this is the 9th 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, the demon knew Sebastian from the past when they both invented the plague together, & Ciel started an ill-fated wizard's duel with the "ghost" of Angela/Ash. :) (for more on that plot point, you can check out "Slipping")
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)
8 "Whatever We Lose" (Sebastian remembers the plague & realizes he's happy with his life now)
The Spider's Thread
How lonely he must have felt! All about him was the silence of the grave, the only occasional sound being a faint sigh from one of the damned. Those who were so evil as to be sent to this place were tired by its various torments, and left without even the strength to cry out.
—from The Spider's Thread, by Akutagawa Ryunosuke
1/ on the cliff's edge
The waves crashed against the rocks in ceaseless anger, in striving; crashed against the rocks and, like teardrops; sparkling marbles in a game, fell back into the haunted dark. That is where he was found, Ciel Phantomhive, where the ships wrecked on the shore, where the dark spars from the water announced its graveyard. He lay on the edge of the downs, arms crossed behind his head and staring upward; black-heeled boots with their laces, slate-grey pleated shirt tied with a dark bow, jacket and short trousers, like a boy carved from stone. He smiled—a slight, uncanny smile. Beside him, Helen sat, and shivered, pulling her cardigan close.
"It's cold," she said.
"Tomorrow it will be warm," Ciel replied. "It's summer yet."
"Mm," Helen replied. She looked out onto the openness of the sea.
"He's not bad," she said at last. "Your Sebastian."
"My Sebastian?" Ciel chuckled. He closed his eyes. "I thought you would like him."
"I do," Helen said. "He is—"
"Perfect," Ciel said. "It's his aesthetic; he practices."
"I wasn't going to say perfect," Helen said. "Thoughtful, maybe. Quite wise."
"Wise?" Ciel opened his eyes again. "Now there's one I've never heard." He turned, still on the ground, propping himself on one elbow to face her.
"Jack hates him, of course," Helen said. Then hesitated. "Well—he's bitter. As though he looks at him and wishes… something. They know each other, don't they?"
"I wouldn't know," Ciel confessed.
Helen raised an eyebrow. "Nothing, really? You haven't asked?"
He shrugged. "Sebastian has his past; I let him keep it."
"Kind of you," Helen said, with some sarcasm.
"Sometimes, one has to be," Ciel replied.
Even here, something of the horror follows him, that excrement and filth uncleansed—
Ciel swallowed, fretfully, and sat up, hugging his knees against him. When he turned back to Helen, she was staring, unabashed.
"What?" he snapped.
"It's so strange, this illusion of yours," she said.
In an instant, he had shifted; without apparent movement. Alex was sitting before her; the man cocked his head in challenge. "Better?"
There was something about the form that was healthier than it had been, but the fretful color was still on his cheek. She felt that he was playing a careful game…. But she berated herself. Alex—Ciel—had not decided any of this. She had asked them to this place, she had asked them in order that she might observe, and… perhaps even find what it was that was so troubling him. She didn't delude herself that she could save anything, the damned leading the damned, (no Frederick she) but at the very least she meant to satisfy her own curiosity. Distract her mind from nightmares with another puzzle; get some uninterrupted sleep, for once.
"What do you do, when you're…" Helen gestured, pushing her hands away from each other as though scattering. "Just float invisible?"
"Nothing," Ciel said. "There's no need for sun, wind, rain and all that to do anything; they just are."
"It must be nice," Helen said. It came out sounding wistful.
The rain started again, dampening the overcast sky, blotting the sun's weak light. A fine, misting drizzle, barely touching the grass-heads, laying on the fabric of their clothes. Helen pulled herself up with a sigh and looked back in the direction of the house. "I should be getting back," she said.
She looked down at Ciel, at his blonde hair pressed dark by water and the sea-green eyes. "It's raining," she said.
"You're not expected," Ciel pointed out, gently.
Helen frowned, opened her mouth. Closed it again. Then looked upward into the drizzle. "It's raining," she said again. "You think I should stay out in this?"
"Careful, asking a demon for advice," Ciel chided. He stood up, and materialized a dark umbrella which he handed over to her with some ceremony, a grin playing across the edges of his features. She laughed.
"It's a little late for that. Lead the way."