Chapter 1: Introduction
There was a time when Ciel Phantomhive would smile freely and often; A time that seemed like it had not been long ago, just a few yesterday's away. This leisurely childhood was cut unfairly short, and the time that followed until present was less than desirable, an incredible time of horrendous heartbreak and tales of woe from a child who knew tragedy before he knew his own strengths and weaknesses. The times of carefree, blissful strolls along what once stood of his family home would be ripped away from him like a toddler, jerked away for lingering too close to a fire. In truth, Ciel Phantomhive was not ashamed of his dreary past, just conservative with the information. Instead, after a long period of mourning the loss of his former self, a young boy who died along with his parents before even tasting what life had to offer, he grew to learn what it meant to mature.
As sully as he may be, maturity wasn’t something he lacked, nor did he have an abundance of this quality either. Throughout his teenage years, and still, a flutter of the innocence swam deep in his heart and what was left as the remnants of his soul; the innocence and hope that were so close he could brush his delicate fingertips over them, but never fully grasp before they were plunged into darkness, only faint speck visible to him after. Yet, his fingertips would stay coated with the residue of that light, and it would carry him through. He would never fall victim to another hand or allow himself to be vulnerable as he was.
Thick, curled lashes fluttered slowly at the soft mention of his name, and Ciel shifted beneath the quilt. Ciel sat up with a whip, looking over at the digital alarm clock and wincing. He recognized the soft voice and opened his eye carefully, greeted by the familiar sight of Mey-Rin's unmistakable bright burgundy pigtails. He reached his nightstand and fumbled to grab the silky black patch that would cover his other eye, tying it attentively and fluffing his hair over the strings.
“Mm. ‘Morning.” Ciel mumbled in response to his roommate, pulling the quilt up against his chest and sighing.
Mey-Rin was cheery, as per usual, even though it was an early seven in the morning. Ciel couldn’t have asked for a better roommate, however. Routinely, Ciel would set his alarm, every night. That didn’t stop Mey from waking him up a few minutes before it went off. According to her, the sound was too harsh and could really cause a bitter mood upon waking.
The two of them had met not shortly after Ciel had made the move to the States, and as much as Ciel wouldn’t have minded the privacy of living alone, as he could undoubtedly afford it considering the inheritance from his late parents, he had promised his Aunt that if he was going to be so far away he wouldn’t live alone. He would need some sort of social interactions, she had insisted, and if he was so determined to have this fresh start, he would need to fill it with fresh people as well. He had agreed, if not only to ease her worries but held his word.
“I made french toast.” Mey-Rin interrupted his groggy haze, and he rubbed his eyes as he moved to the edge of the plush bed. He slid his feet into the slippers at his bedside, nodding.
“I’ll be there, just a second.” He gave a weak smile, holding the quilt tight against him. As he dressed in his loungewear, he traced the burn scars along his left shoulder and down to his thigh, but shook his head at himself and hurriedly clothed himself after.
Breakfast was uneventful, the two of them eating in the TV room, as per routine. Their situation worked well, because Mey-Rin didn’t pull, and Ciel didn’t push. There was never a doubt in his mind that he could open up to her, and trust her, but somehow, he couldn’t bring himself to open up to anyone at that point.
The TV played the local news station in the background as Ciel finished his tea, a small sigh emitting from his lips.
“I have to get dressed for work now.” He spoke quietly, but confidently as usual.
The inheritance he received would only carry him so far, and even if he could live comfortably off it if he was wise, he enjoyed the finer taste in certain things. Not anything quite as drastic as his aunt, but nonetheless, a bit of luxury was always in his lifestyle... and he enjoyed that lifestyle, humbly.
His day job was less than eventful, which was just his speed. Data entry was simple, intellectually stimulating, but not unpredictable, and he didn’t have to sit in a cubicle all day either. He worked from home, comfortably in the small office just off the kitchen in his small but cozy lakeside estate. He prided himself on dressing well, even if he wasn’t in a professional environment, he wanted to make sure he still took care of himself. Dressing the part was included. Ciel lived a normal, boring life, and that was all he ever wanted.
After the Phantomhive family tragedy, Ciel was to inherit the business of his father, and his grandfather before that. He was much too young at the time, so the business was temporarily handled by the previous Phantomhive butler and his Aunt. Upon reaching a more mature age, he was determined to leave everything he had tried to recover from behind him, and in turn, fully passed the company over to his Aunt. He had relocated to the upstate of New York, just on the lakes. It was peaceful, but when the rare occasion came in which he wanted to go out, there were plenty of cities to visit within an hour or two at most. He didn’t quite mind the drive since it wasn’t an often occurrence.
After a long day of work, Ciel made his way into the modern styled kitchen, pinching the bridge of his nose. With a small sigh, he began to prepare himself a cup of tea and sat on the couch, switching on the TV. Truthfully, he was glad for Mey-Rin, and when she was at work, the house could become quite lonesome.
“One night only, experience a show like you’ve never seen before...” The announcer boomed on the TV, and the force behind his voice caused Ciel to jump a bit as he sipped his tea.
Images of a big, red and white topped tent flashed on the screen, among other circus-related imagery. Ciel scoffed.
“This is not a circus, but an exhibition of the inexplicably exquisite.” The announcer continued, and Ciel raised an eyebrow, but focused on the screen, intrigued. “Tonight at midnight...”
More imagery would flash across the screen as Ciel checked his phone, but his eyes snapped back up at the sound of a voice that could only be described as dripping in honey.
“We look forward to seeing you at Lady Blanc’s Exquisite Oddities, if you please...” Ciel caught a glance of the bright, red eyes fluttering shut on screen before the TV cut to an address, and he quickly snapped a photo of the screen just before some awkward commercial for the newest prescription medication. He furrowed his brow, staring at his phone.
There was no way he would convince Mey to tag along, considering it was a midnight... show? He shook his head to himself and checked the time again. Currently, it was only seven, so he had time to think.
After a light dinner, Ciel found himself staring into his dismally colored closet, debating himself mentally. After a moment of standing around, he decided he could always leave if it was too much, and nobody was forcing him to go.
He peeked outside before throwing on a loose, soft grey sweater, tucking a bit of the front into the tight black jeans he had slid on, buckling his belt after. He laced up the clunky boots he’d come to love the style of, making his way to the vanity and fluffing his hair around and peering at himself. He sighed again, leaning against the minimalistic white countertop.
“What are you doing, Ciel?” He scoffed with a laugh at himself but inevitably grabbed his car keys and wallet, tucking it into his pocket.
Something about that voice... no, the whole commercial, he convinced himself, wouldn’t leave his mind. The curiosity swirled in his brain, and regardless of how silly it seemed, he had to know what he would miss if he just... didn’t show.
Upon arriving at the address, there were several cars lined up already, but it wasn’t an overwhelming amount of patronage from the look of it. The venue itself wasn’t much of anything but a gravel lined field with the tent pitched.
Ciel made his way down the strangely empty pathway, furrowing his brows. There were no decorations or murals, nothing around the small entryway he saw. Regardless, he made his way through and was met with the roar of the machinery that must have been generators running for lighting and such, and for a moment a wave of confusion fell over him.
“Excuse me.” A voice like warm milk and honey. He shivered, glancing around out of his bright blue eye. “You seem to be lost. The audience entrance is on the opposite side of the tent.”
Ciel took a couple of steps back, the faint silhouette of a tall, limber figure defined through another curtain on the left.
“Oh- I- sorry.” He managed before backtracking his way out and speed walking towards the other side of the tent. He paused and leaned against a tree for a moment, taking shaky breaths until he was calm again before continuing normally to the actual entrance.
A small, blonde-headed boy with bright blue eyes gazed back at him from the ticket podium, lifting a skeletal hand palm up.
“Admission is twenty.” He said snarkily, and Ciel raised an eyebrow put pulled out his wallet, forking over the cash.
Ciel wandered through the curtain, one hand gripping the elbow of the opposite arm as he shuffled to find a seat. He ended up in the first row a bit to the right, staring down at the circular pit at the center of the tent in wait.
The lights began to lower, and Ciel bit his lip nervously. From the back, that same, dark, slender silhouette emerged, sauntering slowly towards the center of the ring, baton in hand. The band began to play a cheery, but discordant song, the Bally Girls emerging behind the ring leader, singing harmonies in their 20’s flapper reminiscent outfits. Ciel squinted a bit, eyes focusing. He could make out the long, black coat draping down around slender legs, and a gloved hand slid it’s thumb and index finger across the brim of the man's top hat that blocked his face as he stepped into the spotlight.
“Ladies...” The man spoke, and Ciel felt the same shiver up his spine as before. “...and gentleman...” The man tilted his head back, his bright eyes reflecting as they locked with Ciel’s, his plush lips falling apart in astonishment.
He’s looking right at me, Ciel thought, not able to pull his eyes away as they locked onto the crimson glow of the eyes that stared right back at him, scanning him deliberately before giving a wink.
“Welcome... to Lady Blanc’s.” His honey dripped voice boomed, arms thrusting out at his sides, baton outstretched.
Chapter 2: The Greatest Show Unearthed
The show begins.
"If there's nothing in the darkness, then why do you lie awake? Something in the shadows is keeping you from sleep... What are you afraid of?"
- please note, all chapters are written in third person limited point of view, but each chapter will vary between Ciel and Sebastian. -
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Excuse me.” Sebastian peered out from the shadow the curtain had cast on him, his almost fluorescent eyes scanning the small, frail boy that appeared through the back yard door of the tent. “You seem to be lost. The audience entrance is on the opposite side of the tent.”
Sebastian watched the stuttering boy practically falling over his own limbs as he stumbled out of the tent. A wicked smile curled onto his lips, his gloved thumb brushing over his chin. What an interesting little bird, Sebastian pondered, taking note of the eyepatch the young man had adorned. An oddity, maybe?
The tall man disappeared back into his dressing room, certain tonight's showing would be... spectacular. He sat at the half-broken, antique vanity, sinking into the leather chair. Humming lightly for a while, he eventually stood up and began to dress for the show. First with his crisp, black trousers, then the bright white undershirt. He pulled the vinyl red vest around his cinched waist, tugging the zipper up with one swift motion before adjusting his collar and tie.
His eyes swam over to the coat rack, a sincere but devilish smile curling its way onto glossed lips. For shine, Grell had told him.
He slid on his perfectly sized tailcoat, white-gloved hands tracing over the red embellishments and threading. With a flip of his top hat and a swipe of his baton, he heard the bell that signaled the five minute mark and took his leave to backstage.
"Ladies... and... gentleman..." Sebastian's curled lips peered from below the brim of his eccentric top hat, his eyes quickly locking onto his bird from earlier, watching the bluenette headed boy's eyes lock back on his. He seemed to jump out of his skin, and Sebastian gave a wink at that, glancing him up and down in the stands like prey before moving on.
"Boys and ghouls..." He flashed pearly white teeth at the crowd as he spun to view them all, tapping his foot and glancing over at the band, who nodded as they began to play. His flapper-esque Bally Girls sauntered out behind him, their pearl skirts twisting and swaying as they began harmonies to complement the band. His eyes drifted back to Ciel, then away again.
"Step right up! Behind our curtain lies a ghastly concoction of.." He let a pause linger through the air, as several more Bally Girls and some scantily clad, corset and thigh boot wearing men wheeled out velvet sheet covered cages around the circular pit.
"Delight!" With the jerk of the wrist from Grell, Sebatian's eccentric crewmate, the velvet sheet was ripped away from the first cage. A frail framed, pale boy with wolf-like ears let out a howl from behind the caged bars, snapping happily for show and wagging the silvery tail that sprung from his back. His cage hung a banner that read Pluto the Wolf-Boy.
"Horror!" Sebastian lunged towards the crowd, scanning the edge of his baton along the faces looking back at the pit. The second sheet was removed, revealing a pale, almost grey young man, wearing nothing but what seemed to be a leather bodysuit. His limbs and extremities were consecutively covered in many staples and stitches, and he flipped his long, silvery locks to the side, holding his pale hand through the bars and waving at guests. The Undertaker.
"Fantasy and terror!" A young, yellow haired boy Sebastian had come to know as Finn, grinned as he carried the trapeze artists in, the two of them standing on the wooden platform he held with just one arm, back to back. The platform was draped with their names, Leather and Lacey.
"Your every wish is our command, your every whimsical desire brought to life!" Sebastian raised both arms at his side, hoisting out his baton, eyes flashing towards the particular boy who for some reason, couldn't seem to leave his mind. He decided he didn't have time to ponder that now, the music beginning to pick up from the band.
"This is... The Greatest Show Unearthed!"
More acts and oddities filed in, the opening number beginning with the bustling music, cage doors swinging open as their inhabitants spilled out to join the rest of the dancing crew.
Sebastian felt an unfamiliar pang of nervousness as he parted his lips to sing, keeping an eye on the gawking blue-haired boy watching. He took a deep breath, parting his lips to sing and shaking away his sudden nerves.
"The dark carnival is in town,
You better be ready...
Just follow the parade,
Of dancing skeletons!
Full of ghoulish delights,
Around every corner."
The singing continued, and the amused look on Sebastian's newfound bluejay was enough to push him forward into the performance with a sinful grin.
The other crew members picked up the chorus along with Sebastian, causing him to smile wider, glossed lips twinkling in the spotlights.
"Welcome to the lower birth,
The Greatest Show Unearthed!
We appear without a sound,
The darkest show around!
We will leave you in a daze,
madness, murder, dismay.
We will disappear at night,
With blood on the concrete."
Sebastian watched as the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy, Alois, from the ticket booth sprang along in his blue tailcoat, flashing a smile and holding onto Sebastian's baton as he held it over his head, doing a twirl and pulling himself up, kicking his legs into the air.
"I will be your ticket taker,
Come inside, it's a dream!
Enter the fun house of mirrors,
No one can hear you scream."
Alois winked at the crowd and continued.
"We can supply anything,
That your heart desires.
But the consequences,
Will surely be dire..."
The chorus picked back up, the choreographed dance coming seemingly natural to all Sebastian's crewmates. He scanned the crowd as he joined Alois for their paired dance, the other acts pairing up and repeating their actions behind the two of them. He continued to eye his true bird, however, and couldn't help but allow his mind to imagine this dance was shared with the bluenette watching. He would have to... arrange a meeting between them once more, he smirked to himself as he split from Alois, who moved to join the others. Sebastian took his place in front.
"Come inside for the ride,
Your deepest, darkest fears..."
He scanned the audience again before raising his baton, pointing it directly at Ciel.
"The best night of your life,
You're never leaving here..."
He let a smirk spread his lips again, but continued with the final chorus of the song for the big finish, baton pointing straight in the air.
for future reference, many elements of this story will be inspired by the band Creature Feature and their songs.
Chapter 3: Bound and Gagged
Ciel couldn't help but feel singled out by the handsome ringmaster, watching with an enthused but skeptical eye. The show continued, with several acts, but all of them had a dark twist. The redhead, Grell as he had been introduced, showed off his Lions. The trapeze girls, Leather and Lacey had performed, and quite marvelously, in Ciel's opinion. He was impressed, and as the wolf boy and other acts finished up, the final song was performed.
Ciel couldn't keep his eyes off the ringleader, as much as he tried. And it seemed the tall, dark-haired man was watching him too... He brushed thin fingers over the silky patch covering his eye, pressing his lips together tightly.
Ciel's life was less than eventful since he'd settled down, and put his past behind him. It gave him a lot to think about, and sometimes he wondered if that was the best thing for him. He wondered and imagined what it would be like to travel, to perform. As shy as he seemed to be, he could fantasize, right? What would it be like, he wondered, to have a group so large with you always? To bond? To grow? To feel... important again? He shook his head at himself and glanced around, the show's patrons beginning to spread out as they took their leave. He sat still.
Eventually, when the last few people were remaining, he stood, brushing his sweater down. Making his way down the bleacher steps, he scanned the visible area of the tent. He wasn't sure what he was hoping for exactly.. to see him again? He didn't even know his name. He scoffed silently at himself and stood in the almost deserted tent, finally giving up his hopes and making his way towards the exit behind the last leaving members of the audience.
Before Ciel could properly understand what was happening, a gloved hand was wrapping over his eye and mouth, tugging him back into the curtained path behind the ticket podium.
Ciel struggled heavily, kicking his feet and mouthing curses and protest against the fabric that pressed into his lips. Regardless of his struggling, his captor was strong.
He felt his body be pushed into a chair, and then more fabric snake around his ankles, assuming they'd be tied to the cold metal his Achilles heel pressed against. More hands slid between the chair and his back, roughly grabbing his wrists and bounding those, too.
He shuddered obviously, his noises of protest quieting slightly. It was him. Ciel still shifted his ankles in their ties, letting soft squeaks of protest continue to muffle into the glove. He heard footsteps away, and the gloves were lifted from his pale, flushed face. He saw the blonde-headed ticket boy scamper away, followed by the ring leader circling to his front and holding a gloved finger to his lips.
"Remember, Alois." He shhed him, winking. Alois nodded, tying the curtain shut as he left.
Chapter 4: Spill Your Guts
Sebastian disappeared behind the backstage curtains after the show, eyes scanning his crewmates until he spotted the familiar blonde hair bouncing around. He made his way over to Alois, tapping his shoulder as he towered over him.
"Alois." He beckoned softly, giving a warm smile and kneeling a bit. "I need your help catching a bird. He might try to fly away from me, but I need to you help secure him. Do you think you might help with that?" He patted the boy's shoulder, who nodded and gave a grin.
"Okay. Good. I'll meet you in my dressing room, yes?" Another nod from the small boy, and Sebastian was off to watch his bird from the curtains.
He seemed to wait a while for others to clear, and Sebastian's firey eyes scanned his dainty face. A rare bird indeed.
"Remember, Alois." Sebastian smiled softly as he held his finger to his lips with a shhh.
Sebastian then turned to the bluenette boy in his leather chair. He watched his face, took in the redness that looked almost looked airbrushed against his cheeks, down to his plush lips, button nose... He sat on the stool in front of him, his teeth clamping on the tip of his gloved middle finger to remove the fabric. He reached the hand out, brushing his thumb over the soft, warm skin of Ciel's cheek, watching his lips part and listening to his small, "W-wha-?", the shock on his face almost enough to make Sebastian weep.
Sebastian took his glove, slid his thumb between Ciel's lips and forced them apart, placing the glove into his mouth. He was gentle, incredibly, and made sure not to press it in too far. He stared him down, taking in the way his sweater slid off one shoulder from the struggle. He smiled again, lost in thought.
When he came to, his eyes were met with a face of shock, and horror from the Bird before him. He sighed with a small chuckle, pulling the glove from his mouth and watched the string of spit that came with it. Delightful.
"What is your name, birdie?" He cooed in his honeyed voice, eyes scanning his face. He seemed to settle a bit more, and Sebastian watched him glace around with a nervous look before taking a deep breath.
"Ciel." The small boy quipped, "And if you wanted to speak to me, you could have asked. But you seem to have other ideas." He shook his ankles in the fabric restraints. Sebastian smirked slightly at his sass and composure, raising an eyebrow.
"But that would be so much less fun, don't you think?" Sebastian responded, moving closer to him. He knew that Ciel hadn't played his games before, and probably didn't want to. But that was part of it, for him. What he didn't expect, though, was for Ciel to crack a small, challenging smile back at him and lean forward, eye narrowing.
"I suppose not." He nearly whispered, eyeing the man just as he'd done before. Sebastian felt the pang of nervousness from earlier, sitting up a bit as Ciel spoke again.
"And who might you be?" Ciel furrowed his delicate skin as his brows pinched together, blinking a few times to focus his eyes.
Sebastian pulled back on his glove, glancing up at him again. "Sebastian."
He leaned forward towards Ciel, fingertips brushing over his silky eyepatch. The frail boy flinched but stared back defiantly. Sebastian decidedly liked Ciel's brattiness. He slid one finger under the string of the patch, tugging it up and over his head, watching his blue hair fall back down and frame his petite face. Ciel held his eye shut, still staring up with the bright blue one, although his expression softened a bit.
"You don't want to see."
"I do." Sebastian replied lowly, holding Ciel's face up with his thumb and pointer finger. "Show me, bird."
Ciel shuddered again, and Sebastian felt his heart twitch as Ciel's lid fluttered open. Sebastian's lips fell apart slightly in awe, his eyes making their way over to observe the swirled, milky white iris and faded pupil that Ciel had hidden beneath his lid.
"Are you happy now?" Ciel mouthed brattily, and Sebastian gripped his cheeks, giving his head a shake and pressing his fingertips in.
"You're a beautiful little bird, no?"
He watched as Ciel's blush returned to his cheeks, clicking his tongue.
"What will I do with you, bird?" Sebastian cooed, holding his face firmly.
Ciel leaned into his hand, and Sebastian knew he wasn't scared. He clicked his tongue again.
"What will you do... Sebastian? Will you keep me caged or let me fly?" The boy snarked.
Sebastian knew he would have fun with this new pet.