Chapter 23

"YOU DID WHAT?!"

The sound of Ciel's voice echoed through the crowded freshman hallway.

Sebastian put a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder in an attempt to calm him. "Shh. You're attracting attention."

"I thought I could trust you with the journal entries," Ciel hissed angrily. He began pacing back and forth in front of his locker, not caring for once about the strange looks he was receiving.

"You told me I could do anything I wanted with them," Sebastian reminded the distressed teen.
Ciel glared daggers at the sophomore. "That didn't include emailing them to my therapist!" he yelled, stopping directly in front of his locker and throwing his arms out dramatically. "Do you have any idea how awkward next Monday is going to be?! Those were my innermost thoughts and feelings, Sebastian. I told you that I could talk to the man, not that I want to marry him!"

Sebastian sighed, defeated. "Okay, I'm sorry. I had to get you proper help somehow, though. He needed to know that those thoughts were present in your mind, but I knew that you weren't going to share those kinds of things with him. The more I read over the journal entries, the more I realized how close I was to losing you. I don't want that to happen, so I did the only thing I could."

Ciel frowned and crossed his arms. "Okay, fine. You win. ...Thanks, I guess."

Sebastian smiled triumphantly. "You're very welcome, my love. So, anyway, how is the treatment going? Have you made any progress?"

"I.. uh..." Ciel stammered, frantically trying to think of a way to evade the questions; the surprise was too special to be spoiled. "I'm being treated for social anxiety," he said quickly, hoping that this statement would distract from the subject of progress. "It turns out that a lot of the things I thought were related to SM are actually linked to social anxiety disorder, so Dr. Sutcliff is focusing on that."

"What about the selective mutism?" Sebastian persisted.

"Yeah, we've worked on that a lot, too," Ciel said carefully. "It's much easier now that I can speak. T—To him, I mean."

Sebastian nodded slowly. "Ciel, are you okay?" he asked. "You seem kind of... jittery."

"I'm fine," the freshman assured. "You know how I get when I talk about SM. I've... gotta go finish my math homework. See you in Italian, okay?"

"Alright," Sebastian replied, clearly not convinced by his boyfriend's reassurance. "Bye."

x

Ciel entered the Italian classroom with a racing heart. He knew that the amount of anxiety he was feeling was not enough to rob him of his voice, but if he was going to force his hand to go up, he would have to be completely calm.

"Are you okay, Ciel?" Lizzie asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost!

"Elizabeth, please don't bother me," Ciel said, too preoccupied with his attempts to calm himself to be bothered with politeness.

"He's been like that all morning," Sebastian explained, noticing Lizzie's exaggerated pouting. "Don't feel too bad. It's probably my fault."

Ciel wanted so badly to contradict Sebastian; to tell him that it had nothing to do with him, and that he was simply trying to concentrate on the task of speaking. Of course, he couldn't do that, because that would spoil the surprise.

"Ciao, ragazzi!" Mr. Landers greeted, as cheerfully as ever.

The mere sight of his teacher sent Ciel's almost-normal pulse right back up. He was becoming frustrated, and began to fear that he wouldn't be able to speak after all. He had made it through conversations with his therapist, his aunt, and even Mrs. Trancy, but what if speaking to a teacher was still too much? He had been so excited to share his ability to speak with Sebastian, but what if he couldn't do it?

Ciel forced these thoughts out of his head. He was done being a slave to his disorder, and he wasn't going to allow anxiety to hold him back any longer. If he wanted to be free, he had to act now.

"Che tempo fa oggi?" It was a question that Mr. Landers asked every day. A rather random question, Ciel had always thought, as the ability to hold a conversation about the weather in Italian was not among the more important life skills. Nevertheless, it was an important question on this particular day, as it was Ciel's chance.

What happened next was so shocking that it made even the most talkative students fall dead silent.

Ciel Phantomhive raised his hand.

"Si, signor Phantomhive?" Mr. Landers said, unsure of the reaction he would receive from the usually silent student.

This was it, and Ciel knew it. Once he spoke up, there would be no more pain; no more silence. No more causing Sebastian to worry, and no more embarrassing himself every time he was called upon. It would all be over.

"Oggi fa bel tempo."

The room remained silent long after the question was answered; each student was in shock, including Ciel himself. However, had they not been preoccupied in their thoughts, wondering what brought about this change in their classmate, pondering what must have been going on in his head, they would have seen Sebastian Michaelis sitting at the back of the room, crying.

x

As Ciel walked away from the Italian classroom, feeling a stronger sense of accomplishment than ever before, he felt a large hand pulling his thin arm. Before he had any time to think, he found himself in the bathroom, being lifted up and hugged tightly by a pair of strong arms.

"You did it!" a familiar voice kept repeating. "I'm so proud of you! You did it!"

It was only when a pair of lips were pressed against his own that he realized who his "captor" was.

"Sebastian!" he squealed excitedly as his feet met the floor once again.

"I can't believe it..." Sebastian whispered. "You're finally free... you're not in pain anymore... You must be so happy."

Ciel nodded. "It's strange. Raising your hand and speaking is something that most people do every day, and they think nothing of it. For so long, that small action that comes to most as naturally as breathing was what I longed for more than anything. But now... now, for the first time, I can do it, too. I can be normal, just like everyone else. I guess the only difference is that I won't take it for granted."

Sebastian smiled. "Ciel, I don't have a doubt in my mind that you're the strongest, most amazing person I've ever met."

The corners of Ciel's lips turned up in an involuntary yet utterly radiant smile. "More amazing than someone who would voluntarily go to such great lengths to assist his selectively mute boyfriend simply for the sake of love, knowing that he had nothing to gain?"

Sebastian touched Ciel's face. "Oh, but I did have something to gain," he protested. "Your happiness. Nobody with such extreme anxiety can be truly, purely, undeniably happy. That's what I wanted for you; what I still want for you, and what I always will want for you. My motivation for helping you has always been your happiness... your happiness, and my unconditional love."

Ciel threw his arms around Sebastian's neck. "Thank you so much," he said. "Thank you for helping me, for never giving up on me, for seeing this through to the very end, for everything you've done. I love you so much."

"I love you, too," Sebastian whispered, brushing his lips against Ciel's. "And I'm so very proud of you. You did it; no more pain, no more loneliness, no more fear. You're free, love. You're free."

x

A/N:

Thank you very much to all of my wonderful reviewers. Not only did you give me the motivation to write, but you gave me the strength to carry on for an entire school year, and that's more than I ever could have asked for. I love you all so much, and because you have all been so amazing, I'm going to do something special: for every review this final chapter gets, I'm going to donate a dollar to the Selective Mutism Network. Once again, thank you all so much!

Want to learn more about SM? Think you may have SM? Want to know how you can help? Feel free to voice any concerns by sending me a private message! Selective mutes are excellent listeners. ;)

Until next time,

Sakura