In his long life of all possible kinds of bliss and agony Sebastian had rarely experienced such pain. Then again, he had never been impaled by a Shinigami’s death scythe before. His human breath went fast, hitching in his throat, his limbs ached from the fighting and the exhaustion crashed over him like the waves shaking the life boat they were cowering in. He had sunken to his knees, only this time not to bow before his master but because his legs simply weren’t able to hold him any longer. The most cruciating pain however was in his chest. The gash where the Undertaker’s scythe had sliced him open had not stopped bleeding since. He felt his demonic body trying to heal the human form he had taken on three years ago, but it was a slow process, far slower than it should be. This wound wasn’t caused by a weapon from this earth.
Another shudder of pain shook him and his hand tightly gripped the side of the boat, feeling the slippery wet wood through the fabric of his glove. Fighting off an army of bizarre dolls in this state had weakened him to the point where he no longer was able to hold up the façade of a perfect butler in front of his master. A shame to the Phantomhive name, really.
Sebastian drew in another racked breath, a superfluous, human trait he technically didn’t have to do but which helped him ground himself to reality right now. His left hand found its way to his chest, hovering over the wound, he didn’t dare touching it again. It stung, combined with the salty water that soaked his attire. He was sure to make quite the pathetic image.
A quiet, raucous cough suddenly pulled Sebastian out of his thoughts.
With all of the energy he had left, he pushed himself upward, looking over to the boy cowering in the lifeboat next to him.
“Young master, are you quite alright?”
Ciel pulled the butler’s coat tighter around his shivering body, left eye, so much bluer than the actual ocean they were swaying on, gazing into the rising sun on the horizon.
“I’m fine. Only cold.”
Sebastian stifled a cough, grimacing in pain, moving the slightest bit closer to him. There was blood on him too, but not as much as he himself was covered in, he thankfully didn’t have any serious scratches.
“I apologize for not being able to do more for you, sir. Under these circumstances there is the possibility of you becoming ill again. As soon as we’re back home, I will prepare a hot bath and your favourite sweet for you.”
Ciel glanced at him, cracking a weak smile, hands continuously rubbing his arms. “That is unusual for you to say, Sebastian.”
The tremble in his voice didn’t escape him. The boy had to be freezing cold.
“Forgive me, young master-“
“Shut up, Sebastian. You did enough. I want you to rest once we’re back in the manor.”
Sebastian raised his brows, the order being an odd one. He had never been told to rest, he never needed to. And he knew this wound would heal too, but it would take some time indeed. A good rest would certainly help, although he still had his duties as butler. His master's health was more important than his own.
Sebastian felt his eyes on him, lingering on the large stain of red on his shirt.
“I’ve never seen you like this...”
The next apology almost slipped over his lips but he held back, lowered his head instead. He never intended for his master to see him in such a horrendous state.
“At least the sun is up now”, Ciel said, directing his gaze up once more. It was shining on the horizon, looking beautiful, radiating a warmth that didn’t quite reach them. Sebastian didn’t feel the cold to the same extent his master did but Ciel’s pale skin and his fast breath told him everything. The tips of the boy’s hair were frozen, his teeth clattering as he hugged himself, slumping against the outer wall of the boat. He blinked exhausted, his eye slowly falling shut and Sebastian felt a sudden rush of panic. He edged closer, grasping his master’s arm.
“Please try to stay awake. If you fall asleep you will get hypothermia.”
He hesitated for a second before pulling off his dirty glove to brush the back off his hand against the boy’s cheek. It felt as frozen as the sea beneath them.
Ciel nodded, rubbing his free eye, unconsciously leaning into his touch. Sebastian pulled his coat tighter around his small body, but it was soaking wet as well and providing little to no warmth. He would not endure the cold for much longer without taking harm from it.
“Mylord,” he slouched a tad forward, reaching out his arms. “If you’d allow me, I know how we can save as much warmth as possible.”
Ciel opened his mouth to form the question, eyes flying over him as if to find the solution there, then they widened in realization.
The butler gently took his hand in his, not wanting to waste any more time. Ciel didn’t protest as he pulled him closer, firmly wrapping his arm around his waist. The other arm he put on his shoulder, carefully pressing his head against his chest.
“I’m afraid that’s all I can do right now, master. We can only hope the rescue ship comes fast.”
He felt Ciel softly nod, pressing closer to his body and the little warmth it was radiating. It was better than nothing but the sooner the other ship would arrive, the slimmer was the chance the earl would suffer an illness, or worse, another asthma attack. There was nothing on this boat that could help them. If he wouldn’t be hurt he could perhaps make it to the other boats vaguely visible in the distance. The circumstances being as they were, he could take no risks, for both of their health’s.
Ciel was visibly trying to keep his eyes open, his fingers clawing into his butler’s jacket, one cough after the other leaving his lips. Sebastian tenderly stroked his hand over his back, trying to provide as much comfort as possible. He could hear every one of Ciel’s shallow breaths, he could feel his little heart beating too weak for his taste and he still hadn’t stopped shivering.
Embracing him a little closer, he rested his head on his masters, continuing to rub his hand over his back in small circles.
“You smell like blood...” Ciel’s fingers lifted to the blood stain on his once white shirt. He slowly glanced down on himself.
“I apologize. This is not the way a butler of the Phantomhives should present himself to his master...”
“No. He should not. Don’t ever... get yourself in such danger again, Sebastian. I can’t have my butler be taken.”
He shook his head, raising his hand to stroke an icy strand of hair out of his masters face.
“It won’t happen again, Sir. I will not leave your side until the end.”
Ciel’s eyes don’t sway from his chest, where the wound was still visible. He wished it would heal faster.
“It’s still hurting, isn’t it?”
He didn’t think it would take so long to heal, yet alone hurt for hours after. He had never been hurt like this by a Death Scythe before after all. Furthermore the last time he had been as severely hurt as now had been centuries ago. He had forgotten how such a pain felt like.
“Yes. It hurts. But you shouldn’t worry about me now.”
Ciel shivered and pressed a bit closer, blinking slowly.
“I don’t.” He almost sounded convinced. So stubborn. Sebastian gave a weak smile. “Of course not.”
He leaned a bit closer, nuzzling his nose into his masters hair. Ciel’s hand buried a bit deeper into his shirt and where there had been tension in his body from being so close to his butler, he now melted into his embrace. His head sank against his chest, arm loosely wrapping around his waist. Sebastian let out an exhausted sigh, the pain being a constant pounding in his chest. He closed his eyes, concentrating on his masters strained breath inches away, hoping his warmth would help him, at least until they were rescued.
The wind was gently rocking the boat, the sun steadily rising, it’s first rays reaching them. He raised his head to look at it, the bright orange light reflecting on the surface of the ocean. Sparkling like a thousand diamonds hit by the light.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Ciel moved his head, turning it towards the light. He heard him breathe in, shallowly.
“If I wouldn’t be freezing to death, maybe I’d think so, too...”
Sebastian hugged him a little closer, wishing there was more he could do. But he was merely a demon, playing a butler, hurt and exhausted, on this boat in the middle of the sea without anything that could help them.
“Young master... I–“
Before he could finish his sentence though, he felt a cold wetness on his feet, soaking through his shoes and trousers.
He averted his eyes from his master, glancing down on them.
There was water leaking into the boat, soaking their feet, already covering the floor. How couldn’t he have noticed? Was he so caught up in the task of warming the earl that he did not notice the boat leaking? Had it been broken from the start?
He bit his lip, grabbing Ciel’s waist to lift him up onto the seat, staying as close to the boy as possible. He clang to his shoulders, gasping once he saw the water.
“Calm, young master. I will try to scoop the water out.”
He let go of Ciel, kneeling down to inspect the wood where the icy water was pooling in. The hole wasn’t big but he had nothing to seal it with. The water would be continuously coming in, making the boat sink in the long term. He cast a glance around, but only cold, dark sea caught his eye. There was nothing else they could use to stay on.
“It’s going to sink...” Sebastian mumbled, more to himself than to Ciel. The boat was already tilting slightly to one end, he pulled his master into his arms again, retreating to the other side. Ciel tightly wrapped his arms around his neck, his cold breath hitting his cheek.
“What are we going to do? If we’re in the water–“
“I’m going to do my best to keep you over water, do not fear.”
The boat creaked and Sebastian held onto the edge, keeping a firm grip on Ciel's waist. He would not let him drown, he couldn’t let him fall into this ice cold water again... Feverishly thinking about how to keep his master alive, he stared at his face, the almost frightened look in his eyes. This situation wasn’t one he could simply solve with his demonic powers. In fact there was nothing he could do.
The water only continued spilling in and Ciel visibly flinched. He wanted to fall in as much as Sebastian did.
“Stay close to me, sir...“ No need to say that, Ciel was already clinging to him for dear life. Sebastian tried to find a steady grip with his foot and bundle up every bit of energy to lean against the upstanding end of the boat.
“Sebastian...” Ciel breathed, his voice wavering. “You’re hurt. Will you... can you make it?”
He tried to smile at that but barely managed a pained grimace. “What kind of butler would I be if I couldn’t?”
Ciel scoffed, resting his head on his shoulder. “That rescue ship better arrive soon. I will not have you suffer like this any longer. Butler or not.”
“How... kind of you to say, young master.” It was rare to hear him say such things. It made the moment look slightly less doomed.
“Please, hold on tight. And take a deep breath.”
“Do you have a plan?”
“Of course.” He didn’t have a clue if it would work, but it was all he could think of right now. They exchanged a glance, then Ciel gave a brief nod. He trusted him.
The moment the boat tilted over he couldn’t hold on anymore and he dove under water, taking the earl with him. The waves of ice clashed over their heads, the water feeling like a thousand needles against his skin, burning where his injury was. He kicked his legs, pushing the boy up to the surface, gasping for air once he reached it too.
Ciel wiped his hair out of his face, holding onto his shoulder with his other arm, coughing.
“Apologies, Mylord.” Sebastian reached out his hand and took a grip on the boat. It had turned upside down, swaying next to them. He pulled it closer, before firmly grabbing the boy under his arms, lifting him up to climb onto the hull.
Ciel crouched into the middle, trying to find a grip on the slippery wood. He tried holding it in place, making it easier for the boy to not slide down again.
“Try to stay as still as possible, please.”
He nodded, securing his grip with his feet, before reaching his hand out to him.
“C-Come up here...”
Sebastian grabbed his fingers, starting to climb up the wood, but the boat sunk dangerously low, the water reaching Ciel's knees in no time. He swallowed, sliding back down into the waves, letting go of his masters hand.
Ciel's eyes widened, he leaned forward, still reaching for him. “What are you doing? Come back up here, Sebastian!”
The solution for this was quite simple. He had no other choice.
It was almost laughable, the fear in Ciel’s eyes, the thought that he was scared for his life. He, the demon who would eventually take his soul and bring him his end.
“Forgive me, Mylord. But it seems that the boat can only allow one person on it without sinking. Considering you’re the smaller and lighter one of both of us, it will only hold you.”
“But... W-What about you?” Ciel coughed, a sound that awakened the urge to take him and wrap him into a warm blanket. Instead Sebastian could only give him warmth through his words.
“I don’t feel the cold to the same extent as you. My only concern is your health.”
“But I’m not as badly hurt as you, Sebastian! You yourself said that a Death Scythe doesn’t harm you without an effect.”
Sebastian had to admit he was right. His chest was aching from the salty water entering the wound, the cold made his human body feel weak and his clothes were heavy, soaked with water. In all honesty, he didn’t know how much longer he could stand it.
“Do not worry about me, young master. A little bit of water can not harm me.”
Ciel stared at him, slowly shaking his head. “Don’t lie to me, Sebastian... I can see how much this is getting to you.”
“Let me assure you, as a human you’re much more fragile and prone to danger than me right now. This is not the first time in my life I suffer an injury as severe as this one.”
His master looked like he wanted to contradict but he closed his mouth again, wrapping his arms around himself. Sebastian rested his forehead against the boat, sighing softly. They couldn’t hold out out here forever. He could not hold on for much longer and if he was gone, how was the young master going to take care of himself?
He felt the waves gently rocking the boat, heard Ciel's strained breathing and felt his grip slowly slip from the rim. He tried gripping tighter, tried holding on, for Ciel's sake. Being a demon the cold water wouldn’t kill him if he’d let go but the possibility of a rescue for the boy would sink very low.
A small hand closed around his wrist, squeezing with a surprising strength. Startled he gazed up, meeting Ciel’s single blue eye, gazing at him with a determination that sent a jolt of pride through him.
“Don’t you dare leave me alone, Sebastian. That is an order.”
Despite this feeling of weakness threatening to overtake his body, he managed a smile at that.
Ciel nodded and held on and Sebastian kept his gaze fixed on his. He felt the strong bond of their contract burning and the even stronger bond that had grown between the two of them over the years filling him with newfound energy, as if the mere touch of hands could gift him strength.
“I... apologize I can’t bring you a hot cup of tea right now...”, Sebastian got over his lips, eyes not leaving his for a second. Ciel scoffed softly, leaning down a bit to rest his head on his arm.
“I couldn’t care less about tea right now.” His eyes wandered to their hands. “Although... that would be nice.”
“Wouldn’t it?” He smiled, following his gaze. Ciel shifted a bit closer and Sebastian leaned up a bit until they were so close their foreheads almost touched. He hoped the closeness reassured the boy, it certainly calmed him. Ciel reached out his other hand for him and Sebastian willingly grasped it, gently stroking over his fingers.
“I’m never... going on a ship again”, Ciel whispered, his soft breath hitting Sebastian’s face. He smiled weakly.
“Our little trip certainly didn’t go as planned.
“When we’re home...”, Ciel squeezed his fingers, his grip being ice cold all the same brought a certain warmth. “I want to play chess with you again.”
Sebastian smiled, the memory being all too clear. “May I remind you that we only stopped because you were bored of losing against me.”
Ciel half heartedly glared at him. Sebastian felt a sense of reassurance in knowing the earl wasn’t even doubting they would get home again.
“Shut up...” It was said with so little conviction, Sebastian almost laughed. He wouldn’t admit but he was glad about their banter, it helped distracting him from the constant pain in his body and the cold that was slowly creeping its way to his heart.
“There are other games to play besides chess, if you would prefer them.”
“What do you have in mind?”
Sebastian didn’t escape how weak Ciel’s voice had gotten, his eyelids heavier and his smile more tired.
“Anything you wish.”
Ciel nodded softly, entwining their fingers. “I’d like that...”
Sebastian squeezed his hands, tightly, feeling his own eyes fall shut. He didn’t recall ever passing out in his life but now was frighteningly close to it happening. He knew Ciel was too, something that had to be prevented at all costs. Which was why he couldn’t give in.
The waves had gotten rougher, the sun brighter and after he didn’t know how long, he heard Ciel breathe in sharply, pulling on his arm.
His lids felt heavy and he was almost sure the only thing keeping him above the surface was the iron way their hands held onto each other.
Sebastian forced open his eyes, looking into the direction his master was nodding. The sight made him sigh with relief, new hope rekindling in his chest.
The rescue ship. Loading in passengers from the other boats. They were saved.
“Finally...” Ciel mumbled, straightening up a bit, never letting go of his hands. Sebastian simply nodded. All would be well.
Sebastian helped Ciel up the ladder, his hand behind the boy’s back in case he’d slip. Ciel climbed up, finally reaching the top, immediately being wrapped into a thick blanket by the crew. He followed after, heaving himself over the edge, stifling a cough.
A man placed a blanket over his shoulders, mumbling something about getting them inside. Sebastian ignored them, pulling the blanket off and wrapping it around the young master, tightly tying it even around his head.
“You need to get warm as fast as possible.” He rubbed his hair dry, ushering the boy to the crowd, keeping his hands on his shoulders. Ciel was shivering violently, he could hear his teeth clattering.
“W-What about you?”
“I will be alright.” It was unusual for the young master to care about him like this. He shouldn’t worry, he would heal, it only needed time.
Ciel eyed him suspiciously, drying himself with the blanket. Sebastian tried giving him a reassuring smile.
The ship was full of people running around looking for relatives and loved ones, getting checked by a doctor or calming crying children. Sebastian kept his arm around the young masters shoulders, rubbing his arms.
“I’ll have a doctor take a look at you, Sir, please wait here.”
“I don’t need a doctor, I’m fine.”
Sebastian pulled the blanket tighter around the boy, shaking his head. “Forgive me, but you were in the cold for way too long and with your asthma I need to be especially careful.”
“Says you, who has been impaled by a Shinigami’s death scythe.”
Sebastian gave a little smile, straightening up. “Do not worry, I’ll be right back.”
“Hurry up. I will try to find Lizzie and the others.”
He would rather have him stay here and warm himself up but his worry was understandable. So he bowed and pushed his way through the crowd, seeking out medical assistance. There had been a doctor when he had first be given the blanket, he had to be around here somewhere.
Sebastian spotted a man, talking to two woman, one of them was holding her arm in a rather awkward way. He approached them with fast steps, clearing his throat.
“Excuse me, sir. Are you the doctor?”
The longer he stayed away from Ciel, the worse he felt. He needed to make sure the boy was alright.
The man turned around to him, eyes widening. “Sir, what happened to you? Is that all your blood?”
Sebastian glanced down on himself, as the women walked on, for the first time really realizing how ragged he looked; his blood dyed shirt was hanging open, his coat still with the young master, the wound wasn’t bleeding anymore but the pain was still there and he knew it would take a while for it to be gone. The cold salt water certainly hadn’t improved the healing process.
“Yes. But my master needs the help more than me.”
The doctor frowned, eyes fixed on his chest, looking like he was about to contradict. Sebastian felt impatience infiltrate his veins.
“Please. He’s a child and we haven’t been able to get into one of the life boats and he suffered from asthma in the past.”
“A child?” The doctor looked up, eyes wandering around. “Fine, lead me to him. But I want to take a look at you afterwards.”
“If you insist.” He began leading the way to where he could detect the smell of his young master.
Ciel had found his fiancée and her family indeed and was currently getting the air squeezed out of his lungs by her. They all seemed unharmed and overjoyed with having him back.
Their eyes met and Ciel gently pushed Elizabeth off him. Sebastian overcame the strange urge to embrace the earl in the same way. The Lady turned around, beaming when she spotted him.
“Sebastian!” Then her emerald eyes grew wide and she clasped her hand over her mouth, promptly reminding him of his horrendous appearance.
“I apologize for my state, but it was necessary to ensure our survival. I am glad you are all unharmed.”
“What happened to you, butler?” Edward asked, a similar look of shock on his face.
“Not important. Young master, this man is a doctor.”
Ciel reluctantly stepped closer and Sebastian automatically reached out to place his hand on his shoulder. For some unknown reason he felt the need to be close to him, touch him, anything to reassure he was still here, alive and relatively well.
“I’m fine”, Ciel declared to the doctor, as always not letting his age show. The doctor knelt down in front of him and Sebastian almost smiled at the way Ciel crunched his nose at that. He hated being treated like a child after all, even in such a situation.
Sebastian leaned down to him a bit, squeezing his shoulder. “Please let him check you quickly, I am worried that the cold has affected your asthma, something that–“
“Alright, fine”, Ciel cut him off, a red tint coloring his cheeks, grabbing his arm. Sebastian shut his mouth again. The Midford’s eyes were still on them and he presumably didn’t want to appear weak once again.
The doctor asked a few questions and checked his pulse and temperature, before ordering Ciel to warm up and rest. Then he turned to Sebastian.
“You seem to have a serious injury I would like to inspect. Please come with me.”
Sebastian hesitated, his eyes flying to his master. The earl looked up at him, giving a brief nod.
“I’ll come with you.”
“Master, please, you should rest. I assure you, I will be alright."
“Ciel, you should come with me”, Elizabeth insisted and for once Sebastian was glad about her intervening. “Let’s go inside... They’ve got food in there and warm drinks.”
Ciel still looked at him and Sebastian met his eye and the look they shared was one they never shared before. It made Sebastian kneel down in front of him, pull the blanket tight around him once again, without breaking eye contact and wrapping his arms around the boy, embracing him in a hug. Ciel let out a little surprised breath only he could hear and Sebastian closed his eyes to not have to see the faces of the Midfords. This wasn’t something the butler of the Phantomhive’s was supposed to be doing, it wasn’t professional, neither appropriate. The earl whispered his name, before putting his arms around him in return, squeezing softly.
It made him feel warmer than any blanket or hot drink could. His closeness eased the pain in his chest, calmed his heart and gave him back the energy he lost. He buried his face in his shoulder, inhaling his familiar smell, his own, not his souls. It was something he had never done before, not with Ciel, not with any other contractee; looking past the value of his soul.
It was a completely new feeling. A feeling of security and familiarity, he couldn’t remember ever experiencing before. There was something special about the boy in his arms. Something he had yet to figure out.
“Sebastian...”, Ciel mumbled and there was a light smile in his voice, a smile that wasn’t mocking or embarassed but simply a smile, that sent a warm chill down his spine.
“Ciel?”, Lady Elizabeth voice softly cut through his thoughts and he was painfully reminded of his place. He slowly let go of his master, adjusting the blanket once more.
“Please, stay with Lady Elizabeth now. I’ll be back with you as soon as possible.” He got up and Ciel continued staring at him, smiling like he had just served him his favorite cake. It was a look he could get used to.
Sebastian returned his smile, bowing his head. “Of course, Mylord.”
He didn’t plan on staying away from him for long anyway. Not after this day. Not ever.