A/N: Hello everyone! This is the last chapter of 'The Games They Play.' It can actually be considered an epilogue I guess. As I said last chapter, I had planned on that one being the final chapter until someone had a review asking me how I would end this if it were a true story and not a collection of one shots. This chapter came about from that review. I hope y'all enjoy it ^^
Warnings: Tiny dash of angst, if you squint really hard
Disclaimer: I don't own Kuroshitsuji
Festive music floated lightly throughout the yard and people milled about on the rolling green yard. The air held a festive feel to it, light weight and filled with energy. The staff moved easily around the guests and Ciel snagged a drink when one passed by him. He sipped it and started to walk again, mingling with the people who covered the yard.
He tried his best to act polite, after all, they had all come to celebrate his success. But after several hours of answering questions and accepting words of congratulations, all Ciel wanted to do was sit down.
It didn't help matters that he arrived back home from college the previous day. A long day of driving, preceded by an even longer week of packing and cleaning his apartment. It left him feeling exhausted and Ciel could feel the weight of the week pressing down heavily on his shoulders. His parents meant well - throwing him a wonderful graduation party - but truly, Ciel wished they had waited at least one more day.
He wouldn't complain though and he felt touched that they had gone to such lengths for him. It meant a lot to Ciel, especially as his schoolwork often kept him too busy to keep in frequent touch with his parents. It warmed him to know that despite his age, they still cared for him and treasured him above all else.
Ciel took another drink from the glass and wandered over to the small gazebo. No one else had found the open structure and Ciel sat down heavily with a loud sigh of relief. His feet throbbed in his shoes and a slight headache had started to pulse faintly in his temples. He massaged them, pressing his fingers tenderly against the skin in an effort to stave off the pressure.
Around him, the trees swayed slightly in the wind; the leaves rustling under the gentle caress of the breeze. It sent a few leaves tumbling to the ground and one floated into the gazebo, landing at his feet. He nudged it with his foot and the wind caught it once more. It flew from the floor and twisted up into the air, dancing along the winds currents.
It vanished moments later and Ciel turned his attention back to the drink in his hand. He had always found comfort and solitude in the gazebo, finding the graceful arches and detailed trim to be soothing.
He didn't remember when he started to like the gazebo, his earliest memories fuzzy with each day that he aged. But he remembered that he had enjoyed the place ever since he discovered it as a child. Ciel hummed under his breath and tipped his head back against a wooden pillar as he struggled to recall his childhood.
Bits and pieces floated throughout his mind, flashing before his eyes like a broken movie. Figures and old friends long since forgotten flittered and darted rapidly in front of him before they vanished once more. Like the leaf he had seen earlier, they remained lost to the currents of the wind. Tossed and scattered throughout the maze of his mind.
Ciel laughed lightly to himself and shook his head. It was one thing to reminisce, but another thing to dwell on things he couldn't remember. "Aren't you the depressing one today," he muttered to himself and stood up.
The drink made a soft noise against the wood as he set it down on the seat. He moved away from the bench until he stood in the middle of the rounded building. With slow and careful movements, Ciel spun around, taking in every detail. The color of the paint, the grain of the wood, the designs carved into the building; everything surrounded him.
He looked further beyond that, outside and past the open walls. Outside, the trees littered the ground, offering shade while their thick branches were heavy with leaves. A few streams of sunlight escaped through the thick canopy and trickled down to scatter across the ground.
If Ciel were any younger, he would claim that the sight looked almost magical and would set off to run through the beams of light. Perhaps at one point, he would've scoured the area for a mythical creature.
Ciel's lips twitched in a small smile and he turned from the view. No matter how beautiful it looked, he knew now that those times had long since passed. He didn't have time to dream and fantasize about fairy creatures. He knew better now. The years that had passed him since childhood had him seeing past the veil of childhood delight and allowed him see the world for what it was.
He glanced over his shoulder and blue eyes focused on the dancing beams. Memories pushed against him once more and the feeling of nostalgia welled up inside him. Funny how visiting certain places from his past could do that.
Ciel tried not to dwell on the feeling, but something in his thoughts pestered him relentlessly. It nagged him and dredged up his childhood once more, forcing him to remember the laughter and cool touch of grass under his bare feet. He had played in the wooded areas when he was younger and a dog ran alongside him.
And something else.
Ciel ran a hand through his hair and then brought it down to rub at his face. It was there that his memory grew fuzzy. That shadowed figure never sharpened and Ciel struggled to put a face to the person, let alone a name. It frustrated him and Ciel had a strong suspicion that the person was important. But if he was, then why couldn't Ciel remember them?
With a dismissive noise, Ciel turned once more from the line of trees. He snatched the glass from the bench and drained the rest of the drink in several long gulps. A few droplets escaped his mouth and trickled down the line of his neck but Ciel didn't bother with them. They would dry well before he returned to the party.
For now, he just wanted to enjoy the quiet and stillness that the gazebo offered. Even if it had his thoughts tumbling quickly around each other, sending them battering against one another.
"You always used to like coming out here during the summer," a quiet but amused voice said to his left.
Ciel's head snapped in the direction of the sound and he had to fight back the scowl that threatened to form on his lips. An older man stood just at the bottom of the steps leading into the gazebo, watching him with a faint smile. His black slacks and buttoned up shirt accented a sharp figure, and the dark red top emphasized the crimson in his eyes. He didn't step into the building, but a hand rested on the railing and he had a look that told Ciel that he wanted to join him.
"Ah, but you probably don't remember me," the man continued and his foot rested against the lowest step. He shrugged slightly and the briefest flicker of hurt passed through his eyes. "Not that I blame you. It's been a long time."
"I'm sorry," Ciel said half-heartedly. "I wouldn't take it personally though. I don't remember a lot of people from my past at times. I think it's the same for everyone."
The man chuckled. "I suppose. But I recall you promising me once that you would never forget me, Then again, you were so young then that you probably didn't know what you were saying at the time."
Ciel bristled. He didn't like that this man spoke so casually about him when Ciel couldn't even recall a flicker of remembrance of him. It left him disconcerted and he struggled to remember even the barest of hints. "Were you an old partner or friend of my fathers?" he asked.
A negative shake of the head. "No, nothing like that." He looked around the gazebo again and then out to the trees just beyond it. "When you were younger, you used to run through those trees. You'd chase the dog around, screaming your head off and yelling at me not to touch the light. If I recall, you claimed they would turn people into stone or send them away to a different dimension."
Heat licked its way up Ciel's neck and spread across his cheeks. "How do you know that?"
The man smiled slightly. "I told you, I've known you for a long time."
"Then why can't I remember you?" Ciel demanded.
He shrugged. "Who can say why people remember or don't remember things? Our minds are a strange thing and I figure we'll never unravel the mysteries that they offer." The smile grew a little wider. "But I remember all the games we used to play.
Ciel stared at him, struggling to decipher the cryptic words. They sounded strange but familiar. They sparked something warm inside him and it urged Ciel to remember. But the more Ciel reached out to grasp the feeling, the more it darted out of his touch. Fleeting and teasing, it skirted just on the edge of his conscious.
It left him frustrated and Ciel blew out an exasperated sigh before looking at the man again. "Are you someone's father? Like, the father of someone I played with when I was a child?"
The man look insulted. "Father?" he repeated. "I don't look that old, do I?" His voice sounded traumatized even though it carried the barest hints of amusement.
"Not really," Ciel muttered. "But it was the only logical thing I could think. You say that you know me from when I was younger, so you're obviously from my childhood."
"Glad to see you can put your college education to good use," the man teased.
Ciel scowled at the comment. "You know, this would be easier if you told me your name."
The man shook his head. "That makes things too easy," he said. "And wouldn't that be cheating?"
"Not really," Ciel answered and leaned back against the bench. "Can you tell me what you do at least?"
"I can," he said. "I work in the Information Systems department. Basically, I work with computers."
Ciel hummed. "Impressive," he said. "I had a friend who studied something similar. Did you go the business route, too?"
The man nodded. "I did. I received my Master's degree in it. Accounting though wasn't my favorite class to take. Nasty course."
"Eh, I like numbers," Ciel admitted. Although he knew that several people shared the same sentiment as the man before him. He eyed the man. "Do you work for my father?"
He shook his head. "No. You can say I used to though. But currently I work for a different company. One that's not in the same field as your father." He smiled. "I would never join a rival company, not after everything he did for me."
Ciel stared at him, trying to place the man in his thoughts. He spoke with a familiar tone and seemed to have a great deal of respect for his father – and family for that matter. It suggested that he had been around for a while and that Ciel should know him, but for the life of him, he couldn't remember.
"I'm glad to hear that you're doing well for yourself. It's always good to see people become successful," Ciel said.
"But you still don't remember me," the man finished.
Ciel shook his head and bit his lip. "No, I'm sorry. I feel like I should, but I keep drawing a blank." That wasn't quite the truth, but Ciel couldn't exactly come out and say that his voice sounded familiar. It sounded strange and slightly awkward.
The man offered another smile, this one sad and resigned. It tugged at his lips but didn't reach his eyes and Ciel worried his lower lip. "Well, as I said earlier, that's to be expected. I suppose I should get going and leave you to your party. I'm sure you have other guests and I shouldn't take up all your time." He looked at Ciel warmly and his eyes held something that Ciel couldn't place. "Congratulations on your graduation, Ciel. I'm proud of you. I always have been."
He held out his hand and Ciel grasped it almost hesitantly. The hand felt warm and slightly calloused against his palm, and Ciel had the strangest feeling that at one point in his life, he had held this hand before. But back then, it had encased his hand in a large but safe grip that put Ciel at ease.
They shook briefly and Ciel's hand fell back to his side before he even realized it. Handshake done, the man straightened his shirt and offered a small wave. "I'll be seeing you, Ciel. Take care of yourself."
"Yeah," Ciel muttered and watched as the man turned around and stepped back onto the ground. The gravel crunched under the man's shoes and he shoved his hands into his pockets before he started to walk away.
Ciel watched him go, his chest feeling strange and heavy. His headache pulsed stronger between his ears and a quiet but demanding voice urged him to remember. He scowled and pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes, trying his best to quiet his thoughts. They fell silent, but in their silence, the memories started to come forth.
The sparkling sun against the pool's reflection in the middle of summer – someone drying him off with a towel while they argued about something.
A person standing under a Christmas tree with a bow sitting awkwardly in messy dark hair.
A feather in a pirate hat and a butler costume, along with something that sent Ciel's heart racing in his chest as fear briefly gripped him.
Birthday parties surrounded by friends, yet standing out amongst all of them stood a figure.
The same figure that haunted Ciel's memories of his childhood. Ciel stretched for the person, knowing that they were important and at one point, was his whole world. A name fell from his thoughts, streaking through the skies like a star on fire. Down it fell, tumbling through the memories of his past until it dropped neatly into his lap and spread across his tongue, tasting like honey – sweet and warm.
"Sebastian," he muttered, the name rolling off his tongue in a familiar caress. It came naturally, as though he had said it a thousand times and Ciel knew that it was the case. "Sebastian!" he called again and jumped down the few steps that led from the gazebo.
In front of him, Sebastian had stopped and turned around to look at him. A hint of surprise flickered across his face before he made a light noise and shook his head.
Ciel stopped in front of him, annoyed to find that after all the years that had passed Sebastian still towered over him. "I remembered," he said breathlessly. "You were my babysitter when I was younger. And," he paused and shifted his weight. "You were my first friend. You were my best friend."
"Were?" Sebastian teased and his smile grew slightly. "I recall a time when you declared that I would always be your best friend."
"How do you remember all that?" Ciel asked. "I can barely remember anything from my childhood, yet here you are practically reciting conversations we had."
Sebastian laughed and they started to walk back to the gazebo. "You were young, around five or so I believe. It's difficult for you to recall things from that far back. I was a bit older than you when I first came into your family's service." He shrugged. "Plus, you were rather unforgettable."
Ciel scowled. "I hope you mean that in a positive sense."
"I do," Sebastian answered. "There were times when I first met you that I thought you were a little terror." Ciel made a strange noise but Sebastian continued unperturbed. "But you grew on me eventually. You were an interesting child. Creative and always willing to try new things. In a way, you let me relive childhood again through you," he finished softly.
Ciel looked away, his face burning at the words Sebastian spoke. "I hope I wasn't too much of a terror for you," he said and Sebastian simply laughed. "I don't remember you leaving though. In my memories, you're there one moment and then gone the next. Why did you leave?"
Sebastian looked at him and then took a seat on the bench. "You grew up, Ciel. I couldn't be your babysitter forever." His fingers laced together. "Your parents started needing me less and less with each grade. We all knew that eventually I would leave, it was just a matter of when. I couldn't very well follow you to college now could I?"
"I suppose not," Ciel muttered, feeling a little foolish.
A soft smile touched Sebastian's lips and he patted Ciel's knee to reassure him. "There were times though, that I forgot you would grow up as well." He admitted. "But then one morning I woke up and you no longer stood at my knees. You reached my chest and had grown from playing with Bitter Rabbit to playing video games. It all happened so fast that I could barely believe it. Then one day you decided that you didn't need me anymore.
"I came to pick you up as I always had and you refused to get into the car with me. I thought the school would call the police over the fuss you made when I had to drag you into the car. If they hadn't known me, they probably would've thought I was trying to abduct you," Sebastian continued with a light laugh. "As it was, you felt embarrassed to have a babysitter at your age and demanded that I stop picking you up. That I leave you alone."
Ciel winced and he could vaguely recall the memory that Sebastian mentioned. Angry words and tears flickered through his mind, and if he focused hard enough, he could see Sebastian sitting tensely in the front of the car; shoulders stiff and face emotionless. It wasn't a good memory and Ciel stared at the wood, tracing the patterns in the grain.
"I'm sorry," he said honestly. "I image that hurt you badly."
Sebastian didn't answer and Ciel wondered how easily he could recollect that day. "I expected it," he said finally. "That's not to say that it didn't sting, but I can't say that I didn't expect it either. You were at that age where your appearance meant everything to your peers. It wasn't cool to have a babysitter. And honestly, it probably worked out for the best."
Ciel looked up, blue eyes searching. "How so?"
"I was about to finish my schooling and subconsciously, we all knew that I couldn't stay a babysitter for the rest of my life. I had a bachelor's degree and was about to receive my masters in a few months," Sebastian said. "As much as I enjoyed taking care of you, I wanted to start my own career. I had several companies offering me positions and your father had even offered to put in a good word for me if I needed it. I swear he would've given me a position at the company if I had asked for it."
"Why didn't you?" Ciel asked curiously.
Sebastian shook his head. "I felt as though your father had done enough for me already. I made it through my entire college career without a single loan and lived in a mansion throughout that whole time. He even gave me advice when it came to picking a company to work for and made sure no one cheated me out of anything. It was more than I expected when I first took the job as your babysitter." He looked out at the trees. "And truthfully, I wanted to see what I could do own my own."
Ciel nodded in understanding. There were times when he wanted to do things on his own as well, without the weight of his name behind him. It felt like stretching his wings and taking to the skies. It gave a sense of relief and the feeling remained unparalleled to anything else he had done. Sebastian had the choice to take the easy way, but he decided to walk a harder path.
He had no doubt that Sebastian would benefit greatly from his choice and he wished him the best of luck in the future. Although, Sebastian seemed to do well enough for himself already and it warmed Ciel to know that he was successful.
"Your parents and I kept in touch," Sebastian continued. "They informed me about you and how you were doing. I sent a card when you graduated high school, but I'm afraid I couldn't attend that party. I was out of state for a meeting. But I promised to come to your college one no matter what. Even if you didn't remember me and our times together."
"The times we spent together, are they good memories for you?" Ciel asked.
Sebastian nodded. "They are. I can admit you acted indifferent when I said goodbye for the last time, but I didn't take offense. You were rebellious." He laughed lightly at the memory and shook his head in thought.
"I wish I remembered those times better." Ciel glanced up at Sebastian through his eyelashes. "I wish I remembered you better. You're faded in my memories. I know you're there and I can see you, but you look muted and torn around the edges. Like an old letter or picture. I'm sorry."
Sebastian shrugged and leaned back against the wood. "It happens. I don't remember most things from my early childhood. I imagine most people don't. I'm actually surprised you even remember me at all. That's better than nothing in my book."
Ciel frowned. "Still," he mused. He looked up as Sebastian stood up suddenly and crossed the gazebo. He took a seat next to him and a playful smile had settled on his lips. The look struck deep within Ciel and unexpectedly, a clear memory of Sebastian flashed to the forefront of his mind – ringing vividly and vibrantly before his eyes.
"How about I tell you then," Sebastian said and his eyes danced.
He cocked his head. "Tell me what?"
Sebastian smirked. "About the games we played."
Ciel stared briefly at Sebastian before laughter bubbled up in his throat. "Yeah," he said excitedly and leaned forward, anxious to hear the stories from his past. With any luck, they would fill in the blanks that had started to appear in his mind. "Tell me everything."
"We met when you were five years old. You had just chased away your latest babysitter and I was the next one to take up the challenge," Sebastian started and the trees shifted above them, their branches swaying to the song of the wind.
Further beyond them, the beams of light danced along the grass as they had always and always would. Their light might flicker, growing weak at times before strengthening on sunny days, but their presence would always remain. Just like the presence of a long and deep friendship. It might grow weak and hidden with time, but it would always remain, curled firmly around the heart.
Final AN: And that's it! Thank you everyone for your wonderful support throughout this entire story. I know the updates were slow and short, but thank you for sticking through until the very end. It means a lot to me and I appreciate all the comments I received from everyone. They never failed to brighten my day and put a smile on my face. Thank you again ^^