”

"More like a promise." Undertaker’s strange gaze flashed beneath his bangs and he sat forward a bit. "Don’t underestimate him just because the chap’s human…or was. You could always make this easier on everyone and bow out of your contract with the little Earl. I’m sure you’ve heard stories of how Vincent’s previous enemies met their demise, and it took an entire cult of them to finally bring him down."

"Not to mention he has a pet reaper," said the butler dryly.

Undertaker shrugged, un-offended. “He gives me biscuits when I’m a good boy.”

"And other things too, I imagine." Sebastian checked his pocket-watch. "Well, thank you for the warning, but I must decline your offer. Ciel’s soul is mine, and I shall claim it with delight once I have fulfilled my contract."

The reaper clucked his tongue. “Bad idea, chap. What if—oh, bugger!”

Sebastian frowned as the ancient Shinigami suddenly jumped up and hopped over the bench to duck behind some carefully tended park bushes. “You really are a strange—”

"Shut your mouth and get back here with me," hissed the Undertaker, waving a pale hand from behind the bush.

The butler raised an eyebrow and looked around. He saw the reason for the Undertaker’s sudden decision to hide, and he began to smile. “Why, it’s William T. Spears and his associate…oh, dear.”

Grell Sutcliff was with the refined brunet reaper, practically dancing around him with excitement as the two of them approached the carnival from the street just beyond the ticket gate. Sebastian sighed. As much as he would enjoy ratting the Undertaker out and complicating his plans to intrude with his goal, he would rather not deal with the red one. If they discovered Vincent Phantomhive here, he trusted that Spears would not immediately attempt to destroy him, but Grell was far too unpredictable. If he allowed Ciel’s father to be killed, he’d have the boy’s wrath to deal with as well as the Undertaker’s.

With a sigh, the demon abandoned thoughts of calling their attention to his rival and he joined him in the bushes.

"Change your mind when you saw your little admirer, did you?" snickered the mortician softly.

Sebastian compressed his lips. Their presence here could be a coincidence, or someone from their department might have followed him and Ciel here and reported back to them. Either way, he needed to find his young charge and warn him. Despite Undertaker’s jabs, he could sense the tension radiating from him as well.


 

After eating their quick and unhealthy late lunch, Vincent and Ciel had resumed their venture about the fair. With the discussion out of the way, they became much more comfortable in each other’s company and Ciel caught his father up on his life since contracting with Sebastian.

Vincent kept his mouth shut about the queen when he heard of the things his son had to do by her order. None too pleased that the woman had dared use his son as her tool as if she hadn’t been the one responsible for the murder of the boy’s parents. but he couldn’t tell his son he knew the truth. Ciel may tell the demon and then their plans to save Ciel would be ruined. And when the boy had asked him of the night he died, Vincent had forced himself to lie and say he couldn’t remember that night and didn’t know who had killed him. And in truth, he didn’t know who had pulled the trigger. He just knew who was pulling the strings.

“What will you do?” The boy asked after Vincent had won him a stuffed bear on a shooting game, “With your life, I mean. You can’t take back the family lands and titles…you’re dead.”

“That is true, but to tell you the truth, I’m not so sure I would want to be ‘Lord Phantomhive’ again. A simple life…it’s been hard getting used to. cooking and cleaning is harder than one would think, but, It’s been nice…living this way. I’d like to continue it if possible.”

“With the Undertaker?” Ciel asked, and watched as his father nodded with a small smile on his lips.

“With Undertaker.” he confirmed, “I have only two people in the world I care about. The first being you, the other being Undertaker. And…should it be possible in some way…I’d like to save you from that demon. I wouldn’t tell you how to live…but, I’d like it if you would live with me…as you would have had that dark night never happened.”

“Father, I—” Ciel cut off, in the distance seeing a flash of bright red. with a groan, he grabbed his father’s arm and pulled him between tents and out of sight.

“Ciel?”

“Shh! There’s a rather annoying death god out there.”


 

"Grell, do contain yourself," admonished William with a sigh. Oh, how he wished he could have brought Ronald or Alan or Eric with him, but all three of them were busy researching the case. When word got back to him that the Earl and his butler were going to the carnival, he had no choice but to check into it himself…and Grell was the only officer available to accompany him in the event that things got rough. He could call for backup at any time, but he would rather not interrupt his associate’s work unless it was necessary.

The brunet kept a cool, sharp eye out, suspecting that if the Undertaker wished to contact Ciel again, he would be clever enough not to do so at his home. “This is not an outing, Grell Sutcliff. We are here to investigate and detain a fugitive, should he make an appearance. Please conduct yourself with a measure of control and keep your guard up.”

"Awwww come on! it’s a carnival! This place is designed for fun! No harm in a little fun while we search for Unnie! Come on~ It can be like a date~" The redhead cooed, linking arms with the supervisor and leaning in uncomfortably close, "Please?"

William withdrew his arm from Grell’s hold and he pressed his glasses further up on his nose with a sigh. “Again I remind you that we are here with a purpose. ‘Fun’ is not part of that. You can have your fun on your own time, Sutcliff. Now help me search for the Earl.”


 

In the bushes, Undertaker and Sebastian watched the two Dispatch agents walk by and the mortician slowly stood up when they were far enough away.

"We’ve got to get to the little lord and his father," whispered the mortician to his demonic companion.

Sebastian also straightened up, brushing his tuxedo lightly to clear away the leaves. “Indeed.”

"You go left, I’ll go right?" suggested Undertaker.

Sebastian nodded his dark head. “We have an accord.”

They parted ways then, both doing their best not to be spotted by William or Grell as they searched for the young Earl and his father.

Vincent and his son were not within sight. Undertaker moved through the shadows to avoid detection from his fellow reapers, searching the tents, booths, and show rinks for his reborn lover. But his search turned up empty, even after he exited the hall of mirrors where he and Sebastian had left the two Phantomhives. He sighed, tapping his chin with his long nail as he racked his brain for where else Vincent and Ciel may have gone to.

As he did so, a hand shot out from between tents, clamping across his mouth and using the element of surprise to yank him back off-balance and into the shadowed crevice between a large show tent and a tent selling refreshments.

“What the? I told you no annoying reapers! We are trying to stay out of sight, dad!” Ciel gasped.

Vincent, being the man who had successfully captured the silver reaper, looked over at the boy with a small mock-pout, “But this one is my annoying reaper.” he pointed out, “We can trust this one, unlike the ones that spooked you into hiding.” he said, hand still over Undertaker’s mouth, and hugging the man to his chest, holding him up in his half-fallen state.

Undertaker gently pried Vincent’s hand off of his mouth and he righted himself, unable to stop grinning despite the precariousness of their situation. “Your annoying reaper, eh?” he whispered.

He nearly kissed him, but then he remembered his son and thought better of it. Wouldn’t do to traumatize the boy. “Well, I’m relieved I found you—or you found me, as is more accurate. I s’pose you noticed the Dispatch agents in the area, then?”

"Ciel did." Vincent nodded, helping Undertaker stand up properly, "Seeing as you are the only reaper I have ever knowingly met before, I wouldn’t have known. He pointed them out to me."

“Grell Sutcliff and William Spears.” Ciel stated, crossing his arms, “The latter is a standable man, but Grell is overly annoying. But either way, while they can do nothing to me, it would not be ideal if they were to see my father.”

“Or Undertaker.” Vincent nodded in agreement, glancing at his lover.

The mortician straightened his hat. “Indeed. I think we’d best portal out of here, love. Ciel, your butler should find you directly—”

No sooner did he say that then Sebastian appeared right behind Ciel in a burst of black feathers. “Young master, Dispatch is here…oh. I see you have already noticed.”

Undertaker nodded. “That he did. Now I hate to cut this reunion short, but it’s better for all of us if Vincent and I take our leave. They’re bound to sense it when we portal out, so you two might want to skedaddle off. Not that I’m worried they’ll try to do anything to you, but they’re sure to ask questions if they find you near the portal energies. We can arrange another meeting later…hopefully without the snoops following to interrupt it.”

Ciel nodded and looked at his father again. The man smiled and knelt down to his son, kissing his forehead after pushing his bangs out of his face, “Take care of yourself. I’ll come see you again when I can. Promise.”

Ciel hugged his father, not speaking until he pulled away and looked at Sebastian, “Lets go so they can.”

Sebastian nodded. “Of course, my lord.”

The demon cast one last look at the Undertaker and Vincent, and then he walked away with his small master. The reaper waited until they were several booths away before activating the portal that would open up just outside his and Vincent’s cabin. He put an arm around his companion and urged him toward it.

"Time to go, darlin’. We can contact your son again soon."

Ushering Vincent through with him, the Undertaker stepped through the portal and it closed behind them as soon as they were through.


 

William stopped in his tracks and frowned, looking around as he reached out with his senses. “Sutcliff…did you feel that?”

"The pull of fate urging us to become lovers? Every single second, darling~" Grell giggled, wiggling his hips, though he knew very well the man meant the portal that had just been opened. He grabbed William’s hand and yanked him towards where he felt the portal was located, "Lets go find a romantic place to finally make love~"

"Stop your playing," snapped the brunet, yanking his hand out of Grell’s and readying his scythe. "And be ready for—"

They made it behind the house of mirrors and William sighed. “A fight,” he finished pointlessly. Whoever had created the portal was already gone. William grimaced with frustration and nudged his glasses with his scythe, looking around.

"Well, we were too late. I believe we should locate the Earl, if he and his butler are still about. They may have had contact with the fugitive and though Phantomhive is unlikely to cooperate, we should still attempt to question him about it."

"I wasn’t playing! I was teasing while being completely serious!" the redhead protested, "Why do you think i was pulling you towards the portal! Rhea, can’t you ever just trust me or go along with a little fun?” He pouted, crossing his arms and pouting.

"As I said before," reminded William, "we are not here to have fun, Grell Sutcliff. Our purpose was to attempt recapture of the fugitive that somehow escaped from us. That incident reflected badly on our entire department, and I for one would prefer to redeem Dispatch in the eyes of our superiors. Now come along, so that we may locate and question the Earl, should he still be here."

"You take work way too seriously!” Grell grumbled, walking back towards the carnival’s activity, his hips swaying as he shrugged dramatically. “Spoils all the fun of investigation work. Just leave it to me. I can find Sebby-darling myself.”

William regarded him warily. True, it might prove more efficient for one of them to speak with the Phantomhive boy and his pet demon while the other left to file a report, but could he trust Grell to do either one on his own? He’d turned his last report into some ridiculous poem, and William knew how he tended to behave around Sebastian. Leaving him to take care of it unsupervised might spoil any chances that the boy or the butler would share any information.

"I am going to give you this opportunity," said William carefully, "but allow me to make one thing very clear: you are not to throw yourself at that demon. I realize that you cannot help yourself to a certain point, but there will be no unwanted physical contact on your part. You will at least attempt to conduct yourself with some sense of professionalism, understand?"

Grell waved a hand at him, only half listening, “Darling, if you want me to get them talking leave me to my own devices. Believe it or not, sometimes my methods work better than yours.” he said before disappearing into the crowd, which was surprising given his brightly colored hair.

William sighed and looked up at the night sky. “Styx help me,” he muttered. He then portaled out to file his report of the investigation. He only hoped that he was not making a mistake in trusting Grell to handle Ciel and Sebastian.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

"Young master, we are being followed." Sebastian narrowed his eyes, having no need to turn around for visual confirmation. He sensed the crimson reaper’s approach before Grell even called out to him, and when he heard the first "Yoo-hoo" from Grell’s lips, he knew it was too late to try and lose him in the crowd.

Most of the problem lay with Ciel and his vehement dislike of the redhead. Sebastian himself—while finding him annoying at times—secretly enjoyed teasing him. Informing him that he could tie a cherry stem into a knot with his tongue, for example. That alone had almost been enough to invoke a nosebleed. Truth be told, the reaper wasn’t unattractive to him. It was that mouth of his and the way he was constantly running it…and their was also the fact that he was a reaper.

But at least he used proper English when he spoke.

"Se-bas-tian~" Grell sang out fondly. But rather than taking a flying leap at the butler, the demon was surprised when the redhead simply slipped his arm into his and leaned in lovingly, "Darling~ Might I ask you a favor of talking with me~?" he cooed, his finger of his free hand tracing swirls up on the man’s lapel of his tailcoat. "I promise no jumping you if you do~"

The butler glanced down at his master—who was giving the reaper a decidedly unfriendly look with his uncovered eye. “That depends on my lord.”

He nearly pushed Grell away, but he found it more amusing to allow his fawning and watch the distaste grow on Ciel’s boyish countenance. The young Earl had an odd sense of jealousy when it came to others vying for his attention. It wasn’t the jealousy of a lover by any means, but of a boy who—like it or not—had come to see Sebastian as the closest thing to a father figure he’d had since the tragedy that brought them together. The demon put up with a lot from his master, and once in a while it was entertaining to subtly push his buttons.

After all, Sutcliff wasn’t attacking or touching him improperly…yet.

Grell blinked and looked down his nose at the boy. The brat had gotten in his way far too many times—and had gone back on promises. He had no trust for the kid and his respect and caring for him was severely lacking.

“Willy-bear wanted to know if you’ve seen Unnie-bunny.” he cooed at the boy in a snide tone. “I just want to spend time with Sebby-darling~”

Ciel sighed, rubbing his temple, “Why on earth did he send you? No, I have not seen any annoying reapers other than you since the old loon was captured. I was supposed to be granted a meeting with him, but here it seems you have lost him. Quite disappointing. Can your kind do nothing right?”

Sebastian dearly wanted to counter his master’s answer and tell the reaper the truth, if only to put another obstacle before the Undertaker. He could not go against Ciel that way, however. He was sworn never to betray him. Besides, Undertaker and his doll companion were both long gone. Any advantage he might have had in giving him away was gone with him.

"My young lord desired to see the carnival," said the butler instead. He looked down at the boy and smirked. "Children tend to enjoy such festivities…even the ones who tend to forget they are still children."

Ciel scowled and turned away.

“Hmm… but what was the portal energies all about not long ago? Surely it wasn’t you… Demonic portals are much darker in energy signatures.” Grell cooed, leaning in closer to the demonic butler, “Com on, Love~ If you do me a favor, I’ll do you one~ We need to find Unnie so he’s not causing dispatch any more problems, that’s all!”

"I am afraid I can’t help you with that," answered Sebastian. "I sensed the anomaly too, but found nothing there. If the Undertaker was here, he’s obviously gone now. As the young master said, the only reaper we have seen tonight is you."

The redhead pushed his lip out in a pout, “Fine, I believe you…but it’s disappointing! You should make it up to me with a nice evening out after little boys are in bed~” he winked and pressed a kiss to the demon’s cheek before pulling away and dancing a few steps back out of reach with a giggle, “If the brat will let you our for dinner that is~” he blew a kiss at the demon before turning and disappearing into the crowd.

Sebastian shook his head, smirking. “Well, that was handled easily enough. My lord, shall we return to the estate?”

“He’s such a bother. His being reasonable makes me suspicious. Don’t let your guard down. He may be tailing us. Lets go home.” Ciel said, starting on his way out of the carnival.


 

"Sorry your time with the boy was cut short," offered the Undertaker when they arrived back at the hidden little house. "Seems Dispatch is watching him like a hawk, figuring I’ve still got unfinished business with him. I just hope he was convincing enough to fool them if they questioned him. I think he’s still irritated enough with me to put on a good front, though."

Undertaker unlocked and opened the door, waiting for Vincent to go inside before following him. There was a chill in the air, so he got to work on starting a fire in the hearth. “I could use a spot of tea myself. What about you, love?”

"How about a brandy if we have any?" Vincent asked, shedding his coat and hat, hanging them on the coat rack before heading to his room to shed more layers of clothes to his button-down shirt.

When he returned, he walked up behind Undertaker; who was watching the flames, making sure they took and wouldn’t die too soon. He slipped is arms around the reaper and kissed his shoulder, “Thank you…for letting me be selfish today.” he whispered.

The mortician smiled and turned his head to look over his shoulder at him. “What’s selfish about wanting to see your boy, Vincent? Of the two of us, I’d say I’m the selfish one.”

He poked at the logs a little and then put the screen back into place to keep the embers from jumping out. “And I believe we do have some brandy.” He put the poker back and he straightened up, turning around in Vincent’s embrace to return it. “That’s one thing I try to keep stocked, in the way of spirits. I’ll rummage around for a fresh bottle if you’d like to watch the fire for me. I think I could use a nip myself.”

Vincent nodded, “Please.” he cupped the reaper’s cheek fondly before the taller man pulled away to pour them their glasses.

“It helped.” he added, raising his voice enough so it could be heard in the kitchen, “My memories, I mean. Seeing him, spending time with him, talking to him… It helped bring back more fond memories—not just of him, but of Rachel…and you.”

"Then I say it’s a good thing," called the Undertaker with a grin. He found one of the bottles of brandy he’d stored away in an upper cabinet and he got out some glasses to start pouring it. "I know you didn’t get much time together, but was it at least favorable?"

With Ciel, it was difficult to be sure. It wouldn’t have surprised him to hear that the boy had leveled some accusation of abandonment at Vincent, but maybe he was too happy to see him alive again to do such a thing. As he’d told Vincent before: the little Earl was likely more angry with him for failing to save his family than he was at his father for dying.

"It was…after we talked a few things out. Mostly about my relationship with you and how it affected Rachel. He didn’t seem too pleased at the confirmation of our secret. But he seemed to accept it, by the end." He sat down on the sofa and waited for Undertaker to join him.

The reaper returned to the parlor with the drinks, and he took his seat beside Vincent and handed his over to him. “Indeed. The boy asked me about it when I went to retrieve your locket from him so that I could finish my work and bring you back. It wasn’t a conversation I’d have liked to have with the lil’ fellow, but he boxed me in. Seems he recalls seeing us kiss at some point in the study. Whoopsy.”

Undertaker clinked his glass against the doll’s and took a sip of his brandy. “I suppose we must not have locked the door one night and neither of us heard the little stinker come poking around. He must have blocked it from his memory. Sorry about that, love.”

"It’s in the past…and if kissing is all he saw then there really isn’t any harm done." The former Earl said, sipping his drink and letting it sit on his tongue a moment before swallowing, "Had we been stripped of our clothing and quite deeply involved within each other’s company, then I dear say we would have a problem.”

Undertaker chuckled at that. “Death forbid the poor boy see you licking my boots. He’s been through enough, without that sight burned into his memory.” He nudged him teasingly, smirking. “Now me on the other hand, I always appreciated a good boot-licking…and the delightful aggression I got from you once you got worked up over it.”

"You’re quite obvious in hinting what you would like to have happen, my Undertaker." Vincent said, sipping his drink again and setting it on the small coffee table before he moved closer, taking Undertaker’s glass and setting it aside as well. He soon was straddling his lap and found himself running his fingers through a lock of silver hair, combing it out before he began to braid it.

The mortician put his arms around him, grinning with delight and a little mischief. “Can’t say as I’d object to that love, but I know you probably still need more time to adjust.” He ran his nails down Vincent’s back, practically purring as the man played with his hair. “Mmm, I always liked this, too.”

"My mind’s adjusted…it’s caught up to what my heart knew all along…" Vincent seemed to coo, then he rested forward against the reaper with a small smile, "You’re the judge on my body…"

Undertaker let his hands slide lower, curving down over the mounds of Vincent’s rump. “I don’t think I’ve given you a proper physical yet, since we came here. I wonder if I should.” His grin returned and he nibbled Vincent’s lower lip, before tracing it with his tongue. “It’d be a terrible shame to let this body fall under disrepair from neglect, hmm?”

He was reacting shamelessly to Vincent’s coy playing, swelling under his robes quickly. It wouldn’t be long before he reached full mast and his pants were already getting too tight for comfort.

"No, you haven’t. You have only checked this." he ran his fingers over the scar left from his procedure. The stitches having been taken out only a few days before. "My body moves correctly, and I was successful at one of those carnival shooting games, so function doesn’t seem to be a problem…and you have been more focused on my mental state."

The former Earl leaned in closer, nipping his ear, “Lets see if I can thank you properly for taking such good care of me…”

Undertaker swallowed to moisten a suddenly dry throat. Having only the company of his hand during the years of Vincent’s absence, he couldn’t help but wonder if he’d fallen out of practice. The time gap wasn’t as noticeable to Vincent, because he’d basically spent it in hibernation. For Undertaker though, each day without him had felt like a year in itself. His hands moved from Vincent’s backside around to his hips, then his thighs. His touch was confident, even though he harbored some uncertainty himself.

"So far everything seems to be in working order," purred the reaper as his palms slid up and down Vincent’s straddling inner thighs. He turned his head slightly to trace the man’s lips with his tongue again. "Feeling any swelling or pressure I might need to check out, love?"

He grinned, knowing full well by the bulge his fingers had briefly brushed against what the answer to that was.

"Well, maybe one…" Vincent smirked, leaning in close, his inner thigh pressing against Undertaker’s own tent he’d pitched. "…But it seems you have the same symptoms as I. It would not be good if it’s contagious. We should see about treating you, as well."

Ah, Vincent hadn’t lost his sensual touch at all. Undertaker teasingly skimmed his fingernails over the bulge in the man’s crotch, not quite touching it yet, but providing a tantalizing hint of things to come.

He gazed into Vincent’s altered eyes as he raised his other hand to begin unbuttoning his vest. “Checking vitals is important,” he murmured.

He got the vest undone and he removed Vincent’s ascot, before working on his shirt. He parted the material to bare his chest, and he laid a cool palm over the surface of it.

“Heart’s beating good and strong, but it’s a bit accelerated.” He grinned and finished: “I wonder why that is?”

Vincent smiled and slipped his fingers down Undertaker’s front, undoing the many buttons and working himself down to his bare pale chest. Leaning down, he pressed his ear over his heart, closing his eyes as he listened, “I may not be a man of medical experience…but your heart seems a bit fast as well.” he commented, running his fingertips along a scar crossing Undertaker’s torso. He turned his head and kissed him just above a pert, pink nipple, “I’m inclined to think you are excited. Are you?” he asked, planting a few more kisses before the very tip of his tongue poked out and danced over his skin.

"Not a bad prognosis, for an amateur," Undertaker breathed with a grin. His breath caught a bit and he had to rein in the urge to grab this man and ravish him. When he was sure Vincent was comfortable enough with him, he would stop restraining himself.

Vincent stood up at that and pulled the reaper’s hand to follow him, “We should do this properly.” he said, leading the way to the bedroom, “It should be special.”

"Oh, I agree," said the Undertaker readily, his garments sliding off his white shoulders as he allowed himself to be led to the bedroom.

He smiled, remembering a very similar attitude from his lover the first time they consummated their relationship. His hair got caught on a nail as he tried to follow Vincent through the threshold of the doorway to the bedroom, and he flailed a bit and cursed, pulling his hand out of the doll’s to try and disentangle himself. “Er, one moment, love. I…seem to be caught.”

Vincent blinked in surprise, “…Of all things to try and ruin the mood…a nail?” he asked, moving to help the reaper.

Undertaker felt distinctly embarrassed as his companion came to his rescue. “Silly, eh? Of all the things to take me down, a wayward nail does the trick. Good thing I’ve got a diligent prince charming to come rescue me.”

He started to snicker uncontrollably, reminded of how many times his odd quirks had turned serious or romantic encounters with Vincent into shared moments of laughter. “I really don’t do this on purpose, lover,” he managed between huffs of mirth.

"I think you do. I think you like being my damsel in distress." Vincent teased, gathering Undertaker’s hair and slipping it all over one shoulder so that it wasn’t likely to get caught again as he resumed leading him to the bed.

Still chuckling softly, the reaper gamely followed. “I believe you once told me I was an ancient child, darlin’.” He sank down on the bed with Vincent and he shrugged out of his loosened garments. Suddenly nervous, he sobered and he let his bangs fall over his lowered eyes as he took Vincent’s hands in his.

"Funny thing, this. I was the one to initiate everything and here I am now, worrying over every move I make. It’s not my usual behavior, love…I just…want to know you really want it. You aren’t my toy; you’re my Vincent."

"I know," Vincent whispered, "Undertaker…I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t sure of your feelings for me…and mine for you… I love you, I really do."

The reaper felt such joy at that simple declaration that he could have died on the spot and been forever happy. He smiled at Vincent, and he embraced him as he backed him up into the room and against the bed.

"Then you don’t mind this crazy old mortician sharing your bed from now on?"

Our bed.” Vincent corrected, “It’s too lonely without you.” He played with Undertaker’s hair again. “You’re my lover, Undertaker, and this time…nothing’s stopping us from being together.”

"I…I think my laughter may soon come back to me," muttered Undertaker. It was a stupid thing to say…made no bloody sense to most anyone except himself, but the smile given to him in response from Vincent assured him that there was at least one other person in the world who understood.

He hugged Vincent close and he lifted him up with his supernatural strength, waddling over to the bed with him. “Not letting go,” he teased, even as tears pricked his eyes. He kissed the former Earl passionately, letting all those long years of guilt, anguish and devotion spill forth in his passion.

"Good…laughter suits you more than anything, Undertaker. I want to see it back in your eyes," Vincent whispered into Undertaker’s kiss, pressing forward and deepening the kiss; parting his lips to invite the other inside.

~Oh, how you move me, Earl.~

Undertaker did not bother saying it aloud. He practically tossed Vincent on the bed and he covered his body with his own, returning his kisses with enthusiasm. This was…real. Vincent was back with him. The ancient showered his returned lover with kisses, unable to hold back. He tossed his head to flip his long, silver hair over to one side and he lowered his mouth to Vincent’s again, purring in his throat as he rubbed up against him.

Too tight…too many barriers. Their clothing was a hindrance. Undertaker snarled silently and he bent a leg to unbuckle a boot.

Vincent’s hand slipped down Undertaker’s side to his hand working on one of the many buckles of his boots, “Those last.” he requested breathlessly. “There are other things that can go right now…”

The mortician chuckled and obligingly left off what he was doing, not really surprised. After all, there had been quite a few times in the past when he’d left the boots on during the whole encounter, at the Earl’s request. He kissed him again and settled for unfastening his pants to at least relieve some of the pressure against his swollen crotch.

"I’ve dreamt of this," he purred, "so many nights, I’ve lain awake remembering your touch…craving it. This is my slice of Heaven, love." He plunged his tongue into Vincent’s mouth to fence with his, and he slipped his hand between his legs to fondle his package through the trousers.

"Hmmmh…" Vincent reacted to the touch, rolling his hips up against the reaper’s hand as his fingers ran over Undertaker’s hips and bottom. With a moan, he pulled back from the deep kiss just enough so that he could speak without choking on his lover’s tongue, "Then let me show you the Heaven you have been so cruelly denied for so many years."

"Who could say no to that?" Undertaker smiled and nipped playfully at the other man’s ear, teasing the lobe with his teeth and tongue. He gave his package a light squeeze, and then resumed massaging it.

"Certainly not you." Vincent smiled, He lifted his hips, pushing his slacks off along with his underpants, kicking them off and onto the floor. Then he shifted, guiding Undertaker onto his back where he crawled over him, kissing his way down his muscular white body, fingers tugging his slacks down off his hips so that he could nibble and suck on the soft flesh.

"Mmm, is my darling hungry for something?" teased the reaper. His erection twitched as it was exposed to view. He stroked his lover’s hair and watched as his lips trailed kisses over his albino-pale flesh, his breath quickening with excitement. Vincent had a way of enticing him so easily, and that hadn’t changed in the time they’d been apart.

"Not as starved as you are." Vincent purred before suddenly taking his lover’s member into his mouth. His lips slowly sliding along the length of his member, tongue lightly sliding along the underside. He let out a hum and somehow managed to swallow around the thick, needy sex.

Undertaker trembled and his breath caught, his body singing with delight in response to the erotic treatment. He closed his eyes and sighed, stroking Vincent’s hair as he allowed himself to relax and savor the wet pleasure of his oral attentions. “Mercy,” he groaned, “I’d…forgotten how good you are with that mouth, my lord.”

He referred to him that way out of old habit, despite Vincent’s request that he not do it anymore. Of course, the sexual gratification he was getting from the man’s talented ministrations made it easy to lapse back into applying the title. He felt he could happily be Vincent’s willing slave right now.

Vincent pulled back and met Undertaker’s gaze, “Don’t call me that…please. The Evil Nobleman is gone. That’s what the assassin took from you. He left you with the father…and the lover.”

The proud Phantomhive crawled up Undertaker’s body, pressing his lips to paler ones, “Maybe it’s time we find new pet names for each other, my love.” he said in a gentler tone, his fingers threading through silver locks. “No longer is this a forbidden love between Earl and Informant…”

"Ahh, force of habit," excused the mortician with a smile. He stroked Vincent’s hair lovingly. "Try not to be too cross with me for it, love. It may take a while for me to scratch that moniker off the list, but rest assured; when I say that, I mean it in the sense that you’re my lord…and no-one else’s.”

He let his hand slide down Vincent’s back to caress his naked bottom, reveling in the feel of the tight, smooth curve of it. “I’ve been trying to be a good little death god and not get too aggressive or territorial with you while you’re adjusting, but I must confess it satisfies an oddly lingering, guilty little kink for authority when you allow the Earl to come out and boss me around, now and then. Call it a crutch if you will, but I’ve always preferred my lovers to have a backbone with me, darlin’.”

He licked Vincent’s chin and grinned, looking up at him with heavy-lidded eyes. “I suppose I’m a bit of a whore for it.”

"A whore, hmm?" Vincent asked, raising an eyebrow. He grabbed Undertaker’s wrist and brought his hand up to his lips, nipping on the reaper’s finger before lowering it and pressing them to Undertaker’s own mouth, "Then you can suck them yourself." he commanded, "I’m sure you know how."

Without verbal response, the reaper obligingly retracted his nails and began to suck on his own finger, eyes flashing with teasing challenge as he gazed up at his lover. He circled the pad of his first two fingertips with his pink tongue, before drawing them into his mouth. He subtly lifted his hips to grind his exposed erection against Vincent’s, and he half-closed his eyes. The snowy fringe of his eyelashes partially masked the flash of his gaze as he licked and sucked his fingers as ordered.

The former Earl hummed, his length growing harder yet as he looked down at his reaper lover, white hair spread out over the comforter and pillows like rivers of snow. With a groan, he pulled the hand from his lover’s mouth and covered his lips with his own, guiding his hand around to his rear, “Now prep me.” he demanded sensually against pale, moist lips.

Undertaker barely managed to hold off a groan of lust. He’d had the foresight to keep a jar of ointment for just such a purpose in the drawer of the bedside table, and he compliantly reached to get it, keeping his heavy-lidded gaze on his lover.

"Your wish is my command, my dear," he purred.

He opened the jar and he scooped a bit out with his fingers, smearing it over them and rubbing his palms together before collecting a little more and thoroughly coating his fingers with it. He set the jar aside and he reached around and teasingly traced the valley between Vincent’s buttocks, while simultaneously gripping the length of his erection and slicking the substance over it. He lifted his hips a little as he stroked his cock, and he gently eased a finger into Vincent.

"Does this satisfy, love?" He smirked coyly up at him.

"Ah—ohh…." Vincent’s brown and blue swirled eyes closed, his head falling forward and his forehead rested against Undertaker’s collarbone as his entrance stretched over the long, thin finger that began to massage and work his walls into a looser state. Mentally, it felt like it had only been a few weeks since he and his lover had last become one…but his body seemed to know the true amount of time they had spent apart and away from each other’s touches. A single finger sent such thrills through his body as it pumped in and out and curling against his inner walls until he was loose enough for a second finger and then a third.

Ahnn…" he arched his back, rolling his hips ever so slightly as he ran his hands down along Undertaker’s sides to his hips and then back up over his abs and chest to his shoulders.

A third finger pushed inside, working him looser yet and nearly driving him mad with need for more. The sprout of greed and lust made his next actions all too easy when he couldn’t wait any longer.

Vincent sat up, panting as he lifted himself off Undertaker’s long fingers and grabbed the jar of ointment, using it to help slicken his lover’s throbbing shaft before setting it aside once more and positioning himself over his length, lowering himself onto Undertaker’s head and pausing teasingly, holding down Undertaker’s hips to stop him from eagerly thrusting upwards.

“Ah-ah. I didn’t tell you that you could let loose yet.” he purred, making sure his lover relax back down, trembling slightly under the former earl.

He waited a moment more, testing the reaper before he reached down, snatching up handfuls of white tresses on either side of Undertaker’s head and yanking them to make the man sit up at the same time he sank himself down onto the reaper’s begging length.

Ah-ahh!

"Ungh…sweet mother death," groaned the reaper helplessly, twitching inside his companion in response to the rough treatment. "Oh damn…Vincent…"

He embraced him and caught his breath, trying not to move until given his prompt to do so. He kissed his shoulder and collarbone, running his tongue over the smooth skin as he panted. “Love…oh, you feel so good.”

He couldn’t decide whether he wanted to cry or laugh, his emotions and pleasure were both so strong. He loved this man so much; and it had been hell for him to lose him. He started to chuckle uncontrollably, even as he struggled with himself for control. “Styx, I love you.”

Vincent’s face was flushed a lovely pink color, his own action taking him by surprise just as it had Undertaker. he panted a moment before he found his voice again and pulled his love into a kiss, “Ohh—dear God, you feel good! I’d forgotten…” he breathed, lifting himself back up along his lover’s long and thick shaft and lowering himself back down it with a throaty groan, “I didn’t…know how much I missed this, until now. Undertaker…Good Heavens, I love you..!” he slid back up and down a little faster.

“Hahh…maybe…maybe I’m the whore for you…” he panted.

The reaper laughed breathlessly. “Then do I have your permission to move now, my lord?” His teeth flashed in a white grin as he teasingly thrust beneath him, just enough to wedge his length deeper inside and make Vincent’s breath catch.

"I’d also like permission to touch." He ran his fingertips over Vincent’s straining thighs and pelvis, and he shook his pale hair out of his eyes so that he could see him more clearly.

"Yes." Vincent breathed, shivering in delight from the small samples Undertaker gave him, "Yes, you can move freely and touch where you like…"

He raked his fingers through his lover’s hair, pulling his fringe and locks back out of his face completely as he gazed lovingly into his eyes.

Undertaker began to pump beneath him, breath hitching with pleasure. So tight…almost like a virgin. “D-darlin’,” he groaned, “tell me if I hurt you. Bloody hell…so tight…”

He started to thrust faster, one hand grabbing Vincent’s flexing ass and the other curling around his erection to stroke it. The feel of his gripping, moist heat around him was intoxicating, and he snarled as he fought against his urges to flip him over and pound into him.

Vincent let out a long moan, hugging Undertaker and panting along with his lover’s thrusts against his scarred neck. “Ohh—no, perfect…you’re perfect…” he said, rocking his hips to meet with Undertaker’s movements.

"Oh gods," moaned the reaper. He couldn’t bear it any longer. He rolled forward, easing Vincent onto his back. He kept stroking his arousal as he propped himself up with his free arm and started taking him hard and fast. "S-so sorry, love…I…too long…been too long!"

He tossed his head to flip his hair over to one side and he kissed Vincent’s gasping lips, muffling his cries and purring with delight.

"Mmmh-mhh!" Vincent moaned shamelessly into the kiss, wrapping his legs around Undertaker and hooking his ankles together at the small of his back to encage him in the position he had rolled them into.

His mind started to buzz pleasantly, making the rest of the world fall away around him and leaving the feeling that they were the only two in the universe.

Vincent lifted his hips off the bed by an inch, allowing his lover a better angle to thrust into him as he concentrated on pleasing Undertaker’s lips.

The reaper growled softly against those sinfully tempting lips, his breath huffing as he changed his rhythm to sharp, deep thrusts. He knew just how to dive in…he’d never forgotten how to pleasure his love.

"Right there," he grunted with a smile as Vincent cried out. He pushed in firmly and rotated his hips. "That’s where you like it, I believe."

Not normally one for severe vulgarities, Undertaker tossed his head back and blurted a curse as his lover ruthlessly clamped down on his massaging cock. “Fuck…oh, Vincent!”

"Uh—'taker!" Vincent writhed, loosing control as his member throbbed and begged for release, "—Long, too long! I—I—ah!” His back arched, body stiffening as the heat in his gut gave way and spilled forth over his lover’s hand, and he clamped down on the reaper’s shoulder to muffle his cries of completion.

Undertaker wasn’t far behind. He tried to last…he truly did…but his lover’s vocalizations and the feel of him clenching spasmodically around him did him in. He groaned helplessly and shoved hard into him, unloading everything he had with a breathless exclamation of pleasure.

"Oh…oh love," he panted, shaking from head to toe as the climax washed over him. He bowed his head and he stopped stroking Vincent’s sated cock, doing his best not to collapse on him. He swallowed and he drudged up the strength to lift his head enough to smile down at him. He kissed his gasping lips tenderly, relaxing on top of him.

"I can usually go longer than that," he apologized in a winded voice. "It’s just been so long…like you said. I’ll make it last longer, next time."

"We could always…go for round two once we rest a bit…refresh ourselves…" The man panted, lying limp upon the bed as he gazed up at Undertaker, "To make up for our coming earlier than normal…"

"Oh yes," approved the reaper with a nod. "We can and we definitely shall, my Vincent. Just…allow an old bloke to catch his breath and recover first."

He started to laugh, that old joy which he’d feared might be gone forever bubbling back up within him.

Vincent smiled, moving to rest his cheek against Undertaker’s chest, his ear pressed against his pectoral and listening to the soothing sound of his pounding heart as the man laughed. The mortician stroked his blue-black hair as the laughter slowly died down, and he rolled off of him and pulled him into his embrace.

"Feels like I’m home again," murmured Undertaker softly, kissing Vincent’s forehead. "Thank you, darlin’."

"And this time…I’m not going anywhere." Vincent smiled.

The mortician sighed happily and rubbed his back. “I’ll hold you to that, my love.”


 

William was suffering mixed feelings of relief and frustration as he filed the report. Once again, the Undertaker had slipped through their grasp and it was again reflecting badly on his division. He made no excuses for himself or his agents. None were required, really. The fugitive was a mad genius, after all. Even as he fretted over his inability to bring the Undertaker in, William was quietly thankful that he hadn’t succeeded yet. His admiration for the man kept growing as every effort Dispatch made to capture him got foiled. Instead of dwelling on his failure, he began to focus on attempting to find out how Undertaker escaped the hospital to begin with. Someone had to have helped him, and the last person known to have visited him was Lawrence Anderson.

"Pops?" Eric said when he, Ronald and Grell were called in to discuss the investigation. "I dun’ believe it. He’d ne’er betray Dispatch."

"I don’t know…He’s old as dirt, Pop’s old as dirt…" Ron shrugged.

“Ohhh don’t suggest it!” Grell huffed, “He’s a cute old man simply making glasses all day! No way he’d help out sexy old Unnie out the window!”

"I know that none of us want to believe it," William said sternly, "but everyone else who had contact with the fugitive that day has already been questioned. As Ronald said; they are both quite old and I know they once worked together in the field. We must at least question him, regardless of how uncomfortable the thought of doing so makes us. Now please, no more arguments. Just escort him to my office so that I may clear this up. He likely has nothing to do with it at all, but I would be remiss to cross him off the list of possible suspects entirely. I’m certain he will understand."

Eric grimaced uncomfortably. “I’m no’ really in love wi’ tha thought of manhandlin’ one of our elders, boss.”

"I am sure he will come peacefully," answered William. "Mr. Anderson is a civilized man. You needn’t drag him in here in cuffs. Simply escort him and stay while I question him."

"This is wrong! He works hard at making perfect glasses. No way would he take part in a jailbreak!" Grell huffed.

“It wasn’t jail. It was a hospital.” Ron pointed out, “And orders are orders. If you make me do this alone I’m making you do all the paperwork!”

“Don’t be a smart-ass, Ronnie.”

"A’right, everyone calm down," sighed Eric. "I dun’ like this either, but the boss is righ’. We cannae jus’ ignore Pops’ visit wi’ tha Undertaker jus’ cause we’re fond o’ tha man. We can at east clear this up an’ get him off tha list of suspects if we bring him in, right?"

"Thank you, Eric," said William. "Grell, listen to your coworkers. Most of our work is unpleasant and this is just another example of that. Don’t make me regret trusting you on this assignment."

"As long as I’m off by this evening. I’m going to see if I can catch Sebby alone to ask him a few things. Ciel makes him shut up quite firmly, after all."

"Just avoid over-doing it, Sutcliff," cautioned William. "If he does have information we could use, practicing a bit of tact might be worthwhile."


 

Lawrence wasn’t very surprised to see the three Dispatch agents approach him, all of them wearing regretful expressions on their young faces. They looked a bit like mourners at a funeral, and he could guess what their visit was about before any of them even said anything. The Scotsman was in the lead as they came up to his table, and he greeted him solemnly.

"Sorry tae interrupt yer work, Pops, but ye’ve got ta come wi’ us fer a little while."

Anderson set aside the new pair of glasses he was making adjustments to, and he stood up. “Might I enquire what this is all about, gentlemen?”

He already knew the answer, though.

"You visited Unnie and Now Will thinks you helped him escape." Grell sighed.

“He doesn’t. He just needs to make sure and look at every angle to the geezer’s escape.” Ronald corrected. “He sent us to escort you.”

Lawrence nodded in understanding. “I see. Well, I shan’t decline the invitation. Shall we?”

Eric lowered his gaze and nodded. “Sorry.”

Feeling some pity for the Scotsman and guessing this was harder on him and Grell than Ronald, Lawrence patted him solicitously on the arm and shook his head. “Think nothing of it, Officer Slingby. Protocol must be followed if order is to be maintained in the workplace.”

Eric nodded again. “Then let’s be off.”


 

William was pacing in his office when the trio of agents returned with the head of the Glasses Department. He stopped and turned as they came into his office, with Lawrence looking composed and dignified while the three younger reapers looked faintly miserable.

"Mr. Anderson," greeted William cordially. He gestured at the leather chair on the other side of his desk. "Please take a seat, sir."

"Thank you." Lawrence sat down in the chair, while Eric shut and locked the office door.

William joined the older reaper, taking his seat behind his desk and sighing softly with regret that he even had to do this. “I must first apologize for this,” he said with all sincerity. “No-one wishes to accuse you of anything. I would like to make that clear before we begin.”

Lawrence retrieved his tobacco pouch and pipe from his vest. “I understand, Mr. Spears. Do you mind if I smoke?”

Ordinarily William would never allow anyone to light up a tobacco product in his office, but he made an exception and he nodded. “By all means, feel free.”

Lawrence packed the bowl and ignited the pipe. A vaguely cherry-scented smoke wafted into the air as he drew on it. “Thank you, son.”

William closed his eyes briefly; the only outward sign of his internal struggle. “Sir, records show that you visited the Undertaker while he was in our custody…and he escaped shortly after that. If you would state for the record exactly what—”

"I did it."

William’s eyes widened slightly, and Eric turned and stared. The Dispatch supervisor cleared his throat and swallowed. “I…I apologize, but what precisely are you alluding to having done, Mr. Anderson?”

"I helped my friend escape," obliged the older reaper. "And I regret nothing."

"What?!" Grell rushed forward and spun Lawrence’s chair to face him, "No, you didn’t! You give no one special treatment in anything! Why take the fall for Unnie’s escape?”

“Grell-senpai, let him speak.” Ron said, crossing his arms and leaning back against the wall near the windows.

"Dear lady," said Lawrence fondly to Grell, "There are some things in life more important than protocol. An enduring friendship happens to be one of them."

He turned his chair back around to face William. “Yes, I did it. I expect no special treatment myself, but in this case, I had to make an exception to my usual rule. I cannot count how many times that man has saved my life in the past. Repayment was long overdue, and there are some things I hold to higher honor than the rules.”

Troubled, William took a moment to decide on his best course of action. “Sir…you do realize that such a confession must go on record. I will have no choice but to have you incarcerated for further questioning, if you don’t choose to retract it.”

Anderson puffed his pipe and smiled slightly. “It’s already been said, son. I could not retract if I wanted to—which I don’t. It’s all right. Even elders must answer for their actions…and that includes myself.”

"And so must he—yet you let him escape punishment for his. Do you realize how hard it was catching him? We got lucky that time because he got lazy and didn’t realize I was there, too! Not likely a mistake he’ll make again." Ronald huffed, "And now we have to trial two of our legends! So not cool, Father Anderson!"

Lawrence looked at the incensed young man with a fond, understanding smile. “Most assuredly not, Mr. Knox…but the bonds of a good friendship run deeper than protocol. I apologize for making your work harder, but as I said; I owed the man. Debts are a thing I dislike going unpaid, and the Undertaker has his reasons for his actions. Not everything in this world is black and white.”

William sighed and stood up. “Slingby, Sutcliff…please escort Mr. Anderson to confinement for further questioning. Mr. Knox…please remain behind.”

"Whaa? What’d I do?" Ronald asked, pushing away from the wall and walking over to the desk, "I didn’t say or do anything inappropriate!" It was clear he thought he was in trouble. And Grell seemed convinced of it as well.

“You are always saying inappropriate things, Ronnie. You’re worse than Eric is!” He giggled, helping Anderson up, “Come on, Pops. Hate to do this, but…you fucked up.”

Lawrence went without complaint, and once they were gone and the door was shut, William walked over to the wall and abruptly punched it. A slew of German curses spilled from his mouth, and the wall cracked where his gloved fist had struck it.

"Ho—shit, if I did something to piss you off, I’m sorry!" Ronald gasped, taking a step back. He’d never seen the older reaper lose it like this. Sure, William was known to smack Grell upside the head with his scythe or clipboard every so often, but never had the man snapped and—cracked the dispatch building.

He watched nervously as a framed paper showing off some sort of achievement William had done teetered on its nail before falling to the floor.

William took a deep breath and leaned forward, resting his forehead against the cracked wall. “You did nothing,” he assured his nervous companion. He turned his head and looked at Ronald, suddenly mortified by his own behavior. His gaze flicked to the leather couch and his thoughts went to the activities they’d done on it, just the other day.

"No, my anger isn’t with you," he assured again, pushing away from the wall to approach the blond reaper. He nudged his glasses back up on his nose and he ran his hand over his hair, smoothing it back into place. "It’s all of this. The necessity of hunting down a legend and having to incarcerate yet another reaper I have great respect for. I…sometimes wonder who is really in the wrong. I can’t even say why I asked you to remain behind. I suppose…I find your presence…comforting."

Heavens, those words were difficult for him to spit out. William could act with little to no emotions most of the time, but now he felt…exposed. Vulnerable. There was a side to him that he’d never allowed others to see, and it was struggling to break free with each new day, driven by his own inner turmoil.

"I apologize for my behavior," he finally said, lowering his gaze. "It was…uncalled for."

Ronald moved quickly, reaching out and grabbing William’s tie and pulling him into a hug, “Sweet Rhea, I thought you were angry at me!” He chuckled, looking up into the startled and unusually emotional reaper’s eyes, “But you’re just stressed. That’s fine! Everyone gets that way and I’m surprised you don’t break down more often. But I’ll be here for you, Senpai. You can use me to calm down when you need to. I don’t mind at all. I’d like to help you…Will…”

William trembled, his arms going around the smaller reaper impulsively. He hadn’t had the opportunity to do much at all with Ronald since that day. “I don’t know how,” he confessed softly. “I don’t know how to…share. I simply wanted you near me, and then…well, I apparently chose to blame the wall for my frustration.”

"Will…when in doubt just…kiss me." Ronald said, lowering his tone, "Or hold me close…let me be your comfort blanket or teddy bear. Talk out your frustrations to me. I’ll listen…and break out the booze if it’s bad enough. You can count on me, promise."

The brunet closed his eyes and nodded, struggling to pull himself back together. “I rue the day I ever became supervisor for this department, now. A drink…would be nice.”

"I don’t know how you do it, honestly…I never could." Ronald took hold of William’s hand, "I know it’s early yet, but how about we clock out and go get something to drink and take the edge off?"

William glanced at the clock. “I wouldn’t ordinarily take an early day to begin drinking, but in this case, I believe I’ll make an exception.”

A small, rueful smirk adorned his lips as he took Ronald up on his previous offer and bent his head for a kiss. He didn’t know how else to thank him for his understanding.

"Come. I would like to get out of this place as soon as possible."


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Arresting Anderson had been a quick way of putting a damper on Grell’s mood. For some reason, he hated it more than the idea of arresting the Undertaker—perhaps because of the fact that he knew the head of the glasses department more than he knew the Undertaker. Undertaker was a rather handsome man, yes, but Anderson was a strong fatherly figure to him—and most reapers. He couldn’t recall how many times he’d gone in to simply talk to that man, get advice when he was feeling down. But he had no choice. Orders were orders and Pops himself had insisted upon it. And his records couldn’t afford another black mark so soon after his Jack the Ripper stunt he’d pulled with Angelina.

But maybe, with a little luck on his side, this trip to see Sebastian would help him feel better. Still, the normal skip in his step was lacking as he stepped onto the Phantomhive grounds, making his way to the back gardens. He did nothing to mask his presence, knowing that it’d help the handsome demon know he was there, and hopefully, tempt him out for a little private visit with the redhead.

Normally, Grell would go searching for the demon while masking his aura, in attempt to be able to surprise him with a tackle of passion, but he just didn’t feel he had the energy to do so, this evening. So, he instead took a seat on the bench in the white stone gazebo near a quaint little pond. He leaned back against the back of the bench, looking into the reflective moonlit waters at two goldfish swimming near the surface.


 

"Um…Sebastian, sir?"

The butler didn’t look up from his task of listing the next day’s duties for the household. “What is it, Finnian?”

"I…I was out spreading mulch around the rose bushes before bed like you said, and I saw someone sitting by the koi pond."

The demon kept writing. “Did you call out to them? Perhaps it was one of the other staff.”

Finny shook his shaggy blond head, his teal colored eyes wide in his boyish face. “No sir! It wasn’t any of them, but they were backlit by the moon. All I could make out was a lot of hair and a long coat. I thought I should come to you before doing anything. Thought it might be the Undertaker again.”

Sebastian frowned. As unpredictable as the mortician could be, he couldn’t imagine the Undertaker being reckless enough to show up on their lawn. They were obviously being spied on by Dispatch, and Undertaker was well-aware of that. There was only one other person he could think of that fit the limited description given to him, and he was both amused and annoyed by the thought that he might be correct.

"That will be all for tonight, Finny. I will deal with the visitor. You may consider yourself dismissed until tomorrow." Sebastian left the list on the kitchen table, trusting the Phantomhive household to have the sense to check it in the morning.

Finny gave an awkward little bow and scampered off. Checking the time, Sebastian smirked. Just to be certain, he left the kitchen and went upstairs to check in on his master. Finding Ciel fast asleep, he nodded in satisfaction and quietly closed the door. The night could prove interesting, but it wouldn’t do to disturb his lord’s rest with a loud battle. Should his suspicions prove correct about his “guest” and should it lead to a confrontation, he could always set the stage in the woods.

Sebastian quietly left the house and crossed the property to the location given to him by Finny, almost eager for it.


 

"You aren’t very quiet tonight." Grell said, hearing a twig snap behind him. He turned to look at the demon, crossing his legs and leaning forward to rest his chin in the palm of his hand, his fingers curled lightly against his cheek as his eyes took in the expectedly perfect appearance of the butler, "But, as handsome as ever, darling~"

"I made noise as a courtesy," answered Sebastian with a smirk. His ruby gaze studied Grell calculatingly, taking note of his body language and his oddly subdued mannerisms. "You don’t seem to be quite in top form yourself, Mr. Sutcliff."

"Even I am prone to bad days, Sebby." Grell sighed, "We found out how Unnie escaped us…and as a result I had to help arrest the man who has been a father-figure to me ever since I became a full reaper."

"I see." Sympathy wasn’t an emotion Sebastian was truly capable of, but he supposed he could understand how that would dampen the crimson reaper’s mood a bit. "So you came here to reflect on it? What a very odd choice of locations…though I suppose watching fish may be soothing to some."

"I came to talk to you, actually." Grell said, standing up, "I got the feeling you couldn’t speak freely at the carnival. And maybe you still can’t, but I can without being sent away by the brat. Would you at least walk with me?"

"You wish me to…walk with you?" The demon could not completely mask his surprise, and he was suddenly wary of a trap. "What precisely would you like to speak about with me?"

His gaze traveled Grell’s form again. How many times had this creature either thrown himself at him or attempted to reap him? Now he wanted to take a stroll through the gardens? Pleasing to the eye though he may be, Grell Sutcliff was treacherous. Sebastian reached out with his senses, alert for an ambush. He suddenly wished he had not left his young master in the home without him, but the reapers thus far had not tried to enter the manor without invitation.

"What, don’t you trust me? Technically, I’m here on business. Dispatch needs to recapture Unnie, after all. But I assure you I came alone. If you want, I’ll even let you choose where we talk."

Grell pushed his long, flowing red hair back over his shoulder, “Of course, I did volunteer for this assignment of talking to you. Don’t get me wrong. You are still a tempting man, and if you miss me hanging off you, I can happily oblige. As for a fight, my heart isn’t into the idea of painting you red, darling, and we both know that it’ll end with you the victor. It always does~ You are one of the only three men who have ever been able to defeat me, my darling Sebas-chan. And as thrilling as the feeling is to be dominated in such ways~ I’m in the mood for something a little more calming.”

"Interesting." Sebastian tapped a gloved finger against his lips thoughtfully. Truth be told, he was feeling rather frustrated himself—and bored. He gauged the distance between their current location and the manor, and he decided it was far enough not to disturb Ciel’s rest if Grell started to get loud, yet close enough for him to go to Ciel quickly, should he require his aid. "I believe this location will be fine for such a purpose, then."

He gestured politely at the spot beside Grell on the bench. “May I?”

"No walk, then." Grell nodded with a strangely gentle smile which contrasted his usual wild ones that showed off his shark-like teeth and filled his eyes with either blood-lust or passion—sometimes both. usually both when it came to Sebastian. Grell really didn’t know if he wanted to kill or love the handsome devil.

“Have a seat.” he slid over, making space for the demon to sit comfortably without having his personal space crowded. A rare respect Grell hardly showed to anyone. He enjoyed pushing people’s limits, after all.

His long hair dangled over the back of the bench, barely brushing the floor of the gazebo as he leaned back and relaxed, looking up at the moon overhead surrounded by stars on the clear night.

“We think he’s planning to bring Ciel Phantomhive’s father back from the dead.” he started, “Victor or whatever his name was. His cinematic records are missing from the library, and his soul was never recorded as collected. With the knowledge that he may have been having an affair with Unnie, we feel it is a good guess on what his goals are with making all these Bizarre Dolls. Even the Viscount told our agents that Unnie had his own private goals before he disappeared. So the question is…what would Vinson Phantomhive’s return mean to your contract with young Ciel Phantomhive? I don’t know the details of your contract, obviously, but my guess would be to avenge mummy and daddy’s deaths, hmm? Wouldn’t that be useless if Daddy was back in the picture?”

Grell tapped his chin with a gloved finger, pushing his lips out in thought, “Don’t mind me, I just thought maybe we’d both benefit from Unnie’s recapture.”

"Ah, you are trying to manipulate me." Sebastian smiled, unsurprised. "Very well; let us play this game. Firstly, I am sure you are aware that my contract with the young master won’t allow me to betray him…ever…for any reason. I cannot tell you anything that would amount to such betrayal. Secondly, his goal is vengeance, but even if it were possible to bring back one or both of his parents from the dead, it would not matter. The contract is sealed, and the agreement is for me to kill those responsible for what happened to his family. Once I fulfill that, my master’s soul is mine. The absence or reunion of his parents will not change that."

"Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying." the redhead shrugged, "Gaining your help or information of any kind would help me gain back a little respect from Dispatch after my little oopsy with my lovely Madam. Will has lost all respect for me from that bit of fun, and I have been paying for it ever since."

"How dreadful for you." Sebastian glanced down at the water. "As much as it would make my life easier to have the Undertaker out of the way, I am afraid I cannot help you without betraying my master."

He smirked ruefully and leaned back on his hands in a rare moment of casual relaxation. “I have trapped myself with my own greed. I can at least appreciate the irony of that.”

"Is he really such a treat? From a shinigami’s stand-point, his soul isn’t anything special, to be honest. Though, I suppose a demon would look for different qualities in a soul than we would. If he wasn’t contracted, he’d be reaped when his time came just as any other soul. and sit awaiting judgment…"

Grell paused in thought, “Sebby…what are you like when you are free of that leash?” he asked, lightly running his gloved fingertips along Sebastian’s contract hand.

Sebastian looked down at the hand so lightly and teasingly caressing his, the sensation slightly muted by the barriers of their gloves. He considered the reaper sidelong, wondering if he should toy with him a bit. He rather enjoyed working Grell into a frenzy, though he never revealed that to his child master. Some secrets were simply his to keep. He pulled his hand out from under Grell’s and he raised it to tug his glove free with his teeth. He did the same with the other one, letting both fall into his lap.

"Quite sensual, when the mood strikes me," he purred. "Though I would never insult my lord by displaying such before him. I enjoy…touch."

His lips curved into a sultry little smile as he reached out and caressed Grell Sutcliff’s fair face with the back of his black fingernails, before reversing his hand to run his fingertips over it. “Your skin is very soft to the touch, reaper.”

"Eh?" A thrill ran through Grell’s body at the contact and smooth words from the demon’s lips. The shiver that ran up his back excited him, restoring some of the mental energy he had lost due to earlier events. His cheeks painted pink and he lifted his gaze to meet those glowing rubies.

Sebastian had never reacted this way with him before. It had always been a rough, uncaring rejection. Feeling all too eager, Grell quickly shed his black gloves, revealing his thin, delicate hands, nails painted a bright shade of red that rivaled his hair. He reached up, pressing Sebastian’s hand more firmly to his cheek, closing his eyes as he simply savored the feeling. Sebastian’s hand was warm, which contrasted with his cold fingers.

Just as intrigued by the reaper’s unusual response as Grell was with his, Sebastian kept caressing his face, his lips, his jaw. He kept his touch uncommonly gentle. He rarely got the chance of skin-on-skin contact. He tainted mortals when he did it, but reapers and other demons were another matter. The simple pleasure of it made another slow smile curve his mouth. Perhaps…just perhaps…

Sebastian leaned closer to Grell and he spoke in a low purr, a lock of raven hair falling over one ruby eye. “I believe you once expressed a desire to taste my lips.”

Grell felt his heart speed up, thumping hard against his chest. “More than once, darling.” He admitted, his tone taking on an excited trill and killing the calm, more natural tone he had been speaking with since he’d arrived.

Inside, Sebastian was laughing at him. Not that he wasn’t curious, of course. It was simply so entertaining to have the reaper gush over him. He very nearly chose to tease him further. The words: “I’m afraid I cannot comply just yet,” nearly slipped from his lips, but he decided to take it just a bit further than that.

"Well then, Mr. Sutcliff," he murmured, "Since I cannot help you with the requested information, I can at least give you a sample."

He slid his fingers through Grell’s luxurious red mane and pressed his lips against Grell’s. He purposely flicked his tongue against Grell’s upper teeth as his lips parted, drawing blood so that he could get a real taste of him. In addition, he decided that he wanted a taste of him, too. He elongated his fangs and he bit down lightly on the redhead’s lip, drawing blood from him, too. He plunged his tongue deep into his mouth with a satisfied purr, tasting the rich flavor of Grell’s blood mingling with his own.

Another excited shiver racked through the redhead’s body, and he let his eyes flutter closed as he leaned into the kiss with a moan. Not one to shy away from an attractive man, Grell slid himself closer to the demon and slipped his hand up along Sebastian’s chest and over his shoulder to pull him into the kiss more. His lips moving sensually against Sebastian’s, slickened by their mixed blood. Red dribbled down out of the corner of his lips.

The motions of Sebastian’s lips, tongue and mouth grew more passionate, his demon mating urges rising—amongst other things. He hadn’t experienced mating courtship in some time, let along the act of joining, itself. He was starving for soul sustenance, and the act of coupling with another tended to ease that deeper hunger for a while. He sucked on Grell’s tongue, drinking the tinny flavor of their mingled blood as he ran his hands through the reaper’s hair and down his back. Yes, he was quite enjoying this.

He was a patient demon, however. He was grooming his young master to be the perfect meal to dine on, after all—accepting no other sustenance in anticipation of his reward. He could do something of the same with Grell…work him up to the deed gradually so that when the time came for a more gratifying act, it would be a feast on the senses for both of them.

"Oh—mm, Sebby…" Grell breathed when their lips parted ever-so-slightly to readjust the tilts of their heads for the kiss. The kiss was better than he had ever imagined or dreamed it’d be, and his moral scale when it came to wanting to kill or love the demon was soon tilting more towards loving.

William wouldn’t be pleased to learn that. But William didn’t matter at all any longer. He was off the market now, and he was as free as ever to fall for whomever he wanted. He still rather liked the idea of spilling Sebastian’s blood…but right now…this was nicer.

Sebastian was tempted to loosen both their clothing and do a bit of exploring, but he didn’t wish to rush things. He continued kissing and caressing Grell for a while, until he was in a rather obvious state of arousal that not even his most subtle methods could hide. When he pulled away with a lazy, bloody smile to regard his companion, his eyes had changed to reflect his true nature, glowing with magenta lust, the pupils slit like a cat’s. His gaze swept down over Grell’s body and he smirked when it settled on his crotch.

"I think we should say our goodnights for now, Mr. Sutcliff," purred Sebastian. "After all, one mustn’t spoil his appetite before the main course."

He boldly reached down and gave the redhead’s package a meaningful little squeeze, planting one last, bloody kiss on his lips before withdrawing his hand.

Grell let out a noise of protest, clearly longing for more as the butler straitened his appearance and donned his gloves once more, leaving the redhead a hot mess on the bench.

“Wait!” He said, standing up and paying no mind to his gloves falling from his lap, one slipping off the edge of the gazebo and into the koi pond. He rushed over to Sebastian’s retreating back and hugged him from behind, “Can I…come back tomorrow night?” he asked, holding him tight.

Sebastian stopped in he process of tugging his gloves back on and licking his lips clean. His body stiffened out of habit, but he relaxed quickly and smiled, turning his head to speak over his shoulder to Grell. “So long as it is after midnight, of course. Until then, I bid you adieu.”

Grell grinned, lips still painted red, “I’ll be here, darling, so you know where to find me.” he let go of the demon and took a step back, “I shall count down the minutes until then~” He winked and blew a kiss before he hurried off, his gloves completely forgotten.

Sebastian glanced back at the bench where Grell had left his gloves. He walked over to them, still licking his lips clean of blood, and he collected them. With a wry little smile, he neatly folded them and tucked them into his tuxedo jacket’s pocket. “What a very interesting encounter that turned out to be,” he mused, turning back toward the mansion.

Perhaps…just perhaps…he could procure a dubious ally if it came to a fight between himself and the Undertaker. If not, he might at least procure a distraction from his starvation for a while.




Laughter rang out over the sounds of glasses clinking, music playing, and voices talking all at once creating a hum of noise in the lively atmosphere of one of London’s higher-end pubs. The room was warmly lit by the grand fireplace and oil lamps on each table. The air thick with smoke from the pipes and ends of cigars men (and some women) were smoking.

Ronald was comfortable with a pleasant buzz, having just enough common sense left to know that his companion needed to be cut off. William T. Spears hadn’t had any more to drink than he had, but Ronald’s tolerance was higher than William’s due to how often he drank.

And William was drunk.

A flush of pink crossed his cheeks, his normally frowning lips curled up in a smile as he brought Ronald’s mug up to his lips, having just finished his own drink and apparently not wanting to wait for the waitress to bring by another. His hair was mussed and his tie had been tugged loose, along with the top two buttons of his shirt.

“I think you’ve had enough, Senpai.” Ronald slurred slightly with a chuckle, taking the now empty mug away from William and pulling out his wallet. He quickly counted out the amount of their tab and tossed it onto the table before helping William up, “Lets get you home before you drink yourself sick. Trust me, you don’t want to do that. Sucks big-time.”

"W-*hic*-where ish thish plashe-*hic*-again?" William looked at him with droopy, unfocused eyes through crooked glasses, looking nothing like the man that was usually immaculate and focused. The drunken supervisor looked around, his head wobbling on his shoulders a little as he frowned in confusion. "Are…are we inna Shin-*hic*-Shin…oh, hell…reaper plashe?"

He sloppily grabbed Ronald’s shirt and whispered loudly in his ear. “Theshe are hu-*hic*-hu-*hic*…mortalsh. What’r they doin’ here?”

"We’re in the mortal realm, Will. Shh, they’ll hear you." Ronald laughed, "Let me get you home." he lead the older reaper out of the pub and into a nearby alley where he could open a portal and help the drunk reaper through near William’s apartment building. "Do you remember which one is yours?"

William lifted his head with difficulty and closed one eye, struggling to focus his doubled vision. “They both…look the shame.” He fumbled for his keys, his head drooping as he dug for them. He held them out with an unsteady hand and he tried to speak coherently. “Put it in th’ hole.”

"I meant what apartment number is yours? If you don’t remember you can stay at my place, but I don’t have a proper bed there… I sleep on my old couch…" he took the man’s keys from him and smirked, "You are putting my mind in the gutter, Will."

William laid his cheek against the top of Ronald’s head. “6th floor,” he said with a grimace of concentration. “Apartment 14.”

He nuzzled Ronald’s sunny hair and he sighed. “Smells nice.”

"Good to know." Ronald laughed, helping him up to his apartment and unlocking the door.

“Watch it—don’t trip!” Ronald gasped as William’s unsteady movements knocked him off balance and the two stumbled and fell into the tidy, modern flat, sending them sprawling onto the floor. Ronald’s head smacked hard against the carpeted floor. “Oh—ow!” he gasped, hugging William.

The brunet lifted his head and his glasses came completely off. He squinted blearily at Ronald in confusion. “Knox…are we on th’ floor?” He tried to look around, his head swaying. “Or th’ ceiling, perhapsh?”

"Floor…we can’t fall up." Ron chuckled, "Can ya get off me? I’ll help ya to the bedroom…but you’re heavy." he used his foot to kick closed the door, "Or do you want to sleep here on the floor?"

William shook his head, and he immediately regretted it as the room spun. “Ugh…a moment,” he pleaded, trying to gather his wits, his balance, and his dignity. He searched for his glasses and slid them on after two tries—incidentally poking himself in the eye with the ear peace in the process. He looked around, got his bearings, and then began to crawl toward the hallway.

"Absolutely-*hic*-not," he slurred. "Won’t…shleep on the floor…like a common bum. Come with me, Ron."

"Well, Never thought i’d live to see the day when my sexy-ass boss turns into an inchworm." Ronald teased, setting Will’s keys on the coffee table and following the drunk reaper, bending down to help him up, "Come on, feet are faster than bellies." he glanced around and found the bedroom, flipping on the light and helping William in, letting him drop onto the bed.

“Do you use pajamas? he asked, moving to help William strip down.

William started to shake his head, but he thought better of it. “No. I-*hic*-wear nothing.”

He tried to lift his head off the pillow, but he saw two Ronald’s and he groaned and let it drop again, covering his eyes with his arm. “Honeshtly.”

"Good! That makes this easy. —butt up!" he said, dropping to his knees and tugging William’s pants down off his hips, underpants with them. Grinning mischievously, he leaned forward and kissing William’s inner thigh, his cheek nearly brushing up against his slack member.

"Mmm," hummed William, appreciating the touch even though he was too sloshed to perform. He reached down to pat Ronald’s head clumsily. "Shtay with me tonight."

"Only if you are okay that I sleep naked, too." Ronald smirked. "And you promise not to freak out at me in the morning."

"Won’t freak out," yawned William. "I never…freak out."

"That’s a big fat lie, Will." Ronald said, stripping out of his own clothes and slipping into the bed with William, "Freaking out is your middle name."

"Fine," mumbled the supervisor, throwing an arm around Ronald. "Then m’ new name ish ‘William F. Spearsh."

"But ‘F’ can stand for so many things." Ronald laughed, "Like…fuck Knoxie senseless."

An uncharacteristic smile graced William’s lips, and he pulled closer to Ronald. “Later,” he promised, “when I can…zzzz”

He fell asleep—or passed out—before he could complete the sentence.

Ronald chuckled, leaning in and kissing his lips before tuning off the light and snuggling up to William, “…You’re a cute drunk, Will…”


 

The next morning, William awoke to his alarm with a splitting headache. He rolled over with a groan and he reached out blindly for the screaming clock, slapping a hand over it more clumsily than usual.

"Quiet, you wretched contraption," he moaned. He finally found the button and he sighed with relief when blessed silence was his reward. He rolled back onto his back and threw an arm over his eyes, trying to recall all of the events of the night before. He’d had Father Lawrence taken into custody after he confessed to helping the Undertaker escape. After that, he punched the wall, and he and Ronald decided to go out for drinks. He’d paced himself for a while, but he was so quietly miserable that a few became a lot, and then…

William frowned. He remembered being on the floor, his legs feeling like rubber. Someone was helping him. He recalled the feel of the soft mattress beneath him and then…what? He was unclothed, and his glasses were off. He certainly didn’t recall stripping down for the night.

He heard a soft snore right next to his ear, and it startled him. He turned his head quickly, ignoring the throbbing pain in his head. Ronald Knox’s slumbering young face was very close to his. The blond’s warm breath caressed William’s lips, he was so close. Once again, he had to appreciate how cute Ronald looked when he was peacefully sleeping. His glasses were off too, and a glance at the nightstand on Ronald’s side of the bed confirmed that the blond had placed both their glasses on it together. They were too far away for William to tell which pair belonged to whom; his eyesight was even worse than average, without the corrective eyewear.

A very foggy memory came to him, then. Ronald stripping him, then undressing himself. William blinked. Did they make love?

The thought of having another sexual encounter with Knox but having no memory of it was disappointing to him. He recalled every moment of their heated encounter in his office that day with vivid clarity, and when work stressed him overly, he was fond of reliving those moments in his mind. He’d been wanting to do it again, but not while he was so drunk he couldn’t remember a single moment of it. It didn’t feel like they’d had sex. There was usually a certain lingering sensitivity or tenderness afterwards, and he felt none of that.

Driven by some quiet need to connect with someone—even when they weren’t awake to be aware of it—he reached out to trace Ronald’s sleeping features with a fingertip. He ran it over his brows, his blond-tipped lashes, his perky nose…then over the cheekbones and finally, the parted, kissable lips. If he weren’t suffering such an awful headache and certain his breath could kill a whale, he might have given him a soft kiss.

Deciding he deserved at least one other small liberty before dragging himself out of bed to shower, brush his teeth and shave, William lifted up the covers to have a peek at the fair, lightly freckled body he’d enjoyed so thoroughly in his office last week. He smirked, and an oddly possessive thrill went through him.

~Mine.~

Quietly he got up, for once not demanding the boy wake immediately. He was always up an hour before he actually needed to be, in order to get ready for work. As much as he hated being awake in such a state, he had a busy day ahead of him with both the arrangements for Father Anderson’s trial and the Undertaker case. He left Ronald to sleep for a while longer while he stumbled out of his room and down the hall for a shower.


 

Ronald yawned, rolling over to snuggle up against the back of his couch—unknowing that he wasn’t at home—and falling from the bed and to the floor with a loud, and rather painful thump.

Groaning, he sat up, rubbing his eyes as he opened them and looked around the tidy and unfamiliar room. Wait—oh yes. He remembered. William. He had gotten the man drunk and took him home. Will had asked him to stay, so he did.

With another yawn, he stood up, paying no heed to his nude state as his bladder demanded to be emptied. He shuffled across the floor, feeling his way to the door and down the hall to the room he thought would grant him access to the toilet. The light was on, and the shower was going inside, making his urge to relieve himself all the more desperate. But the door was open a crack, so he sleepily let himself in to do his business, fully intending to then shuffle his way back to bed afterwards.

William noticed the other reaper shuffling sleepily into his bathroom, and he couldn’t decide whether to freeze in place or keep going as normal. He watched through the frosted glass as Ronald’s blurry form took care of bodily needs, and when it turned away from the shower, compulsion struck him again. Without a word, the supervisor opened the shower door and reached out to grab the half-asleep blond by the arm with a wet hand.

"Join me, Ronald."

Ronald looked at William, blinking, confused, join him? but it was early and the pillows were beckoning to him—yet, so was a rather naked and wet William…

His eyes widened when it registered in his mind and suddenly returning to the bed wasn’t quite as appealing. He nodded and stepped into the steamy shower.

“…How’s your head? Not too much of a hangover, I hope? I tried to stop you before you got too drunk for this morning…”

William’s head was pounding unpleasantly, but the one good thing in his world that was real to him was this naked young reaper, looking at him with inquisitive eyes. He was in no condition to do to him what he wished to do, but to bathe with him…feel his slick body against his…that he could do.

"I will be fine," he promised, water running into his eyes. "Now, will you stand there asking questions, or shall we let the hot water run out?"

"Hey, I’m just worried. You were really drunk last night!" Ronald insisted, stepping up to William, "You started to pretend you were a caterpillar or something as you made your way to the bedroom."

"I did no such thing," insisted the supervisor, though his fine-boned cheeks flushed slightly with uncertainty. He pushed it aside—as he did with most uncomfortable emotions—and he closed the door behind Ronald. A smirk curved his lips. The water was spraying on the younger reaper’s naked flesh now, kissing it with heated dewdrops. He was feeling better already now that he’d brushed his teeth and taken his migraine pills, but he hadn’t yet reminded Ronald of one little thing he recalled from the night before.

"You see?" William said in a low, seductive tone. He began to lather Ronald’s shoulders with the soapy loofah he held in one hand. "I told you that I would not ‘freak out’."

Ronald grinned, “But you didn’t fuck Knoxie senseless, either.” He joked, leaning in and pressing a light kiss to Will’s lips, “But I probably wouldn’t have let you if you had tried…I don’t make it a habit of sleeping with people too drunk to remember…even if said drunk is you…I’d rather enjoy it with you…”

William stiffened a bit, his face flushing. “Did I try?”

"No, you didn’t do anything more than rub up against my leg like a dog in heat—you were asleep, though. I checked."

The brunet snorted. “Stop being cheeky.”

He spoiled his cold persona by soaping up a sponge and immediately lathering Ronald’s chest up with it.

"I feel like yesterday’s trash," confessed William, "but I must admit, this terrible morning would be much worse, if it weren’t for the presence of a certain mouthy underling."

"If I stop being ‘cheeky’ then your terrible morning would only be more horrible!" He grinned, "I’ll mix you up my Hangover-coffee-tea mix. It tastes like shit, but it gets rid of hangovers pretty fast."

William lathered up the blond’s tight little abs, admiring him in an aesthetic way, even as he started to get aroused. How he could get a hard-on with his head pounding this way was a mystery to him, but that was the magic of Ronald Knox. The party-loving young reaper had a way of doing that to him without any effort at all.

"I’ll try your terrible mixture," sighed William, "if it might help me to function better. I haven’t suffered a hangover like this in some time."

"You’ve gotten drunk before?" Ron asked, raising an eyebrow. "I thought last night was your first time."

He glanced around the shower and grabbed the washcloth from a bar across the front of the shower under the showerhead. He stole some suds off the bar of soap in Will’s hand and used it to clean Will’s shoulders in return.

"I’ve over-imbibed on occasion in the past," explained William, "but that was mostly during my academy years. Since becoming a district manager, I honestly haven’t had the time to indulge. It seems my tolerance has dropped significantly."

He closed his eyes in pleasure as Ronald soaped his shoulders. This was a treat he had never experienced with anyone before. He made a mental note to shower with the blond more often.

"A bit of a partier in your youth?" Ronald laughed, "I can hardly believe it." He kissed Will’s neck as he slid the cloth down over his chest. "Do me a favor. Never let me get too serious about my work."

William cupped the shorter reaper’s chin, slicking a drop of water over his jaw. “I hardly believe such a thing is possible, Ronald.” He kissed him lightly and began to lather up other areas, smirking as he reached Ronald’s groin.

Ronald yipped in surprise, jumping slightly, “Dang, Will! And here I was behaving and everything for you and you go pull something like that? I can’t keep self control too long if you go touching me there!”

Feeling uncommonly frisky now that the headache was beginning to fade a bit, William backed the smaller reaper up against the tiles, his smirk remaining in place. “Perhaps that’s the idea.”

He fondled him persistently with the soapy loofah, and he claimed his lips.

Ronald smirked, “In that case, this is the dirtiest shower I’ve ever taken.” The blond slapped his hands around the back of Will’s neck, hoisting himself up and hooking his legs around Will’s waist, his crotch butting up against Will’s intimately. “And there is absolutely no cleaning it up now.”

William dropped the loofah and cupped Ronald’s ass, pressing him firmly against the shower wall. He claimed his lips again and put aside thoughts of work, trials and criminal cases to appreciate the moment for what it was.


 

Undertaker spent the next few days plotting with Vincent. Through his underground contacts, he learned that things were already going according to plan. One night, he spread out a map of London over the kitchen table and he shared the latest news on the progress with him.

"My dollies go to the highest bidder," he explained with a smirk, "and guess who that highest bidder happens to be, right now?"

He dropped the queen chess piece on top of the map of London, right on top of the Buckingham Palace.

"She is expecting the best of your best, I take it?" Vincent asked, eyeing the piece as he half-sat on the edge of the table, "Along with a full demonstration of what they can do. Royalty deserves only the best, after all. It wouldn’t do if she got a disappointing batch." He tugged on a pair of black gloves before he plucked the queen from the map and looked at it, "I want to be there, hidden in your army. I want to see her face when it all goes down. I want her to see my face and know just why it is happening to her." he glanced up at his lover, "I’ll be the Evil nobleman just one last time."

Undertaker nodded, his white grin full of anticipation and appreciation for irony. “Wouldn’t have it any other way, my lord. Just be aware she’ll be heavily guarded. We’ll need to let the dolls dispatch all of her defenders, before moving in on Her Majesty herself. I’ve already implanted instructions into them not t’ kill her before I give the word, so she’ll be relatively safe from harm until my army has completed their primary objective. Then the true fun can begin.”

Of course, they would just replace the queen with another, whether it be an heir or some other monarch of their choosing…but the one responsible for the demise of Ciel’s family would be gone and with her, Sebastian’s claim on the boy’s soul.

"I need to know…Dolls are no longer human, obviously. and you have explained such to me. but are there ways to kill them? I’d need to know so that I may be able to protect any weaknesses I have that could take me from you again."

"The head," explained Undertaker readily. "To kill the body, you must kill the brain. Aside from that, you can withstand injuries that would kill a human easily, now. I’m sure you’ve noticed you’re also quite a bit stronger than you were as an ordinary man, and your senses are sharper. Make no mistake though, Vincent; the dolls I produced as weapons are very different from yourself. They’ve got no conscience, no personality and no sense of self. They are, in essence, reanimated corpses created as weapons."

The mortician circled around the table to come before Vincent, and he put his hands on his shoulders, shaking his bangs out of his eyes so that he could look into his lover’s with them. “But you, my love, are yourself. Altered, yes…but very much alive.”

"Different or not, I am still one of your dolls. What can kill them could kill me. It’s why I asked." He reached into his pocket and took out a hair clip he’d found last time they had gone undercover and into town to pick a few things up. He’d gotten it in secret and hadn’t shown it to the man yet, but he felt it suited the reaper.

He took it and pulled Undertaker’s bangs to the side and using the clip to pin them back. A pink flower decorated the end of the clip.

Undertaker impulsively patted his hair curiously, and he laughed. “Got tired of the bangs, eh darlin’?”

"Yes." Vincent chuckled, "But it’s pink. It suits you." He leaned in, pecking his lips.

Undertaker couldn’t find it in him to complain. He tipped his glasses up further on his nose and he grinned at the former Earl. “Then I don’t mind wearing it like this around the house…for you.”

He looked down at the map again and he sighed. “We’re almost ready to make our move, Vincent. Won’t be long now, and mayhap once Her Majesty is dethroned, your son can begin to live with some semblance of normalcy.”

"I hope so. I don’t know if he’d wish to come with us once he’s free of the demon, but he’ll be able to live his life. Really live it. Talking to him at the carnival, it seemed that he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of contracting with his demon…but he wants his revenge. We can give him that without help of that demon."

Undertaker nodded in agreement, and he ran his fingernails through Vincent’s blue-black hair, lifting the bangs a bit to reveal the faint scarring on his forehead that he couldn’t completely prevent. “Indeed we can, love. Indeed we can.”


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Vincent stepped out of the warm bath and toweled himself dry, fluffing the water droplets from his hair so it wouldn’t drip onto his shirt once he got dressed. He then wrapped his towel about his waist and padded across the hall to his bedroom where Undertaker was sleeping soundly in the early morning light.

Smiling, the former earl detoured from his path to the chest where his clothes were all kept and he slid up onto the reaper, kissing his cheek, “Today’s the day.” he purred into his ear, “Don’t tell me you plan to sleep through it all.”

"Mmph…eh?" Undertaker was sleeping on his stomach, with his cheek pillowed in his arms. He lifted his head and peeked at the former Earl through his bangs, smiling goofily in his sleepy disorientation. "What time is it, love?"

"Eight in the morning." Vincent hummed, pulling silver hair out of his face, "I let you sleep in a little."

The mortician grumbled, not entirely thrilled about getting up at this hour. He was a night owl, after all, but word had gotten to him that the Queen intended to unveil her inhuman army to her peers at court by noon. They had planned it all out. Undertaker would use his abilities to disguise both him and Vincent from mortal sight, Vincent would slip in with the army of dolls, and Undertaker would wait by the Queen’s throne and keep watch over everything as it unfolded.

"I’d best get my bony arse out of bed, then," sighed Undertaker. He rolled over and yanked the covers off of himself, unconcerned with his nudity. Glancing at Vincent’s towel-clad waist, he couldn’t resist the temptation to put his lover in a similar state of undress, and he snatched the towel hiding his endowments right off of him. Dancing away with it with a giggle, he twirled it and popped Vincent’s bare bottom while the man instinctively covered his groin.

Vincent gasped, turning and rubbing his rear, “We’ll, I was going to say something nice about your rear, but now I’m not! That’s already a little tender!” he protested. He walked over to get dressed, “…should smack his arse red for that…”

"I heard that," announced Undertaker from the hallway. He poked his head in and grinned. "And should you ever decide to act on that desire, my dear, I’m quite willing to accommodate it."

He winked at him, then vanished again to have a quick shower to get ready himself. He was practically bouncing with excitement. He’d been waiting for this chance for years, and now it had finally presented itself to him.


 

"Just remember to keep your wits about you," cautioned the Undertaker as he and Vincent slipped unseen, unheard and un-noticed past the royal guard. He could have ended the bitch long ago, but he wanted this special revenge—not just for himself, but for Vincent, Rachel and Ciel, too. Reaping Her Majesty would not bring the satisfaction and closure they needed, and as he’d explained to Vincent before; Ciel’s life was as safe as it could be whilst under the protection of his demon, since Sebastian did not yet know who his target was.

"Of course." Vincent nodded, keeping his head low so that no passing stranger had a good chance of identifying him. He was sure Undertaker was masking them somehow, but he didn’t want to take chances at ruining their plan quite yet. "Are the dolls already here? I need to hide myself among them." Undertaker had applied makeup to Vincent’s face to make him look more like one of the general bizarre dolls, and he’d dressed more simply like a random corpse that had been sent to the Undertaker. The plan was set… and with luck, it would go accordingly.

"Yes, they’re already here and being lined up for inspection," answered the mortician with a smirk. He could sense his children in their currently dormant sleep. Ironically enough, if he weren’t there to wake them, the Queen would have been left with a bunch of standing corpses in her war chamber. He could almost have foregone this event just to snicker at the look on her face when her bogus device failed to activate them, but this was too important.

They passed through the halls of the palace, quiet as death. Undertaker only knew where he was heading because he could sense his army waiting for him. “Just pass right through with me,” he advised his companion when they came to a pair of guarded iron doors. “We aren’t corporeal right now, love. No barriers nor mortal flesh will hinder our passage.”

"How?" Vincent frowned, looking up at his lover. If death gods could act like ghosts, then he could believe it after everything he had seen Undertaker do. but to make it so that others could do the same? "I’m a hu—doll, not a ghost."

"It’s an innate ability, love," explained the reaper as he guided Vincent through the expansive halls of the palace. "It’s how we gather soul records without being seen by the populace. Every reaper has this talent. Not all of us can expand it to include others, though."

They made their way to the throne room, where an assembly had gathered. Undertaker leaned toward his companion and spoke into his ear. “See the coffins? That’s where you need to be. For Styx sake, be careful, my dear.” He planted a soft kiss on Vincent’s temple, trusting him not to be reckless. Her Majesty would soon make her appearance, and he needed to be behind her throne. The death mask would fade as he moved away from Vincent, but by then, the coffins would be opened and his little army would come out.

Vincent nodded, “I’ll try not to be spotted too soon… You’ll come for me if something goes awry, right?” he showed just a second of nervousness. His swirled eyes searched his lover’s with complete trust. In his pocket was a lace blindfold—which he had to put on—and he took it out before Undertaker could respond. Across the room, guards were opening the coffins and he had to hurry, tying it in place as he hurried off around the back of the room to the coffins, slipping into a group of dolls starting to group together in formations.

Undertaker took a deep breath, and he tore his attention away from his lover to the throne. The heralds had just announced the Queen’s arrival with the trumpet of horns. He had to trust his love to practice caution and wait for the right moment. Feeling a bit giddy and sick to his stomach at once, the reaper slipped easily through the ranks of the Royal Guard and he came up behind the throne just as the Queen came out and took her seat. He couldn’t stop the cold grin from stretching his lips.

~Now, your Majesty. You’ll get your just desserts for slaying your own subjects.~

As each and every coffin was opened, the ranks of Dolls grew before the Queen’s gaze. moving slowly like mechanical toys or the gears of a clock. Dozens soon turned into hundreds, lining up in perfect lines and columns. Among them; Vincent Phantomhive stood directly in front of the queen a few rows back, putting him far enough away to blend in among the other faces of the dead, but close enough to get to her when the time came for him to make his move.

His arms were at his sides and his black-clad hands clenched in anticipation, though he kept his face void of emotion.

It was almost time.


 

"Shit-shit-shit! Let me through!" Ronald’s youthful voice called out as he ran as fast as his feet would carry him up the stairs and down the hall towards William’s office, skidding to a halt and smacking his leg hard against the door as he did so. "Fuck!"

Swearing, he barged in through the door, not caring that William was in a meeting with representatives from the academy and blatantly ignoring the protests of William’s secretary.

“Will!” he gasped before Will or his former teachers could respond to his rude interruption, “I know, I’m rude and you can lecture me later! This is important! I was a little late for work—again, later, Will! No lecture or yelling! Just listen! Anyway, I was late so I was just down getting my collections list for today when an emergency addition name was suddenly added to today’s list! Top priority! They sent me to bring it to you.” He shoved the thick file into William’s face, “It’s the ruddy Queen of England, it is! No details on the actual death—but that’s her!”

He gasped, bending over and resting over Will’s desk, trying to catch his breath as a stitch of a cramp formed in his side, “Bloody hell…too many stairs in this building…”

William took the list and looked over it. “Gentlemen, I am afraid I must excuse myself from this meeting. Knox, contact Sutcliff while I call Slingby. The Queen’s name is not the only one to suddenly come up on this list. It appears something dire is occurring at the Royal Palace, and we are going to need additional officers to help handle such a mass collection of souls.”

He frowned at the death list, trying to determine what could be the cause of so many sudden deaths. More names continued to appear before his eyes, but nothing was listed as the cause. “How very strange,” he murmured.


 

"I present to you all an army that cannot be defeated through death!" Called out the Queen, and she was completely unaware of the grinning death god standing right behind her. Onlookers gasped in a mixture of horror and amazement as the undead shuffled into position.

"Now," whispered the Undertaker, and he sent out the mental command for his children to begin their attack.

The dolls immediately turned on the living, going for the guards first and ignoring Vincent altogether. Screams erupted as one of the guards went down with a chunk bitten from his throat, and nobles began to swarm for the doors while the Queen’s guard closed ranks around her protectively.

"Stop this," she yelled shrilly as her precious army continued to massacre every living thing in its path. "Obey me!"

Undertaker hid a snicker behind his hand. Oh, this was turning out even lovelier than he’d expected.

The chamber was full of mostly men, but the handful of women—Ladies, Duchesses, a single young serving girl—ran for the doors, screaming as they tried to yank and push the heavy doors open all at the same time, causing the unlocked barrier to stay fast in it’s closed state. Even a few men joined the women in attempt of escape while others drew swords, stabbing and slashing at the attacking army of the undead.

“They don’t feel pain!” One cried as he cut the arm off one petite female Doll, only to have her continue her attack as if nothing happened, her teeth soon sinking into his arm.

“Pain? They don’t die!” Another guard screamed, stabbing a rather plump Doll repeatedly in the chest. “What is this witchcraft? AHHHGH!!” Three more dolls advanced on him, taking him down. A forth, who’d been cut in half, drug it’s remaining upper body across the blood-splattered floor, grabbed his leg and sank her teeth into it like a drumstick at a holiday celebration.

Amongst the chaos, Vincent waited patiently, only moving when he saw a large enough group head towards the guards protecting her Majesty. He joined them, taking up the back of the group and letting his fellow dolls take down the guards one by one, blood splattering the Queen’s regal gown and face. He took satisfaction in the horrified look on her elderly features.

Once The guards were all no longer a threat, Vincent moved up through the group of dolls trying to get their hands on the fallen guards, and stepping over the bodies. He squared his shoulders and came up before her.

“Your Highness,” he said in a low, haunting tone to grab her attention. She turned her head, wide eyes growing even wider as they fell upon his image. He was blindfolded, but she could not mistake that handsome, youthful face that she had thought she had seen the last of.

“You should have been more careful about who you have assassinated. You never know what may come back to haunt you,” warned the former ‘Queen’s Guard-dog’, reaching up and loosening the blindfold to let it fall from his face. His hat had been knocked from his head as well by his fingers. Identity reviled, Vincent Phantomhive gave her one of his charming smiles, “My friends are more powerful than yours, my Queen.”

The queen moved fast—but not quickly enough for the Doll’s new reflexes. As she pulled a hidden dagger from her skirts, Vincent grabbed her wrist and stepped closer, pressing up against her and forcing her back against Undertaker.

“Death…is more than just my friend, Highness.” He smirked.

Undertaker dropped his concealment and he waved down at the Queen. “Hi, hi. Not sure if you remember me, Your Highness, but I’m the one who created these lovely weapons you were so eager to get your hooks on.”

He looked at Vincent. “And my many talents belong to this man alone. You’ve been a very naughty monarch, and it’s long past time for you to choke on the fruits of your labor.”

"G-guards," she cried, "To me!"

But there were none left to come to her rescue.

"You see, I can’t trust you not to have my son killed. I was loyal to you, after all, and still you killed me." Vincent slid his hand up along her slender arm to the dagger she still gripped with white knuckles. With ease, he took it from her and held it up to look at.

"You sealed your fate upon my death. You orphaned my son, and you angered my lover—who happens to also be a god of death. I assure you, my Queen, that had Undertaker here not been able to bring me back, then it would have been my son to exact revenge once he finally learned that you were responsible for taking his mother and I from him. For what happened to him after we had been killed."

He ran the razor sharp point of the dagger down her chest, “He has a demon, you know. And luck be willing, I’ll save him from that demon by killing you before that creature does. This is a win-win…for the remaining Phantomhives, at least.” he pressed the tip directly over her heart, drawing a few droplets of her precious blue blood. The ruby pearls running down her breast and soaking into her fine silks.

"P-please, Vincent," she quavered. "Your information is wrong! I w-would never have my own guard dog killed!"

"Except when he came to know too much about your corrupt ways and became a threat to your secrecy," corrected Undertaker with a grin. "Couldn’t risk having him slip the leash and bark out the truth to anyone, could you?"

He looked at Vincent. “Finish her, my love. Time for this nightmare to finally come to an end.”

"We knew you were targeting me. but hadn’t been lucky in preventing it long enough." Vincent said in a flat voice, "I’m sorry your informants weren’t as informed as mine had been… You had no warning for this. Goodbye, Your Majesty. Consider this the official end of the Phantomhive’s loyalty to the crown."

He shoved the dagger through her heart between her ribs, then. Giving it a sharp twist.


 

Back at the Phantomhive manor, Sebastian’s eyes went wide as he felt the contract with his young master dissolving, suddenly. “No,” he murmured, tugging his gloves off to look at the Faustian brand. It was fading and with it, his claim on Ciel’s soul. “Impossible.”

But it was. The evidence was right before his startled eyes. His pupils elongated into slits, and his teeth sharpened into fangs. Curved horns sprouted from his head, and black wings grew from his back, ripping through his tuxedo. Someone, somehow, had found the target he’d been searching for all this time…or said target met an early demise before he could perform his sworn duty and kill it himself. He knew exactly who could have done such a thing, if this were orchestrated on purpose rather than coincidence.

He got confirmation of his suspicion when he felt dark energy gathering in the room, just behind him. He turned to see the Undertaker step out of a portal, with Vincent Phantomhive close behind. Vincent’s waistcoat was stained red with blood on the sleeve, and there were a couple of splatters elsewhere, too.

"Afternoon, chap," greeted the mortician happily. "My, you do have wings, after all. Well, I suppose your transformation means your contract’s gone to pot. I’m sure we don’t need to tell you that your services here are no longer needed.”

The demon scowled at the reaper. “You have interfered with a binding contract, Undertaker.”

"Have I?" The mortician pressed a hand against his chest. "All I did was direct my lord to the person responsible for his family’s demise. The breaking of your contract was just a lovely side result."

"I thank you for keeping my son safe for so long, but your services are no longer required, Demon." Vincent stated, hardly bothered by the demon’s demonic look. "You are dismi—"

“SEBASTIAN!!!” Ciel’s voice screamed out suddenly.

The demon’s copy of the contract had faded painlessly, but Ciel was still only human, and his contract had been placed in a sensitive place. The boy was on his hands and knees in the middle of his office, one hand over his contract eye as blood dripped from it. He’d had a sudden pain shoot through his eye and he ripped his eye patch from it, which lay on the floor under him, blood dripping from between his fingers to the carpet.

Undertaker glanced at Vincent, and then they were both running for the stairs, following the sound of that scream. His first thought was that someone had broken into the house to try and harm or kidnap the boy, but when they arrived in Ciel’s office and found him on the floor, cradling his bleeding eye, he realized what had provoked the cry.

"Of course," he reasoned. "The seal was placed on his eye."

He hoped the boy wouldn’t end up partially blind from the experience.

"Ciel!" Vincent rushed forward, dropping to his knees beside the boy, pulling him into his arms, "Come here…let me see…what happened?"

Ciel shivered, his good eyes widening, confused as to why it hadn’t been Sebastian to come to his aid. “…Father..?”

“I’m here, Ciel.” He soothed, petting the boy’s hair and rocking him like he had when the boy had been smaller and had a scare or gotten hurt, “Daddy’s here…”

"You’re no longer beholden to your demon, boy," explained the Undertaker with a smile. "He failed to fulfill his end of the bargain. He has no claim on your soul, anymore."

The mortician looked toward the doorway. “And speaking of Mr. Feathers, I’d best go check in on him…make sure he doesn’t get any ideas about pissing away his honor and going for Ciel’s soul anyway. Demons do have a code of honor, believe it or not…but hunger and frustration could make him forget that.”

Vincent nodded, “But we may need you to look at his eye…make sure it’ll be alright. I’m unable to do so myself. This isn’t like a scraped knee…”

“What do you mean Sebastian’s failed? What about my revenge? Why are you here?”

“…You got your revenge, my beautiful boy… The one responsible for what happened has been taken care of. The Queen of England herself has paid the price for sending assassins to our home that night…and all the failed attempts on my life from before your mother and I were gifted with you.” Vincent explained, gently. “Undertaker and I took care of her ourselves only minutes ago.”

While Vincent explained everything to his son, Undertaker went back downstairs to check on Sebastian. He found no sign of the butler, save for a single long, raven feather. He did not sense his demonic aura nearby, either. It appeared that he’d held to his code and left, after all.


 

He was angry. He was starving. Most of all, he was disappointed. He’d seen this coming…knew it might happen when Undertaker resurrected the boy’s father from the dead. Still, he’d foolishly clung to the hope that the mortician did not know who was responsible for what happened to the Phantomhives, believing that surely if he did, he would have already taken matters into his own hands long ago.

With a sigh, the demon concentrated and he shifted back into his human appearance. It wouldn’t do for him to be spotted in London like this. He heard a news crier shouting that Queen Victoria had been slain along with most of her royal guard, and he paused and frowned, listening. The boy was shouting that an army of the dead had massacred the royal court and Her Majesty, less than an hour ago.

The Queen. Of course. It had been right in front of him for all this time, but he hadn’t considered it because after all, the Phantomhive head had been her personal guard dogs for at least two generations. Sebastian laughed softly without humor at the irony. He could have enjoyed his meal long ago, if he had simply investigated the Queen as a suspect. 




The scene at the palace had been a complete mess. One Grell would have been proud to be a part of with the amount of blood. The redhead and his collection partners had to call for back-up to dispatch the army of walking dead, which of course told them exactly who had murdered so many people. Only one was capable of making such weapons, after all.

They collected the souls of the guards and members of the court before they moved to the queen herself where they found confirmation of Undertaker’s involvement.

Grell slipped away right after that, purposely avoiding the heavy amounts of paperwork each responding reaper would have to put up with after such a collection. He also found himself uncommonly worried about the demon who’d be affected by the Queen’s untimely murder.

The heels of his favorite red and black shoes clicked as he ran across the roofs of London, only silencing when he leapt to the next as his gaze searched below.

Finally, he spotted his handsome target shuffling down the streets, his strong shoulders slumped in defeat. Grell let himself descend to the streets below, landing lightly on the balls of his feet a few feet behind the demon.

“I…thought I might find you here, Sebastian.” he said in a gentle voice, so as not to startle the de-leashed demon into attack. “I was one of the reapers called to the queen’s murder…I saw her records…I saw who killed her and why, and I knew what it’d do to you… Sebby…are you…I mean, of course you aren’t…but…” he shifted uneasily to put all his weight on one leg which popped his hip out to the side, biting his lip.

The demon turned to face Grell, a humorless smirk adorning his lips. “Am I what, pray tell? Famished? Defeated? Frustrated. I am afraid that the answer to all three would be a resounding ‘yes’. I have decided to dine on trash for now, until I can locate and procure another contract with a more palatable soul.”

Grell had come visiting him each night, after that first evening by the koi pond. A stolen kiss here, a tantalizing caress there…Sebastian had begun to look forward to the distraction. He wondered if he should excuse himself to be alone for a while, but instead, he found Grell’s presence oddly comforting. If nothing else, this being could understand and appreciate what it was like to be denied something one craves. The one good thing to come of the breaking of his contract was that he was no longer leashed to Ciel. He could act on whatever impulses he liked, and he no longer had a master to hold him back.

He looked towards the general direction of the palace. “I presume you have seen the carnage?”

"I was going to ask if you were alright, darling…" Grell responded, slowly taking a few steps closer, "As a working reaper I suppose I should be glad his soul was saved…but…you were robbed." he reached out, brushing his fingers over the demon’s shoulder, "And yes, I saw the carnage. No one had survived." he looked up into Sebastian’s eyes, studying their distant look, "…I wish I could give you what you have lost…"

Sebastian gazed down at him, his eyes glowing with un-satisfied hunger. There were other things he’d deprived himself of as well, during the course of his servitude to Ciel. “No, you cannot give me the soul I intended to sup on,” he agreed softly.

He considered where they could go for privacy, and he wondered if Grell lived there in London or in the Shinigami realm. He caught hold of the reaper’s hands and he tugged him into the alleyway, where they could at least have some small measure of privacy. He began to lower his mouth to Grell’s, his body reminding him of the delights this reaper had promised him.

"You can, however, satisfy another hunger."

He kissed him then, delving deep into his mouth with his tongue.

Grell shivered with delight. He could sense the demon’s intention, and he knew Sebastian wouldn’t be after his soul. A Death God’s soul was poisonous to a demon. He was safe from that possibility.

The red reaper pressed up against the demon, his arms encircling the demon’s shoulders, fingers threading through raven locks. “Oh, darling…I’ll give it to you…on one condition. We find a place that at least has a bed to rest on afterwards. It doesn’t have to be all that nice…clean up would be a pain…”

"I was of a similar mind," agreed Sebastian, pulling away a bit. "I am, after all, a civilized demon."

Never mind that the last time he’d joined with someone, it had been in a circus tent. He was no longer constrained by the rules of another. It occurred to him that he’d left with some currency still on him, and he smirked with amusement. The least he could get out of this disappointing end to his contract was a decent room for the night.

"Come, Grell. I know of a hotel not terribly far from here that will suit our purpose."


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

Sebastian’s mouth hungrily sought out Grell’s as soon as they made it into the hotel room. Mating was the only thing as good as supping on a worthy soul, and he was desperate for some relief from his craving. He shoved the redhead against the wall the moment the door clicked shut, cutting his lips on his teeth and not giving a care about it. He felt the change coming on and he didn’t fight it. Let the reaper see his horns, his fangs and his wings; he was beyond caring now. The already torn material of the back of his tux ripped further as the wings came out, and black feathers drifted to the floor. His blood-coated tongue thrust against Grell’s as he pinned him there, a primal growl rising in his throat.

If Grell noticed the change, he didn’t react to it, wrapping his legs up around the demon’s waist, moving his lips against Sebastian’s, lavishing his tongue against his own. He dropped his arms to his sides to let his red coat fall to the floor. Of all the clothes he was wearing, that was the one thing he didn’t want to get ruined. Once it was safe on the floor, he pulled Sebastian closer, making him pin him tighter against the wall.

Sebastian’s outfit was already ripped out the back from the wings, so Grell gave no second thought about ripping the black tailcoat further to remove it from him. The sound of tearing fabric was drowned out by the moans they shared into each other’s mouths.

Sebastian slammed him up against the wall, panting. A crack formed in the plaster and etched its way up to the ceiling, and a chip of it fell loose. Neither of them paid it any mind. He tore at the reaper’s clothing in return with clawed hands, scratching pale flesh in the process. Grell’s vest and shirt ended up shredded, and his striped tie fluttered to the floor soon after, in two pieces, still tied in a bow.

Grell tore and ripped at the former butler’s uniform, tossing the thin black tie to the side to get caught on the doorknob, a sleeve ended up caught on a lamp shade near the bed in the small room. A scrap of purple waistcoat ended on the windowsill. His silver pocket watch dropped to the floor with a thud.

“Oh…Sebby-darling!” He gasped, breaking the kiss to nip down along his neck, licking up the beads of blood as they formed.

The demon’s wings spread, the blue-black feathers ruffling briefly with his mating urges. It mattered not to him anymore that Grell was a reaper…a rival to his kind for a food source. He was certainly just as fierce a partner as any demon he might have chosen, and Sebastian could get rough with him without breaking him. That was the problem with the few human conquests he’d enjoyed since becoming Ciel’s butler; he always had to hold back with them. He bit down on Grell’s throat, his fangs piercing the skin to draw more blood. He held the bite firmly; not to drink from him but to establish dominance.

He pushed the redhead off of his waist so that he could remove his trousers; or at least get them pulled down. Once he did this, he released his biting hold on his throat, and he spun him around to pin him against the wall from behind. There was one problem, though; male reapers did not self-lubricate, as far as he knew. Demons could make small but helpful alterations within their own bodies to assist with such things when two males wanted to mate, but mortals and reapers most likely required some slippery substance from elsewhere.

Not even Sebastian was cold enough to take him dry. He’d been on the receiving end of that once when he’d failed to prepare his body properly, and there was no joy to be had from a union under such circumstances.

"Have you anything for preparation, Grell?" he murmured against his ear.

"Oh~ How kind of you." Grell giggled, wiggling his hips, "And yes, actually, I do. If you would allow me space to move long enough for me to bend over to get it, darling?" He looked over his shoulder at the demon, "Never know when opportunity would come knocking, after all~ Though it has been an awfully long time."

Sebastian obligingly backed off to allow Grell the chance to procure whatever it was he had on him to make this an easier encounter. He ran his tongue over bloody lips as he watched him, faintly surprised by how badly he wanted this. At first he’d thought it would just be a means to an end…a way to ease his frustration on a willing body. Perhaps Mr. Sutcliff was more attractive to him than he’d initially thought. Then again, he no longer had something else to focus on and either way, he was more than ready for this to happen.

Grell bent over, his rear pressing against the demon as he searched for the pocket in the inner lining of his coat, finally locating it and the bottle of rose-scented oil. Standing back up, he held it out. “Do you want to prepare, or have me do so?” he asked, wiping up the blood on the demon’s shoulder that had dripped down from the teeth marks on his neck, and licking it off his fingers.

He’d been with men who liked to do it themselves, and he’d been with men who liked to watch him. He didn’t care which. He already knew he’d be bottoming, if this were ever to happen between them. It was easy to read on Sebastian, particularly…especially with how he’d sunk his teeth into his neck and held him there.

Sebastian considered his claws. He was too excited right now to change his form, and it wouldn’t do to tear Grell up inside with them. He smirked and ran said claws down the reaper’s bare, pale back. “I should like to watch you do it. I fear I would only do you harm that would spoil the experience.”

"As if you haven’t already ripped into me~" The redhead giggled, opening the bottle and pouring a small amount onto his fingers and coating them, before reaching back behind himself as he leaned against the cracked wall. He spread his legs wide as he slipped the first finger into himself with a moan. Immediately, he began to work himself loose with practiced skill, able to add a second finger in no time, and then a third.

Eyeing the awaiting cock of the lustful demon, Grell was sure that he needed to go up to at least four fingers before letting Sebastian fill him. Demons, after all, never tended to disappoint in such matters…and Sebastian was no exception.

“Mhh-haah!” With another erotic moan, he slipped his fourth finger in, readying himself for the demon’s full size, but teasingly holding it longer than needed, watching the look of sexual frustration deepen on Sebastian’s handsome features. He wondered how far he could push until the crow snapped back and simply took what he wanted.

“Ahh, Oh, Sebby~”

The demon stared at the spectacle of Grell’s slender fingers fucking his own pale ass, and his jaw clenched on a growl. It was very difficult to maintain dignity when his mating urges were this enflamed—and when it had been so long since he’d been able to truly cut lose with a partner. His breathing picked up but he managed to control himself as he reached out to trace Grell’s smooth, flexing bottom with his claws.

"Harder," he commanded, eyes flashing with lust.

With a pleasant, excited shiver, the reaper sped his fingers’ thrusting into his prepped entrance, his curved palm slapping against his ass cheek with dull smacking sounds. He made a show of it, moaning louder as he twisted his wrist to get a better angle. His gaze trained on the demon’s face out the corner of his hooded eyes.

Sebastian’s chest rose and fell with agitation, and the feathers of his wings ruffled reflexively. Had he a tail like some other species of demons, it would be lashing in agitation now. His breath shuddered in his lungs as his stomach clenched, his erection throbbing with anticipation as he imagined sinking it into that taut little bottom.

"Enough," announced the demon, out of patience. He grabbed Grell’s wrist, then his other one, and he pinned both up against the wall. Encircling them with one long hand, he wrapped his midnight wings around him and positioned himself with his free hand, again biting down on the spot where his neck met his shoulder. His eyes drifted shut with pleasure as he drove himself into him slowly, feeding him the length of his engorged sex until he was fully seated inside of him.

"Much better," he purred as the reaper’s slick warmth squeezed his sex delightfully.

"Oh! O-Ohhh..!" The reaper gasped in surprise, and then relaxed, resting his cheek against the cool, cracked plaster wall, his fingers curling and red nails scratching paint from the walls. His body shivered, knees going weak, and a light buzzing starting up as his mind became clouded with only lustful thoughts.

“Mmmh…Sebby… More…” he hummed, quickly adjusting to his size. Not completely, though. He enjoyed the pain as much as the pleasure, so he often said he was ready early when he actually got the chance. That was what made a demon partner so perfect. They liked to cause pain. Not that he’d been with one before—but he’d heard plenty of gossip.

Sebastian released Grell’s bleeding flesh from his mouth, lifting his head to smirk with lazy satisfaction as the crimson liquid dribbled from the corners of his mouth. “You really are a glutton for punishment, Grell.”

He withdrew slowly, almost to the tip, and then he rammed back into him, grunting with pleasure at the hot draw of tensing muscles on his sex. Panting softly, he did it again, and yet again. His wings closed tighter around the reaper and he gripped a creamy pale hip with one clawed hand, drawing more red marks on his skin. Reapers healed at a rate on par with demons, and he knew that he could not break Grell this way even if he wished to. That made him even more excited, and a primal growl resonated in his throat as he began to take him with sharp, hard thrusts.

The red reaper held back nothing, treating and rewarding the demon with every sharp gasp and noise that was forced from him. His hips smacked against the wall with each hard thrust, his hipbones bruising as they dented the plaster just above where Sebastian’s clawed hand gripped him to hold him steady and making him unable to push back against each thrust. Upon one of the thrusts, he had cried out, feeling himself rip slightly, prolonging the hint of pain he felt. The blood trickled down his white thighs in confirmation. All of these things, he’d experienced one way of another. New, however, was the soft, tickling caresses of dark feathers across his skin as Sebastian shifted his wings around them. It lent a gentleness mixing with the passionate lust tearing into him. It made his legs go weak and tremble.

Sebastian smelled the tang of blood, and he eased up on the force of his thrusts. The violence of his lust was fading to a more bearable level, now that he was joined with Grell. He released his neck and he licked the blood away like a cat licking a wound. His pumps slowed but did not stop, and he purred in his throat happily. His breath was hot against Grell’s ear, his wings caressing his body as a reward for his submission. Feeling like he’d properly subdued him, he decided it was time for a bit of aftercare while he mated with him. Such was the behavior typical in demons once they’d secured their mating choice…should they wish to encourage another encounter later on.

He certainly did wish to do this again with the reaper, and thus he chose to demonstrate that he could be as attentive and generous as he was savage. Sebastian released Grell’s wrists, and he trailed his claws gently down his arms, his steady pumping deep but slow…leisurely. He continued to lick at the wounds on his neck until they healed, and then he brushed his lips against the spot in a lover’s caress. He released his hip and he ran his palm over his ribs in a sensual glide.

"You please me," he admitted in a husky murmur, his lips moving against the pale, bruised skin.

He paused his thrusts to rotate his hips in little circles, massaging Grell inside as the damage he’d caused healed up. “I do hope you have stamina, Grell. We’ll be joined like this for quite some time, before I’ve had my fill of you.”

His eyes fluttered shut and he licked his lips, grunting as his first orgasm made his balls clench and his stomach tighten. He pulsed inside of Grell, his seed filling him until some of it trickled out, stained pink with the remaining blood inside of him. Sebastian smiled with satisfaction and he held still for a moment, before resuming his thrusts.

Now that was a surprise. The last thing Grell expected from Sebastian was a sudden show of gentleness and genuine interest in anything but meaningless, lust-driven sex. It made him blush. And though Sebastian had slowed down, the reaper himself was still panting and gasping for breath, though he didn’t need the air.

Once he found his voice, and not simply in the way of gasps and moans, he finally answered. “I do…but it’s been a long, long time since I have last shared my body with anyone.” he admitted, “My stamina may be lacking slightly…Ohh…” he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, pressing back against the demon and wiggling his hips. He was close—he could feel it.

Sebastian felt the tension increasing within him, and he reached around to stroke Grell off. He bit his ear lightly, then licked it soothingly, his breath huffing against it with bliss. “I wonder how tightly you’ll squeeze me when you reach that precipice, Grell.”

"You’ll find out…soon, if you keep going." The redhead moaned, "Very soon…" He sped up the motions of his hips, pushing back onto the demon’s length a little faster again, wanting to come to that first round of completion.

The demon did indeed keep going, taking his companion’s cue to speed up his thrusts. He smiled and closed his eyes as he felt Grell tightening around his pumping length. How delightful. He honestly hadn’t been quite sure that the reaper would be able to keep up with his lusty appetite, and he was more than pleased to have that concern proven wrong. Even though it must surely pain him a bit, Grell drove himself back against him eagerly, his body begging for more and his hoarse moans vibrating in the air. Sebastian stroked him off faster, panting with pleasure.

"Come for me," he demanded in a growl, wanting to feel the flushed cock buck in his fondling hand…wanting to feel the tight ass clench around him.

"Ahh-ah~!" Grell threw his head back against the demon’s shoulder and cried out, his hand desperately grabbing for Sebastian’s, bringing it up from his hip and to his mouth, biting down on it as he came, spilling his seed all over the wall he was pinned against.

"Perfect," approved the demon with a smile.

If he even noticed his hand being bitten, he didn’t show it. He was too caught up in the moment, enjoying the feel of Grell’s body clenching tightly around his length. He held still within him until it eased up, and then he resumed his thrusts, his feathers tickling the reaper’s skin as he did so. It went on well into the night, until Grell’s strength gave out and Sebastian had to carry him to the bed. Still, he continued, his lust not yet completely satisfied. The violence of it abated however, and he took him at a more leisurely pace, until he finally had nothing left to give and collapsed on top of him, panting and drained.

It was a most satisfying encounter, and the butler decided that he would seek out future encounters with him. He spooned up behind the exhausted redhead and closed his eyes, slowly shifting back into his human form as he drifted off into slumber. It wasn’t a requirement for his kind, of course, but a nap after mating was one of the simple pleasures he enjoyed. Tomorrow he would hunt; even if it meant settling for a less appetizing soul than the one he’d had his hopes set on. He’d starved himself for long enough.


 

Undertaker walked the halls of the Phantomhive estate, waiting for Vincent to finish his visit with his son. They’d put Ciel to bed and applied an herbal soak to his eye, bandaging it carefully so that it would heal over time. The house servants fussed and fretted, and he got the distinct impression that Mey-Rin wasn’t quite happy to have lost Sebastian as the butler. Tanaka rose to the task, however, and he brewed up some tea to bring to the young Earl as his father watched over him.

It was rather chaotic. The old man was the only one to remember Vincent, seeing as the others came under Phantomhive employment after Ciel returned with Sebastian. Finny couldn’t seem to wrap his head around the idea that the former master of the house was back, but was not returning to lord over it. Bardroy busied himself in the kitchen and Undertaker dearly hoped that he wouldn’t end up burning it down. The man had never quite mastered the art of cooking. As for the shy young footman named Snake, he stayed quietly outside Ciel’s bedroom, waiting with two of his pets coiled around his neck in case his lord needed him.

Eventually, Undertaker went back upstairs and he smiled in greeting at Snake, before tapping on the master bedroom door and poking his head in. “How is he, love?” he asked Vincent; who was sitting in the chair by the bedside, watching over his sleeping child.

"Exhausted…and still somewhat confused over how everything turned out. I hadn’t told him of our plans to free him of the contract. I hadn’t wanted the demon to find out about our plans, after all. He could have become a problem. I’m guessing this was suddenly all too fast for him. Getting his father and his life back within the same month." He sighed and looked up at his lover with a gentle smile, "But with that done with, I can finally leave my black gloves forgotten. I can be the father and the lover to the two people that mean the most to me."

Undertaker approached him and he reached out to stroke his hair, looking down at him with a smile. “It makes me happy to be included on that list, my love.”

He glanced at Ciel to be sure he was indeed asleep, before bending over to plant a soft, brief kiss on his lover’s mouth. “And I’ll do my best to do my part, too. I think some of the house help could use a few lessons. Old Tanaka can’t be expected to take care of all of that by himself.”

"I believe I can manage for a while, sir," said a familiar voice from the doorway as Tanaka came in. The old man’s mustache moved with his smile, his faded eyes going to Vincent. "Earl Gray, my lord. I still recall how you liked your tea."

He carried the tea tray in and he set it down on the table at the foot of the bed, before pouring and preparing a cup of the aromatic beverage for Vincent. He brought it over to him and he gave a little bow as he offered the tea and saucer to him. “Thank God for yours and the Undertaker’s intervention, Sir. Our young lord is now safe, thanks to you. It is a pleasure to have you back again, however briefly.”

Tanaka’s heartfelt statement left little doubt that even if the rest of the household weren’t aware of the true nature of Ciel’s mysterious, former butler, he’d figured it out some time ago.

Vincent smiled at the elderly butler, standing up to greet him properly now that Ciel had been tended to properly and was peacefully in bed. “It is good to be back, my old friend. And it means more than you know to me, knowing you stayed here with my son after Rachel and I were taken from him.” He glanced over at the sleeping boy, “I have missed so much…I’m glad the man who was more a father to me than my own had been was there for him.”

"It has always been my pleasure to serve this house, sir," replied Tanaka with an elegant nod. "I may not have the energy I once had, but I shall always be here. Master Undertaker, would you like a cup of tea as well?"

"Please," agreed the mortician with a smile.

"Four lumps," said the old butler after relinquishing Vincent’s cup and saucer to him. He returned to the tray to pour a cup for the reaper, as well. "You always did have a bit of a sweet tooth, as I recall."

Undertaker chuckled and nodded, taking the tea from him after Tanaka finished preparing it. “It’s always been my bane, friend. Thanks kindly for the refreshment.”

Tanaka glanced at Ciel. “Well sirs, if that will be all for now, I shall check on Bardroy…before he sets fire to the kitchen.”

He gave another formal bow, before leaving the room again.

"Good man, he is," complimented the Undertaker before sipping his tea. "Pity he had to age, but the old gent’s still got his flair."

"I’m quite fond of him." Vincent agreed, sipping his tea, "He’s one of the greatest men I know."

He sighed and leaned back in his chair, “We should get cleaned up after we finish our tea and then retire to bed, ourselves. Whether or not we should do so here or back home, I do not know. I don’t wish to leave Ciel yet, but the reapers are still looking for you.”

"Right," agreed the mortician with a little frown. "We shouldn’t linger for much longer, I’m afraid. Shouldn’t leave out the front door, either. Once we finish our tea, I’ll teleport us straight out of here to our place."

He sipped his beverage again and he looked at the other man contemplatively. “Are you happy enough in that shack for now, love? I know it’s terribly small and drafty.”

"I’m perfectly fine there with you." Vincent reassured him, taking his hand, "I don’t believe I ever made a complaint about it."

"No complaints," agreed the mortician, squeezing the hand in his, "and I appreciate that. It can’t have been easy for you, adjusting to life in such a hovel after living as a lord in this fine manor. You really are a resilient, adaptable fellow. I’m very proud of you for that…and proud of you for not letting your heart rule your head in our recent endeavors. I don’t mind saying I was a bit worried you might get rash on me and act before it was time."

"It helps that I woke up without my memories." Vincent smiled, "I got used to it while working on regaining my memories."

Undertaker nodded and finished up his tea. He glanced at Ciel’s fragile, sleeping form. “He’ll be all right. He just needs to rest and recover, and you can arrange for another visit soon. Ready to go, love?”

"One moment…" Vincent set down his cup on the tea tray and walked over to the bed, sitting on the edge to tuck Ciel in. He then leaned over, kissing his son’s cheek and running his fingers through his hair, "I’ll come back soon, son. I promise."

With his vow made, he stood up again, “Alright, I’m ready.”

Undertaker created the portal, and he waited for the former earl to go through first, before following him.


 

"Officers monitoring the Phantomhive estate have reported that there has been portal activity somewhere inside the structure," William said to Eric and Alan, after calling them into his office. "I would like for the two of you to investigate and confirm this, before I send a team on another wild goose chase. I would do so myself, but I must prepare for Father Anderson’s trial."

Eric grimaced a bit at that. “Yer sure yeh want tae represent him, boss? Might be hard tae stay objective…even fer you.”

William adjusted his glasses and looked down at his paperwork. “I hardly think there exists a reaper in this division who could possibly be objective at all, in this case. However, I’ve made up my mind. I will defend him at court, regardless of his own confession and the odds against him. Ronald Knox will assist me in preparing the defense.”

"Ronald?" Alan tilted his head in interest, "Don’t you think he’s still a little too green to be helping with a trial? Junior reapers normally watch and learn unless testifying as a witness. Do you think he’s ready to actually help? I’m sure Eric or I could help you and Ronald could help investigate this supposed portal activity."

"I need someone on site that won’t act rashly." William tidied up the paperwork into a neat stack. "You both know that Knox is prone to compulsion. All that I require him to do with this court case is to organize paperwork. I think I’m better off with him doing that while the two of you investigate the Phantomhive manor. Should you find anything and require backup, I will of course send Knox with a group of more seasoned agents to assist you."

Eric looked at his partner and shrugged. “Guess he’s go’ it all figured out.” He turned his gaze to the supervisor again. “Jus’ try no’ tae stack yer plate too high, boss.”

William nodded. “I shall keep that in mind.”

"Very well." Alan nodded, taking Eric’s hand, "Come on, lets get over to do our job." He smirked, glancing back at William, feeling a little on the playful side all of a sudden. Teasing wasn’t something he normally did, but he couldn’t resist calling the stoic man out, "If you wanted to spend some time alone with Knox, you could have just said so." he winked.

William pointed at the door. “Remove yourselves from my office.”

Eric burst into laughter and nudged his partner, squeezing his hand. “Think ya touched a nerve there, Al. We’d best do as he says.”

As the partnered couple did as advised and left, William sighed and nudged his glasses impulsively. “Honestly. I cannot even garnish respect from the best of them, these days.”


 

Alan sighed as he looked up at the Phantomhive manor. Not a trace of a demon upon the grounds—for once—meaning that they would have no real trouble getting in and investigating. The other Phantomhive servants were all talented in their own ways, apart from their cleaning, cooking, and gardening duties. But they were still human with human weapons. Should they choose to attack, then neither reaper would suffer any real damage.

“Shall we knock to see if they will allow us to do our job, or should we skip that and hide our presence as we let ourselves in through an open window?” The brunet asked.

Eric scratched his head. “Seein’ as we’ve ne’er busted in on this place before, maybe we ought tae try and keep it civil? Odd thing fer me tae say, I know, but considering tha circumstances, I think it might be best tae keep peace, if we can.”

Alan nodded, “That would be what I would normally suggest, but seeing as Vincent Phantomhive is back, young Ciel may not want us to find Undertaker if he knows. Both options have risks.”

Eric sighed and looked at the manor. “Aye.” A calculating look sparked in his eyes and he smirked at his smaller partner. “How ‘bout we try both? Yer tha diplomat o’ tha two of us. Yeh can knock on tha door while I try tae slink around an’ see if there’s anythin’ tae be reported?”

"Keep yourself cloaked from human detection," Alan agreed with a sigh, "And keep your guard up. I don’t sense the demon here, but he’s a stronger one. I don’t trust that he’s gone, fully."

With that said, the brunet started up to the front door, pulling the cord to ring the bell and wait for someone to answer the door.

Tanaka came to the door a few moments later, looking stately and dignified as he greeted the Shinigami agent. “Good afternoon, Mr. Humphries,” he said politely. “How can I help you today?”

"Good afternoon," Alan greeted with a gentle smile, "I’m afraid I have come on business. There have been reports of portal activity within this property, and given our current investigation, I’m afraid I need to take a look at the site of the portal in hopes of finding any clue as to who created it and where it took it’s user. Might I come in to do so?"

He didn’t bother to pretend he was human. He knew this man knew better. The old butler seemed more than aware of Sebastian being a demon, and hadn’t been shocked at all when a group of reapers had shown up to trap Undertaker; especially after Ronald had used his scythe. The brunet felt it’d be more respectful to be truthful rather than pretend that he was a simple human ignorant to the real way the world works.

Tanaka hesitated for a bare moment, before giving a little bow. “Of course, sir. Just please do be quiet and try not to disturb the young master. He has been through quite an ordeal and requires plenty of undisturbed rest.”

"I will mask myself, then. Any noise I make will not be detectable to human ears." Alan agreed, "Thank you." he bowed his head in thanks as the elderly butler showed him in and closed the door behind him.

Once he was left alone, Alan did as he promised before making his way up to the second floor, searching for where he could sense the portal fingerprint the strongest, soon being lead to the master bedroom.

Eric was already in there, having concealed himself the same way and scaled the walls to sneak into the bedroom. He turned as his partner came into the room and he nodded at the corner near the fireplace. “Tha energy residue seems tae be centered ‘round there. I also picked up some traces o’ reaper aura in other parts of tha place, but I cannae tell if it’s from Undertaker or our own spies. Feels pretty recent though, and tha’ demon would have sensed them if any agents tried tae sneak in here while he was around.”

Alan nodded, “It’s likely a reaper portal, then. Let’s see if the reaper was able to make it untraceable or not.”

He walked over to the fireplace and took out a special device designed to take readings on portal activity. He waved it over the area, gathering the readings of what was left of the portal before it faded completely. It took a few minutes, but finally, the device showed its results on a small screen.

“Reaper-made…” Alan muttered before smiling, “And traceable. I have a location.”

"I’ll be damned," said the Scotsman with a smile of admiration. "Yer sae much more patient than I am, love. Wha’ d’ya think; should we report back first or go an’ investigate ourselves tae see where it leads?"

He was a good, strong fighter and a fast worker when it came to collecting souls, but Eric’s judgment wasn’t always as fit as his lover’s. It was probably a good thing that Spears hadn’t chosen to put Alan on the trial case and send Ronald with Eric, else they might have gotten into some trouble together.

"We’ll need back-up if it was, in fact, the Undertaker who made this portal." Alan said, standing up and taking out his phone to report to William.




“Come on, chores can wait for tomorrow, I want to celebrate a little.” Vincent smirked, pushing his lover back onto the closed lid of his coffin in their small sitting room. The former Earl straddled Undertaker, leaning in to kiss along his neck, “We fell asleep before we could do so last night after bathing…” he whispered.

"No complaints from me, darlin’," said the mortician with a chuckle. He slid his hands over Vincent’s bottom, giving the firm mounds of them a squeeze as his body responded quickly to the doll’s suggestion. "Ah, I do love the feel of your lips on my throat, Vincent. Doesn’t take much for you to get this old spook worked up into a frenzy."

"I’d say that’s a good thing." Vincent cooed, nibbling up his neck as his fingers pinched open buttons down his chest, "Mmmh…you taste good…" Nuzzling under his lover’s jaw, he ran his fingers over his pale, smooth chest.

Undertaker’s pulse quickened and he began to unbutton his lover’s shirt, wanting to see a little chest himself. “You should taste yourself sometime, if you think I taste good,” he teased. He parted the material of the garment to reveal Vincent’s toned pecs, and then he lightly skimmed his nails over his torso, making his way down to his pants.

"I never tire of looking at you, my love," he sighed in appreciation. He began to fumble with the other man’s pants, eager to feast his eyes—and hands—on other parts of him as well.


 

William started to order a team to the location that Alan had reported finding, when he was interrupted by a call from his superiors. “William T. Spears speaking. Oh, good afternoon, sir. How can I…oh. Oh, I see.”

He looked at Ronald, who was busily organizing William’s defense plan for Anderson. “Yes sir. Absolutely…right away. I shall report in as soon as it is confirmed. Good day, sir.”

He hung up the phone and he stood up. “Ronald, forget all that for now. I’ve just gotten word from the board that the plan has changed. Father Anderson’s trial is being postponed. We can continue this preparation another time. For now, we are to proceed with Humphries and Slingby ourselves to investigate and should their lead prove fruitful, we are to offer up a negotiation with the fugitive in exchange for Anderson’s pardon and a peaceful end to this situation.”

"You had me at ‘forget all the paperwork for now’." Ronald grinned, hopping up, "Where to?"




Every scrap of clothing had been quickly shed from the reaper and his Doll’s forms, littering the wooden floors around the coffin—which they had opened and slipped into it’s silk-lined bed. Their lips locked together as their hands roamed over each other’s bodies to heat each other up, their legs tangled together. Undertaker was just reaching for the lubricant when he sensed the activation of a portal, right inside his home.

"Oh, bugger," he gasped, jumping right off of his lover and manifesting his scythe. Having no time for explanations or clothing, he left his befuddled lover where he was and he burst out of the bedroom, with nothing save his long hair cloaking his nudity. Cursing himself for failing to mask the trajectory of his teleportation thoroughly enough to throw them off the scent, he charged into the parlor with his formidable death scythe ready.

"All right, you meddling lapdogs," he announced, "Let’s end this rabbit hunt, yeah?"

William Spears, Ronald Knox, Grell Sutcliff, Eric Slingby and Alan Humphries all stared at him with their jaws dropped as he came before them with more than his scythe swinging in the air.

"Wh—Did we interrupt something, Darling?" Grell giggled, "By all means, please do continue~ I wouldn’t mind a show~"

“Grell, that’s vulgar.” Alan scolded, “Do remember why we are here and not to—I don’t even know.” he gave up trying to scold the older reaper—who was ogling the elder reaper.

“Well, why not? The scrumptious man is standing there so tall and proud! He’s giving us quite the treat~” Grell shrugged, flipping his hair over his shoulder, “Wouldn’t you agree, Ronnie?”

“I’d rather get my treats from Will’s office.” Ronald said flatly and without stopping to think about his words.

Vincent climbed out of the coffin, frowning as he followed Undertaker out, wondering why he’d suddenly taken off. “Undertaker, this isn’t what I had in mind when I said—” Gasping when he spotted the group of reapers, he quickly covered himself, “—What’s going on?”

Eric suddenly blurted a chuckle, earning himself a glare from William. He cleared his throat contritely and he tried to formulate some kind of response. “Interrupted a party, looks like.”

William tried to gather his wits, but the sight of his reaperhood hero charging in naked had flustered him. Then Ronald just came right out with that off-color remark, and finally the deceased earl of the Phantomhive estate came out just as nude as the Undertaker. It was too much for him to absorb right away…but at least nobody was attacking one another just yet.

"P-pardon the intrusion," he managed to say, trying very hard not to stare at the Undertaker’s endowments—especially with his romantic interest standing right there. He deliberately removed his glasses and he made a show of polishing the lenses, just so he could not see the naked form of his former idol so bloody clearly. Ronald’s remark had quickly reminded him that he had a lover of his own…whom he was growing quite fond of.

With a bit of difficulty, he recovered his senses and he spoke again as if reading cue cards. He could feel his face heating and he pointedly kept his gaze downcast as he cleaned his glasses. “We have come with a proposal for you, sir. Please, everyone avoid drawing weapons on one another—at least until I have presented the Board’s desires.”

"Looks like they’ve already go’ somethin’ drawn anyhow," snickered Eric. "Owch, Alan!" He rubbed his ribs where his partner had elbowed him.

Undertaker glanced down at his softening goods, and he smirked. Beyond shame, he nonetheless crossed his scythe across his groin to somewhat shield his genitals from plain view. “I’d like to hear this.”

"By order of the high council of London Dispatch, I am required to issue an alternative to you, Legendary Death, to prison time or further conflict. Will you treat with us, or must this turn into an ugly affair?"

He blushed as the word: “affair” left his mouth and he hoped to Styx Ronald didn’t notice it.

"You don’t have to do that, Darling!" Grell protested as Undertaker covered himself, "You are quite the treat to look at~"

“Excuse me?” Vincent shot the redhead a dull, flat glare.

“Oh, you’re quite nice, too, but Unnie’s got that extra little something~”

“That’s not what I meant.” Vincent snapped, and then he looked over at William, “What is it you mean to propose?”

"Yes, well," said the tall, dark-haired reaper; uncommonly clumsy with his responses. He looked at Undertaker, still avoiding replacing his glasses. Yes, he could concentrate much better with the silver legend appearing as no more than a blur before him. "As it happens, Lawrence Anderson has confessed to aiding and abetting your escape from the hospital, sir."

Undertaker’s expression instantly darkened. “And I suppose Dispatch intends to toss him under the carriage, eh?”

"Not at all," assured William, "provided you cooperate with the Board’s demands. Dispatch will be willing to pardon him with demerits for his behavior, provided you agree to accommodate demands and agree to a community service."

Undertaker glanced at his lover. “Hmm. What does this entail, exactly? And where does it leave Vincent?”

William glanced at the man in question briefly. “Considering that Lord Phantomhive is unique to the other…creations…and we cannot very well reap him now without breaking our own rules, he will be free to live out his life to its natural end…whatever ‘natural’ could mean to one such as he. In return for this and the promise of Father Anderson’s pardon, you will collect no less than two-thousand souls—without monetary or other forms of payment—in order to balance the scales again and assist the organization that your actions have blemished.”

He took a breath, having run out of air in his lungs in his rush to explain. “Is anything unclear about that, sir?”

Undertaker shrugged lightly. “Seems fairly simple to me. I get to wear their leash with no compensation until I’ve turned in the aforementioned number of records. I suppose Lawrence will remain in custody until I’ve finished this task?”

William inclined his head, his expression faintly regretful. “He will be well-treated, but I am afraid this is the a non-negotiable requirement of the contract…to ensure your cooperation.”

The mortician sighed. “I see. And Vincent? Do they intend to take him into custody too?”

"No sir," answered the supervisor evenly. "As stated; so long as he does not cause undue mischief, he will be free to live out his life with you. I…implore you to take this under heavy consideration. I for one would rather see this ended peacefully."

Undertaker stroked his chin. “Do I get visitation rights with Anderson, if I agree with this?”

William nodded. “Under supervision, of course. On the weekends.”

Undertaker looked at his lover. “Give us a chance to get into something less comfortable than our bare skins and have a chat about it, would you?”

"Of course, sir." William gave a polite bow.

Vincent turned, keeping his hands covering himself until he was out of sight, knowing Undertaker was right behind him. “I’m guessing the alternative option is something I’m not going to like?” he asked, gathering their clothes from the floor to get redressed.

"I’m afraid so, love," answered the mortician as he slid his leggings on. He turned to look at him with a slight frown. "I’m thinking I should take their deal. It’s much better than anything I’d have expected of them…but regardless, we’ve got to keep on our toes. Even if I sign a contract with them, I don’t trust Dispatch any further than I could throw their bloody library."

"I’d have to trust you on that." Vincent said, slipping on his shirt and buttoning it up, "But how long would two thousand souls take to collect?"

The mortician sighed, and he slipped his long shirt on. “For the average reaper? At least a couple of years—probably closer to three or four. For me?” He shrugged. “I’m a bit out of practice, mind, but I did spend the better part of creation ferrying souls, before I retired. Might be able to finish the job in a few months shy of that mark—possibly even a year.”

He smirked as he buttoned up his shirt. “They’re clever. London Dispatch has always been a bit short-staffed, and they can catch up on their quota by forcing me into their ranks for a bit. The good news is they haven’t given me a daily quota to fulfill, so I can take care of as many as I like in a day and make my own hours, I s’pose. On the other hand, the freedom of my good friend is put on hold for as long as it takes me to reach that final mark, so they’ve given me incentive to collect faster.”

He walked over to the former earl and he put his arms around him. “I won’t pretend to like this, Vincent, but as I said before; it’s a better arrangement than I would have expected of them. Will you support me in this decision, love?”

Sighing, the Earl nodded, “Yes, of course I’d support you in whichever you choose. And they did promise to leave me alone, so I’ll only be affected by missing you while you are collecting souls. And I’d be free to go spend time with my son during that time should I wish to.” He didn’t want to smother Ciel, after all. Visiting every day would be a bit much—unless the boy requested it.

Undertaker relaxed and smiled, nuzzling Vincent’s hair. “Thank you, sweet love. I won’t have as much time for you as I’d like while I’m fulfilling this requirement, but knowing I have your support and understanding will make it easier to swallow.”

He finished dressing and he walked back into the parlor. “Well gents, it seems this is everyone’s lucky day. If you’ve got a contract, I s’pose I’m in a position to sign it. Just be sure to keep your end of the bargain and let it be known right now that if I feel betrayed…well…maybe there’s no need for descriptions.”

"Not at all, sir," agreed William. He produced his clipboard again and he offered it to the Undertaker. "I’m terribly sorry that it came to this, but grateful for your compliance."

"Yeah, yeah," grumbled the ancient as he looked over the documents with his lover.

"Getting off way too easy." Grell grumbled, "I got punished way more for my stunt with my lovely Madam Red. We only killed a few useless women no one would miss, but he raised a large army of corpses and set them loose on a ship full of people!”

With a sigh, the redhead circled Undertaker and Vincent, looking the former human up and down, “…Not to mention, they set a demon free without his set meal, How cruel.”

"Careful, Miss Sutcliff," warned Undertaker, subtly putting himself between the brazen crimson reaper and his lover. "The ‘meal’ you’re referring to is this man’s only son. I’m sure Michaelis can easily find sustenance elsewhere, charming as he is."

"Yes, do stop attempting to provoke a fight, Grell Sutcliff," cautioned William tiredly. "There is a vast difference between yourself and the Undertaker. Exceptions were made because he is exceptional."

Eric nearly said that William’s nose was starting to look awfully brown, but he thought better of it and he shrugged. It was the truth, after all. Undertaker—for all his current faults—was practically a religious icon to their kind. That Dispatch found a peaceful way to resolve this and get something beneficial out of it was impressive in itself.

"I was just pointing out the unfairness of it all!" Grell insisted, "Collecting is the fun part of the job. He’s hardly being punished. He even gets to keep his little Earl—and Mini-Earl. I didn’t get to keep anything but Madam’s coat."

“You killed her, Grell, collected her soul. What else was there for you to ‘keep’?” Ronald asked. “You got off pretty easy, yourself, stop complaining.”

Vincent left Undertaker’s side and walked passed Grell, looking at William, “No ‘Overtime’.” He stated simply. “I want to actually spend time with Undertaker when he comes home in the evenings.”

William brushed imaginary lint off his blazer. “How quickly or slowly he meets his quota will be entirely up to him. He will not be officially ‘on the clock’, and so any overtime hours he procures will be of his own volition.” He looked at the Undertaker. “I trust this arrangement is to your satisfaction then, sir?”

The mortician shrugged. “It’ll have to do, won’t it? Do you have some sort of contract I can look over and sign, chap?”

William nodded and reached into his blazer for a folded document. “Of course.” He offered it to the silver reaper, along with the pen in his breast pocket.

Undertaker took both of them and he went to the dining table, drawing his glasses case from his pocket before putting the eyewear on so that he could read the text clearly. He still hadn’t gotten into the habit of wearing the spectacles made for him by his friend, preferring to use them only when doing something that required good vision. He didn’t want to become dependant on them again.

He muttered under his breath as he read over the contract, nodding in satisfaction with the terms stated on it. They had covered the agreement that Vincent would be left alone and Lawrence Anderson would be released upon completion of the requirements presented in the contract. Those were really the only two things that he cared about, but he was pleased to see that in addition, Dispatch stated that he would be free to return to his trade as a mortician in London, if he so desired.

"Home," he murmured, smiling a little. He’d boarded up his shop when he left and he’d covered up all the furniture in the living quarters in the back of it. He figured it was a given that Dispatch had already broken in to investigate when they started on his case, but hopefully they’d been courteous enough not to damage anything.

He just hoped that Vincent could be happy living in London. He could discuss the possibility with him later, though. He signed the contract and he returned it and the pen to William. “Anything else you gents need to discuss with me, then?”

William glanced at the signature before folding he document once more and returning it to his pocket. “I believe that will be all, sir. Gentlemen, our work is done here.” He gave the mortician and his lover a courteous bow. “Please enjoy the rest of your day, and thank you for your cooperation.”

Eric created a portal for them all and the Dispatch agents left through it.

"I would have already been enjoying it if we hadn’t been interrupted." Vincent sighed, relaxing once they had been left alone once more. "I suppose you would want to get started on your punishment collections in the morning, seeing as your friend’s freedom is at stake?" he asked, walking over to Undertaker.

The mortician put his arms around his lover and he nodded. “I’d put it off for a few days if it weren’t for him. I owe Anderson a lot. If it weren’t for him, I mightn’t have gotten away to finish my work.” He kissed him softly on the lips. “And I wouldn’t have gotten you back. That’s worth being stuck in the rat race again for a time.”

"No overtime." Vincent repeated, now that he knew it was up to Undertaker on how long he worked each day, "That’s my condition in this."

Undertaker chuckled and nodded. “No overtime, love. I won’t neglect you while I’m undergoing this task. That’s my promise.”

He kissed him deeply then, holding him tighter. “Now, where were we?” He said with a wink.


 -To be continued

Chapter Text

William sighed as he returned to his office, with Ronald following closely behind. “Please lock that,” he said with a gesture at the door. “I really don’t feel like dealing with any interruptions while I finalize this paperwork and send it off for processing.”

"Then why lock me in with you? I’ve proven quite a fun distraction to you." Ronald teased with a smirk as he turned around and flicked the lock on the door. He then leaned against the wooden door seductively, "Or is that your true intention?" he hummed, lowering his voice and he ran a gloved hand up his leg and lower torso.

William glanced up from the documentation he’d retrieved from his suit’s inner pocket, and his eyes helplessly followed the blond’s motions. He swallowed, but his expression remained neutral. “Not at this moment, Knox. Please allow me to process this before…doing what you normally do when we’re alone.”

"I’m only teasing you." Ron smirked, pushing himself off the door and walking over to the bookshelves lining the wall behind William’s desk. He picked up a glass paperweight that was sitting in an empty space, holding it up to look at the swirls of green, yellow, and blues within the orb. "I know how to behave myself, after all."

William smirked. “Do you? I’ve seen precious little evidence of that.”

He didn’t truly mind Ronald’s sultry little advances. It didn’t take much for the blond to seduce him into a frenzy when he was in a frisky mood, but he did need to at least complete this task before acting on the lust he inspired in him. Something wicked took hold of him as he sat down in his chair behind the desk, and he patted his lap expectantly.

"Come and sit with me while I organize these documents and file them."

"Now you are just asking for me to misbehave," Ron accused, setting the paperweight back down in its place and walking over to William, but not sitting down, "There are temptations hidden in that lap."

"I believe the temptations are rather obvious," purred William as his trousers began to bulge tellingly at the crotch, "but I believe I can restrain myself until I finish this last bit of filing."

He was in a good mood for once, now that he no longer had to hunt down his reaper idol and a peaceful solution had been found. He could not engage in too much play while he finished up, but that didn’t mean he could not warm Ronald up for the reward he felt they both deserved. He patted his lap again, lifting an eyebrow in silent demand. “Must I give you overtime, Ronald?”

William T. Spears…teasing. It was a rare occurrence.

"Maybe you can, But I can’t! If I sit down I can’t promise I’ll continue to be a good boy!" Ronald warned.

William smirked again. “Perhaps I should cuff you, then…at least until I finish organizing these files.” He opened his drawer to point out the Shinigami manufactured cuffs—a little surprise he’d purchased just the other day upon inspiration. He watched his lover’s face carefully as Ronald’s eyes fell upon them, and he hoped he wasn’t making a mistake and presuming too much when it came to what he was and was not willing to do.

Ronald’s face flushed, and the confident, flirty reaper seemed to get flustered for once as his gaze fell onto the object laying in wait. His mind instantly went to the possibilities the cuffs offered, and his slacks grew tighter. They wouldn’t solve the problem at all, no, it’d only make him more desperate to be ‘bad’.

Yet, he found himself removing his black gloves and his blazer, tossing them to the floor. He unbuttoned the cuffs on his sleeves and rolled them up to his elbow before holding his bare wrists out to William.

Quietly relieved that he hadn’t spooked or offended the blond, William kept his eyes on Ronald’s as he lifted the cuffs and motioned for Ronald to turn around. “Behind your back, I think.”

The sound Ronald made as he turned around, placing his hands behind his back, was almost that of a whimper. Yes, definitely wouldn’t help him behave. He already wanted to rub and buck himself in need against William’s body as he felt the cold metal clicking tighter around his wrists to hold his arms in place, and successfully giving the blond a sense of helplessness.

Just how long would William leave him like that without being touched as he finished up paperwork? It sent a thrill through him.

"Very good," approved William.

He gave Ronald’s bottom a brief, possessive pat and then he guided him to sit down in his lap, facing away from him with his legs straddling William’s thighs. The brunet’s hardened groin pressed intimately against Ronald’s backside as he reached around from behind him, his breath stirring the black hair at the nape of Ronald’s neck as he began to organize the documents on his desk. His arms brushed against the younger reaper’s as he worked, and while it was a bit awkward handling the paperwork this way, he was able to do so with only slightly lesser efficiency than usual.

He refused to allow his desire for his subordinate to make him rush and make a mistake, so he tested himself as much as the youthful blond in his lap, working meticulously so as not to do a sloppy job. He rubbed his chin against Ronald’s shoulder as he organized and stacked the documents, smirking at the soft whimpers that the boy couldn’t seem to help but issue.

He should have considered trying this sooner.

The short chain linking the cuffs together clinked as Ronald shifted and bit his lip. But soon, he discovered his fingers were being held in a most convenient spot. With some difficulty, he managed to twist his hands enough to pinch the pull on William’s pants zipper, tugging it down half-way before he couldn’t get it to go any further. His questing fingertips then slipped into the opening he’d created, teasingly brushing against William’s hardened tip through the fabric of his underpants.

William tensed involuntarily as the mischievous blond began to tickle his sensitive flesh through the thin layer of his underwear. He nearly admonished him, but it felt good and he was nearly finished organizing his paperwork. Instead of telling him to be still, he nibbled his ear and allowed it. He could see the blush of arousal spreading over the boy’s cheek from his vantage point and his pulse quickened, his groin throbbing in his pants.

With a groan, Ronald let his head roll back and rest on William’s shoulder, wishing he could grind his arousal up against something, wishing he could free it from his tightly stretched black slacks.

“Will…this isn’t fair…” he complained.

"Patience," hummed William—though he was starting to get a spot of dampness on his underwear from Ronald’s teasing stimulation. Gracious, he’d had no time to enjoy a full encore of their first encounter. Flirtation, stolen kisses, a bit of fondling here and there…but no intercourse thanks to busy schedules.

Patience was a bloody difficult thing to come by.

"Will…touch me, please!" Ronald begged, ignoring William’s suggestion. His legs were spread, knees pressed against the side panels under the desk. "You work too slow…are you punishing me for what I said earlier?"

William smirked, and though he was indeed finished with his work, he chose to torture Ronald a little longer. He reached up to loosen the blond’s tie, and he began to slowly unbutton his shirt. The only contact he made with his skin was the backs of his fingers brushing against his torso as he worked the buttons free, and the soft, seductive kisses he began to favor the side of his neck with.

"You seem quite eager," he murmured, licking and sucking at the spot where the neck met the shoulder. He parted the material of Ronald’s shirt, leaving the tie in place loose around his neck. He skimmed his fingertips over the smooth chest. "I rather like touching you at my leisure, Knox."

The blond’s breath hitched and took pause, his eyes fluttering closed, “I lack patience.” he groaned, “You’ve already tested them to their limits, and you have me trapped where I can’t do anything about it. Mmmh…” he curled his finger around Will’s member, stroking it best he could manage.

William grunted a little, finding Ronald’s actions painfully arousing as usual. It hardly took any effort from the blond to put him in a rampant state of arousal. The possibility that he was doing this partially as a means of revenge occurred to him, but he shrugged it off. He couldn’t keep this up much longer anyhow. Even a reaper as stoic as himself had limitations, and he had no intention of torturing himself through denial of what he wanted.

He ran his hand up Ronald’s ribcage and he pinched a nipple, just hard enough to give him a jolt of sensation with a hint of pain. The other hand he placed over the swell of Ronald’s package, rubbing it slowly through his trousers. “Perhaps this lesson in patience can end prematurely,” he whispered.


 

The morning was so early, the sun had barely peeked over the horizon when Vincent felt the bed dip in movement and the warm body he had been curled up against slipped away and off the mattress. He gave a moan of protest and reached out, his fingers barely brushing against Undertaker’s exposed rear, “…’ereyougoing?” he groaned, his sleepy words drawing together.

"I’ve got to get ready for work, love," explained the reaper. "Two thousand souls aren’t going to collect themselves, you know."

He tossed a wink at his lover as he got out of bed and went to the armoire to fetch his clothes. He dressed amidst yawns and muttered complaints. It was far too early for the likes of him. He hadn’t started a workday this early in decades.

"You hate mornings…" Vincent muttered, sitting up and rubbing his eyes, "I would have thought you’d leave at a more decent hour." Hugging his blanket-covered knees to his chest, he watched as the reaper clothed himself, a yawn making itself known. "But I suppose death doesn’t wait," he sighed. "Want me to make you breakfast while you get ready? I can at least make eggs now."

"Hmm, that might be nice," agreed the mortician with a nod. "It’s healthier than a quick breakfast of cookies, anyway. Mind you, I’ll still bring along some for snacking while I’m on the job. Reaping is tiring work."

Now dressed in his form-hugging pants, Undertaker walked over to the bed, bent over and kissed Vincent softly on the lips. “Thanks, love. I’ll just go and wash my face before I put on the rest. I think I’ll save the shower for when I get home later. No point getting squeaky clean when I’m going to be out dealing with the dead and dying all day, after all. First rule of thumb for both the professions I’ve been in, you know.”

"I’ll get started, then." Yawning again, and intending to return to bed once Undertaker left for work, Vincent got up and slipped into the first shirt he found on the floor—Undertaker’s by the size of it—and padded his way to the kitchen, taking a moment to light a lamp before getting to work on cooking up some quick eggs.

In the bathroom, Undertaker pinned his bangs back with the clip Vincent had given him, and he tied the rest back into a ponytail with a black ribbon—minus the single braid he wore. He ran some cool water in the basin and he splashed his face a couple of times with it to refresh himself and wake up. As he patted his skin dry with the towel, he gazed into his reflection in the cracked mirror and he smirked. He almost looked like he had in the days before his defection from the organization, except for the scars and the length of his bangs.

"No thank you," he muttered aloud. He had no desire to go back to that life. He was the Undertaker now. The persona of Khronos and Death were both behind him. He finished dressing and for his lover’s sake, he left his bangs pinned back as he went into the main part of the house to sit down for breakfast.

"Didn’t burn them." Vincent announced in an almost child-like pride as he plated the eggs and slid them across the table to his lover. He felt like he was finally starting to get the hang of doing such things for himself. Even if cooking eggs paled in compassion to what he’d been served as an Earl.

He sat down across from Undertaker and smiled, “You look very distinguished.”

Undertaker glanced up in the process of tucking his napkin into his shirt, and he grinned and winked at him through the lenses of the glasses he wore. “I can at least wear it ‘round the house, since you gave it to me. Afraid I won’t be heading out the door with it on, though. People might laugh themselves to death before I can collect their records, if they see me like this.”

Vincent flashed his lover a pouting look, “But you enjoy laughter…and isn’t your job to be collecting the souls of the dead?” He chuckled then, “But I was commenting on your outfit, not the hair clip.”

The reaper looked down at himself, and he adjusted his tie uncomfortably. “I’m not even sure why I’m bothering to wear my old uniform…or why I’ve held onto it and taken such care with it over the years. I s’pose it has some slight sentimental value. I did have my good times with the organization.”

He reached across the table and he patted Vincent’s hand. “But I’ll never go back, even if they ask me. I’m really only dressed like this because it puts a sour taste in my mouth to go out reaping as the Undertaker, for this purpose. I’ve done it before to help out now and then, but…well, they’re holding my friend hostage. They don’t deserve ol’ Undertaker, love. Let them have Death. I can shed the ‘Shinigami’ when I come home to your arms and put it out of sight and mind each night, and I can go back to being the mortician…and your lover.”

"I did mean it as a complement, Love.” Vincent said, standing up and walking around to sit in Undertaker’s lap and cupped his cheek, “I’m not worried about you leaving me for your old job you had once done long before I was even born.”

Undertaker nodded, his eyes downcast. “Guess I’m a smidgen touchy about it, is all. They truly came up with a fitting punishment for me, forcing me to do this.”

He put one arm around Vincent and he started to eat his eggs with his free hand, offering him a bite as well with a little smile.

Vincent accepted the bite, leaning against Undertaker, “Well, it’s not like it’s forever.” he encouraged, “And it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the view of you in such tight-fitting clothes.”

The mortician chuckled. “Enjoy the view, eh? Then I should have some other tight-fitting clothes tailored just to wear around the home for you.” He took a bite himself and washed it down with some juice. “You know, you could possibly go and visit your son a few days a week while I’m out reaping. I’m sure you two have a lot of catching up to do and the danger of going there is gone now, except when you need to avoid being seen by people you don’t want knowing you’re alive.”

"I was considering paying him a visit today." Vincent nodded, "It would give me something to do as well as spend time with my son uninterrupted by Reapers or demons. Make sure Ciel is settling back into a normal life well enough."

Undertaker fed him another bite of egg. “Good. Now that things are on there way to settling in, I wanted to ask you how you felt about moving in to my old shop. It’s all boarded up and it’ll take a bit of cleanup, but as you recall there’s more room in the housing out back than in this little shack…and I could go back into my old funeral director trade once this soul collecting is through with.”

He took another bite for himself and he considered the problem of income. After all, one couldn’t live on laughs alone. “Business will have to be a bit slow at first if I’m to fit in time to complete my quota and have any personal time at all, but I imagine even with half the usual amount of business I can make the coin to pay for our needs.”

Vincent could probably find work doing something as well, but he wasn’t about to pressure him. He still had some funds left over to tide them over for a bit.

"I could help you once your business gets back up and running." Vincent suggested, "Maybe not with the…preparing bodies part of things, but the book keeping and paperwork side of things." He took a sip of Undertaker’s juice, "You’d be able to focus on the part of the job you enjoy, then."

"What a lovely idea!" Undertaker grinned with delight at the thought. He himself despised paperwork, and he knew that Vincent was accustomed to it. Bookkeeping was part of his everyday affairs when he was lord of the manor, after all. "I believe I’ll take you up on that, love."

He finished off his eggs and he had another swallow of juice. Sighing, he gave Vincent an affectionate squeeze and a little kiss on the cheek. “Well, I’d best be off. There’s no rest for the wicked.”

"In that case, there won’t be any rest for you when you get home tonight." Vincent teased, allowing Undertaker to stand back up, "Try to make the most of this, love. Try making it fun, and I’ll see you when you get home."

Undertaker removed the hairclip from his bangs and put it safely in his pocket, letting the silver fringe fall down over his eyes before combing them to one side with his fingernails. “Oh, I always manage to have fun one way or the other,” he said lightly, and he pressed one last kiss to Vincent’s lips before heading for the door. He considered taking his top-hat with him, but he changed his mind. With a wave at his lover, he opened the door and stepped out onto the rickety porch.

The smell of rain was in the air. He could avoid getting damp if he wished, but perhaps a nice English shower could cleanse away the last vestiges of his troubled thoughts concerning the task before him. As he walked away from the shack, a light drizzle began to fall and he found himself smiling as the fine droplets coated his skin, suit and hair.

Yes, it would take time to finish his task and free Anderson, but he knew the old fellow would be given the best accommodations possible in captivity and every reaper in Dispatch would rebel if he was mistreated. “Pops” was very much revered by most all Shinigami. In addition to that, he no longer needed to worry about Vincent being taken from him by the slow decay of time. They had countless years together ahead of them, provided neither of them got killed through other means.

He now had a future to look forward to, and he didn’t need to put aside the Undertaker to obtain it.


 -The End