Summary: Dreams are the images, thoughts and feelings experienced while sleeping; but to Ryoma, they tell of a past life. Before history repeats itself, he must piece together old memories, or he may meet the same cruel fate as his incarnation.
Pairings: Thrill Pair (FujiRyo), Golden Pair, Imperial Pair (AtoTezu), Endurance Pair (InuKai), and mentions of others.
Warnings: Vampirism, BL (Boys Love)
"None that has lain down shall arise;
The stones are sealed across their places;
One shadow is shed on all their faces;
One blindness cast on all their eyes."
- "Ilicet" by Algernon Swinburn
The night air was chill, as its want, and a steady breeze rustled the nearby branches of the overhanging trees. The cicadas' songs resonated throughout shadows, easily fading into the background of the otherwise quiet, moonlit backdrop. The stars glittered in the sky like a million gleaming jewels, pulling the eyes of drifting villagers, even for just a moment.
He was not immune himself, huddled as he was under the thin but otherwise sturdy shelter. A tattered cloak, worn with use and age, was wrapped about his thin frame to garner any sort of heat the meek fire of the tiny lamp could not provide. The flames licked at the sides of their container, the light emitting from the flicker to shadow the lovely but boyish face. Golden eyes stood out amongst the tanned skin and dark lashes, captivated by the night sky.
It was cold, yes; but it was astoundingly beautiful.
Slender, supple arms wrapped around his shoulders, before he was pulled back into a lean chest. A smile lit his face and he reached out one hand to gently clasp the pale and chilly hand of the other.
"It's cold out, ne?"
The words were whispered into his ear and he leaned his head back to regard his lover with a soft smile. Golden eyes met sapphire blue, intimate in its intensity alone.
"But the sky is very beautiful tonight."
His reply was shy and he could meet the gaze no longer, so he tilted his face upwards to gaze once more at the moon that dominated the sea of diamonds. A low chuckle met his ears and his smile widened as he was pulled more securely against the other's body.
"Very beautiful," was the reply, and he was under the distinct impression that it was not the night his lover was referring to.
The chill crept up his back, unheeded.
Golden eyes crept open slowly, forming into a glare as the dreaded piece of mechanics continued to blare out something resembling a song that his tired brain refused to identify. One tan hand stretched out, wavering only slightly, before crashing down on the radio/alarm clock he had received from his mother after his last one met a mysterious demise.
Mewling at his side and uncurled from sleep, Karupin gazed at him with a cutely tilted head, large eyes regarding her master with utmost innocence. Golden eyes blinked a few times before the boy sat up. Karupin mewled again, earning a small smile before the youth climbed out of his bed and shuffled towards his closet.
"OIII! SEISHOUNEN! ARE YOU AWAKE?"
Echizen Ryoma twitched in irritation. Even if he wasn't awake, he surely would have been now - as well as the neighbors...and the shop owner five blocks away. Casting a minute glare at the door in annoyance, the teen changed quickly into his school uniform before his stupid senpai could re-enact his stupid father.
Making his way downstairs as Karupin skipped ahead with natural feline grace, he was greeted with the sight of Nanako as she set the table. She smiled at him cheerfully, only brightening at the cheer in his eyes as he caught sight of the Japanese-style breakfast laid out.
"Good morning, Ryoma-kun!" Nanako chirped before expertly swinging an arm back and snatching the questionable magazine his father had attempted to read behind the guise of a newspaper. Obviously Nanako was entirely too used to this; she didn't even need to look back.
With the ease of a pro, she threw the dirty magazine towards Karupin, who merely gazed at it for just one agonizing moment. Nanjiroh stood with a look of horror on his face, but he was too late-
As his beloved cat made confetti out of his father's porn, Ryoma scarfed down his breakfast just in time. A loud yell sounded from outside and Ryoma rolled his eyes as Nanako giggled.
"Baka Momo-senpai, just like oyaji..."
Nanjiroh had no rebuttal; he was too busy sobbing over his favorite Golden Edition that lay in scraps on the floor. Karupin purred happily as she pounced and batted away the pieces.
Stepping onto the genkan and slipping on his school-issued shoes before swinging on his tennis bag, Ryoma stepped out. Momo grinned at him from his bike, which the shorter boy readily climbed onto.
"Finally got up on time, eh?" Momo chuckled. "At least we'll make it on time for morning practice; I don't want to run 20 laps for being late again, I don't."
Ryoma made an agreeing grunt before yawning sleepily.
Ryoma dreaded walking into the locker room, knowing his inevitable fate as arms steeled themselves around him and pulled him into a choking hold. Distantly (thanks to loss of oxygen), he could hear soft laughter and for the life of him Ryoma could not figure out what exactly was so funny about him being strangled.
"Eiji, you're suffocating him!" came Oishi's worried exclamation, just as the arms loosened enough to allow air. With oxygen once again filling his lungs, Ryoma turned his head to glare at the unrepentant redhead still attached to him. Did he have some kind of sign that read "Cuddle me to death!" or something affixed to him? Or was Kikumaru just the poster child of overly-attached ADHD children?
"Come on, Eiji, Echizen needs to change..." Oishi sighed, pulling his partner off the freshman and practically dragging the giggling acrobat out of the locker room. Momo gave Ryoma a highly-amused smirk.
"Is it tough being so cute, Echizen?" the power-player jibed.
"Is it tough being in a constant haze of idiocy, Momo-senpai?" came the snide reply.
Unaffected by the petulant response, Momo scampered out, followed by a muttering Inui who had been calculating under his breath ever since Ryoma had entered. Tezuka, Ryoma knew, was already out on the courts, as well as Kaidoh. Most of the rest of the tennis club were out as well, save a few straggling juniors who were quickly trying to escape the clubroom, thanks mostly in part to the strange aura emitting from the smiling, close-eyed figure of their team's tensai.
Feeling nervous with the senior's full attention as he changed, Ryoma quickly pulled on his Regular's jersey before turning to regard his senpai with a questioning look in his eyes. It was bad enough he was left alone with the sadistic teen, but to also have his undivided attention - it was just plain terrifying.
Traitors! Ryoma hissed in general thought at the others.
"What's up, Fuji-senpai?"
Fuji's smile widened and while outsiders may have found it angelic, Ryoma was not fooled; he knew the devil lay behind that smile. The freshman took a small step towards the general direction of the door. If Fuji made any sudden moves, he was bolting - pride be damned.
"Saa...would you like to get burgers after school, Ryoma-kun?"
Ryoma blinked, taken off-guard. For some reason, the thought of Fuji-senpai and burgers somehow coexisting in the same area was surreal; he looked more like a guy who would sip some kind of blended tea at a cafe. But besides that, why would he invite (more like subtly pressure) Ryoma along? And what was that tone of voice?
Habitual indifference sliding back onto his face, Ryoma shrugged.
"This year looks promising for the Nationals, doesn't it, Tezuka?" Oishi said, eyes sliding over the Regulars' practice matches warmly. Kaidoh and Momo were facing off, yelling insult after insult at each other while rallying. Inui was playing against Fuji, the data player mumbling under his breath as Fuji countered his shots. At the last court were Ryoma and Kikumaru, the latter bouncing around on one side, the former with a mischievous smirk on his face.
Oishi frowned, eyes criticizing the freshman Regular intensely.
"Echizen looks tired today; has he not been sleeping well?" the Mother Hen of Seigaku murmured. Tezuka gave his best friend an appraising glance before turning his eyes back to the matches.
"You can ask Fuji; he's been watching Echizen at night for awhile now," Tezuka replied.
There was a mix of both amusement and disapproval in the captain's voice, barely detectable under the monotone surface. Oishi nodded, seeing Fuji and Inui had completed their match and were now making their way over. Before the vice-captain could even open his mouth, however, Inui flipped open his notebook and cut him off.
"Echizen shows a 13 percent marked decrease in concentration and a 16 percent decrease in accuracy. A slight shadow under his eyes and stiff movements support the theory of an ill sleeping pattern," Inui listed off cleanly.
Fuji turned his head to gaze at the freshman currently doing a Twist Serve, much to Kikumaru's agitation.
"He's been sleeping the whole night through but I've noticed a certain restlessness," Sharp blue poked out from under his eyelashes. "I suppose he's not having sweet dreams, ne?"
Oishi's frown became more pronounced, as Tezuka gave Fuji a hard look. The tensai's eyes slid closed as he gave his captain an innocuous smile, unaffected by the solemn glare said captain was gifting him with. Inui muttered and scribbled something in his notebook - god knows what - before closing it and casting the two a brief glance.
"Echizen shows no Marks," the data player commented dismissively.
"Of course not. You should know me better, Tezuka," Fuji chuckled demurely.
Tezuka's gaze slid back to the freshman currently smirking smugly at the flailing acrobatic player. Four games to two, Echizen's lead. No wonder Eiji was beginning to pout and give Oishi the puppy eyes; he hated being trampled by his 'Ochibi'. Tezuka's eyes narrowed on the tanned skin covering the slender expanse of neck, an almost vague expression of disapproval on his face.
"You play with your food, Fuji."
At that, Fuji outright laughed.
"Oi, Ochibi! Since you won, you should pay for burgers today!" Kikumaru announced, latching on to the younger boy as soon as he was finished changing. Ryoma gave the locker in front of him a longsuffering look as Momo immediately jumped in to agree with the bouncy redhead, having not been able to finish his own match with Kaidoh, courtesy of Buchou assigning them laps for "disturbing practice." ("Baka mamushi, this is your entire fault!" Momo had exclaimed as he started on his second set of 20 laps around the court, Kaidoh right alongside him. The viper-like player merely glared at him and hissed.)
"Isn't it the losers who usually pay, Kikumaru-senpai?" Ryoma replied boredly.
"Unyaa, but that's no fair! It should be winner's treat!" Kikumaru cried, jumping back to latch on to Oishi (who had finally finished changing). "And if you don't treat your senpai, I'm not coming! Oishi would buy me ice cream anyway, wouldn't you, Oishi?" Kikumaru persisted, giving his doubles partner a puppy dog look. Oishi nodded hurriedly, blushing red, mumbling something along the lines "Whatever you want, Eiji..."
Ryoma controlled the urge to roll his eyes. The only loss in that was not having an extra person to extort if Momo proved to be too stubborn. Actually, wasn't he forgetting something...? Eating burgers with someone other than the usual two sounded vaguely familiar...
A hand dropped on to his shoulder, and Ryoma glanced up to meet the smiling face of Fuji.
A cold shiver swept down his spine.
"Sorry, but Ryoma-kun and I have a date," Fuji said cheerfully, giving a rather pointed smile to Kikumaru and Momo. Ryoma didn't know why he bothered; the two had gone slack in shock at the announcement of their so-called 'date'. Ryoma gave Fuji a cool glance; since when did "eating burgers together" constitute as a date? Did that mean he was dating Momo-senpai and Kikumaru-senpai? Ryoma froze - wouldn't that make him some kind of player?
Ignorant of the thoughts currently distressing the other boy (the logic used wouldn't be understandable, even by psychos like the rest of them), Fuji picked up his tennis bag and easily guided Ryoma towards the door. Kaidoh, also just exiting, gave Fuji an inscrutable glance before turning to trail behind Inui in the direction of the park.
"So, Ryoma-kun, how were your classes?" Fuji began, now merely walking alongside the smaller boy, if a bit more closely than normal. Ryoma blinked, abruptly broken out of his thoughts revolving around himself dressed in clichéd pimp clothes with transgendered senpais hanging off his arms. (Inwardly, he shuddered; now that was a disturbing image: Momo in drag.) The golden-eyed teen shrugged indifferently; he had slept through English, tuned out Japanese history, glared daggers at the person in front of him during Japanese literature, and daydreamed about Karupin during Calculus. Nothing much to say. Trouncing Kikumaru-senpai during practice was his day's high point, really.
"Saa..." Fuji murmured. He already knew Ryoma was not much of a talker; Momo, apparently, did that enough for the both of them so that he could claim Ryoma's 'best friend' spot. It was no wonder the bratty boy was a hit amongst the two most excitable members of the Regulars - it was almost like having an audience. Of course, it was doubtful the freshman actually listened to his senpais' chatter but Fuji believed Eiji and Momo had enough imagination to fool themselves into thinking he was.
Entering Ryoma's favorite burger shop, the duo stepped in line, with Fuji closed-eyeing the menu with a bright smile. He casually draped one arm across Ryoma's shoulders, cheerfully ignoring the glare sent his way by the startled freshman before stepping up towards the counter to greet the politely smiling register girl. Quickly taking their orders (one chicken nuggets combo meal, three cheeseburgers, a large fries, and a large soda), their meal was handed to them in no time. Ryoma lead the way to a table nestled in the shadowy corner, no doubt hoping that if Fuji continued to treat him like a date, no one would be able to see it.
"It's too bad they don't have wasabi..." Fuji sighed mournfully. Ryoma snorted, opting to devour his burgers as quickly as possible before Fuji could pull something. Fuji might not be as bad as Inui when it came to food and beverages but Ryoma wasn't naive enough to believe the tensai wouldn't try anything. Paranoia was quickly gained when one was a member of the Seigaku tennis club; rival teams have yet to understand why Seigaku tennis players only drink canned and bottled beverages.
Scarfing down his food in record time, Ryoma gave his empty wrappers an evaluating look. He wondered if he would be able to escape early, but with the enigmatic smile Fuji was gifting him with, he severely doubted it. The other teen had managed only two nuggets before he began to grow tired of them; they were superbly bland and if the barbeque sauce was supposed to alleviate that, it was doing a poor job. Reaching into his tennis bag, he pulled out a lukewarm can labeled Toto Tomato Juice in flamboyant green, the words curving around the pink cylinder. Only the company name was scrawled in regular black print, making out 'Washu' in bolded katakana.
Ryoma glanced at the can before averting his eyes in disinterest. He never understood how people could drink that stuff. Fuji allowed a secretive smile to curve his lips at the boy's easy dismissal, even as he popped open the top to drink the contents. Sweet, metallic-tasting fluid sloshed into his awaiting mouth; he had wanted to taste it all day but had put it off in favor of "Ryoma Watching". Now he could savor the flavor, along with having Ryoma in his immediate vicinity.
"Ne, Ryoma-kun," Fuji started, after drinking a good portion of the beverage. Ryoma's bored eyes turned to him and Fuji knew the golden-eyed gaze had flickered to his lips - now tinted red by the drink. The tensai wondered if the sight was appealing to the other boy; the indifferent facial expression never wavered but the eyes grew a bit more intense.
"Saa...never mind," Fuji chuckled. Ryoma merely gave him an indifferent stare.
Walking Ryoma home was a quiet affair; the freshman was by natural disposition not inclined to start a conversation and Fuji didn't feel like interrupting the affable silence. The senior was still walking much closer than what Ryoma was used to - nearly shoulder to shoulder - but other than that it was a relatively usual sight. Stopping at the gate of Ryoma's home, Fuji watched as Ryoma nodded him a goodbye and prepared to leave it like that.
Well, that wouldn't be any fun at all.
Taking one arm, Fuji pulled Ryoma face-forward, much to the younger boy's shock. Without wasting a moment, Fuji's lips descended on the other's, one hand slipping behind the freshman's neck to pull them closer.
Ryoma had stiffened initially, but actually started when he felt something warm and wet probe at his lips before slipping into his mouth. He made a muffled grunting sound, unused to the sensation, but it went ignored by the older boy currently exploring his mouth with his tongue. Ryoma was sure he was starting to suffer from lack of oxygen; what else could make him feel so lightheaded? Not to mention he was starting to feel a little weak in the knees, which was the only reason he grabbed the front Fuji's shirt-to steady himself.
Fuji pulled back, with one of the sunniest smiles Ryoma had ever seen on his lips.
Licking his own lips, Ryoma realized he didn't quite mind the metallic taste now in his mouth, especially with Fuji's hand running soothingly through his hair.
With the knowledge that the Regionals were fast approaching, training kicked up several notches in intensity and with it, so did the lethalness of the infamous Inui Juice. Hearing freshmen, sophomores, and seniors collapsing indiscriminately behind him with pained screams, Ryoma felt a burst of adrenaline as he saw a pitcher of neon green liquid foam over the top and melt right through the table.
"INUI! WHAT IS IN THAT?"
"IT MELTED THE TABLE! IT MELTED THE THICK-WOODED TABLE!"
"OIIIISHIIII! I'M TOO YOUNG TO DIE, UNYAA!"
Kawamura, who stood next to the table of vile drinks, gave the remaining runners (aka the Regulars) a sympathetic look before he glanced at the stopwatch. "45 seconds!" he yelled, cringing when one of the sophomores who had fallen the lap before spasmed, a thin trail of neon liquid coming from the corner of his mouth.
Sprinting the last few meters in a dead run with the others, Ryoma felt relief wash through him at another just-barely-made tie. Pulling the brim of his hat down, he turned away to catch his breath, feeling slightly dizzy; he quickly grabbed the chain-linked fence to keep balance, fervently praying no one had seen him. Regaining composure, he turned to see Kikumaru, Momo, and Oishi chiding Inui about the unfair use of his poisons during practice.
Tezuka appeared to be discussing something with Kawamura, the manager of the team (training to be a sushi chef didn't allow enough free time to be a Regular but it did allow enough time to be manager), while Fuji had sidled on up to the beverage table to sip at a cup. Ryoma could feel horror and disgust well-up inside him; the tensai had better not think he was going to play tonsil hockey with him later unless he managed to brush his teeth at least seven times.
Not that Ryoma wanted Fuji to kiss him. Really.
"Tasty as always, Inui," Fuji said, giving a refreshed smile, much to the others' agitation. Inwardly, Ryoma shuddered - Fuji-senpai was so abnormal, it defied description. The tensai merely gave the freshman his trademark smile.
They wound up playing practice matches for the rest of the time, with the losers being made to drink a cup of "Inui Golden Power Remix Juice v. 6.0" as a consequence. Ryoma managed to squeeze a win over Oishi and was left shuddering in relief as he watched Seigaku's Mother Hen collapse to the ground with a scream of pain. Fuji, smiling as per usual, sidled up to Ryoma, standing obtrusively close.
Ryoma gave the smiling tensai a sidelong glance, only raising an eyebrow before turning back to Tezuka's and Kikumaru's match.
"Ryoma-kun, do you have any plans for Sunday?"
Even if I did, I doubt it will stop you, so why even ask? Ryoma's vaguely annoyed expression must have filtered into his face, as Fuji chuckled. One hand lightly brushed the other boy's, nearly startling the younger Regular. "Would you like to see a movie with me? A very interesting one just came out," Fuji said lowly.
"Yadda," was the instant reply.
Fuji's smile brightened. "I'll feed you."
Pause. Momentary consideration. "...Yadda."
At this point, Fuji's smile was almost blinding. "I'll get your fangirls to stop stalking you."
Ryoma scowled. Fuji was good; those damn fans of his had taken to following him during their free time and it had been getting progressively worse ever since they had won the Nationals during junior high school. His fanclub eventually had to establish a personal guard for him, to protect him from the more aggressive types - his fanclub, a five hundred people strong one.
"Betsuni," Ryoma grumbled.
And damn Fuji for chuckling.
Ryoma stared up at the ceiling of his room, golden eyes alighted by the moonlight that filtered in through the curtains. Karupin lay curled in a small ball atop his chest, fast asleep, purring periodically in what could only be contentment. The house was quiet, everyone already deep in slumber, and Ryoma could not muster enough energy to get up to watch TV. There was a certain stillness in the air and Ryoma felt pressed underneath the unease that coiled in his gut.
It had been like this for weeks. Sleep would come slowly, almost agonizingly, and sometimes it would not come at all. But when it did come, Ryoma wondered what would be easier to deal with - the insomnia or the dreams. The dreams always varied, some were so blurry and nonsensical that he didn't bother in recalling them, but others were so vivid that sometimes he would confuse them for reality.
Each morning he woke after any of the dreams, he still felt like he hadn't gotten any sleep at all and slowly but surely, it began to wear on him. Ryoma knew some of his senpai had noticed; Inui's eyes were almost always on him now and Oishi had even taken him aside to ask if he was alright. He was so tired...he wondered if this was how that narcoleptic guy on the Monkey King's team usually felt...
As his golden eyes slipped shut, he fervently hoped he wouldn't dream again.
He scrubbed at the mud on his face, his skin slightly irritated at the substance caked on his collarbone. He would need to re-wash his clothes tonight; the worn fabric could not stand any more abuse. Golden eyes remained fastened to the dirt road he followed, walking at a brisk pace in hopes the other children would not go so far as to follow him into the forest.
The villagers were frightened of the thick, shadowed forest; centuries of myths passed down from family to family, all telling of demons that feasted upon the flesh of humans, indiscriminate in their carnage. Demons that would toy with a man's life before crushing them to dust, devouring their spirits.
In his thirteen years of living, he had never crossed any demon. He had met a bear, once, when he had wandered too far in during his seventh summer, only barely escaping. The larger beasts lived further in, so as long as he remained near the fringes of the great forest, he would be unharmed. In this place, where the villagers dare not tread, he found his sanctuary from their poisonous stares.
Once the shadows of the canopy had been upon his back for several long minutes, he relaxed and slowed his pace. His eyes closed as his pace diminished and he felt himself loosen from his formerly tense position. The sounds of the birds were faint, he noticed, which was strange; they seemed distant, as if they had sensed something they would have rather avoided.
His eyes snapped open - but it was too late. His body collided with another's, knocking him back down with a small grunt. The person before him had merely tensed but seemed unaffected otherwise; likely because of the great difference in body structure. Whereas his body was small and thin, this other's body was tall and sturdy, lithe muscles covered by pale flesh and fit clothes.
He looked up; golden eyes met mirth-filled violet.
"Oi, you should keep your head up, gaki! How else can you see where you're going?"
It was another boy, no doubt older than him, maybe by about three summers. He had black hair that stood atop his head in spikes with a thin ponytail that trailed over one shoulder, down to his mid-back. He was taller by about three heads, garbed in a fit, brown tunic. What stood out most were his eyes; set against pale skin, it only illuminated the violet orbs - so different from the dark-shaded brown of his fellow villagers.
"You alright? Here, come on, real men don't lay around on the ground!" the stranger laughed, reaching down one hand with a kind smile. "Maybe then you can explain to me what a kid like you is doing wandering around this forest by yourself. Don't worry; I'll help you find your parents!
"I'm Momoshirou, by the way. Momoshirou, of Hidari Village."
End of Chapter One.
This is my first fanfic, so reviews are appreciated.