Ciel breaks his foot falling off a horse while hunting. At least, that is what Sebastian tells Elizabeth while she sniffles into her handkerchief and whispers, "But how terrible. He should have been more careful. Oh what was that silly horse doing." And then she cries some more, while Ciel sits up in bed with his mouth in a very thin line, trying for impassive and failing because frankly, it is a pathetic excuse and Sebastian is grinning at him over the top of Lizzie’s head like it’s funny. Noticing Ciel’s glare, he adds something about a shotgun, it being too heavy, how their noble host’s stableboys were stupid, and Sebastian hadn’t properly checked the reigns, etcetera.
Not like him to make such a stupid mistake, and Lizzie knows, but doesn’t point it out. Instead she turns to Ciel and asks, "Does it hurt?"
"You...will be able to walk again, won’t you?"
"I can walk. Just not," he squints, like the appropriate word might become clearer that way.
"Comfortably," Sebastian supplies, and makes a very subtle snickt sound in the back of his throat.
Ciel is pained not to shoo him out at the moment because it does hurt, and it itches, and Lizzie sitting there with a sopping handkerchief is not helping. He doesn’t want to think about how long it will take to heal.
"You’re tired, aren’t you? Do you want to sleep? Sebastian and I had better leave."
Ciel nods his head, grateful for her perception. She leans over, tears dripping from her cheeks onto his, as she gives him a chaste kiss on the forehead.
The meaning behind the distinct crunching sound didn’t even register until Sebastian had, very efficiently, stabbed the man in the head with a fork he had flicked out of his pocket. It landed neatly between the gentleman’s eyes, which had rolled upward and turned eggy white. Ciel’s chair had tipped over; he whipped out the handgun hidden beneath his blood-splattered table napkin and fired at the accomplice that had snuck up behind Sebastian. The first shot grazed the man’s ear; the second one struck him neatly in the throat even as Sebastian pulled Ciel off the floor and pitched a knife across the room at the waiter Ciel hadn’t even known was involved. The waiter crashed into a table, straight into a customer’s linguini; the lady screamed, and Ciel’s head throbbed with the echo of it while Sebastian half-dragged, half-carried him out of the exit and down several streets, out of sight from the pursuing footsteps.
"Why aren’t you," the demon began, then noticed the way Ciel’s steps were labored, the way one foot was flopping ineffectively. "Ah."
Ciel thought it was stupid, how he had let the table tip over like that. Maybe if he didn’t know that he’d always be saved he wouldn’t be so damn careless. At that moment he could only manage a sort of grumble-moan, which Sebastian correctly interpreted as don’t say anything, let’s just get out of here. "No," he added, when Sebastian shifted to let him clamber onto his back. The demon sighed, supported his arm so that he could get them to the nearest curb, at least. He watched Ciel sag against the alleyway in the best approximate of standing. It took him all of five minutes to hail a cab, and by then Ciel had turned considerably pale, one hand cupped over his forehead as if to hide it.
They have varying opinions of what constitutes failure. For Sebastian, it’s pulling a cake too late out of the oven, having to berate the other servants more than usual, getting dried blood on his pristine shirtsleeves. Ciel, himself, considers the fact that he comes home bruised from every mission pretty pathetic. Fragile is not a flattering way to describe the Queen’s dog, but whenever an enemy notices the circumference of his wrist, the way his lashes cast shadows on his cheeks, they swallow and say something about how they don’t believe it, this must be a joke. They remark about Sebastian, as well; how he might consider working for them sometime, efficient as he is. Among other, less kindly, things. An acquaintance’s teenage daughter had once, thoughtlessly, told Ciel it was perhaps the way they whispered in each other’s ears.
Ciel knows that polishing off three dishes of bonbons in quick succession is not going to do any good, but he’s annoyed, and sugar somehow helps him cope. Lizzie demurely eats a few herself, from her vantage point across the table, where she is embroidering a handkerchief. Eventually she pats her belly and murmurs something about how it would be difficult to fit into a wedding dress at this rate. Ciel chokes a little at that, but when he clears his throat he declares that it was only an exceptionally large almond. Sebastian, standing in the far corner of the room, gives him a very knowing Eye, although Ciel isn’t sure if it meant serves you right or I understand or hah.
He ignores this, and says, "Hand me those papers, dear."
Elizabeth indicates the stack on the table beside her, bringing them to him when he nods. He shuffles them listlessly over his lap. Elizabeth says, "Did you ever consider making a toy line for infants?"
Ciel rolls the idea around his head. He decides he doesn’t like it.
"Not anytime soon."
Sebastian is not-exactly-looking at him again, eyes flicking in time with the movement of his duster. This irritates Ciel almost as much as the memory of the demon’s breath on his knee, telling him to keep still while he winds bandages over his master’s too-skinny ankle.
"Sebastian. Go make us tea."
There are a few strange seconds where Sebastian stands, almost awkwardly (no, of course not), as if he is about to say something, maybe against his better judgement. But his mouth, when it opens, simply curves into one of his typical, glorified grins. He bows his head in compliance and exits the room. Ciel uncaps a pen and writes, fiercely, a long list of things to do, trying not to think about what (any of) it means.
Sebastian is impossible to see in the dark. Like scars, Ciel thinks, holding out his hands before him, observing his pale fingertips. Someone once commented that such delicate hands were indeed suited to the task of making cute little toys. That Someone had been authorizing illegal imports, and as soon as they learned this his own hands had been indelicately cut off. Sometimes Ciel wonders where his mercy has gone; most of the time the feeling is dull enough that he doesn’t care. He quit compassion long ago. It is only one other thing he can no longer afford. The prices have been tacked too high, and he’s tired of bargaining. And ten years too late, he thinks, shivering.
The solid shadow moves from the door to the foot of his bed. Ciel imagines, rather than sees, the smile, the glimmering eyes, the skin cold as something dead, except for his hands – warm, warm as they catch his in the dark, curl over them, clutch them; as he says, "Trouble sleeping."
"You would know," Ciel answers, because he always does.
Maybe this, too, merits always. Softly, like dreaming, one gloved hand gently unwinds the bandages over his foot; the other holds the foot in place, palm cupped against his heel. He hears himself say, "What is this for," but the words in themselves mean nothing; it’s the movement of his head, the slow closing of his eyes, that ask the question. Why, for how long, how often, and the answer is not in his breathing. He has none to give. The demon murmurs, "It’s not worth it." He bends down. He’s close enough that it’s only smell and touch that matters. Ciel wonders why he ever has need of light. Of Sebastian (a name). Of scars.
Of knowing –
what a demon’s kiss burns like, unbearable against his sole, though with tenderness or violence Ciel isn’t sure. He doesn’t allow himself to make a sound, just shivers, arches his foot up involuntarily as warm breath hits his instep. He finds himself thinking, was it ever even broken, and then he can think no more, because a shadow crawls up beside him, rakes his hair back and pushes him beyond where thoughts dare travel, where even confessions are hard-pressed to bleed. He feels his toes curling.
Elizabeth always gives the obvious reaction. Ecstatic joy. It almost pains him to know how well he can predict her – her everything. He wonders why it does. She spends all of five minutes squeezing him half to death, then squeals, jubilantly, "Now we can have you properly fitted out!"
"Fitted out for?"
"Your dress shoes, silly." She blushes. "For, you know."
"She means your beautiful wedding, to your beautiful wife." Sebastian’s enjoyment of planning the ceremony is laced with a very discreet kind of malice. Ciel gets the sick feeling that he will grab every opportunity to stuff the dinner menu with aphrodisiacs. (Not that he cares, as long as there’s an extensive menu for wine. And dessert.) He ignores the grateful stare that Elizabeth aims at their – no, his, soon to be their – butler, and crosses his arms. Sebastian continues, "It is very fortunate, that your foot healed so quickly."
"Yes," Ciel replies. He blinks. He looks at his hands, and they really aren’t very pale at all. He looks up. Elizabeth is staring at him, puzzled. On her right, Sebastian’s eyes are half-closed. He is studiously adjusting his gloves, and smiling brightly. The dread that hits Ciel is cold like a wall of water, and makes him shudder. "Yes," he repeats, petrified with the knowledge that he will never again walk without the taste of hell against his heels.