Chapter 1


"So, who knows the answer?"

The algebra teacher looked around the room, before zeroing in on me. For a few long seconds, she stared at me and smiled, as if she knew that she was doing something she shouldn't. I knew exactly what was coming.

She leaned in and, in that sickeningly condescending tone of hers, the voice reserved just for me, she slowly said,"Ciel?"

I froze. "U-Um..." I stammered in a voice which was roughly an octave higher than how I usually spoke. I couldn't say anything beyond that. I was stuck. 'I don't know!' I thought,'Why did you call on me?'

I could hear the class whisper. Some of them tried to suppress giggles. My face felt hot, and I began to sweat, yet I still couldn't say anything.

"Um..." I repeated once more. I stared at the projector, hoping for an answer to come to me.

'Just say that you don't know,' I thought to myself, but that was something that my body was unwilling to do.

Before I could squeak out another "Uh...", the teacher had moved on to another student. A wave of relief washed over me, but it was tainted with the overpowering desire to crawl into a hole and die. I stared at the tile floor, waiting for my pulse to return to a normal rate and inwardly cursing my body's inability to speak.

x o x o x o x

"Ciel is a bright boy with a lot of potential, but he needs to start speaking up."

Rachel Phantomhive suppressed a sigh as she listened to the ramblings of her son's teacher. Every parent-teacher conference from the time the boy was in kindergarten had been the same; she was always told that her son never spoke in class. He never raised his hand, nor did he give any response when they called on him.

"I agree with Mr. Tanaka," Miss Blanc*, the English teacher, interjected,"Ciel needs to start asking questions if he wants to be successful."

"We can't put him in higher-level classes if he doesn't talk," Mr. Tanaka* continued,"Once he gets into high school, class participation will be a major part of his grade."

Rachel sighed and glanced at Ciel, who was uncomfortably staring at the desk beneath him and tracing the doodles on it with his finger. She felt sorry for him, having to listen to his teachers say such things. No teenager wanted to spend a Friday night sitting in a classroom and listening to adults talk about him as if he weren't present.

At last, the teachers stood up. "Thank you for your time, Mr. and Mrs. Phantomhive," Mr. Tanaka said,"and thank you for coming, Ciel. I'll see you on Monday."

Ciel managed a small smile and nod as his parents said their thank yous and farewells.

x o x o x o x

"That was torture," Ciel groaned when he and his parents had gotten into their car.

"Your teachers say the same thing about you every year," Rachel commented,"It's a wonder I still even go to parent-teacher conferences anymore. What they said about class placement is bothering me, though. If you can do the work, you should be put into higher-level classes. I mean, it's not as if you're choosing to be selectively mute."

"Who would?" Ciel mumbled, before saying in a more audible voice,"Well it's not like they know what selective mutism is, let alone that I have it."

"You know, Ciel, if you would just accept the treatment like your mother and I have been suggesting, we wouldn't be having this problem. I mean, it almost seems like you want to be selectively mute," Vincent half-teased, not noticing when his wife shot him a dirty look.

"I don't!" Ciel practically yelled,"Why would I want this? Nobody walks out of the doctor's office saying "Oh, boy! I have selective mutism? So that's why my life has been so much fun since kindergarten!" It's not that I don't want to be treated; I do. It's just...I can't. A therapist is just another adult."

After a minute and twenty-seven seconds of her death-glare going unnoticed, Rachel gave her husband's arm a swat and scolded him for teasing Ciel about such a sensitive subject.

Ciel frowned and stared out his window. It was going to be a long year.

x o x o x o x

One year later...

"Ciel!" an energetic voice yelled, accompanied by the clacking of designer boots.

Ciel made a choking noise as a pair of arms was flung around his neck. "A—Alois...! C—Can't... breathe...!" he managed to say.

"Ah, sorry! I would've hugged you around the waist, but you're just so tiny!" the taller boy teased.

"I'd advise you not to handle Ciel that way," a third voice said,"My boyfriend is quite delicate. If you treat him too harshly, he could break, and then I would never forgive you, Alois Trancy."

Alois spun around. "Ah, but Ciel is my best friend. If you break his heart, I'm afraid I'll have to break your ribcage, Sebastian Michaelis," he retorted.

Sebastian laughed. "You're getting better at death threats, my friend. Is tying my spine in a knot while it's still inside of me* not good enough anymore?"

Alois merely glared.

"Well," Sebastian continued,"Ciel and I have our next class together, and the bell's about to ring. If you'll excuse us."

"Oh, but of course!" Alois curtseyed, mocking Sebastian's politeness with a fake British accent.
Sebastian shot the freshman a glare before making his way to the biology room, his fingers laced with Ciel's.

x o x o x o x

Ciel took a deep breath before entering the biology lab. He hated this class, yet he loved it. It was the first class that he had ever had with Sebastian, who was a year older than he. Sebastian knew of Ciel's anxiety disorder- in fact, being Ciel's childhood friend, Sebastian had known how the younger boy felt long before he had been diagnosed. However, he had never seen Ciel in the state which had been described to him so many times, and Ciel feared the inevitable day when he would be asked to speak in that class.

Ciel and Sebastian sat beside each other, passing notes and only half-listening to what the teacher, Miss Annafellows*, had to say. There were still twenty minutes left in the period, and they already discussed the events of the day, compared weekend plans, and had a date that Saturday.

'This class is so horribly boring...' Ciel wrote on the ripped off corner of last week's homework. He returned his attention to the lesson, discreetly slipping his note to Sebastian from under the table.

"So, who knows the answer?" the dreaded words passed through Miss Annafellows' lips.

Ciel immediately looked down at his book; the chances of him being called on decreased if he wasn't making eye contact. The classroom was silent for a moment as Miss Annafelows decided which innocent student who didn't know the answer to call upon.

"Mr. Phantomhive?"

The words were like a gunshot. Ciel looked up, his skin suddenly feeling hot and his heart ready to leap out of his chest. "U—Uh..." was all that he could say.

Sebastian looked up from his note-writing. He had never seen Ciel like this before. The usually outgoing boy who he had known since childhood was suddenly unable to say a single word. His eyes had grown even larger than usual, and it appeared as if the poor boy were ready to cry*. It was all Sebastian could do not to cry along with him. Upon reaching for his hand in an attempt to comfort him, Sebastian found that Ciel's palms were sweaty and slightly trembling, with small marks where his nails had been digging into his skin.

This would not do at all, Sebastian decided. He loved Ciel very much, and this state was something that he never wanted to witness again. Of course, Miss Annafellows was not going to magically stop calling on Ciel for the rest of the year. No, problems were never that easy to solve. There was but one choice: Sebastian Michaelis was going to take action.

x o x o x o x

"Sorry you had to see that," Ciel said quietly as he and Sebastian exited the biology classroom.

"I'm sorry you had to go through it," Sebastian replied,"and I'm sorry you've had to live like that for fourteen years. It must be hard; it was painful for me just watching."

Ciel stared at the floor. "You felt embarrassed for me."

Sebastian pulled over to the side of the hallway, taking Ciel by the shoulders and turning the boy around to face him. "I don't like to see the people I love suffer," he said,"and my adorable boyfriend is certainly no exception. That display back in the classroom is something that I never want to see again."

"'Display'?" Ciel shrieked,"You're acting like I threw a temper tantrum or something!"

"It broke my heart to see you like that," Sebastian continued, ignoring his boyfriend's angry protests,"So, I want to help you."

"Help me?" Ciel repeated.

Sebastian nodded, knelt down, and took the younger boy's hand. "I promise to have you raising your hand before the end of the school year. Ciel Phantomhive, I'm going to help you find your voice."

x o x o x o x


Selective mutism is an anxiety disorder which causes a person who is normally capable of speech to be unable to speak in certain situations, or to certain people. Hundreds of children, teenagers, and adults suffer from selective mutism. Some are unable to speak only to certain people, while others are completely mute to anyone outside of their family.

Fun, right?

This story was originally a short oneshot for the X fandom, but it somehow evolved into a full multi-chapter Kuro fic. I wrote it for three reasons: the first is to spread awareness about SM. The more people know about it, the easier life becomes for sufferers. The second reason is to vent, and the third is for the sake of others who suffer from SM. For those who haven't been diagnosed yet (or even those who have), it's important to know that there are other people like you. (I don't know if this will help, but I know that a fanfiction like this would have had me bawling at the computer screen. Seriously, people. I cried reading posts on the Facebook group.)

Selective mutism also appeared in my X/1999 story, "Disorder". I never put the name in, but for those of you who read it, it's the edited version of Subaru's disorder.

Dear OpenOffice: Yes, I spelled "mutism" correctly. No, I did not mean "autism". Sincerely, a selectively mute fanfiction author. =.=

To my Nee-chan, ForgottenTimepiece: Sorry I kept it a secret. I didn't want to talk about it because it's embarrassing! (O/O) I love you!

Asterisk Notes

*Mr. Tanaka: Ho ho ho. :3 (If you don't know who it is by now, I can't help you.)

*Miss Blanc: Angela Blanc, the evil angel who appears only in the anime.

Miss Annafellows: Hannah Annafellows, the horribly abused Trancy maid. She is a character from the second season of the anime, along with Alois Trancy.

*" it appeared as if the poor boy were ready to cry.": My friend has told me that when a teacher calls on me, she thinks that I'm going to cry. I don't actually know what someone in this state looks like, so I had to go off of how she described it.

*Tying one's spine in a knot while it's still inside of them: Yes, I've used that before, but it's too awesome not to use again! ^.^ "Break her heart and I'll break your face" is so overused, you know? It was hard to think of two new death threats, so I had to reuse my favorite from Disorder :)

Next time: stilettos, the color red, ...are all therapists crazy?

Until next chapter,