The candles flickered and went out, and Sebastian turned, footfalls silent as he crossed the room. Ciel waited, eyes shut, until the door clicked quietly shut behind him. Only then did he sit up, reaching for the secret hidden beneath his pillow.
A feather, blacker than the dark room around him. Too big for a crow or raven. Ciel ran a fingertip over the soft plumes, pleased to find no residual stickiness. There had been blood earlier. So much blood, Sebastian falling to his knees as the werewolf’s claws raked across his shoulder, the rest of the pack closing in. For a heart-stopping second, Ciel had been terrified that this was how it ended – no bittersweet revenge, no poignant and terrible union with Sebastian, only his butler dying on the mossy ground, leaving Ciel to make his way alone if the werewolves didn’t eat him, too.
“Get up and finish this, Sebastian! That’s an order!”
Red eyes had flicked to him. Sebastian had smiled, beautiful and horrible as he staggered to his feet. From there, Ciel had lost track of the fight. Sebastian and the wolves tore through the dense branches faster than his human eyes could follow. He grew dizzy watching, so instead he looked down, to where a single black feather floated in a pool of Sebastian’s blood on the mossy ground. He’d barely had time to pocket it before the fight was done, Sebastian striding back across the clearing for him, bloody and bedraggled, tailcoat torn to pieces, but alive. He’d gathered Ciel into his arms, and Ciel had allowed himself to loop his arms around Sebastian’s neck, holding tighter than necessary, just for a second.
As Sebastian carried him back, Ciel’s fingers had played over the frayed threads of his torn overcoat where the wolf had mauled him. The wool had been stiff with blood. Beneath it, he’d felt Sebastian’s crisp, torn shirt, and when let his fingers explore even further, the smooth warmth of already-healed skin beneath, but no feathers, no wings. Sebastian had glanced sidelong at him, but hadn’t said a word. Ciel had closed his hand over the feather in his pocket, remembering a raven on a dying tree, a shower of feathers raining over his head.
Now, Ciel lay on his side, admiring the glossy black plumes against his white pillowcase. He tried to remember the glimpse of Sebastian’s true form he’d gotten in the castle a few weeks ago. He’d been so caught up in the fear from his nightmares that he barely remembered anything beyond a shadow creeping cold and deadly up his limbs, the gleam of fangs opening wide to devour him. He remembered a sound like the flapping of bat wings, the scent of lightning and fog. Had there been feathers?
Ciel had always assumed Sebastian took his true form on and off like a change of clothes. But if that were the case, how had the werewolf managed to sheer a feather off him? Ciel hadn’t felt wings under the smooth lines of Sebastian’s tailcoat, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there. Dragging his thumb up and down the feather, Ciel decided it didn’t matter. Feathers or none, Sebastian had survived. He would carry Ciel forward to victory.
Allowing himself to smile, just a little, in the privacy of his bedroom, Ciel toyed with the feather, dragging the barbs the wrong way to ruffle them, then smoothing them back. It felt secretive, almost naughty, to have this piece of Sebastian all to himself. And why shouldn’t he?, Ciel thought. Sebastian was going to get his soul. Shouldn’t Ciel get this much, at least?
He drew the soft feather against his palm, his cheek, the side of his neck, enjoying the pleasant tingle of heat in his skin. He tapped the point of the quill against his bottom lip, imagining how it had been torn from Sebastian’s skin. His breath was coming faster now. Glancing surreptitiously at the door to make sure it was firmly closed, he let his free hand trail lower, sliding under his nightshirt. He’d only dared to touch himself this way a few times now, but it was addictive, better than the finest candy his company made. He trailed the feather over his skin, remembering how the clinging darkness of Sebastian’s true form had chilled him that night. When he finally fell asleep, it was with a sticky nightshirt, the feather still clutched in his hand.