this is the eighth story in "How Not to Spend Eternity" in which Sebastian and Ciel deal with the aftermath of season 2 (or not). — you can see links to each story in order on my profile &, if you want to hop in right here, all you have to know is that Sebastian and Ciel recently met another human and demon pair, and the demon knew Sebastian in the past. Nothing else has yet been revealed :)
1&2 "Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep" (the immediate aftermath of season 2) + "The Contract" (posted together) (Ciel's first contract as a demon)
3 "Puer Aeternus" (Ciel's second and third contract, and an attempt to get Sebastian a gift)
4 "Desperate Times" (Sebastian, Grell, and Will go boating. This goes about as well as you'd expect.)
5 "Dogwood and Chestnut" (in which both Sebastian & Ciel try to make things right)
6 "Capture the Moon" (a woman named Helen makes a contract with a demon)
7 "Slipping" (Ciel finds a mysterious government agency, makes a contract, and decides to investigate)
STORY WARNINGS—mentions of the plague.
Two stories, said at different times
Once, I had no need for names.
Names create boundaries in what is infinite; it is by names that we first delineate between one thing and another.
To name is to suffer the first loss.
For every time, and place, and history, a name. I had names like shining pebbles to put in my pockets, each one rounded by waves, in colors like the shadows each day casts upon a cliff. I picked up another; held it in my hand.
And skipped it back into the sea.
Whatever We Lose
| would you do me the honor of a dance |
1/ a shell that sang
There was a house by the cliffs. It was a strange place for four such as these, for even the sound of the ocean waves which crashed into the shore miles below seemed to speak of the utter insignificance of country and the looming threat of war, all washed to pieces by the scudding clouds. In the evening, when the house was bathed in lavender and rose, and Helen sank into an exhausted sleep—the first one for almost three nights—his master met him at the door.
Sebastian turned, and regarded the young man. His thoughts had been lost, as they had been oft of late, since the time they had met the strange pair, with memories of farther away and longer ago. For an instant, it almost surprised him to see Ciel standing there. Time reasserted itself once again, like a low winding path through shadowed trees. And in the doorway, the light from the lamp on the table glowed, while outside the twilight was already deepening, with the strange wildness of a sea-drenched night. His master's eyes were vermillion in the gloom; framed by the stark line of his eyelashes. He was wearing a tailored black suit in the current style, so much simpler than the jackets and ruffles he had worn as a boy. Without looking delicate, he instead seemed quietly dangerous, assured enough to smile slightly at something in Sebastian's searching expression. "A penny for your thoughts?"
"I was merely looking at you," Sebastian confessed, and Ciel laughed. Bright, and sudden.
"All right," he said. "I won't pry. Walk with me?"
They stepped out of the doorway, closing it behind them, and walked along the gentle dirt track through the grasses and along the edge of the cliffs. The wind was picking up, and it made the waves dark and hungry where it lapped about the stone, below; but from here there was a strange calm, in the careful warmth of the summer night. Ciel hopped forward, his arms outstretched, and spun around, winding his way along the very edge, chalk dust stirred up by his feet and crumbling behind him.
"If you're not careful, you'll slip," Sebastian murmured, but he stepped up to Ciel and grasped his outstretched hand. The breeze had heightened, blowing inland, sending strands of Sebastian's hair into his eyes and mouth, tasting of salt. Ciel leaned back, one foot poised upon the crumbling earth, staring into the endless star-strewn abyss. Then Sebastian pulled him back, stepping away from the edge, spinning Ciel into his arms.
That was all. Sebastian could feel his embodied heart slow from the frantic pace it had acquired; felt the heat that was of Ciel's back against his shoulders and the curve of his arm; the same cooling sweat at his master's neck.
"My dear," he said, and stopped.
"Sebastian," Ciel replied. He stepped away at last, and returned Sebastian's gaze with the slightest, enigmatic smile.
Sebastian smiled, too, as if in defeat; the melancholy dissatisfaction of his earlier mood had retreated and all he could feel was the incredible life present in the world around them; those elements, which were Ciel's as nothing else. He bowed, very slightly, one hand to his heart and could not resist a slightly mocking, "thank you for the dance, my lord."
"You've been too melancholy, of late," Ciel returned, seriously. "I won't ask, but you must expect me to try to change that."
"Is it my master's duty to change that, then?"
"No," Ciel said. "No, it's nothing to do with duty at all." He sighed, looking pensive. "Perhaps I merely enjoy the world better when I feel you are enjoying it as well."
"It's a terrible conundrum we are trapped in, then," Sebastian said. "For I feel the same."
"Do you?" Some of the playfulness made its way back into Ciel's expression, and he smiled at Sebastian challengingly. "I shall be sure to remind you of that, the next time you throw me into despair for your amusement."
"Master—!" Sebastian protested, but Ciel only laughed at his vexation, and took his hand.