8 Today is a gift. That is why it is called the "Present.”

"Heinz, you can bring the kids over. Everything is ready." The cheerful voice of a lady came from the other side of the mobile phone.

"Understood. We will be there shortly, Madam."

"Alright, we'll be waiting."

Heinz returned the mobile phone to his pocket and met Andrea's questioning gaze. He gave her a brief nod. There was no need to say anything else. Both of them understood that it was time to execute the next step of their plan.

When Andrea called out to the children and told them that it was time to leave. Heinz also ordered some of the body guards to head back to the manor. He ordered them to drop off the shopping bags. Then, they were supposed to meet up with them at the Grand Hilton Hotel after they were done.

Heinz checked his pocket watch on his way to the car park. It was four thirty in the afternoon. They had plenty of time to do the finishing touches.

-------

Inside the car, Ciel noticed that Heinz was not driving towards the manor. He glanced at the sleeping girl by his side who was oblivious to what was happening. Kate's head was leaning on his shoulder and drool was coming out of the side of her mouth.

Ciel didn't pay attention to the drool that was staining his shirt. He has many clothes at home, he could always change to another one. His gaze traveled to his mother. Andrea met his gaze and a mischievous grin appeared on her face.

She pressed a finger over her lips, signaling her son to not ask anything. Ciel frowned, but he remained silent. They drove in silence. Only the drooling piggy by his side was making noise.

Kate was muttering words like "Mine are softer" and "Don't worry, I'll use moderation" from time to time. As to what was soft, and what she meant by using moderation, Ciel decided to ignore it.

Kate was prone to talking in her sleep. He was already used to it. Ciel thought that the girl was dreaming of eating soft cakes, and had to use moderation or else she would get fat. His guess was not far from the truth. However, the one being eaten was not the cake, but him.

"Ufufufu," the little piggy chuckled as the drool coming out of her mouth increased.

Another minute passed and Ciel saw a building in front of the car. He was very familiar with this building. It was the Grand Hilton Hotel. A hotel that belonged to his grandparents. Ciel was a very smart boy. He managed to connect the dots together and a look of understanding appeared on his face.

He turned his head to the side to look at his mother. Andrea met his gaze for the second time and nodded her head.

'I see,' Ciel thought. 'So that's it.'

"Wake up sleepy head," Ciel said as he lightly tapped Kate's cheek.

"Fue~," Kate mumbled as she opened her eyes. She raised her head and glanced at Ciel drowsily.

"It's fine. I used moderation." Kate yawned before rubbing her eyes. Obviously she was not fully awake.

"Moderation in what?"

"Hehehe, I'm not going to tell you."

Ciel had an amused expression on his face. He knew Kate was still half asleep, but he never thought that she would not answer his question. He didn't press the matter and waited for her to get her bearings first.

-----

Ten minutes later…

Kate was guided by Andrea to a dressing room. There were a few attendants waiting inside, but what caught Kate's attention was the dress that was propped up in the center of the room.

It was a pink, fluttery, ballroom dress adorned with flowers and satin silks. She stood there with mouth agape, unable to tear her eyes away from the dress.

Andrea chuckled from the side and placed a hand over Kate's shoulder. "What are you waiting for? Go on and wear it."

"Ah?" Kate cried out in disbelief. "This dress is for me?"

"If not for you then who? Do you expect Ciel to wear it?" Andrea replied. She paused for a bit as if a realization had hit her. "Wait, that does sound like a good idea!"

Kate blinked. Then she blinked again. She imagined Ciel wearing this ballroom dress and she wasn't able to stop herself from giggling. Indeed, the dress would look good on Ciel.

In fact, no one would be able to tell that he was a boy. If he doesn't open his mouth to talk, people would think that he was a beautiful and delicate girl.

Andrea and Kate shared a knowing glance, before bursting out in laughter. Kate was holding her stomach, while Andrea placed her hands on her waist. The two laughed until tears spilled from their eyes.

-----

Meanwhile in another dressing room inside the hotel...

Ciel felt a cold chill traveling down his spine. His body shivered uncontrollably and this action didn't escape Heinz's observant eye.

"Is there something wrong, young master?"

"...I don't know."

Ciel was being honest. He didn't know where that foreboding feeling came from. He didn't know that in the not so distant future, his mother was going to dress him up.

On that day, countless boys in Saint Claire Academy would be lovestruck. Not long after that, a school wide search would be initiated in order to find the beautiful, blue-eyed young fairy that stole the hearts of men with her flirtatious glance and angelic smile.

But as always, that story will be told at a later time. Until then, don't form your ships yet.

-----

An attendant was doing the finishing touches on Kate's dress. Andrea was watching from the side with her arms crossed over her chest. She was very satisfied with the design of the dress.

It fitted Kate perfectly and matched her budding beauty. Her personal tailor did an amazing job. Andrea made a mental note to bring a gift to her the next time she visited her atelier.

"It's done, My Lady," the attendant said with pride.

"You did an amazing job." Andrea wasn't stingy when she praised people. She liked working with every capable people. With a gesture of her hand, another attendant pushed a full body mirror to the center of the room. Kate excitedly stared at her reflection and what she saw, blew her away.

'I look like a princess.' This was the first thought that passed through her mind. If someone were to hear her words, they would nod their head in agreement. Kate was a beautiful girl.

The only reason why her growth was stunted was due to malnutrition. Andrea made sure that she ate healthy meals everyday. Her body recovered and even started developing in all the right places.

Although it doesn't look like much right now, her future self held promise. Kate's pretty face had the charm of a young lady in full bloom. Her pink and adorable lips were soft.

Her smile was enough to make young adult men give her a second look. And her hazel eyes would helplessly captivate anyone who stared in their depths.

"Remember this, Kate, today you are a princess." Andrea declared as she cupped the young girl's face. She smiled before lightly planting a kiss on her forehead. "Now let's find Ciel and see how he reacts!"

"Un!" Kate smiled and nodded her head in approval.

Andrea and Kate walked through the hallway side by side. The people they passed gave the two beautiful ladies glances of admiration. Their gazes lingered a bit longer on the younger girl wearing a pink ballroom dress decorated with flowers.

Kate didn't notice their gazes because her mind was filled with thoughts of seeing Ciel's reaction.

Andrea led Kate to a room where two men were standing guard right outside the door. When the men saw the two ladies, they stood in attention and opened the door for them.

"You go first," Andrea said.

Kate nodded and entered the room. The lights were turned off and it was very dark. As soon as she managed to take a few steps inside the room, the door behind her closed shut.

Kate was alarmed and the movie Final Destination suddenly popped inside her head. Her body froze in fright and she was close to panicking. 'I'm still too young to die!' she almost said out loud. Luckily, she heard a familiar voice in the darkness and calmed down a bit.

"Don't be afraid, Kate."

"C-Ciel? Where are you? Please come out. I'm scared!"

A small light appeared in the darkness. Then more lights appeared. They seemed to form a circle and it was going near her. Kate observed the approaching sources of light and noticed that it was flickering. Like a candle in the dark, swaying gently when the wind passed through it.

A soft melody started playing. Ciel started singing and when the familiar song reached Kate's ears, she felt her eyes moisten.

Happy Birthday to you~

Happy Birthday to you~

Happy Birthday~

Happy Birthday~

Happy Birthday… to… you…

Right. Today was her birthday. Her thirteenth birthday to be exact, but the birthday celebrant completely forgot. She had not celebrated her birthday for years. For her, everyday was the same. A day to survive. Celebrating a birthday was a luxury she couldn't afford.

Suddenly, a spotlight opened in the darkness. Its light focused on a boy wearing a black suit with a matching tie. The boy was carrying a small cake with thirteen lighted candles

"You bully."

"Sorry, you look so beautiful that it made me want to tease you a bit."

"Hum, you scared me."

Ciel appeared in front of Kate and his eyes glowed with both delight and mischief. He would not admit that Kate's current appearance made him lose his composure. The current Kate was like a princess that came out of a fairy tale. Ciel's heartbeat was beating wildly in his chest. It reminded him of the first time he saw Kate in that dark alley.

The moment Kate's bruised and skinny hand reached out to him, he felt something inside his heart open up. When their hands clasped each other, he felt that her hand perfectly fit his. Like the final piece of a puzzle falling in place, it brought comfort and completeness in his heart. Ciel was still too young to understand this feeling. All he knew at this point in time was that he wanted to always be together with Kate.

Together forever.

In order to hide the blush that was creeping up his face, Ciel raised the birthday cake on his hand and presented it to Kate. "Happy Birthday, Kate. Now, blow the candles and make a wish."

"Why is your face turning red?" Kate asked.

"It's because it's hot," Ciel replied. His voice cracked a bit when he answered. Kate noticed that the current Ciel was very different from his usual composed self.

"If you don't blow the candle soon, your wish will not come true." Ciel insisted. He didn't want Kate to focus her attention on his face. He was afraid that she would discover the feelings that were gushing out of his heart at this moment. "Come on, Kate. Make a wish."

"Hum, fine. I'll let you off the hook this time."

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Ciel watched in relief as Kate closed her eyes and made her wish. The moment she opened them, she blew out the lights of all the candles in one breath.

When the lights of the candles were extinguished, the lights of the room opened up.

"Music please!" Heinz clapped from where he stood.

A chamber orchestra started to play a lively tune of the birthday song.

"Happy Birthday to you!"

"Happy Birthday to you!"

"Happy Birthday"

"Happy Birthday"

"Happy Birthday to you!"

Kate was overwhelmed with happiness. The tears she had been holding back flowed like a river. Heinz was kind enough to take the cake from Ciel's hands, and urged his young master to comfort the crying girl.

Ciel's grandparents, Arthur, and Alice, hugged the two children and gave Kate their best wishes. The orchestra played in the background while the family sang and celebrated together. Afterwards, they went to the dining room were a feast was waiting for them.

Kate was filled with happiness. She felt that her heart was overflowing with feelings of love and gratitude. She never thought that she would be able to experience a birthday party like this. They ate, and had their fill. T

hen they talked about interesting and funny things. This lasted for a few hours. The adults drank wine, but since they were under-aged, the two children settled with fruit juice.

"Kate, are you happy?"

"Very happy!"

Kate's face was flushed. Even though she only drank fruit juice, she resembled someone who drank three bottles of wine. Indeed. Kate was drunk, but not with alcohol. She was drunk in happiness and it made her feel giddy.

Heinz excused himself and left the dining room. A few minutes later, he returned and whispered something to Andrea's ear. She nodded and Heinz left the room in haste. The mother and son pair exchanged a glance and the two of them came to an understanding.

Andrea, and her parents excused themselves, leaving the two children alone in the dining room. Ciel swirled the fruit juice in his cup before drinking it slowly. Placing the empty cup on the table, he started to observe the young girl beside him.

"Hmm? What's wrong?" Kate asked when he noticed Ciel's gaze.

"I was wondering, what did you wish for?"

"Do you want to know?"

"I do."

"I'm not telling!" Kate stuck out her tongue. 'I'm not going to tell you that I want you to…'

Kate squirmed in her seat. She felt her cheeks warming up, so she covered her face with her two hands. She was afraid that Ciel would be able to read her thoughts through her face. Ciel didn't dwell on the subject and stood up from his seat and held her hand.

The two left the dining room and headed down the stairs. There was a wide open space in front of them. Chandeliers were hanging on the ceiling and their dim radiance illuminated the room.

Kate recognized this as a ballroom. She saw a similar one in the disney movie that Mama Andrea watched together with them. Upon closer inspection, Kate realized that the setting was very similar!

'Don't tell me?' Kate's eyes glittered in anticipation. However, it dimmed when she remembered one important problem. She didn't know how to dance!

When they reached the bottom of the stairs, Ciel placed a hand over his chest and bowed.

"Princess, would you like to dance with me?"

"Eh?! B-But I don't know how to dance."

Ciel raised his head and held out his hand. "Do you trust me?"

"Of course, I trust you. But, don't blame me if I step on your foot ok?"

Ciel chuckled. His laughter was like the pealing of bells in the quiet ballroom.

"Don't worry, Princess," Ciel said with a smile. He had the familiar leave-everything-to-me. look on his face. "I will teach you how to dance."

"O-Ok, if you say so."

Ciel held her hand and guided her to the center of the ballroom.

"Place your left hand on my shoulder," Ciel instructed her. "Then hold my other hand with your right. Good, that's it."

Ciel held Kate's waist with his right hand, and his other hand clasped hers.

"You're a bit stiff, relax a bit. Let's practice by swaying first."

"Sway?"

"Yes, sway in place. Side to side like this."

Ciel guided Kate to sway with him. The two of them swayed from side to side. Both children were so focused on their 'dance practice' that they didn't hear the muffled giggle from the corner of the ballroom.

"Kids do the darndest thing," Alice, Andrea's mother, suppressed her giggle. "Looking at them makes me feel old."

"We're not that old." Arthur disagreed and hugged his wife. "We'll still be around when Ciel gets married and have children."

"Of course. I want to see my great great grandkids as well."

"Ciel inherited our Belle's family's genes. Just look at him. So manly, just like me."

Andrea and Alice chuckled at Arthur's words. They didn't say anything and watched the kids as they practiced.

"Step, one, two, step. Good. Now, turn." Ciel spun Kate slowly. "Very good. You're doing well."

"I have a good teacher."

"You can praise me more."

"I'll think about it!"

The two of them continued their dance practice until Kate memorized the basics. Ciel taught her a simple dance step and the two of them had been repeating it over and over again. Although Kate stepped on Ciel's foot a couple of times, he didn't say anything and continued to guide her.

The minutes passed, and Kate finally became proficient. As if waiting for that moment, the melody of a piano accompanied by a violin softly reverberated in the ballroom.

Ciel winked at Kate and she nodded in understanding. Kate knew the song being played because she already watched the movie a dozen times.

A beautiful and captivating voice started to sing.

****

Tale as old as time

True as it can be

Barely even friends

Then somebody bends...

Unexpectedly!

****

The last word was said with excitement. Clearly, the singer was having fun as well. The two kids glanced at the lady who was standing beside the chamber orchestra who magically appeared out of nowhere.

[A/N: They were just hiding. That's why you didn't see them!]

"Mama Andrea could sing?" Kate asked in disbelief as she danced with Ciel.

Ciel nodded his head in affirmation. "She barely had time to sing nowadays. She won't miss this chance to show-off."

"Mama Andrea really has a beautiful voice." Kate sighed. "I wish I could sing as well as her."

"We could hire a voice coach if you like to learn how to sing," Ciel replied. "Do you want one?"

"Eh, you don't have to go that far. Let's take things in moderation. Yes, moderation is good."

"You and that moderation of yours."

"Hmp!"

****

Just a little change

Small to say the least

Both a little scared

Neither one prepared

Beauty and the Beast...

****

"Hehe, so I'm the beauty and you're the beast."

"For now."

"Heh~"

The song continued as the two children danced. Kate leaned her head on Ciel's shoulder and closed her eyes.

"Thank you Ciel. Thank you for saving me."

Ciel didn't reply. Instead, he held her body closer to him. The two of them stopped dancing. They merely swayed in place, holding each other.

"If not for you, I don't know what would have happened to me. Maybe I'd be locked up somewhere, never to see the light of day."

There was a short pause as Kate shuddered in Ciel's embrace. She can't stop herself from remembering what happened in that dark alley. If Ciel didn't appear, what would have happened next? She was afraid of the answer that appeared in her mind.

A soft hand patted the back of her head. It made her calm down, and the anxiety in her heart subsided.

"Yesterday is history," Ciel whispered in her ears. "Tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That is why it is called the present."

Ciel's voice soothed Kate's heart.

His presence made her feel safe. She buried her head deeper in his protective embrace, and the last dregs of fear disappeared completely.

"Don't live in the past, Kate." Ciel kissed Kate's forehead. "Live in the present."

"Whenever you are in danger, I will appear to save you. I promise," he added.

"Un," Kate said as he hugged Ciel tighter. "I believe you."

****

Tale as old as time...

Song as old as rhyme...

Beauty and the Beast…

****

The two children stayed in place even after the song ended. No words were spoken between them. In their hearts, they made a promise to always stay at each other's side.

Little did they know that many years from now, both of them would be thrown into the middle of a storm. A storm where love, hate, revenge, mystery, and redemption, all meld together in a fascinating tale that may lead to a happy ending…

Even so, right now, at this very moment. The two of them poured out their feelings to each other. Until both of their hearts started to beat as one.

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