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Opium

Chapter Text

The vague light of a variety of oil lamps lit the dark den. Furnished with luxurious divans, sofas and hand carved coffee tables. The air was filled with smoke and the delightfully sweetish scent of lilacs was almost lost in the significant pungent odour of opium.

Watery crimson eyes stared up, studying the ceiling intently. Lips automatically closed around the mouthpiece of the bronze pipe. Young detective inspector Sebastian Michaelis was blissfully detached from his earthbound worries as he sunk deeper in an opium trance, a state that he had quickly achieved upon his arrival in Paris and had managed to continue throughout most of the two months he had already spend in the capital of France. He reached to his left and his fingers closed around the ice cold glass of absinthe in an almost loving gesture. It felt smooth passing over his needy lips and running down his dry throat. It drew his attention away from everything and anything happening around him, even the somewhat loud and lippy ruckus at the entrance. His ignorance was euphoric, and he both consciously and unconsciously refused to let secular affairs disturb it.

“Inspector?”

With some effort Sebastian pried his eyes open and peered disinterested at the person that had invaded his bubble of enchantment. A rather short and fat individual, Chinese, perhaps Japanese, at least something Asian Sebastian assumed, with a thin line of hair above this trembling upper lip and a braid hanging over his shoulder. It resembled a rattail more than anything. The man spoke in intelligible English and bowed his body with every word he uttered. The young inspector was disgusted by the man and his respectful manners and had a right mind to dismiss him with a wave of the hand, but his hand stopped midair when the words finally sank in.

“Pardon my intrusion, but there is an English gentleman to see you.”

Sebastian blinked confused, and repeated this, as if doing so would allow his hazy mind to make sense of the unexpected news that was just delivered to him in broken English. Shutting his eyes, Sebastian inhaled and sighed a low moan. He jugged his drink back and held out the empty glass.

“Get me another, and after you have done that tell this gentleman that I care not for company from English soil."

Pleased with his coherent answer Sebastian picked up his pipe and brought it to his lips. Astonishment struck him and made his entire body jerk when someone bluntly slapped it out of his hands. Jolting up, he opened his mouth to growl a low insult at the perpetrator, but it was caught in his throat when his eyes met the bright golden ones that were peering at him in a disapproving manner.

“So this is where you have been residing these past weeks. A sordid house of debauchery. A despair drenched pit of opium and alcohol,” the male spoke, making no attempts to hide his disdain while he pushed his rimless glasses up the bridge of his nose. "I'd like to say that I was surprised to find you here, but we both know that I would be lying."

Sebastian sat back with a dirty grin curling his lips. “And we both know that you are ever so truthful don't we Claude?"

Claude arched an eyebrow, and once more adjusted the already snug glasses, this time with a little more persistence than intended or needed. "I have no clue to what matter you are so obviously referring to."

Sebastian narrowed his eyes, all sorts of words running through his head to insult Claude's most grand and longest running lie. He finally decided against it, waved it away and bend over to pick up the pipe that had been smacked out of his hands earlier. "So how did you find me?" He asked while brushing unseen dirty off the mouthpiece.

"You are not that hard to track down. I only had to follow the trail of disreputable breadcrumbs, find myself another deviant with your type of loose morals, give him a short description and he led me right to you."

"Clever," Sebastian replied snide. "If you came solely to lecture or educate me about your bourgeois way of living you can save me and yourself that tedious waste of time. I am not buying it."

“Do not get the delusion that either your illicit practices or loose morals are the reason I came to Paris. I am here on official business.”

With a vague hint of incredulity in his eyes, Sebastian uttered a raspy laugh. It made his lungs spasm painfully and he coughed in his clenched fist. “I could have saved you the trouble of risking your upstanding morals by setting foot in here; I’m still on suspension for another month. Or perhaps more," he wiped his lips with the back of his hand and sipped at the drink that had been brought over several moments earlier. "You should actually know that since you are the one who suspended me after the incident during the Whitehall case,” Sebastian reminded him, and he inadvertently smirked thinking back.

"There is no need nor reason to look that smug. Your incompetence nearly cost me my job as well," Claude reminded him, crudely interrupting Sebastian's mesmerizing.

“Indeed," Sebastian complied, and tilted his head to scrutinize his boss intently, "which begs the question what really brought you here. Are you finally ready to venture into the excitement of the Parisian nightlife?” he asked while he sank back down on the divan, stretched his slender figure and put a hand behind his head. “Anything and everything is possible here at the Petite Quéquette..”

"It's not called the Petite Quéquette," Claude pointed out flatly.

"Really?" Sebastian pursed his lips. "I could've sworn.. No matter, anything still is possible and probable. Especially in regards to the quéquette," he said and nodded at Claude's pants. "It might do you some good."

“This might come as a shock to you, but not everybody cares to explore the boundaries of illegal drugs and alcohol,” Claude remarked sarcastically and took a glimpse at the sofa next to Sebastian to hide the red color of shame that was coloring his cheeks. He could hardly mask his disgust as he saw a representative of the French government, drunk and drooling while he shamelessly felt up a naked courtesan.

Following Claude's gaze, Sebastian sniffed a laugh. “You’re such a stiff Claude, but not in the good sense of the word. Loosen up, you might actually enjoy yourself for once in your lifetime. What happens after hours, even indulging in illicit activities, is not a crime.”

“That is of not matter to me. My idea of enjoying myself does not involve getting high, nor drunk. In my position I have obligations not to mention morals, and those extant far beyond the scope of office hours.”

Sebastian rolled his eyes, reached in the pocket of his vest and pulled out a tin cigarette case. “If your idea of official matters is coming all this way to lecture me about my choice of spending my suspension and remind me of work related obligations, I suggest you save yourself the trouble and me a throbbing headache. Frankly, I could care less for your opinions,” he said while clicking open his lighter. The head of the cigarette went up if flames, and the orange hue gave his crimson eyes an almost ominous glow. He clicked the lighter shut and let it, along with the case, slide back into his pocket. "I am here on my own terms."

“I am an officer of the law. It is my job to see to law and order-” Claude began, but Sebastian raised his hand, palm out to stop him from speaking further.

“Need I remind you that we are not on British territory. You have no jurisdiction here, so spare me the formalities and that significant judgmental tone of yours. If you are not here to save my soul from eternal damnation, what did bring you to Paris?”

“Like I mentioned before, I am here on official business,” Claude repeated and dumped an edition of the Daily Post on Sebastian's stomach. Barely interested, he picked it up and tried his best to focus on the tiny lettering that danced mockingly in front of his eyes. After staring at the title for what seemed five minutes, he could make out the words robbery and bank.

“Some bank has been robbed,” he said while throwing the paper at Claude’s feet. “Did you really went through all this trouble to tell me someone stole some cash. Can’t you regular lackeys take care of this themselves?”

Claude sighed, bend down and started reading the article as he straightened himself. “Drummonds bank robbed, safe emptied clean and police, once again, left clueless. Circus thieves strike again! After a series of burglaries amongst some of the most prominent families of the London upper class, the band of robbers seem to have successfully set their aims at a more profitable business,” he read out loud, and tossed the paper back in Sebastian's lap once more.

“So? I fail to see how any of this is my problem,” Sebastian said as he tried to read the remainder of the article himself. “I am still on-”

"You're drunk. It is quite probable that you fail to see how any of the wordly matters are you problem. Even so, until further notice, consinder your suspension lifted,” Claude interrupted him. “I need you back in London.”

Sebastian slowly lowered the paper, revealing a self-righteous smirk that seemed to make Claude's skin crawl. “I never thought I’d live to see the day that Chief Inspector Claude Faustus came to beg for my help. It is almost endearing.”

“Do not for one second think that I came here to beg. You are an officer of the law. As your supervisor, it is my job to see that you execute yours accordingly and uphold the oath you took. To serve and protect. The people of London, and God bless the ignorance in which they put their trust in you, need your protection. Now.”

“I care very little for the upper class,” Sebastian said in tone of voice that was drenched with disinterest, and shrugged his shoulders to emphasize this. "Besides. If you came to beg for my help you are to dial down the amount of insults you are throwing my way. You might have the authority to force feed me your narrow minded morals when I am on the job, but during my time off, I am hardly inclined nor obligated to take your low blows."

"Need I remind you once more that as your supervisor it is my prerogative to either lift or prolong your suspension, so I did not came here to beg; it is an official order." Claude adjusted his glasses once more. “Secondly, the law does not distinguish the rich from the poor. You are obliged to serve all, without preference.”

“Please,” Sebastian spat, rolling his eyes in an arrogant manner and tossing the paper aside. “The law is one of the two leading organs that is so clearly demarcating the classes still, right behind those idiots that form our so called parliament. You cannot deny that the lenience in time the police spend on researching a case is not influenced by the class the victim is classified in. You and I both know how the system works, or rather, how it does not work.”

Claude narrowed his eyes. “Regardless of our objections with the unseemly ruling of parliament and the rules of the Yard, the people of London need our help and it is our lawful duty to answer to that call.”

Sebastian hissed, dismissing the words with a hand gesture while he tried to stand. Claude grabbed his flailing arm and helped him to his feet. Yanking it out of his boss’s grasp, Sebastian wobbled unsteadily on his legs while waving a finger in Claude's face. “Spare me the rest of your bureaucratic politically correct jargon. Queen and country and all that nonsense.” he growled as he pawed his frock coat on. “When do we make for London?”

“Immediately. I have an automobile waiting to take us to the port of Calais. There, a ship of the Royal Navy is awaiting to take us to Dover.”

“The Royal Navy,” Sebastian whistled through his teeth. “My my aren't you are taking this seriously,” he mocked and went through his pockets in search of his last bit of money and some other personal belongings. “Mister Wang,” he paused while looking the owner over with a hint of sheer confusion written over his face, “or something equally Asian. I do solemnly thank you for all your fine services and outstanding products,” he said and placed five golden sovereigns on the open palm. He turned to Claude, and summoned a wide grin. “Off we go then.” After Sebastian took his first uncoordinated step forward, he tripped over his own feet and fell face flat onto the Persian carpet covered floor.

Claude rolled his eyes and quietly wondered to himself what had fathomed him to come to Paris and expect anything else than an utterly useless heap of drug addict. If the Yard had not been up his ass about the entire ordeal, he would've gladly let Sebastian rot in the hellhole he had made for himself. Knowing there was no one better, Claude had to bend down and grab Sebastian by his collar and hoist him to his feet.


 

Last nights’ snow had covered the whole of London with a thick, white blanket. Everything was serene and untarnished. Most citizens did not hesitate to turn over on their other side and sleep on, ignoring the winters’ cold for just another couple of minutes. The streets were deserted shy for a drunk who stumbled on home or a whore that rushed back to her boarding house.

It was in this blue hour, when the sweet light colored the snow pink, that a young man crossed the emoty streets of the city. He was alone, with only the sound of the snow crackling under his boots betraying his presence. The cold air whipped at his nose and cheeks, so he buried his face a little deeper in his dark blue woolen scarf. Turning left, he passed through the gates of Abney park cemetery and took an immediate right. Passing several tombs and monuments, he stopped at two single headstones. He sighed, buried his gloved hands in his pockets and stomped his feet to try and get them warm. For moments at an end, he remained silent, just staring at the marble tablets without a sound. Finally, he bend down and wiped the snow from the tops.

“I am deeply sorry it has been such a long time since I came to visit,” he whispered while cleansing the elegant golden lettering from snow. “I have been very busy…”

The wind howled through the trees and stirred the leafless branches. The young male bowed his head, stared at the soil beneath his feet that was covered in snow and dead leafs and chuckled softly.

“Why am I lying to a bunch of headstones? I haven’t been here since your funeral,” he muttered before turning his head up and gazing at the sky. Tiny flakes were once again whirling down from the thick clouds and got stuck in his long lashes. He exhaled a sigh, his breath a tiny vaporous cloud, and dropped his chin to his chest. “I just don’t like coming here. I hate running into that pudgy undertaker who skulks in the shadows of the mausoleums, and the scenery is both posh and dull. Words I would never use to describe you. I still don’t know why I couldn’t bury you at the estate.”

His thoughts were briefly disturbed when he heard the crackling of snow. He paid it no attention, slowly rose to his feet and retrieved a single blue rose from his pocket that he placed on top of the left headstone. Footsteps came to a halt several feet away from him, leaving the grave sight in ceremonial privacy as he finished his business.

“This will probably be both the first and last time I come to visit,” he spoke, the entire syllable rolling over his tongue with obvious reluctance. “I see no point in visiting buried caskets containing nothing but your lifeless bodies. I’m sure you’ll understand.”

The sound of someone clearing their throat behind caught his attention. He blinked, clearing his vision from tears and spoke, his tone less mild than the one he had used to talk to the headstones.

“What is it?”

“Sir,” a voice began in a gentle manner, "we hate to interrupted-"

"Speak for yourself," a second voice joined in a much less forgiving tone. It made the young man smile despite himself.

"Of course. What possessed me to believe you could have any consideration for another person's feelings. How terribly rude of me. Let me try this again-"

"Stop that bickering." Sparing the graves one last look, silently bidding them his final goodbyes, the young man turned on his heels and looked at the two men standing only a few feet away. The amethyst eyes of the ginger haired male were kind and a small smile of sympathy curled his lips. The blonde, however, showed no emotion and seemed as ruthless as ever. The tiny crack in his voice when he spoke was nothing but the after effect of a terrible cold he had suffered one week earlier.

“Are you alright, Ciel?”

Ciel gave the two a short but firm nod. “I am perfectly fine, is everything ready, Joker?”

“Yes,” Joker answered. “The carriage is awaiting.”

“Good. Let us go than, I don’t have all day,” Ciel spoke while leaping forward and passing the two. They followed automatically without being commanded.

Their coach stopped outside Hoare’s bank exactly an twenty minutes later. Stepping out, the three males pulled their hats down and wrapped their scarves a little more tight around their necks, shielding their faces from the biting cold. The two guards barely noticed them while they were keeping a keen eye on the shady blonde males that were having a leisure smoke on the steps of the bank. Joker took it upon himself to open the door for his master.

Inside the bank people turned to innocent pleasantries while awaiting their turn. The three men exchanged one last look. Ciel nodded at Joker who then retrieved a thick chain from underneath his coat and proceeded to wrap it tightly around the doorknobs, sealing the exit. People were still blissfully unaware. Men of their class fitted in perfectly with the crowd, so there hardly seemed to be any threat.

Reaching beneath his long frock coat, Ciel’s fingers wrapped tightly around the cold steel at his hip. He retrieved the gun in one smooth gesture and aimed it at the counter in front of him. Speaking, his clear voice echoed through the hall. Talk stopped immediately, and all attention was turned to the threesome.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a robbery. Remain calm, do as I say and no one will get hurt.”

Chapter Text

Everything around him was a bright and blinding shade of red. The kind that was sickening and that you could feel pooling in the pit of your stomach. Both his mind and body felt like they were swaying, cradled on the waves of a vast and turbulent ocean. It made his legs and arms oddly heavy though. His heart palpitated fierce against his rib cage. His body jerked with every beat and he could hear the blood, that seemed strangely thick, being pumped through his veins. It made his ears whiz.

He groaned, painfully aware of every sound around him. The wheels of coaches that rattle on the cobblestones, marketers praising their product in a loud voice, the laughter of children and the barking of dogs. At last he managed to summon the willpower to pry his eyes open. Sebastian woke up in a tiny attic, fully dressed and with a splitting headache.

His throat was unspeakably dry and his stomach rumbled in a fierce plea for some food. His thoughts were confusing fragments of events that seemed to not have happened to him. His body was painfully stiff and felt almost alien. He had endured hangovers before but this one definitely made it to his top three. He tried getting up, but his body refused to cooperate. So, he lay back down and waited for his brain to function properly enough to steer his limbs.

Lying there he focused on the old beams overhead and tried to remember what had happened last night. For a second he was absolutely sure that it had been an awfully realistic nightmare and that his supervisor, Claude Faustus, did not travel all the way to Paris to order him to come back to London. Frowning at the ceiling he seemed to remember that his room near the Moulin Rouge was not as vulgar as the ratty dump he just woke up in. When his now less sleepy brain registered the thick and posh accent of London’s finest he knew for sure he was back n England, and that the ratty dump was his own apartment. He cursed his boss inwardly, gave his long legs a powerful swing and moved himself into a sitting position.

The room spun, and he felt foul tasting bile rise in his throat. Cupping his pounding head, he got up and staggered to the bay window to get some fresh air. With some effort he cracked the window open. The old hinges creaked under the force. Sebastian placed his hands on the frame and leaned in to get a feel of the cold December wind biting at his glowing cheeks. It had been snowing and all the rooftops were covered with a thick white blanket that glistened in the sunlight. Sebastian could not be bothered by the splendor of the view and inhaled deep. The freezing gusts of wind cleared his mind and awoke his body; every part of his body.

Mindlessly he reached down untied his pants and pulled his erection out. The ample dick felt heavy and warm in his trembling hand as he slowly jerked at it, rotating his long fingers up and down the shaft without giving it a second thought. He bucked his hips into the motion to cause more friction, giving himself a more intense gratification. His headache and nausea were forgotten while he focused on the movement of his hand, his lidded eyes rolling to the street below. Among the plebs and the posh walked a young person, dressed in a long frock coat and smart top hat, leaving half of the face covered in shadow. The uncovered lower part showed a fine jaw line and the most sensual plump mouth Sebastian had ever seen. It talked and smirked and laughed and all of it in a most elegant manner that had yet to find an equivalent. It was one of the most strange and intriguing things Sebastian had ever seen. He directed all his focus to those swollen pink lips, he came, groaning as his seed spilled from the tip and trickled down onto the dark wooden floor.

Panting heavily Sebastian looked up, his crimson eyes searching the crowd. The top hat and frock coat had disappeared, taking those bewitching full lips along. He shook his head, clearing the image and reached into his pants pocket. Clicking his watch open, he sighed annoyed. His first day back on the job after a suspension and he was already running late.

Dragging one foot in front of the other, using the wall as a support, he moved to tiny adjacent bathroom to clean himself up. Gazing up in the mirror, a pair of tired crimson eyes stared back. He had bags under his eyes and a shade of stubble. He needed to brush his teeth and could not find his razor.

“Fuck,” he swore and opened both faucets wide and held his hands under the steady jet of water and threw the lukewarm water in his face.

With his hair matted to his face and still dripping, he worked himself into a clean white shirt, a gray suit and a navy tie. He found his shoes somewhere under the bed and picked his coat and gloves of the ridiculously small kitchenette before rushing out the door. Even before he turned the key to lock his door, he heard a very monotones voice verbalize his last name right next to his ear.

“Is that you Satan ?” Sebastian grinned amused at his own cleverness while he spun around on his heels. “Not yet, but close enough still,” he added as he looked down on his balding landlord.

The man replied his cleverness with a frown before he waved some pieces of paper in Sebastian's face. “You’re three months behind on your rent.”

Sebastian snatched the bills out of his chubby hands and checked them with a raised eyebrow. “It seems I have been running late more often these days, how inconvenient,” he said before carelessly folding them and stuffing them in the pocket of his coat. “I shall see to that once I have time to be bothered with such mediocre affairs.”

“Mediocre affairs?” The landlord fumed, his face rapidly switched between colors. “I am running a business here. I could have you arrested or thrown out for default,” he threatened while waving a finger in Sebastian’s face.

With a disgusted frown Sebastian wiped his landlord's spit off his coat with the bills he had just stuffed into his pocket and calmly put on his gloves after. “A business? A business indeed, and a shady one at that. Do you care to explain how those red pubic hairs ended up in my bathtub or would you like me to arrest for subleasing my apartment without my permission? Since I am already on my way to the Yard it would be killing two birds with one stone. Thinking about it, I do believe I am missing a very nice pair of silver cufflinks.”

“You would not dare,” hissed the landlord, squinting suspiciously at him.

“Please, do try me,” answered Sebastian, his voice polite but his almost diabolic smile a silent warning. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I am terribly late,” and he walked off without paying any more attention to his landlord that silently fumed curses under his breath but made no attempts to follow his tenant and shuffled down the hall to harass some of his other tenants.


Once outside Sebastian checked his watch and realized how late he was running. With the chance of his boss yelling at him already secured, he decided to take his leisure time with a small detour to buy a paper and a cup of tea. He knew a small tea shop near the Yard and the owner, a man that liked to go by the name Undertaker, was the authority on underground opium dens. Naturally, he and Sebastian had grown quite acquainted.

When Sebastian opened the door to the tea shop the small copper bell chimed happily overhead. Its fairylike sound thundered like church bells in Sebastian’s painful head. Undertaker looked up and grinned broad, the scars that ran across his face stretching in an eerie grimace.

“Inspector Michaelis, such a honour. It has been quite some time since you last visited my humble shop,” Undertaker spoke, his gleeful voice not matching his grim looking appearance.

“I've been busy,” Sebastian retorted and made a gesture with his chin to his regular table at the window, "bring me the usual please."

“One black tea, coming up,” Undertaker replied and disappeared in the back.

Sebastian unfolded his paper and was immediately confronted with the reason why his suspension had been terminated. The head line read, in thick capital letters, that another bank had been robbed while the police’s main suspects were in jail. He chuckled amused at it, paid the ignorance of his colleagues no attention and read an article about the upcoming world exposition in the Olympia hall instead.

“Anything good in the papers today inspector? Has been nothing but robbery and murder these days,” Undertaker asked while he put down a cup of black tea.

“Nothing worth mentioning,” Sebastian answered as he haphazardly refolded his paper into its original state and warmed his cold fingertips around the porcelain tea cup.

"Fancy a cookie," Undertaker shoved a plate of oddly shaped cookies his way. "Fresh batch, made them myself. It's my special secret recipe."

Sebastian barely withstood a gag reflex and drew up his nose. “No thank you." He breathed and turned his head away from the strange special scent that rose from the plate. "I cannot stomach anything presently.”

For a single moment Undertaker blinked motionless at the sweets, then picked up one and held it in front of his mouth. “So. What are you doing back in London so soon?” He asked before sinking his teeth in a cookie and brutally tearing off a bite. “Aren’t you supposed to be in Paris, enjoying the more refined things of life?”

Sebastian had reopened his paper, turned a page and shook it, clearing it from creases. “I was enjoying them just fine, but all good things must end one way or another.”

Undertaker devoured the remainder of the cookie. The crunching and grinding of his teeth hurt Sebastian’s sensitive brain.

“I thought were suspended,” Undertaker concluded and licked the crumbs off his fingers.

“That has been lifted, obviously,” Sebastian retorted snarky. “Don’t you have other guest to tend to instead of chewing in my ear?”

“Tch, tch, tch. Such a foul mood on such a glorious morning.” Undertaker chimed and dunked a second cookie in the cup of tea Sebastian was just about to put to his lips.

Sebastian sighed annoyed and put down the cup with more force than needed. The tea spilled over the edges and formed a small brownish puddle on the saucer. “Looks like someone is having a very bad withdrawal. Some sugar will help with that,” Undertaker advised and held the soaked biscuit in front of Sebastian’s lips.

The inspector twitched, slapped the hand away and grabbed the man’s collar. He jerked Undertaker near, luring an involuntarily high shriek from his lips. “I am not having a bad..,” Sebastian felt the eyes of the few customers that were spread around the shop had turned their way, so he adjusted his voice to a lower tone. "Stop announcing my habit in public," he hissed through his teeth.

Undertaker brushed the trembling hands away and stood back, out of arms reach. “Of course you're not cooping with withdrawal," he said and winked, then looked to his left and right before hunching over a little. "Come back tonight. The Chinese tea trader has opened a new one and it is a mighty fine one, so I have been told.”

Sebastian pressed his lips together, gave Undertaker a short nod, then stood and paid for the untouched tea and left.


Half way down the street that leads to the Yard his empty stomach started a loud growling protest. Taking Undertaker’s expert word for it, Sebastian stopped at a bakery and bought a bath bun. He ate it in four large and quick bites. A few alleys down the street, he threw up all of it behind a trashcan. His stomach had not been ready for something so solid and sweet. Before walking up the steps to White Hall, he shoved a hand full of snow into his mouth and spit it out. The uniform at the door raised a suspicious eyebrow at him but tapped his cap when Sebastian showed him his badge.

The moment he passed through the second set of doors he uttered an irked groan. The reception was a chaotic mess of noises, papers and frantic people. Phones kept ringing, receptionists and agents bumped into each other trying to be in two places at the same time and piles off witness testimonies lay unguarded and spread over several desks. The lock up was overcrowded and nobody had time to man the front desk where a line of people was waiting to post bails.

Sebastian raised his hand to his forehead and massaged his throbbing temples with his thumb and forefinger. “Preposterous,” he muttered and slowly dragged his hand down his face, letting it linger over his eyes.

“Inspector Michaelis. You’re back.”

Sebastian fanned out his fingers and peered through them. All he saw was a stack of files with mauve hair sticking out at each side. Irritated to the core, Sebastian closed his eyes and had to take a deep breath to keep himself from slapping the files out of the persons hands. Hardly calmed down, he not so gently snatched the dangerously wobbling top off the stack, revealing thick glasses and blushing cheeks, and spoke in the most polite tone he could muster. “Miss Rin. Would you care to explain this atrocious circus," he spat, the last word deprived from the feigned politeness filter.

“The office is chaos,” she wailed.

Sebastian's hand went back to his forehead, massaging the bulging vein of agony that was throbbing near his left temple. "I can see that Miss Rin. I did not ask you to be redundant, I asked for an explanation,” he hissed in a venomous tone.

The girls cheeks changed an even deeper shade of red as she stumbled intelligible gibberish. It took Sebastian two seconds to decide that trying to make sense of what she was failing to communicate was a wasted effort. Without bothering another second on her, he dropped the files back atop the wobbly stack and strode by her. The shrill shriek was a conformation of what he knew would happen, but he ignored the sound of the pile keeling over and files scattering all over the floor. Before shutting out the mess by closing the door of his private office he hesitated in the doorway and turned back towards the main hall. Mey-Rin was snatching papers out of the air, trampling and creasing the files that were already on the floor with the heels of her boots. He watched her zigzag for a moment or so and did not even try to conceal the smirk that curled his lips when she slipped and fell, launching all the papers she had gathered back into the air.

"When you are done playing about Miss Rin, get me a cup of tea," Sebastian ordered and could hear half of her frantic reply before he slammed the door shut.

The office was clouded in a soft darkness with tiny streaks of sunlight creeping through the creaks of the wooden shutters. His desk was the same organized mess as he had left it weeks ago. The room carried the characteristic scent of cigarette smoke and old books. Sebastian inhaled deep, savoring a short moment of complete bliss. He then crossed the room, opened the shutters and squinted at the full light that floated through the bay window. He sank down in the comfortable ratty leather chair he had refused to part from when the Yard renewed all the old furniture and sank back, his hands behind his head.

He swore he had only closed his eyes for a moment, but judging by the persistent knocking on the door Sebastian gathered the girl had been standing outside his office for some time now. He took his feet off his desk and told her she could enter.

"Here is your tea Sir," Mey took cautious steps towards the desk, her hands shaking terribly as she set the cup down and a small sigh of relief escaping her lips that she had managed not to spill a single drop. She smiled broad at Sebastian, who seemed underwhelmed by the meaningless ordeal.

"Did you get me all the files on the robbery case?" Sebastian held out one hand, the other reached for the steaming cup of black tea.

Mey made some noises, nothing specifically coherent or even human. She then fidgeted with her hands, and swayed back and forth on the heels of her boots. Sebastian took a small sip of the piping hot drink, his eyes never leaving the mauve haired girl that blinked cluelessly at him from behind her enormous glasses. Sebastian made a motion with the hand that still hung midair, rolling his wrist and then beckoning with his fingers for Mey to present something.

"I do not have all day Miss Rin. Where are those files?"

"You never asked for those files Sir." The last word came out in an oddly high tone.

Sebastian frowned his brows. "Are you telling me or asking me that?"

"I don't know," Mey wailed, and dipped her head to hide the bright red glow that was splattered across her cheeks.

"Well then, consider this is me telling you I need all the files on the robbery," Sebastian reached for his cup again. "Now," he added when Mey showed no signs of activity. She let out a shriek and scurried out of his office like an uncoordinated missile, bumping against the doorframe twice before taking one step aside so she could actually pass through the door. Sebastian rolled his eyes, pushed himself up and stepped out to gather the files himself, figuring that in the time the unhinged girl spend on blazing around the office like a clueless blizzard it would prove to be much more productive to go after the files himself.

Back in his office with the files he had gathered from inspector Abberline Sebastian surrendered himself completely to the pressure of starting to work on the case that had brought him back to London. He read every statement and made his own notes. Sighed at the stupid flaws within the chaotic notes and made a mental note to revisit all the previous banks and get more accurate information from its employees.

A good hour or so into the cesspool of endless grammatical errors and redundant information he felt an unexplainable chill creep up his spine. He shivered in his seat, and got up to fetch his coat which he draped around his shoulders. His tea had run cold, so he opened his door and shouted at Mey-Rin to get him a fresh one. When the clumsy girl brought his drink over he wrapped his shivering hands around the cup.

"You're not looking to well inspector Sir."

Sebastian raised his eyes until they met hers. The smirk that crept over his lips seemed to frighten Mey-Rin into taking a few steps backwards.

"I can assure you that I am fine," he spoke through clenched teeth.

Mey-Rin hesitated for a moment. "You do not look so-"

"I once again assure you I will be fine once you remove yourself from my office," Sebastian snapped.

Mey-Rin did not move a muscle and adjusted her glasses in a nervous gesture. "You are all sweaty and such. Are you sure-"

"Get out!" Sebastian yelled and in the heat of the moment he had sprung up, making such a wild gesture towards the door that he knocked over his cup of tea. Mey-Rin left as quickly as her feet could carry her. Sebastian sighed annoyed and kicked the porcelain cup to the side as he stomped towards the door to close it. Most eyes of the department were directed at him in confusion. Sebastian straightened his back, shut the door and dragged his tired feet back to his desk. The chill he had felt before had left, and he felt sweat trickling down his temples. He threw off the coat, loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top buttons of his shirt, this being a major effort because his hands were still trembling which caused him even more distress.

When he went through the final file, something he never thought he would achieve with the sick feeling that was making it hard to focus on the bad handwriting, a knock on the door easily distracted him from the paper. It opened, without the person bothering to wait for permission to enter. Sebastian looked up and stared directly into Claude's stern golden eyes.

"You are requested upstairs for a briefing. Immediately." And he closed the door again without awaiting as much as a formal protest or reply from Sebastian.

"Fucking perfect," Sebastian moaned, and pushed himself up using his desk as support.

Ignoring people that stood and fired questions at him, he took two steps at the time, running up the winding stairs to the top floor. The receptionist looked up, her serious frown instantly melted into a seductive smile. "Why, Sebastian," she laced her fingers together under her chin. "I did not know you left Paris early." Her blue eyes scanned him closely. "That is a good look on you, very rebellious."

Sebastian raised an uninterested eyebrow at the woman. "I'm sure you'll get the memo," he retorted in a sarcastic manner.

She blinked, her lips slightly parted in her surprise. "Memo?"

Sebastian had to keep himself from rolling his eyes at her, placed a hand on the desk and leaned down. "Claude traveled to Paris to come and claim my time. Did you not notice your fiancée was gone for.. oh let's say approximately a day or two?"

"It is not highly unusual for him to disappear without notice for days at an end,” she shrugged and leaned forward, her heavy endowed breast squeezed together neatly in her pink satin dress.

"I find that hard to believe Hannah. Claude time manages every aspect of his life and informs accordingly."

"Claude does not talk much. At least not to me. In there, it’s all talk. At home, he cannot be bothered with keeping up a conversation." Her eyes met Sebastian's and she continued in a low whisper, her lips curled into a tempting smile. "Which does make me wonder if you are available again, soon."

Sebastian mashed his brows together. Hannah seemed to catch on to his confusion and her entire demeanor shifted, her body and mind torn between what kind of emotion to express. It was the only intriguing thing about her Sebastian ever saw or would see. To clear the air, as it suddenly had become thick with unspoken words and mixed emotions, Sebastian cleared his throat and nodded towards the thick oak doors behind Hannah. "Are they all in there?"

Hannah's glance, that had now become sort of empty and dull, seemed to go right through him. She then blinked, put on a fake smile and nodded. "Yes they are, and they are awaiting you," she replied in a more professional manner than he had ever seen on her. Hannah then stood, the abruptness of the move surprised Sebastian, and she then walked towards the door and knocked three times. A voice from the other side of the oak doors told them to enter. Hannah opened the door to announce Sebastian's arrival, but he did not wait for a formal introduction, slipped by her and walked to the middle of the enormous office.

"I see you are all very busy trying to solve these robberies," he crossed his arms over his chest. "I am so happy to see you are all putting your full attention to this and are handling this matter with such diligence." He made no effort to hide his disdain for the three men who were sipping tea from silver rimmed porcelain cups.

Claude lowered the cup that was midway to his lips and scrutinized Sebastian with what almost seemed like a mild version of shame. Sebastian knew better.

"You should pay some respect to your superiors."

Sebastian turned towards the voice and glanced over the person it came from. He could not help and smirk. "I would Deputy Commissioner Randall, if I had in fact anything to pay respect to."

"Michaelis," Claude stared daggers at him over the rim of his glasses. "Mind your manners in front of the Commissioner."

"It is fine Claude," a third voice chimed in a clear tone. "Inspector Michaelis here is clearly most concerned and invested in the task at hand."

Sebastian pressed his lips together for a moment and pretended to think. He then shrugged his shoulders. "Not in the least, but since I was personally hauled back from Paris, my suspension lifted, I reckoned none of the fools around here had any clue what they were dealing with. Seeing you all here sipping your tea gives me a pretty good perspective on the why those fools have yet to come up with something remotely productive."

"Why you sleezy.." Deputy Commissioner Randall was midway getting to his feet to start a violent talking to with the inspector, but he was stopped by a simple hand gesture of the Commissioner. Sebastian once again made no effort to hide his amusement.

"You do not agree with how we run this force?"

"Do I.." Sebastian sighed and rolled his eyes. Stepping forward, he pressed down one hand on the heavy mahogany desk and repeatedly tapped the smooth surface with the forefinger of his other hand. "Did any of you notice the unruly mess downstairs while you were up here on your little pedestals having a fucking tea party."

The Commissioner peered at him through slitted eyes. "Mister Faustus," he began without even looking at Claude, "pray tell why it was that you insisted we lifted the inspector's suspension?"

"I tell you why. Because you refuse to do any actual work," Sebastian spat before Claude even had a chance to explain himself. "Because high and mighty up here, you all agree you're too good to do any actual footwork. And after I have slaved around solving impossible cases, you go and strike up the glory for all the work I have done."

"Commissioner Grey, I must apologize for his behavior." Claude excused Sebastian, which did not fall well with him but before he could snap at the chief inspector he was interrupted by the Commissioner.

"No need to apologize. I am aware that this destructive behavior stems from that illegal habit he's been nurturing for quite some time now. Look at him," the Commissioner made a hand gesture towards his inspector, "he's a sweaty and trembling mess. A clear example of everything wrong in this society and everything we are trying to fight."

Sebastian gritted his teeth audibly, making no effort to hide his irritation with the Commissioner and his obeying lackeys. "If that is the case, you must really be putting a lot of faith in your own powers of investigation when you had Faustus come and fetch me when I was all the way up in Paris."

Before either of the three men could protest against Sebastian's accusations he raised a hand, palm out to silence them all. "I have wasted more than enough time joining this pretentious little gathering of yours. If you excuse me, some of us actually have to work." And he whirled around on his heels and walked towards the double doors. Pushing both his hands against the massive oak, he made Hannah jump in her seat when he threw open both doors and descended down the stairs without sparing any of them another look.

Chapter Text

The next day Sebastian awoke with a start, and he had to wipe the sleep from his eyes and blink twice before he realized he had fallen asleep at the office. It took some time for his still sleepy eyes to adjust to the warm light that gradually became more bright with the rising sun. It was a much more gentle light than the kind that streamed into his small apartment every morning, and it was much more forgiving to his head that felt like it was going to burst.

He stretched his stiff body and rubbed his aching neck with his hand. The half a bottle of scotch he had found in one of his desk drawers yesterday afternoon lay empty at his feet. Next to his hand was the porcelain teacup he had used to drink from, half of it still filled with the amber liquid. He downed the remainder in one sip and coughed when the strong drink burned down his dry throat.

In front of him was his paperwork, some of it creased where he had rested his head and other parts stained from where he had obviously drooled on it. He flipped through the pages. Most of it made perfect sense to him, but as he drew nearer to the last notes he noticed that most was complete drunken foolishness. He fumbled those up and tossed them towards the bin near the door. He missed, and the fumbled up paper bawl rocked around on the floor for a moment and then it just lay there.

Sebastian checked his pocket watch. It was half past eight. Outside his office he heard the noises of the first arrivals. He sat back, and scratched his unshaven chin. His head felt a bit fuzzy, but not nearly as bad as it had felt yesterday. His suit was wrinkled, and he desperately needed a bath. With some effort he pushed himself up to his feet, and once again tried to stretch the stiffness out of his limbs. He grabbed his coat, walked to the door and reached for the knob but was too late. The knob turned and he had to jump back to avoid the door from slamming his face. Claude was obviously surprised to find Sebastian already a work.

"Isn't that an unexpected but fairly pleasant surprise," he confirmed Sebastian's suspicion.

"Most surprises are Claude. Expect you running down my door this early in the morning, that is anything but pleasant. What do you want?"

Claude's demeanor adjusted quickly after Sebastian's insult, and he pushed his rimless glasses further up the bridge of his nose. His golden eyes quickly slid over the wrinkled suit and messy hair. "You fell asleep here, didn't you?"

Sebastian raised his hands in a short slow clap before he folded them over his chest and grinned. "Well well. Aren't you the most observant inspector of the bunch. All this time I thought you were nothing more than a pencil pushing maggot."

Claude raised a hand, putting a premature end to Sebastian's gloating. "Save me the insults. They're rarely original. I am here to tell you that the Commissioner, after our delightful meeting yesterday, has decided to appoint you a partner." Claude opened the file he had been carrying under his arm and read out loud. "His name is Grell Sutcliff, fresh out of the academy with more than high recommendations from his professors.."

Sebastian had been too struck to respond, but after several moments he found his voice and frowned at Claude. "Wait. Hold up, hold up."

Claude stopped reading and looked Sebastian straight in the eye. "Yes?"

"A partner?" Sebastian repeated. "You are giving me a partner?"

Claude closed the file and adjusted his glasses again. "Well the decision is not entirely mine, but I did recommend it to Commissioner Grey that it might be a good idea to-"

"You recommended it?!" Sebastian fumed. "Are you out of your mind? No inspector has or needs a partner; especially one with my case succes," he said and pushed his forefinger in his own chest to emphasize his words.

"I know," Claude confirmed, obviously withstanding a grin that tweaked at the corners of his mouth. "But in the light of the situation-"

"In the light of the situation you are appointing me a nanny. Damn it Claude, you know I do not need someone to babysit me!"

"Oh dear I would never let anyone babysit you, but I am certain he will keep your less," Claude thought for a second, "conventional approaches in check. See this as an opportunity. A set of fresh eyes watching over your shoulder. Who better to train a young inspector than someone with your record of succes."

"As much as I would love to enjoy the splendour of you admitting my immense potential to my face for once, does this little wicked trick have anything to do with me calling you a pencil pushing maggot? I'll be willing to drop the maggot if you reverse this preposterous idea."

"It is not mine to reverse Sebastian," Claude explained calmly, and handed Sebastian the file. "Now I suggest you go home, freshen up a bit and get back here by nine. Mister Sutcliff will be arriving around ten. That ought to give you some time to clean up this mess," he said while nodding towards the overloaded desk. Claude then turned on his heels, easily avoided Mey as she tripped over her untied shoelace and fell into Sebastian's office, and left before Sebastian could protest some more.

"Damn you," Sebastian knocked over a pile of the useless notes he had been sifting last night, groaned frustrated and sank down on the edge of his desk.

"I.. I'm sorry Sir." Mey quickly got to her feet and wiped at the stocking that was torn at the knee. "I did not mean to-"

"Not you Miss Rin," Sebastian sighed, and he pinched the bridge of his nose. "What is it you want?"

"This was delivered for you just now Sir," Mey stepped forward holding out her hand with a small package. It was wrapped in brown paper and tied up with a string.

Sebastian frowned at it, took it from her hands and slowly unwrapped it. Inside the brown paper was a single ivory coloured envelope with Sebastian's last name written in a neat handwriting and a particular colour of blue ink. He turned the envelope over and there was no returning address. Not that he had suspected such.

"Would you look at that," Mey pointed at the envelope. "Inspector Abberline got the exact same envelope several times throughout his investigation. That he did."

Sebastian moved so fast that Mey did not even have time to scoot away. She let out an involuntarily shriek when he grabbed her by the shoulders and leaned down until their noses almost touched. "Who delivered this?"

"I.. I do not know Sir," Mey peeped, and she dipped her chin to her chest to hide the bright red that made her cheeks glow.

"How do you not know?!" Sebastian nearly yelled. "Didn't any of you have the mind to go and find out where these envelopes came from?!"

"N-No Sir," Mey said, her voice barely above a whisper and her body shacking violently under Sebastian's hands. "Officer Bard gave it to me, I swear, but he said the face of the person who gave it to him was covered by a hood."

Sebastian inhaled audibly, and breathed out the word incompetent. He then let the girl go, went to fetch his coat off the back of his chair and marched out of the office with the envelope still in his hand.


 

Outside it was still snowing, a fresh thick white blanket covering the rooftops all around him. It made a him bit dizzy at first, and the pureness hurt his tired eyes. He reclaimed his footing, shielded his eyes and descended down the stone steps. He made haste, zigzagging through the crowd without looking anyone in the eye. He was bothered with the news of his pending partner, and even more so with Claude. He pined for a fix, but his curiosity about the package he had received seemed to pique above the needs of his body.

At home he sank down on the small sofa that stood near his window and turned the envelope over and over, looking for any clues on the ivory paper before delicately opening it and retrieving it contains. There was one single piece of paper, but as he slowly pulled it out of the envelope a picture fell out of it. Sebastian picked it up, and frowned at the familiar faces before turning his attention to the letter. The was only one single sentence writing across the page.

"Ab uno disce omnes," Sebastian read out loud, and repeated the sentence several times after. The words made little sense to him. He had learned some Latin at the academy, but he feared that, due to his frequent usage of the more refind things in life, this knowledge was mostly long forgotten, or even destroyed. He then turned his attention back towards the picture. It was a photo of his class the day they graduated from the academy. Sebastian's face was circled. He turned it over and in the same fine handwriting and blue ink were a few more words.

"Game on," Sebastian read, a smirk curling around his lips as he did. Even while being completely blindsided by his yet unknown opponent, for the first time since Claude had hauled him back to London, he was actually excited about being back on the job.

His excitement endured whilst he took a bath, shaved and changed his wrinkled suit for a black one with matching tie and shoes. The crowded streets did not even seem to affect his good mood, but it was finally nipped in the bud when he stopped at the bottom of the stone steps and saw Claude awaiting him at the front door. He was holding his pocket watch, but he clicked it shut before Sebastian reached him. He stopped next to his boss and looked down on him passed his nose.

"Are you checking up on me?" Sebastian spoke.

"Not necessarily. I am awaiting Mr Sutcliff's arrival. However, this might be the first time you actually listened to what I said. If you start making that a more regular thing, there might hope for you yet."

"I'm not planning to even make that an annual thing, so I would not hold your breath," Sebastian replied and glid passed Claude into the building.

Ignoring all the disturbance around him Sebastian marched straightly towards Fred Abberline's office. He opened the door without announcing himself and slammed it shut. Before speaking, he could not help but let his eyes wander around the small room. The disorder of his own office seemed to fade compared to the gigantic chaos he had just stepped into. Piles upon piles of files and books surrounded what Sebastian assumed was the desk. The stacks were piled up so high Sebastian was not even sure if Abberline was even in the room. That was until a timid voice spoke from behind the mess. Sebastian stepped forward, cautious not to disturb the unruly mess and carefully pushed one of the piles aside. Fred blinked at him as if he saw him for the first time.

"Inspector Michaelis. What are you doing here?"

"I'm beginning to wonder that myself as well," Sebastian answered, and gestured to the chair in front of the desk. "Mind if I sit down?"

"No no, of course not. Have a seat."

Sebastian lifted the stack of books and looked around for an empty spot to put them down. When he did not find one, he placed them on top of the pile right next to the old armchair. He sat down, the motion causing a small cloud of dust that tickled his nose and made him sneeze.

"Bless you," Abberline held out a tissue for him, "I must apologize for the mess," he admitted with a sheepish grin around his thin lips.

"No you mustn't," Sebastian replied. "It is your office and I have no desire to tell you how to.. organize it." Feeling another sneeze attack tickling in his nose, Sebastian decided to get straight to the point and retrieved the envelope from his pocket. "I was told you received one of these as well," he said while shoving the paper towards Abberline.

"Ah yes," Abberline picked up the envelope and turned it around in his hands, not particularly sure what to do with it. "I fact, I received several throughout my investigation. I see they're already aware the case was passed on."

"Obviously," Sebastian retorted. "Would you mind if I have a look at yours?"

"Of course not. Give me a moment." Abberline put the envelope down and started pawing through the piles on his desk. Making sure his own evidence was kept safe, Sebastian leaned forward and snatched up the envelope before it could get lost between Abberline's mess.

"I know they are in there somewhere. Ah yes, here they are," Abberline pulled three fumbled up envelopes from between a Latin dictionary. With an almost apologetic look on his face he tried to straightened out the creases before handing them over to Sebastian. "I tried to make sense of it, but it just wouldn't click," he said whilst snapping his fingers.

Sebastian opened one of them and like with his own there was only a single piece of paper with one sentence on it in that particularly fine handwriting.

"I have tried to decipher the sentences, but despite all my effort and research it remained a labyrinth I just could not comprehend," Abberline went on. "It's confounding."

The first line Sebastian recognized. It was the same phrase that was written on the letter he had received this morning. The second envelope held only a paper with another Latin phrase, and it was one Sebastian knew all too well. It was one by Cicero, and his professors at the academy had used it often. It's translation read that anyone could err, but only the fool persists in his fault. His eyes briefly shifted to Abberline, and he was still mumbling about how this case confounded him. Sebastian found the line to be most suitable. In the third envelope he found a newspaper headline clipping about the fifth robbery. This time the blue lettering wrote caput mortuum, a line that also suited the chaotic inspector to a t.

"When did you receive the first letter?" Sebastian waved the photo in front of Abberline's face.

"The second morning into the investigation," Abberline replied. "I remember wondering how they came by my identity. The paper had published about the robbery, but my name had not been mentioned in the article. It is confounding," he said once more.

"Confounding? Did it never occur to you that someone inside this office was leaking information?"

Abberline's credibility gap as a reliable inspector grew even more when his demeanor drastically changed from completely confused to utterly surprised, as if someone had just finally turned on the light. "Well knock me over with a feather, I never would've thought of that."

"You don't say," Sebastian sighed and got to his feet. "Do you mind if I take these with me?" He held up the wrinkled envelopes.

"Not at all, I have no need for them anymore."

Sebastian could not agree more, but kept from making a snarky comment about it. He gave Abberline a short nod and turned his back on him. The second he set one foot over the threshold Abberline said his name, his voice barely above a whisper. Sebastian turned back towards the unruly, musky mess. Abberline sat hunched over, and clumsily fidgeted with his hands.

"I know I screwed this one up," he confessed. "My wife just gave birth to twins, and they don't sleep a wink at night. It is hardly an excuse, and I should not let my personal life interfere with my work, but I.."

Sebastian raised a hand, palm out to stop Abberline from explaining any further. "You don't have to apologize nor explain yourself. Everybody makes mistakes, we're all human."

"I know, but how could I miss something that was so abundantly obvious. It was right in front of me, and I failed to see it. I'm usually much better at my job."

"Fred." Sebastian said his voice in a much more gentle tone than the one he had used before, and he even mustered a gentle smile. "Go home. Go home to your family and get some rest. You've earned it."

"But what about Chief Inspector Faustus? I cannot just simple get up and leave during my shift. What would he think of me?"

"Leave Faustus to me. Go, take your rest and come back refreshed in the morning. This way you are pretty much useless anyway," Sebastian pointed out. "Go before I change my mind."

Abberline quickly got to his feet, yanked his coat and hat of the rack next to the door and thanked Sebastian several times before rushing to the front door. Sebastian waited until Abberline had left the building before calling over Mey and ordering her to organize and clean the chaotic office. Satisfied with his good deed, he dragged his feet to his own office as slowly as possible, trying to will time to stand still, dreading the moment he stepped into his office and had to face the intruder that Claude had appointed to be his nanny. He finally told himself to suck it up, take it like the man he was and face the pencil pusher head on. Still, as his hand closed around the bronze doorknob, he stopped himself one last time to sigh away the hesitation and then walked in, closing the door behind him with a bang.

Claude was sitting on the edge of Sebastian's desk. His eyes slid over to the door and Sebastian saw the lips curl into that same wicked Claude had had when he told Sebastian the news two hours ago.

"There you are Sebastian. Come and meet your new partner Mister Sutcliff"

Sebastian took a deep breath, his eyes fixed on the old armchair in front of his desk. Slim shoulders clad in black peeked out from behind the back of it. The figure stood, fiery red hair cascaded to the small of his back. He turned, adjusted his red rimmed glasses and showed a broad and excited smile. Sebastian looked from him to Claude and back. Then a low chuckle rose up from the back of his throat and soon he laughed out loud, stunning both Claude and the rookie.

"Is this a joke?"

Claude frowned and looked to the red haired young man next to him. "I'm sorry. A joke? I don't quite gather what you mean by that."

Sebastian nodded to Mister Sutcliff. "In my entire career I have never seen a more ridiculous excuse for an inspector. That is supposed to be my partner? Couldn't you have found me someone who does not look like a cheap streetwalker?"

"Sebastian!" Claude's eyes widened behind his glasses. "Apologize. This instant."

Mister Sutcliff stepped forward, gently touching Claude's shoulder with a gloved hand. "There is no need Sir."

"Yes," Sebastian leaned against the doorpost and crossed his arms, "I am sure Mister Sutcliff's flamboyant appearance has sparked this kind of a reaction on many occasions."

Claude's expression betrayed his inner frustration, but he kept his stoic demeanor, his voice ice cold when he spoke. "You will apologize to Mister Sutcliff. After that you will brief him on the entire case, and he will personally report back his findings to me. Do I make myself clear?"

"Crystal," Sebastian replied and opened the door for Claude to storm out of. Claude's frustration with him made for short comic relief, and as Sebastian closed the door, he felt his own frustration pique when his eyes crossed those of Mister Sutcliff.

"Here we are then," Mister Sutcliff broke the tension. "Perhaps I should properly introduce myself."

"No no." Sebastian raised a hand. "There is no need. Mister Sutcliff is all I need and care to know about you. And for the time we are forced to be partners, you may call me Inspector Michaelis."

"Mister Sutcliff is my father. Please call me Grell." Grell leaped forward and held out his gloved hand.

Sebastian frowned at it for a second and shook it. "Grell is a stupid name," he concluded.

"It is a family name and finds its origins in Scotland." Grell shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "I suppose my parents weren't very imaginative."

"Obviously," Sebastian confirmed, "You can still call me Inspector Michaelis. I guess we should get started. Have a seat," Sebastian gestured to the armchair and took his own seat at the other side of the desk. "I suppose you have read the newspapers, or Faustus informed you."

"Both," Grell replied.

"Good." Sebastian opened his own notes. "Let's get started then."

Sebastian disclosed all his notes and the parts of the interviews Abberline had conducted in his own investigation. By the time he had informed Grell it was close to nine o'clock at night. He send Grell home and told him he had to be back at eight the next morning and to bring his lunch. Sebastian waited until he was almost certain Grell had left the building before plucking his coat off the back of his chair. He slipped a fresh notepad and pen in his coat pocket, put his leather gloves on and wrapped his scarf around his neck. Outside it was snowing again. He retrieved the notepad to double check his first address, buried his nose in the woolen scarf and descended the steps, crossed the street to hail a coach and instructed the coachman to take him to the Mayfair area.


 

The wind howled through the bare trees and across the moor. It caused minor ground blizzards and blew up the fresh soft snow. A hooded figure approached by horse, the pounding hoofs cutting through the intense silence. A large mansion appeared at the horizon, its lights illuminating the dark night. The figure pulled the reigns until the horse came to a galop, the sound of its hoofs thundering hollow across the small courtyard. The front door opened, and a servant rushed down the steps to greet the unknown visitor and to lead his horse to the stables.

"He needs to be fed and brushed," the visitor instructed and walked up the three steps to the front door. A young woman had appeared in the doorway, and greeted him with a meek smile. She stepped out of the way to let the visitor enter. The cover came undone and the ginger haired visitor handed over his cloak, hat and gloves with a dazzling smile. "Good evening Paula, looking beautiful as always. Where is the Earl this evening?"

Paula blushed and nodded to her left. "He is in the library Mister Joker. I will bring you to them if you permit me to hang your cloak to dry first."

"No need Paula, I know my way around," Joker replied turned to the direction Paula had nodded towards. "Would you mind terribly bringing a warm sweetened wine?"

"Not at all Sir. I will deliver it to you shortly." Paula replied with a curtsy and left to hang the wet cloak in the washroom. Joker's amethyst eyes followed the movements of her curvy hips as they swayed to the other end of the hall. He sighed longing at the blissfully refined figure, turned on his heels followed the soft melodies of a violin to the library in the left wing of the mansion.

Arriving at the carved double oak doors he raised his hand, knocked politely and waited until he was given permission to enter. The warmth of the fire and the tunes of the violin wrapped around him like a thick warm blanket.

The Earl sat in one of the two royal blue armchairs that stood in front of the fireplace. In his right hand he had a glass of wine. The blood red drink swirled around in the crystal. His left arm propped up and his head leaned lightly on his hand. His eyes were closed, his face a mask of tranquility as he listened to the enrapturing sonata that was played by a tall blonde that stood next to the marble mantle. His lean body moved in an elegant manner to the tunes that came from the instrument he mastered with ease.

Joker approached with caution, afraid to break the spell of the double stop trills that held the room in a serene enchantment. Halting next to the occupied chair, he softly clacked the heels of his boots together to subtly draw the attention of the Earl. The eyes opened, and the cobalt blue of them was illuminated by the fire. Joker opened his mouth to speak, but the Earl raised a hand to stop him before he could utter a word. He then placed this long slim index finger against his lips, bidding Joker's silence as the sonata drew to its end.

"One night I dreamed I had made a pact with the devil for my soul. He played me a sonata so wonderful and so beautiful, played with such and intelligence, as I had never even conceived in my boldest flights of fantasy." The Earl sighed with delight after he had spoken those words.

"If that is not the most stupid thing that ever crossed your lips. You have such a wild imagination Ciel," the blonde scolded whilst putting his violin back in its case.

Ciel chuckled light-hearted, and sipped the fresh warm wine that had been brought in by Paula moments earlier. "It is not of my own imagination Alois. It is the tale belonging to this sonata and I happen to think it is very lovely. Not every piece of music can tell such a tale."

"A tale of the devil making a pact with a mortal. What would the devil stand to gain from making a pact with a human for his soul?" Alois clicked his violin case shut and sauntered to where Ciel and Joker were sitting, picking up his own glass of wine from a small table between the two men. "I find that a very hard fact to proof or believe."

"Not everything can be proofed by science Alois," Ciel replied.

Alois shook his head and swallowed the sip he had just taken. "Everything can be proofed by science."

"Sometimes you have to believe Alois."

"Believe in what Ciel?"

"Magic," Ciel said while fanning out his fingers. "Or at least the imagination of a dream."

Alois squinted his eyes for a moment. Not looking at anything in particular. He then shook his head again and sipped his drink. "Bullocks. There is no such thing as devils or magic. And if such hocus pocus existed, why would the devil himself agree to play a lowly servant when he could just as easily claim the soul and drag it to hell."

Ciel shook his head, chuckling in that same cheerful manner. He stopped abruptly and turned his eyes towards Joker. The gleam in the cobalt blues was mysteriously lit by the warm glow of the fire. "What news of the Yard? Is it done?"

"It is Earl. I personally saw the transaction between the inspector and the administrative employee. I also managed to get my hands on this," Joker put a file in Ciel's lap.

Ciel opened it carefully, as if it were something delicate made out of glass, and read out loud. "Excelling student, graduated top of his class with high recommendations of his professors. Seems we have found ourself a worthy opponent."

"He won't be alone."

All three turned to the gruff voice that came from the door. A broad shouldered man stood in the doorway, his clothing soaked and his blonde hair matted to his forehead. He held up a file. "Michaelis was appointed a partner this morning."

Ciel stood and offered the blonde his chair. He walked over and handed Ciel the file before sitting down in the warm chair. Ciel opened the wet folder. Alois rounded the chairs and looked at the papers over Ciel's shoulder.

"Excellent work Bard," Ciel complimented.

"He looks like a complete idiot," Alois interjected.

"Do not let looks fool you Lord Trancy", Bard said. "Grell Sutcliff was trained by Dr. William T. Spears, he graduated with honours like inspector Michaelis. He became quite the bomb expert, so he could proof to be a problem."

Ciel nodded and stroke his bottom lip. “Then he can also proof to be a tricky opponent as well. How are our own experiments progressing?” He asked and looked over his shoulder. Alois’s calm features rapidly turned into a most diabolic smirk.

“I have completed most of my research and my findings are that if you put a small amount of dynamite in a gas-pipe, the explosive should be strong enough to easily blow up the door of a safe. Also, I am experimenting with some other chemicals such as nonivamide, bromoacetone and syn-propanethial-S-oxide, which can be found in onions. It should produce a most useful gas that can also be compressed in a pipe and used to distract civilians and police officers,” he concluded, his pale blue eyes shimmering with insane delight.

Ciel nodded. “Some sort of a gas that effects the eyes?”

“Indeed,” Alois grinned.

“Do you think you can have it finished by next week?”

“Certainly. I will need more onions though but vulgar excuse you call a chef refuses me entrance to the kitchen.”

“You nearly blew up both him and my kitchen. I told him to keep you out,” Ciel told him in a matter of fact tone and handed the file on the new inspector back to Bard. “Joker, notify the others. We shall make our next target on Wednesday, a week from now."

Joker jumped to his feet and clacked his heels together. "Certainly Earl. I will return to the circus to notify the others about the new plans. I bid you a good night," and with that, Joker exited the room.

Ciel now turned his attention to Bard and told him to keep an eye on both Inspector Michaelis and his new partner. Bard gave him a short nod, got up and disappeared from the library as well. Only Ciel and Alois were now left behind.

"It is a most interesting crew you have gathered around you Ciel," Alois slapped him on the back which made Ciel's body jerk. "I am positive Vincent would have been proud of you," he added before walking out as well.

Ciel set down his wine, sank back into one of the armchairs and stared at the painting that hung above the fireplace. His parents painted eyes seemed to penetrate his soul. Ciel sighed and propped up his left arm again, resting his cheek on the back of his hand.

"No," he whispered, knowing full well his father would have never wanted his son to mingle in such dark and dangerous affairs. "He would have scolded me," he breathed, and turned his head away from the painting to save himself the judgment of the lifeless eyes that stared down on him nonetheless.

Chapter Text

Ciel awoke with a frightened start and shot up in his bed, panting. His body was bathing in sweat and his heart pounding painfully against his rib cage. The cool light of dawn cast shadows across the walls of his bedroom and filled the corners far and near with a grisly darkness from which something seemed to be lurking at him. He called out, his breath vaporizing in the cold air and his voice at first barely above a whisper. It echoed through the massive and empty bedchamber. He called out again, and again. The name his lips produced rang in his whizzing ears and pounded heavy in his aching head but he did not stop until the door was opened and footsteps came his way, and even then he was sure he called out at least three more times.

"My Lord, I am here."

Tanaka stood by the foot of Ciel's bed. After years of having served the Earl he knew better than to sink down by the young man's side to try and comfort him. Ciel's boundaries did not allow anyone to come near and make him feel better. Since the day his parents died he had ceased being a young man and he had become the head of the house, heir to the empire. There was no room for him to show his weaknesses. So Tanaka kept his distance, allowing his presence to help the Earl calm down in silence.

Ciel shivered in his shirt and he had already dipped his chin to his chest to hide his face with his slate looks before his butler had come in. He did not speak and embraced the comfort knowing his faithful servant was at his side. When he did finally raise his head the look in Tanaka's eyes was the comforting solace he needed to speak.

"Has Elizabeth arrived yet?"

"Not yet my Lord." Tanaka replied. "Shall I draw you a bath?"

"Please do."

Ciel pushed the thick duvet to the end of his bed and let his legs dangle over the edge of the mattress. His toes barely touched the cold marble of the floor. It caused a shiver down his spine. In the adjacent bathroom he could hear the water running and the footsteps of Tanaka going from the bathroom to the bedroom and back, gathering the necessities the Earl needed during and after his bath.

The warm water did not wash away any of his worries, but it did warm his body that had been cold to the bone. Hints of the orange blossom and grapefruit bath oil caressed Ciel's nostrils, and he rolled his head into his neck and tried to clear his mind. It was fruitless.

Tanaka helped Ciel into a pearl green suit with a matching tie. He brushed invisible hairs of the jacket with a brush and polished the noses of the Italian leather shoes. He waited in the background while Ciel inspected his reflection in the full length mirror. When Ciel approved of the ensemble Tanaka excused himself to go and finish the preparations for breakfast. When Tanaka opened the door, he had to jump aside to clear the way for Alois who stomped in.

"Did you really invite that vulgar woman over for breakfast?"

"And a very good morning to you too Alois," Ciel replied, not even looking up as he slightly adjusted the silver cufflinks on his sleeves.

"Stop acting aloof and answer me," Alois's reflection appeared behind Ciel in the mirror, "did you invite that big mouthed woman over or are your servants playing tricks on me?"

"I have indeed invited Elizabeth over for breakfast," Ciel confirmed, and his eyes looked back into Alois's through the mirror. "Is that a problem?"

"You know I cannot stand her, especially at this early hour," Alois fumed. "She's obnoxious and loud."

"Kind of like you are being right now," Ciel pointed out, and could not help but chuckle at the face Alois drew at this notion.

"Even if I tried my hardest, I could never be as insufferable as her. The thought alone is enough to give me a splitting headache," Alois wailed. "What possessed you to invite her over in the first place? She's useless!"

"I have my reasons," Ciel said and turned towards Alois. "And that is all you need to know about it so let it go. I am hardly in the mood for your petty fretting," he concluded and started walking towards the door.

"Not likely Ciel," Alois shot back and followed Ciel out of the bedroom and down the hall. "The last word has not yet been spoken on the subject."

"It has for now," Ciel said over his shoulder while the two started to descend down the wide flight of stairs that lead towards the main hall. "So you can either join us for breakfast and hold your tongue or go and eat with the servants in the kitchen."

Alois stopped dead in his track for a moment. "Go and eat with the servants?" He whispered. "Go and eat with the servants?!" He repeated himself at a much louder tone. "Me. Eat with the servants? Why don't you tell her to go and eat with-"

The doorbell rang before Alois could finish his sentence. Ciel shot Alois a look that kept him from finishing it out loud all together, and only his jaw twitched while he spat intelligible words of hatred. Tanaka came walking in from the left wing and opened the door. Ciel took a deep breath and pushed aside his opinion on Elizabeth. Then he put on his most charming smile and walked down the steps to welcome her.

"Ciel." Elizabeth wrapped herself around him before he could even speak and held him close in what could only be described as a desperate attempt to feel him near.

Ciel patted her on the shoulder. "Elizabeth," he acknowledge, and peeled her off him and kept her at arms length, "it has been too long."

"Only because you never invite me over anymore," Elizabeth pointed out with a pout.

"He has a reason for that."

Both turned to the voice and Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at Alois whom was now standing directly behind Ciel, a look as cold as ice in his pale blue eyes as they wandered over the blonde woman's petite frame. Elizabeth wrinkled her nose at him and turned all her attention back towards Ciel.

"I see your taste in company is still horribly wrong. However do you manage to continue listening to Alois is beyond me. Does he still keep busy with those silly chemical projects?"

"Silly chemical projects? Why you-"

"Alois."

Ciel shot him a look that stopped Alois from finishing his insult. Like before, only his jaws twitched as inwardly continued with intelligible curse words. Ciel almost felt sorry for him but had no time to deal with him at the moment. He turned back to Elizabeth, apologized for his companion and told them they should retreat to the dining hall to start their morning with a home cooked breakfast.

"I was ever so delighted to get your invitation this week." Elizabeth pressed the point of her silver knife in her poached egg. The yolk oozed from the small cut, coating the lettuce and toast underneath it. The bread crunched loud through the quiet hall when as she cut off a piece and put it in her mouth. "It was ever so sudden," she continued and peered at Ciel from under her lashes, "any alternate motives?"

The chewing of her jaws made Alois cringe, and he was pulling faces in a most theatrical manner, his own jaw twitching at every move she made.

Ciel saw him acting up from the corner of his eye, choose to simply ignore it this time and gave Elizabeth a warm smile. "Whatever gave you that idea my dear? Can't I invite a childhood friend without getting frowned upon with suspicion and being accused of having a hidden agenda?"

Elizabeth squeezed her eyes until they were no more than slim slits and scrutinized Ciel closely. "You? No." She replied flat and held up her empty cup, asking Tanaka for some more tea. "Which reminds me to tell you once more that I have no legal grounds to defend your actions, nor do I have any intention to do so should you need a lawyer."

"Should there ever be a time when we need a lawyer we'll need a good one, so that rules you out by definition," Alois pointed out without bothering to sugarcoat his contempt.

"However," Elizabeth continued, completely ignoring Alois's harsh words, "should there ever be such a time, I would be willing to consider defending you if you're willing to increase your chances in court by dropping your chemical waste," she said and shot Alois a look. "I could not lie to save his sorry person."

"You must be one lousy lawyer then," Alois concluded.

Ciel covered his eyes with his hand when the two blonds continued to shoot low insults across the table, one more graphic and harsh than the other. The headache he woke up with this morning rapidly increased and centered above his left eye, throbbing painfully with all the shrill noises that echoed through the hall. In the end, when he had had enough, Ciel made both Alois and Elizabeth jump in their seat when he slammed down his hands on the table.

"Enough," he said and gave them both a look. "Enough with the verbal slaughter. I have had about a belly full of it and that is even without touching any of this delicious food. Now the both of you, eat, and at least try and act civilized before I have you both thrown out of here for good."

Alois and Elizabeth both stared at him and did not say a word. Alois's gaze was cool and collected, where Elizabeth's was more frantic and apologetic. She did not know like Alois that Ciel would probably never follow up with that threat, but then again Alois knew him better than anyone else did. He might even knew him better than Ciel did himself.

They now ate in silence, the sound of knives and forks clattering the only thing to cut through the tension. It bothered Ciel even more greatly than the yelling had done. He first turned his eyes to Alois whom was shoving his food around his plate, looking at it as if he were conducting and experiment. Ciel then turned to Elizabeth. It seemed she was much more enjoying her food as she took another scone from the tray Tanaka was holding out for her, and she thanked him with a short nod and a silent smile.

"How are things at work Elizabeth?"

She stopped scooping cream on her scone and looked at Ciel with lips pursed in surprise. Her eyes briefly shot to Alois, who was looking at her with dull disinterest. She then looked back at Ciel and put her scone down and folded her hands in her lap.

"Work has been awfully busy with all those burglaries and robberies." Elizabeth fell silent for a moment and looked at Ciel from under her lashes. When he remained unmoved she continued. "People who want to sue banks. Banks who want to sue the Yard. It's an unruly chaos of finger pointing and putting blame where it does not belong."

"Then where does it belong according to you?" Ciel asked, not unkindly, and held up his cup so Tanaka could pour some fresh tea in it.

"Oh I don't know.. elsewhere," Elizabeth made hand gestures in the air. "I am absolutely positive the Yard is doing everything in its power to solve these crimes accordingly."

"If they are, they've been failing horribly at their jobs," Alois said coolly.

Elizabeth did not reply to this. She had put her hands back in her lap and was staring at her plate in front of her. At the scone that stood on it and the clotted cream that was smeared atop the scone. Ciel watched her closely. He knew that she knew Ciel and Alois had something to do with the crimes that had been keeping the rich bastards on their toes, but she still carried too much affection for Ciel to intervene. He would've found it endearing if it had not been so incredibly dimwitted of her. Ciel leaned forward and laced his fingers together and rested his chin on them

"Surely you have other cases that keep you occupied than that band of robbers."

"Of course," Elizabeth exhaled audibly and smeared rhubarb compote on the other half of her scone and mashed the two halfs together. "Lots of aristocrats and nobles getting into trouble without thieves riffling and looting half of London's finest." She took a large bite from her scone and wiped the corners of her mouth with her cotton napkin. "I have a lady client and she is absolutely sure her husband is screwing around with floozies. She is set to clear him out, and since he is one of the aristocrats that has not been robbed yet, she might end up with half of his belongings. They did get married with a prenupt with a clear clause on forfeiture of assets in case of adultery. Men are such cock centered idiots," she concluded and licked the remnants of compote of her thumb.

"And you actually wonder why nobody ever bothered to drop down on one knee for you?" Alois sneered, and mumbled a meaningless apology after Ciel shot him another look.

"Don't mind Alois." Ciel said with a warm smile. "Please continue," he said with a kind hand gesture.

"I shouldn't be discussing such details," Elizabeth confessed a little ashamed. "But I always end up running my mouth to everyone around me. Someday soon it will most likely get someone into more trouble they can handle."

Ciel frowned, and exchanged a quick look with Alois. On his turn Alois shrugged his shoulders in a nonchalant manner that indicated that he was impartial to the words.

"What do you mean Elizabeth?"

Elizabeth noticed, inhaled and put on one of her fake perky smiles. "Look at me, I am doing it again, and look at the time. I must take my leave." She finished the tea that was still far too hot in four quick sips.

"Already?" Alois did not bother to sound disappointed.

Ciel got to his feet when Elizabeth did and took her by the elbow. "Why leave so sudden Elizabeth. Please stay, let us enjoy the pleasure of your company a little longer."

His words made Elizabeth blush. She dipped her chin to her chest to hide her red cheeks. "As much as I would love to take you up on that invitation I mustn't, I still have a lot of work to do." She raised her head and looked Ciel straight in the eye. "And I am sure that you have other matters to attend to as well," she said and nodded towards the newspaper Tanaka just brought in. "Thank you for the lovely breakfast though." Elizabeth kissed Ciel's cheek and walked out.

Alois finished his tea and set the cup down with a quiet gesture. "That was your reason to invite her over? To see how much she knows?"

"Indeed." Ciel confirmed. "And she knows a lot more than she cares to share."

"How runny is that mouth of hers?" Alois got to his feet and turned the newspaper towards him. The headline spoke of the new inspector that had taken over the robbery case, but no word was mentioned of the Earl or the Count. "I can easily silence her with the right mixture of ingredients."

"No need to get vile. Yet. We need not worry about her for now," Ciel said and snatched the paper up from under Alois's nose and quickly let his eyes fly over the front page until they landed on the announcement of a circus coming to town. "Send for Joker." Ciel murmured as he turned his back toward Alois and made for the doors. "I need to speak with him. Urgently."

Chapter Text

Time passed so slow it seemed like one minute lasted an hour. Sebastian's head was pounding so fierce that every word that was spoken to him felt like church bells ringing in his ears. Earlier, in a not so friendly manner, he had already suggested that Grell remove his sorrowful self from Sebastian's sight so that the inspector could try and put his focus to solving the case, but even the absence of the red whirlwind did not aid in this process. The quiet of his office was never so present and painfully audible.

His body ached with every movement he made. Even the blinking of his eyes made him winch in pain. He was finally paying the price for his overindulgence in Paris and his willpower started to fail him. He had already gone through his entire hidden supply of alcohol and now tried to function on overly sweetened tea and dry biscuits. Sebastian knew he would not outlast another night in this manner and instead of living through the wicked hell that lay ahead of him, he stopped procrastinating and made up his mind.

Grell came in around eight to announce that he was taking his leave for the night. Sebastian could not remember if he had even responded besides a dismissive hand gesture. A quarter to ten, after most of the noises had quited down in the main hall, Sebastian grabbed his coat and left the darkness of his office. He had to stand still and blink several times against the bright lights in the hall. When his eyes had finally adjusted he staggered towards the exit and sucked his lungs full of the crisp night air. He stuffed his gloved hands in the pockets of his coat and fumbled with the seven coins that were in there. They were meant for food, but the thought of a meal alone was something he could barely stomach and after what had seemed weeks he finally gave in to the needs of his body.

The bell above the door chimed when Sebastian stepped into the dim teashop. There was only some light in the back and it cast eerie shadows onto the hard wooden floor of the empty room. Undertaker's head popped out of the backroom and a wide grin stretched over his scarred face. He glide to the counter and spread his hands over the cold marble.

"I knew you'd be back. Took you longer than I had expected though."

Sebastian took long and quick strides towards the owner and leaned on the counter as well. "I'm not here to chat. I need that address."

"You look like hell," Undertaker said when he saw the pale face in the light. "What is the rush? Sit down and have some tea and biscuits. It might do you some good."

Sebastian reached out, grabbed Undertaker by the collar and practically dragged him over the counter. "I don't need your damned tea and cookies. I need that address and I need it now."

"Calm down my friend." Undertaker wiggled out of Sebastian's grasp and straightened his shirt. "No need to get so violent. I will go and get it for you right away," he said and disappeared into the backroom for a moment or two and returned with a piece of parchment. "Here it is."

Sebastian snatched it out of Undertaker's hands, looked at it briefly and stuffed it in his pocket. "I am not your friend, and I was never here. Do you understand?"

"Perfectly," Undertaker replied with another wide grin. "Have a good night inspector."

Sebastian hauled a coach outside and told the coachman to take him to Chelsea dock as fast as he could. Adding that he would be handsomely rewarded insured that Sebastian was taken there without detours, delaying and absolute secrecy. It had started to snow again and ever corner they turned the wheels skidded on the wet cobblestones, tossing Sebastian from one end of the couch to the other. The coach came to such a sudden stop that Sebastian had to brace himself so he would not be launched forward.

"Chelsea dock." The voice of the coachman bellowed over the storm.

As he sat back and closed his eyes to recover from the bumpy ride Sebastian felt bile rise in his throat. He ripped open the door and emptied the wee contents of his stomach followed by a float of gall. Shaking heavily, Sebastian managed to get out of the coach without stepping in his own vomit. He went through his pocket, and tossed the waiting coachman a coin, telling him that if he came back in four hours he'd enjoy another fair fee. The coach took off, and Sebastian shoved a hand of fresh snow in his mouth and spit it out to rid himself of the foul taste of vomit.

He took a moment to take in his surroundings. The dock was deserted. Somewhere hidden in the low fog that hung over the Thames a buoy chimed, and every now and then a seagull that soar far above his head cried out. Shy from those noises it was nothing but absolute silence. Sebastian put his collar up and started down the dock along the river. He passed several dark lots before he got to the number that was written at the bottom of the parchment. Number fifty-three. A beefy looking fellow wrapped in a frock coat that was entirely too small for his figure was standing by the door. His pitch black eyes zeroed in on Sebastian. He tilted his chin to look down upon Sebastian, and jerked his head to tell him to get closer.

Sebastian stuffed the parchment back in his coat and walked up to the bouncer. "Undertaker send me."

The piercing eyes just stared at him for another moment without a word. The men the stepped forward, opened the door and gestured inside. "Welcome to Little Shanghai."

Sebastian stepped inside, and a pleasant warmth wrapped around him like a blanket. It smelled of jasmine, mixed with the familiar tangy scent of opium. He noticed that he started to salivate, and he walked down the dim dark corridor as fast as his wobbly legs could carry him. Calmly music and babbling water soothed his ears as he neared the velvet amber curtains at the end.

Through the curtains was a candle and oil lamp lit room beyond Sebastian's scope. There were long divans covered in yellow satin. Red paper lanterns and paper dragons hung from the ceiling. Chinese women in short traditional dresses waited to the clientele, delivering refreshments and fresh opium pipes. To Sebastian's left one of the few Chinese men had taken notice of the new arrival and he came walking towards him, arms wide in a welcoming gesture.

"Be welcome at Little Shanghai stranger. My name is Lau. What brings you here on this cold evening?"

Sebastian retrieved four of the remaining five coins from his pocket and handed them to Lau. "I want a pipe, a cold drink and absolute privacy."

Lau nodded, took the coins and beckoned one of the girls that was waiting in the back. She came their way, her hips swaying seductively with every step she took. When she halted next to Lau he promptly placed his hand on her bum. "This is Ran-Mao and she will be serving you tonight. The inspector requests complete privacy," Lau instructed.

In a more coherent state of mind Sebastian might have taken notice that Lau seemed to know Sebastian's profession without being told, but with his brain foggy with longing Sebastian couldn't even have been bothered if Lau had known what color underwear Sebastian was wearing.

He was brought to a bay that had just enough room to fit a divan and a small table. It was candlelit, and if you did not know it was there you would miss it, basically cutting the person in there off from the rest of the room. Sebastian was told to sit down while Ran-Mao went to fetch his order. His entire body was shaking impatiently. His need for a fix was greater than he could have ever imagined.

Installed on the edge of the divan, Sebastian's body could hardly contain its delayed longing. His legs were shaking uncontrollably and he watched with great anticipation while Ran-Mao prepared the pipe with the utmost care and expertise. It was handed to him, and Sebastian accepted it with such care as if he was handed a baby bird. His nose picked up on the pungent scent that made his mouth salivate. When his lips closed around the mouth-piece and he inhaled his first long drag in what seemed ages, his eyes rolled into the back of his head in sheer ecstasy. All the tension seeped away from his stiff limbs and he fell back into the soft cushions of the divan. The entire world around him faded to the background and all his frustration about the robberies seemed nothing more than a pestering nightmare.

"To whom should I make out the tab Sir?"

Sebastian briefly opened his eyes and looked at Ran-Mao. "Make it out to C. Faustus," he replied without thinking twice and rolled his head into his neck, shutting out every worry that had been bothering him since he got back in London.


The next morning he awoke in his own bed, and aside from the slight hangover from all the four glasses of absinthe he had drank last night, Sebastian felt more refreshed than he had felt in quite some time. He took more care in grooming himself, and was not so bothered by his landlord reminding him of the delayed rent he had yet to pay. There was more spring in his step when he walked the usual route to the Yard, and all the unorganized hassle in the main hall flew right by him. It was hard to believe, and probably most embarrassing to acknowledge, how much drugs affected his entire person but he felt to good to give it a second thought.
Mey walked up to him in such a speed that it seemed she was lunging herself at Sebastian. In her hands she held a cup of tea that wobbled dangerously on its saucer, spilling bits of the hot beverage with every step she took.

"Inspector Michaelis, I brought you some tea."

Sebastian and Mey stood still for a moment and looked at the cup in her trembling hands. Mey's cheeks reddened when both saw the little bit of tea that was left at the bottom of the cup. She looked up at Sebastian, her brown eyes big and teary behind her enormous glasses.

"I'm sorry," she stammered, pulling the cup close to her chest.

Sebastian raised an eyebrow at her, and peered down his nose at the shivering girl. He then cracked a handsome smile and took the cup from her hands. "Thank you for the tea Miss Rin", he said, winked at her and gave her a light tap on the bum before opening his office door. His entire happy-go-lucky attitude melted away when he saw Grell sitting at his desk and scanning his notes. The young inspector looked up and gave Sebastian a big old smile.

"Good morning Inspector Michaelis. I hope you don't mind me looking through your things. Chief Inspector Faustus told me to get right into things and where better to start than with your notes. I must say they are impeccable."

"I do mind." Sebastian replied and slammed the door to emphasize his words. "You're sitting in my seat."

Grell jumped up from his chair, and wiped non-existing dust from the seat. "I do apologize Inspector Michaelis," he stepped out of the way to Sebastian pass. "But I might have found something that Inspector Abberline might have missed in his investigation."

"Have you?" Sebastian put his nearly empty cup down and reclined in his seat. And what might that be?"

"Wait a second," Grell bend over the desk and reached for the notes he had placed aside earlier. He pulled a file towards him, opened it and pressed his index finger down on the paper. "This eye witness claimed she had seen nothing out of the ordinary, minutes before the bank was robbed, and she is one of a dozen who have stated the same. Look over here, and here," Grell began to open random files and pointed out the exact same sentence in every testimony.

Sebastian frowned. "Which would suggest that the robbers did not stand out. They are part of the upper class themselves." He looked up at Grell who was just nodding at the conclusion. Sebastian turned his eyes back to the paperwork in front of him. "This means we have to extent our search beyond the metro," he mused as he got up to share this new piece of information with Claude. In his way towards the door Sebastian stopped, turned to Grell and gave him a quick look up and down. "This was very clever detective work Sutcliff, and I believe it is your duty to go up and report this to the chief inspector."

"Really?" Grell gasped.

"Positive," Sebastian said as he opened the door. "I am not one to take credit for the efforts of someone else."

"It was a joined effort," Grell shrugged, "had it not been for your impeccable notes."

Sebastian raised a hand to put an end to Grell's protest and gestured to the opening of the door. "Go," he commanded, "go before I change my mind."

"Yes Sir." Grell lunged towards the door and sped into the main hall. Sebastian shut the door behind him, walked back to his desk and sat down in his chair. He was slightly overwhelmed that the young inspector, who was only fresh from college, had connected those dots before he had, but in light of that situation he was glad he did not have to face Claude at such an early hour. He knew his boss could ruin the good mood he was in within mere seconds.

With the free time he now had at his hands while his young apprentice was reporting the major break through, Sebastian picked up the newspaper Grell had brought with him and took his leisure time to skim through the news. Fast reading through articles about horrible epidemics of a foreign fever the doctors had yet to identify and the upcoming exhibition of the Indian culture at the Crystal palace, his eyes landed on an advertisement greatly displayed on the sixth page. He spread the paper on his desk, smoothed out the creases, pulled some files towards him and studied the testimonies and the advertisement.

Grell came back after about twenty minutes, drenched in sweat and his cheeks red with excitement. Sebastian briefly tore his attention away from the advertisement, held up his empty cup and told Grell he'd like a fresh cup of tea.

"Right on it Sir." Grell took the cup from Sebastian's hands and stood there, as if waiting for further instructions.

After moments of silence and a light clear of the throat from Grell, Sebastian looked up and only arched an eyebrow.

"If you're wondering, the teapot won't magically spring legs and run over to pour me a cup. You're actually required to go and pour it yourself."

Grell produced an awkward short laugh, his cheeks once again completely flustered. "That is not it. Chief Inspector Faustus told me to send you up. He needs to talk to you."

Sebastian groaned, fell back in his chair and rubbed his eyes with his right thumb and forefinger. "That is just bloody perfect. Just when I had hoped to avoid him," he cussed.

Silent moments passed in which Sebastian just reclined in his seat and worked up the appetite to go and face Claude and Grell wondered what he was supposed to do. The latter finally decided, against his own better judgment, to break the silence.

"Sir?" He asked insecure.

Sebastian raised his hand again, instantly silencing Grell. He tore the advertisement from the paper, pushed himself up using the armrests of his chair and walked towards the door. "I'll be back in five. There'd better be a glass of whiskey waiting for me when I get back."

"Pardon me Sir?"

"You heard me," Sebastian replied. "But I'll make due with tea, for now."

Dismissing everyone that accosted Sebastian walked to the marble winding stairs and ran up it taking two steps at a time. At the top his and Hannah's eyes met for a second. She shrugged her shoulders and jerked her head towards the door to her left without saying a word. Sebastian walked up to it, opened it and shut it with more force than intended. It made Claude look up from the forms he was signing.

"Something the matter?" Claude said while he finished his signature and sat back in his chair. "Aside from your apprentice breaking the case wide open?" He punned with a mischievous grin. "Classic case of the student becoming the master, but it only took said student moments to outshine your record of expertise."

Sebastian sank down in one of the chairs opposite Claude. "If I have to be bothered by that I might as well quit my job. Someone has to crack it. It does not matter if it is me, as long as someone does it."

"How very mature of you," Claude retorted. "Now in this light of this new evidence, might you have any idea whom we should be looking at?"

"I have a theory," Sebastian placed the advertisement in front of Claude.

Claude pushed his glasses further up his nose, picked up the paper and turned it over and over. "What am I supposed to see or get from this?"

"There is a circus in town."

"Yes. I was aware of this. Hannah nagged about getting tickets to the show. Do you know how much those go for? And for what? To watch an elephant balance on a small ball and lions jump through fiery hoops. It's absurd."

"My deepest regard and heart go out to you," Sebastian commented sarcastically, "but this was not an invitation for you to nag about your personal life. This so-called band of robbers are infamous for their circus disguises."

Claude's eyes turned to Sebastian over the edgy rim of the paper. "You think they are somehow connected?"

"As a matter of fact I know they are. What your diligent Sutcliff failed to miss was that aside from the thieves blending in, victims had attended a show at Noah's Ark only days before their houses were robbed."

Claude stiffened in his chair, and his gloating expression soon faded. "That is not an ordinary coincidence."

"Indeed," Sebastian agreed. "And that you mentioned that you're already there, you could pay attention to things out of the ordinary besides balancing elephants and jumping lions. Saves me the trouble of getting those pricey tickets. If nothing stands out, it really was a coincidence and we can continue our investigation elsewhere."

"This is very perceptive of you," Claude admitted while he opened a drawer in his desk, "and to reward such ground-breaking perception I think it would only be just for you to go on and investigation any suspicious activities at the circus." Claude placed two tickets to Noah's Ark in front of Sebastian. "Take Sutcliff with you."

"I would not feel right taking those tickets. Especially once that were so pricey," Sebastian lied through his teeth. He could not deny to himself that he would love to go and investigate the circus for himself, but having to take Grell along with him he'd rather live through the entire withdrawal again over taking Grell anywhere.

"No no. I insist." Claude reached into the pocket of his vest to retrieve his watch. "And you'd best get a move on. The show start in just little over an hour."

"Fine," Sebastian growled and snatched the tickets off the table while he stood up. "You do know I am going to have to make you pay for this."

"I wouldn't expect anything else," Claude replied with a sly grin, "have a great night."

Sebastian muttered some insulting words under his breath and left the office, shutting the door with a bang. Hannah looked up from her work, her eyes puzzled at the sudden outburst of aggression. Sebastian did not hesitate one second, sat down on the edge of her desk and told Claude's fiancee how willing and cooperative Claude had been to Sebastian the tickets he himself could not afford. "You're lucky to have managed to get such a gentleman," he lied.

"I know," Hannah muttered, her beautiful face mashed into an angry frown as her eyes turned towards the door that led to Claude's office. "He is such a good person," she added in a monotone voice.

"In fact, why don't you go and tell him right now," Sebastian encouraged. "I'm sure he'd love to hear it."

Hannah shoved her chair back, marched to the office and shut the door with same force Sebastian had done moments earlier. He could hear her voice raised in anger as she cussed at Claude for giving away the tickets that were meant to celebrate their second anniversary. It was music to Sebastian's ears, and he got up and walked down the marble steps with an accomplished smirk.

In his own office Grell perked up the second Sebastian entered and offered him a cup of piping hot tea.

"There is no time for that. Grab your coat," Sebastian said while reaching for his own. "We have a show to catch."


Outside Sebastian halted the first coach he saw, climbed inside and sat down. Grell came in after, first tried to sit next to Sebastian but decided against it when he got a cold glare and sat across from him.

"What show are we catching?"

Sebastian retrieved the ticket from the inside pocket of his coat and handed them to Grell. The latter squealed in delight when he read the calligraphy type of lettering. "I have been dying to go to Noah's Ark," Grell looked up at Sebastian. "And out of all people you decided to take me. That means so much. Thank you," he said in his most sincere voice.

"It was not by choice so don't cream yourself," Sebastian retorted. "Besides, we're not going there to see the show, we are going to investigate."

"Investigate?" Grell's voice went up a tone in surprise. "Why are we going to investigate?"

"Because we're inspectors. That is kind of what we do on a daily basis," Sebastian replied.

"You think Noah's Ark has something to do with the robberies?"

Sebastian exhaled a weary sigh. "No I'm going on a random whim. Of course I think it has something to do with the robberies, why else would I waste my time going to some circus."

"Because they have wild animal shows and fancy colourful costumes. I remember when I was a young lad and my father took me to see my first circus show. I was so impressed with all those beautiful costumes that were layered with sequins that shimmered in the lights," Grell's mind was taken wholly by reminiscences of his childhood.

"Simmer down will you. Save your stories for someone who cares," Sebastian interrupted his thoughts. He pushed a the black velvet curtain that blocked the coach's window aside and saw that they had left the city center and were going down a bumpy dirt road. He sat back, sighed and closed his eyes. Between going to a circus and Grell sharing his most inner thoughts, it was going to be a long night.

After a twenty minute drive the coach came to a stop. Even with another thirty minutes before the show started the grounds around the enormous red and white tent were swamped with eager spectators, rich and poor alike, and all for good reason. The lane that lead towards the entrance of the circus was lined with smaller tents that sold all kinds of food, hosted games and told your future.

"We need to stay focused Sutcliff," Sebastian told an excited Grell, "eyes on the price. We need to find the connection between the robberies and this circus... Sutcliff?" Sebastian looked left and right for Grell, it was like he had vanished into thin air.

"Inspector Michaelis, over here."

Sebastian looked up. Grell was standing by a booth that sold stuffed animals. He grunted while he walked over.

"Aren't these adorable?" Grell cooed while he picked up one of the stuffed animals that had a foul look on its face. "And it is a real bitter rabbit as well."

"Put the rabbit down and act like a real officer of the law Sutcliff. We are here on official business only."

"But I want one," Grell pouted. "I always wanted one."

"Well then feel free to come back here in your own time because right now we have work to do." Sebastian yanked the toy out of Grell's hands and threw it on the pile of other stuffed animals. "I'm hungry. Let's grab a bite to eat before we go in."

Grell followed Sebastian without another word. At a tent further down the lane Sebastian bought two buns that the peculiar looking sales duo called curry buns. They ate them in silence and downed it with lukewarm beer. After Sebastian had gulfed down his food and had dunked the stained napkin in a nearby bucket, he suggested he and Grell go stand in line. "Best check where we're seated," Sebastian said to no one in particular while he retrieved the envelope from his inside pocket. Checking the tickets he could no help but chuckle. "Should've known he'd get seats amongst the posh. Faustus is really licking his way to the top."

"What was that Sir?"

"Nothing." Sebastian shook his head and nodded towards one of the entrances. "I believe we have to enter that way. Don't lose this," he said while handing Grell one of the tickets.

Half of the tent was already filled with families. Exciting looking children with new bought toys and foreign food pointed in every direction, asking their parents what they were looking at. Sebastian excused himself while he and Grell shuffled passed the rich upper class towards their seats halfway down the ring. At last they sank down, Sebastian exhaling a weary sigh and rolled his head into his neck, silently cussing himself out for having shared his theory with Claude and ultimately ending up at the circus himself.

"Would you look at that?" Grell said almost breathless.

"Look at what?" Sebastian straightened his head. "Yes, flashy costumes and sequins. Big childhood memories, I get it. Stop bothering me with it."

"Not that." Grell shook his head and pointed to a point on the other side of the ring. "That. The creator of the bitter rabbit. The sole owner of the Funtom Company. Earl Ciel Phantomhive."

"Who?" Sebastian smacked Grell's finger away and stared at the seats across from him. "Who are you talking about?"

"That man over there, in the smart navy blue suit."

Sebastian's eyes met bright blue ones and his breath hitched in his throat when he recognized the plump lips that had been on his mind every now and then since the second he saw them. "Who is that again?"

"Earl Ciel Phantomhive. Probably the richest man in London, or perhaps even England. He got lucky the robbers had not set their sights on his fortune while they were still burglarizing homes. He probably has the most fancy mansion around.." Grell continued talking but Sebastian had already stopped listening.

"Not burglarized. How very lucky," he hummed to himself. "Too lucky."