It had been a rough six months.
Sebastian was standing outside in the outpatient bay waiting for Ciel to be discharged. Being a college student, Ciel had been under extreme pressure from all sides, and it ended up exploding when his dorm mate, Doll, found him out cold from fainting due to lack of nutrition and extreme stress. He had weighed so little and Sebastian hadn't seen him in a few months (from about early September to early December); the extreme weight loss was an absolute shock to him.
With Angelina being overseas in New York, Francis and her family being in Switzerland, it fell on Ciel’s fiancee to take the brunt of the doctor’s questions, see him when needed, and make sure he was being taken care of during the first week. Really, there was a fuss around him. But Ciel didn’t talk for the first week he was in the ward, not until Angelina walked in to see him and he slipped up and cried.
He felt like he disappointed everyone. Far from the truth - they were just worried.
Sebastian was, of course, worried. School discharged him for the time being, until he was healthy again. They were not aware of the reasons, they just knew he was very unwell; and they would rather have it kept that way.
He stressed and worked himself silly, to the point where Sebastian would often go weeks without seeing him unless it was between terms, where he would come over to his apartment and sleep for a good chunk of it; he noticed with sharp eyes how thin he was becoming and made sure he ate well when he was over, not realizing that Ciel would normally head to the bathroom and get rid of it afterwards.
Sebastian, of course, cursed himself for not noticing sooner how bad his mental health was. He was so busy with his shop that he brushed it off as school stress on Ciel’s part.
“Sebastian?” a weak voice caught his attention, and he was out of his thoughts quickly when his eyes settled on his thin, tired lover.
Ciel was in a wheelchair, the clothes he brought hung off his frame even when he was sitting down.
“Ah, are you Mr. O’Malley?” the nurse pushing him smiled. “I was told you were ‘is ride home and his caretaker for now.”
“Yes, yes I am. Hello, darling.” his tone was nothing but gentle and soft. Ciel looked up at him with very tired eyes and lines underneath them. Normally cool, calm and calculated, it did hurt a little to see Ciel look so absolutely pathetic.
“I’ll take him out to the car and you can lift him in, is that alright? He cannot walk well on his own right now.”
Sebastian motioned for her to follow. It was raining lightly - London fog was coming off the Thames, as per the norm - which added to the slightly gloomy, late February atmosphere. At the car, he gently wrapped a blanket around Ciel so he would stay warm and placed him in the passenger front seat.
“Thank you so much for helping him out here.” There was a polite smile on his face. The nurse nodded.
“I hope I don’t have to see him unless its for a check up with the doctor here! Poor thing, he’s fragile as a flower during the early frost.”
Those words echoed in Ciel’s mind when he was sitting in the apartment later. It was rather large, and was over the shop that Sebastian ran (a cafe and bakery - really, why was he even surprised when they first met that he ran one?) filled with light and, well, cats. Thankfully Ciel grew out of his cat allergy as he grew up.
One of them was in his lap, a black American shorthair by the name of Keiran who had taken a liking to him immediately when they first met a year ago at the shelter.
“.... ‘Bastian?” there was an uncertain tone in his voice, knowing full well he hadn't spoken for some time. His insecurities assailed him. He had spent the last few months in the hospital for his stupid stunt; lack of food or purposefully throwing it up.
An eating disorder was the diagnosis. The psychiatrist he spoke to said it was present in perfectionists. He obsessed about how he looked, how his school work was, and how others perceived him. There was no pressure at home to be perfect, so that was ruled out. Neither of his aunts wanted him to be like that. In fact, Angelina was worried that he pushed himself so much, and Francis told him to take breaks.
He was the remaining twin after his sister committed suicide seven years ago. She was the perfect twin. Ciel had to make up for her loss, live her life, be perfect in every single way.
And then there was Sebastian. He was supportive, gentle, and extremely caring. He was the one that went to Cambridge (his school and one of the few that taught archeology and anthropology) to explain that he would be out for a while and filed the right paperwork so he didn't have to finish the term without problems. He was the one who cleaned out his side of the dorm room and brought his things back to his house - Ciel saw his various knickknacks around, and he couldn’t help but smile when he saw the framed photo of them at last years Midsummer’s Eve festival he normally kept on his own bedside table amongst the books Sebastian collected on Celtic mythology.
“Yes, love?” Sebastian had come over and placed a cup of lavender milk tea on the coffee table, sitting on the edge of the couch and putting his hand on Ciel's knee. Ciel reached out for the cup and started to shake when he noticed there was milk in it.
“.... I can't drink this.” he said quietly. Sebastian's amber eyes narrowed.
“You ate only half your dinner, Ciel. Please drink it. They explained you needed to gain back what you lost. Ninety pounds at your height isn’t a good weight to have.” there was silence, since Ciel had been admitted to the hospital at twenty pounds less than his current weight.
“Please.” there was gentleness and warmth in his voice, so much that it shamed Ciel into drinking from the cup, even if it slightly hurt him. He had been past refeeding syndrome and should be eating normally, but the mental toll was a lot on him.
His medication was on the table and he took it with the dregs of the tea, and seeing the smile on the older man’s face was worth the mental pain it took to drink the tea.
“Keiran missed you. He was meowing when I told him I would be bringing you back for a long visit.” he scratched behind the cats ears, and he purred from his spot on Ciel's lap.
“I'm glad I grew out of my cat allergies then.” Keiran didn't want to leave Ciel's lap when it came to when Ciel went to go take a shower, and he meowed so pathetically at the door that Sebastian opened it so the black kitty could keep tabs on his human from the bathroom counter, and when him and Sebastian settled into the large bed in the bigger of the two bedrooms in the flat, he curled up next to his head. Skye, Lugh and Aidan also joined them, laying in various places.
“I'm not working for the next week. Baldroy is taking care of the shop for these days while you settle in.” Sebastian held Ciel close, trying not to think of how he felt like he would snap if he hugged him too roughly. The younger man was already delicate; almost like a faerie or a fawn from the Otherworld he read about so much as a child and even as an adult.
Ciel was warm, sleepy and feeling safer than he had in months. The stress was melting off of him, wrapped up in Sebastian’s embrace, feeling a sort of gentleness come over him as he started to drift off into a dreamless sleep.
Sebastian woke up to the sun coming through his window, diffused by deep indigo curtains and casting a bluish light into the room. He shifted slightly, squinting to see the clock hung on the wall. It was barely eight am, and they had gone to bed a little past ten pm last night.
Ciel was still asleep, and with his eyes closed it was easy to see the purple shadows on his eyelids; it contrasted so sharply with his extremely pale skin. He had a very “cream and roses” complexion that many wanted throughout the ages, and it reminded Sebastian of the perfect English rose classic poets talked about so much.
He made a soft noise in his sleep, eyes moving behind his lids, slowly opening and focusing on his fiancee.
“Sleep well, angel?” Sebastian brushed some hair out of Ciel’s face, and kissed his nose, cheek and then his lips. The other man laughed, and it was more genuine sounding than it had been in months.
“This bed is a lot more comfortable than the one they gave me. My back will be messed up for months.” he snuggled under the goose feather comforter, nuzzling into Sebastian’s neck.
“I can only imagine. Hospital beds are never cozy.” Sebastian stroked Ciel’s back gently, rubbing at any knots he found, working them until they were gone. There was something so gentle about that singular moment, being alone for the first time in months, having just each other and comfortable silence.
This is what Ciel needed, peace, quiet, sweetness and warmth.
….. But then they heard a ring from the doorbell. With a grumble, Sebastian had to get out of bed and leave his (very soft and very warm) fiancee back in the bed, and heard the soft laughter fall from his lips as he walked down the stairs to the front door.
He was greeted by four people: Soma, Agni, McMillan and Doll, all there, at 8 am, while a very sleepy and disheveled Sebastian tried to comprehend what they were all saying. He caught snippets of “how is he?” and “can we see him?”
After about five minutes of constant blabber, they calmed down. It was then he finally spoke.
“For one: Yes, he is doing much better than he previously was. No, you can’t see him he’s still resting and hasn’t even gotten dressed yet, much less gotten out of bed. We literally just woke up - please have mercy. He just got home from the hospital yesterday, guys.”
“I haven’t seen him in months! It’s like he isolated himself.” Soma’s genuinely worried face endeared him even more to Sebastian. He almost caved due to his tiredness and knowing they cared, but he had to steel himself.
“He needs some peace and quiet right now. I’ll tell you when he’s strong enough, alright? It might be a week or more.” He started to realize how cold he was, standing in the draftier part of his apartment in just pajamas and the door wide open to the late winter climate of London.
It was Doll that noticed the small shiver from Sebastian first, and she realized that they were making him stay out in the cold in much thinner clothing than their own. “Come on, guys, Ciel isn’t going anywhere soon, and if we make ‘Bastian stay out here for much longer, he’ll catch his death. Let’s go bother Baldroy for some breakfast!” she dragged all three of them off, waving as she went.
“Lord bless that woman.” Sebastian closed the door, shook himself to get the shivers off, and went to go turn the heater on full blast upstairs. The apartment he and Ciel now occupied dated back to the middle to late reign of Queen Victoria, and had been fully renovated before his adopted father (who now lived in the south of France for his health during the winter months - England’s climate in the dank cold started to affect him more than he liked to admit) had bought it to start his cafe and they lived in the apartment above. The current master bedroom they slept in had been Tanaka’s at one point, though the furniture had been all changed out when he had moved out.
In theory, they were above the shop, but that wasn’t the whole story; the mudroom, garden, and outside sitting area was downstairs along with the backdoor to the alley and the front door to the street, and not as insulated as the cafe or the house.
Upstairs was a different matter. Warm in the winter and cool in the summer, it was insulated against the elements and had wood floors all throughout, covered in rugs in certain areas. (Like, the bedroom. Sebastian did not relish cold wood on his feet in the morning, and he detested slippers.)
It was a rather large apartment; it matched the size of the cafe below. Originally, it was the town home of a silk merchant, and the lower part was the silk shop, renovated completely for food production. Two rooms, one a master connected to a bath and had its own sitting area, is where Ciel and Sebastian currently slept. A chaise lounge, an armchair and a coffee table sat across from the four poster bed that had sheer silk hung on it in the summer and velvet curtains in the winter to keep warm if need be. The second room functioned as an office, rarely used by Sebastian but when Ciel was there he monopolized it for studies, essays and general academic pursuits; more than one of his published research papers were written in this room.
The walls were simple, Neoclassical in design and painted a pale shade of blue, instead of covered by the original vibrant “Scheele’s Green” wallpaper that was there before they moved in. The wallpaper that was taken out had arsenic in it, and it had not been lived in since the death of the last occupant in world war two. Heavens only knew how they could live in a place laced with arsenic, however. The design went through out the whole house, except the bathrooms and kitchen which had plain white tile decorating the walls. A living room that was connected to the kitchen, giving a clear view to the garden outback through the large bay window. In the summer, the box had miniature roses growing, but right now they were pruned back due to the cold weather.
The heater was turned up to warm the house. Normally during the night Sebastian would turn the heat down, relying on the warmth of the bed, his cats, and well, now Ciel. But he knew that with how cold it was outside they needed to move about in relative warmth instead of cold.
“Who was here?” wrapped up in a soft blanket, Ciel looked so sleepy and cute when he walked into the living room and flopped into the seat the bay window provided.
“Oh, Soma, Agni and company. I suspect they’re all harassing my employees as we speak, however.” he turned to the kitchen, warmth flowing into the cool space.
Ciel reached for the remote and turned on the TV, flipping through channels until he settled, with interest, on a documentary about the Tudor era. Completely absorbed in the show, he didn’t pay much mind to what his lover was doing in the kitchen, barely registering the smell of food being made.
History was the one of the few things that kept him going sometimes. Along with his family, his friends and Sebastian, he was allowed to have history books the time he was in the ward, reading furiously while he underwent therapy and was healed to the point where he could go home.
“You’ve read those books you had with you until the spines split. It’s a good thing I bought secondary versions of those volumes, darling.” Ciel was snapped out of his reverie, he was so focused on the show that he was watching that he didn’t realize the time that passed. Anne Boleyn was one of his favorite figures in history and he couldn’t help but get totally absorbed.
“....Wait, what time is it?”
“Half past eight. I made some toast and eggs for you to eat, I hope that’s alrig-”
A shaky hand shot out, and a shatter of a plate vibrated through the house. That’s all that registered in Ciel’s brain for a moment of panic.
“..Are you okay?” Sebastian calmly cleaned the spot up, thanking goodness that he made extras because he knew something like that would happen.
“I-I’m alright.” he didn’t mean to have a panicked response but the thought of food caused it. Sometimes it caused mental unease, but he could still stomach it; but there were times when it triggered panic attacks, and his brain reeled over thinking of the calories -
“Ciel, Ciel!” Sebastian’s hand was on his shoulder for but a moment before it was smacked off, and Ciel fell back onto the couch.
“..... I - I’m sorry. I have no idea what came over me and-”
He was wrapped up in a hug, close, tight and warm. The tears came, falling down his face in pathetic cries as he buried his face into Sebastian’s shoulder. He hadn’t cried yesterday, and everything boiled over in that moment.
“There, there I’m here, alright?” he felt Ciel shaking like a leaf in his arms, and for a moment the sound of the TV, distant cars, and other white noise disappeared as all he did was comfort him.
It was going to be a rough road, it seemed.
“I-I think I can try to e-eat.” his voice sounded so weak, it quite frankly broke his heart. He remembered when they first met less than four years ago, and Ciel was so cocky, strong and playful, seeing him like this…..
He’d do anything to help him get better. He knew that love wasn’t the cure, it never was, but he would support him as much as he could.
“Good, I have some things left over, so don’t worry…..” he wiped the tears from Ciel’s face with a tissue, and kissed his nose.
“I’ll make sure it tastes good. Want some tea?”