"I'm afraid we don't have available the clothes you are... used to," Sebastian remarked, with an apologetic half-smile as he laid an outfit out on the bed. Alois eyed the pieces.

"Are these Ciel's?" he wanted to know as Sebastian helped him slip his arms into the sleeves of a snowy white shirt. It was nice and soft, as though it had been laundered and dried only a few minutes prior. Sebastian shook his head.

"Actually, I created these on your first night here, whilst you and my young lord were asleep. I anticipated the need for them, you see, and I hardly like to leave things to the last moment. Things often crop up at the most inopportune times."

A cold shiver slithered down Alois's spine at the calm words.

Although he did find it rather touching that Sebastian had gone out of his way to create a new set of garments from him on such short notice, he also wondered why the demon had not simply gone back to Trancy manor and raided the closet.

Almost as if reading his mind, Sebastian supplied, "I had decided against retrieving your own attire from your- ah- former home in fears that they would not be accommodating to your wound and bandages. These are looser and less restrictive, and hopefully more comfortable. The style and colors suit you, I hope?"


Sebastian smiled briefly, nimble fingers already busy with the buttons. Alois remembered, a lifetime ago, childishly unfastening buttons in the morning just to see Claude's concealed irritation as he re-did them...

never again never again never again

Alois shuddered involuntarily, causing Sebastian to pause. "Is something the matter?"

The blond boy shook his head quickly. He couldn't afford to be childish now.

"Very well." Sebastian helped him into a soft lavender vest, then into a pair of gray shorts and a slightly darker purple dinner jacket, completing the ensemble with a quaint little storm-colored bowtie, a pair of white socks, and short black boots.

The colors were perhaps a bit more muted than Alois was used to wearing, but the fit and fabric were so comfortable he didn't care.

"I didn't know you were a fashion designer too," he giggled as Sebastian finished lacing his boots. The butler smiled, straightening up with a bow.

"You are too kind. Are you ready?"

"I- are you going to carry me again?" Alois asked nervously, swinging his legs a bit.

"Of course," Sebastian assured him. "I don't think you ought to be walking about on your own just yet. We'll work on that over the next week or so, but until later..."

He scooped Alois neatly off the bed as easily as if the boy weighed no more than one of Funtom's stuffed toys. Instinctively, Alois grabbed onto the black lapels again.

Above him, Sebastian chuckled softly. "Now now. By this point I'm sure I've proven myself capable, hmm? I promise I shan't let you fall."

Alois loosened his grip, exhaling nervously. "I- I know that."

"Wonderful. Would you like to wait at the dining room while I fetch my young master from his study, or would you like to come with me?"

"Um..." Ciel surely wouldn't appreciate seeing Sebastian carry Alois around like this, and Alois felt enough the unwelcome usurper as it was. But he didn't want to wait alone in the massive dining room, and it felt nice to be carried again.

...like he mattered.

Sebastian seemed to interpret his silence as a petition for the latter option.

The steady back-and-forth of Sebastian' walk and the residual heat from the bath, besides the after-effects of the laudanum, made Alois slightly drowsy as the butler made his stately way to Ciel's study.

"You took your time," Ciel grumbled, standing up from his desk and stalking toward them. "Sebastian, for heaven's sake, he's not one of your blasted cats. Put him down at once."

Alois swallowed. Sebastian's arms tightened slightly. "Sir, he is unable to-"

"Fine," Ciel snapped. "Good grief."

He shoved past Sebastian and angrily left the study.

"...now what?" asked Alois in a small voice.

The demon sighed.

"It would appear the young master is still a bit piqued by our new...arrangement. Hopefully a good dinner will improve his mood. I made chocolate cake with that purpose in mind."

He glanced down at Alois.

"I hope that suits you, as well."

"Uh-huh," the boy nodded. He loved sweets, although…

"...I actually like strawberries better. B-but chocolate's good, too!" he added hastily. With the Watchdog nipping at his heels, he couldn't afford to offend the one "ally" (if you could call Sebastian that) who he had in this place.

Sebastian merely chuckled.

"Well, you and the young master have your differences, so that comes as no surprise. A Phantomhive butler worth his salt can adapt at a moment's notice."

The pair lapsed into silence, and Alois couldn't tell if it was hunger or nervousness that made his stomach ache. His earlier interactions with Ciel Phantomhive hadn't been like this at all. He had been the one calling the shots (or at least Claude had, which amounted to the same thing), which meant Alois had enjoyed the luxury of looking down on his opponent and laughing. But with all his chess pieces swept off the board and dashed to the floor, Alois was in no position to laugh now.

Oh oh ohhh...they'd reached the dining room. And there was Phantomhive, seated at the head of the table and scowling at Alois as if he'd like nothing better than to run him through the heart with his sword. Which he'd come jolly close to doing when they'd dueled.

"Now now, young master, there's no need to look so grim. It certainly doesn't befit the dignity of your station," Sebastian remarked with a faint smirk.

"Forgive me for being less than thrilled at having to stare at this...nuisance while I'm trying to eat my dinner," the earl fired back.

Alois tensed. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all.

"With all due respect, my lord…" Sebastian began.

Ciel rolled his eyes. "As if you ever show me any, you insolent cur."

The demon pursed his lips, but then continued.

"With all due respect, Alois has comported himself much more amenably these past few days. I trust he'll behave this evening."

Alois nodded vigorously, his mouth suddenly too dry for him to speak.

The earl exhaled slowly through his nose, clearly debating whether or not more trenchant comments were in order. But he finally leaned back against his chair and shrugged sulkily.

"Fine. Just put him down and get on with serving us our food. Unless you intend to tote him around everywhere like a parrot on your shoulder?"

Alois knew that brittle tone, like cracked glass on the verge of splintering and slicing through you like a thousand small daggers. He'd spoken that way himself sometimes, when Claude wasn't giving him enough attention.


"Of course, my lord," the demon smoothly replied.

Sebastian pulled out a chair on the other end of the table (across from Ciel) and carefully set Alois down.

"I'll return momentarily with the first course," he said. And after giving his master a deferential bow, he was off.


This was awkward.