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That Denial Takes from None

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"It has always been a great regret of mine that you have consistently declined the opportunity to study at this institution, my Lord," the headmaster says as they pass in front of the college chapel. A group of boys around Ciel's age shove at each other as they walk in the opposite direction; one of them detaches from the group, laughing, and hefts a rugby ball in the air before hurling it high and shouting, "Come on, you tossers, run for it!"

Ciel turns to the headmaster and says, "Forgive me, but I have had rather more important things to do than play at academia for these past five years." He watches the headmaster turn red and adds, "Dead bodies garner more of my attention than dead languages. You understand."

"Of course. This way."

The tap-tap of Ciel's cane echoes loudly against the cobblestones and does not falter when Sebastian leans over to murmur, "That was less than polite, young master." His breath gusts out hot against Ciel's ear, a marked contrast to the chill air.

"The guilt overwhelms me," Ciel murmurs back. Sebastian makes a tsk-ing sound in the back of his throat but doesn't offer any more opinions as they follow the headmaster down some stairs that look like they lead to a disused storage area. Dust rises in flurries from the ground with the movement of Ciel's cape.

"It doesn't look like anyone has been down here in—" Ciel starts. Behind him, he hears a sharp thump and the distinct wet crack of a breaking bone. He turns and sees Sebastian crumpled against the floor like he's been lashed to it, one of his legs bent in an odd way and panting softly. "Sebastian."

"Earl Phantomhive," the headmaster says. When Ciel looks his way again he has a revolver pointed at Ciel's head. Ciel frowns and takes two steps back, bringing his legs within an inch or so of Sebastian's face.

"Sebastian, what the hell is the matter with you?"

Sebastian laughs, a breathy, pained sound, and with great effort brings one of his hands up so he can slide his fingers underneath the hem of Ciel's trousers. He brushes one over Ciel's ankle and gives it a squeeze; for what, Ciel isn't sure, and he frowns harder.

"Please accept my apologies, young master," Sebastian says, his eyes glowing coal-red for half a moment. Lines on the floor flare up in sympathy, and Ciel widens his own eye.

"The seal of Solomon?" he asks, outraged.

"The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton," the headmaster says, gesturing with his gun. "If you please, Earl."

"If you please," Ciel says, wishing he were still young enough to give into the urge to stamp his foot. "That statement is not even remotely historically valid. Sebastian, break it."

"I'm afraid I am unable to, my Lord."

"For God's sake." Sebastian keeps shifting like he's trying to break free, face red with exertion, but the seal makes his movements slow and languorous. His breathing hitches at intervals, and Ciel feels himself flushing as well. "What will break it, then?"

Sebastian stills and focuses on him again, teeth very white in the dim light. "A death."

"Perfect," Ciel mutters. He can see the headmaster still pointing the gun at him in his peripheral vision; the headmaster is sweating, fat droplets running down his ruddy face into his beard, the whites of his eyes visible all around the pupil. His fear stinks so badly that even Ciel can smell it. Ciel crinkles his nose in distaste.

"You are on your own for this, young master," Sebastian says.

"Please, Earl—" Ciel whips around and brings his cane down hard on the hand holding the gun. A shot rings out and Sebastian grunts, but the gun clatters to floor. "You—"

Taking advantage of the headmaster's surprise, Ciel draws back and punches him in the jaw, knowing he won't get the same opportunity again. His rings leave angry red marks on the headmaster's face, an indentation of cut stone and the clear imprint of the Phantomhive seal. The headmaster reels, catching himself on the wall after Ciel kicks him into it.

"You little shit," the headmaster says, wiping his mouth. It comes away red with blood and the corners of Ciel's lips turn up.

"It would be in your best interests to break the seal on my—" Ciel dodges down and to the side when the headmaster rushes him, punching him in the gut as he passes, altering his trajectory just enough that he runs himself into the opposite wall. "Butler."

You are rather, Sebastian says in his memory, running his finger down the inside of Ciel's arm, making Ciel shiver, svelte. Therefore it would probably be best that we concentrated on learning how to use your opponent's momentum against him.

The headmaster heaves himself off the wall again and Ciel takes in his stance: the wrist Ciel hit with his cane looks broken from the way the headmaster is holding it, but it doesn't change the fact that he's built like a brick house, like the old boxer he is, only slightly soft around the middle with age and drink.

Hit me, Sebastian's voice whispers. Come on then, little lord.

Sebastian's eyes are hot on Ciel's back as Ciel braces himself for another round. Adrenaline surges roughly through his blood and his hands shake with it, with anticipation, with eagerness and the desire to hurt. He thinks of the boys in the building above him and wonders if any of them have ever felt anything like this, them with uniforms and rain-soaked fields, the sweetness of violence and the clarity of pain, the world narrowing to a single throbbing point.

The headmaster clips Ciel's shoulder but he is slow, so slow compared to

Hit me, Sebastian's voice whispers and Ciel wants to, wants to so badly, wants to feel soft flesh give under his knuckles, wants to hear the noise Sebastian would make. He'd managed it just one time, just once, fist against Sebastian's jawbone and Sebastian's startled sigh of surprise; then Sebastian kicked his legs out from underneath him and sat on his chest, blood-brown eyes gleaming with suppressed laughter. Good shot, he'd murmured, brushing Ciel's hair back, his own blood staining his lips bright red.

I want, Ciel thinks, catching the headmaster's broken wrist and twisting it behind him to force him to the ground; the headmaster yells and Ciel uses his own body to force him down, yanking the man's hair with his other hand and using it to bash his face into the cold stone beneath him until his struggling subsides.

I want, Ciel thinks, shifting his gaze to Sebastian. Sebastian's breath comes in quick pants, matching the rhythm of Ciel's own heaving chest.

"Would you please stop—" Writhing, Ciel finishes in his head. "Fidgeting?"

"This seal is exceedingly painful, my Lord."

"Will you break it now?" Ciel asks the headmaster, who hacks and spits blood onto Sebastian's face.

"Abomination," he hisses. Ciel slams his skull into the ground again.


"Bleed him out on the circle," Sebastian says.

"I would really rather not," Ciel says, but he shifts his weight and frees the flick knife he has strapped to his calf, snapping the blade open and pressing it against the headmaster's jugular. "Professor—"

"Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomi—"

Ciel swears and slices the headmaster's throat open; the exorcism dies on a gurgle and blood splatters the edge of the seal and Sebastian's jacket, invisible against the black. Sebastian lets out low sound and collapses onto his back, lying there for several seconds before sitting up, pushing the bone on his leg back into place, and picking the bullet out of his side. Ciel stands, lightheaded.

"Look at you, you're a disgrace," he tells Sebastian. He tugs his own handkerchief out, ignoring Sebastian's raised eyebrows, and bends to wipe the bloody spit from Sebastian's face. The dust in Sebastian's hair is gritty against his fingers as he angles Sebastian's head into the light. "You're filthy."

The seal has burned blistering red sigils into the side of Sebastian's face that had been pressed against the floor.

"I hope that isn't permanent," Ciel says.

"Don't worry," Sebastian says. His hand comes up to grasp Ciel's wrist, delicately, and takes the handkerchief from him to fold it into one of his pockets. Ciel swallows. "It won't happen again."

The noises from the courtyard start filtering in through the windows again. "See that it doesn't."