GRIM DUTY

Another Sequel to Père Lachaise

By Kimberly T.

Long Author's Note: Yes, this is another sequel to Aservis Roturier's excellent and touchingly tragic story Père Lachaise, which can be found on her profile. That story really does something to me, feeding my plot bunnies much like the manga and anime that it's based on! Before you go any further, you really should consult my FFnet profile's Favorite Authors list for the link to Aservis Roturier's account, and then find and read "Père Lachaise", or you won't understand at all what's going on in this story. It's okay, I'll wait… (Patiently hums a little tune)

But if you're quite sure you've read that excellent story already, and just want a quickie refresher on the most pertinent details, here they are:

It starts in Paris and seven months after the end of the anime series II, after Ciel is turned into a demon and he and Sebastian leave Phantomhive Manor forever. Sebastian hates being contracted to Ciel now, sentenced to serve as a butler for Eternity and without the reward he'd rightly earned, and he's let the boy-demon know it too. And after Ciel has realized that Sebastian, the most important and dearest person in his entire world, now apparently loathes him and never wanted him for anything more than a meal, he falls into a deep depression. After getting Sebastian to list the ways that a demon can die, Ciel commits suicide. Only then does Sebastian realize how much he values Ciel for himself and his companionship, and manages to stop the demon-child at the very brink of death… but he can't revive him entirely; Ciel is left in a coma-like state, completely unresponsive to the world.

If you've read that story before, then you're doubtless aware that I wrote one sequel to it already, which Roturier was kind enough to post as the second chapter to her story with all credit due, and which turned into the prelude to my 'Moving Forward' series. That first sequel and series embraced the hope that Ciel could be successfully and fully revived from that comatose deathlike state, and he and Sebastian would eventually achieve the demonic version of a happily-ever-after; this sequel does not.

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Four years passed...

Four years, and thirteen souls.

Thirteen people who happened to be alone in the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise at what was, for them, the wrong time... a time when Sebastian could sense no Grim Reapers anywhere nearby, for he could not risk any of them catching sight of him or of Ciel sleeping in his arms. He knew he could not risk a fight with any Reaper, not while burdened with the completely helpless demon-child, but he did not dare to leave Ciel alone to hunt on his own. Any time he stayed away for longer than a few minutes, the boy's weak breathing and heartbeat would grow even more shallow and sluggish, and that deathlike sleep would creep even closer to true death, the final ending that even a demon could succumb to.

For four years Sebastian wandered with Ciel in his arms, walking down the paths of Père Lachaise at random times of day and night and never taking the same route twice, always on the lookout for Grim Reapers and always looking for humans walking alone. Any human foolish or unlucky enough to be without a companion would be pounced on in a trice; Sebastian would snatch their souls, and let the bodies drop in their tracks while he ran before the shinigami could show up. He carried each precious soul back to where Ciel lay mindlessly waiting, never out of the demon's arms for more than the few seconds it took to pounce on the chosen victim.

Time and again Sebastian would carefully pry open the demon-child's mouth and slip the ethereally glowing meal down his throat, with entreaties to feed, grow stronger, and finally wake. Each time, Sebastian accompanied the feeding with fervent apologies for treating Ciel so harshly after he'd been turned into a demon, and with promises to do so much better in the future; to wait on him hand and foot again, to lavish him with loving attention morning noon and night, to do all that and more if he would just wake up. And with each feeding, a little color would return to Ciel's cheeks, and for a short while his heartbeat and breathing would grow a little stronger... but he never woke up, and sooner or later the breathing would slow and the deathlike pallor would return.

Sebastian acquired six souls for feeding to Ciel in just the first six weeks, but after that, finding victims became much more difficult; word had spread through Paris that people were being found dead in Père Lachaise without a mark on them, and few people went there alone anymore. Gendarmes made regular sweeps of the area, though they never found the killer; mere mortal policemen had little chance of catching a creature who could sense their approach from a great distance, and who could leap to the top of the Eiffel Tower if he was so inclined.

Early in the manhunt, one gendarme came through alone, with pistol in hand and courage in his stride; he became the seventh soul to slide past Ciel's lips. After that, the patrolmen came in groups as well. And Grim Reapers also began scouring the cemetery grounds on a regular basis; the humans might be mystified as to why those people had died without a mark on them but the shinigami clearly knew, and just as plainly were not happy with a demon poaching souls in their jurisdiction.

Evading shinigami was much more difficult than evading humans, but Sebastian enhanced and fine-tuned his supernatural senses to notice them at a greater distance than ever before, long before they could feel his presence. He steered well clear of them at all times, and when there were too many shinigami in the vicinity to simply evade, he hid himself and the boy behind sorcerous wards that masked their demonic presence until the coast was clear. Finding souls that Sebastian could safely steal became ever harder over the years, but he persevered... always hunting, and always hoping that perhaps the next soul would be rich enough, substantial enough, to bring back the companion that he had realized (realized too late, he'd been such a fool!) was so precious to him.

Then came one gray and densely overcast sunset in spring, with the smell of rain heavy in the air; according to the calendars, winter was long past, but the damp evening chill still penetrated to the bone. Out walking with Ciel in the cemetery's eastern quadrant, Sebastian spotted a lone man pushing a wheelbarrow on another path only twenty yards away. A man dressed and equipped as a gardener, likely a caretaker for the cemetery grounds, not that Sebastian cared overmuch about his profession; only about the quality of his soul, and what benefit his little lord might get from it.

After passing the man without speaking and marking his apparent course in his mind, Sebastian walked into a conveniently near grove and carefully tucked the ever-sleeping boy up in the crook of a tree, and then sped down a path that he knew would intercept the gardener within seconds. Thirty yards away, fifteen—

And then a shrill whistle that seemingly came out of nowhere split the evening gloom. And the gardener in front of Sebastian, his back still turned, dropped the handles of his wheelbarrow to swiftly grab a sickle up out of it, while reaching up to his neck and snatching at the scarf he was wearing—a scarf that had been imbued with some sort of supernatural concealment spell, because as it fell away Sebastian could suddenly sense an unmistakable and terribly familiar pressure in the aether between them; that man was no ordinary human, but a Grim Reaper!

TRAP! Every particle of Sebastian's being screamed at him, as he spun about and raced back to where he'd left his little lord. And he was horribly proven right, when light flashed above the cemetery and a pair of Reapers dropped out of the sky right in front of him, armed with Deathscythes and grim expressions, and between him and Ciel!

But their auras marked them as relatively young Reapers, inexperienced whelps, while Sebastian had thousands of years of combat experience behind him. Rather than try to dodge between them, he headed right for the smaller of the two, then changed course and his running form at the last second to swing under the boy's jabbing garden shears, and give him a hard kick in the side that sent him crashing into his companion. While the two of them were entangled and trying not to skewer each other with their weapons, he put on a burst of supernatural speed as he leaped up into the tree behind them, scooped up Ciel, and took off running with his precious burden, intent on putting the far horizon between him and the three demon-hunting shinigami.

But the falling dusk was disrupted by more staccato flashes of light, as more Reapers popped out of their supernatural realm; another one directly in his path, and two more pairs to either side of him in a flanking maneuver. He spun about to see that the first two were already getting to their feet, and being joined by the one who had been disguised earlier. Eight Grim Reapers in all, and he recognized three of them as Grell Sutcliffe, Ronald Knox and William Spears!

There was no time to wonder why three British shinigami had come to Paris, and no need to wonder so many of them were after him all at once. He leaped as high as he could manage, to escape the ring of foes closing in around him, and hit the ground thirty yards away already coiling to leap again. Eight on one is too many Grim Reapers for all but the most powerful demon to fight, and even then only if they had recently feasted and were at the full peak of their power.

Sebastian had been slowly starving even before meeting Ciel, and he hadn't eaten in the eight years since then; at first prevented from doing so by the contract, and then choosing instead to feed every soul he grabbed to Ciel, to keep the boy-demon from dying completely. While scarcely a weakling yet, he was far from his full strength and speed, and he knew it. But he had a demon's cunning and millennia of experience on his side, and he put it all to good use as he fled across the vast cemetery with a pack of Death Gods all but baying at his heels.

There were more flashes of light as he ran for the edge of the cemetery, but these were high in the sky and accompanied by rolling thunder; lightning danced as the storm that had been threatening for hours finally broke and began pouring down rain upon the city. On nights like this, Sebastian had generally stayed inside the cottage at the edge of the cemetery that he'd made into a small refuge for himself and Ciel; pouring rain made for poor hunting, as few humans ventured outside in such weather, and his little lord had always hated being caught in the rain. But he did not dare to take refuge in the cottage now; the sorcerous wards he'd wrapped around the dwelling would hold back one or two of any supernatural creature, but not the entire pack of Death Gods hunting him tonight! So he continued running, out into the city. If he could make it to the nearest entrance to the underground Catacombes de Paris, only a few miles away, he knew he could lose the lot of them down in the Stygian black!

But though he managed to shake off up to half of his pursuers time and again, he never managed to lose all of them; dodging as they came at him from every angle, he was never able to make it to the catacombs and safety. He might have made it if he'd been willing to just drop Ciel and save himself, but he would not, could not abandon his little one to the Death Gods' ruthlessness! If he'd still been human, the Reapers would have largely ignored him, but they thought of all demons as despicable vermin, interfering with their duty of collecting souls; they would just see Ciel as a demon that was particularly easy for them to dispose of!

So he kept running through the night and rain with his precious burden, kept dodging for hours through the alleys and across the rooftops of Paris. He kept running, and he kept killing as well; nearly every time he ran past some human caught out in the storm, he would free one hand from carrying Ciel for just an instant, just long enough to slash the unfortunate stranger in passing with razor-sharp claws through the neck, or simply punch them with enough force to cave in their skulls. He reasoned that if he created enough work for the Grim Reapers to do, they would break off their pursuit of him in order to collect all the souls he was leaving in his wake. But there were damn few humans out in such horrible weather, and even when he did find one and make a kill, other shinigami kept dropping in to collect the cinematic records while the main pack that had started the hunt for him maintained their pursuit. For Abaddon's sake, they must have roused most of the entire French division of Death Gods against him!

Over the hours, Sebastian used every trick for escape and evasion that he had learned over the millennia, and a few more that he invented on the spot... but it was never quite enough. And he eventually realized with a sickening certainty that not only could he not escape them, the Grim Reapers were herding him back towards the cemetery.

And finally, back in the cemetery and not long after midnight, his time and the last shreds of his devilish luck ran out. He was dodging around the tomb of Molière when he heard a shunk! and felt an agonizing impact in his left leg. He jerked and stumbled, and only barely managed to roll as he fell and avoid landing on his boy. Breathless from the sudden impact with sodden turf , he looked down at his leg through a white haze of pain, and saw the blades of William Spears' extending pruner poking through his left calf for an instant before the weapon was retracted back to its owner.

And the hounds fell on their prey at last, with shouts of "We've got him!", "Capturez les jambes!" and "Mind his claws!" Snarling and roaring like the beast he was, he managed to bloody a few of them as they fought, but they eventually got him facedown and spread-eagled on the ground, with his helpless little Ciel wrested away from him.

Wrenching his head to one side and spitting out mud and sodden grass, he cried out desperately, "The boy is no threat to you!" as his gazed raked back and forth, searching for—there lay Ciel, being held by a Reaper clad in red!

His scarlet hair liberally spattered with mud and his fashionable clothing tattered and torn, Grell Sutcliff looked down at the unconscious boy-demon in his arms, shaking his head and remarking sadly, "All this fuss, over all this time, for such a scrawny little brat..."

Forcibly pinning down Sebastian's left arm, a bloody-nosed William Spears glared through his cracked glasses and barked at his subordinate, "Set Phantomhive down, Sutcliffe; let Jacques Dubois do his job!"

Grell nodded with uncharacteristic somberness and set Ciel down on the grass, while the Grim Reaper that had posed as a gardener and baited their trap earlier, stepped up while brandishing an old-fashioned sickle. "It is an assignment long overdue," the shinigami said in heavily accented English. "Work that I would have completed four years ago, but for the interference of a certain foolishly stubborn vermin," as the Reaper's lip, decorated with a slim mustache, pulled back from his teeth in a contemptuous sneer directed over his shoulder at the demon.

"Noooo!" the despairing howl ripped from Sebastian's throat, as that sickle Deathscythe flashed down and pierced Ciel's chest; as that slender body gave one last infinitesimal shudder before stilling forever, and the boy's cinematic record came reeling up out of the wound the Reaper had made.

"Ciel Phantomhive. Born 14 December 1875," as the Death God began droning on the blunt and minimal statistics of the former earl's life, but Sebastian barely heard him, as all his attention was focused on the cinematic record unspooling in front of him. He was helpless to do anything but watch the life story of the human child he had somehow come to cherish and treasure:

Ciel had enjoyed a happy childhood, adored by his parents, the subject of much affection from all the servants of the old mansion (there was Tanaka, his eyes clear and sharp as Sebastian had so rarely seen them, but his smile as fond as always while gazing down at the young master playing), and rejoicing in having a playmate his own age whenever his cousin Lizzie came over. A happy childhood that was blasted apart, destroyed within minutes when his family was murdered and his home burned down, and he was kidnapped and sold to cultists.

There followed a month of enduring horrors and cruelties that even the demon Sebastian had never perpetrated on his prey. Ciel had helplessly watched all the other caged children die one by one until he was the only one left, and then been dragged out onto the altar... and then watched in awe but no fear as a demon appeared (he'd never feared him, had felt occasional wariness but never fear of the demon, he had been such an incredible child!)

The cultists were all killed at Ciel's command, and then the manor was rebuilt in an instant, but it took many months of hard work for the boy to rebuild his life and remake himself, to become someone worthy to carry the hereditary title the Queen bestowed on him: the Watchdog of the Underworld. And through it all, his loyal demon stayed by his side, his new Sebastian (if only the demon had understood then that the name of the boy's deceased hound had been given as an honor, not a slur on his status!)

They had adventures across the width and breadth of England, one by one gathering other servants who doubled as soldiers, making bold forays into the Underworld and more cautious forays into High Society. The boy had suppressed his horror and grief beneath a stone-hard mask when his beloved aunt was first revealed to be the human half of Jack the Ripper, and almost immediately murdered in front of his eyes by a Grim Reaper. He'd been bewildered by the continuing affections of his cousin and betrothed Lizzie, and by the arrogant, clumsy overtures of friendship offered by a Bengali prince (the boy had secretly thought he wasn't worthy of the love that shone from such bright souls; why hadn't Sebastian told him differently?)

Further horror, at realizing his former life had been ripped apart by an angel gone mad. The shock of betrayal by Lau, and the already-damned boy's guilt at seeing a good man die in his stead (Sebastian could have saved Abberline, should have saved him, another way he'd failed his master!) Desperation and knowing deprivation once more, as the boy strove to make his way alone from Paris back to London (Unforgiveable, testing his contractor like that, Sebastian should have known the boy had escaped being tainted by Ashrael, he should have known better!)

His vision blurred as he continued watching, and Sebastian realized that he was weeping like some weak human when the record showed his brave little master honorably offering his soul up to his loyal servant, the way the contract should have ended (and would have if not for that execrable pair, Claude and Alois Trancy!) Seeking to hide that final humiliation from his foes, Sebastian turned his face away as the record continued spooling out—but only for a few moments before he felt compelled to watch again, to see his little lord in action one last time:

Ciel resuming his noble and Watchdog duties with characteristic fierceness, despite becoming painfully aware of gaping holes in his memory (Sebastian should have told him everything, should have trusted his master to understand and to honor their contract, instead of quietly manipulating him like he was just another hapless soon-to-be-meal!) All the hateful encounters Ciel had endured from Alois Trancy and Claude... finally experiencing grim satisfaction in killing that blond-haired pretender to nobility, but in short order realizing true horror when he became a captive inside his own body as Alois's spirit possessed him!

Sebastian had failed his little lord in so many ways during that terrible time, the demon realized as more of those foreign tears burned in his eyes. Including the most glaring failure of all, failing to prevent Hannah from contracting with Alois-in-Ciel's-body and turning Ciel himself into a demon! The cinematic record played on past that point, before ending on a last few miserable frames:

Ciel in the cemetery with Sebastian, asking how a demon could die. (Why hadn't he realized then what the boy had in mind?!) Going off alone to buy a straight razor. Returning to the hotel room they shared, offering one last desperate attempt to make Sebastian happy... and being cruelly refused (idiot, idiot, DAMNED FOOL!) Drawing a bath, while pulling that familiar swallowtail coat out of their luggage. Breathing in a few last wisps of comforting scent from the coat, before making the first slash with the razor... the final frame showed only the bathwater stained crimson.

And then the record was gone.

Ciel was gone.

Dead, forever lost to him, despite everything he'd done. Sebastian turned his face back to the mud, and waited for the Grim Reapers still holding him down to strike his own death blow.

And he waited...

And then he realized that no one was holding him anymore. That sometime while the cinematic record was being reviewed, they had all let go of him and stepped back, and he hadn't even noticed.

And scant moments after he realized that, he felt something prodding him in his side and heard Spears' voice saying irritably, "Get up, demon; you and I both know you're not that badly hurt."

Getting up seemed like too much effort just then. But when Spears wedged a shoe under his torso and lifted upwards in an effort to turn him over, he stirred himself enough to roll face-up. He found himself staring up at the leader of the British division of Death Gods, who frowned down at him with Deathscythe poised and ready while saying, "I'm sure you neither know nor care how much overtime that your stubborn refusal to accept the inevitable, has cost the entire Grim Reaper Association in this joint endeavor."

"My apologies for inconveniencing you," Sebastian responded dryly.

"Insincere apologies, as expected," William Spears declared with a snort. The storm that had descended upon the city hours ago had finally subsided, into a misting drizzle that dripped down from the Grim Reaper's black and no-longer-neatly-coifed hair. But the glasses Sebastian had damaged during their struggle were evidently still serviceable; the shinigami pushed them back into place with a gloved finger as he stated, "I want you to realize, demon, that all the harm you've done in the last four years, all your poaching of souls that you had no contractual claim to, did nothing but delay the inevitable. Ciel Phantomhive was never going to return to you as a demon, nor as a human." And those blunt words hurt Sebastian in a manner that even the Deathscythe through his leg had not.

After a pause to let that sink in, or possibly to wait for a response that Sebastian had no interest in giving to him, Spears added with an arched eyebrow, "I trust you also realize that it is against Grim Reaper policy, to let a captured demon go free to continue eating souls."

Sebastian still said nothing. The Death God continued, "Based on the Parisian branch's findings, you have taken an estimated thirteen souls in the past four years, demon. You will not leave this place alive. However," as Spears unexpectedly pulled away his Deathscythe and took a step back, "You once aided the London branch of the Grim Reaper Association, in putting an end to the mass slaughter of humans being committed by the insane angel Ashrael, that was costing the entire department massive amounts of overtime. In light of your accomplishment, it has been decided that you will be allowed... one final dignity, if you will.

"As ancient as we believe you are, you are doubtless aware of the customs of ancient Greece and Rome. They allowed condemned aristocrats to drink hemlock or fall upon their own swords, rather than suffer the indignity of being killed by others." Spears' free hand went to his belt, and for the first time the demon noticed that he had a second weapon there, a two-foot-long wooden shaft topped by a horizontal curved blade; a primitive scythe such as had been used by farmers at the start of the Iron Age.

Spears drew the weapon and laid it on the ground next to Sebastian's hand, before backing up to join the ring of silent Grim Reapers encircling the demon. "That is a trainee's Deathscythe. While unrefined, it has the same basic power as any Deathscythe wielded by a Grim Reaper, and would be enough to kill a demon. You are permitted to take it up and do yourself in. But if you make one move to wield it against any of us, you will be instantly dispatched with extreme prejudice."

Moving slowly, the demon sat up and grasped the weapon, looking it over with something that might be akin to wonder as the gentle rain pattered down upon it. He was vaguely cognizant that the honor that had been offered to him was extremely rare; indeed, this was the first time he had ever heard of a Grim Reaper making such an offer to one of his kind.

He supposed he could leap up and over the ring surrounding him, and flee into the night; all the shinigami surrounding him looked exhausted by the night's long chase and battle, and an unexpected burst of speed right now just might be enough to let him escape them. Another demon would have instantly done so, and gleefully taken the weapon with him as a trophy, a reminder of how foolishly honorable even Grim Reapers can be at times.

Or he supposed he could take up the weapon and try to kill as many Death Gods as he could before he was cut down. The only material that could stop a Deathscythe was another Deathscythe; Spears had just given the demon a means of blocking their blows, an advantage if they began fighting anew...

But he just didn't feel the need to bother with either option. He was tired, weary to the core of his essence, and aching with the loss of his Ciel. In all his millennia, he had never before encountered another soul as exquisite as that child's, never had a contractor so vexing and yet so oddly satisfying even while he served. And then when the boy had been turned into a demon against his will, he'd wasted their months together, preoccupied with sulking over the loss of his well-earned meal, instead of actively trying to work out a solution with Ciel that would see them both fed; instead of realizing that he had been granted an immortal companion that he actually liked, and who liked him back! He'd wasted all that, and... After so much wasted, there really seemed no point to existing further.

So, how did one kill oneself with a junior deathscythe? The Romans had fallen on their swords, but this weapon's blade was simply not shaped the correct way for dying in such a fashion; it was meant to be swung from the side. He supposed he could lop off both his legs and simply bleed to death. His Ciel had bled himself to death; such an end would be fitting... But no, that was not likely to work either. As old and powerful as he was, his demonic physiology would likely seal over the stumps before he bled out from the wounds.

...There was another way at hand. He slowly stood up with the weapon, and looked off to the right, where Grell stood in the circle of Reapers, that chainsaw Deathscythe held up in the shinigami's grip but currently silent. "Grell Sutcliffe," he murmured. "After all the aid you gave my master and I, back when he was still human... at the very least, I believe I owe you one final dance, dear lady. You may make it as bloody as you please."

"Ohhh, Bassy-chan!" as the Death God's phosphorescent-green eyes sparkled behind the glasses, cheeks blushed pink with pleasure and pointed teeth showed in a truly disturbing grin. The chainsaw revved up joyously as the Reaper stepped forward—

"Sutcliffe!" Spears barked angrily.

The scarlet-clad shinigami gave a start at his superior's voice, and seemed to wilt for a moment as the chainsaw's rough song of destruction died... but then the roar resumed, as Grell straightened up and a small measure of that toothy smile returned. He held the swiftly rotating blade out in front of him, pointing straight forward and at chest height as he said, "If you're ready for the release of oblivion, my sweet Bassy-chan... come and get it."

So it was to be like that, then. Not what he'd expected, but he could easily adapt. The demon stood tall, and clothed himself once more in the proper uniform of Sebastian Michaelis, butler to the earl of Phantomhive, from the polished silver emblem on his breast to the perfectly ironed tips of his tailcoat.

He took three measured steps towards the shinigami that fancied himself a lady, and then gave him/her exactly what was expected of any well-bred servant, upon meeting a fine lady...

A deep bow. Which incidentally let him fall face-first onto the chainsaw, cutting himself open from crown to sternum.

As immeasurable agony ripped through him, Sebastian had one last thought before the blackness of oblivion claimed him forever: Goodbye, my lord.

.

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.

...and then he opened his eyes.

That was decidedly unexpected.

Also unexpected was the voice coming from somewhere off to his right, saying irritably, "Finally! This entire affair has taken far too long for any manager's liking."

He tore his gaze away from the stark white ceiling above him to look over to the right, to see the voice's owner... or rather, try to see him. But all he saw was a person-shaped blur of black with bits of pink here and there; why could he not see clearly?

"You'll be wanting these, then," the familiar voice said, and something was brought near his face—spectacles, like he had worn when acting as a tutor to his young lord, though with a much less elegant shape to the frames. But they had true corrective lenses installed, for when they were fitted in place he finally saw clearly who was sitting next to him: William T. Spears, once more clothed and groomed immaculately and with his spectacles mended as well.

"What...?" Sebastian began, before his voice trailed off rather helplessly; so many questions swirled about in his mind, he had no idea which to ask first.

"Since you're already familiar with the Grim Reaper Association, I'll save time by skipping over the basic orientation lecture. That leaves just a few items to cover," and Spears began ticking points off his fingers. "Yes, you're a Grim Reaper now, as is young Phantomhive. He's already awoken, had his orientation lecture, and been shown around the facilities by Ronald Knox; he should be attending his first class with the current crop of trainees as we speak. You'll be joining his class after we get you—"

"But how?!" Sebastian blurted out, unable to stop himself as he sat up on—a cot, he was in some sort of dormitory, or perhaps infirmary. "I am a demon to the core! A demon cannot become... cannot... how?!"

Spears frowned at him in disapproval. "How disappointing; I see I shall have to cover some of the orientation lecture with you after all. You may not be aware that some humans who commit suicide are, for reasons known only to the Power On High, chosen to become Grim Reapers. Some speculate that it's meant as a punishment for taking their own lives, and it certainly can feel like a punishment, particularly when you have to put in large amounts of overtime on certain occasions," as he gave Sebastian a meaningful glare.

"Granted that neither you nor young Phantomhive were human at the time of your deaths, but evidently the boy had enough humanity left in him to qualify, since his name appeared on the list of souls to collect four years ago with the annotation that he qualified for Grim Reaper recruiting. When the Parisian branch first attempted to collect him but found themselves thwarted by your taking him away, they at first made the reasonable assumption that you had killed him and eaten his soul before he could actually die by his own hand. But then the Undertaker came to them with the information, though no one knows just how he learned it, that young Phantomhive had been turned into a demon by some opponent of yours who chose to ruin your dinner."

Sitting back in his chair, Spears continued, "That put things in an entirely different light. There were several discussions between the branches about your and young Phantomhive's history together, until it was finally decided to put you under remote but constant observation for a solid month, using an aetherscope. And once we were finally able to track you down—which took an appalling amount of time, by the way, but Sutcliffe persevered; his ridiculous obsession with you actually proved useful for once—what we observed, Michaelis, was decidedly un-demonlike behavior on your part."

Sebastian could hardly deny that; no other demon would have bothered to try to revive Ciel at all, and certainly not spent years further starving themselves to feed him. Spears continued, "So after a great deal more discussion that involved every single level of management, it was decided to conduct a Demon Hunt that would be a joint effort between the London and Paris branches of Dispatch; between those who knew the territory best, and those who knew you from past encounters. But rather than simply kill you after finally freeing young Phantomhive from his barely-living shell, it was decided to offer you the chance, though it was a very slim chance indeed, to qualify for Grim Reaper candidacy and possibly join him in the next life."

Nudging his glasses up once more, Spears added, "I quite honestly doubted that it would work, for several reasons, the primary being that despite your kind having cinematic records, no demon has ever evidenced having a soul worth reaping by appearing on the To Die list. Nor had your name been on the list two days ago, though several of your victims during the hunt were."

"Two days ago?" Sebastian found himself asking.

"You had been in existence long enough that it took a full day and night to finish reviewing your cinematic record!" as Spears glared at him for interrupting. "And by the by, you had best be grateful that we didn't know until then that you were responsible for introducing the Black Death to Europe! Plenty of the seniors here still remember how much overtime they had to put in to cover all the deaths that occurred during those years. But the decision to attempt your conversion had already been made, by that point your essence was already beginning the transition from demon to Grim Reaper, and now here you are."

"Is he awake yet?" came another, painfully familiar voice from outside the room, and then Grell Sutcliffe poked his head in through the doorway, grinning wide at the sight of him. "Oh, he is! Welcome to Reaper-hood, Sebastian darling! I'm sure you'll love it here; as much as I'll love showing you the ropes!"

"Absolutely not," Spears said flatly. "You are to be in no way involved with Michaelis's training. Not only would your obsession with him interfere with giving him an objective review, but the last thing we need is for a former demon to think that your work ethic is acceptable and to be emulated on duty!"

As Sutcliffe and Spears argued, Sebastian sat back with a sigh and finally accepted that yes, he was a Grim Reaper now. He had tried to change his form twice while Spears had been talking, but found it impossible; he was now locked into this one body... though since it evidently looked the same as the form he had assumed when he had first made the contract with his little lord, it suited him well enough.

A demon becoming a Grim Reaper after death. He would have thought it impossible, but up until very recently in his existence, he had also thought it impossible for a demon to truly love a human. It seemed the universe still had surprises in store for him... Not entirely unwelcome surprises, either.

With this new existence came new possibilities for him, but he could already foresee several difficulties ahead. In the likely order of their ascending difficulty:

First, convincing Grell Sutcliff that even though they were evidently the same supernatural species now, he had absolutely no desire to pursue a relationship with him.

Second, joining his Ciel in training and convincing him that he was truly, sincerely regretful of how horribly he had treated his young master after his conversion to demon and that yes, he did want to pursue a relationship with him, in whatever form it would take now that they were essentially equals.

Third, finding his own place and rank in this new community. Before, he had been a powerful demon of considerable rank, but now he was plainly just another new recruit... one that would no doubt encounter a great deal of prejudice against him, judging by what Spears had just said. He would have to work hard to not only adapt to this new way of living, but overcome that prejudice and earn the respect of his superiors.

Would he be able to accomplish all that?

Then he smiled to himself. Of course he would... It should go without saying that Sebastian Michaelis was going to make one hell of a Grim Reaper.

.

THE END