of fair ladies and perfect men.

Disclaimers: I do not own Kuroshitsuji; nor do I own The Raven.

Ratings/Warnings: T+ for adult themes and implications of sex.

A/N: "sub rosa", or, "beneath the rose"—i.e., something done in secret; "ab initio", or, "at the beginning"—in the case of this story, something that has previously occurred.

of fair ladies and perfect men.

sub rosa. Thursday evening, nearing eleven o'clock.

Ciel moved his head to the side, gingerly; dark hair fell across his face as his lashes fluttered open and the dim glow of the candlelight assailed his still-adjusting pupil. Dilating beneath the film that covered it, cloudy scar tissue tainted a lavender hue. He sighed idly, watching as the eye patch drifted neatly onto the corner of his bedstand, little white casual cover and its strings coiled precisely as ever. His lips twisted into a bitter frown, not yet sharp enough to be intimidating.

"Does the young master feel guilty?"

Ciel blinked—uttered a soft tch, tongue against his teeth, and pulled his legs up onto the bed, fingers curling in the sheets as he wriggled backwards to his pillows. He cast Sebastian a brief glance below his lashes, carefully petulant and unaffected. "And for what?"

Sebastian smiled, smoothing down the sheets and comforters he'd folded back a few moments before. Ciel watched him with a skew of the lips, something just short of a frown, knees sagging languidly and shirt draping across his lap. Sebastian's gaze flickered up—up from the sheets, up the bed, up his toes and his legs and eventually between his knees, lingering there quite obviously before flicking up to meet his stare. A sudden burst of heat exploded in his gut as he met Sebastian's eyes, spreading up his chest and fluttering past his heart and solidfying in a lump at the base of his throat. His pout darkened into a frown as the heat flooded his cheeks in turn, and he tossed his head to the side, peering across the room at the window, heavy curtains drawn.

Gloved fingertips trailed up a thin white leg, in the dip between shin and calf; thumb and first finger boldly flicked the hem of a nightshirt, and Ciel scoffed a second time, pulling his knees together and away from the butler's reach.

"That his Lady Elizabeth is just down the hall."

A soft breath extinguished the flame of several candles and darkness settled, dimly lit by dying embers in the hearth across the bedroom. There was the whisper of worn white gloves landing on the surface of the bedstand, and the sag of the mattress as the butler eased down upon it, one hand resting upon a bare and knobby knee. Sheets and nightshirt shifted as Ciel sat up off his elbows, lacing his fingers on Sebastian's shoulders and propping his chin on his knuckles; his toes tangled together near Sebastian's thigh, curled and nudging against the source of heat. Sebastian smiled his enigmatic smile and Ciel frowned further, peering at him from below his lashes. Sparks in the dying fire popped.

The hand on his knee was untarnished. The one resting patiently on Sebastian's knee bore the seal of their contract, epidermal cells rotted out by the magic of the dark side of the soul. One unholy contract had become another, and Ciel did not truly remember when that had happened and what exactly he'd sacrificed for this second sacrament of theirs. But in fact, it was therapeutic almost, although he doubted any highly acclaimed physician of this day and age would recommend such a remedy for a social anxiety and dislike of physical contact.

Sebastian's fingers moved up, swirled into Ciel's hair and tucked locks of it behind his ear. Ciel's lashes lowered further, lips parting, and the lump in his throat suddenly began to flutter, as if his heart had leapt up and were beating there in his anticipation.

ab initio. Thursday evening, a quarter to ten.

"I wish you would not do this..."

Tender lips, curled up in their curiously seductive smile, enticing and tempting and simply begging to be kissed, although Ciel wished to claw at them right now, just to rid of that saccharine look on the face they were so perfectly crafted upon. Instead, he clawed for the white eye cover kept hostage in long, gloved fingertips. A chuckle, rattling his bones with its reverberations, and the fire roaring in the hearth crackled and gasped. The air was fickle with the tension of tiptoeing past boundaries and regulations, because every now and again a young master was incredibly benevolent.

"Sebastian, give it back. I take it off only in my bedroom, and this is not my bedroom."

"Young sir, everyone has retired to their rooms to settle in for a cozy night. You have nothing to fe—"

The heavy doors to the study swung open and one thudded against the far wall, silver knob chattering enough to draw shudders of dread from both bodies beside the hearth. And it was so perfectly trite.


The fire hissed and both master and butler exchanged equally startled stares. Ciel's teeth gnashed in agitation; he cut Sebastian a disapproving look

little boys playing little games

and held his hand out for the eye patch, jutting his jaw in a firm frown. Sebastian blinked down at him, and in one of those rare moments of what seemed to be sinful innocence, Ciel watched the thoughts process in the devil's ruddy eyes.

Sebastian's mouth curled up into a bright and cheery smile, and he tightened his fingers in upon the eye patch, skirting the Vienna and its footrest.

No. NO.

Ciel uttered a sound of surprise, clambering for Sebastian just once—and missing—before throwing himself against the cushions of the chair and digging his fingers into the arms of it to channel his rage. He heard the swish of Sebastian's tailcoats, the sound of his footsteps as he crossed the room, and Elizabeth's breath as he held the door open for her.

"Sebastian, take her back to her room," Ciel instructed. The fire crackled. He could feel both Sebastian's and Elizabeth's stares on the back of his broad chair.

"But master, the lady..." Sebastian countered, trailed off sadly, and Ciel wanted to kick his feet in frustration because he knew that damned tone of his. He had his eye patch and he knew it and he wanted to see him squirm, wanted to see him worm his way out of this predicament. The blasted, filthy, insolent—

"Fine," Ciel spat, and he could just feel the triumph of Sebastian's undeniable smile and he could just feel the joy breaking across Elizabeth's face, and he huffed a breath and cupped his palm over his right eye and picked at the fabric of the chair's arm, hooking his ankles atop the footrest and wagging his foot to and fro in impatience, bottom of his slipper flicking against his heel. "Get my bed ready, then, Sebastian. Finish up your duties around the house. I'll be here with Lizzy, and when you're done, we're all going to sleep." Elizabeth's footsteps pattered across the room; shadows from the fire danced along the walls and shelves, and in them, her presence grew larger and larger as she drew nearer. "Don't take longer than half of an hour, Sebastian."

"Yes, my lord," came the ever-obedient whisper, and Ciel pressed his lips into a thin line as Elizabeth settled down onto the tight seat to his right, smoothing down the folds of her nightgown. The doors latched shut and Ciel tried to press everything lower—all his aggravation and reluctance—tried to store it somewhere elsewhere so as not to take it out on Elizabeth before he could get a hold of that damned Sebastian.

"Can you not sleep?" he implored, glancing at her; he had to turn his head a bit, half his vision obstructed by his hand. She picked up her feet, sliding them out of her slippers to curl her toes on the edge of the sofa. Smiling in embarrassment, she folded her arms atop her knees and peered at the fire burning in the hearth.

"I know I'm a big baby, but I got scared. It sounded like something hit my window."

"Probably snow, Lizzy. Falling off a tree or something."

"I know, but—"

"It's snowing heavily. That's why I asked you to stay in the first place."

Lizzy fell silent, cupid-bow lips pressed into a thin little line. Ciel glanced at her again from below his lashes, frowning. She looked perfectly content just sitting there with him before the fire, even in just her nightgown, even without her hair done up. Just herself, beside him, before the fire—like a little family. He sighed to himself, looked away to his knees, sash of his robe resting idly in his lap.

"I'm sure it was nothing but the snow," he said.

She nodded. A silence fell, and after a moment she began to hum.

sub rosa. Thursday evening, nearing eleven o'clock.

"Yes, she's down the hall..." Ciel drew in a breath of sweet familiarity—perfect balance of fresh clothes, warm skin, and something peculiar and only Sebastian. Something somewhere between beeswax and the metallic, saccharine pungence of coins, or rogue, or blood. The hand on his knee dusted down the slope of his thigh, soft and warm and tempting as the black-tipped fingers danced beneath the hem of his nightshirt, lingering there, teasing and waiting patiently for the permission all at once. Ciel shifted, craning forward, biting his lips in contemplation. "Why would that make me feel guilty, Sebastian?"

"Pardon my audacity," Sebastian whispered, and his mahogany eyes stayed on Ciel from below his long, pretty lashes. "...Promising her things she can never have is cruel even for you, young master."

Ciel regarded him in shock at first, not so much at the audacity as at the fact that Sebastian held knowledge of his conversation. He frowned bitterly, any and all acquiescence fading from his face—if only in his sudden mood. "That's not your business, Sebastian."

"...My apologies," Sebastian murmured, and smiled humbly, warmly, coyly. Shivers of delight snaked down Ciel's spine as the fingers beneath his nightshirt ventured further, flirting with the ticklish skin beneath. He scoffed, and tossed the frustration to the side, because it was not worth fighting at the moment—but he did not pass the eavesdropping off as forgiven just yet. His knees twitched and he frowned further. Sebastian opened his mouth, drew in a breath to speak—but Ciel moved a finger up and pressed the tip of it to the young man's lips. Sebastian blinked a few times, and a brief innocence passed over his face, a moment of human bewilderment that Ciel loved so. Such pretty lashes, and a smooth and pretty face—and pretty cat-like eyes that were sanguine now and again, dark ruby red like old blood more often.

Sebastian's pretty lashes fluttered shut on his pretty blood-clot eyes and he tipped his head just so, kissing the fingertip against his lips. His fingernails grazed the skin beneath the cotton shift, and Ciel's knees twitched again, toes moving against the butler's leg.

"I do not feel guilty," Ciel whispered after a gentle breath. "I would feel worse if I told her it would never happen. It's better for her to have hope, don't you think?"

"How incredibly virtuous of you, my lord," Sebastian purred, and at first Ciel shuddered in pleasure at the sound of his voice, the look of his glance, the smile on his lips—and then through the fog of reaction, his stomach soured and his blush became one of shame, because perhaps Sebastian had meant that not as a compliment but instead as a sneer. He swallowed, licked his lips. Pulled his finger from the lion's mouth. But Sebastian just looked pretty again, softened by the shadows of the dying fire.

"I know that much of you, young master." Apologetic


fingers crawled like a spider up the remaining inches of his leg, dusting the jut of his hipbone. "I don't think you understand what I meant, when I asked if you felt guilty that she sleeps just down the hall..."

Skin prickling with a barrage of chills, burning behind his ears, Ciel took a breath and pressed his fingertip instead to Sebastian's cheek, peering at him from below his lashes. The fingers below his nightshirt stroked the corner of his hip, the flesh between that and his thigh. His lips parted and it took him a moment to breathe, "...Oh?"

ab initio. Thursday evening, nearing ten o'clock.

"Why won't you show me your eye?"

Ciel glanced sharply to the blonde girl perched on the tight seat, blinking a few times, lashes tickling his palm, flustered and a bit dumbstruck. The fire popped. Outside, the wind that carried the snow howled against the eaves of the manor. He licked his lips. "...What?"

Lizzy frowned, a finger twisting in a stray curl. She frowned at him with bright green puppy-dog eyes, and he tried to rid the grimace from his face.

"Your eye," Lizzy mumbled. "You don't have to cover it, not around me." She paused for the right amount of dramatic flair, brow knotting above her girlish eyes. Unfortunately for her, Ciel could see right past her fabricated sadness—although he knew her inquiry was honest.

"It's fine," he returned.

"Ciel, we're going to get married, one day. Why can't you just show me?"

He summoned patience and uttered a weary sigh, drumming his fingertips on his temple where they rested, palm to his eye. "Lizzy, it's..." God damn that bastard further than hell— "...It's not entirely appropriate."

"Whaaat?" Lizzy huffed a breath, slapping her fists to the cushions of the sofa, pouting at the boy across from her. He stared back, impassive.

"I don't want you to see it."

"Why not?"

"It's not proper for a lady to see."

"We're going to get married one day—"

"That has nothing to do with my eye."

"What are you going to do after that, Ciel, hunh? Keep it hidden from me still? And our children?"

"Ah... Lizzy, it's just not...befitting. I don't want you to see it and associate it with me."

"It really can't be that bad, I don't even know why you're making a big deal—"

"It's not something a lady should look at."

"Are you embarrassed?"

"...Yes. It's kind of frightening, actually. I don't want you to have nightmares tonight."

Elizabeth sputted for words briefly, a look of utter frustration and helplessness wrinkling her brow, and for a moment, Ciel couldn't repress a smile, amused by her chagrin. "I'm sorry," he said, and hoped she wouldn't question the lack of rue in his voice. "You'll see it one day, I suppose. Just not now." His eyes flickered beyond her, absently drifting along the shelves lining the walls—row upon row of books of every type, his father's favorites from their family's ever-expanding collection. In the main library there were over forty thousand volumes—folios, quartos, octavos, duodecimos, eighteenmos. There were many of the first printed editions of Greek and Roman classics, Baskerville and Foulis prints, fifteeners, Early English literature and other classical authors. But here, in his father's study, was where the books that meant the most to him were located-medical books, texts in the field of psychology, texts on the darker arts and the occult, Bibles, alchemical and Rosecrucian texts, Catholic and Christian sermons, some in their original binding and most in faded Latin. That corner, there—Ciel remembered how he'd hide there, behind the display table, while his father was reading, to see if he could scare him. He was well aware now, of course, that his father had been fully knowledgable of his presence, and had feigned surprise every time he'd jumped out and roared, little voice squeaking.

"When we're married?"

The recollection shattered quickly, bittersweet smile falling from his mouth as Ciel cut his gaze over to meet Lizzy's. She peered at him expectantly, a warm and patient smile on her face. And in that moment, shadows from the fire dancing around the study and her cheeks rosy, blonde tresses free from their ribbons and pins and cascading about her little shoulders like angel's hair, a heaviness settled on his shoulders and a guilt pressed down on his chest, quickening his breath even though each inhalation felt as thick as breathing molasses. Her sudden maturity struck him somewhere he couldn't define, a beauty and an innocence that had been promised to him but that he was leading on into a brick wall with completely coherent intentions, and—

"Yes," he husked. In the hearth, a piece of charred wood fell off the end of a log and burst into glowing embers against the coal beneath. "The night we marry, I'll show you my eye."

Elizabeth's smile brightened and the color on her cheeks darkened, and she settled back against the cushions of the sofa, clasping her hands in her lap and peering at the fire with joy dancing through her eyes. Repressed joy, because she knew he wouldn't want her squealing at this hour. And the weight on Ciel's shoulders grew heavier and his throat grew raw, and he wondered how she would spend the rest of her life after his ended. When it would end. Under what circumstances. If she would grieve long. If he had gambled wrong and they would wed before Sebastian ate him up and licked his fingers.

"You look very nice with your hair down," Ciel murmured.

Elizabeth smiled further, and her voice was that of a young woman's. "Thank you, Ciel."

sub rosa. Thursday evening, eleven o'clock.

His head hit the pillow and cocked back, dark hair falling out of his eyes and dusting expensive white cotton. His mouth hung open, voice caught in his throat where it got stuck every time, sucking in air that bordered on the edge of a gasp but remained, somehow, calm and controlled.

Skin, sticky with sweat already. Spine arching like that of a stretching cat, heart pounding, muscles twitching and shuddering in suspension between stress and delight. Thighs draped open, shirttails tossed to the side, such a handsome, handsome face, pressed nose-to-nose with his and not smiling, just staring, staring—dark copper eyes heated with hunger so sweet in its depth—a loving, loving lust.

And nothing but fingers just yet, trailing sinful circles around his navel and along his ribs, tracing his collarbone and the smooth, barely-there swell and dip of his thin chest—walking up the sensitive skin along the thigh, over the lower abdomen, and down the other thigh. Petting and playing and caressing, brushing knuckles and fingertips against flushed skin.

Teeth, even and straight, behind parted lips that tempted with each and every one of their smiles. And a tongue, little and wet, darting out along a powder-pink mouth boyish in its thinness, perfect in its shape. Ciel's chest rolled with his breath, and shivers ran along the wiring of his nerves, exploding and sparking from an epicenter near his tailbone.

Sebastian's gloves still sat on the bedstand, his tailcoat neatly hung over the side of the bed, and his waistcoat hung open where Ciel had motioned for him to unfasten it; thin little fingers trailed down the demidevil flesh exposed where Sebastian's white shirt was undone. And "A-ahh, Sebastian—!" when the hot mouth touched the skin just below his naked belly, a thin arm thrown above his head and loose sleeve sliding down to his elbow, grimace of delight distorting his face. The mouth against his flat middle smiled, a twitch of flesh against flesh, and the dusting of skin didn't stop even as the bare knuckles brushed the sweet skin below his—

"Young master, you must remember that Lady Elizabeth is just down the hall."

ab initio. Thursday evening, ten minutes after ten o'clock.

"What else will we do when we're married?"

Ciel glanced at the blonde girl trundling along after him, Sebastian behind with the candles in hand. He frowned, shoulder sore from holding his hand upon his eye for so long. Thankfully, the white eye patch had been brought back to him upon his butler's return to the study. "We'll do what husbands and wives do," he mumbled, beginning to tire of her interest in this matter. But not because the prospect was heavy on his soul—not at all. Only because she was getting girlish again, absolutely and intolerably girlish.

Behind them, Sebastian smiled.

"We'll stay in this house," Elizabeth decided. "But, of course, I'll have to redecorate just a tad. And we'll hire a few more servants, because I really do think you overwork yours, the poor things!"

"My hired hands are perfectly good and fine," Ciel grumbled, and behind them, Sebastian's smile broadened.

"And we'll get a beautiful bed with velvet coverlets of goosedown, and the sheets will be the best silk, and—" She regarded Ciel with a pointed look in her eye, lips twisted in a way that echoed the obstinacy of her mother. Ciel prayed for more patience.

"Yes, Lizzy?"

Her slender arm snaked through his and his shoulders stiffened; he tugged away out of pure instinct, then reconsidered, tried to exhale the bad reaction, and glanced at her with a terse frown creasing his brow. Elizabeth returned the stare, seemingly unaffected by his brief jerk away; her nose wrinkled, as if she struggled for a straight face.

"...And we're going to sleep in the same bed."

There was a brief sound from behind them that sounded somewhere between a scoff and a laugh, and both Elizabeth and Ciel glanced over their shoulders and regarded the butler picking up the rear with nearly exact stares of cool curiosity—although the stare from a single blue eye was a bit more reproachful than that from any other.

Sebastian smiled respectfully, nodded at them in apology.

Ciel uttered a soft tch and turned forward again, closing his eyes in search of the patience that was so quickly leaving him. "Of course we will, Lizzy. We'll be married."

"And we'll cuddle," Elizabeth added, attention drawn back around to the conversation and all stubbornness gone now that she'd been appeased. "And we can sit in front of the fire and read, too, like you prefer."

"...Yes," Ciel murmured, and pulled from Lizzy's arm just as Sebastian reached between their shoulders to the door they'd halted before. He stepped to the side to allow the butler to open the room, giving Elizabeth a small smile as she scampered in. He waited in the doorway, watching as Sebastian fixed the messy blankets for her (she'd obviously tumbled out of bed in a fit at the sound of the snow falling against her window), pulling them to her waist. She whispered something too soft to pick up on from the threshold, and Sebastian moved across the room, peeking behind the curtains of both broad windows.

"Nothing, my lady," he assured, and gave her a beautiful smile—a placating smile, a convincing smile. Ciel had to suppress another scoff of disdain, though a small part of him was appreciative—touched, perhaps, by how the butler cared enough to alleviate her worries. Like a father. Or a very good actor, at least. He was never sure which one he wanted to believe in.

"Good night, Ciel," Elizabeth called from her bed, settling into the pillows.

"...Good night." He nodded, offering a smile before slipping out of view; Sebastian closed the door after him, and with the only light in the corridors the dim glow of the candles, Ciel turned on his heel and stomped back towards his room.

"I'm not pleased," he announced, and jerked the doors to his bedroom open. Glanced to the side and found Sebastian's smile far too amused, illuminated in the pale candlelight, and Ciel gritted his teeth and stormed into his bedroom, stopped at the side of his bed and waited for Sebastian to come and remove his robe.

sub rosa. Thursday evening, nearing eleven-thirty.

Gentle fingertips dusted damp hair from a sweat-slick temple, succulent lips pressing possessive kisses to the soft skin there. And Ciel's breath came in short bursts of air, heart rate descending from its excited pulse, and the weight of Sebastian's body was different from the weight of ugly pigs and their sins.

His lower back ached—his buttocks and legs ached—and his knuckles felt locked in place where they'd been knotted in the bedsheets for so long. The muscles around his belly burned in over-exertion, and the parts of him Sebastian had touched were sore in such a sweet, sweet way. The slime along his thighs and hips had cooled by now, and Sebastian's fingertip was soothing as it traced the shape of his lip. And Sebastian's hair, falling in his face. And Sebastian's breath, calming in turn against his temple. And Sebastian's eyes, at half-mast, sleepy like a cat after a good meal. And the taste of Sebastian's mouth was still on his, the feel of it still buzzing on his lips, his tongue still raw where he'd dragged it across misleading teeth over and over again.

"Do you feel guilty, young master?"

Ciel closed his eyes, refusing to grace the young not-man resting above him with any kind of response. Sebastian's knuckles brushed the apple of his cheek, and the cool air was aiding in his comedown.

"Your fiancée was just down the hall. Do you feel guilty for this, young master?"

"I am a horrible man to her," Ciel whispered, and didn't really think about whether Sebastian asked such a question because his distress was obvious or not; he pressed his nose into the knuckles at his face and the mouth above him curled in a humble smile, thumbed against damp eyelashes below him.

"To be the perfect man is too much to be expected of a boy like you," Sebastian whispered against a warm forehead, and Ciel reached around the butler's draped elbow, pulling his nightshirt closed.

"Clean me up," he demanded, although his voice was a mere whisper.

"Yes, young sir."

"...She believes I'm a perfect man, Sebastian."

Sebastian smiled meekly as he sat up, reaching for his waistcoat. "And that is what matters the most, my lord."

"'Nothing further then he uttered'," Ciel mumbled, rolled to his side and curled his fingers in the loosened waist of Sebastian's trousers, sat up and pressed his forehead to the smooth skin of the young not-man's chest. "'Not a feather then he fluttered, 'til I scarcely more than muttered: Other friends have flown before, on the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before—'"

Sebastian craned down with waistcoat in hand, buckles jangling; his shirt shifted, dusted Ciel's shoulders as he pressed his nose to the boy's temple, smiling against his ear. Ciel's hands wound up his chest and draped upon his shoulders, fingers grasping in the longer parts of his hair, and Sebastian smiled bitterly and husked, "'Then the bird said, Nevermore'..."