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furnace room lullaby

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The Phantomhive servants have never once given the impression that they believe Sebastian to be anything other than a butler. A very efficient, capable butler -- but not one who is bound by an unholy contract to the young earl.

Given his servants’ tendencies to speak rather freely -- and loudly -- if they have any suspicions about the infernal origins of the Phantomhive butler, Ciel imagines he would have heard them by now.

Either they simply do not see the thing that lives behind Sebastian’s pleasant exterior, the thing that makes his eyes burn like embers and pulls the edges of his smile too-wide, or they are incredibly gifted actors who belong treading the boards in London.

Or perhaps they are simply too enamored of Sebastian’s cooking, his managerial competence, and his good looks to care.

Ciel dreams, sometimes, of the creature who first came forth from the ether, called by his suffering; the creature with the raven feathers, the burning eyes. As inhuman as the thing was, it held no candle to the men and women who surrounded Ciel in that room, crazed by bloodlust and cheering for a helpless child’s terror beneath the knife.

These dreams do not frighten Ciel. The dreams that wake him in a cold sweat are the ones in which he doesn’t hear that voice, the ones in which his screams fade to whimpers and his struggles become an occasional twitch as the light fades fast from his eyes. The ones in which the last thing he ever sees is the triumphant sneer of the man who killed him.

He wakes from one such dream in the middle of the night, with his demon’s name a tortured gasp on his lips. His heart thuds unpleasantly in his chest, and Ciel presses one palm against it, finding some comfort from the feel of it still beating.

“Young master?”

The voice from the darkness beyond Ciel’s four-poster bed sounds like gears grinding together, like grave-dirt freshly turned. It is the same voice that spoke to Ciel years ago, offering him salvation and damnation in one.

You must choose.

“What are you doing in my room?” Ciel demands, responding, as he often does when overset or disquieted, with churlishness.

“My young master called for me,” the demon reminds him, still enshrouded by shadows. That growling voice sounds somehow amused, though Ciel isn’t sure why he would think such a thing.

Ciel draws a hand through his hair, pushes it off a face dampened by sweat. There is an unpleasant taste in the back of his mouth, acrid from remembered fear. “I should like a drink, please.”

“There is water beside young master’s bed,” his demon says, in a voice that would make any ordinary human cry for mercy.

Ciel is not an ordinary human, and as frightening as it is, his devil’s voice once again heralds relief from suffering. He takes the cup with hands that tremble slightly and sips the water, cool and soothing as it eases down his throat. A thank you would be appropriate, here, but Ciel does not offer one. It is to be expected that his servant serve him, not appreciated.

“Is there anything you require that I may provide, my lord?”

Ciel squints, but it is no use; he cannot see Sebastian at all in the dark of his bedroom. It sends a trickle of unease down his spine, and Ciel refuses to go about in fear of his butler -- demon or no. “Draw the curtains back,” he orders, setting the cup on the table next to his bed, reclining back against the pillows. He pulls them up to his chin, eyes fixed on the location of the widows, waiting.

The curtains open in one smooth motion, throwing a sliver of light into the room. There is still no sign of Sebastian. Ciel’s eyes narrow in annoyance. Sebastian is a fiend, not a feline. Ciel does not fancy himself a mouse.

“Will that be all?”

The voice is somehow closer, though Ciel does not know how that could be as he still cannot see anything. There is a brief thought that the thing is hovering somehow, perhaps on the ceiling -- Ciel keeps his eyes affixed to the window as goosebumps raise unpleasantly on his arms, his neck, at the thought.

“I am a bit cold,” he says, almost belligerently. Ciel hates being afraid, more than anything. “Attend to the fire, Sebastian.” The use of his demon’s name is intentional, meant to remind the being of its place.

“Yes, my lord.”

A few moments later, fire leaps in the grate across from his bed and, finally, Ciel sees the shape of something next to it. A man, perhaps. But perhaps not. It peers at him with eyes ember-bright and slit-pupiled; those are Sebastian’s eyes, whether he sports wings or a tailcoat.
“You never respond to my summons in this form, Sebastian,” Ciel says, a tad waspishly. “Why would you do so, now? It seems a bit beneath you, skulking about in the dark as you are.”

“Because you summoned me, my lord.”

“I summoned my butler to play infantile games of hide-and-seek during the dead of night?” Ciel snorts derisively. “I should think not.”

“My apologies,” that guttural voice intones. “Perhaps I should make myself clear. Young master did not summon his butler.”

Ciel scowls. “Then what are you doing here, precisely?”

The thing in the dark sighs. “Young master summoned his demon.”

“My butler is a demon,” Ciel says, with exaggerated patience. He does sometimes enjoy engaging in verbal acrobatics with Sebastian. Now is not one of those times. “I was under the impression this was not new information.”

“Yes, young master, but your demon is not merely a butler. And it was the demon I heard you call for, my lord.”

“Well, obviously you are mistaken ,” Ciel snaps, but he thinks about the nightmare that woke him; struggling against too many hands holding him down while his blood poured from him, sobbing his demon’s name until he died, alone and unavenged. How he woke with said demon’s name on his lips, gasping it into the dark.

“It was not intentional,” Ciel allows, grudgingly. “I was dreaming of the night you first appeared to me, and in my dream, you did not.” The memory of what was done to him makes him furious, and to calm himself down he has to remember how they’d looked when Sebastian was through with them.

“Forgive me for misunderstanding your wishes.” Sebastian’s voice has changed back to the smooth, even tones of Ciel’s butler. He steps out of the shadows by the hearth, neatly attired in his black livery, eyes still hell-lit and bright.

The sight of him does not reassure Ciel quite like it should. Sebastian walks over towards the bed in his customary graceful stride, and when he reaches down to tug the covers up, Ciel flinches away out of instinct. “How did you hear me call for you? I was half-asleep.”

Sebastian smiles, showing a hint of teeth. “I shall always hear you when you call for me, my lord. Whether it be the brightest of days or the darkest of dreams, or in that grey place that lingers somewhere between.” His fingers, gloved as usual, drift lightly over Ciel’s cheek. “Always, my lord.”

Ciel shivers despite himself, catching the gleam of malevolence in Sebastian’s gaze; perhaps it is not only his servants who are blind to what Sebastian really is. Perhaps there are times he forgets, too.

“Sebastian,” Ciel asks, voice very quiet, trembling with emotion he cannot -- nor does he care to -- identify, “what form shall you take, when you swallow my soul?”

Sebastian’s eyebrows raise. “What a question to ask, my young master.” He draws his fingers lightly through Ciel’s hair.

“I wish to know what my last earthly sight shall be, Sebastian.” Ciel fixes Sebastian with a look, feeling the burn in his violet eye as the mark flares gently to life. “I am privileged among men, that I might know it before I see it.”

“Ah, my clever little lord. Never content to leave a mystery unsolved, are you?” Sebastian says, with a malicious little laugh that belies the gentleness of his touch. “And I suppose it depends.”

“On what, precisely?” demands Ciel, reaching up to catch Sebastian's hand. The fingers carding through Ciel’s hair are making him sleepy, and he isn’t one to suffer touch overlong.

“I suppose it depends on which one frightens you more, young master,” Sebastian says, with no more inflection that he would use describing Ciel’s morning tea.

Ciel meets Sebastian’s endless eyes with his own steady gaze. The real question, of course, is whether or not Sebastian wants him to be afraid -- and it is a question Ciel obstinately refuses to ask.

“I suppose it doesn’t really matter,” Ciel says, dismissively, faking a yawn. “Do whatever you want, demon. I can always just close my eyes.”

Sebastian laughs softly, then leans down and surprises Ciel by pressing a gentle kiss to his forehead. His lips are cold, and despite the warmth of the fire and the down duvet wrapped around him, Ciel feels a chill down to his bones. “Get some rest, my lord, while there is still time. The dawn shall come soon enough.”

Ciel turns his head away and closes his eyes. Behind them, the flames from the fire dance merrily. “Stay with me until I fall asleep, Sebastian.”

“Until the very end, my lord,” his demon says in his inhuman voice, though it is soft now, like feathers. “Until the very end.”

Something very cold and sharp settles on his shoulder, and squeezes. In the morning there will be a tear in his nightshirt, from where the edges of Sebastian’s talon caught the fabric. Sebastian will smile his hellish smile, and Ciel’s eyes will burn -- and the sun will pour through the window, the brightest lie of all.