Grim Aftermath

(Sort-of a Sequel to the Sequel)

By Kimberly T.

(reposted after adding an extra scene near the end)

Thanks for reading 'Grim Duty'! Some of you who read it may be disappointed to learn that I won't be writing out another multi-chapter epic based on it, as I'd done for the first sequel in which Ciel was revived while still a demon. 'Moving Forward' was a joy to write, but I had a specific background to build most of the story on, based on my research of France and Italy and one short trip I took to Italy decades ago. But so far, we haven't seen nearly enough of the Grim Reaper realm and community to satisfy my need for a firm base to build full stories on.

I could just Make Shit Up, of course; people who've read my ATLA fanfics know that I enjoy world-building, extrapolating from canon and RL similarities to enrich the background and even help drive the plot of my stories. However, much like our favorite pair of perfectionists, I strongly dislike being seen by others as incorrect about anything. So you could say that it goes against my aesthetics, to create a world in fanfic that I know could end up being completely contradicted by the still-ongoing canon. (Especially since some reviewers for my ATLA fanfic feel obliged to tell me that some part of the world-building I'd done for the stories, goes against the canon for the new post-ATLA comics series. Look, those comics hadn't even been published when I'd written those story chapters, okay?)

HOWEVER, I have had quite a few ideas for what Sebastian and Ciel would do and have done to them, now that they're both Grim Reapers. And I thought I'd share those ideas with you here, for those of you who, like me, always want to know What Happens Next:

After getting properly dressed as a trainee (and of course he manages to rock that uniform, too), Sebastian is indeed taken to the training facility and introduced to the class already in session. Word that a former demon is joining the class has proceeded his arrival, and everyone, even the teacher, stares at him warily... Except Ciel. After just one quick glance at him, Ciel looks down at his textbook and then refuses to look at him again for the rest of the class.

After that first day of training is over, Sebastian tries to get Ciel alone so they can talk, so he can express his sincere apologies for the horrible way he'd treated Ciel before the boy's suicide, and ask about starting afresh in their new, greatly changed circumstances. But he finds himself deliberately thwarted when Ronald Knox comes up to escort Ciel home, and bluntly tells Sebastian he's NOT invited along.

William Spears had mentioned to Sebastian upon his waking up that (a) Ciel had preceded him to the Reaper Realm, and (b) Ronald Knox had given him a tour of the facilities. But what William hadn't bothered to say was that, like Sebastian himself, Ciel was a highly unusual case for a Reaper recruit.

My headcanon is that many children have committed suicide over the centuries, though the very youngest suicides (say, 8 and under) are sent on to their proper afterlife instead of becoming Grim Reapers. Those who choose to kill themselves and are old enough to be fully cognizant of what death truly is and what they're doing, end up in the Grim Reaper realm, but the children are fostered out to afterlife couples and raised in more-or-less-families until they mature enough to handle an adult's duties. Which, considering how very slowly Grim Reapers apparently age (judging by the timeline of that one Reaper-centric OVA), means it could be a few hundred years before they begin training to handle Deathscythes or take on other duties in the processing of souls.

After living only thirteen years, Ciel could have been fostered out for the next couple of centuries before even being formally beginning Grim Reaper training. But it was common knowledge that Ciel was mature far beyond his years; he had been successfully carrying out an adult's duties in British society long before he died. And as Spears often grumbles, the Grim Reapers are terribly understaffed for their workload; that being the case, Spears created a special circumstance for young Phantomhive. He would join the current crop of trainees, learning as one of them, but he would not be staying in the same dormitory that all the other trainees lived in. Instead, he would spend his off-training hours living with an elderly administrator named Ruth O'Sullivan, whose home is right next door to Ronald Knox's place. And since Ms. O'Sullivan had spent her afterlife career behind a desk instead of 'in the field' collecting souls, Ronald Knox was told he would make himself available to show Ciel around and answer any questions the young teen might have, his primary duties permitting.

For all his many and cheerfully admitted flaws, there are some things Ronald takes very seriously, such as mentor-trainee relationships; the manga illustrated that he is respectful to 'Grell-senpai' no matter what outrageous thing that Reaper does while they're on a case together. When Spears told him that if they were successful in retrieving Phantomhive from the demon's grasp, Knox would be the one to show their newest Reaper around and answer questions (while Spears dealt with the demon), Ronald made the relatively reasonable assumption that he would be mentoring the youngster in Reaping souls. He was surprised at the honor, seeing that he was barely out of training himself, but silently promised that he would live up to the trust Spears had shown in him.

And that is how Ciel, who was still rather dazed at waking up at all after dying in a bathtub in Paris, let alone wake up changed yet again (born a human, turned into a demon, and now he's a Grim Reaper?! Will he be sprouting angel wings next?) abruptly found himself with a big-brother-figure. One who introduced himself with a cheerful, "Hi, kid! Uh, wait, you hate being called a kid, don't you. [Ron had never met Ciel face-to-face in the anime; he only knew that because he'd seen it in Ciel's cinematic record.] But I'm not calling you 'my lord' either, because you're not an earl anymore, now that you're a Grim Reaper; we don't do that 'nobility' stuff here. So... I'm Ronald Knox, but my friends all call me Ronnie. Can I call you Ciel?"

Dazed and disoriented as he was upon awakening as a Reaper, Ciel was still far from stupid. Realizing that he'd been cut off from all his earthly wealth and status, knowing that he would need an ally and source of information at the very least in order to gain his footing in this new realm, he smiled his sunniest smile while offering his hand for a handshake and saying, "I'd like that very much, Ronnie."

It wasn't until the next day, after he had been shown around, settled into Ms. O'Sullivan's home, and introduced to his trainer and fellow students in Reaping 101, that Ciel learned that there was a slim chance that Sebastian would also be joining the Reaper ranks. But Ronald told him firmly that even if the demon did end up converting into a Grim Reaper—which Ronald thought was pretty unlikely, no matter what Grell-Senpai thought—Ciel could just ignore the bastard and not have to associate with him at all, and if Sebastian started bothering him, Ronald would be happy to put the ex-demon in his place.

Ronald had witnessed Ciel's cinematic record before 'porting back to the Reaper Realm to be there when Ciel woke up in his new body, so he'd seen how coldly Sebastian had treated Ciel once the boy had become a demon. And Ronald had not seen, because he'd never looked through the aetherscope Grell had used for spying on Sebastian and because Ciel had not been in any state to perceive his surroundings after his suicide, how tenderly the elder demon had treated Ciel while trying to revive him for the last four years. So it should be no surprise that Ronald thought of Sebastian as one cold and cruel prick that Ciel (and the Grim Reaper ranks) would be better off without.

Ciel, on the other hand, was struck anew by guilt when Ronald informed him that Sebastian had died and might be converting into a Reaper as well, because he became silently but horribly sure that it was all his fault. That when he'd committed suicide, he had somehow dragged Sebastian down with him, in the manner that the death of one conjoined twin inevitably means the death of the other [the eponymous Siamese Twins lived and died in the Victorian era, so Ciel would likely know of the concept.] He and Sebastian had been linked not by veins and vital organs, but by their contract and that terrible command, that the ancient demon would remain his butler until he'd eaten the last scrap of Ciel's soul. When Ronald mentioned offhand that his suicide had actually occurred a few years ago, but Sebastian had been keeping him barely alive until the Reapers hunted him down, Ciel imagined that Sebastian had spent those years dragging him about like a ball-and-chain, grudgingly stuffing souls down his throat while cursing him for his stupidity in trying to end the contract that way, and now hates the boy more than ever.

So poor Sebastian found the challenges of his new life to be harder than even he'd expected; Ciel couldn't even stand to look at him, let alone talk with him, and everyone else was blatantly prejudiced against him. But he reminded himself that demons are used to being hated and alone, so the situation was nothing new and nothing he couldn't handle... But then it got worse. Because William Spears, not out of malice but because he honestly hadn't thought it necessary, hadn't given Sebastian the full orientation lecture that former-human Reapers got when they first woke up; an orientation which includes both the abilities and the limitations of their new forms.

After observing William and Ronald's actions during the Circus and Campania arcs, my headcanon is that Grim Reapers have a lot more speed and strength than humans do, and a lot more endurance as well; they can go for days without eating or sleeping. But they do need some sleep, at least 3-4 hours' worth once every three to four days, and they need to eat at least once every other day to stay in optimal condition. Sebastian, on the other hand, was used to regarding sleep as a luxury, not a necessity, and he was used to going hungry for decades while waiting for the very best souls to eat.

So the teacher is hard on him, always looking for something to fault him for? Fine, then, he'll become one hell of a student; he'll study hard, turn in stellar assignments and ace every single exam. He's sure that the other trainees in the dormitory still sleep every night because they're used to thinking like humans; their loss is his gain in study time during the quiet hours. And if the other trainees all shun him in the cafeteria and refuse to make room for him at their tables, that's fine, too; he can just study even more while they stuff their faces.

Sebastian was determined to be the best trainee the Reapers ever had, and he gave it his very best shot... right up until the day over two weeks after his arrival, when he dozed off in class during a particularly boring lecture, due to exhaustion and the first stages of starvation.

The trainer took the sight of one of his pupils falling asleep in class, just about as well as you'd imagine. Yes, Grim Reapers believe in corporal punishment for lapses in discipline. And yes, after his own painful experiences under Sebastian's tutelage, Ciel was among those sniggering when the switch was brought out... But Ciel was the first to stop sniggering when the switch strokes came down hard enough to actually draw blood.

Sebastian took the punishment stoically, not even flinching, which earned him grudging points from the rest of the students, not that they're any friendlier to him. But at the start of class the next day, when everyone rose to greet the instructor, Sebastian stood up—and then collapsed in a faint.

Poor Sebby was hauled off to the infirmary, and there was much speculation along the way that his demon essence is just incompatible with Reaper-hood and he's begun the process of 'disincarnating', soon to just cease to be on any plane of existence—which prospect made Ciel, trotting alongside the stretcher, go pale and silent. But then all was revealed when the doctor asked Sebastian when was the last time he ate or slept properly, and Sebastian said irritably that he has neither the time nor the inclination for such luxuries.

Shaking his head, the doctor explained the facts of shinigami life to the ex-demon. Sebastian promptly protested that can't be right, there must be some mistake, he can't be so weak, etc., etc. Ciel just rolled his eyes and shook his head, and then dug into his own lunch carrier to find the dessert Ms. O'Sullivan had made for him. He marched up to a still-protesting Sebastian, shoved the chocolate éclair in front of his face and commanded, "Eat!"

Sebastian shut up and ate the éclair (which was deliciously sweet; the stunned ex-demon thought it was like tasting the soul of an angel.) And then he humbly thanked Ciel, but the former master, embarrassed at being caught showing he still cared for someone who never truly cared for him (or so Ciel still thought), was already turning away and all but fleeing the scene. Sebastian had no chance to go after him when the doctor pushed him back down to the cot while calling for a nurse to bring Sebastian far healthier fare, and then told Sebastian that if he didn't agree to stay in bed for a good long nap after eating, then he'd be strapped down for the rest of the day.

Gossip spread, as gossip always does, that the ex-demon that was Spears' pet project had collapsed in class. William Spears showed up first, as soon as he could get out of a middle-management meeting; after the doctor informed him of what happened and why, he bowed to Sebastian's sleeping form and silently left the room. Then Grell turned up at the infirmary a few hours later, and he blithely assured the doctor that he was there to take care of poor old Bassy-chan, as Spears had told him to.

The doctor agreed to release Sebastian into Grell's care, over Sebastian's own protests. Because of course Spears hadn't told Grell to do anything of the sort, Grell had just come on his own after hearing the gossip, more intrigued than concerned about the ex-demon's health. And when he found out why Sebastian had collapsed and how ignorant the ex-demon was about his new form, Grell had an idea...

Sebastian soon found out that Grell's idea of 'care' started with a trip to the nearest bar, and a round of drinks that were put on Grell's tab. "Oh, alcohol doesn't really affect us, not the way humans are affected; we just like the taste. And a Bloody Mary is full of tomato juice, Bassy; it's healthy as can be! If you drink enough of them, I guarantee you'll feel better!" All lies, but Sebastian had lost his innate ability to discern lies along with his demonhood, and Grell wanted to see if getting drunk would cause Sebastian to loosen up enough to agree to a good (violent) shagging.

Alcohol had never affected Sebastian before, but it does now, and he Does Not Like It One Bit. As a demon, an innate shapeshifter, his hallmark was Control; he had always been in control of himself, even on his wildest bloodthirsty killing sprees! But now he's feeling terribly unsteady after only twenty of those Bloody Mary drinks, and sleep is now a necessity, and so is eating human-style food, and he can't even see properly without these damned spectacles and it's just not right! And Ciel won't even talk to him! If only he'd come to his senses sooner, five years ago, when Ciel had first been turned to demon... they could have been happy together in Paris, but instead he'd ruined it all... sob, sob... Instead of a mean drunk or a happy drunk, Sebastian is a sad drunk. Disgusted, Grell calls him pathetic to his face before leaving the bar, abandoning Sebastian to cry into his drink.

Gossip spreads quickly again, about the ex-demon drowning his sorrows at the bar... And less than two hours later, Ciel marches into the bar, all but dragging a protesting Ronald Knox with him by the wrist. Ronald wants to know, why are they wasting time with that ex-demon trash? He's not Ciel's problem anymore... "But he is, Ronnie. Sebastian was my servant for over three years, but for all the work he did for me, he never got paid properly. Since the terms of his hire were never properly fulfilled, he's still my responsibility, and it's a poor master who ignores the needs of his servants when they fall ill! ...Tch; passed out. Can you carry him by the shoulders? I'll get his feet..."

They drag him back to Ruth O'Sullivan's place, where Ciel has to exert every ounce of charm he can muster to convince her to allow the sodden drunk ex-demon to crash on her couch. Matters are not helped when, as soon as he's set on the couch and fully horizontal, Sebastian pukes all over Ronald's shoes. Ciel's horrified at the blood-red vomit—internal hemorrhaging! But the more experienced Ronald shakes his head, he recognizes the smell of tomato-flavored puke, Sebby must have been drinking Bloody Mary's.

Sebastian mumbles that Grell had said they would make him feel better, but he only feels worse; then he starts blubbering apologies about all the ways he had failed his master, he was a failure as a demon and now he's a failure as a Grim Reaper, Grell was right to call him pathetic, etc., etc.

Awkward silence from the other Reapers in the room, as Ronald stares; what the heck has happened to the terrifyingly competent demon he's tangled with before? Then Ciel shushes Sebastian, finger-combs his hair for a moment, tells him to just sleep it off and they'll talk later. He gets maybe three steps away before Sebastian sits bolt-upright and then flops off the couch, his face a mask of horror as he reaches desperately for Ciel—the boy did that before, ran fingers through his hair and then walked away and committed suicide, don't do it, young master, please!

Thinking that Sebastian is just worried about the contract making him die along with Ciel again, the boy uncomfortably starts to say that he doesn't need to worry, they don't have a contract anymore, and besides—he's cut off by Sebastian howling that he doesn't care about the contract, just don't die and leave him again! He'll do anything, please, Ciel, anything!

Another awkward pause ensues among the three sober people, and Ciel finally tells Sebastian to not be foolish, he has no intention of doing anything like that again. He's just going to step out for a little while for an errand, and he promises that he'll be right back. But in the meantime Madam O'Sullivan is going to keep an eye on him, so he won't be alone. All right? Now sleep until you feel better, Sebastian; that's an order. Sebastian whispers with a tremulous smile, "Yes, my lord," and falls asleep.

Ciel goes to his room and gets the walking stick he painstakingly carved for himself over the last two weeks, then beckons Ron to follow him outside. Outside, he tells Knox with a stern expression, "I intend to have words with Grell Sutcliffe over his conduct this evening, and they will not be friendly words. Given Mr. Sutcliffe's larger size and violent tendencies, it is distinctly possible that violence will occur in this encounter. I would appreciate having a man at my back—but only if I am absolutely certain I can trust that man! Ronald Knox, you have been a fine guide and mentor to me in these last few weeks, but can I also trust you to support me instead of hindering me during my meeting with Mr. Sutcliffe, no matter what happens?"

Knox says he can trust him; Mr. Spears appointed him as Ciel's mentor, and he has no intention of letting either Ciel or Mr. Spears down. Besides, now he actually feels kinda bad for Sebastian, who is about to experience the first and possibly the worst hangover of his afterlife; it was pretty lousy of Grell to deliberately get him drunk and then leave him there like that. So he shows Ciel where Grell lives, and then stands behind him, looking stern and protective-big-brotherly, when Ciel knocks on the door.

Grell answers the door—and without saying a word, Ciel punches him right in the nuts.

Grell shrieks and collapses at the surprise nut-punch, and Ciel whacks him on the head with the walking stick while he's still falling, and while Ron just stares in shock. And once Grell is down, Ciel proceeds to kick him and beat the shit out of him with the walking stick, shouting, "The only thing that gets your attention is violence, you perverted monster! So I'm telling you in a way you should remember: Stay! Away! From my! Butler! ...Former butler! Whatever! You stay away from Sebastian! Or the next time I catch you so much as leering at him, I'll castrate you with your own Deathscythe!"

And he's about to get in one last whack when his walking stick is knocked from his grasp and snapped in two by an extending pruner Deathscythe; William Spears has arrived. "Trainee Phantomhive, you had best have a very good explanation for why you decided to attack Mr. Sutcliffe on his own doorstep."

Ciel snaps that before he explains himself, he wants to hear Mr. Spears' explanation for the entire division's shoddy treatment of Sebastian! Not briefed on essential knowledge that every Reaper must know, singled out time and again for punishment by the teaching staff, and when he ends up in the infirmary thanks to their combined abuse and neglect, he gets taken advantage of by a known pervert who had probably intended to bugger his innards out before slicing him up for meat pies! Grell groans that he wasn't planning to make pies of Bassy, but Ciel shouts right over him that any manager in Funtom Company who'd dealt so poorly with his workers, would have been fired on the spot!

Spears glares while Knox tries to pull him back, hissing that you don't talk to Management that way, is he trying to get himself killed?! Ciel breaks free of his grip while snapping, "I lost all fear of death two lives ago. And if I incarnate as an angel next, then Heaven is going to regret it, because I have so much more to say about their policies and practices!"

Ron realizes with somewhat horrified admiration that the kid means every word; he's got solid bronze bollocks, all right! Then inspiration strikes and he whispers that Ciel had promised Sebastian he'd be right back; does he want to break that promise already? Ciel glares at him, but grudgingly apologizes to Spears for his harsh words regarding management... but not, to be quite clear, apologizing for his treatment of Grell Sutcliff, who had deserved every blow and more.

Long pause filled with tension... then Spears admits he's quite right about Sebastian having been treated poorly; he had been busy with staff reviews for the past two weeks and so had not followed up on the former demon's training as he had intended. And he himself must apologize to the demon for neglecting to give him the full orientation speech; his assumption that the demon already knew all their abilities and limitations from previous encounters in his long existence, was clearly in error. He had been over at the infirmary just now, looking to talk with Sebastian after he woke up and properly express that apology, when he'd been informed that Grell Sutcliff had been there and lied about having been ordered to take Sebastian under his care, when in fact Grell had been ordered to stay away from Sebastian until after his training was completed.

More talking ensues, and the long and short of it is: Ciel doesn't get punished for beating up Grell, whom Spears was going to suspend again but he'll let the beating stand as his punishment instead. Grell says with admiration that now he knows why Sebastian was so devoted to the brat, even after his suicide; such a fierce little doggy! Ciel learns from Grell how Sebastian acted towards him while he was comatose, how devoted the demon was and still is.

Back at Ruth O'Sullivan's place, they find Sebastian snoozing under a quilt; 'Ms. O', as Ron likes to call her, seems to have softened towards the former demon. The next morning Sebastian wakes up with a vicious hangover, whispering his pleas for someone to kindly decapitate him.

Ronald already left for his shift of Reaping duty, and Ciel has to go to his classes; Sebastian tries to get up and go with him, but Ciel reminds him the doctor ordered one more day of rest for him, which he needs even more now that he's hung over. While they're gone, William Spears comes by; he can spare only twenty minutes from his schedule, but he still owes Sebastian that apology.

Sebastian bluntly asks Spears why he let the demon commit suicide and become a Grim Reaper; even if he'd been under orders from the higher-ups to do so, it would have been easier to 'accidentally' kill him during that hours-long hunt in Paris and the huge fight at its finish. Spears candidly replies that he let Sebastian have that option because he had a strong hunch that, IF the demon could convert to Grim Reaper, he'd be an excellent one.

Spears says the entire Grim Reaper Association is riddled with slackers, people who just don't care to do a good job; they don't fill out their paperwork properly, they let demons snatch up souls without even trying to stop them, or they don't bother reviewing cinematic records to determine if the human scheduled to die is actually one of the very rare few who should be spared because of their potential to be beneficial to the entire world. And while Spears had accused Sebastian of being vermin before, he could never accuse him of being a slacker. The demon had always given his contractor 100% effort, frequently going beyond his expectations; now Spears expects him to have the same degree of dedication to duty in his new life. Sebastian thanks Spears for giving him the opportunity, and says that he'll give it his best effort.

Later, after Ciel returns from classes, he and Sebastian have a long talk, clearing the air between them. They agree that since they're both trainees here, equals, it's time they acted that way; not master and servant, but coworkers and friends. Sebastian would like to be more than friends, but after Spears left and Sebastian was still in the midst of his hangover, Ms. O sat him down and firmly explained that while Ciel lives under her roof, their relationship will stay strictly platonic, or she would inflict enough pain on Sebastian to make his current utter misery seem delightful in comparison, and then she'd get creative with him. Sebastian believes her, and promises that there will be no hanky-panky under her roof, though he makes no promises about after they've both completed training and Ciel is declared capable of living on his own.

So they're friends, and while Sebastian lives in his assigned dormitory, he comes over to Ciel's home often enough—and does a lot of cooking and baking while he's there; Ruth O'Sullivan appreciates his kitchen skills almost as much as Ciel does—that it becomes a second home for him. And while Sebastian keeps to his promise to keep things strictly platonic while Ciel is under Ms. O's roof... their activities while on long walks together are another matter entirely.

Fast-forward a couple of years: Grell Sutcliffe is dying. He got overexcited and a little careless while Reaping at the site of a bloody gang war on the docks of London, and he contracted Thorns of Death, the shinigami-exclusive disease that's actually a curse from a vengeful soul hating the one who Reaped them.

Both Ciel and Sebastian had decided to forgive Grell for getting Sebastian so disgracefully drunk that one time, acknowledging that each of them had callously used Grell to their own advantage more than once back when Ciel had been human and Sebastian a demon. And while Ciel never became friends with the scarlet Reaper, Sebastian had come to appreciate that Grell wasn't prejudiced against him, as so many shinigami were. And since Grell had agreed to 'respect Ciel's claim on Bassy' and stopped trying to seduce him, the former demon even became a casual friend to him, with a little harmless flirting between them (though never within Ciel's hearing.) Now everyone is saddened to see that colorful figure, exasperating as he had been on so many occasions, just fading away like a rose losing its petals.

William Spears actually takes a leave of absence from work, to stay with Grell and care for him during his final days. On Grell's deathbed, he tells Sebastian, "Promise me, Bassy-chan, that you'll become one hell of a Grim Reaper; that you'll reap souls with Style!"

"I will, dear Grell," Sebastian assures him with a smile while lacing their fingers together. "Though I must find my own style for doing so, for surely no one could match your own unique style; nor should they try! Your uniqueness is part of what has made you so memorable, to all the Reaper Realm."

Grell sighs, "Oh, Bassy-chan, you always know just what to say to please a lady..." Grell dies a few days later, and in a way reminiscent of Madame Red's funeral, William Spears has the body laid out in a magnificent red ball gown.

Fast-forward a few more years: Sebastian had stuck to his plan to become a model student, and in fact did so well that he ended up being fast-tracked for graduation and becoming a full-fledged Grim Reaper, a full grade ahead of Ciel. But he makes some enemies along the way, other shinigami who can't stand the idea of a former demon joining their ranks and working as one of them. He also makes a few other friends, one of them a black man named Tobias Jones who actually sympathizes with Sebastian's encounters with prejudiced shinigami, because he had been faced with that same sort of prejudice on a daily basis back when he was alive.

Sebastian and Tobias end up as partners for their graduation Reaping assignment. Just as in the anime OVA episode "The Tale of William the Reaper", the two of them are sent out to observe a man scheduled to die soon, and then Reap him, collect his soul and cinematic record when he dies. But when Sebastian is given the target's name, he freezes for just a moment... it's Tanaka.

Tobias doesn't know Sebastian nearly as well as Ciel does, but he can tell something's bothering Sebastian while they observe the old man dying in a hospital bed. And when he finally finds out why, he's outraged; he'd asked their trainer once, and had been assured that no, the former humans would not be assigned to Reap any of their old families and friends for their graduation assignment, or even at any time in their first review period! This must be a mistake on someone's part, they should contact the head office... Sebastian shakes his head, no, he's actually sure this was deliberate, someone wants to see how he'll react. He'll be professional about this, he'll reap the elderly man's soul when the time comes. Tobias offers to do it in his stead, but Sebastian just thanks him kindly and says he'll do it; it actually gives him a reason to talk to Tanaka one last time—Whaat? Talk to the target before Reaping him? They can't do that! Oh yes they can; Sebastian reminds him of precedence, William Spears' own graduation assignment.

After lights out that night, Sebastian appears in Tanaka's hospital room. Tanaka is only a little surprised to see him; turns out Tanaka always knew he was supernatural and suspected the contract between him and the young master. Asks how Ciel is doing, Sebastian says there really isn't time to go into detail, but Ciel is doing well, studying hard in his new career, Sebastian is quite sure he'll become the top in his field someday. Tanaka says wistfully he had hoped to see the young master one last time, but Sebastian says he's not allowed to grant last wishes, that's strictly against the shinigami code.

Then Sebastian deliberately snaps his pen in half with an 'Oops' and declares he'll need to step out for a moment to get a new one, as he needs to note the details of the death in his notebook; he steps out and talks quietly to Tobias, who nods and cuts a doorway back to the Reaper realm. Then Sebastian goes back to talk with Tanaka, tells him his partner is going to bring him a new pen. Then Tobias cuts a doorway from the Reaper realm right into the hospital room-and through the doorway, Ciel can be seen silently waving to Tanaka; Sebastian quietly turns Tanaka to see Ciel while too-obviously thanking Tobias for bringing him the new pen. Tanaka smiles and waves back at Ciel, then the door seals shut and they're alone in the room again. Ten minutes later, Tanaka's lungs finally fail and Sebastian Reaps him; he reviews the cinematic record in silence, then bows deeply to honor Tanaka's lifelong service to the Phantomhive family.

He straightens up from the bow, perfectly calm even as he comes face-to-face with one of the shinigami who's been blatantly prejudiced against him; that shinigami sneers that Sebastian broke the rules, he granted a last request, he'll be flunked out of Dispatch service!

Sebastian has to stand in front of a review board, but he refutes the charge that he broke the rules of Dispatch. He cites William Spears' first reaping as precedence for making contact with the about-to-die, and then gets the review board to admit that it's not actually granting a last wish if that wish just happens to be fulfilled in the proper performance of Reaping duties. Sebastian needed a pen for his notebook, he knew Ciel always carries extra pens (he does), and obtaining one from a fellow student who was willing to provide it was quicker than requisitioning a new one from the supply office, it allowed him to complete the Reaping at the appointed time. But Sebastian readily admits he was lax in his performance, in not making sure every last piece of equipment was in optimal condition before setting out to do the Reaping; he should have checked his pen for stress fractures and signs of breakage beforehand, and he will willingly accept whatever discipline the review board assigns.

Sebastian gets a 'B—' instead of an 'A' for his assignment; the first less-than-A grade in his entire academic career, but he accepts it with his 'one hell of a butler' smile. Then Ciel, who's still present after Sebastian had him called in to testify that he always carries an extra pen, produces evidence that the shinigami who accused Sebastian of breaking the rules, had secretly altered the class assignments to make sure Sebastian was assigned to Tanaka's death. So instead of getting Sebastian kicked out of the program, that shinigami gets suspended for a full month. Afterwards, Sebastian congratulates Ciel on his detective skills in finding that evidence, and they have a quiet, private memorial service for Tanaka.

After becoming a full-fledged Death God, Sebastian is permitted to choose the gardening/ harvesting instrument his Deathscythe will resemble on assignments. And he astonishes everyone by choosing a small handheld pruner, secateurs much like the one he used to use for pruning the roses back at Phantomhive Manor. Most Grim Reapers prefer tools that greatly extend their reach, to distance themselves from the dying, but Sebastian doesn't mind getting close up and personal to do the job.

And even more surprisingly given his demonic background, Sebastian becomes well-known as one of the most compassionate shinigami in the Dispatch division. He never spares anyone on the 'To Die' list, no matter how much they plead or bargain to keep on living, but he eases their passing with soft words or a gentle touch whenever possible. He began the practice partly to defy the expectations of those prejudiced against him, those who had been so sure that he'd be viciously bloodthirsty and a disgrace to the title of Grim Reaper, and partly because easing the souls' passing greatly reduces the risk of contracting Thorns of Death like Grell Sutcliffe did. And while he never officially grants anyone's last request... occasionally, while he's off duty, things just seem to happen down in the mortal realm; odd, isn't it?

Then skip ahead another year or more of Reaper time, because it's time for Ciel's graduation assignment. And, unfortunately but pretty much as to be expected, Ciel has made a few enemies among his shinigami classmates as well. He's at the head of his class, due to being just as dedicated a student as Sebastian was, and several trainees resent the fact that someone so much younger than them continually outshines them in training; he's often accused of being teacher's pet, and much worse. There are also plenty of shinigami who hold him responsible for Sebastian's presence among them as well. That being the case, Ciel is just a touch paranoid that, just as with Sebastian's graduation assignment, his will involve Reaping someone he knew back when he was human. What if it's Lizzie, or Soma, or another of his former servants? He'd accepted Tanaka's passing calmly because the old man had lived a long life and died peacefully, but the others...

To assuage Ciel's fears, Sebastian finagles a sneak peek at the assignments list; he notes that Ciel will be assigned to reap some middle-aged woman named Beth _ in Blackpool, England. That's not a name Ciel is at all familiar with, and he never even visited Blackpool while he was human, so it's just some random stranger; what a relief.

Then Ciel pops into Blackpool on the day of his assignment... and is horrified to discover that Beth is actually Elizabeth, his cousin and former betrothed, now married to someone else (hence the unfamiliar surname), and in Blackpool on holiday with her family when she's scheduled to die after being struck by a bottle at high speed (one carelessly tossed by a rider on Blackpool Pleasure Beach's most famous ride, Sir Hiram Maxim's Flying Machines.)

Ciel wants badly to run straight back to the Reaper Realm and protest his assignment, to say he can't do it... because he wants even more badly to keep Elizabeth from dying, take her name off the To Die list by claiming she is one who has potential to be beneficial to the entire world. Lizzie was his dearest friend as a child, and after forming a contract with Sebastian, he'd tried so hard to protect her from the darkness that became his world. He'd always wanted to keep her safe and happy; how could he let her die now?!

But she is on the To Die list, and Ciel has been training for years now to be a shinigami; striving to be consummately professional about it, using William Spears as his role model. Even Sebastian and Ronald Knox, though not as coolly emotionless as Spears is when Reaping, are professional about it and never shirk their duty. So he stays on site, doing his best to stay utterly emotionless and stone-faced; a Grim Reaper indeed. His partner for the assignment knows nothing of his turmoil; a less-than-stellar trainee, he spends the time waiting for the Reaping just taking in the sights at the Pleasure Beach, sneaking onto the rides and such. And when the moment arrives and the bottle comes flying right at Beth's head while she's walking down the Promenade with her husband and children, Ciel does nothing to stop it. And after she's struck and collapses with a fractured skull, then he steps in and coldly Reaps her soul.

But it's the process of reviewing her cinematic record that finally does him in and breaks that stone-cold mask, because it shows all too plainly how much Lizzie had loved him; how she'd been so happy playing with him when they were children together, how much his first reported death at age 10 had crushed her, how delighted she'd been when he'd returned, and she'd loved him still despite all the grim changes in his demeanor. How much she'd been hurt by his cool behavior towards her, and how much she'd been utterly crushed once more, even worse than the first time, when he'd disappeared and been reported dead. Because she'd known that the death had been faked, had known he was still alive and had chosen to abandon her; not knowing he'd been turned demon, she'd concluded it was because she just hadn't been good enough for him.

The cinematic record shows Ciel that it had taken over five long years for her to find reasons to smile again. She'd been married off at eighteen, to another noble her parents had chosen for her; not a bad man, but not her Ciel either, and at the start she could only muster a resigned sort of affection for him. It was her husband-to-be who had started calling her Beth instead of Lizzie, to avoid confusion because his own sister Elizabeth went by that nickname. And only after their marriage and after the children started coming, when he proved to be an affectionate husband and doting father, that Elizabeth had begun finding happiness in her life again. Now with two daughters and a son all growing up strong and cheerful, she had become truly happy, content in her life... and Ciel had just cut her down in the midst of her happiness. And now his assignment partner is staring at him in horror, asking how could he have done that...

Even as Ciel collapses in hysterical sobs, the air is sliced open and Sebastian comes hurtling through it, with Ronald Knox right behind him. Ron had just found out from overhearing a bar conversation, another shinigami's drunken boasting to his cronies, about how Ciel had been set up to fail his assignment. Ron knew Ciel was in for trouble, but only Sebastian knew just where and when his assignment was taking place, and after pooling their knowledge they hurried to take over the case for Ciel—but they're just seconds too late.

Sebastian carries the sobbing Ciel back to the Reaper realm, while Ron Knox rips the other trainee a new hole for not noticing his partner's distress and finding out what was going on sooner. William Spears fires the shinigami who'd set him up, taking his Deathscythe away forever. Then Ruth O'Sullivan decides to 'express her displeasure'... and that shinigami is never, ever seen again. (Hey, there was a reason that Sebastian feared her threats, and that William chose her as Ciel's guardian in the first place...)

It takes a long time for Ciel to recover from the guilt and trauma of Elizabeth's Reaping, but he does, with Sebastian's loving care and with the support of his Reaper 'family' (Ronnie, Ruth, William and even Tobias Jones.) When he's finally declared ready for field work and invited to choose the form of his own Deathscythe, Ciel chooses the same sort of telescoping pruner William Spears uses; not to emulate his Reaper role model (though Spears was widely rumored to have actually smiled at seeing Ciel wielding it, the first time the teen reported for assignment.) He chose it because Ciel is still on the small side (and still rather sensitive about it), and that model of Deathscythe greatly extends his reach.

Ciel and Sebastian sometimes work together in the field, and sometimes work with other shinigami; Sebastian with Tobias, and Ciel with another Reaper from his class named Nathan—a nonstop chatterbox of a fellow, but he admires Ciel's academic brilliance and hard work ethic instead of scorning his youth, so Ciel tolerates him. Nathan's admiration for Ciel only grows after one assignment early in their career, when they're faced with a hungry demon that wants the souls they're Reaping.

Everyone has heard that Sebastian has little to no sympathy for his former brethren, and moreover knows just how to fight them no matter what form they take; Tobias loves to tell the story of how Sebastian used his secateurs to snip the head right off a demon, while saying scornfully that if it can't be bothered to properly contract for souls to eat, then he can't be bothered to let it exist any longer. But Sebastian is nowhere around on this assignment, so Nathan is freaked and more than a little scared of the demon that first tries to threaten them away from its prey and then to trick them away, but Ciel is unafraid of even its most monstrous form, and sees right through the tricks as well. The demon ends up writhing at the end of Ciel's extending Deathscythe, skewered right through and rapidly disincarnating while Ciel sneers aloud that it's "a disgrace to your own kind; you couldn't even hold a candle to my Sebastian! He would have at least..." his voice trails off as he glances over at where Nathan is avidly listening, and then he blushes bright red while snapping at the demon, "Oh, just die already!" And after it's gone, he threatens his now smirking colleague, "Not one word of that to anyone back home, or you'll be handling the next demon without any help at all!"

Ciel and Sebastian both rise steadily in the organization due to their dedicated work ethic, brilliance and efficiency. They rise high enough that many years later, when William Spears retires, Ciel becomes manager of the entire British division of the Grim Reaper Association, while Sebastian becomes his head of Dispatch. They both end up putting in overtime far too often, they're overworked and dealing with budget cuts and etc. But they have each other, and they have other friends for company, and they have work to keep them from being bored for the rest of their extremely long lives; that's enough for a reasonable version of Happily Ever After.

The End! :-)