Chapter Twenty-Five


"These things do happen."

Sebastian remained as still as possible. There was a cacophony around him, louder and busier and more frantic than it had been even on Ward V. There were more people in the Infirmary than he had seen in weeks, half of the staff there at once when usually you were hard-pressed to get more than two or three in a room together at the same time.

The triplets were flanking Sebastian where he was kneeling on a bed. Timber and Cantebury or the other one, he could hardly tell the difference between them, held one of his arms each. Stretched out as far as they would go, the pain was intolerable. A constant clenching twist that had his eyes watering in an embarrassing mockery of tears.

Maybe he was crying. He couldn't quite seem to tell. It was like he was watching the scene from above, an impartial observer. He could still feel every twist and pull of his shattered body, though. That hardly seemed fair.

They were all peering in from the door. Grey, Phipps, Brown, Grell, Ronald and even Will gave a curious glance over. There was no sympathy in them. They watched him like an animal at a zoo, displayed for their amusement, for their fleeting interest. Arms pinned, door blocked, it was only too easy to feel like a caged animal.

All this time, Sebastian had feared that empty cage at the far end of Ward V. In the end, he didn't even need the cage to be on display for them.

They watched him with the same eyes that the Ward V patients had.

"These things do happen."

The two identical men held him by the wrists. Their grip was firm, tight enough that his skin could easily bruise, and he wasn't sure whether he would have been able to escape from their grasp even if he had been at his full strength. They pulled his arms out as far as they would go, an excruciating position that had him trembling from the strain in under a minute.

His back was as vulnerable now as it had been then.

They were all talking, shouting, their slew of words coalescing into a mindless hum. Sebastian couldn't pick out the words or find meaning from the noise no matter how hard he tried. And he tried hard, knowing that he was the subject, his future debated right in front of him with participation from the peanut gallery at the door.

Why couldn't he understand them? Why did only static come from their frantically moving mouths?

Some sort of decision was made as Doctor wheeled back over to him, red in the face and more flustered than Sebastian had ever seen him. There was no grin, no attempt at cheer. It was frightening, especially when Sebastian's couldn't hear the grim words coming from him.

The two holding him suddenly pulled tighter. Sebastian may have screamed. He wasn't sure. If he did, the noise was lost amongst the rest of the hum.

His shirt was stripped from him, or rather, peeled away. The blood had dried, the shirt a rust coloured red more than white now. It was tossed to the floor by the third triplet, his hands gloved.

All three of them were wearing gloves, Sebastian realized. They touched him only with gloved hands.

The filthy shirt may have gone but he was still caked in the blood. It had seeped through the top, stained his chest, shoulders, arms. It cracked and flaked to bits on his neck and face every time he moved. He couldn't stand to look at his hands, his own gloves still there, the clinical turquoise colour completely dyed.

A damp cloth. That was what he wanted. Peace, quiet, and a damp cloth.

"These things do happen."

Those words weren't being spoken but they were the ones he was hearing. Had it been Claude or Doctor who had murmured it to him as he was removed from Ward V in a screaming fit? It had been said in a comforting tone, an absolution of responsibility. The words rang shrilly in his head like an unanswered phone.

"No, they don't!" Sebastian bellowed, almost an hour after the comment had actually been made. They all looked at him, confused, for all of a moment. Then they went back to their own conversations, their own debates, paying him no mind. Sebastian was the subject but he was superfluous.

More decisions were made, more time passed. He was treated with gloved-handed care and calculated distances. X-rays were taken of his beaten back. The pain ebbed and flowed, intensifying then disappearing in turns. His thoughts never quite came back to him properly. He was still watching from above, detached but invested, hearing nothing but the hum.

Then words seeped through. Without context, voices linked to faces and those faces linked to anger or disdain or fear that didn't feel like his own anymore.

Broken.

Torn.

Anaesthetic.

Surgery.

It was dark outside by the time the words came to him. Nothing to see through the Infirmary window but black skies. He found it being night more concerning than the words leaking through his haze.

Sebastian forced himself to think.

I am broken and torn, he thought, borrowing the words, They're going to give me anaesthetic then begin surgery.

Bad.

It's a bad thing.

Images, memories, they filtered in through the holes the words had made in his haze. A back room and a trolley of tools. Tools made to hurt, not help. Kept so clean, cleaner than he was now, cleaner than he would ever be again. A viewing gallery for his audience at the door. A glass divider between them, like the Ward V cages. Apathetic eyes watching him be beaten to death, watching him be cut open and sewn back together, no difference at all between the two.

Would someone give him a knife this time? Could he save himself this time?

Sebastian was lying on his front, half of his face crushed into the paper-thin pillow. The position was to ease the strain on his back, but it also made it difficult for him to move. The door was blocked by the crowd of spectators. His thoughts were too slow for his body to obey.

Conclusion; he couldn't run.

He could see, though. He could see Doctor preparing the anaesthetic. He could see two of the triplets returning to his side to restrain him again. He could see the third wheeling Doctor over. And he could see the oxygen mask coming down over his face.

Sucking air in through his nose, Sebastian tried to hold his breath as the plastic clasped down around his mouth. The thicker plastic around the edges seemed to suction into place, squeezing down on his face so that it couldn't be dislodged. There was a moment of nothing that almost tricked him into breathing, but then he felt the slight brush against his skin, a fresh sort of cold trickling in.

Blood rushed in his ears. Something seemed to sit heavily at the base of his throat. His eyes watered, then streamed. His chest burned, at first a discomfort, then impossible to ignore. The world disappeared gradually from his eyes, eclipsed by flickering static.

Unable to stop himself, Sebastian opened his mouth. Air rushed in, clearing his head, but only for a moment. No sooner had the static faded from his eyes did they suddenly become too difficult to keep open. His eyelids dropped, took longer to open each time, until they simply didn't.


The letter had stayed in the drawer since he had read it. Only once. After that first reading, Ciel had been happy for her, for all the time it took St. Victoria's to wreak its usual horror. His happiness for her had been lost in thoughts of his own situation, his own problems, just himself. He didn't feel bad for that. He had accepted his self-absorbance years ago and, given his situation, if he didn't put himself first then he wouldn't have lasted as long at the Institute as he had.

Still, he had given Lizzie no more thought after that. She said she had written to him to absolve her own guilt, but she had done more than that. Whatever sense of obligation Ciel may have felt towards her, in honour of their childhood together and the bond they had once certainly had, it had been wiped clean then. It had been a weight off his shoulders he hadn't been aware he was carrying.

A winter wedding.

It was mid-August now, the cold winds already blowing in. Lizzie had always been very literal, Ciel remembered, so when she said winter, she almost certainly meant December.

Lizzie would get married in four months.

Ciel sat at his desk, the letter in his hand. He read it for the second time, actually processing the words in a way he hadn't before. It was odd, he found, to have someone reference his childhood so flippantly. Because it had been theirs too. Someone who had knew him before. These days, even Ann hesitated to talk so easily with him. She kept it current. Current news, current questions, nothing that made her think back to then.

Even Ciel could hardly remember what he had been like before St. Victoria's.

Reading Lizzie's letter, he tried to dredge up memories of what she was describing. They had played together in the snow, she said, and he had shoved snow down the back of her dress. It didn't sound like something he would do, far too playful, but then, that was a different him. They had danced at their Mothers' insistence, the waltz, and he had stepped on her feet. That sounded about right as far as his coordination went, but he struggled to actually remember an instance of it.

He remembered her. Golden hair, bright green eyes, a proclivity for frilly dresses and heels too high for her. Easily moved to tears, just as easily moved to smile. A wicked punch when angered. Not much for sweets, which had always meant twice as much for him. Little things he remembered, but not the memories she had held close to her heart all these years.

She claimed to want to know the man Ciel had become, but when that man could hardly remember the child he had been, he wasn't sure she would like what she found.

Ciel put the letter back in the drawer and shut it with a click. With a sigh, he stood, back aching from sitting in the chair too long. It was dark outside but he could still hear voices from the ward. Had the nights drawn in so quickly?

With a furrowed brow, Ciel wandered out of his bedroom. The leisure room was more occupied than it ever was so late at night. Most were missing, the early nighters, the rule abiders, but Joker, Beast, Drocell and Snake sat together on the couches. That was an unusual sight in itself. Drocell and Snake never strayed beyond their corner of the room, rarely spoke to the rest of them. Yet there they were, Drocell and Joker's heads bowed together as they talked animatedly.

Snake looked up at Ciel's approach, alerting the others.

"Evenin'," Joker greeted, patting the empty space beside him in invitation. Ciel glanced at the chair not too far from the couches, certainly close enough for him to still participate in the conversation. He decided against it, sitting beside Joker without comment. Joker almost cracked a smile, but not quite. Now that Ciel thought about it, it had been a long while since he had last seen Joker smile.

"What time is it?" Ciel asked, paying no mind to whatever talk had been going on before he arrived.

"After eight," Beast replied. There was a restless energy to her that seemed to infect the others. She was picking at the tattered skin of her left hand, nails sharp enough to draw blood. "After curfew."

"Ash and Angela were on the ward today but it wasn't their shift," Drocell informed them, "And they only made brief appearances. It's been a good few hours since their last one. It goes without saying that it's out of character for those two not to enforce the curfew. They were the ones who created it, after all."

"Can't even get back in our rooms now," Joker laughed, somewhat hollowly, "Looks like we'll be campin' out on the couches tonight."

"The doors are locked?" Ciel asked, frowning.

Beast pulled at the frayed skin around her nail, peeling it back without a care. Ciel wasn't sure she was aware she was doing it.

"Yeah. Heard it beep. No one here to give us the ten minute warning though."

It didn't need to be said for them all to agree that something was amiss. It wasn't unusual for the Orderlies to switch shifts but for Angela and Ash to take their place on the same shift was completely unprecedented. Even more so for the curfew to not be enforced. Ciel and Ciel alone was exempt from the curfew, so he knew better than anyone that never before had patients besides him been outside of their rooms by the time they locked.

"What do you think?" Drocell asked, more curious than anything else. He alone seemed to be unconcerned. The others couldn't sit still at all. Beast picked at her fingers until they were red raw. Joker shifted constantly in his seat, as though unable to get comfortable. Even Snake was glancing around the room restlessly. It was contagious. It took a moment for Ciel to realize that he had begun gnawing on his thumbnail, already bitten down to the point of pain. As soon as he noticed, he stopped, annoyed with himself.

"I think something has happened," Ciel answered simply, "Something big. And it's either affected all the staff, or been big enough to get their attention en masse."

"Any ideas?" Drocell asked with an edge.

Ciel bristled at his tone, "How should I know?"

"Drocell," Snake mumbled. A warning. One that Drocell did not heed.

"You'd know better than any of the rest of us, what with you being so close with the staff these days."

"Oi," Joker cut in, a warning much more blatant than Snake's. For all that Joker was usually nothing but laughs and cheer, there had always been something darker underneath, something that necessitated the cheerful exterior. It seemed to be drawing closer to the surface each time Ciel saw him.

Ciel didn't like where this was going.

"Whatever you're implying, you couldn't be further from the mark. You might recall you were the one only too happy to use my connection with 'the staff' to get Joker back from The Room. "

Ciel sat up straight in his seat, crossing one leg over the other. Chin lifted and lip curled, it was a return to the attitude he had let go neglected. For too long, if Drocell thought he could take such a tone with him.

"That was a long time ago," Drocell challenged, "And you've only gotten closer to them since."

"Them? Who are you even talking about?"

"The orderly and the psychiatrist. Whenever you aren't hidden away with the orderly in your bedroom, you're off the ward with Faustus. And all these years of nights alone with them, I can't bring myself to believe you haven't wheedled your way into the favour of the others."

It was pure accusation, no two ways about it. Drocell had never been particularly warm to him, but then, he had never been particularly warm to anyone besides Snake. Still, he had never regarded Ciel with such unmasked suspicion. It bled out of him unguarded, in his eyes, in his manner, in the way he sat fully facing Ciel despite it being an awkward position to maintain.

Snake glanced between them nervously, clenching and unclenching his hands. There was none of the same accusation there. Nor was it present in Beast, who simply rolled her eyes at the direction the conversation had taken, nor Joker, who regarded Drocell coldly.

"We spoke about this," Joker said evenly, "And we decided that it were counterproductive to turn on each other. Smile's no turncoat. He hates 'em as much as we do. More, if anythin'. He's had plenty more time for it to fester, plenty more reason to hate 'em. So how about you pack it in with this coz it's gettin' us nowhere."

Drocell didn't look angry at Joker's rebuttal but he shot him an icy look. There was a pause before he spoke again, as though he had needed to ready his arsenal before making the attack.

"You spend so much time playing at being friends, Joker, but at the end of the day, playing is all it is. You're naive if you think solidarity is all that is needed for us to survive. The Us and Them mentality is weak when you make allowances for the Them. You already let Peter pay the price of your last folly; who are you going to use as a shield next time?"

Even Ciel was surprised at such an unwarrantedly nasty attack and he found himself ready to defend Joker. He stopped just in time, wondering at himself.

Beast didn't feel the need to stop herself, jumping to her feet and giving Drocell an unrestrained slap.

"How dare you use Peter for that," she snarled, living up to her name. "You don't know anything about what happened."

Ciel was starting to wonder whether he did from the expressions on Beast and Joker's faces, the flush of shame Drocell now wore.

"My apologies," Drocell said, cheek quickly reddening, "That was ... uncalled for."

"Yeah, it was. For the record, I did everythin' I could for Peter. I can sleep at night knowin' that. I failed, yeah, and that'll always be somethin' that I'll hafta carry, but I did what I could. And if we're talkin' about solidarity, maybe you need to consider why you two always keep to yourselves. You think it don't work? Nah, mate, it works. But it won't work for you two, coz you two stay in your little corner, like yous are better than us. Nothin' I can do about that, that's on you. But when the day comes that somethin' happens to one of you, don't expect me to lay myself on the line like I did for Peter. I ain't playing friends, Drocell, it only looks that way to you because you keep yourself on the fringe of it all."

Joker didn't raise his voice once but he was heard loud and clear. Ciel found himself looking away, feeling that at least part of the speech was directed at him. He danced at the fringe of that group too, only considered a part of it when it suited him, but too often did he watch them and think himself above it. What would happen, he wondered, if he were to be taken as Peter had been. Would Joker risk it all for him like he had done for Peter? Would Ciel even want him to, if it meant being indebted to somebody again?

"Moving on," Beast said, sounding bored. Her restlessness betrayed her though, still picking at her now bloody finger. It must have hurt but she didn't seem to notice. "Safe to say something has happened. Brilliant deduction. But what?"

"I honestly can't think of nothin'," Joker said with a weary shrug, running his hand through his hair. It stood up on end, in need of a wash.

"I dread to think what could cause such a response," Drocell replied, "And worse still, what it could mean for us."

Ciel folded his arms, looking over to the ward door.

"I don't think it has anything to do with us," he guessed, "This isn't about us, I don't think. Whatever has happened is big enough that ... they've forgotten us, for the time being. Or we're not their priority, at least."

"I find that much more alarming," Beast said with a shake of her head.

"Yeah, I mean, the fuck could happen to cause this much of a thing? Can't be anythin' good."

They lapsed into silence, all five of them, looking to each other for answers none of them could give. There was little else that could be said beyond speculation and scaremongering, after all. They would just have to wait for morning to come, and with it, hopefully some answers.


When Sebastian awoke, it was to silence.

Eyelids heavy, thoughts a haze. He couldn't stay awake long. He slipped back under.

The next time he awoke, it was dark again. The infirmary was dimly lit by the standing lamps on either side of the room. They did little more than cast a faint yellow glow, but Sebastian was grateful for that. Waking up came with a piercing head ache that even that dim light was aggravating. Anymore and he was sure his skull would split clean in two.

Surgery.

Sebastian closed his eyes again, not to sleep but to assess the damage. His body felt sluggish, sort of blunt around the edges. He couldn't feel any pain besides his head, but there were parts of him - his left arm and shoulder, the upper part of his back, his jaw - that felt just that bit out of synch with the rest of him. They felt heavier, or rather, they felt present when the rest of him was gone.

Sebastian opened his eyes and looked down at himself.

In the place of a shirt, his chest was bound with bandages. Pristine white, they looped his torso, above and around his shoulders, held in place with sharp silver clasps. His right arm was bound even tighter, bundled into a sling and restrained against his chest. These bindings afforded next to no movement. The bandages looked a little different at the top of his right arm. Thicker, something beneath them.

He was still filthy with blood. More now, some of it his own. The gloves were still on his hands.

Sebastian's head pulsed again. It was such a sharp pain, as though the veins in his head were lit on fire, it sparking around like a circuit within his skull. No inch was untouched.

A groan escaped him.

"He's awake," a voice announced from beside the bed.

Sebastian's eyes shot open again.

Claude Faustus sat by the foot of the bed. Papers scattered around him, he was bent over a file on his knee, pen scribbling away. He barely glanced at Sebastian, though he was happy enough to use his legs as a place to arrange the sheets of paper.

Something was odd about him and it took Sebastian a moment to pinpoint just what; Claude wasn't wearing his uniform. It was the first time Sebastian had ever seen him dressed casually. A form-fitting jumper, dark slacks, a different pair of glasses slipping down the bridge of his nose. He looked painfully plain, no more threatening than a school teacher.

Claude glanced over his shoulder, clicked his tongue in irritation.

"Been hovering for hours. Now you finally wake up, he's wandered off."

Sebastian wasn't sure who Claude was talking about, found it hard to care at the moment. The haze was clearing, but slowly. He'd care soon.

Claude looked at him. He was visibly tired, Sebastian noted, eyes weighed down with shadows.

"How are you feeling?"

The pen was still twitching upon the paper, a few words joining the ink mass. Sebastian found himself wanting to see them. He knew with a certainty he couldn't explain that his name was there.

"What're you writing?" Sebastian found himself asking, though he had not given his mouth permission to say that.

Claude raised an eyebrow. His pen finally stilled.

"Incidents like these create a lot of paperwork. Getting a head start on my share."

Sebastian nodded despite the answer not really registering in his mind.

Claude didn't speak again for a while after that, slowly filling in sheet after sheet with a record of what had happened. How much honesty was there, Sebastian wasn't sure, but then, he wasn't entirely sure of what had happened either. Who had kicked him the knife, who had dislodged patient V7 long enough for him to use it. Those things were lost in the end result.

Sebastian had yet to allow himself to dwell on that. The haze was keeping him distant from it. He wasn't sure what would happen once the reality hit him. He wasn't in a hurry to find out.

It must have been at least an hour before Claude spoke again.

"Any pain?"

Sebastian blinked dozily, struggling to make sense of the question for a moment.

"No," Sebastian answered after several long minutes, "Am I alright?"

The words were returning to him, slowly but surely. They felt clumsy in his mouth.

Claude didn't answer straight away. With what seemed to Sebastian a cruelly deliberate slowness, he leafed through his papers, arranging them into whatever order they needed to be. He slipped them into the brown file and wandered across the room to leave it on Doctor's desk. He kept the pen, twirling it between his spindly fingers as he slowly returned to Sebastian's bedside. The speed had to be intentional. It was too petty not to be.

It struck Sebastian again how different Claude seemed from usual. Was it just the casual clothes, he wondered, or was there something off about his manner? The Claude Sebastian knew was abrupt, holding himself with a cliché clinical detachment. Maybe it was the drugs, but at that moment, Sebastian couldn't seem to find the detachment. Claude was looking at him in a way that, if it were anybody else, Sebastian would have called it interest.

Claude wetted his lips, apparently contemplating the answer.

"You're alright, in a sense."

Sebastian waited for more but that was all the answer Claude gave.

"What d'you mean," Sebastian's words still slurred together, a drunken mumble, "In a sense?"

"I mean that the damage was not as severe as we'd assumed it to be, but that's not to say you got out unscathed," Claude replied, the pen spinning in a loop around his index finger, "There's extensive bruising, mainly on your upper back. Fortunately, your spine didn't suffer too much of the focus of the attack, which was our main concern. Your shoulder was dislocated, and in such a way that there was muscular tearing. Hence the surgery. Doctor seems confident that he's repaired the damage, so I wouldn't worry."

Sebastian slumped back against the bed. He hadn't realized he had sat up in the first place.

He was alright.

He was alright.

It had seemed so much worse at the time. It had felt like V7 was going to completely break him, as though he was made of something no stronger than porcelain. But Doctor had fixed him, glued together the broken china, and he was alright.

"As I said, the bruising is extensive, so once the painkillers wear off, I imagine you'll be quite sore. Doctor says you'll need to keep the sling on for a week, at least. I've spoken with Angela; you won't be required to work on the wards for the time being. Take a few days off. Rest up. We'll progress from there."

Claude was still talking, that faultless monotone, but Sebastian was tuning words out again. Intentionally, now. The relief was overwhelming. It was washing away everything else; Claude's words and presence, the pounding headache, the bloody gloves still on his hands.

Sebastian was pulled out of the self-made haze by a hand pressing firmly against his chest.

"Are you listening?" Claude asked, hand splayed across Sebastian's bandages.

Sebastian frowned, staring at the hand until it was gone.

"I said that until it's decided that you're in a fit enough state for the wards again, you'll fill other tasks. Some time here at the infirmary, some time assisting Angela and Ash with their duties, and some time with me. If you end up preferring that, or if you would just rather not return to the wards, then we can make the arrangement permanent. Sebastian?"

Claude thought he wasn't listening again. Probably because he wasn't looking at his face. He was still staring at where Claude's hand had been. It just seemed an odd way to get someone's attention, Sebastian thought, as opposed to just shaking them or waving a hand in front of their face.

Why was it even Claude? Of all the people to be telling him these things, Claude was only just beneath Angela and Ash as the most unlikely to volunteer. It should have been Doctor. It was more his job, after all. Or Agni. Surely Agni would have offered to sit with him. They may not have been friends anymore, but they weren't that far gone, were they?

Claude's hand was on his chest again, a firm press to get his attention.

"Sebastian, did you hear what I said?"

Claude didn't sound impatient at all. Had he always been this tactile?

"Yes, I heard," Sebastian replied after a beat, taking hold of Claude's wrist. It took more effort than usual to get his arm to move, his fingers to unclench. It was with less force than he wanted that he removed Claude's hand from his chest. "Thank you."

Claude stared at him. His eyes were a disarming thing, almost amber in colour, narrow like a cat's. They seemed to see too much.

"I'll leave you to get some rest, then," Claude said, standing up. When Sebastian let go of his wrist, he was quick to wipe it with the hem of his jumper, as though the dry blood still encrusting Sebastian's gloves had gotten on him at all.

Claude paused by the door. His voice carried across the room without him having to raise it at all, "What happened was ... unfortunate, but it's a risk we take in this line of work. You handled it as best as could be expected. If you ever need to discuss what happened, feel free to drop by my office."

He left without another word.

A sense of unease prickled at Sebastian's skin.

Claude was acting strangely. Less distant, less cold. Unrestrained in touching. His clothes could only seem like a costume to Sebastian. A charade of normalcy. How long had he sat there, waiting for Sebastian to wake up? Why had he bothered in the first place? There was a phantom weight pressing into Sebastian's chest. An unwelcome hand. A touch he didn't invite, didn't expect.

An olive branch extended.

Sebastian's eyes widened as the realization struck.

I'm one of them now.

The initiation was over. As soon as he had picked up the knife, grabbed it with an iron intent in his mind, his allegiance had been established. One of the staff, a part of the Them.

A patient killer.

Sebastian took a deep breath, his chest rising and falling beneath the bandages. His heart thundered in his chest, a panic thrumming through his veins the likes of which he hadn't felt even when he had been pinned under V7. Yet his mind was blissfully blank.

It was done.

He was ... safe.

Slowly, Sebastian sat up in the bed. He still felt heavy but his body was responding to his orders faster than before. There was only a small lag between him wanting to move his feet to the floor and his limbs following the order. After that, it was easy to stand, easier still to shuffle forward, one foot in front of the other.

With clumsy steps, Sebastian left the infirmary.

Claude had only just left the room but he was nowhere to be seen within the winding corridors Sebastian shuffled through, aimless but determined. Determination to do what, he couldn't quite work out. Along with the panic he couldn't quite feel yet, there was a restless energy sparking through him, compelling him to move, to keep moving no matter what.

First there was cool linoleum beneath his feet, then the colder tiles of the steps, the hard stone of the entryway, and finally gravel. Sebastian paused then, his weary body beginning to object. For a moment, he stood motionless in the driveway, staring down the way towards the gates.

His chest was heaving, he realized. The breaths were harder to drag in.

He still couldn't feel the panic he knew was there.

Sebastian broke into a run.

I killed him, I killed him, I killed him, I killed him -

no, It, I killed It, It was trying to kill me, It tried to kill me first -

I killed him, I killed him, I killed him, I killed him -

it wasn't my fault, It attacked me first, it's not my fault, it's not -

one of them now, i'm one of them now, am i safe, is it safe -

I killed him, I killed him, I killed him, I killed him -

only safe from them, the patients, the patients are dangerous, they -

Ciel

they're dangerous, It tried to kill me first, not my fault -

will Ciel blame me

it's their fault, it's your fault, IT'S NOT MY FAULT -

"Sebastian!"

"I killed him, I killed him, I killed him, I ki -"

Hands stronger than his own grabbed Sebastian, pulled him down from where he was clinging to the gate, all the while repeating his name firmly. There was no panic in that voice but that didn't comfort Sebastian at all. The voice should have been panicking. How could it not be. A killer, he was a killer.

"Sebastian!" the voice repeated. The hands restrained him, arms wrapped tightly around his body to try and still him. There was pain, Sebastian realized distantly, his arm had slipped free from the sling.

"Sebastian, answer me," the voice ordered, and there was worry there now. He struggled against the man holding him. A feeble shove. A child-like kick. The words were still spilling from his mouth uncontrollably. The words needed to stop. They were blocking his air. He couldn't breathe if he kept confessing.

"I killed It, I killed It, I killed It, I killed It!" Sebastian's voice grew louder, more strung out, a gasping thing. Loud and weak all at once.

"It's all right, Sebastian," the voice insisted, holding him tighter, "It - You're not to blame."

The voice didn't sound as sure about that.

Sebastian's struggle grew weaker, but only because his head was getting lighter. His chest clenched, lungs burned, there wasn't enough air outside no matter how much he gasped.

Abruptly, Sebastian doubled over, throwing up. His gloved hands clung to the arms holding him. His stained fingers scratched at the man, nails dragging against the inside of the talc-coated latex. His stomach was already empty but he continued to retch until it ached. His eyes streamed with every aborted jolt.

The man's grip on him loosened as Sebastian went slack in his arms. He rubbed his back gingerly, a hollow attempt to comfort.

"Sebastian," Agni said quietly, "It'll be alright."

Sebastian was silent. He remained that way as Agni helped him to stand, supported him back to the building, led him to his own bedroom. He was utterly unresponsive until Agni made to remove the gloves for him.

"I'm just going to ta -"

"No. Leave them."

Agni paused, hands just hovering above Sebastian's.

"Sebastian, they're filthy. I'm just going to throw them away and then we can get you cleaned up." His voice was reasonable now. Very reasonable. Sebastian wondered if he spoke to the patients like that.

"No," Sebastian repeated calmly. His throat was sore. It hurt to speak.

Agni kneeled down to be eye level with Sebastian.

"You'll feel better when they're gone," Agni assured him, like a parent promising there were no monsters under the bed. They had checked. They could be trusted.

"I'll feel better when you're gone," Sebastian replied, staring at Agni steadily. He wasn't sure whether that was true, but he would rather find out than spend any more time in someone else's company. Agni's presence was smothering.

Was that a flash of hurt in Agni's eyes?

Agni drew away, leaning back on his heels. He was silent for a minute, then another.

"Okay. If that's what you want. You know where I am, if you need me."

Hesitantly, Agni stood up. His reluctance as he left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him, was palpable.

I never knew where you were when I needed you before, Sebastian thought bitterly, easing himself down onto the mattress. The sling had twisted under his aching arm but he couldn't build up the motivation to do anything about it.

What had he been trying to do?

The gates had been locked. The heavy iron padlock should have been enough of a clue of that. Even if they hadn't been locked, Sebastian wasn't sure he would have really left. He wasn't sure he could really leave.

Even if he was one of them now, he doubted he would be allowed to leave so easily.

There had been no conscious decision. His feet had simply carried him there. It was what he wanted, then. To flee. Run away from St. Victoria's and all the people inside of it and what he had just done.

I killed It -

"No," Sebastian growled out loud, teeth clenching together until his jaw hurt. If he started that again, he wasn't sure he'd be able to stop.

He pushed his head into the pillow, letting out a long breath through his nose. His breathing seemed normal now but there was still a weightlessness in his head, the same as before.

His hands itched.

"One. Two. Three." Sebastian quietly counted, hardly a whisper, in the hopes of bringing himself down to some level of calm. He had seen it on TV once, maybe, or read about it in a book. It wasn't very effective. "Four. Five. Six."

His back was beginning to throb.

"Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven."

His right arm felt wrong.

"Twelve. Thirteen. Fifteen. Sixteen. No - Fourteen. Fifteen. Sixteen."

He reeked of sick. The smell was becoming harder and harder to ignore.

"Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen. Twenty."

He miscounted another two times. He skipped the thirties altogether. By the time he made it to fifty-three, his breathing was growing ragged again. While he spoke a monotonous count, his mind began its accusing chant again. He hit seventy-eight and snapped.

On the desk were the things he had had on him in Ward V that day. A pen, little torn-off scraps of paper, his key-card.

Sebastian was unsurprised to find Ciel's ring missing.

Snatching up his key-card, he left the room in a half-run.


Ciel was drifting. It was that half-way point between late at night and early morning, still pitch black outside. He was trapped in that half-way point too. Not quite awake, not yet asleep. Aware enough of that for it to be annoying.

Four days now.

Things had returned to normal the morning after their talk past curfew. There had consistently been two members of staff on the ward at all times. Trips to the garden had become more routine than they had ever been, which struck Ciel as odd, since the weather was only worsening. The group therapy sessions had been changed to a twice a week event, as opposed to the sporadic things of before.

Four days now, and Sebastian had not been on the ward once.

Ciel shifted restlessly beneath the duvet, too hot but too tired to do anything about it. The nights had yet to do the decent thing and be completely cold. Instead, they were muggy, an unpleasant heavy warmth. That was why he couldn't sleep. It had nothing to do with the nagging voice in his head repeating the same two words as though he was at risk of forgetting them.

Four days.

Ciel felt himself being dragged more and more towards being completely awake. He struggled to cling to the dregs of haziness but it slipped between his fingers like water.

A fortunate thing, as only seconds later did his bedroom door swing open, hitting the wall with a resounding bang.

Speak of the devil, Ciel recalled as he jolted up to eye the intruder, And he shall appear.

Sebastian lurched into the room, fumbling to shut the door behind him. Before he did, Ciel glanced through the gap, checking that Ash wasn't on the ward. Luck was with them for once. The leisure room was completely empty.

Ciel was about to say something snide, a catty comment on Sebastian's appearance or his brief vanishing act, anything to undermine the rush of relief he found himself feeling then. But the words caught in his throat when he got a good look at Sebastian.

Bandages, blood and sweat were the first things that struck Ciel. Then the pungent smell of vomit. A lot of blood. He wasn't wearing any shoes, the soles of his feet filthy and tracking mud on the carpet. A lot of blood, but none of it fresh. There were bruises peeking out from under the bandages, black and purpling splotches like smudged ink. Too much blood.

Four days.

A lot could happen in four days.

Sebastian was breathing much too noisily, much too quickly. He stumbled, tried to make his way to Ciel, fell clumsily to his knees after only two steps.

Seeing him crumbled on the floor, choking on failed breaths, the worry that had been eating away at Ciel's calm the past four days was validated.

Ciel rose from his bed. He crossed the room in a few long strides, kneeling down at Sebastian's side. He reached out, about to touch, but thought better of it at the last moment. If he were in such a state, the last thing he would want would be anyone touching him. But then, he was hardly a basis for comparison. Would it help Sebastian? Would it ground him, or set him off even more?

Hand hovering uselessly in the air, Ciel asked what seemed to him to be the most important question.

"Sebastian. Is that blood yours?"

There were mumbled words mixed in with the struggling breaths but Ciel couldn't make them out at all. Sebastian wasn't even looking at him, staring wide-eyed at the floor only a few inches away from his face. It was a blank look, hollow and unseeing. That decided it for Ciel.

Pulling back his arm, he gave Sebastian a hard slap across the face.

Ciel expected the colour to return to Sebastian. A glare, a sharp-tongued rebuke, a childish shove in return. It had worked before.

Sebastian fell with the force of the hit, collapsing bonelessly onto his side. It was like his puppet strings had been suddenly cut. Slack and gasping, he lay on the carpet, the dirt and blood and sweat and vomit a miasma developing around him.

"Sebastian."

No response. Not even a twitch.

"Sebastian?"

Sebastian's cheek was reddening where Ciel had hit him. His own hand stung from how hard the slap had been. It had definitely happened. Why wasn't he responding, then?

With a great deal more hesitance now, Ciel lowered himself to the floor, giving Sebastian a more thorough looking over.

Bandages and a sling. He's been hurt. The blood is his - no, not all of it, it doesn't match where the bandages are.

He's wearing gloves. They're bloodier than anywhere else. Sebastian, what did you do?

Is this a panic attack? He'll pass out soon if he doesn't stop hyperventilating like that. I need to get him breathing right if he's going to tell me anything.

Ciel felt himself calming from a tension he hadn't noticed growing. So long as he had a plan of action, he could be calm. Something to work towards, a goal to achieve.

"Sebastian, I'm going to come next to you now, alright?" Ciel announced, ensuring his voice was as even as it could sound. The last thing he needed was to startle Sebastian and find himself on the receiving end of a fear-blind attack. He'd dealt out enough of those over the years to know how brutal they could be.

No response except more wheezing.

Gingerly, Ciel shuffled on his knees across the carpet. The closer he got, the more ragged Sebastian's breathing seemed to get.

"I'm going to take your hand now. Alright?"

Ciel paused, but again, no response. Taking that as permission, he took Sebastian's nearest hand and placed it against his chest. The dried blood flaked beneath the touch. With his free hand, he moved Sebastian's chin up to get him to meet his eye.

"If you keep on like this, you're going to pass out. I'd rather avoid that. You've already made a fine mess of my floor. So we're going to breathe together." Ciel inhaled deeply, his chest rising beneath their joined hands. "Like this. As I count up to three, you inhale, and then as I count up to five, you hold that breath. Once I've said five, you can exhale."

Sebastian was still silent, but his fingers clenched against Ciel's chest. Ciel squeezed his hand in response.

"Alright. One, two, three." He sounded ridiculous, trying to count out loud while exaggeratedly breathing in, but Sebastian followed the cue obediently. "Four, five." And out, a whoosh of air.

"Again. In, two, three. Hold, four, five. And out."

They went on that way for a while, huddled together on the floor counting breaths. As time went on, Sebastian began to murmur the numbers too, fingers clenching against Ciel's chest with each inhale and exhale. He curled closer, eyelids drooping.

Ciel considered letting him go to sleep there. He clearly needed it.

"Sebastian, no. You can't sleep yet."

His need for an explanation trumped that consideration. Stretching out his own aching legs, Ciel sat up straight, tugging on Sebastian's hand. Without argument, Sebastian let himself be pulled upright, though not without a wince of pain.

"What?" Ciel asked, letting go of his hand.

"... Shoulder hurts." It was little more than a slurred mumble, but in the silence of the room, it wasn't impossible to understand him. He sounded almost as bad as he looked.

"That sling probably isn't a fashion accessory. You might have better luck with your arm in it."

It was the arm Ciel had pulled, as well. Sebastian really wasn't having a good night.

After some fumbling and awkward angles, Ciel managed to manoeuvre Sebastian's arm back into the sling, noting that the bandages at the top of his shoulder were thicker than anywhere else.

It seemed as good a place as any to start, so Ciel asked, "What's wrong with you arm?"

Still blinking dozily, it took Sebastian a moment to process the question. Longer still to form his answer. It was like there was a sort of lag between what was happening and Sebastian becoming aware of it.

"Dislocated. There was ... muscular tearing." The way he said it, it sounded like a quote to Ciel. He was parroting back someone else's words. "So surgery."

The spike of alarm Ciel felt then was like being doused in cold water.

"Surgery? On you?"

Sebastian nodded, giving Ciel an unblinking stare. He still had that hollow look. Even now that he was breathing alright again, the look wasn't fading.

"So it is your blood, then."

It hadn't been said as a question but Sebastian answered nonetheless.

"No."

He was still staring. It was becoming uncomfortable.

Ciel wet his lips, hesitating to ask the question but knowing he had to. With a reluctance he didn't quite understand, he said, "If it's not yours, then whose is it?"

He expected a straight answer. A blank-eyed confession, void of any hint of Sebastian actually saying it. As soon as he had gotten his breathing back under control, there had been a sort of shut down. A mental retreat, one that Ciel recognized only too well. He couldn't count the amount of times reality had sent him scurrying away to the only safe place he knew; within himself.

Instead of a blank-eyed confession, the question seemed to pull Sebastian back from whatever distance he had been forcing. The stare continued, unwavering, even as the rest of him began to shake. The life came back into his face by inches; first a clenching jaw, next a rising flush, then a wide-eyed horror that was quickly hidden as he screwed his eyes shut.

Sebastian slumped forward, his forehead coming to rest with a thump on Ciel's shoulder.

"V7."

Ciel felt himself still. It wasn't intentional, but every part of him seemed to stiffen, freeze up. Sebastian was a warm weight against him but Ciel just felt chilled to the bone.

Get off of me.

The words were on the tip of his tongue. His hand, the hand he had used to hold Sebastian's before, it crawled as though dozens of disgusting little bugs were inching their way across his skin. He had touched that hand, touched the dried blood it was coated in. He found himself looking down at it as though he would be able to see it stained, the way he knew it now was.

A patient's blood. He had touched a patient's blood.

Sebastian was a heavy weight against him, hardly supporting himself at all. It struck Ciel then, not for the first time but certainly for the first time in a long while, how much bigger Sebastian was than him. Not just bigger, but stronger too, without a doubt. If it ever came to blows, Ciel doubted his luck. He'd be damn near powerless against him.

Was V7 powerless too? Locked in a cage, no weapons and no hope of escape, what chance had V7 had?

- no. Stop. You haven't even heard the story yet.

Calm down.

You've not lost yet.

Ciel choked back the panic and revulsion that had surged up, so intense they formed a solid lump in his throat. It wouldn't do to lose his head. There was still a chance for damage control.

"Sebastian," Ciel said, striving to make his voice as placid as possible. His hand was still crawling. It took every ounce of self control not to wipe away the phantom stain on the carpet. "Sebastian, you need to tell me what's happened."

Sebastian didn't sit up, remaining slumped against Ciel. Being touched by Sebastian had stopped making him cringe months ago, whether he had just gotten used to it or something else, he didn't know for certain. But now it was making him uncomfortable. The position they were in could easily turn threatening, if Sebastian so chose. But if Ciel reacted as he wanted to - a shove, an accusation, a complete rejection - then it could jeopardize everything he had worked to build between them.

One false step and all of it would have been for nothing.

It was difficult to restrain himself. The longer Sebastian stayed silent, the more his mind raced to fill in the blanks. That much blood suggested something fatal. Not just an attack, but a murder. The other ward patients were locked up, mentally absent and vulnerable, Sebastian had said so himself. Had the staff gotten to him? Persuaded him? Or had he just snapped, let the thoughts he had confessed to having become reality?

Ciel's months old words came back to him.

"Thinking about things doesn't hurt anyone, Sebastian. There's nothing wrong with it, so long as that's all it is – a thought. The point is, you didn't harm V2. You thought about it, yes, maybe even wanted to, but you didn't. That right there is the distinction. That's what separates you from the rest of the staff."

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

It had seemed like the right thing to say at the time. As close to a solution as Ciel could offer him. But now, it seemed like nothing more than an open invitation. Thinking about hurting the patients, while being pressured to do just that, all with a constant fear for his own safety hanging over his head - what other outcome could Ciel have possibly expected?

Sebastian shifted against Ciel, leaning more heavily upon him. Ciel resisted the urge to shove him away.

He still didn't speak, and that only left more time for Ciel's imagination to speak for him.

Had it been a 'treatment', Ciel wondered. With that thought came a whole new wave of possibilities. Images, memories, they flashed across his mind. His own past treatments - water in his lungs, hateful voices coaxing him to lie, sharp heat then intense cold that lingered in his bones for weeks, occasion spilt blood, not always his own - they twisted in his mind, a base to paint Sebastian's crime upon. And in each sickening scenario, Ciel himself filled the role of the patient. He was V7, his blood soaking Sebastian's gloves, drenching the pristine white of his bandages -

oh.

It all screeched to a stop. Bandages and bruises. Dislocated shoulder, muscular tearing, surgery. Sebastian was hurt. Arm in a sling, bruises scattered haphazardly across his skin, Sebastian was hurt too.

Thoughts finally calming, Ciel inhaled deeply, counted to five, then let the breath out. His clean hand, the one that hadn't touched the blood, rose to rest on top of Sebastian's head. Running it slowly through Sebastian's hair, he asked the question that should have been the first on his mind.

"Sebastian. Are you alright?"

Sebastian turned his face towards Ciel's neck, pressing against him to be as close as he could. His breathing was still even, though it was a conscious effort to maintain that. He sounded a bit winded when he said, "No."

The words spilled from him then, as though he couldn't stop them.

"It was an acc - I didn't mean to - fucking Faustus let It go and It tackled me, and - Ciel, It was going to kill me. It was so strong. I couldn't move and It just kept hitting. It knew to go for my spine, It knew what It was doing! And then one of them kicked me a knife, I don't know who, and I wasn't thinking, I just - I was scared, okay, I know I'm not supposed to admit that, I know we don't do feelings, but I was. I didn't want to die here. I don't want to die here. So I killed It. Not on purpose, it's not like I planned to. I just - I grabbed the knife and swung and I was just trying to get It off me. But I got Its neck. And I ... I don't think I meant to?"

Ciel stayed quiet, continuing to stroke Sebastian's hair. So it had been self-defence. That ... wasn't as bad. It had been a set-up, rather than an actual decision on Sebastian's part. It hadn't been from malice. It hadn't been The Change taking Sebastian.

Ciel hadn't lost him to the staff.

Not yet, anyway. But the way Sebastian was questioning himself, the way Ciel was itching to push him away, it could still ruin the ties Ciel had worked to create between him and Sebastian all this time. That would be disastrous. It would ruin every chance he had at getting out of St. Victoria's.

Swallowing against his own revulsion, Ciel tugged on Sebastian's hair to get him to look up.

"Self-defense, then."

A furrow formed between Sebastian's brows.

"The patient attacked you first," Ciel elaborated with a flippancy he did not feel, "And you defended yourself. What, were you supposed to let yourself be killed? You just protected yourself."

Sebastian sat up and opened his mouth to argue, beginning to look alarmed.

Ciel cut him off before he could start, "If someone punched you, wouldn't you be justified in punching them back? Or are you supposed to just sit there and take it? If someone comes at you with the intent to kill then they deserve nothing less than the same in return, right?"

"Ciel!" Sebastian interrupted, incensed by his dismissal of what had been done, "It's not the same thing. Christ, I - I ki -"

"Yes, it is the same," Ciel insisted, and he wasn't sure who he was trying to convince now, "V7 was trying to kill you, so it's not wrong that you responded in kind. All you did was respond, Sebastian."

Sebastian shook his head, eyes scrunched shut, "Ciel, I killed V7."

"No, you didn't."

Sebastian looked at him like he was speaking a foreign language he didn't know.

"... What - I don't."

"Just, listen." Ciel sounded desperate even to himself, but he had to talk their way out of this somehow. He could see the bad path unfurling before them - Sebastian breaking, the staff winning, the both of them trapped at St. Victoria's until their final days - and he had to pull them away from it before it was too late. There was still a chance. He could still fix this. "They want you to be like this. Don't you see? They've kept trying to bring you over to their side but it's failed time and time again. Ward V was their trump card but it wasn't working, because you kept resisting them. Every time you had a choice, you chose to say no. So they took away your choice, Sebastian. They backed you into a corner where you had to do exactly what they wanted you to do. They let the patient attack you. They didn't try to help you. They literally put the knife in your hands. Do you see?"

Sebastian's mouth was working wordlessly, staring at him with disbelief. His eyes followed Ciel's hands when they grabbed at Sebastian's.

"Look," Ciel said, pulling Sebastian's good hand to eye-level. Sebastian cringed away, disgusted at the sight of the blood, a reminder he didn't need. Ciel began to pull off the gloves from both hands, the coat of dried blood cracking and flaking onto the carpet, revealing his own pale skin. "Look how clean your hands are. Not a drop of blood. Not a drop."

Sebastian was staring as though he had never seen them before. The scar on the back of his left hand, the mark from Ciel's bite, it seemed to stand out now more than ever. As though knowing what Sebastian was thinking, Ciel traced the crescent scar with his index finger. It was a gentler touch than Sebastian had ever expected from Ciel. Gentler still when the finger was replaced by Ciel's lips, a closed mouth kiss pressed against the scar.

The bluster left Ciel then, the urgency to justify what Sebastian had done to both Sebastian and himself fading. Mouth still touching the back of Sebastian's hand, he spoke again, sounding much less sure of himself now.

"We were stupid to think that a strong will and a misguided self-righteousness was going to keep us unscathed. Stupid to think we could actually get out of here unscathed. I ... I've always been arrogant, thinking that everything I think is right just because I'm the one thinking it. Well, I don't have... we don't have the luxury of that arrogance any more. We're not the ones in control here. We never were."

Ciel lowered their hands, still holding Sebastian's wrist.

"We have a choice to make and we have to make it now, Sebastian. We carry on being arrogant and end up dead, or we do whatever we have to and one day get out of this place alive. And if we're very lucky, maybe in more or less one piece."

Slipping one of his hands down, Ciel entwined his fingers with Sebastian's. More than anything else so far, that blindsided Sebastian. The sex aside, it seemed more intimate than Ciel had ever been comfortable being. The kiss on his hand too. That was the first time Ciel had ever kissed him.

"It's not that I'm so desperate to live. It's that arrogance again, you see. I'm just too proud to let myself die in a place like this, by the hands of scum like them. If nothing else, I still have my dignity. And if, in the short-term, I have to lay that dignity down, I will. I'll do whatever I have to do. So long as in the long-term, I get to walk through those gates on my own two feet with my head held high. What about you?"

Sebastian couldn't seem to look away from their joined hands. He squeezed Ciel's hand tightly in his own.

"... I don't want to die here. It's not arrogance. It's not even about dignity. I just... don't want to die in this place, because of those people," Sebastian responded after a drawn out silence. It was the most sure of something he had sounded the entire night.

Ciel pushed his chin up with his free hand, ensuring Sebastian was looking him in the eye.

"So do whatever you have to do, Sebastian. On that ward, with those patients, you do whatever it is you're told, so that when the day comes you can walk through those gates with me."

Sebastian swallowed against a lump in his throat, disbelieving for a moment of whether he had heard Ciel correctly.

"... You want me to hurt them?" he asked.

"I want you to live," Ciel replied, expression cold. He didn't realize the truth of those words until he had said them, but it suddenly seemed to outweigh his own disgust at what he was saying. His disgust was more likely fear of Sebastian changing, in such a way that he wouldn't be tied to Ciel anymore, would align himself with the staff.

He didn't know these Ward V patients. At the end of the day, they were nothing to him. If some of them had to pay the price for Ciel's freedom, for Sebastian's freedom, then that was just how it was.

"Even if it means becoming one of them?" Sebastian asked.

Ciel shook his head, "You'll never be one of them, Sebastian. Not really."

Reaching over with his free hand, ignoring the disgusted voice in his head, Ciel picked up the soiled latex gloves. Sebastian still glanced away from them constantly, but compared to before he was able to stomach looking at them for longer now.

Ciel wore a small smirk.

"Here's what you're going to do, Sebastian – you're going to go to Ward V when you're told to. Before you walk through that door, though, you're going to leave the name Sebastian right there, outside the ward door. Then you're going to go inside . Before anything else, you're going to put on a pair of these gloves. And do what you're told, whatever that may be. Then when your shift is over, you're going to walk out the door, toss away the gloves, and with them, everything you did in that room. And then you can be Sebastian again, and you can come back to me.

"So long as you're wearing a pair of these gloves, your hands will still be clean, you see?"

Sebastian should have laughed at the ridiculously simple solution for the horrible things he was asking him to do, Ciel felt, but he knew he wouldn't. He knew Sebastian would grasp at the easy out he was being offered, the absolution of responsibility for ghastly acts he would go on to commit. He knew it as surely as he knew he himself would turn a blind eye to it all, no pun intended. For the sake of himself, to protect what little ground he had gained in the last year, he would not simply ignore but actually rationalize Sebastian's actions.

If nothing else, it was as though Sebastian was acting on Ciel's instructions, rather than the staff's. That was a far easier pill to swallow, for them both.

"Yeah," Sebastian replied. A weight seemed to lift from his shoulders. It was much easier to relax when you didn't have to bear the responsibility for your actions. "Yes."

It felt like they had spoken through the night, but it was still dark outside, hardly an hour having passed since Sebastian had first stumbled into the bedroom. Ciel hadn't been able to sleep then, restless and worried. He felt like he could sleep now.

Hands still joined, Ciel stood up. Sebastian followed him to his feet, and then followed just as obediently to the bed. Any other time, any other incident, this would have been a come on. A signal for more. Not tonight, though. They were both exhausted in every way, hollow-eyed and hollow-hearted. For all that they had reached a solution, it was one they both knew was treading a thin line.

Having made their choice, were they really any better than the staff?

"G'night," Sebastian said, squeezing Ciel's fingers between his own. The bed was small but there was still a slight space between them, enough for their hands to rest comfortably.

"Good night," Ciel replied, holding Sebastian's hand tighter as he drifted off into a fitful sleep.


AN: This was like, the chapter I started this entire fic to write, and now I finally got to write it, it turned out nothing like I wanted omg. Ciel, you were supposed to be nicer than that. Sebastian, you were supposed to talk more. You two were meant to be totes in luuuurve by now god damn it. Ah well.

Quick note! Yuss, over on ficbook, is translating Inertia Creeps into Russian, currently up to chapter eight. Excuse me while I faint~ So yeah, huge thanks to Yuss for taking that on. If my internet isn't completely shitting out, there should be a link on my profile page. Hope the Russian readers like the fic!

Ps, sorry if I haven't replied to your review/PM yet! I'm sick as a dog atm but I'll reply tomorrow :)