Jim didn't get ready that morning in his own bathroom. It wasn't practical. Both he and his husband needed to take quite a large amount of time getting ready that day, so it was easier for him to get ready in one of the guest bathrooms, especially since Ciel wouldn't be ready for quite a while after him. The blonde's shirt was pressed and so was his most expensive suit. It was blue, but it was nothing exorbitant. It was just a nice, professional, and friendly navy. He was going to go with a red tie, as he had read at one point that a navy suit with a red tie made one look the most trustworthy, in terms of business, but his beau informed him that the ribbon that the medal was fastened to was also red, so he refrained, instead going for a black, blue, and white colour scheme. It seemed like a trivial detail, but it was important to Jim. He went with a black tie with a white, diagonal stripe, and after his husband's insisting, wore a his golden tie clip with the lion on it as well as his matching cufflinks. It was important for him to advertise who he was. He was Jim Phantomhive the Lion, and after that day, people would call him "Sir."
Problem was, he couldn't figure out what a "Sir" looked like that wasn't either offensive or silly. He trusted his husband's judgment that his usual taste when getting dressed up was fine, as Ciel did know about these things while Jim didn't, but it still worried the menace. Discontent with his untamed, flaxen, mane, he slicked it back out of his face and looked very professional, if a bit evil, but that is simply how Phantomhives looked, as far as he could tell. The black leather of his belt and shoes were shiny and lacked any scuffs or blemishes. His breath was minty and there was nothing in his teeth. It was very important to him that he make the right impression, as if somehow mid-ceremony, the Queen would suddenly change her mind and revoke the title. Realistically, he knew that was not going to happen, but still, the possibility of this being some elaborate prank lingered in the back of his mind. What if he got all dressed up only to be made a fool of and have it pointed out that he is actually a nobody? The thought filled him with dread.
It was too late to go back now, though. The day was already there. He was in the suit. His husband was getting into his suit, which had to be custom made. Kristopherson literally dropped everything he had going on in order to put it together in time, as he was not going to pass up an opportunity to make something for a freshly appointed Earl in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace. All of their friends and family would be there, as while it was usually only permitted that three guests of those in the investiture ceremony were invited, this was a private ceremony for those who were receiving honours from the battle at the Palace or at HELLSING Headquarters. It was smaller, and the rules were a bit looser, given that there were actual demons, vampires, and werewolves receiving honours. It was mostly medals and ribbons, but the demons were the main attraction. The entire Phantomhive household got ready in their finest, as did the Hellsings and Midfords. Jim knew that it would be a terrible waste if all of that time and effort went into it was wasted and that there would be further hell to pay if Elizabeth got ahold of him after he called off a reason to dress up.
Eventually, he had to gather up the nerve to leave the bathroom and accept that he was not going to be able to do any better than what he had- at least in terms of appearance. From there, it was simply a matter of waiting. In the meantime, he did check on his siblings and Finnian, only to realise immediately that this was a mistake.
"Whoa! Jim! You look so cool!" Luka declared, his big brown eyes sparkling as he looked up at the eldest of the Mackens. He was beaming as he took in the sight of his brother and knew what was to become of him, bouncing off as he took a break from blathering on about how they were going to go see the palace in order to do so. "Look at your hair!"
"It's a bit Draco Malfoy, but like, an actually menacing Draco Malfoy..." commented Revy, putting his hands in his pockets. He picked perhaps his most boring of suits to wear that day, at the instance of the butler. It was grey, but he did have the added feature of a black tie with skulls on it.
"Thanks, Revy." Jim replied, knowing full-well that that was genuinely a compliment, coming from his younger sibling. "Though, Finny… What's up with the 'do?"
Turning his attention to the gardener, he found that Finnian had parted his hair clean down the middle and smoothed it out in a somewhat unnerving but very, very, dorky fashion. Yet, the strangeness of it was not lost on Finnian, as the man sighed. "I don't know what to do with it..." he said. "I've tried everything..."
"Just wear it normally. It'll be fine." The irony of that sentence was not lost on Jim, but Finnian didn't need to know about it.
They talked like this, going over fine details in the foyer. Sometimes, one of them would go back upstairs in order to retrieve something that they had forgotten. Usually, it was Luka, bless his heart. The time grew shorter, however, as it became dangerously close for them to need to lead. They were all waiting on Ciel, however. Ciel had the most to put on.
It was actually such a substantial amount, that for the first time in decades, he actually needed Sebastian's assistance in dressing. There were chords to put on that had to be arranged just so, and medals that needed to be pinned to his jacket in a specific order. Every button had to be polished and every bit of fabric had to be in its place. He had his coronation robes, which were sent to him from the palace, rather than made by Kristopherson, to put on. His hair had to be combed, with half of his bangs swept back out of his face while the other half covered his eyepatch. There was even a ceremonial sword that needed to be attached to his hip. Everything was in order. Everything was pristine. Everything was perfect. The fearsome Lord Phantomhive was ready to start the journey to the palace.
He looked terrifying as he descended the staircase, like some villain who was there to kidnap some princess, but he often did when wearing anything even resembling a cloak. It was simply in the way that he carried himself, it seemed, but that was not how he looked to Jim. To Jim, he looked like the hero of some fairytale- some dashing prince who was there to sweep the princess off her feet in order to whisk her away to a happily ever after. The others could only see it when the Watchdog smiled. He proudly beamed at the sight of his own beloved dressed up and that happiness affected everything else about his air.
"My love," he began upon reaching the bottom of the stairs. Closing the gap between them, he glided over to the menace before extending a gloved hand to take Jim's and planted a gentle kiss to the back of it. "You look absolutely stunning."
"U-uh… You too..." the Lion sheepishly replied, his face fully flushed as he did everything he could not to meet the gaze of this sparkling aristocrat. He could very distinctly hear the sound of Luka trying to stifle a giggle as Revy elbowed him, but chose to try and force it from his focus.
The boy wasn't laughing at Jim's expense, however. It was simply that he was giddy. He, like everyone else in the house, was thrilled about the duo being awarded for their efforts. While it was technically an investiture ceremony, it was also the coronation of nobles in one. All of them knew the significance of these titles to the pair and were excited on their behalf. Then again, while that made up the bulk of "why," it was also simply a matter of how impressive the two looked side-by-side.
The bluenette kept hold of Jim's hand as everyone separated and was to be transported in the fancier of the vehicles in the Phantomhive fleet. Revy wound up driving Luka and Finnian in Jim's Mercedes, while Sebastian drove the duo in the Rolls Royce. While the passengers of the Benz were chatting up a storm, the Royce stayed distinctly silent. Perhaps it was nerves. Perhaps there was simply nothing to say.
Both of them were nervous, but Jim was more surprised to see how nervous Ciel was. The Watchdog made things seem as though they weren't a big deal, but even he was not immune to the call of stage fright, it seemed. Both of them sat in the back of the Rolls Royce, holding each other's hand for comfort as they continued to marinate in the tense air. It wasn't much better once they arrived, however.
While Luka and the others were marveling at the palace, the duo distracted themselves by noting just how quickly it was repaired. Once their job was finished, they weren't given any details about the state of things, and they were exhausted of the place enough that they almost didn't want to hear it. That said, it was a pleasant sight and came to them as more of a relief than they had anticipated. Once inside, however, their group was split up and the stress compounded. Sebastian took the others while Jim and Ciel joined the others who were receiving honours and knighthoods that day. The worry of their peers permeated the air, but somehow, it made the duo feel a bit more at ease, although the Watchdog distinctly felt overdressed. He was the only one in any kind of ceremonial dress, but it wasn't surprising, as he was the only one being coronated into the peerage. Everyone else was wearing suits and formal dresses appropriate for meeting the Queen.
All of them were ushered along, told were to go, and exactly what they needed to do during the ceremony. Palace staff were running to and fro as they all did their best to make sure that everything was perfect. They eventually lined everyone up in the order of which they would be called out, with the two demons being the very last of what seemed like a sea of people. Jim didn't particularly mind, however. It bought him some time.
The gilded rooms and nice carpets were back again. The air no longer reeked of blood, gunpowder, and fire. Everything was in perfect order and so glamourous that it felt completely alien to the menace. It was like stepping into another dimension. It was setting foot into the unknown and he hardly knew what to do with himself. A man in a uniform came up to everyone and pinned a hook to their suit jackets for their broach or ribbons to be hung on and when it was Jim's turn, it was only after the man had left him that he realised that he was holding his breath. The blonde's heart was racing and his palms were sweaty. He took a deep breath in through his nose and let it out again, trying to calm down, but nothing he did seemed to work. None of it felt real. None of it felt like him—something he was worthy of.
"Are you alright?" his husband quietly asked from behind him, reaching out and putting a hand on Jim's bicep in order to coax the menace to turn around and look at him.
"Not really." Jim replied, letting out another shaky breath. He hesitated for a moment before turning around to look at his beau. In a quiet whisper, he said: "Honestly, there is probably an underground fighting ring somewhere out there right now, just begging to be busted. I feel like I'd feel a lot more at home if you brought me there, instead."
"You're probably right, but that's not your job, today." Ciel answered, matching the blonde's volume."You're going to be fine, Jim. All you have to do is go up there, bow, kneel to be knighted, have a little small talk, and then shake her hand and leave. Then, you're all done."
"I know, but… It's the bloody Queen! She'll see right through me!"
"Queen Victoria didn't suspect a thing when you were coronated as Earl back in the day, and you were actually doing something deceitful, then." gently reminded the Watchdog. "This time, there's nothing to hide. You have acquired this title honestly and legitimately. Truthfully, there are people who have received knightship for much less."
"But a baronetage?!"
"A baronetage that you have been nominated for due to your contributions and services to the United Kingdom as a legitimate agent of HELLSING, yes."
"Okay… Okay… I'll do my best."Jim nodded, but he still seemed very stressed even as he turned around again. He stood up straight with his chest out and shoulders back, giving the most sincere attempt he could muster at looking like he was confident and knew what he was doing. It all completely deflated for just a moment, however, as the music started up and the ceremony begun.
In his mind, he imagined the Queen making her entrance to the national anthem as it rang in his ears. Once his mind ran out of things for the Queen to do, however, he just imagined her standing there as the song went on and on. He had no idea what was going on. Then, the song changed, however, and the first name was called. The line didn't even budge, though, and it took a few more names for any progress to feel like it was being made.
HELLSING agents and palace staff alike were being honoured in this ceremony. Most of them were receiving medals and ribbons for their actions during the battle and the crowd observing the ceremony was mostly made up of their friends and family. Luka, Sebastian, Revy, and Finnian were settled in the audience, however, along with Elizabeth and the leader of the HELLSING organisation, the baronetess Sir Integra Fairbrook Windgates Hellsing.
Of course, the rest of the duo's friends had made their way into the audience, however. Kristopherson was living to see the costume he made for Ciel on display during the event. Of course he was dressed smart, too. It would be ridiculous to think that Kristopherson Miles would show up to Buckingham Palace dressed shabbily! Every single piece of his suit was name brand, including his socks, as he so seldom got an excuse to wear them, these days.
Audrey was there too, with his hair grown back in somewhat, but instead of his usual style, he opted to try something new. An undercut was just edgy enough for him, but he and Revy were both embarrassingly wearing ties with skulls on them. He did take out his hearing aid, however. The music was far too loud to be listening to with it in.
All of them were brimming with excitement to see the duo. All of them were proud- oh, so proud of them. They eagerly awaited the Phantomhives' names to be called, but one of the Phantomhives grew more and more nervous with each step he took as the line grew shorter and shorter. His breathing grew heavy and his heart raced. The adrenaline rushing to his head made him feel a bit dizzy as his legs grew increasingly stiff. He managed to space out for most of the duration of the line, but when he was able to slightly see the inside of the ballroom entrance, it was like a switch was flipped inside of him.
"I can't." he blurted out, shaking his head. He froze where he stood, blocking his husband's way. "I can't do it!"
"You can." calmly insisted the bluenette. "It's going to be fine, I promise..."
"No, I can't do it! I'm not… I'm not… I'm not what they're looking for. I don't fit in and I- I'm not a noble person..."
Blinking, Ciel realised that no matter how much he insisted, Jim was not going to believe him without some serious persuasion. Fine, then. He would do his best.
"Jim," he said, "Look at me."
Hesitantly, the menace obeyed, slowly turning around to face the other Phantomhive, only to be confronted with the Watchdog's face as it stared back at him, lacking any sense of doubt or falsehood whatsoever.
"You are an amazing man." Ciel stated. "Really, you are. You are not the boy that you were at the Trancy Estate. You are the man that you have become. This isn't to punish you or make you feel like you aren't enough because you are. You're more than 'enough,' Jim… This is meant to celebrate you and all of the good things that you do and have done. That's why everyone is out there, happy that you're being recognised for it."
"I'm not… I'm not that great..."
"Jim." the Watchdog said firmly with a tilt of his head. "You're incredible. You have helped countless people and made their lives better. You're the one who made life for supernaturals in the United Kingdom- as well as those who have come here from abroad- far easier and made the quality of their lives much higher in the things you've done for Gehenna and Pyestock. You did that. You've changed the culture of HELLSING by changing how they deal with supernaturals for the better. You did. You really did… Think about all of the people that you've saved since coming back. You've been on countless missions to stop threats to the UK and the people who live here. Without you, how would those threats have grown? Think of Abhartach. You are the one who defeated him. You were the one who had the power to do so. Not me, not anyone else at HELLSING, but you. We quite literally could not have done it without you."
Reaching up to cup the other man's face, he took in the surprised expression Jim wore and continued. "Think of Revy. He would still be a wandering spirit without you. And Luka. You've given them both another chance and they're both amazing young men because of it." Gently, Ciel stroked his beloved's cheek with his thumb. "Think of me." he said. "I would still be a poor, miserable wretch, without you- a monster without purpose, or even just simple demon food. You've saved my life more times than you could ever know and I'm eternally grateful to you. Jim… The world is simply a better and brighter place with you in it."
Looking up past the blonde's eyes, Ciel focused on the other man's hair. Delicately, he reached up and unceremoniously ruffled it, causing the menace to reach up and try and stop him.
"Hey!" Jim complained. "What are you doing?!"
"There…" the bluenette finally said, moving his husband's locks into their usual position. He looked back at Jim's face and smiled. "As handsome as you are all posh and such, I don't think it's appropriate for a celebration of who you are. You're Jim Phantomhive. You can't be anyone else. No one here wants you to be anyone else. They're expecting you, the impossible man who does impossible things and makes the world a better place because of it. You've earned this, Jim. You've earned it with your own power, all by yourself. You did this. That is why we're all so proud." Tilting his head to he other side, he asked the other: "Right?"
Jim stood there for a moment, staring at his spouse before finally looking down. His eyes were already wet, but the tears finally fell when he moved. Quickly, he reached up and aggressively wiped them away. He sniffled before ultimately giving his answer.
"Right." he said surely, looking up at his beau with more confidence than the Watchdog had seen from him all day. A wide grin graced Ciel's features and he was overtaken by pride.
"Let's go, then." Ciel said. "Mind the gap. We need to catch up so everyone can see what they came here to see!"
Turning around, Jim realised that his pause had created a significant gap between them and the rest of the line. Thank goodness, they were the last ones, so rushing to catch up with the others wasn't as catastrophic as it could have been. The blonde was eager, now. He paused once he caught up in order to shake off some his nerves and slowly straightened his back as the line marched onward and moved forward.
His shoulders were back, his chest was out, and his head was held high as he could now see inside of the ballroom. It was only a few more names. The menace was cautious and took measures to control his breathing. Slow breaths in and slow breaths out at a steady pace. From behind him, Ciel gently placed his hands on the blonde's biceps and placed a kiss on his cheek. Looking over Jim's shoulder, Ciel watched as the last person in front of them had their name called.
"Show them what you're made of." the Watchdog said, urging his husband on as he gave the menace a gentle push forward.
For a moment, Jim looked back at him and noted the look of utter pride on Ciel's face as Jim took a step forward. A light blush dusted the blonde's cheeks before he turned around again, jumping when he heard his name.
"Sir Jim Phantomhive." called the man standing next to the queen, crossing out the Lion's name from the list in front of him on the podium. Jim walked forward like he was in bootcamp again and stopped right in front of her majesty before the man at the podium continued. "For contributions to the safety of the nation and sovereign, in addition to conspicuous acts of bravery."
Ciel couldn't remember ever seeing his beau bow seriously before, but was impressed at how fluid the movement was. It was strange. Jim had fought monsters of many shapes, sizes, and degrees of danger, yet somehow, he was more afraid of the petite, elderly woman in a blue dress before him. Yet, true to his nature, he advanced even in the wake of fear, stepping forward only to kneel on the provided stool.
The cushion on top of it was softer than he expected, but more than anything, he wasn't sure what to do with his eyes as he lowered his head. In an extraordinarily swift motion, her Majesty dusted the demon's shoulders with her sword. It was almost instantaneous, as he very quickly needed to stand on both feet once again. True to conduct, he did not speak until it was time to and bowed his head yet again as the Queen slipped the medallion on over his head. His entire body tensed when he felt the weight of it and he looked up again to find her smiling at him.
"You are a very interesting sort, aren't you?" questioned her Majesty. "I've heard many things about you from the Round Table Conference. I must say, I am very surprised indeed to finally put a face to your name. A bit of a troublemaker, aren't you?"
"I do try my very best." Jim rather smoothly replied. "It comes in handy, sometimes."
"Well, I'm very thankful that you are." Furrowing her brow somewhat, her Majesty looked around the room. "Things might have turned out very differently if you weren't!"
"I'm glad you think so. Also that you're safe. I heard your staff completed training with us?"
"Yes, they're in their new stations, now, thank you. Sadly, they can no longer be Grenadiers, but their new role has some prestige as well. 'Beowulf,' I think they're being called… It goes against every single tradition and has wrecked havoc on the order of the palace, but functionally, it's for the best."
"Traditions… Well, they change, but they also evolve." Jim said. "Maybe it isn't a step down, really, but just… uncharted territory? There will probably be tradition with Beowulf in time, but for now, things are still settling and becoming established in the system. When things get broken like that, order has to be established. It may be the end of the previous status quo as it was known then, but noticeably, it doesn't appear to be the end of all things that we hold dear entirely."
Narrowing her eyes, Her Majesty looked the demon over, inspecting him, but she did not frown. After her pause, she simply nodded. "You are indeed a troublemaker, aren't you?"
"A troublemaker at her Majesty's service." The menace smiled as the woman chuckled and reached out to shake his hand. He took the offer before stepping back and bowing again with the applause of the crowd. His friends were hooting and hollering at him and still soaring high on the adrenaline that came with that praise, he made his exit.
He did his very best not to look back, but once he made his exit on the other side of the room, he immediately whipped his head around to see if his husband was watching him and sure enough, he was. Of course he was. He was far enough away that Jim couldn't see what kind of expression he was making, but he did see the Watchdog pause from his own applauding of the menace to reach up and touch his good eye.
"Earl Ciel Phantomhive." the man at the podium called out, prompting Ciel to step into the ballroom.
The Watchdog looked like royalty himself with his long cape and regal attire. His head was held high and he resumed a rather stoic face that was practically the embodiment of the ideal British "stiff upper lip" as he glided toward the center of the room and stopped in front of the Queen. There, he bowed and took a few steps forward before taking the position that his beau had been in previously with one knee on top of the stool.
"Sir Phantomhive?" one of the attendants behind Jim called out. "You need to go this way."
Now, Jim knew that the man was only trying to do his job. The menace knew that he was blocking the corridor, after all. It was not lost on him. He found it difficult to use his manners in a time where he ordinarily would sympathise with the attendant and simply go along with things, however. It was simply impossible for him to leave that spot.
"Sorry." Jim said, neglecting to tear his eyes away from the ballroom. "In a minute. I can't miss this."
The blonde wouldn't. He wouldn't miss this for the world. Ciel watched him gain his title, so he needed to return the favour. Even if he hadn't and Jim was just another face in the audience, the blonde wouldn't allow himself to miss it. That was his husband out there. If he wasn't there to see him be coronated as Earl, then what kind of spouse would he be?
Ciel lowered his head, allowing for his own medallion to be slipped over his neck. This one was on a beautifully bejeweled gold chain and perfectly suited the nobility of the Phantomhive. Jim sighed dreamily, his gaze softening. Even though Ciel looked as though he belonged there, in the palace, amoung the glamour and grandiosity that came with luxurious fabrics, marble statues, and everything trimmed with gold and dripping with diamonds, it wasn't intimidating to the menace. His heart beat wildly, but the beauty was still accessible to him. Of course, it was. He had accepted that Ciel had eyes only for him long ago, and just moments before, the Watchdog had confirmed it again.
Standing up again, Ciel resumed his stature. Even though he was standing on a step below the Queen, he was eye level with her. She was intimidated by him, however.
"I'm happy to see that you appear to have learned your lesson, Earl." her Majesty said to him. "I do hope that you will do your best to keep it that way."
"Indeed, I have, your Majesty, and I do fully intend to." the Watchdog replied, his expression softening as he offered a smile. It was difficult to tell whether it was genuine or not, but his beloved seemed to think so.
"Very good. I must say, I am very surprised by the results of Dame Hellsing's little 'experiment.'"
"Dame Elizabeth, your Majesty?"
"Dame Integra." her Majesty corrected, using the leader of HELLSING's real title, rather than her tongue-and-cheek one. "She is the one who insisted that keeping your other half around would be beneficial. It seems it was. I can't say I recognise the demon who stormed into my country expecting refuge from the blitz after abandoning his post all of those years ago in the slightest."
"I've learned a lot, since then. I feel more human now than I ever was."
"I would assume so, given the reports on your progress."
"So you saw those..."
"I am invested in the status of those with your proximity to people with power. I may not be an expert on supernatural affairs, but I have enough sense to know that one should be suspicious of demons. It appears that I may relax somewhat, however, as the changes you've made are most impressive. Friends, acquaintances, and you've even gone and gotten yourself married. Most respectable. I trust that I may rely upon you in the future?"
"Yes, your Majesty. I am at your beck and call."
"Excellent." the Queen nodded, offering her hand. In a gentlemanly fashion, Ciel shook it. "Hold onto that troublemaker of yours."
"I will." Ciel smiled. Repeated the same measures that he beau made in retreating before making his own exit, he briskly made the walk to the side of the ballroom opposite to the one from which he came.
His demeanor was calm and just as elegant as it was when he first stepped out, but as soon as he was hidden from public view, he opened his arms wide and captured his spouse in a crushing hug, pressing his cheek against the other man's as he basked in the overwhelming feelings of adoration he felt. The gesture was not unappreciated, however, as the menace naturally hugged him back, closing his eyes with a wide grin as they rocked back and forth.
"I love you." Jim said at last.
"I love you." Ciel answered. The two of them squeezed each other as tightly as they could, knowing if they didn't, they would never be able to separate.
The applause that still rang out from the ballroom still thundered from behind the Watchdog, but neither of them could hear it. Instead, they were entirely focused on the rhythm of one another's heartbeats and the deep breaths they took as they tried to collect themselves enough to make it out of the building. It was a strange sight, with the two of them embracing while everyone else was trying to leave. Ciel's cape practically swallowed the menace up as Jim had the other man's arms around his shoulders, but he didn't care. Nothing else mattered. The moment was completely and irredeemably perfect. They were both swooning.
The moment had to come to an end eventually, however, as the poor attendant who was supposed to be ushering them along was at a loss for what to do for quite some time. The duo received the boxes in which they were meant to keep their new medals and jewels, as well as Ciel's cloak and they moved on, but not without giggling and grinning like silly schoolboys the entire way. They would have their chance to let it all out of their system, however, as the day was not yet done. As per the Watchdog's insistence, everyone who was there for them would be traveling from Buckingham Palace to the Phantomhive estate.
It was a rare party that was called upon by the Earl himself, so of course, it had to be something rather special, but that didn't mean that Jim didn't have a hand in it. He didn't have much time to worry about how things were going, however, as he was immediately descended upon once he arrived, though shockingly, it wasn't by his husband. Instead, it was family and friends.
"So how does it feel to be a baronet?" playfully answered Kristopherson. "Any different?"
"Not really?" the menace replied, arching an eyebrow. "I still feel like me, but wearing an expensive suit."
"Anyone can wear a nice suit! Not everyone can be a noble! I always figured that if any of us commoners ever got a title, it would be you, though."
"Why? Because weird shit always happens around me?"
"Pretty much, but also just because… It's you?" Mister Miles hesitated, pondering his phrasing before very quickly giving up again. "You're just like that. You've got big dick energy."
"Yeah… 'Sir Phantomhive of the Order of the Massive Dong.'" Audrey chimed in.
"What a title… Just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it?" Jim sarcastically pondered aloud.
"No… It really doesn't..." the reaper shook, and Kristopherson had to agree.
"I'm taken." the wolfman said, prompting the Phantomhive to roll his eyes.
"Wasn't an invitation." Jim clarified. "These are now precious family jewels. I can't just let anybody in on them."
The amount of code-switching that Jim performed rather blatantly that day was astounding, as he went from sounding rather convincingly posh in front of the royal family to making crude jokes with his mates with ease. He continued to do it all around the party, but to a much lesser extent. Sometimes, it was hard for him to tell when he was actually switching and when he was just engaging in normal interpersonal communication. Sometimes, people simply neglected to touch on certain topics with certain people. For example: Jim's conversation with Dame Elizabeth Hellsing went rather differently.
"I'm so proud of you~!" the woman cooed, wrapping her arms around the newly ordained baronet's neck and squeezing him tightly. "You're really an amazing person, Jim!"
Elizabeth was the kind of person who no one dared to be crude around. Partially because she was so pleasant that risking offending her was a sin, but also because they knew what she was capable of when angry. She wasn't afraid of scolding the most frightening of soldiers, so it was safe to assume that she was unafraid to scold her cousin's friends.
"Thanks, Lizzie." the menace somewhat bashfully replied, rubbing the back of his neck. "I don't really feel any different, though."
"That's how it is when changing titles, I'm afraid! Everything feels different, but still remarkably the same. People who feel like they're suddenly vastly different people afterwards tend to be people who you want to stay away from."
"Like those people who make scenes at restaurants because 'don't you know who I am?'"suggested Jim.
"In a lot of cases, they're the same." Elizabeth noted, reaching up to straighten the man's tie. "I doubt you'll do something like that. I imagine that you will be the same man who's always going around, making the bourgeoisie uncomfortable with your talk of helping people and granting them basic necessities."
"Yeah, only now I'm not just some uppity poor with no title."
"Exactly! You'll use it for good, I have no doubt." the woman noted, dropping her hands again, but continuing to talk with them. "Some of them will probably not be pleased because you aren't a blue-blood, but they can kindly get over it."
"I figured. There's always a catch. Unless there's some kind of weird, Importance of Being Earnest situation, I'm afraid there's not a lot to be done about that, though."
"Pay it no mind. You've always been one of us, so if you run into any problems that you can't handle yourself, just ask." insisted the woman, grinning at the menace as she made a rather diplomatic offer. It was an offer common amongst wealthy families that usually came with strings attached, but there was nothing of sort between them. They were genuinely good friends. "Though I must somewhat shamefully confess that it does feel a tad strange knowing that you outrank me..."
"Wait, what?!" gawked the menace. "I thought you were a baronetess!"
"Sadly, I'm not. My husband was the baronet, but now that title is Integra's- though I have absolutely no qualms about that. I'm very proud of her, in fact. I'm afraid I'm just a simple dame."
"I-I'm sorry..." the menace immediately felt the need to say. His friend shook her head and refused his apology, however.
"Don't be. I will take no pity. I do realise that my current position is more than a bit of a 'demotion' from being the daughter of a marquis, but I already sacrificed that when I begged my mother to allow me to marry Isaac. I have come to learn that there are simply more important things. Besides. I'm not a dame out of pity. I've earned it. There's something invigorating about having a title that you earned with your own hands. I think we both agree on that." she said with a wink, prompting the other to laugh, although somewhat nervously.
"As long as your happy about it, it's good." Jim nodded. "I still… I know that I've done a lot of things that would justify giving me a title, but I'm still having trouble accepting it beyond just 'I know it to be true.' Does that make sense? I want to… Maybe do something with it."
"I know you will, Jim. That's just the sort of man you are." Suddenly, her eyes flickered just to the side of his head and she gently patted his bicep. "It looks like someone wants to talk to you."
She playfully curtsied as the Phantomhive turned around, only to see yet another Phantomhive. "My lord..." the woman greeted, prompting Ciel to lightly shake his head with a smile.
"That's so strange..." the Watchdog told her. "I've stopped being used to that… Anyway, I'm sorry if I'm interrupting anything, but I was wondering if I could steal my husband away from you for a moment?"
"Be my guest." Elizabeth replied, gesturing to the menace and taking a step back. "I'll talk to you both later."
"Thank you, Lizzie." Ciel said, turning so that his side faced the menace before offering Jim his elbow. His husband slipped his arm around Ciel's, resting one hand on Watchdog's forearm and the other on his bicep.
"So, what's up?" questioned Jim as he was lead away. They walked slowly, both of them practically gliding with each stride. The image of the two was more regal than either of them realised, but it wasn't surprising that they didn't, as they weren't exactly concerned with their appearance in that moment.
"Nothing, really. I just wanted to talk to you." the bluenette explained in a rather nonchalant manner.
"About anything. I enjoy your company." He put his hand over the blonde's as it rested on his forearm. "I wish I could come up with a way to sing my praises of you like the others, but part of me wonders whether or not you really want to hear it."
"I do and I don't. I'm happy, but also, I'm not sure what to do with everybody saying stuff like that. I feel really awkward just saying 'thanks,' but I'm not really sure what else to say."
"'Thanks' is enough. I just want you to know how proud I am of you."
"I dunno… It was kind of hard to pick up on… You only said it thirty-thousand times and tripped over yourself to tell literally everyone we know about it like a complete goof." sarcastically answered the menace while shaking his head. "Such mixed signals..."
"I was excited!" Ciel laughed. "I still am. When I saw you up there, I almost cried."
"You did?" questioned the menace, looking up at his smiling beau in disbelief. His husband was in fact capable of shedding tears, but it was uncommon.
"Indeed. I was overwhelmed with emotion… I sort of forgot why I was standing there because I couldn't think about anything else. You were magnificent."
"You were becoming an Earl! How do you forget? You're the one who had the big, flowing cape and everything. What about you?"
"Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't thrilled to be an Earl again, but… I don't know… I'm more excited for you. It's a lighter joy, but it also compels me to do things that would probably embarrass me in any other context."
"Love, probably. I love you and I love being a part of significant triumphs in your life because of that. For me, being an Earl again is proof that I'm a new man, but I could never have gotten that way without you. When it comes to you… I'm glad that there are people who are able to see you like how I do. You've proven to them what kind of man you are. You are just as- if not more so- worthy of respect and praise as anyone else, noble or otherwise. I just hope that some day, you're able to prove it to yourself that you're worthy of being here."
"I'll keep doing my best." smiled the other Phantomhive. "Just promise me that you'll continue being the sentimental sap that you are."
"I might consider it…" Ciel nodded. He looked over to the other man and stepped in front of him before adding: "...if you dance with me."
"Crying and now dancing… I must've really done a number on you, huh?"
"You've practically obliterated me."
"Guess I ought to." Jim relented, although with insincere reluctance. "It's only right."
He tugged on the bluenette's arm, leading him to the middle of the Phantomhive ballroom while the two of them continued to laugh like schoolboys. They separated in order to assume a dancing position, but stopped as the two of them tried to go for the same position at the same time. They tried to switch, only to run into the same problem twice.
"Do you want to lead?" the blonde questioned. He was a tad confused, as the Watchdog usually did lead, but it wasn't a far-fetched concept that he wouldn't. Ciel never seemed to mind following if Jim asked to lead him, but given the confusion, it was best to simply ask.
"I'm fine with whichever." Ciel replied. "I'm not really sure which one I want, myself. It would be fun playing the part of the strong nobleman who leads his spouse, but also, I'm content with being swept up in and admiring the masculinity radiating off of you, today."
"I'm kind of in a similar boat." Jim informed, taking a step closer until he was almost pressed against the other man. "I'd like to lead, but also, that outfit makes you look positively dreamy. It's a tough call..."
"What should we do, then?"
"Rock, paper, scissors for who leads?" the menace suggested, separating from his spouse again while offering a hand. Wordlessly, and to the surprise of any onlooker apart from him, his husband offered his own hand. The two of them pumped their fists three times and settled on a victor. "Guess it's me, then."
He took his husband's waist, pulling him closer before taking his opposite hand in his. When Ciel placed his free palm on Jim's shoulder, the blonde began moving. They moved at a steady pace to the music, with Jim taking a few more daring moves than Ciel would. He never broke out of a formal style, however, as his husband was most comfortable in the confines of known steps in order to avoid looking foolish. Being a tall, somewhat muscular man with a formal outfit lined in gold being lead by a slightly shorter, "prettier" man, however, was not embarrassing in the slightest. In fact, the Watchdog continued to wear a goofy, lovestruck grin on his face as he dutifully followed the blonde's movements. Luckily for him, however, he wasn't alone in that regard.
Even though Jim was the "pretty" one while Ciel had a somewhat more masculine affectation, with scars, an eyepatch, and a face that displayed a sense of displeasure when neutral, Jim found him stunning. He loved Ciel's blueish-black hair, he loved his strong jaw and his pale skin, although scarred, was always soft to the touch. When they first met, Jim told Ciel that his deep, blue eye was beautiful. It was perfect. Yet, he also said that his eyepatch-covered eye with his contract seal on it was ugly. That wasn't true, though. Jim had come to love his face, including both eyes, and his body, and his fashion sense, and his personality. He loved everything about Ciel, and seeing him dressed up like this was an especially delightful treat that was hard not to enjoy.
"You're beautiful." he told his spouse, grinning wider as Ciel's blush darkened.
The Watchdog wasn't quite used to being called "beautiful" or anything similar yet. He hoped for "handsome," or "charming," or something to that effect, but "beautiful" always caught him off guard.
"Thank you..." he bashfully replied. "You are, too."
"I mean it! You really look amazing! Everything about you is pretty!" the blonde declared. "You look like you belong in a fairytale."
"You mean like Beauty and the Beast?"
"Am I the beast?"
"No, you're 'Beauty.'"
"Oh, shut up. You're gorgeous. I'd kiss you, but I can't dance and snog at the same time."
"Shall I, then?" Ciel questioned, but before his beau could ask for clarification, he had swapped places with the menace, pausing for a beat and then getting back into step with one hand on Jim's waist and the other holding his hand. "Is this easier?"
"I don't know..." Jim answered. His face rapidly changed hues. Carefully, he waited until his foot was firmly on the ground before moving in to peck Ciel's chin. "Snogging may still be a challenge."
"That's very unfortunate… Could you perhaps try again?"
"How much do you value not having your feet stepped on?"
"I don't mind." the Watchdog answered, tilting his head and allowing his eyelids to droop. His husband waited for the right moment before launching his next attack. He pressed his lips against Ciel's, fully intending to take them away again a moment later, but Ciel's grip around his waist tightened and his paced slowed down until it all but stopped. He obviously wanted a proper kiss and wasn't going to settle for a quick peck.
When they separated their lips, they didn't separate completely. They nuzzled each other's noses and against cheeks, gently brushing lips against the skin there or pressing them firmly against it. Shortly after they started, their movements slowed and became slower. Pressing their foreheads together, they sighed, but quickly after, Ciel pecked his husband's cheek one last time before returning to that position.
"I love you so much..." he said. "So, so, much… I'm so proud of you, Jim."
"I know." Jim replied softly. "I love you, too."
"Are you feeling any better?" questioned the bluenette, his face concerned. "I… I was thinking about it after, and I hope that I didn't… Y'know… Pressure you into it… I don't want you to feel like you're being forced to be something you're not."
"I'm not upset." the other stated. "You didn't force me. You gave me a gentle nudge. I needed it. I'm still a little nervous and… I'm not really sure what exactly I'm going to do next, but I have a vague idea."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
"You know I'm not really sure about the whole 'noble' thing… I don't even know if it's really even a good idea. I love you and I love being a Phantomhive, but there are a lot of people who… Well..."
"Are freeloading poncy twits without merit?"
"Yes. Nice phrasing."
"You literally said that a few days ago."
"I have a way with words." Jim jested, but then he resumed being sincere. "It's a hard system to do anything with, but… Like with regular rich people, I think it's best to use the resources that we have to make things better for other people. I figure being a baronet might be useful."
"As expected." Ciel noted. "I'll help you out however I can. Being Earl-consort could also come in handy. You could always go by that, if you wanted."
"Like hell, I am! You know I'm happy that you'd offer me that, because I know it means a lot to you. You've done everything you can to make me a part of the Phantomhive legacy."
"But?" questioned the Watchdog, knowing that the other man was going to say it.
"But, 'baronet' is the title I've earned, right? So it's only right that I use that. It's proof that the aristocracy has acknowledged me, at least. Maybe not accepted me, but I've at least proven myself to be worth noting."
"Then that is who you will be. You can always pull the higher rank out of your back pocket if you need it, and I assume that you would, but I think 'Sir Phantomhive' has a flair to it that suits you."
"Really? Why's that?"
"You have sort of an image of a knight who goes on quests and possibly saves damsels and such." explained the bluenette.
"Not inaccurate from my job description."
"You're my hero, darling." Ciel said, leaning in to kiss the blonde's cheek. "I keep saying I'm proud of you all of the time… I just really hope it sinks in. You're an impossible man who does impossible things. I really mean it when I say the world is much brighter with you in it."
"I'm glad that I've been acknowledged and I'm going to continue to do good things with the power I have." Jim replied. "I know that I've proven that I'm a nobleman to the Queen, but I think it might take a little more time to prove it to myself. No sure how I'm going to do it, but I'll try."
"The impossible proof… Could you say that it's… the devil's proof?"
"Good God, Sebastian's shitty puns are rubbing off on you!" lamented the Lion, but he and his spouse laughed, regardless.
"There is so much left to do…" the bluenette reminded. "Not only that, but we also need to change your paperwork to have your title on it. Then, the Gehenna newspaper is going to want an interview… We also need to arrange to have your portrait done. Photographs are nice, but a proper painter is best."
"Why do I need a portrait?" questioned the menace.
"All noblemen have portraits of themselves in their houses. While I don't want to change you or make you feel uncomfortable with that, it's somewhat important to me that you have a portrait. I want you to be represented in our home. It's family history."
"Alright…" Jim nodded. "If it's that important, I'll do it for you, but I know you're going to want like, a classical painting with all of these posh frills… I don't think I'm cut out for it. I'll look silly."
Smiling, Ciel switched their positions again, this time allowing Jim to lead the dance. He place his hand on the blonde's shoulder before reaching up to cup his cheek. Ciel looked at him fondly, knowing in his heart that there was absolutely impossible for Jim to look "silly." He knew this because he knew Jim and that even though he was the impossible man, some things were simply undoable, even for Sir Jim Phantomhive. That is why he had only one answer to this.
As the devils danced, they both were content. Ciel knew that although he had done some horrible things, that was not the person he was anymore. He was reformed- perhaps unwillingly at first, but now, he was proudly a husband and the head of the family that he had always envisioned himself becoming as a boy, although perhaps not exactly as he initially planned. Jim, on the other hand, was still struggling with his past, but he knew that he was capable of good and worthy of love and praise. There would be times when he may forget, as most people often do, but he had people who loved him and cared about him who would help him regain his senses once again. It was a hard thing to prove, especially to one's self, but both of them were good men. They were noble men. They were impossible men who did impossible things and proved the devil's proof. Although who on this earth was better suited for it? After all, it is a very well-known fact, dear audience, that devils like to prove.
A/N: Welp, that was hard to write. Do you know how long I've been holding onto this? About a year! Our sweet babies are so big, now! They're off getting titles and shit! I'm so proud!
Also, let's talk about Jim, because Jim is good. He deserves this. All of this. Look at him. He's out there, turning ancient beings that threaten the crown into trees and shit. The LEAST he deserves is a title.
And I mean ANCIENT. Abhartach is over a thousand years old. And Jim took his ass down. That's almost some sword in the stone kinda shit. What's next? Is the lady of the lake gonna pop out of a pond and say "yer a hero, Jimmy" and fling a sword at him? Honestly, at this rate, it's fucking plausible.
We love him, though. Such a nice young man... Brings flowers to his husband's parents and removes unwanted ancient beings... What a guy.
Don't worry, though, I have stuff in mind for next time. I already know what the first chapter is going to be. Y'all know I'm obsessed with this shit. I can't just drop it, now! There will be more adventures with Sir and Lord Phantomhive, and I'm going to continue to be fanatical about it.
Until next time, my duckies~!