It hurts...

It hurts...

Oh it hurts...

With a soft whimper, Alois Trancy's eyes flitted open.

The first thing he registered was pain.

drained and weak and his head felt both feather-light and iron-heavy

He was lying in a large and extremely soft bed, wearing a nightshirt that didn't feel like his, covered with a thin blanket, and pain.

He whimpered again, found he couldn't muster the energy to brace himself enough to even think of sitting up, and tried to wet his dry mouth.

"Cl...C...Claude?"

There was a soft snort.

Alois's head flopped sluggishly to the side, eyes taking in the sight of Ciel Phantomhive sitting beside the bed in a chair with one foot slung over the other and taking the occasional sip of something aromatic from a teacup.

"Ci...el...?"

Without turning, Ciel reached up and tugged on a velvet bell rope.

Sebastian was quietly entering the room, pushing a tea cart laden with various medical supplies and a silver teapot, in under a minute and a half.

The fire crackled softly, but Alois couldn't help shivering.

"Oh dear, is the room cold?" Sebastian turned. "One ought not to have any weight on wounds this fresh. I hope you'll excuse the blanket."

Ciel rolled his eyes. "He's not cold, he's frightened. Change his bandages already, I want to talk to him."

"Of course, my lord." Sebastian bowed, took Ciel's empty teacup and set it on the cart, then shrugged off his tailcoat and draped it over the cart handle, turning to Alois. "I can, of course, have Finny build up the fire if need be."

He tugged the cart over to Alois's bedside, lowering his voice. "Please inform me if you feel any discomfort as I work. I assure you I will be as gentle as possible."

With a quick glance at Ciel, Alois nodded nervously, then flinched as Sebastian lifted back his blanket and began unbuttoning the nightshirt.

Ciel snorted again. "He won't hurt you. He's under orders. Anyway...you're probably wondering why you're here, and why you aren't dead yet."

Alois hadn't even considered that, but suddenly very much was. He flinched, again, as Sebastian laid his torso bare, revealing a neatly wrapped mass of bandages and bloodstains.

Alois did not want to be there when that mess was unwrapped.

"Where's Claude?" he asked, in a very small voice.

"He left you to die, actually," was Ciel's cool reply. "I had Sebastian go back for you afterward, when I found he and Claude lied."

Sebastian picked up a pair of scissors. Seeing Alois tense, he murmured, "Would you like me to explain as I go? You may close your eyes, if you wish."

"That's not to say I'm not cross with you," Ciel went on, not having heard. "And you've made a right mess of things."

Alois was only half-listening; twin cold thin blades were neatly parting the bandage around his abdomen and coming into chilly contact with his skin. Soft gloved fingers lifted the bandages away, except where it stuck to the entry and exit wounds.

It hurts it hurts it hurts-

Sebastian made a low soothing sound in the back of his throat, slowly and carefully unsticking the dried and semi-dried blood with a cloth soaked in hot water.

"A right mess indeed. I really should just kill you, but in deference to the Queen, I won't. She needs her spider, after all, and I supposedly need a Trancy to clear up after the Phantomhives do their dirty work. But I hardly think I can't do that myself."

Alois was in pain, frightened out of his wits, completely defenseless, weak as a newborn kitten, and in the presence of his most dangerous enemy.

He wanted to crawl under the blanket and hide and hide and hide, but he couldn't.

Alois let out a miserable sound somewhere between a whimper and a sob. Sebastian's hands stilled. Ciel stopped talking, scowling.

"You're a coward through and through, Alois Trancy."

"He is, as you say, frightened, my lord," Sebastian murmured. "He has been through quite a bit. Perhaps you could make allowances until after I have finished."

Ciel's eye flashed. "Why are you taking his side?"

Sebastian's own eyes twinkled. "You know why, young master."

Ciel sighed. "Fine."

He sat in silence for a moment, watching Sebastian lay the bloody bandages onto the cart and start to address the wounds. Alois's mouth was trembling, shivers wracking his thin body.

"If you're not going to kill me, wh-what are you going to d-do?"

Ciel smirked. "One stab and you go from cocky little brat to cowering puppy. You have no idea how gratifying this is to watch."

Sebastian hid a smile. Alois gave him a desperate look, and he relented.

"Our aims in keeping you alive are twofold," the butler said. "As the young master told you, the queen would rather not have her Spider crushed. My lord may have his doubts about your usefulness, but the Watchdog must defer to Her Majesty's wishes."

Ciel made a contemptuous noise in the back of his throat. Alois let out a cry as Sebastian's fingers prodded the edges of his wound.

It hurts it HURTS

"Forgive me...I don't wish to cause you discomfort, but I must treat this to ensure it doesn't suppurate."

The creature's soft, reassuring voice transported Alois back to the time when he had been Jim Macken, and still had a mamma. He'd hit his head after tripping and falling during a game of tag. But Mamma had been there when he'd run back home in tears. A cool cloth had been pressed against his temple, and kind hands had smoothed his messy hair.

'It's all right, Jim. There's a love.'

Alois gritted his teeth and tore his gaze away from Sebastian. He knew well this thing pretending to be a butler had no maternal instincts to speak of. Did demons even have feelings beyond their insatiable hunger for souls? Not that Alois thought much on the subject.

"Y-you said you had two reasons for not killing me. What's the second?" he croaked.

He sounded so weak and helpless...Ciel wrinkled his nose and looked at Alois in open disdain.

nononono stop staring at me like that please

Claude had gazed down at him the exact same way after the duel, as if Alois was a pile of manure writhing with maggots. Like he was disgusting. Worthless. Then, as now, the scorn ripped into Alois like nettles piercing his flesh.

"Your household put me through quite a lot of fuss and bother," Sebastian said lightly, as if the Trancy demons had merely delayed his preparations for tea rather than tried to snatch away his master. "To compensate me for those unexpected inconveniences, my young lord has given me permission to take your soul at the end of our contract."

"What? But that's...they won't allow it. My servants will...they'll track you down, th-they'll fight you for me..." Alois sputtered.

Wouldn't they? Or had Hannah and the triplets abandoned him like Claude? No, they couldn't, they couldn't!

Worthless...

"I highly doubt that. I killed them, you see," Sebastian said with an affable smile.

Alois's chest tightened til he could scarcely breathe, and droplets of cold sweat beaded on his skin.

"Killed...them?" he repeated numbly.

"Following your duel, I took my young master back to the Phantomhive manor, then returned to finish my danse macabre with Claude. Just the two of us…and this time, there was a clear victor."

The demon's smile deepened into a smirk.

"In order to sweep out all the cobwebs, I dealt with the others too. A messy business. But it helped that I'd already taken care of Claude, with whom you had the strongest bond. Once that had been severed, the other demons' ties to you were weakened; rip a spider's web, and the fragile structure will tear and tatter in the slightest breeze. The triplets were capable young things, but I disposed of them without too much trouble. Your Hannah Annafellows, however...she was the most difficult by far. It still baffles me why the Sheathe of Lævateinn would defer to that scuttling arachnid. I had to regrow a limb after my battle with her!"

Sebastian raised his right hand and playfully waggled his fingers like a child making shadow puppets. Ciel rolled his eye and took another sip of his tea.

"Could you get to the point, Sebastian? This is growing tiresome."

"I found you huddled in your bed, clearly at death's door, and brought you here so that we could decide how to deal with you," the demon concluded. "Speaking of, I believe I'm done with your bandages."

While he'd been talking, Sebastian had finished doctoring Alois's injuries.

"Let's get you buttoned up. In this condition, you mustn't catch cold."

"For God's sake, he's not as delicate as all that," Ciel snorted.

Alois was suddenly wracked by tremors so violent they rattled his bones. When Sebastian reached for a button, he smacked the demon's hand away.

"I d-don't believe you! You're lying! " he protested shrilly.

Sebastian chuckled. "If you don't believe me, perhaps you'll trust the evidence of your own two eyes."

He leaned over, took a small hand mirror from the nightstand, and held it in front of Alois's face.

"See for yourself. Is there a contract seal on your tongue?"

The boy glared at him. Of course there would be! It had been there ever since he willingly ensnared himself in Claude's web. But when he opened his mouth and cautiously stuck out his tongue…

Nothing.

Clean slate.

Like it had never been there to begin with.

Alois was already too pale, as if he'd dusted his face with powder from a lady's boudoir, but it turned a few shades whiter.

"It's...gone...Y-you really…"

"Yes," Sebastian nodded. "From this day onward, you are contracted to no one, Alois Trancy."

they left me alone they left me alone THEY LEFT ME

Replacing the mirror where he'd found it, Sebastian tilted the boy's chin up so that their eyes met. Hot tears began to trickle down Alois's cheeks.

"My goodness," the butler tutted in that same motherly tone as before. "Neither of us has any intention of killing you. And your final destination hasn't changed. The eternal darkness will still claim your soul in the end."

Alois instinctively flinched as Sebastian reached out to wipe his tears away. However, his touch was light and cursory, unlike the lecherous fingers of that depraved old man.

Sebastian looked at Alois with keen interest bordering on fascination, like a connoisseur of art appraising a particularly fine sculpture, or a chef admiring a beautifully-presented cake. Not the filthy gaze Earl Trancy had turned upon him, undressing Alois with his eyes, but the way Claude used to look at him before Ciel Phantomhive proved more appealing. A demon regarding its meal.

"Your and the young master's souls are remarkably similar, yet distinct due to subtle variations. Like navy and midnight blue. They'll complement each other perfectly."

That was something, though, wasn't it? To be wanted? Really and truly wanted. It meant you were special, that someone cared about you. That they would stay.

"Blubbering like a toddler. You really have no pride, do you? More like the Queen's Crybaby than the Queen's Spider, I'd say," Ciel sneered.

Alois glanced down at his hands, desperate to avoid that baleful blue eye.

"You've been taught better manners than that, young master. Since Alois is our guest, we would be remiss if we failed to show him Phantomhive hospitality," Sebastian scolded.

An irritable "Bah!" was Ciel's only reply.

"May I button your nightshirt now, Alois? You must be chilly," the demon said. Alois, who continued to shiver, answered with a quiet nod.

"I think a nice hot drink would do you good, too. Would you care for some tea?"

Ciel stood abruptly. "One more second of this and I'll be ill. Sebastian, I'll be in my study. Do whatever you want with the brat, but don't be late for bedtime."

Sebastian bowed. Ciel stalked out.

"Now then. About that tea."