Rating: PG 13
Summary: Tezuka wonders why he got assigned as editor of an author who has seriously weird writing habits.
Disclaimer: I do not gain any profit from this work.
A/N: Originally for kat8cha in the christmas cacti community at LJ. Thank you xXThe Grey LadyXx for beta-ing. Reviews will be loved! Happy new year, everyone!
"Fuji." Tezuka raps on the door several times but the owner of the house still doesn't answer. He presses his ear to the door but he can't hear any sound, either. This leaves him sighing in frustration. The silence only means that Fuji has abandoned writing again and must be up at the rooftop garden talking to the cacti. Why Fuji chooses to do that right now, Tezuka makes three guesses: Fuji must have a) decided to take a break from work, b) gone to ask the cacti for plot ideas or c) clean forgotten that he is supposed to submit a draft tonight. Knowing Fuji, Tezuka braces himself for the worst. Oftentimes he considers that a tree will prove to be a more disciplined author than Fuji. He is convinced that it would take more supernatural gifts to make Fuji start organizing schedules than to make a tree write fiction. And Tezuka prides himself in being logical and realistic.
He tries the knob and it turns freely, allowing him to step into the antechamber. It is pitch black inside so he gropes the wall for the light switch as he kicks off his shoes. "Fuji!" he calls out again, blinking rapidly just as the lights flash on.
"Tezuka!" He hears Fuji greet him cheerfully. Fuji seems to be sitting on the floor while sticking his head through the gap on the doorway of his bedroom. His face lightens up in anticipation as he watches Tezuka approach.
"You forgot that you have a deadline today," Tezuka says sternly. He has already entered Fuji's room, which save for the small lamp on the desk is also dark. He can't remember a time when Fuji's room is any brighter even during daytime. Fuji claims to write better with dim light and that explanation sounds rational enough to Tezuka. He has heard of stranger authors; there's one who sniffs rotten apples for inspiration, one who likes to sit on coffins before writing and one who even writes with his nose. Writing under poor lighting conditions seems normal in comparison.
"I did not," Fuji says calmly in defense of himself. "I even wrote while you were gone!" He raises his head and grins at Tezuka rather proudly.
Tezuka sees the crumpled sheets on Fuji's bed and somehow doubts the truth in that. "Let me see," he says and holds out his hand, dropping to the cushion on the floor right beside Fuji.
When Fuji shows him the manuscript, a white sheet of paper with Fuji's elaborate handwriting, it takes a lot of his practiced self-control to stop himself from rolling his eyes. He remembers leaving Fuji a couple of days ago with the instruction of finishing the first draft of the first story in the anthology that Fuji wants to publish. All those days, it seems Fuji has managed to write an utterly dramatic sentence of prose: He fell asleep. Seeing the look of delight on Fuji's face, Tezuka tries to calmly say, "I hope you could have written more."
"What could I do? I lack inspiration when you're not around," Fuji says in voice so low and sultry that makes the hair on Tezuka's nape rise. Obviously noticing Tezuka's discomfort, Fuji barks out a cough that oddly resembles a chuckle.
"I won't leave until you finish your draft," Tezuka warns. He glances sharply at Fuji who merely grins at him.
"More inspiration for me then," Fuji says with, Tezuka thinks, an irritating amount of teasing satisfaction. He picks up his pen and bends over his work. He bites his lower lip unconsciously while he scribbles furiously on a piece of paper.
Tezuka opts not to answer. He's so used to Fuji saying silly things like that. Sometimes Fuji calls him 'inspiration,' 'muse,' 'afflatus,' 'motivation,' and a few other euphemisms for what he really is – an editor. He only treats it as a consolation. He believes that if he can't fully ingrain discipline into Fuji, it's good to know that he can at least make Fuji write. It's part of his job after all. He understands that despite Fuji's nonchalance and peculiarities, Fuji is a very talented author. Every time Tezuka reads Fuji's stories, he feels something raw and powerful grip him, stirring the deepest and most pleasant sensations within his gut. Secretly, he feels that having to stay and join Fuji in a brainstorming meeting with pots of cacti and having to sit up all night just to make sure Fuji writes are all worth the contentment of knowing that he's the first person in the world to read Fuji's works.
With a penetrating gaze, Tezuka sits and watches Fuji like a guard dog. He is prepared to glare at Fuji and to press him down to the cushion should Fuji attempt to leave the desk. Surprisingly, though, Fuji appears to have no further plans to procrastinate and goes on writing.
Tezuka wakes up next morning to the comfortable feeling of satin sheets and pillowcases. The scent doesn't belong to him but he can't care right now, too sleepy to. Hoping to get some more shut-eye, he curls up in bed and covers his face with a pillow. "Good morning, Tezuka." He hears this but his brain doesn't register properly so he grunts and turns his back to the intruder who dares disrupt his peaceful slumber.
But Tezuka's brain definitely doesn't miss the feeling of an arm snaking around his waist. "How rude, Tezuka. Don't you remember what happened last night?" Tezuka flinches a little. He can feel Fuji's fingertips brush against his stomach through the fabric of his shirt. Fuji's voice sounds so near it sends prickles down his spine. "You kissed me so I kissed you back. You know what happens next," Fuji continues, his voice deep and humming to Tezuka's ears. "It's written in heart-warming sagas of love and adventure."
"Fuji," Tezuka reproves irritably, prying away the hand on his waist. He bolts up from bed and glares down at Fuji who lies comfortably on the bed and smiles at him as though he has done absolutely nothing to deserve Tezuka's icy stare. "Did you finish the story?"
"You fell asleep last night so I moved you to bed." Fuji sits up too and yawns. "And, yes," he adds matter-of-factly. "I've sent a copy to your email and I've printed a hard copy too."
Tezuka nods. Seeing Fuji's watery eyes, Tezuka calms himself and asks, "Did you get any sleep?"
A playful smile graces Fuji's lips. "No. But I'm nocturnal," he reminds Tezuka. Stretching like a cat, he rises from bed. "By the way, I made breakfast. Have some before you leave."
Tezuka can taste a sour lump on his throat. Knowing that this acid should be in his stomach and not on his throat, he has no choice but to nod quietly. Fuji waits for him to wash up and leads him down the far end of the house to the kitchen. The moment they step in, the astringent scent of garlic stings his nose and makes his stomach churn. The meal Fuji prepared although simple – consisting of garlic rice, sunny side up and steamed fish – looks appetizing enough. He just reminds himself to watch out for any hint of wasabi.
"When should I give you the first draft of the next story?" Fuji asks as they settle opposite each other. He pours steaming black tea into two cups while he waits for Tezuka's answer.
Tezuka regards Fuji thoughtfully. Fuji yawns and smiles at him while passing a filled teacup. Sometimes he wonders how Fuji can smile and do something else at the same time. Once, he tried smiling while brushing his teeth and emerged from the bathroom with bleeding gums. He doesn't dare to ask Fuji though. It would give Fuji the license to tease him mercilessly. Besides, it's not like he will apply the theory anyway. "How long your break will be you mean?" Upon closer inspection, Fuji's skin seems paler than usual and his eyes lack a certain glimmer.
A smile sneaks its way to Fuji's lips. "Actually, I wonder how long I have to wait before I can see you again." Tezuka sighs inwardly in relief. Fuji still seems to have that normal playful aura, at least.
"Two weeks," Tezuka says after some time of thought. "That is enough, isn't it?" He tilts his head to see Fuji's face but Fuji doesn't answer. He has put his chopsticks down and now stares at something on Tezuka's chest. Tezuka follows Fuji's line of sight and frowns.
"You've been wearing it for a long time, haven't you?" Fuji asks, eyes still fixed on the stone pendant hanging on a silver chain around Tezuka's neck."
"Yes. I've had it since I was three." Tezuka says with narrowed eyes after noticing that Fuji's eyelids are heavy and drooping. He shifts guiltily on his seat. Maybe he shouldn't have pushed Fuji too hard to beat the deadline. Then again, he debates with himself, he's just doing his work and Fuji should be doing his.
Fuji tilts his head in interest. "Why do you wear it?" he asks curiously.
Tezuka furrows his brows to ponder his answer. "I got lost one day and the person who found me gave this. He told me to wear it everyday," he explains simply and briefly. "I think it's supposed to ward off danger."
"I never thought you were superstitious," Fuji says, sounding not so much as surprised but impressed. "It looks like a good charm, though. Do you remember who gave it to you?"
"I was three then so no, I don't remember," Tezuka answers truthfully.
"A pity," Fuji remarks while stifling a yawn.
Over breakfast, they discuss the plot of Fuji's next story. As always, Fuji has everything figured out. Tezuka only hopes that Fuji has equal amounts of patience and creativity in writing. Then, he won't have to spend long nights with Fuji just to make sure the author doesn't go wandering off from his desk with the excuse of being too bored to write.
After the meal, they dump the utensils in the sink. Fuji shuffles inside his bedroom to hand him the printout. They soon trot down to the front door. "I'll see you in two weeks," Fuji says with a great yawn, holding the door open as Tezuka sails out of the house.
Tezuka stops to cast Fuji an intent gaze. "You should try to get some sleep."
Fuji's smile becomes unreadable. "I'm not really sleepy. I'm actually hungry."
"You just ate," Tezuka points out. His eyebrows twitch uncontrollably. But somehow that doesn't astound him. Fuji's odd taste in food must come in with a large appetite.
"I crave something else, a different kind of food," Fuji says. He looks serious and a bit wistful. Tezuka gets the impression that he must be imagining wolfing on this particular craving right now.
"Get it and then sleep," Tezuka suggests. "I'll be going." Before he hears the door close, Fuji mumbles something like "But it's difficult to get." He shakes his head, thinking, Fuji and his exotic taste.
Tezuka feels suffocated by the silence as he enters Fuji's house. The sun is still high up so it isn't as dark as usual inside but it still bothers him that Fuji hasn't responded at all when he knocked. Most of the time, Fuji appears out of nowhere to usher him in and tease him a little. It's not that he misses Fuji's mischievous flirtation; it's just that he feels apprehensive right now. When he finished editing the story earlier, he called Fuji, who didn't pick up the phone.
He cautiously finds his way to Fuji's room and sighs in relief. Fuji sleeps in bed, still and quiet. He places the edited printout on Fuji's desk and watches for a few minutes. Then he pauses and squints at Fuji's sleeping figure. Something about it strikes Tezuka as strange. He moves closer to the bed and his eyes widen. He hasn't seen Fuji sleep before by virtue of what Fuji claims to be his nocturnal nature but Tezuka knows that sleeping people, even ones as unusual as Fuji, are supposed to breathe. "Fuji," he calls, shaking the body – not a corpse, he thinks desperately – in the hope to wake Fuji up. His eyes dilate with dread. Fuji's skin is so cold and white it almost stings his fingers.
He assesses the situation. Remembering the first aid techniques he learned as a Boy Scout, he searches Fuji's body for any wound or injury, his hands probing and a little clumsy with his anxiety. He ogles at his hand when he finds no sign of blood. What to do next? He asks himself. Artificial respiration? Resuscitation?
He jumps and stares at Fuji who is touching his arm, smiling, breathing, living.
"You look like you've seen a ghost," Fuji says. He looks at Tezuka with obvious concern. "Are you okay?"
"Fuji," Tezuka starts uncertainly. It's an effort to keep calm and Fuji can see it on the apprehensive lines forming on Tezuka's forehead. "Are you ill?"
Fuji blinks and frowns. "I'm fine. Why?"
Tezuka glances around him for help. He's not entirely sure how to tell Fuji that he just saw him dead moments ago. "You weren't breathing while you were sleeping."
"Is that so?" Fuji asks thoughtfully. His reaction puzzles Tezuka. For someone allegedly dead, he's surprisingly unperturbed. "I'm fine. I'm famished but I'm fine." His expression becomes cheery, perhaps to calm Tezuka down. "You finished editing?" When Tezuka nods slowly, he tugs at the sleeve of Tezuka's shirt. "Why don't we go out and eat?"
"Why don't we go to a doctor instead?"
Fuji waves a hand flippantly and jumps out of bed. "I'm really hungry. I can't feed on a doctor, can I?" He laughs and Tezuka notes a glimmer of amusement on his eyes.
"All right," Tezuka submits. But he isn't convinced by Fuji's uncaring excuses. As they walk down to Fuji's chosen restaurant, he surreptitiously slips glances toward Fuji. But the latter simply traipses beside him, complaining about hunger and contemplating a gigantic bowl of ramen, a plate of wasabi rolls, several servings of yakitori and maybe some chocolate balls.
A waiter beckons them inside an old, drab place and takes their order. Fuji asks for all the food he just talked about and more. "What would you have, Tezuka?" Fuji inquires.
"I'm full," Tezuka replies a bit curtly. "Tea would be fine," he informs the waiter. He turns to Fuji and says, "Should we go to a doctor after this?"
Fuji raises a brow and lets out a chuckle. "Are you worried about me?" he teases.
Tezuka looks at the ceiling. "Yes, I am. As your editor, I am responsible for you."
"For my stories, yes," Fuji replies happily. "But you don't have to be responsible for my health."
Tezuka doesn't even try to rationalize with Fuji. He knows that it's already a lost battle. Instead, he just sits back quietly as the waiter sets the food on the table. The ramen seems to distract Fuji who eagerly reaches for a pair of chopsticks and starts eating.
Fuji eats a lot and Tezuka wonders where he fits that much food. The author is leaner and shorter than Tezuka. At first glance, you would easily think that he's a picky eater. "Have you started writing yet?" Tezuka asks when Fuji finally finishes. Fuji grins at him. Apparently not, Tezuka thinks sourly.
"I've been awfully sleepy nowadays," Fuji confesses while he pays the bill. He stands up and gestures to leave. "And I'm still hungry." He sees the bemused expression on Tezuka's face, and he laughs.
Outside, the sky is already a bright shade of red with rays from the setting sun. They walk down a paved sidewalk in silence. After a few minutes, Fuji stops at a corner and inclines his head. "You live around here, don't you?" he asks.
"Yes," Tezuka responds. "Why?"
"Let me walk you home," Fuji announces decidedly. He seems so pleased with the thought Tezuka doesn't find the heart to disagree. Watching their shadows dance as they trudge on, Fuji looks up at Tezuka and asks, "Have you never considered being an author?"
The question takes Tezuka by surprise. "I'm afraid I'm not imaginative enough." He says this with a straight face to sound believable. When Fuji chuckles, Tezuka can't help but flash a smile. Weak, but definitely a smile. "I prefer technical writing," he says seriously.
"And that makes you a good editor," Fuji concurs.
Tezuka doesn't give a reply. Fuji is smiling up at him and he can't tell if Fuji's just teasing him or actually telling the truth. Nonetheless, he feels a boost in his ego and he looks pointedly away to hide his numbing cheeks from Fuji. "Have you been writing since you were young?"
Fuji's first answer is a cryptic smile. "I can't honestly remember," he says. "My youth feels like a blur that happened so many years ago."
They reach Tezuka's house three minutes later. Tezuka invites Fuji in but the latter refuses. He says he has a very good muse, thanks to Tezuka, and should better start writing so that Tezuka won't get angry. He turns to his heels and walks away, followed by Tezuka's eyes.
"Kunimitsu, you're home," Tezuka Ayana greets jovially, meeting her son by the doorway. "Who was it?" She asks. She looks over Tezuka's shoulder to see Fuji's disappearing figure.
"Fuji," Tezuka replies. "He's an author. A friend of mine."
Ayana gazes at her son wordlessly. After a full minute of brooding, she says, "He reminds me of the person who gave you that necklace."
Tezuka stares. That can't be. Fuji can't have been in his mid-twenties when Tezuka was three and still stay in his mid-twenties when Tezuka is already twenty-six. "Mother, maybe they just look alike."
Despite the fact that Fuji hasn't finished the next story yet, Tezuka orders him to take a break, to sleep maybe or to eat, whatever pleases him. Tezuka doesn't have an idea what Fuji has been doing in the past few days but it left him pale and clammy. He is smiling as usual, but Tezuka has long learned not to trust that smile. He's willing to bet that it would still be there even when Fuji gets sucked by a vortex of terror and plunged to an erupting supervolcano.
He prepares a pitcher of cool red tea and offers a glass to Fuji, who accepts it thankfully. He sits beside the author on the sofa and wonders how to go about asking Fuji a question that has been bugging him for days. "Fuji, do you look like your father?"
Slightly taken aback, Fuji discerns Tezuka. "No. I've been told that I resemble Mother." He takes a sip of the iced tea and licks his lips.
Attention still on Tezuka, Fuji asks, "Why?"
"Nothing," Tezuka answers to try and deflect Fuji's interest. Unconsciously though, his left hand touches his stone pendant.
"You think my father might have given you that necklace?"
Tezuka's eyes grow. Fuji just said what he has been thinking. Did Fuji just read his mind? Like a rational person would, he instantly discards the thought. Fuji's just good at guessing games, he concludes.
"Yes, Tezuka, I can read minds," Fuji says without even batting an eyelash. "But I'm good at guessing games too," he adds with a light-hearted grin. "Do you believe it?"
Unable to utter a word, Tezuka just returns Fuji's intent gaze with his own.
"Also, I gave you that necklace."
At this, Tezuka shakes his head and glares. "It's not funny, Fuji," he says. "I think you should go back to work."
Fuji drinks his tea to the dregs and shrugs. "You think it's impossible?" he asks. There's no hint of emotion in his voice. When Tezuka doesn't reply, he continues, "Think, Tezuka. Is it really impossible?"
"Fuji," Tezuka says sternly. He sounds tired of Fuji's games. He just wants him to finish the second story already. Now he scolds himself for bothering to ask.
"I like the dark," Fuji goes on, ignoring Tezuka's deadly glare. "I'm basically nocturnal. I also lack food."
Tezuka sighs. He realizes that the best way to deal with Fuji's antics is to play along. "That makes you a vampire," he says impatiently. "Now will you go back to work?"
Apparently pleased with Tezuka's reaction, Fuji laughs. "All right, all right." He reaches for his pen and paper and announces extravagantly, "I'll finish the heartbreaking work of staggering genius."
Tezuka massages his neck. It feels stiff and aching because he happened to fall asleep in a very uncomfortable position, resting his head on the center table. Remembering Fuji, he glances to his side and finds Fuji asleep. It looks like he'll wake up with stiff neck too, Tezuka thinks. He's about to get to his feet but he stops when he realizes Fuji isn't breathing again.
I like the dark. I'm basically nocturnal. I also lack food.
That makes you a vampire.
He can feel his heart race but he doesn't leave. Instead, he chooses to stay beside Fuji and decides to wait till Fuji wakes up. But his discovery still doesn't make any sense. Fuji likes garlic – actually, he likes any kind of spice. Fuji doesn't burn to ashes when exposed to the sun. Then again, Tezuka tells himself, he won't put it past Fuji to be such an unconventional vampire.
Tezuka neither moves nor speaks when Fuji stirs awake.
"I've finished the story," Fuji declares happily. But he still looks groggy, like he hasn't slept for days. "Would you like to see it?"
"If you're so hungry, why didn't you try to bite me?" Tezuka asks so suddenly, his words sharp and cutting.
Fuji blinks in clear surprise at first. But then he smiles. "Vampires don't sneak up on people and bite unless they're desperate." His smile becomes large and fond. "And since you're wondering… We fear neither garlic nor the sun. About the only thing mortals get right is the fact that wooden stakes can kill us and that we suck blood." He yawns.
"You're hungry, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," Fuji replies flippantly. "Very hungry."
Tezuka clenches his hands to tight fists. He says, "Bite me." He cranes his head to expose his neck to Fuji. He shuts his eyes, anticipating the pain of Fuji's fangs sinking into his skin, imagining his blood dripping out of it. After a while, he hears Fuji's laughter. He opens his eyes and glowers.
"Do you know what you're doing?" Fuji asks. "If I bite you now, you will ask for it in the future. And I will depend on you. Are you ready for that?"
Tezuka doesn't answer but he gazes at Fuji with equal stubbornness and determination. He doesn't know why but he wants to do this. Maybe to be able to read more of Fuji's stories. Maybe to help Fuji. Maybe simply because he wants to.
Fuji understands and nods. He rakes his fingers through Tezuka's hair and buries his face in Tezuka's neck. "Relax," he whispers so closely that he's almost kissing Tezuka's skin. "This won't hurt. I promise."
Tezuka feels the bite but it's far from unpleasant. Fuji sucks harder. His head starts pounding with his own heartbeat, and he feels keenly aware of the blood running in his veins and arteries. Heat and passion and pain mingle on his skin, sending pleasurable impulses to his brain. The last thing he hears is Fuji's moan, and then white light explodes before his eyes, and Fuji lets go.
"Did it hurt?"
Too stunned to speak, Tezuka shakes his head. He sits still and raises his hand to touch the slightly numb spot on his neck. He sees red droplets of his own blood on his fingertips. He watches Fuji take his hand and lick the blood off it.
"You have to wear collared shirts from now on," Fuji says. His eyes, blue and dazzling, are fixed on Tezuka's face.
"Why did you give me this necklace when you found me?" Tezuka suddenly asks.
Fuji touches the pendant. He strokes it delicately. "It does keep danger at bay," he replies honestly. "Danger such as other vampires."
A/N: I've started with the sequel (yes, I know I shouldn't leave it with such an open ending) but I'll have to finish Moonlight Tales and The Missives before I post. And then there's this long two-parter I still have to finish. And then there's Remembrance and ORHANM to update. In other words, please be patient! :3 Reviews will be loved!