Through the Years
By Kimberly T.
Author's note: This fanfic is based on the manga, not the anime, and its background incorporates all the manga events up through chapter 106. (It may end up being canon-compliant for later chapters of the manga, but at this point we'll just have to wait and see.) This fic also incorporates the concept "practice makes perfect;" that is, if they keep doing their jobs long enough, the Phantomhive servants will eventually become reasonably good at them. (Or at the very least, not quite so bad at them!) And it counts the years after Ciel first made a contract with Sebastian, which is why the story starts at Year Four instead of Year One.
Chapter 1: His Master, Growing
In the spring of Ciel Phantomhive's fourteenth year, and very soon after returning from a mission on the Queen's business to the Ivory Coast, the young earl suddenly began to grow taller.
And at first, he did not appreciate it.
"Damn that witch doctor! Straight to hell!" Ciel groaned while writhing on his mattress, trying but unable to straighten out his legs; the muscles there seemed to have tied themselves in excruciatingly painful knots under his skin. "He said his gods would bless me because we saved the village, but he must have cursed me instead!"
"I do not think what is happening to you is a curse, young master," his butler Sebastian said calmly, while holding Ciel's left leg and massaging the calf muscles. "Rather, I think it is simply muscle spasms, though peculiarly strong... and I'll admit that I'm currently at a loss as to why they have occurred. You were certainly not over-exercising earlier..."
Just then the earl and butler were surprised by a knock on Ciel's bedroom door, and the voice of Baldroy the chef came floating through the wood: "Young Master, Sebastian? Mind if I come in?"
Ciel and Sebastian exchanged startled glances; it was rare that Bard ventured up to the earl's bedroom, so far from the kitchen that he held as his territory. Ciel gave permission to enter and Bard came in, wearing a rather peculiar expression; like he wasn't sure whether to be happy or worried over something.
"Sir, Finny just came tearing into the kitchen cryin' buckets again, an' worried to death over you. He said you was nappin' under the elm tree with a book on your face, when you suddenly woke up and started screaming in pain while grabbing at your legs! And then Sebastian came flyin' in and carried you up here before he could find out who'd attacked you and how. So... is that what happened?"
"I wasn't napping!" Ciel snapped, blushing hotly. "I was just resting my eyes while pondering what I'd just read about—about China's current political climate!"
"Uh-huh. Yes, sir," Bard said with what possibly threatened to become a smirk, as everyone very deliberately did not look at the book that had been tossed heedlessly onto the nightstand: Gulliver's Travels. "But aside from what your eyes were doing, he got the rest right? You just woke up with a bad pain in your legs? Mostly here in the calves, right?" as he thumped down on the other side of the bed, and set to massaging the muscles of Ciel's right leg while Sebastian continued working on the left.
"You seem to have some knowledge of this ailment," Sebastian said almost grudgingly, looking at the cook through narrowed eyes. "Would you care to share with the rest of the class?"
"What, you really don't know?" as Bard stared at Sebastian in surprise. "Well, that's a first; for once, I know more about somethin' than you do! Huh, wait'll I tell Mey-Rin... Naw, better not; she'll think the sky's gonna start falling next."
Ciel glared at the cook over his shoulder as he snapped, "Bard, stop congratulating yourself on being the Fount of Wisdom for once, and tell me what the hell's happening to me!"
"Sorry, sir!" as Bard almost saluted out of sheer reflex, before he went back to massaging Ciel's leg. "Anyways, it's really nothin' to worry about; you just got a charley horse! Or I should say a pair of 'em, and probably feeling big enough to pull a stagecoach."
"Charley horse?" Sebastian echoed, one elegant eyebrow raised.
"Yup. Dunno why they're called that, but I got 'em myself sometimes, back when I was a teenager, and so did some of the younger bucks in my old squad." Still massaging, Bard leaned forward to say earnestly to the earl, "Wakin' up with a charley horse is actually a good sign, young master; it means you're growing up! It's just that your growing bones an' growing muscles ain't quite caught up to each other yet, or somethin' like that. It don't happen to everyone, but guys that got tall folks in their family tree tend to get 'em when they start really shooting up in height."
Still digging his fingers into the mattress, Ciel stopped groaning and looked at Bard, his uncovered eye wide. "I'm... growing? Getting taller? Are you sure?" he said, and there was no disguising the raw hope in his voice.
Bard gave a cheerful shrug in response. "It fits the pattern; charley horses, needin' more sleep all of a sudden, and your plates have been coming back to the kitchen practically scraped clean lately. Have your shoes been pinching you too, sir? The biggest growth spurts start at the feet an' go from the bottom up; that's what my old man always said, back when."
"My... my shoes were pinching my feet, feeling too tight earlier," Ciel half-whispered, the corners of his mouth tugging upwards in a painful grin. "I thought it was because they'd gotten wet and had shrunk a bit while drying, but... Sebastian, I'm getting taller!"
"That is indeed wonderful news, young master," Sebastian said with a polite smile. "If you like, we can start measuring your progress in the classic fashion, with marks showing your height against an appropriate wall... though first, we must get you capable of standing upright again. Try extending your leg now, sir..."
They started that very afternoon, with a pencil being laid precisely level on top of Ciel's head before marking the wall in a discreet corner of his dressing room. Then exactly one month later, they measured his height again—and the next mark was just under three-quarters of an inch higher on the wall. Another month passed, and the third mark was a full inch and a half higher than the first.
There was a definite spring in the young earl's step as he strode about the manor... that is, whenever he wasn't stumbling, banging into cabinets or tripping over his own feet, as his body had apparently decided to trade coordination for height. Or when he wasn't lying on the bed, cursing in phrases that would shock even the saltiest sailor, and clutching his pillow while Sebastian massaged the cramps out of his legs.
To be continued...