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The Countess

Chapter Text

December, 1893

A wedding was imminent. It was her own wedding, the idea of which made happiness flutter deep inside of her. At nineteen, Lizzy Midford was a woman of great and renowned beauty. By most, she was no longer called ‘Lizzy’, though she used to so fervently insist upon it, most opted for a more mature nickname now, though her father still insisted upon the childish nickname, and her brother had settled upon ‘Bess’ as his new preferred name for her (perhaps because she hated it so much). She was thrilled at the prospect of finally being made a bride and fulfilling her duties as the Countess Phantomhive, wife of the Queen’s Watchdog.

Anticipation thrummed against her ribcage all during her family vacation in America. The six month stay in Chicago had been fun and strange and had given her a vision of the world outside of England, which had always left her already vivid curiosity running. She hoped such excursions would be common during her marriage, as she knew Ciel often travelled to unique destinations, and the thought of anything happening to her while she was the Lady Phantomhive gave way to an even deeper yearning. She had thought of this day for far too long not to be caught up in the idea regularly.

Upon her return to England, preparations for the marriage quickly began. The wedding venue was chosen (it was the church in London where she and her family spent each Sunday morning with a guest list ten miles long), the reception would be held at the Midford Estate, and from there they would go immediately to the Phantomhive townhouse. They would stay in the townhouse for only a short time. Usually, one would depart immediately after the wedding to go on their honeymoon, but because the pair was likely to go abroad, a steamer or train with their destination was less likely to be available with that sort of immediacy.

Elizabeth had also not yet decided upon a destination for their trip. She had at first considered some great romantic city like Paris, but the thought occurred to her that her betrothed may prefer some place more exotic. He had friends from India and China, and she knew he had gone to Paris several times in the past/ So she decided she would inquire into his desires during the celebration of his eighteenth birthday. Surely he had some place he wanted to go, and so far she had been the decision maker on all parts of the ceremony, even though the burden of the costs was placed entirely upon her groom. She wanted to find some way to placate his own desires.

Thus, she decided that that night she would ask him, finally, after not having seen him since she left for America in April that year, where they ought spend the first few weeks of their new lives together.

Elizabeth took special care getting dressed on this day. As always, her carefully honed dress conformed perfectly to the popular styles of the day without ever blending in. In fact, her visit to America had leant to many fashion reports in newspapers and magazines concerning what she’d worn on a night out, or during a meeting. She had become quite the fashion icon - a title she certainly deserved. Elizabeth needed help doing up her corset, the boning and thin laces no easier to do up, even if the Royal Worcester claimed they were infinitely more comfortable than other garments of the same type (Elizabeth begged to differ, a corset of any type was a difficult contraption, even if she appreciated it aesthetics and the silhouette it helped to create). Once Paula had helped her accomplish that task, she was on to the more important parts. She tucked a pale pink shirt waist with puffed up leg-of-mutton style sleeves into the matching skirt and tied a silk sash about her slim waist, accentuated by the foam pads at her posterior to sharpen the S-line of her silhouette.

Older as she was, she no longer wore her hair in the pair of pigtails. Instead, her waist-length golden tresses were curled carefully and pinned in a bun by a bejeweled decorative comb. A crown of little curls was styled atop her head, giving the illusion of bangs (though Elizabeth refused to actually cut them in, deciding that fashion changed far too often for that). She missed the massive skirts of her childhood, but decided not to look old fashioned and opted for the more desirable styles of the day, though she secretly wished the style would return. Elizabeth didn’t dwell on her fashion desires and returned her focus on her dress, fastening her dangling pearl earrings powdered her face appropriately.

Finally finished with the arduous task of dressing, she descended her staircase and went to find her father. She found him, predictably, in his study.

“Papa,” Elizabeth smiled. “I’m going to go to Ciel’s now. You said you had a letter for him?”

Alexis looked up from whatever he was so intently focused on to smile at his daughter. Elizabeth had always thought his smile was quite a strange thing. Alexis Midford didn’t have a particularly kind face, his brow heavy and a frown set in his sunned skin seemed to never falter. But when he looked at Elizabeth, the hardness in his features dissipated, and it was such a strange transformation that it always struck her with a sense of familial pride.

“Yes,” He nodded, plucking a thick envelope of an expensive stock from a drawer and handing it to her from where he sat. “Be careful, Lizzy,” He said kindly.

Elizabeth smiled in return, “Always. Where is mama?”

“Check the gardens.”

As suggested, Elizabeth checked the gardens, and sure enough Frances was there. Her attention was on a gardener, keeping a keen eye on them to make sure no harm came to the plants, knowing that with the wintry weather, much of them were hard to read. Since their last gardener had moved away, the Midford’s had had no luck finding a new one with the same eye and skill of the prior. To say Frances was picky was an understatement.

When Elizabeth called out to her mother, the gardener visibly loosened at the loss of her gaze, going about pruning the plants as any with the knowledge of such a thing would. “Mama, I’m off to Ciel’s.” She told her.

“Ah, of course. It’s his birthday, isn’t it?” She said it as if she didn’t know. Elizabeth wasn’t sure when her mother’s distrust of Ciel began, but she chose to look past it.

“Yes, and I’ve planned a dinner. Something simple, since he still refuses to celebrate.”

Frances smiles finally, “Nothing you do is simple. Should we wait up for you?”

“No,” Elizabeth hoped her rising blush didn’t poke through and show on her powdered cheek. She had no deviant ideas planned, but the closer she got to their wedding, the more she found her thoughts edging near dangerous territories. “It will be past dark, but I plan to be back before morning,” Elizabeth promised.

After saying her goodbyes to her mother, Elizabeth called for her carriage and was soon on her way to the Phantomhive manor, Paula at her side as always.

Sebastian had put up with her insistence to decorate the mansion and design the menu for Ciel’s birthday, as he always seemed to. Sebastian greeted her at the door with a low, respectful bow, taking the coat she’d donned to keep out the December chill.

“Thank you, Sebastian,” She smiled sweetly, excitement twinkling in her emerald eyes. “Where is Ciel?”

“In his office,” The butler told her, his voice as measured as ever. “I think he’s hoping you’d forget.”

She laughed earnestly, “I would never!”

“Shall I call for him?” he offered, but Elizabeth held her hand up in dismissal.
“That’s alright, I can go get him.”

When she was younger and so very hyper and easily excitable, she would have vaulted from her spot, running like a bullet towards her intended. But, she insisted on maturity. She had changed since she was a prepubescent girl, and she wore her young adulthood as prettily as one may have thought, though it was perhaps unexpected of her. She walked calmly up the large flight of stairs and through the winding halls of the mansion.

Elizabeth knocked on the heavy door of his office, and at the sound of his voice, she entered.

“Sebastian, is - oh, Elizabeth.” He took her in with a sweeping glance before turning his uncovered eye back towards whatever he held in his gloved hands. “How was your trip,” Ciel asked, clearly trying to ignore the reason she’d come.

Elizabeth was having none of it. “Much too long,” She started walking slowly towards him and rounding the desk.

Ciel looked very much the same as he always had, though now he stood just barely two inches taller than her in heels (which was just tall enough for her to also donn her own heeled shoes instead of her usual flats, though it brought them to almost eye level). He was still thin, though his shoulders were broader, and he wore his hair now combed back away from his forehead in slick waves. But he was still very much Ciel, as he had always been. Still stubborn and curt, and still a complete workaholic. Elizabeth was used to it, and she was finding new ways to wiggle in behind that façade. Elizabeth smiled when she was finally standing before her, pushing aside the paper in his hand with her index finger and stepping close enough so that she was the only thing in his vision.

With a tender kiss to his cheek, she whispered a cheery “Happy birthday,” and much to her surprise, he actually pressed his hand to the small of her back and kept her near him. She denied the blush hotly climbing from the spot that he touched.

“Thank you,” He said somewhat reluctantly and pushed closer so as to capture her lips in a genuine kiss, giving her that which she alone always seemed able to coax from him during things like this - his cooperation.

The kiss had already lasted too long to be appropriate, Elizabeth decided, so she tapped the envelope that she had almost forgotten she’d had in her hand to his chest. He finally released her from his grasp and cleared his throat. The blonde before him Taking the envelope from her, he listened as she began to explain.

“From my father. I don’t know what it is, and I’m not here to find out. I’m here to celebrate,” she took a careful step back from him and clapped her hands together. “So let us get to it!”

Elizabeth hooked her arm in his, bright eyes trained on his always firm face. She led him excitedly back through the halls. In the large dining room, they found Sebastian waiting beside a set dining table. The spread was immaculate, though it wasn’t designed to be as immaculate as an actual dinner party, since it was just the pair of them. She wanted something intimate, something that would be reminiscent of the nights they would spend together.

The butler pulled out their chairs and pushed them in towards the table as he usually did, with Elizabeth sat at Ciel’s right hand. Elizabeth talked all about her trip to the United States, while Ciel listened with his usual look of utter disinterest. Even with that look, he still spurred the conversation on, keeping it firmly off of him. They ate their chicken fricassee while they talked - or, at least, while Elizabeth talked - and sipped at a Claret Sebastian had picked (Elizabeth wasn’t good at wine pairings, though she wished she was).

Suddenly, she stopped, glittering eyes focusing inquisitively on her fiancé. “Oh, Ciel?”

“Hm?” His lone eye settled on her.

“I was wondering, since I planned most of the actual wedding, if you’d like to choose where we went afterwards?”

“Afterwards?” He asked, as if he’d never considered the ‘after’ part (he absolutely had).

Elizabeth laughed at his general cluelessness. “Yes. The honeymoon?”

Ciel’s eye darted from her to Sebastian, who was standing at her left and pouring more wine into her etched wine glass. These particular glasses had been a gift from the queen, the stem braided around a thin strip of gold. Elizabeth followed his gaze up towards the butler, wondering if something on his face had caught Ciel’s attention. Nothing seemed out of place, his eyes closed and his lips curled into that same strange smile. She considered that maybe Ciel was following the custom that only the best man would know of the destination, outside of the bride and groom themselves, but upon realizing that Ciel likely didn’t have a best man - or that the ever present butler was likely to be with them on their honeymoon either way - she denied that thought.

With a furrowed brow, Elizabeth turned again towards Ciel. “Do you not have some place in mind?”

“No, I thought you would want to pick-”

She was fidgeting now, her shoulders moving as she rolled an edge of the tablecloth between her thumb and forefinger. Elizabeth looked at him with pleading eyes, “You’ve been so many more interesting places than me,” she insisted, trying her best not to sound too much like a child, “I thought maybe you’d do a better job choosing a place to go because you’re so much more experienced than me.”

Ciel straightened a little, watching her pout and plead like she did when they were kids and she was having trouble getting her way. Sebastian offered a knowing smile from over her shoulder, and Ciel knew Sebastian would just later assert that ‘she’s right, of course’ and that he ought just choose some place anyways, and so he mulled it over quickly.

Hoping to stifle her growing upset, he offered a suggestion: “What about Venice?”

The romantic in her sprung forward, and her pitiful gaze brightened completely when he spoke. “Venice would be wonderful! I had a friend who went there on her honeymoon,” She smiled brightly, and his own smile - which appeared only slightly disingenuous - appeared in response. “Are you sure? Because if so, I ought begin planning immediately!”
“I’m sure, Elizabeth. Venice would be a nice place to spend our… honeymoon.”

Feeling secure in herself, Elizabeth settled back into her chair, and the soon-to-be-married pair went back to their meal.

After they ate, they went and played a game of chess while Sebastian played them a song on his violin. Elizabeth won, presumably fairly - though Ciel would later insist he allowed her to win - and was soon after walked to the door to be escorted home by Paula before it became so late that any talk of indecency could emerge.

Elizabeth immediately set her mind to the task of designing the itinerary for a perfect Venetian honeymoon.