Even for the Earl Phantomhive, there comes a time when too much has piled up. The young master cannot stop thinking about it. He did what had to be done, to bring a dead woman broken and suffering a scarlet dress - her favorite color. Her passions, however misplaced, were admirable. The color red was simply the best to fit her. To bury her in white would have been monstrous. That woman, that poor mad woman, had suffered enough. One cannot in death strip all that a person had in life away. It would be wrong.
The petals of glorious roses fell around, drifting through the air. If such a thing does exist, then his poor Madam Red's heaven will be full of roses. The scent of them will be in the air constantly. Her gardens will forever bloom and she will have a butler beside her who is not so impotent as that bastard Grell.
His teeth grit now. A blue eye narrows, the other more brightly colored one doing so in kind. His rage is growing more and more, his anger. Nobleman, that is what he is. But how can he dare to call himself noble after all he failed to prevent, after the choices he made to bring Jack the Ripper to an end. Those corruptions he took on in order to survive.
There was first Druitt and while enjoyable the injuries suffered during that game were more than the Earl Phantomhive wished them to be - and the disgust of his butler still bothers him. And then, as if a slap in the face was what the universe had planned, the woman died.
Mary Jane Kelly. No family in the country to claim her. A solitary headstone now stands as a testament to a woman who no longer lives, no decoration upon the stone save her name and date of birth - and date of death. It is wholly unfair. It would have been noble to save her. There is no nobility in burying a corpse that he feels partially responsible for.
No, that is not an act of nobility.
It is an act of someone who feels guilty.
It is a small attempt to make up for the ultimate failure in a way that will never in fact make it better.
Perhaps her heaven will be full of roses as well. Perhaps she will forgive Madam red beyond, as others might, seeing her madness and suffering splattered on the pavement in her favorite color.
As if the failure to save Mary wasn't enough, his Aunt could not be saved. That monstrous Grell, the reaper with his mechanized scythe, cleaving her open. Her memories spilled forth into the air. The isolation, the loneliness, all laid bare. All transgressions freely viewed showed the depths she had sunk to alone, with no one beside her but a being who claimed divinity while being worse than a demon itself.
Ciel slams his fist down on his desk hard enough to knock a few things off onto the floor. Enraged, he does it again, and again, and again until the pain is almost more than he can bear.
"Young master!" Sebastian says, shocked. "Please, don't do that. You'll hurt yourself!"
"What if I want to!?" Ciel demands, rising so quickly his chair is sent toppling backwards. He squares off with his butler, eyes full of burning rage and self loathing. He stares up at the butler, panting with the intensity of his emotions. "I deserve this agony!"
"My young lord, why? What is this?"
"I am a failure!" Ciel roars, turning aside and sweeping everything off of his desk. "I could not save her! I could not save Madam Red! Nor could I save Mary! I could not even stop that bastard Grell! I cannot take this!"
"Master," Sebastian says, face showing something the young lord has never seen before so clearly. Shock, and emotion. Sadness, even. "You must calm down. You are not thinking rationally."
Ciel fumes, watching the butler kneel and spread is arms as if to bring the young lord close in a hug. Instead, Ciel hauls back and slaps him as hard as he can.
Sebastian's face does not register even a hint of anger, nor does he feel any. This is a human emotion, shocking and uncommon in demons such as himself. He feels genuine fear for his young master, and a startling desire to comfort the boy.
"You dare to tell me what I must do!?" Ciel shouts, standing there, hand raised. His pain is so very apparent it is audible in his voice. His eyes are old with suffering and experience. His lips tremble with the fragility of his current emotional state.
"Young Master," Sebastian nearly whispers, looking to the Earl. They meet eyes, and Ciel takes a step back, hand falling. "Please, if you must hit me then do so, but calm down. I beseech you, look at yourself. Look at how you are acting. This is not the behavior of the Earl Phantomhive. You are better than this."
For a long moment, there is silence. Ciel just stares, not moving, barely breathing. His faithful butler remains silent, unsure what to say, a red mark on his cheek from the forceful slap.
"I… I can't… I-I…" Ciel stammers, dropping to his knees. His eyes are squeezed shut then. Tears run down his cheeks, dripping onto his unbuttoned shirt. At the moment, the young master appears as disheveled as he ever has. His hair is a mess, his clothing rumpled.
Sebastian crawls to him, pulling him close.
"Cry, my young lord. Just cry," Sebastian tells him softly.
The young lord begins to shake with the force of his sobs. Ciel suppresses the sounds, still trying to keep control as he wraps his arms as much as he can around the butler. Sebastian holds firm, gently rubbing his young lord's back.
"It's not fair! Sebastian, it's not f-fair!" Ciel half shouts, showing his age for once. "It's not what I wanted! None of what happened was what I wanted to h-happen!"
"I know, my young lord. I know. Let it out," Sebastian murmurs. "Scream if you must. Let it all out. Do not suppress those sounds and cries you wish to make."
Ciel sobs now, loud and hard, like he hasn't in a long time. Every emotion bottled up and suppressed is let out in a torrent. Sebastian is as patient as can be, letting the young lord express what he wishes. All the butler is in this moment is the parent the Earl no longer has. He is the comfort, the strength for his suffering superior. In this moment, he is surprisingly okay with that.
After a few long minutes of the agony expressed, Ciel pushes away and drops onto all fours, letting out a cry of anguish that makes the butler's spine feel oddly cold. It's such an animal sound, like a wounded canine. He crawls over and drags his young lord close again.
"It's going to be okay, my master. I promise you, it's going to be okay," Sebastian tells him, feeling an uncomfortable urgency to make that fact very clear.
"How is it going to be okay? You're going to leave me! E-Everyone leaves me!" Ciel sobs, clinging to him. "I order you not to leave me like they did! I order you, Sebastian! Never leave me like they did! Like my mother, my father… Like Madam Red!"
"I will never leave you, my master. I will be by your side until the bitter, ugly end. That much I can promise you. I will never, ever leave your side. I cannot, I will not… I would not want to," Sebastian replies firmly. He pulls his young master back, presses his hands on both sides of his face. "My young lord, I am yours until the very end. Please, believe me."
"You'd better n-not. I need you. Sebastian, I need you," Ciel sobs, holding tight. For long minutes, they remain there on their knees as the young lord gradually calms. Without a word, Sebastian scoops the young lord's slender form and rises. Ciel clings to him, face buried in his firm chest, as he walks to the door of the office and opens it, stepping into the hall. All four of the staff are standing there, looking nervously at the pair, drawn by the cry of agony.
Sebastian peers at them, and in his gaze a clear message.
Do not say a word, do not question the young master about this.
With his silent orders given, he walks onward, leaving them to stand there worrying.
Mere moments later, the pair enters the master's bedroom.
"My lord, may I dress you for sleep?"
"I don't want… I just want to rest. Please, just… strip me down and let me rest," Ciel murmurs, still sniffling.
Sebastian lays the young lord in his bed and works his clothing off piece by piece with gentleness never before shown. His young master watches him with reddened eyes until then the ring is removed from Ciel's finger.
"The undertaker is right. That is a collar, binding me by chain of duty to Her Majesty. I fear, Sebastian, t-the path… as he said. I fear what I become," Ciel says softly, quietly. "You know how I am, how I play this g-game. How I use you, how I used Madam Red, how I use you all."
Sebastian sets the ring gently on the table by the bed and then works his own clothing off, leaving only his undergarments. The butler then slips into bed, pulling his master close.
"My master, you are beyond all things a brilliant human being. A genius beyond what most have ever seen, in ways many cannot comprehend. I have said to you that until the last bell tolls, I will be wherever you wish me to be, as I am your piece in this grand game and you my king," Sebastian murmurs, stroking his hair softly. His other hand drifts to the lamp on the table beside the bed, preparing to turn it off. "You grow to be what you chose to be. A hound for vengeance with honor paradoxical and strength beyond measure. You will be what you must, to do what you must as both sword and shield. Your concern? Justice. As pieces fall and corpses mount at your feet, we will stand together atop the mound and you will regret nothing because that is what you wish. Your anguish will pass, but you will feel it still with every death. As it goes on, you will realize the game must be played, and you will welcome the anguish to remind you of what you are."
"And what am I, Sebastian? What have I become?"
"Several things, my lord. A work of art, the Queen's guard dog, the Earl Phantomhive… and a necessary evil. But… above all else, you are a person, and no matter how far you march down the path honor and duty dictates, you will always be at your base that which makes your soul so delectable. A good person. That much cannot be changed. That is who you are, for better or worse. At the very heart of your soul, no matter what cruelty you wrap around yourself and allow yourself to feel and enjoy, you are incorruptible."
The light is darkened. Neither has any words to say now. In this moment, this silence, the contract is stronger than ever in ways unexpected. Those words said by the butler himself are a surprise even to him, because kindness is not in excess what he is known for.
But that is a worry for another time.
At the moment, his young master's comfort is his only concern.