"Young master, it's late. You should be in bed by now," Sebastian's voice pierces the dark quiet of the room, but Ciel does not startle. The butler's phantasmal presence, although hardly ordinary in itself, has become so familiar to the Phantomhive heir over the past year that it is like having a second shadow. His sudden appearance – his otherworldly, vaguely imposing aura – has long since lost its ability to surprise the boy.

"Young master, I must advise closing that window. You'll catch a cold."

Sebastian's feet don't make a sound against the floor, but Ciel knows without turning around that the demon is at his back. Yet Ciel still does not avert his attention from the vigil he's been keeping at his window sill, watching the snow gently waft down from the dark heavens above. It has been snowing steadily all afternoon, and the courtyard has been overrun by fluffy white slush. His servants had previously commented on its loveliness, but Ciel can't help but view the dead trees and icy plains stretched out before him as an unrecognizable wasteland. Winter has lately felt so bleak, so ominous to him.

Just as Sebastian's gloved hand reaches out to close the window, Ciel speaks.

"I was just thinking about how isolated we are, all the way out here in the country."

When he turns his head Sebastian is regarding him with an unfathomable expression.

"Isolated?"

"We're pretty far removed from civilization, aren't we? The closest town is at least ten miles away." He lifts one eyebrow curiously. "That's the definition of isolation, isn't it? Being alone?"

"That is correct," Sebastian returns, and the slightly upturned corners of his mouth seem to suggest that something about what Ciel has just said strikes the butler as being highly amusing. Ciel very pointedly ignores this look.

"This place is dismal during this time of the year," Ciel says with a sigh.

"If it distresses you so, then shall I close the curtains while you go back to bed?"

"It doesn't distress me," Ciel says, but he knows as well as Sebastian does that there's no use in lying. He shakes his head as he regards the snowy plains beyond his window sill with a kind of wistfulness. "Winter is just unpleasant, I suppose. The courtyard usually looks nice during the spring but right now it's so… barren. It's like a lonely wilderness out there, isn't it?"

"No."

Ciel cranes his head back to where his butler stands, hovering, at his shoulder. "No?"

"There's plenty of animals out there. They may be hibernating, but they are out there," Sebastian tells him. "I would say that's the opposite of lonely, actually. That's inhabitated. Populated."

They're talking in metaphors here, and both of them know it. Ciel rises from his perch at the window and snaps his fingers. Sebastian obligingly pulls the shutters closed before locking them into place. After he finishes his task he lowers his gaze subserviently to his petite master. Ciel is looking at him very intently.

"Do you ever get lonely, Sebastian?"

"Demons do not possess the same emotions as humans do," Sebastian responds plainly. "There really is no comparison."

This does not satisfy Ciel. "Answer the question in a less roundabout way."

Sebastian's eyes glint mischeviously in the moonlight. "Why would I be lonely," he says, in a voice made of liquid velvet, "when I have you, Young Master?"

Ciel's good eye falls closed as his body gives into an involuntary shudder. He takes several deep, calming breaths to regain his composure, but it does little to soothe the electric tingle that's now making its way up his spine. His voice is ragged when he speaks.

"Kiss me, Sebastian."

It is Sebastian's turn to lift an eyebrow. He cocks his head to one side.

"That is an order."

Sebastian's pixie-ish smirk warps under the weight of Ciel's command. It is now a barely-concealed grin. "Yes, my Lord."

And he leans in to do just that.