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An Understanding

Chapter Text

In the fields of punishment, one demon lay into another with claws of black glass. The lesser shrieked as its tormentor pressed a sharp heel into its chest. It cowered, expecting worse, but it never came. The air around them crackled and sucked the attacking demon off to a summoning.

This demon reappeared in a dark room filled with cells. The whole room reeked of decay and the demon braced itself for a subpar meal. Just its luck that it would be called out to someone whose soul was weakened by self-pity after suffering, or, worse, he’d have to stomach the soul of someone who enjoyed inflicting torture. Those souls always put the demon off; they always left a cottonmouth in their wake. There was one soul, however, that did strike his attention, and, moreover, for the better, it was the one who had summoned him.

The child looked worse for wear, dressed in holey linens which had faded from white to a tie dye of sweat stains and splatters of dried blood. The summoner did stand with good posture reflecting a lifetime, though short, of presence among nobles. The demon took this in before materializing. It settled on a tall, white, male form dressed in a simple black suit, as the demon had seen many upper servants do.

He stepped out of the shadows, guised as an ideal butler, to approach his prey.

“Tonight you have decided to cross the river, by summoning me with great desperation. So, now you have a choice: cross Styx tonight, or, first have your wishes fulfilled by your demon butler.”

The child paused at this, taking in the new arrival.

“Whatever choices come after, the sacrifice you made tonight cannot be rewritten,” the demon continued smoothly. “Now, choose. What do you want more than anything in this world?”

“I,” the child’s voice caught, rough from screaming. “I want vengeance on the people who have done this to me,” the child shouted.

“Demon, I will make a contract with you,” the child spoke unwaveringly, with the utmost authority.

“Where shall our contract be placed? The more visible the body part, the stronger our contract,” the demon leaned against the bars of the child’s cage, eyeing up his next meal.

“Wherever is fine,” his master replied, “I want our contract to be stronger than anyone else’s.”

The demon smiled. That’s right, so driven by ambition you couldn’t care less. So how about this eye that looks at me with such despair?

He leaned in and grabbed the child’s face.

“One more thing, who is this contract between?”

“I am Ciel Phantomhive, heir to the Phantomhive estate.”

“And what would you have me be called?”

The child paused, considering.

“Sebastian.”

The demon gestured and the cage fell away. The butler and his master descended to the underworld to present their contract to the Erinyes.

They stepped up, facing the three overseers of oaths.

“I am Sebastian Michaelis, I will serve under Ciel Phantomhive, head of the Phantomhive house in a quest to obtain revenge.”

Alecto approached the child.

“How have you been wronged?”

“I have had my family taken from me and been forced into a life of servitude and captivity.”

The Erinys tilted her head.

“Is that all, little girl?”

“I am not a girl,” the child shouted, fire springing back into those eyes.

“Then you have one more thing to proclaim being wronged for,” Alecto replied calmly.

Tisiphone stepped forward.

“What happened to your family?”

“There was a fire, though, I suppose they were dead before that,” the child scrunched up their nose in concentration.

“Do you know who killed them,” Tisiphone asked.

“No,” the child answered.

Megaera sauntered down from her chair to stand a few feet in front of the child.

“Do you want your butler’s protection until the day you get your revenge,” She asked.

“Absolutely,” the child responded.

Tisiphone stepped in and bent down to look the child in the eyes.

“Do you want your butler to be able to lie to you?”

“No,” the child answered immediately.

Alecto joined her sister.

“Do you want your butler to obey every order without question?”

“Yes.”

Megaera, too, knelt down.

“Do you want your butler to betray you?”

“Never,” Ciel responded without a doubt.

“Then we three stand as witness to the contract forged today between a demon, Sebastian Michaelis, and his master, Ciel Phantomhive. Sebastian will serve Ciel, protecting and never betraying his master, never lying, and obeying every order unconditionally unless it contradicts with another part of the contract. Once Ciel Phantomhive’s revenge is obtained, Sebastian Michaelis will consume the child’s soul,” the Erinyes spoke all at once. “You may place your mark.”

Sebastian approached Ciel and placed a hand over the child’s eye, their contract seal appearing on the demon’s hand and the master’s eye.

Then the Earth shook, regurgitating her visitors out of the underworld. They emerged on a dirt path separating corn fields.

The child appeared sullen when they returned to daylight, and, like any good butler, Sebastian was attentive.

“Is something wrong, master?”

“Go ahead, ask me,” the child kicked a rock down the path, avoiding eye contact.

“Ask you, what?”

“What the lady with the long black hair meant.”

“She got you to admit you have been wronged by being called a girl,” the demon volunteered, fairly certain this was the subject his master was hinting at.

“She was right, I am not a girl,” his master confirmed.

“So, how would you like me to address you?”

~

Ciel paused at that. No one had ever not immediately jumped to “so you’re a boy.” It was… comforting, the child supposed.

“As far as the other servants know, I am a boy,” Ciel finally settled on.

“Are you a boy,” the demon knelt down to ask.

Looking him in the eye, Ciel responded.

“No.”

Chapter Text

“I know Ciel is a name with female connotation, would you like me to call you something else,” the butler asked.

“No! I’m comfortable in my own skin enough to be the Earl Phantomhive with a girl’s name.”

“Would you prefer—“

“Look, Sebastian, I’m not here to issue a royal decree on my gender. I’m not a girl, and you’ve managed to discover that I am not a boy either; isn’t that enough?”

“Apologies, master, I just want to address you correctly.”

“Enough with the master stuff! God forbid anyone overhears and finds out I’ve got a demon working for me. I’m her majesty’s most trusted informant and I can’t go wrecking that reputation.”

“Of course m—,” Sebastian stopped himself before he could disobey the command, “—y,” he paused again, trying to think of a gender neutral title.

“I’m going to make this real simple for you; I am known as the Earl Phantomhive, and I’d just as soon assume you embrace the masculine aura I’ve asserted.”

“Yes, my… lord,” Sebastian tried out the word on his tongue. Ciel did not seem angered by it, in fact, the child seemed to perk up a bit.

“Good, now that we’ve got that sorted out, let’s be off,” his master commanded.

They looked up at Sebastian as if expecting he could guide the two of them.

“Right, which way,” the demon asked.

Ciel didn’t say anything, but stared off into the distance, thoughtful.

“My lord?”

“I didn’t get out much. I don’t suppose it matters, though. My mansion has burned down. Take me to the Royal Hospital.”

“Master, are you in medical distress,” Sebastian aimed to sound concerned rather than panicked. It was his first day out of hell in a long time, and if his master died before their contract completion, he would fail.

“No, of course not,” Ciel scowled. “My aunt works there. She’ll know where to send me.”

“Right away.”

A command was enough to activate Sebastian’s contract, giving him the distinct urge to walk to the East. That was where his master needed to be in order for their request to be completed, and Sebastian would be a good butler.

“Are we to walk, then,” Ciel asked incredulously.

“Would it not please you to be out underneath the sun with this cool breeze?”

“No, it would not,” they scowled.

“Then, if you please, I will carry you,” Sebastian warned his master before picking them up.

The child huffed, but did not protest. It would have been easy to get to the Royal Hospital in a matter of minutes if the demon took full advantage of his speed, but, as to not scare his master, he kept it at an accelerated walking pace.