While Sebastian seemed as cool and collected as ever, Ciel knew better. Ever since that spring day when he'd been bettered, Sebastian had been biding his time, waiting and patiently accumulating knowledge to use against his fellow butler. To be honest, Ciel hardly expected anything less than a complete and thorough course of revenge. The fact that he waited until the depths of winter to throw his plan into action was the only surprising part. Honestly, even to Ciel's mind, that was a long time to wait. (He did suppose that being buggered deserved your full attention in terms of revenge, though.)

It seemed to be a good time to spring into action, though- Claude seemed to have finally let his guard down, and the webs around the house were made of a much finer, softer silk than they had been while he was awaiting retribution. Ciel mused on all this one day, knowing full well that Sebastian would put his first move on the board today. It was obvious- he'd shown off a bit for breakfast today, and so Ciel was enjoying a breakfast of fresh fruit while a hard blizzard hammered the estate.

'Ah,' said Sebastian, with all the cool delight in the world. 'Is that a bit of fresh green I see?' He was currently clutching the coal bucket, in the process of bending down to refresh the dining room's hearth. Ciel looked up from a piece of pineapple.

'Green? In the middle of the winter?' He scoffed.

'In the trees there,' he gestured. Ciel peered out the window, but all he could see were pine trees and a quiet hibernating oak.

'They're evergreens, Sebastian.'

'Does the young master have so little faith in me that he would actually think I could mistake a pine tree for mistletoe?' Well, that gave Ciel pause. God only knew what mistletoe could have to do with a plan, but its connection with kissing made him wonder.

'And what do you want mistletoe for?' It was only early December, after all.

'It lends a friendly air to a place, I have always felt.'

'You're not the one that gets caught under it,' he grumbled, still remembering an incident from a few years ago involving several old women.

'Exactly! I shall send Finny out to collect some.'

'You won't go yourself?'

There was a brief, funny look on Sebastian's face when he turned back to look at the plant. Ciel pinned it as some kind of ironic self-flagellation or… something. 'No, I don't find myself terribly fond of the collection process.'

'Holy tools, hn?' It slipped out seemingly without Ciel's permission, but once he said it he knew he'd been right.

'As the young master says,' Sebastian agreed, and swept his empty oatmeal bowl from the table and vanished into the kitchen in a singularly swift motion.

Ciel blinked after him. Finally, he turned back to his breakfast and the pineapple still waiting on his fork.

He found Claude dusting the books in the library quite sedately. Ciel wondered if he knew that Sebastian had put his revenge into motion, but didn't feel like revealing it if he didn't. (Ciel was a bit sore about the whole thing himself- he did not like to be controlled, no, not at all.)

So he sat down in his favorite chair in the library and cracked open a book of fairy tales. He'd never been particularly fond of them, but neither did he dislike them. At the least, they served as good models for proper behavior. ('Don't eat the strange house in the middle of the woods', however, he still had questions about. Who needed to be told that? Who?)

'Hm?' Claude said, and went to peer out the window behind Ciel's chair.

'Mistletoe,' Ciel told him absently, 'and Finny.' If he was lucky the boy would remember not to knock down the trees containing it, just cut the plants. (He wondered if they actually had a golden sickle, too, or just a normal one.)

'That boy,' Claude ventured very cautiously, 'is incredibly…' He paused. It was clear he didn't actually know what Finny was.

'Mmm,' agreed Ciel. 'We enjoy it and loathe it in equal amounts.' And it was true. He would never have told Sebastian this- he understood the value of secrets, of course, but he better understood the value of small secrets doled out. Claude was the kind to keep secrets, hoard them, and never share them out. He enjoyed holding his cards to his chest, only taking pleasure in the final reveal.

'I see,' said Claude, sliding his eyes over to Ciel. Pretending not to notice, Ciel continued to flip through his book until he found where he'd last left off.

Hannah and Meilin walked by the open doorway of the library. Ciel paused in his reading to watch them go by. Once again she and Meilin were attempting to deal with the persistent issue of the mouse infestation in the place. Sebastian's fondness of cats, of course, held some value, but there was only so much one feline could do.

It seemed that the two women, however, complemented each other quite well. Meilin often encouraged Hannah's less somber side (or so he'd heard- he had no proof of this, nor proof that such a side existed). Hannah, in turn, managed to prevent many of the disasters that followed her fellow maid by sheer competency. Ciel supposed that after dealing with a hyper-sexed psychotic nouveau riche false heir, anything was manageable.

… Except, perhaps, mice. They were still troublesome- this Ciel concluded as he inspected the nibbled back cover of the very book he was reading.

It was time, he decided, for a new moral: kill all mice on sight.

Later that day, he heard the servant's door bang open and Finny's excited shout. Sebastian bowed himself away from his idle conversation with Claude and slipped into the servant's corridors connected to the family sitting room. Mr. Tanaka chuckled faintly to himself as Sebastian went. (Ciel had to wonder- did he, too, know that Sebastian was planning something? Or was he just being his normal puzzling self?)

'Mr. Michaelis seems excited about mistletoe,' Claude mused slowly. It was obvious from his tone that he found that a bit suspicious.

'Mr. Michaelis,' Ciel sighed, and resisted the strong urge to make whinnying noises for the horses as he played with the newest Funtom toy carriage ('field tests', he called them, and pretended to make notes about the toys now and then if anybody got suspicious as they watched him), 'is excited about everything from linens to cutlery. I suspect this is a hard period for him, having so little to manage.' An outright lie- winter was often their busiest 'otherworld' season. Like as not it was due to the issue of boredom- it led people to do some terrible things, he'd found. Judging by the way Claude nodded his head, though, he'd bought it.

'I'm sure, then, that he would not mind a bit of help.' Ciel said nothing, just shrugged idly. At least no massive webs had appeared as of late.

Claude vanished into the same corridor Sebastian had. Ciel lifted his head, waited for the door to click and Claude's footsteps to receede, and then took a hold of the toy horses and proceeded to whinny as if his life depended on it.

Mr. Tanaka, over on one of the couches, chuckled again softly. Ciel looked up, suddenly self-conscious, but was only met with a gentle smile of approval.

'Neigh,' Ciel said rather boldly, and then went on to make galloping noises too.

Claude entered the kitchen just as Sebastian was beginning to sort out all the mistletoe Finny had gathered from the oak branches he had… also gathered. The servant in question was thumping around happily in the mudroom, presumably discarding his snowy and sappy clothing. (He had a brief moment of mental panic, but then he recalled Finny's height and settled.)

'Ah, Claude,' Sebastain said with such infuriating familiarity that the other man had to set his teeth, 'perfect timing. If you would please help me to sort out this mess.'

It was, he decided, a bit of one. It seemed as if Finny had simply taken his cutting instrument to whatever he could possibly reach. This amounted to them having to basically pry the mistletoe off the tree along with the occasional odd pine branch anyway, and so Claude removed his gloves and set to work elbow-to-elbow with Sebastian. (He wondered if the tree now felt bald, given how much of it seemed to be inside.)

'I've asked your triplets to go tend to the tree,' Sebastian informed him. Claude knew, of course. They were his. 'It would be a terrible pain to have to pull a tree down this time of year, and the young master is a bit fond of his oaks during the summer.'

'Of course,' Claude acknowledged. He paused when he finally touched a bit of holly, though.

'Cut with a golden sickle!' Cheered Sebastian.

'Oh,' said Claude, and tried to ignore the strange numbness that prickled at his fingers as he separated pine from oak from mistletoe. 'Why?'

'The Phantomhive estate will not stand for shoddy work.' Looking at him, Claude had to wonder if he was even bothered by handling the holy plant. He certainly didn't seem to be. (Bastard.)

'WE'RE BACK!' Finny shouted, pulling the triplets with him through the kitchen. The door in the mudroom banged in their wake.

'Thank goodness, I don't know what we would have done otherwise,' Sebastian commented with such dryness that Claude almost thought him to be serious.

'Don't worry, Mr. Sebastian, we'll go help with the mice!'

An expression of pure pain flitted across Sebastian's face.

'Yes, I see. Mind that you keep the walls intact this time; I don't fancy having to call out the masons in this weather.' Finny tossed out a firm salute.


'And the windows, too.'


'The bookshelves,'

'Mr. Sebastiannnnn….!'

'and the books of course,'


'And the chairs and the floor and the bookshelves again.'

'But how are we supposed to do anything?' Finny fretted, looking dangerously close to tears. Behind him, the triplets consulted each other gravely.

'You will manage,' Sebastian assured him in the manner of one promising a death sentence if he was proven wrong.

Claude waited until they'd all filtered out before setting down the branch he'd been working on. Sebastian raised an eyebrow at him but continued his own work, fingers working nimbly even amongst the hard prickles of the holly leaves.

'The sap sticks terribly.' He inspected his hands, still tingling numb. They were stained a mixture of clearish gold and dusty white from the different trees. Curiously, he raised a finger to his mouth and licked- and then winced at the taste. Too, there was that horrible tingle of the holly- his tongue went a bit numb. He looked up to find Sebastian smiling mockingly at him.

'Surely you have met with tree sap before.'

'Of course,' Claude turned to the sink and began to try and scrub the stuff off. 'But only within a tree. I think I much prefer it there.'

'Hn,' Sebastian offered, clearly unimpressed. He was almost done with the sorting. Claude studied him from behind, drying his hands (being a demon had many advantages, of course, one of them being the ability to shed sap- but not, he found, that horrible tingling). Thin and narrow, handsome to the point of beauty, with such a dark shade of hair that even for a demon it was quite striking, stern of stance but careless of the holy plant he handled now: Sebastian Michaelis was a curious blend of tightly managed and feral.

Of course it was only natural to step up behind him and trail his lips over the back of his pale neck. The hairs on the nape of Sebastian's neck bristled up, his shoulders tightening and his back straightening.

'Claude-' He couldn't feel the web he'd laid down the other day, not right now. The holly was still blinding him to that sense. But webs were his art, his passion, and he didn't need to feel one to put it into effect.

He knew he'd done it properly when Sebastian relaxed incrementally against him. 'Let the holly be for now,' he murmured against his fellow demon's skin, 'and come with me.'

Sebastian made a noise- a hesitation. But Claude turned him around, reveling in the way his hard, narrow hips fit into his own hands, and kissed him so demandingly that he doubted he would have needed a web on anybody else on earth.

They ended up in one of the currently-empty guest rooms. Claude wove his as-yet-unfelt web closer and closer around his prey until Sebastian was willing to do whatever he asked. Sebastian may have been his better in blatant confrontations, but Claude would always be the master of acting from the shadows, he knew.

It was in this way that Sebastian ended up nude on his back, each of his limbs bound to one of the posts on the bed. He was trembling, nipping at Claude every chance he could get, squirming and writhing. Of course he could have broken the ropes, snapped the bed- but Claude had chosen this room with care.

Ever since his first conquest of Sebastian Michaelis, he had known it would require extraordinary measures to repeat the task. So the bed had been reinforced with many of his firmest webs, the ropes wound round and round with the finest of silks, those which were coincidentally the strongest as well.

It was with great pleasure that he took his time stripping now. He could observe that handsome chest rise and fall in pants, see those brilliant garnet eyes flashing with lust- for him! Sebastian's obscenely long legs shifted, trying to find purchase, and his thin, delicate hands pulled and jerked at the ropes on his wrists.

'Claude,' Sebastian said, seeming to suddenly realize that in fact no, he could not break free if he so desired. Perhaps he'd even managed to shake off the confusion Claude had wound into this particular web, if just for a moment. 'What-?'

'Hush.' He retrieved the oil from the slightly dusty nightstand (he'd have to remember to dust this area of rooms tomorrow) and poured a bit into his hand. He would be able to savor this, oh yes. He did enjoy a hard, fast go now and then, but it was his nature to better enjoy the leisure one could take with well-caught prey.

Sebastian made a disgruntled noise when Claude climbed onto the bed after him. His body radiated heat like a furnace. (Idly, Claude mused on the idea of tucking Sebastian into a hearth and letting him heat the room that way. Interesting.)

'Claude,' Sebastian hissed, trying in vain to pull his legs together. The spider demon only smiled mildly and trailed his oiled finger down and, slowly, in. Sebastian must have been eager for this, even if not completely, because he groaned softly and tossed his head back, body writhing against Claude's own more solid one as if he could escape through him.

Claude wasted little time in working in a second, and then third, finger. He was eager to hear Sebastian beg again, eager to hear him scream and see his fingers claw at the air. So it was with an air of intense satisfaction that he again seized up the little bottle of oil and slicked his prick. Sebastian's own was looking delightfully lickable- Claude licked his lips eagerly. But he had plans for this- these webs had been difficult to make, even for him- and so he would indulge in that at a later time.

It was with the air of a lion sitting down to eat its fill that Claude settled his body over Sebastian's, his hips between Sebastian's legs, hands on his wrists, mouth firmly on the underside of his jaw. A satisfying pace to lick and bite, he'd found, because it made Sebastian squirm intensely.

He polished each spot that his mouth touched with his tongue, trailing his way down across his throat, down over his collarbones, and over to suckle and scrape at his nipples- dusky pink, the tender color at odds with his absolutely wrathful expression. 'I am warning you, Claude.'

'Warning me,' he mused, savoring the taste of the words on his tongue. The numbness was starting to fade. 'I shall have to take such a warning to heart, then.'

He removed his hands from Sebastian's wrists, trusting his ropes to hold, and reached down to nudge and position and tease. He spared Sebastian's prick a hard stroke, garnering a gasp and a buck; he used the reaction to better position himself.

'You will regret this,' Sebastian told him very coldly from under him. Legs spread, face flushed, limbs splayed and with the very tip of Claude's sizable prick beginning to press into him, he didn't make for a very threatening picture.

'I doubt it,' Claude assured him, and began to move, forcing himself in by the very smallest increments he could manage. To his puzzlement, as he shifted himself in Sebastian neither cried out nor gasped, two things he remembered distinctly and with great pleasure from that hot spring day.

It was with a brief sense of discombobulation that he stared down at Sebastian, finally forcing himself into the other man completely. But-

was he looking down? The discombobulation only increased, his sense of space and body warping and spinning, changing and shifting like something being tossed about by a hard, hot breeze.

He shook his head, confused, and shut his eyes. The clarity that brought, though- oh, that made him open them.

'You-!' Claude exclaimed, expression open in honest shock. Sebastian smiled down at him serenely, then reached up and wiped one of his silky bangs from his face.

'I did warn you.' Sebastian was unbound. More than that, he was between Claude's legs, braced over his body, fingering the spider-silk-reinforced bindings Claude had prepared. Sebastian, in fact, was the one mounting Claude, and Claude was the one tied very securely, very firmly indeed, to the bed.

'How-?' He was stunned. He was… completely stunned. At an utter loss, even. He shook his head slightly, sight blurring when Sebastian gave an experimental sort of thrust within him.

'Surely you don't think I would have treated holly with such personal savor without a reason,' Sebastian cooed, and began to thrust into Claude in little hitches that he was sure would drive him mad.

'You planned this,' Claude realized with a sudden shock of surprise. So it turned out that this demon, too, could spin a web. One hell of a web, he decided, and grunted as Sebastian delicately tweaked one of his nipples between two fingers.

'Oh, yes. But you must be more careful of where you spin those special webs of yours in the future, Claude.' Mind racing, body rocking under Sebastian's, he tried to sort out what that could have meant. 'The mudroom is so very susceptible to cold winds if the door happens to be left open. Say,' Claude's expression expanded into shock while Sebastian's closed into dark delight, 'if a clumsy young man happened to crash into the mansion, he might not close the door completely.'

And it was true, Claude realized as the last of the numbness from the holly faded. He could feel the web- and it was brittle with frost, completely shattered probably from the first brief time Sebastian had struggled against it. (He mentally made a note of how good an actor Sebastian must be.)

'Brilliant,' he breathed, and, content to yield to such a masterful turnabout of plans, arched his body against Sebastian's. (Alois' and his natures were not so terribly dissimilar- while Sebastian and Ciel both had a certain unyielding force to their personalities, Claude and his former master both possessed a certain give.)

Sebastian was about as merciful in bed as out of it, and he allowed Claude no respite. Lean though his frame was, there was no mistaking the power he held when he was thrusting into Claude. His hands, too, touched and trailed- over his chest, around his hips, along his legs and up his thighs and scratching at his belly and clawing his ass and, and, and!

Soon enough he was panting, gasping, writhing and trying to do anything- anything!- to convince Sebastian to let him free. He wanted to touch, to kiss, to grasp- in short, to possess even in a small manner that force which was currently possessing him.

'No,' Sebastian smiled each time he was asked, 'no, I don't think so.'

To Claude's chagrin, Sebastian had much more stamina that he did. Every time he thought he was close, every time his pace picked up and his eyes slid shut, Sebastian simply tossed his head and braced himself further. He was indulgent of Claude, to a point- he stroked his prick, tugged him to completion, licked his fingers clean of his fluids in front of his eyes- but at the same time very terribly cruel. He did not cease his own movements in Claude, not even when the other demon, overstimulated, driven wild, driven half-mad, promised him everything from the silverware to the linens to the flowers.

'What's life without a bit of a challenge?' he laughed, and redoubled his efforts. Claude gasped and groaned, tossing his head helplessly. He wasn't sure if he was caught in a nightmare or a fantasy. He was growing more and more tired, both physically and because his own struggles against his own webs drained his own strength.

It was with a dim sense of relief, staring up at the handsome, wrathful Sebastian, that he felt his pace grow unsteady, felt him drive into him once, twice- thrice- and then, ah, ah. He was done.

Claude was, as well- overused, his innate resources tapped out against himself, he was quite surprised to find himself dropping into a darkening sort of tunnel. Sleep, he realized. This must be sleep.

Belatedly he realized that this, too, he had built into his web- for Sebastian.

The next day and the next after, Ciel didn't see Claude at all. He only wondered what Sebastian had done to him to keep him so; he felt confident that a fight brutal enough to kill Claude would have attracted some attention. At the very least Sebastian would have been infuriatingly smug.

In the interim, Sebastian and the servants (sans Tanaka, who continued to keep Ciel company in the family sitting room) dealt with their mice and hung mistletoe everywhere they could reach (and some places they couldn't).

Ciel was in the middle of a plot of aliens invading and facing the Queen's soldiers, playing with some brightly-colored moonman ships that were due to come out in time for Christmas, when he heard footsteps outside the door. Mr. Tanaka stood up and, in his vague way, went to open the door.

Outside was Claude, looking frazzled and tired and very, very confused. (Victory for Sebastian, Ciel knew.)

'Excuse me,' he said, and bowed, 'but do you know where Mr. Michaelis might be?'

'The kitchen, I think,' said Ciel, just as Mr. Tanaka went,

'Ho ho ho!'

Looking up, Ciel saw what he was chuckling about. Mistletoe, eh, and right above the doorway? He attributed it to Meilin- he hadn't missed how she'd placed her sprigs of the plant, in every doorway Sebastian happened to use.

Claude, curiously, paled to an unsightly yellowish white and looked gravely at Mr. Tanaka. The older butler chuckled once more, a cheery 'ho ho ho!', and then patted his shoulder reassuringly. Claude seemed to wilt a bit.

'I will… yes.'

'Please do,' Ciel agreed absently, inspecting one of his toy soldiers and wondering how a real English soldier would stand up to a moonman ship, 'and, Claude.'

He stopped in the doorway and looked about at Ciel. Mr. Tanaka waited patiently at the door.

'The next time you try to best Sebastian, please do remember that his temper is terribly long-lasting. The whole thing is completely irrational regardless.' Claude tipped his head at Ciel, expression thoughtful.

'Irrational? Not at all.'

'Is that so,' Ciel soured at him.

'We are simply-' started Claude, but Mr. Tanaka rather firmly interrupted him with a gentle smile.

'Young men will be young men,' and he shut the door in Claude's face with such good cheer that neither Ciel nor Claude (on the other side of the door) could find it in them to object. 'Now please, Master Ciel, do continue. I am very curious,' he sat down again on the couch with a content sigh, 'to know if the soldiers or the moonmen triumph.'

'Oh,' Ciel said in a very small voice, and blushed.