Actions

Work Header

The Countess

Chapter Text

January, 1894

“Are you excited, Miss?” Paula’s voice, kind and thick with her accent as always, came from behind her.

Elizabeth’s eyes were closed, her face relaxed as Paula carefully worked to style her curls in place, little bejeweled violets and live orange blossoms holding each molded ringlet in place. “Of course I am,” A slow smile spread over Elizabeth’s lovely features. “More than excited,” She felt Paula carefully place her floor-length blonde reseaux veil onto the crown of her head. Then, she felt the pressure of her wedding tiara. She hadn’t seen it yet, but it had been designed specifically to be renowned as the tiara of the Countess of Phantomhive, and Elizabeth knew that when she was finally able to see it, it would fill her and everyone who saw it with awe. The kokoshnik style tiara was heavy on her head, and she knew its foreign design had incorporated sapphire to mirror that which her betrothed famously wore, as well as diamonds and pearls. She’d seen kokoshnik before, and her mother had explained the choice for this style was because she didn’t want to mimic the wedding tiaras of the royal family, since their titles were by gift and not by blood. The Russian style was chosen because of her father’s distant roots. Elizabeth questioned none of it.

“This is the happiest day of my life.”

“It shows,” Paula smiled, though her Lady couldn’t see it. “You’re absolutely glowing. ‘Nd you look every bit a princess.”

“Thank you,” She smiled wider, “I only hope Ciel feels the same as me.”

A thoughtful hum came from her maid. “He’s never seemed very excitable, but he’d have to be blind not to realize what a treasure you are, and how much goodness you’ll bring to him.” Paula had quite a few thoughts on the goodness which the Phantomhive manor very desperately needed, but despite the liberties the maid took with her lady, she never dared speak those thoughts.

“I know that you’re right,” She sighed. “I worry still.”

Paula didn’t chastise her overactive fears again, instead clasping her rivière necklace of matching sapphires around her thin neck and telling her she could finally open her eyes.

When she did, any fear she may have harbored that her seemingly ever-distant betrothed may not lend her his attention even after marriage all disappeared. She realized that she would make the most wonderful lady of the house, no one would be able to deny that. In high society, she would call all attention to her like a modern day Georgiana Spencer.

Elizabeth stood from her place in the French gilt wood vanity chair and looked at herself more fully in the mirror. She’d seen her dress already, but the image of it all together, with her hair done up with the little violets and orange blossoms and her magnificent, dramatic kokoshnik tiara and heavy veil glittering with its pale silk like a gossamer spider web spilling down her back and settling on the floor in a train of no short length. It blended into the silk of her wedding gown almost perfectly.

Her dress had been inspired by their Queen Victoria and the cabinet photo she’d had done some years after her marriage to Albert, though the differences were apparent. Elizabeth had allowed her own tastes, rather than fickle fashion trends, dictate the makeup of her dress. An ornate flower pattern trailed the puffed parisian bustle and lined the collar of the scooped, low collar and the off the shoulder sleeves. A long drop pearl was pinned to just below the collar where a slight ruching of fabric separated this layer from the tight, boned bodice beneath it which was pinned almost seamlessly to the inside of her heavy white skirts. She wore low heels so she would stand even shorter beside of Ciel, though the look was hardly childish since the height of the heel couldn’t be seen beneath the hem of the skirt. She looked angelic, her skin bright and pale and her golden hair a glistening halo about her face, where her ever present cowlick had been matched on the other half and pinned loosely over her ears. The only part of said ears which could be seen were the pearls matching that which was pinned to her bodice.

“I wish I could look like this everyday,” She remarked, running delicate hands over the shining fabric.

“Like a princess?” Paula asked. Paula herself was dressed more fancily than she usually might, but it was more appropriate now. She was essentially being promoted, going from Elizabeth’s caretaker to her Lady’s Maid, a considerably higher position in the house. And thus, Paula herself looked the part of a proper lady.

“Yes,” Elizabeth nodded with a smile.

It wasn’t much longer before she was called down to take the carriage through the early morning city towards the church, and there a layer of her veil was turned to cover her face. The procession of guests was as elaborate as their immense wealth to allow. Almost everyone in attendance had the title of nobility, everyone dressed the part, looking no less fanciful despite the demand for quiet colors and muted looks. Though it was doubtful anyone could have rivaled the bride even if they dressed in their fanciest of gowns. Her parents beamed with pride as they helped their daughter from the carriage they had all ridden in together, and Elizabeth was escorted into the vestibule where bridesmaids, Sebastian, Ciel’s groomsman (who Elizabeth didn’t know well enough to remember the name of), and her groom.

He had in fact noticed her. Everyone had. She was certainly hard to miss, but she was glad he seemed so content to stare at her as he was. He couldn’t see the smile that plucked her cheeks and the hot rush of pink that darkened her skin, but she curtsied in greeting, and Alexis cleared his throat.

With Ciel’s attention back on the parents of the bride, Alexis motioned to the ushers. “Shall we?”

Ciel nodded, offering his bent arm to Frances as the ushers made their way first down the center aisle. The bridesmaids and groomsmen followed, and then Ciel and Frances. Alexis and Elizabeth were last and she glanced shyly about the room, glancing over the faces both familiar and unfamiliar. Elizabeth was never one to be considered shy, but this moment seemed so intimate to be shared with such a massive group of people. But in the same breath, she didn’t mind. This was the most important day of her life. It was the day she’d been working up to since she was a child. The greatest day of her life - she wanted everyone to see. She wanted everyone to remember it.

Alexis left Elizabeth at Ciel’s left, joining her mother at her side. They began to say their vows and Elizabeth feared she was speaking too loudly or too hastily, her excitement getting the best of her. Ciel seemed perfectly indifferent, responding in his usual measured manner. It was all doing a number on her nerves.

Their wedding bands, both eighteen karats of gold, with Elizabeth’s holding a large sapphire surrounded by diamonds, were given to them by Elizabeth’s cousin on her father’s side. The couple carefully placed them on the others ring finger, and just like that, they were married.

They were taken to sign their names in the parish registry, and then the couple was hounded by friends and family that wanted to say their congratulations.

Calmness didn’t come until the bride and groom, along with Sebastian and Paula, were shoved into their carriages to be taken to the Midford Manor for the reception. Once in the safe quiet of the carriage, Elizabeth had Paula turn over the part of the veil that had hidden her face from the guests, carefully repositioning her kokoshnik atop her head.

“You look lovely,” Ciel finally said, their forms being jostled gently as they were driven through London.

This time, she knew he could plainly see the blush bloom across her neck and cheeks.

“Thank you,” She smiled brightly, “So do you - handsome, I mean!” she corrected quickly, holding her hands up and laughing a little as she rectified her wording. He’d always chastised her for calling him ‘cute’ so now she shied away from anything diminutive (when she remembered, anyways).

He offered his own thin smile, a stifled laugh just barely audible. “Yes, yes… So, when do we go to Venice?”

“On Thursday, we’ll take a train from London. It should only take a few days, and we’ll be there by Monday.”

“Good…” He nodded.

Feeling the impending silence which would descend on the car - likely for the rest of the ride of Elizabeth didn’t stop it - she turned her gaze upon the ever present butler.

“Might I ask you a question, Sebastian?” She asked, voice quieter when she spoke to him than when she spoke to Ciel. He always made her nervous, even though she knew she could hold her own against him if need be. They’d fought when she was a child, and she’d only grown more talented in her arts since.

“Any time that you please, Lady Phantomhive,” He bowed his head, his smile as sharp and unsettling as ever.

Her stomach fluttered and her heart did somersaults when she heard her new name so casually.

“I was wondering if you would help me spar while we are in Italy? I doubt I’ll have access to any of the clubs.”

“Of course,” He assured her. “If it’s what you want?”

A nod, “It is.”

 

Once at the Midford Manor, the breakfast and reception went as they do. Elizabeth talked to everyone, complimenting her friends and families and dodging their playful questions about the destination of her bridal tour. None of them actually expected the answer, but they all nudged her and teased as family does. A few of her female friends expressed their jealousy, noting how handsome Ciel had become, and she nodded and took their compliments happily. He was handsomer than he had been in his youth, but he was still very much Ciel.

During the reception, he chatted with the businessmen in her family, talking business, making plans, doing her cousins and her cousins husbands favors. He did all the things that Ciel does, and when she spoke to him, it was much the same. He listened with what seemed like the patience of a saint without ever really saying much in turn, and she babbled on happily in fear of a silence befalling them that she didn’t quite want to deal with. Every once in a while he would offer her a caress to her back or his knuckles would brush hers, and she would smile and stick close and let her fingers slide over the fabric of his sleeve, but their attentions were otherwise elsewhere.

So, when they finally made it to the Phantomhive townhouse and Elizabeth was swept away by Paula to dress out of her wedding ensemble, she wasn't entirely surprised that Ciel stayed downstairs with his butler.

“Are you nervous, Milady?” Paula asked, untying her skirts as she began to undress Elizabeth for her.

“Nervous?” She asked, helping Paula with the ties and buttons.

“Yes – about consummation.” Her maid whispered the last part, cheeks pinkened.

“O-oh, um, no, of course not.” She was and it could be heard in her voice. A million thoughts crossed her mind, many she’d contemplated before. What if she didn’t please him? Or he didn’t please her? What if it really did hurt, as Mama had warned?

“You aren’t?” A thought crossed Paula’s pretty features and she gasped, “The pair of you haven’t already-”

Elizabeth quickly cut her off, “No! Of course not. I just don’t think I should be worried,” She tried to convince herself. “Ciel is kind-“ Paula’s lifted eyebrow made her add, “To me, I don’t think he would be…” Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Ungentle.”

Finally stripped, Paula asked. “Shall I fetch him, then?”

Elizabeth shook her head, her still-pinned hair flouncing around her. “He’ll come if he wishes. I’ll redress and take down my hair. You should ask Sebastian where your quarters will be here.”

Her maid nodded, giving her a reassuring smile before slipping from her room.

Alone, Elizabeth looked about her, going to one of the trunks that had been brought earlier and rifled through it for one of her gauzy muslin gowns and slipped inside before sitting in front of the vanity that had likely been moved in for her. She wet a thin cloth and used it to wipe the powder from her cheeks and brow before setting to work unpinning her golden curls.

As her hair came undone, the shiny ringlets framing her face, she felt her nerves twitching in her stomach. Paula had tried to comfort her before, and surely Paula - the great beauty she was - had experience with these things? She was not entirely naive, though she may often act and look the part. Perhaps, Elizabeth thought, she should have taken Paula’s advice. But the thought of her having any advice to give Ciel - who was surely just as inexperienced as she - and she was too embarrassed, afraid he would think her improper. The knowledge she did have would have to suffice.

She moved away from the mirror, a shaky breath revealing her thoughts to the silence of the bedroom. She wondered where her husband was, why he had yet to join her, and hoped he had not made plans outside of her. Maybe he was having a similar conversation with Sebastian as she’d had with Paula. She hoped he had accepted the advice. If that meant he would lead her, and she wouldn’t have to fumble in the dark, she’d be thankful he’d endured the awkward conversation.

A rap at the door drew her from her thoughts, and she jumped a little. Her hands fidgeting with each other at her hip, she paused, considering whether she should pull her housecoat over her exposed form. Figuring she needed to get used to being exposed like this, she finally spoke up.

“Enter.”