A/N: I should probably mention that I've only seen the Domestica episodes once, so any memory I stored about Yuu was during that run. And because I'm against the events that took place in the novels between Hatori and Chiaki, I refuse to watch it again. So basically, if there are any inaccuracies or oocness, it can't be helped. But I think I have a pretty good idea of how Yuu's personality works, since he's the only character I paid attention to during those episodes. XD
The mastermind behind the hit series ZA KAN had indeed been in higher spirits, but the chapter was still far behind with the deadline creeping nearer by the second. Just like Kirishima had claimed, Ijuuin really did shift into top gear just 24-hours before the final proof was due at the printers, but Yuu feared even enthusiasm couldn't dig them out of this bind.
Though, once a few hours passed, everyone found their own speedy rhythm. If everyone kept doing their part and distributing quality results at this pace, there was a good chance they'd make in time with a few seconds left to spare.
The studio was in shambles due to the chaotic pressure of the clocks hands whirling by fast, and the constant scribbling of pencils and nib-pens served as audio in the room. Assistants ran back and forth from their desk to Ijuuin to pick up another completed lineart from him that needed toning.
The urgent call of his name caused Yuu lifted his head from his work. He picked himself and his completed work up and appeared before Ijuuin, who greeted him with a friendlier aura than he had yesterday. It was good to see him motivated now—that seemed like an implausible fantasy yesterday.
The mangaka took the sheets from his hands and shuffled through them, nodding his head.
"Very impressive. It's nice to have quality results in half the time. Thanks for your hard work."
Yesterday, the guy really aggravated Yuu with the childish scene he displayed, but to hear praise from someone he looked up to—he could only categorize it as an honor.
He nearly stumbled over his tongue in reply, "Thank you—so, uh, are there more pages that need toning?"
"Actually, I have a different job for you," he shifted in his chair and pointed his eyes on the easel behind him, "We're catching up and so long as the other assistants keep their pace, we'll make it in time. But—would you say you're proficient with colored work?"
Yuu traced his eyes over the blank lineart displayed on the easel. "I've worked with Copics and acrylic paint for years, so I consider my coloring skills to be above average." It should be noted that coloring wasn't strong suit, though. He admired grayscale art—like ones found in manga—much more so he stuck with that style. But if he set his mind to it, he was capable of achieving decent results when he colored.
"That's good enough for me. Do you think you could color in my lineart for the cover? I thought I'd have to recycle an old drawing to save time, but with the way you work I think you could pull it off. You can have full creative freedom and color it any way you see fit. I just—really want to use this as this months cover, but since I have to finish outlining another ten pages, I won't be able to do it myself."
"Sure, I could manage that much," he said casually, like it was no big deal, but he really wasn't that sure. Yuu swallowed thickly and sat himself down in the second chair behind Ijuuin, and stared at the colorless page that had to be brought to life by his own hand. It's only his second day on the job, yet he's been trusted with such an intimating task.
Yuu is confident in his drawing and coloring abilities, but Ijuuin, a high-ranking mangaka, was trusting him with the cover of this months chapter; the first page all his loyal readers would see.
What if he screwed up and ruined his linework? Well, he supposed if he did mess up, Ijuuin can fall back on his original plan and use an old drawing for the cover. With that thought, his nerves settled enough to hold the Copic marker in his hand steadily. Even though he still felt pressured, he got to work, and his hand was motivated by how much Ijuuin wanted this new cover finished. Yuu wasn't about to let his insecurity come in the way of making a good impression on his new boss.
Fifteen minutes passed, and already the page started to vivify with color. The chair behind him swiveled up close, and soon Yuu's peripheral vision was taken up by his boss checking his progress.
From what he could tell, he was giving an unreadable expression as he evaluated his work.
Yuu stopped all movement, fearing he'd already screwed up. He started to ponder if the art was salvageable and if he could correct the mistake he may have made.
"You're doing good—I like how you made the character really pop out from the backdrop," he added a satisfied chuckle, "and I think you blend colors way better than me."
It almost sounded like a lie coming from his mouth. Ijuuin was famous for his tankōbon covers because of his unique use of fun, bright pastel colors. His artwork, though simple and described by teenage girls as 'cute', really turned heads and stood out on a bookshelf.
Yuu tried his best to mimic that style so Ijuuin's readers wouldn't be thrown off by a sudden change in style, and so far he stayed true to that promise. But as an artist, it's impossible not to add in originality to your illustrations and Ijuuin must have noticed that, but luckily he liked his artistic quirks.
While Yuu's mind was still floating from praise, he was knocked off his cloud by a solid weight plopping on his shoulder, and the scent of cologne he detected before became more potent.
Ijuuin, using Yuu's tense shoulder as an armrest, pointed to a particular spot of the page.
"I especially like how you colored the title—I never thought that shade of blue and purple could blend together so well."
Yuu peeked over the line of his arm, blinking on the pleased grin on the mangaka's face. It relieved him that he liked his work—but he couldn't help but feel his way of showing approval was a little...awkward.
Trying to be polite, Yuu gently shimmied his shoulder under the heavy weight and Ijuuin must have picked up the gesture because he removed the pressure a beat later.
"Well, I better get back to work, wouldn't want the others to think I'm slacking off~" With a gracious chuckle, Ijuuin swiveled back to his desk, and Yuu returned to work.
"Good job today, everyone—thanks to your fast work, the chapter will be sent to the printers on time."
In the center of the studio, Ijuuin remarkably stood with basking energy as he praised his exhausted workers, who had stayed overtime and worked nonstop without breaks. Even Yuu, though new to the atmosphere, rewarded himself a deep breath.
Yuu had managed to finish coloring the cover ahead of time, and afterward he lent his hands to toning the last remaining pages. The chapter was due at midnight and it's currently a little past eleven, so they made it by the skin of their teeth.
If this scene really happened every month—Yuu wasn't sure how long his stamina would play on his side.
Everyone exchanged polite goodbyes and packed up their belongings and traveled toward the door. Ijuuin stood near the arch and reminded them they'd be planning the next chapter bright and early tomorrow, and they all gave weary sighs in reply.
Yuu threw his messenger bag over his shoulder and headed toward the door. Adjusting his strap, he bowed to Ijuuin, but before he could give out a recited goodbye, Ijuuin opened his mouth first.
"You did a great job with the cover—I honestly couldn't thank you enough."
Yuu felt put-off by the direct praise, even though it must have been the fifth time he'd thanked him today.
"I'm glad I could be helpful—but really, you don't have to thank me, it's my job."
His first impression of Ijuuin wasn't the best, but now with stress off the admired Sensei, he seemed much more friendlier. Yuu took back thinking he let fame go to his head; he was likely the type of person that didn't work well under stress, and that might have triggered his outbursts.
This side to him almost made Yuu forget the cranky monster that possessed the man yesterday. For someone of his standing to praise an underling, that showed he wasn't a spoiled brat like he previously believed and actually valued his employees.
"I know you must be exhausted, so I'll only hold you a while longer—I'm raring to go right now and I just wanted your opinion on something for the next chapter—if you don't mind."
Indeed, Yuu was beyond tired and barely able to stand on his numbed legs at this point, but saying no to his new boss wouldn't be a great way to start their working relationship, so he sucked up his fatigue and gave a firm, "Not at all, I have some time to spare," in reply.
As Yuu followed him out of the studio and into the vast space that was his living room, he pondered on why he asked him, a new hire, for his opinion, but this thought vanished as Ijuuin offered him a seat and shuffled through some papers on his desk.
He came over with a stack in hand and sat beside Yuu, who was too busy admiring his condo to notice how close he was sitting.
"So I have a rough idea on where I want to go next with the story, but I'm having trouble deciding on where to start off. As the author, it's tough to know exactly what my readers want, so I'd love to get a fans point of view."
"Well, I can't really speak for everyone, but I'll try to help the best I can."
Ijuuin offered him a look at the rough drafts in his hand and Yuu peered at them thoroughly. This is the first time he's seen the very-rough drafts of ZA KAN and he could barely contain his excitement, but for the sake of staying professional in front of his boss, he swallowed down his inner fangirl.
His attention was more fixated toward the page in his right hand. Of course, he wanted to say 'both are great' but that was too wishy-washy to say. Ijuuin wanted his opinion on his work, and Yuu intends to give it to him.
Tapping the right page, he cleared his throat to roughen up the excitement in his tone. "I think it's best to start off with this one—it might draw in more readers if you start the chapter with a gag panel. But, I'm just a fan, so I think it's wisest to take that suggestion with a grain of salt," he offered humbly.
Ijuuin had his elbow propped up on the back of the couch, listening to Yuu carefully with a gentle smile. "But it's because you're a fan that I trust your judgment, Yanase-kun."
Even though Yuu wasn't personally familiar with Ijuuin yet, he wasn't a fan of being referred to formally, "Ah—you know, you can just call me Yuu, if you want."
"Hmm, so we're on a first-name basis already?" Ijuuin chortled, and Yuu couldn't help but to blend his own laugh in the room to hide his nerves, but when his chin dipped down, his smile vanished when he viewed his wrist displaying the time. He abruptly snapped up from his seat.
"Damnit, it's already this late?"
"Hm? Do you have somewhere else to be?"
"No—it's just I'll miss the last train if I don't leave now."
Ijuuin shrugged, crossing his legs leisurely. "I'll just drive you home."
Yuu twisted to him, jolting his his neck back. "Oh, no. No. I couldn't let you do that. If I hurry I'll probably make it—if not, hailing a taxi isn't too hard."
"Don't stress yourself out. It's been a long day and after all you did for me today, it's the least I could do."
No—Yuu could never accept such an offer. He could tell Ijuuin was just as exhausted as him, probably even more, and it wouldn't be fair to drag him out of his house and make him drive him home. Plus—this is Ijuuin Kyō, how can he possibly just allow a famous author to drive him around like a personal chauffeur? You can't get anymore disrespectful than that.
"Let me just grab my jacket," he insisted, but Yuu wouldn't give in that easy.
"You don't have to do this," he looked back down at his watch, and after realizing it was too late to run for the train, he settled on this idea, "I'll just call a cab."
"It's my fault for keeping you here, so at least let me make it up to you by giving you a ride."
"No buts, that's an order from your superior."
Yuu lips scrunched at the man walking passed him. "I think that's what they call: 'Abusing your power'."
Ijuuin laughed into the genkan and his voice traveled back with an echo, "You'll soon learn I do that a lot, now are you coming or what?"
Yuu sighed. He had no other choice. If he were to deny his offer again, it would come off as rude instead of humble. Reluctantly, he met up with Ijuuin at the entrance, slid on his shoes and headed out the door.
Tapping Yuu's given address into the GPS, Ijuuin set off in the direction the robotic woman directed him to. Yuu was never one to be enthusiastic about cars; even when he was a teenager back in school he didn't take up the interest like many of his male peers, but he had to admit Ijuuin's way of transportation was indeed stylish. The sports car couldn't have been more than a few months old, it still had that new car smell like it was fresh from the showroom.
The radio was on low. Coming from the speakers was some late night talkshow discussing this years Kikukawa Prize and Usami Akihiko's newest best selling novel—but with an indistinguishable utter, Ijuuin powered down the radio.
Yuu didn't mind though—he wasn't paying much attention to the broadcast anyway. The news was tiring; sometimes it felt like the famous author won a new writing award every other month. He wouldn't label himself a huge fan, but some of his publications were definitely worth a read.
With his fingers tight around the steering wheel, Ijuuin disrupted the drone of the engine, "I wanted to apologize about my behavior on your first day. I'm still quite embarrassed that your first impression was such a shameful side of me."
"Hm...?" Yuu was a little thrown off by the sudden apology. It seemed he would have to get used to Ijuuin being thankful and apologetic; that was a rare personality for an author to have. "You don't have to be embarrassed—I've been working with authors for years, I understand the pressure that comes with creating a monthly manga."
"Still—I wish I had better coping mechanisms. I start to feel depressed when I can't produce work, but if I don't get depressed, I can't produce results—so you see, it's a shameful system, but an effective one."
Yuu nodded against the glass as he stared at the blurry scenery rushing by. The neon lights of the active downtown district was a bit too blinding for his tired eyes, so he closed his lids and opened his lips, "I get that—you really don't have to explain your methods for getting your work done. Everyone has their ways of coping with stress. Sometimes when I'm having artist block, I find it easiest to just draw something I really love—it gets me back into the swing of things."
Under his lids, a vivid image of Chiaki formed, and he lashed his eyes open and wiped the image away with his palm. He frowned—that's that he used to do. He always drew Chiaki when he was having artist block. It put him in higher spirits and was a great warm-up. No matter how many times he drew him, it never got old.
"Something that always cheers me up is hearing from my fans—sometimes it's easy to forget that you have loyal readers when you get doused in work and editors and fame, but when I'm reminded of my supporters, I realize nothing else matters but them. So long as I please them, that's all that matters. All other pressure goes away, because I know if I at least give it my all, they'll be proud."
That's an admirable thing for him to say. So many authors get lost in the work side to things and look at it as a tedious job. Some forget that manga is supposed to be fun. Sure, it's a business and how many earned a living, so a serious approach needs to be made to a certain degree, but sometimes you need to take a step back, like Ijuuin said, and just remember your fans have your back in the end.
"It's really an honor to be working with one of my own fans—I'm sure having you near will keep me motivated."
Yuu sarcastically smirked, thinking he was only teasing him with flattery, but when he peered over to his face that became briefly highlighted by a passing street light, he knew he was being serious. This guy really held his fans close to his heart, it seemed.
"Well don't just think this is one sided—you really inspire me too. I've been reading your work for years. In fact, it was your work that inspired me to try drawing manga in the first place."
Yuu bit his lip, feeling a little embarrassed. He wasn't one to let praise slip out daily, but he supposed the situation called for it. He was currently in Ijuuin Kyō's car; someone who just so happened to be a gentlemen. At the very least, Yuu had to return a friendly compliment.
Not expecting Ijuuin to take his eyes off the road and stare at him with wide eyes, Yuu shook off his surprise with an anxious nod. "Back in high school, I was more interested in drawing realism, but a stumbled upon your series and got hooked. A manga enthusiast friend of mine would stand on line for hours just to get special edition copies—"
Yuu shook his head and the memories that came with that sentence away, then went back to what he was saying.
"Up until that point, I wasn't really sure what to do with my talents; I even considered disregarding my skills and getting a normal job at one point. But when I discovered manga, it was like a door opened for me, you could say. So, long story short—I wouldn't be in this line of work if it wasn't for you."
A bittersweet sensation invaded Yuu. It was true that he loved manga, and that he was thrilled to be working in the industry, but the passion was once shared with Chiaki.
Sometimes he wondered if his interest in manga was still genuinely out of self-interest, or if he only became more passionate about it because the love of his life was. It goes without saying that he liked manga, even before meeting him, because he found it entertaining, but recently, there were times he found himself not feeling as passionate about it, on a personal level, as much as he used. Even if he was reading one of his favorite series, like ZA KAN, it was a reminder of him and his unrequited love.
It felt as though, without Chiaki, so many things were being taken away from him. He proved to himself upon working that he was still able to work on manga, and even though it might be too soon to say, he couldn't help but feel he was viewing it as a normal job earlier. Almost like his heart wasn't 100% into it. Usually when deadlines were creeping up, he'd consider all the fans that were waiting for the release, but this time he thought of it as an obligation to finish the task for the sake of his job.
It was scary to think about how much one person, who you trusted and loved so much, could destroy the rest of your world without intending to. This is why emotions were a very dangerous thing to posses, and at that moment Yuu vowed to himself not to let them get tangled up with anyone ever again. He didn't even want to think about how devastating the lose would be the next time he fell in love.
Yuu was about to let these pessimistic thoughts consume him, but he was dragged back up to reality's surface when the monotone voice coming from the GPS announced their arrival. The car pulled up in front of his apartment, and after putting the car in park, Ijuuin removed his hand from the clutch and rested it on the back of Yuu's head rest.
"You're very honest, Yuu. I really like kids that could be so veracious about how they feel," he offered a smile, but Yuu couldn't return it. When he let his thoughts get the better of him, they took his good mood with it.
"What are on about with me being a kid?" he tsked, he was hardly even considered a young adult anymore, "I'm twenty-eight, you know."
"Is that so? You look very young for your age."
Feeling the car got stuffy all of a sudden when he realized how close Ijuuin as scooted near him, he gripped the latch of the car door. Opening it to let some fresh air in, he set his foot on the concrete below.
"Thanks for the ride, I really appreciate it."
"Anytime." Ijuuin squinted his eyes in mirth with a wave and Yuu lugged his tired weight out of the car.
"One last thing, Yuu." Just as he slammed the door, Ijuuin had powered down the window. "May I have your email address?"
"Hm? Why?" It may have came off as rude to question it, but really, he was just surprised to be asked out of no where.
"I like to have a personal way of connecting my employees, instead of going through Marukawa."
"Oh, I see." Now that he thought about it, this wasn't anything out of the ordinary. Some of the authors he's worked with in the past would asked for his personal cell number or email address—but Ijuuin was definitely the first to ask this quickly.
Ijuuin whipped out his cell and when ready, Yuu recited the address to him and he tapped it into the screen.
"Great, thanks. I'll message you when I get home, that way you know I didn't fall asleep behind the wheel or something, heh."
Yuu bent down and folded his arms on the lip of the window, lifting a brow "...Oi, don't say that. You're making me feel nervous about letting you go back home alone. Tch, this is why I thought it was a bad idea for you to give me a ride in the first place." The way up was fine, since they were talking and keeping each other awake, but Ijuuin being as exhausted as he was, it's not really safe for him to drive alone.
Yuu's stomach curled at the thought, because really, he just wanted to crash into bed and at long last say a final goodnight to his boss after spending so many hours with him—but he had a feeling he wouldn't be able to rest knowing Ijuuin was driving home, sleep deprived and overworked.
"Maybe you should come inside and let me make you some coffee. That should perk you up a bit, at least give you enough of fuel to get home safe."
Yuu felt odd for making the suggestion, given that it was past midnight and he barely knew the guy, but Ijuuin replied cheerily with elevated brows, "I wouldn't be intruding?"
"Nah. Knowing you have some caffeine in your system will make me feel better about sending you off on your own."
"Hm, well if you insist~"
After telling Ijuuin a place he could park close by, he idled outside until he saw the taller man appear in front of his building. Looking at him now, Yuu believed he made the right choice by suggesting this—the way Ijuuin was staggering and barely keeping balance was not a state a driver should be in.
Once they cleared the corridor and stairs together, Yuu inserted his key in the lock and flicked on the genkan light.
"Don't mind the mess—I haven't really had the motivation to organize since I moved in."
In need of a fresh start, he had moved into this new place since memories of Chiaki and Hatori were soaked deep into the walls of his last residence. Only the essentials were cleared from the boxes, because every time he tried to unpack, he'd end up finding something that reminded him of Chiaki, or belonged to him.
While trying to find one of his favorite pen grips the other day, he ended up finding an old sketch book filled with various poses of him. It goes without saying that he disposed of it immediately.
After removing their jackets and shoes, they traveled down the hallway, where Yuu switched on another light to clear all darkness from his home.
"You consider this a mess? Hmph, in that case I don't ever want you to see my place when it turns completely upside down."
"You're talking to a freelance artist; I've seen the worse 'creative environments' you can imagine. I'm sure it wouldn't faze me."
"I wouldn't be too sure about that... you were lucky enough to see my place after Kirishima-san and Shizuku-san were kind enough to tidy up for me."
Yuu threw his bag down on the sofa, and gestured Ijuuin to sit. "I find it hard to believe, your place seems well organized and uncluttered to me."
"And can you believe all of my efforts of organizing were useless?," he laughed, "My condo still turns into a garbage dump at the end of every month."
Yuu could feel his lips stretching upwards at his claim—it seems as though even rich, famous authors still struggled with basic housekeeping. Just goes to show you that behind every big hit there's a human just like anyone else.
"Well make yourself at home—I'll brew you up some coffee." With that, Yuu transitioned into the kitchen. He scooped out the grains from the jar and poured them into the coffee maker. After catching a whiff of the blend, he couldn't help but to crave some coffee himself, but he decided against it. If he were to drink caffeine now, he might be up tossing and turning for the rest of the night.
He had to be at work early tomorrow, and even though the laborious cycle ended, there was still a lot of preparations so make for next months chapter and he needed sleep to get his head sharp again.
A steaming mug in hand, Yuu left the kitchen behind and tapped his bare feet against the flooring.
"I'm not sure how you take your coffee so—" Asking him if he wanted sugar or milk would be a waste of words, because he wouldn't be heard. Ijuuin's head had fell into the cushion of the couch, and his eyes were shut tight, his breathing steady. Yuu's expression, though, completely contrasted the peaceful mask the mangaka was wearing.
". . . . . ."
"Hmm." Yuu uttered, annoyed. He tried to call his name again, but he wasn't even slightly budging. Would it be rude to just...shake him awake?
No—that doesn't seem like a good idea. What would he say after he woke him up? 'drink your coffee and get out?' Now Yuu was sure of it, the guy was dead tired. It was as though the relief of getting the chapter out finally let him power him down. At this rate, even if he did wake up and have some caffeine, that might not be enough for him to drive home safely.
There was no helping it. Maybe he just needed a quick nap and he'd wake up in a few hours and leave by the time morning came. He made a mental note to apologize for inconveniencing him so much later.
Yuu sighed heavily and set the mug down on the coffee table, and soon after his hand was occupied with a blanket from the closet.
Since he had fallen asleep while sitting up, only his top half was resting comfortably, so, very reluctantly, Yuu shoved the guys legs up on the sofa to join the rest of his body—even after that, he still didn't stir from his sleep.
Reeling in close as he tossed the blanket over him, Yuu's features flinched open at the sight gifted to him. Ijuuin's lips were slightly parted; a steady rhythm of air circulating between. On his forehead, his dark bangs sat unruly and the strands tangled in his long, closed lashes. Underneath his eyes were prominent dark circles, but the healthy glow of his clear skin made up for that. Overall, his face was perfectly symmetrical, and his bone structure was sharply defined.
"...tch." Yuu averted his eyes with a snarl, then stood back to his full height.
Shaking off the image of the mangaka's features and the sudden urge to draw, he dimmed the hall light. He went into his bedroom, accompanied by the thought of how unsettling it was to know his boss was passed out on the couch, but that was something he'd worry about when he woke up—or if Ijuuin woke up in the middle of the night and went home, then he'd deal with it once he went to work in the morning.
Even though he tried to disregard it before, the image of Ijuuin came back in his head as he stared up at the ceiling. It wasn't everyday that Yuu got the urge to draw someone—only people he labeled as having 'good bone-structure' was worthy of that.
Perhaps—he was still capable of getting a little starstuck. Never before did he really admire someone as much as Ijuuin, so his reaction to being near a role model was pretty natural. Even so, that didn't mean Yuu was like one of his many obsessive fangirls that squealed at the sight of him—but he will admit the praise the guy got on his looks wasn't stated blindly.
Talented and attractive—some guys have all the luck. He rolled over, bitterly jealous by the thought.