Outside of the Lines
That night, Touya calls his father. For the first time in years, he admits he's having problems, and he needs help from his parent.
His father doesn't sound surprised to hear from him, but there's really no telling if that's the truth. He's always been a secretive man. Touya Kouyo listens to his son carefully before speaking. "Are you thinking too hard on it, Akira?" his father asks.
"What do you mean?"
"You must remember the story you're trying to tell. You can't write it to please other people; you have to write it to please yourself," his father states. "You should write the way you want to, and not worry about what your fans, or even I, will think."
"But what if I fail?"
"Then you fail. I wrote several other stories that didn't do well before Doraemon took off. I will be proud of you no matter what happens because you tried."
For so long he's lived with the fear of failure, of letting down his father and his audience. Touya shuts his eyes as his father's words manage to get through. He's been worried about what everyone else will think and his obligation to his characters. He hasn't thought on what he really wants to see.
Touya thanks his father and hangs up the phone, deciding he's going to sleep. Trying to force his talent isn't going to work.
He goes to bed a little early, but that's not what causes him to wake up at midnight. He has just had a dream, and now he knows what he needs to do.
Touya goes back to his studio. He draws for two straight days.
The gentle Aizen, who Touya had recently killed to illustrate the utter ruthlessness of his villain, Gin, suddenly opens up to him. Touya is amazed he couldn't see the plot before, but it's such a delightful twist in the tale that he can't help but privately crow about it. The idea sends him off like a rocket, and he can feel the adrenalin of creation, the certainty that he's finally found what he's been looking for. The characters are talking to him again, and it's amusing how easy it's to work with them after the months of being thwarted.
He draws until his hand cramps, then he takes a ten minute coffee break before starting again. He's always known that Gin, a rather scary character hiding behind a fake smile, was one of the villains, but the dynamics change entirely as he realizes who the hidden mastermind is - and what they're intending to do to Rukia. The whole plot gels with a kind of certainty that makes him realize that there's much, much more to the story than the current arc.
Thirty-four hours go by before Touya is finally tired enough to collapse. He goes to bed and sleeps for fourteen hours, waking up early on Tuesday morning, still feeling jazzed about what he's doing. He knows his story is good, and it's finally going in the right direction.
He eats grapefruit for breakfast, planning his day. Some of the drawing euphoria has passed, but he doesn't have any doubts. He's finished two chapters - except for lettering, which his company prefers to add via computer - and he's made a good start on the third. If it keeps flowing like this, he's going to quickly get back to his three-months in advance of deadline schedule.
But there's something else he wants to do before he burrows back down in an orgy of drawing. He picks up the phone and calls Hikaru. He waits as it rings several times, hoping that Hikaru actually answers. He's not sure if he dares leave a message.
"When's the next time you're going to be in town?" he asks without bothering to state his name.
"I want to see you again," he says.
"I can meet you tonight," Hikaru replies, and he sounds cheerful. Either he's in town or he's going to skip out on work for today. "Do you want to get dinner?"
"I'll cook," Touya volunteers, and then gives Hikaru directions to his home.
Touya's competent in the kitchen when he wants to be. He puts together a simple meal of fish and fresh vegetables, after running out to the market to make sure he has everything he needs. There's several bottles of wine in his cupboard, and he can let Hikaru select what he likes. He tries to tell himself to stay calm, that this isn't supposed to be major, but he's never invited a date home. It feels like a huge step.
The doorbell rings at seven on the nose, and Touya wipes his hands on a dishcloth before he goes to answer it. Hikaru is standing there, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and holding a wrapped bottle that's likely wine. He looks casual and handsome, and Touya wonders if he's overdressed.
Then Hikaru smiles, and he decides he doesn't care. "Hey," Hikaru said, handing the gift over. "Wasn't sure what you were making, so if it doesn't work, I'm sorry."
Touya pulls back the covering to find a Chardonnay. "It'll go fine with the fish," he says. "Make yourself comfortable while I go chill this."
Hikaru follows him in, and takes a place on the edge of Touya's brown sofa. Touya darts into the kitchen, not wanting to leave him alone, but also needing to take a deep breath. He's so tempted to forget about dinner and jump Hikaru's bones right now. While that would be fun, it's not all he wants from the other man.
"It'll be another ten minutes," he calls from the kitchen as he finds a bucket that will serve. Filling it with ice, he places it on the table before returning back to his living room.
Hikaru is not even attempting to hide his curiosity about Touya's home, letting his attention range over the interior furnishings. Most of the art on the wall are framed originals by a variety of manga artists. There's a well-equipped home theater, along with a bookshelf stacked with a hodgepodge of novels, nonfiction and manga.
"You've got a nice place," Hikaru says.
"Do you work here, or do you have a studio somewhere else?"
"I work here," Touya responds. "It's more convenient, and I don't have any assistants, so it doesn't interfere with my privacy."
"Can I see your desk?"
It's a common enough question from Touya's guests, but he usually finds the idea invasive. He's very territorial when it comes to his work, and his drawing space is personal. Hikaru, a fellow artist, would understand.
"After dinner," Touya replies.
Hikaru smiles at him, and Touya relaxes. He gets it.
"How's your work going?" Hikaru asks. "You get over that bump?"
"I did. I wanted to thank you for your advice."
"So talking to your father helped?"
"It did." He gives Hikaru a shy smile. "My story's moving forward again."
"Really? Can I see?" It's a question not just from a colleague, but a fan.
"After dinner," Touya says again, and then the timer goes off and he goes to pull the fish out of the oven. Hikaru follows after him.
Dinner is good, although the wine isn't a great match with the meal. Touya decides not to point that out, because Hikaru shows every sign of enjoying himself. They talk sparingly, but the silence is comfortable between them.
"I heard Bleach is being made into an anime," Hikaru says. "Congratulations. Have they shown you any of the pre-production sketches?"
Touya still has a hard time believing his series has been picked up. "A couple," he admits, "but I really haven't had much time to get involved. I've been promised that they're going to stick to my original story, but we'll see."
"It's still very cool, either way. I'd love it if Death Note gets made into an anime."
"I'm sure it will be," Touya assures him. He is, because the companies would have to be blind not to notice the possibilities of the series. There's probably going to be a bidding war to acquire the rights.
After a dessert of fresh fruit and cream, Touya invites Hikaru to see his studio. It's like being seen naked, he thinks, as Hikaru wanders around. As a fellow artist, Hikaru has a sharp eye. He notices Touya's preferred quill pens, and mentions that he uses the same kind. They both like the depth the pens help convey. Then they start talking about technique, and Touya finds himself relaxing.
They talk about Hikaru's series as well as Bleach, and Hikaru looks through the next two chapters and is complimentary, although he hasn't read the ten waiting to be published. He promises not to spill the beans, and Touya trusts him. He never would have let Hikaru into his studio if that wasn't the case.
Finally Hikaru is done poking around, and he turns to Touya. "Thank you for inviting me," Hikaru says. He wraps his arms around Touya and pulls him close for a kiss. "I know you don't let many people this close."
"There's few people special enough," Touya replies, before depositing a couple of kisses along Hikaru's neck. Hikaru practically purrs, arching his head so more skin is exposed for Touya to suckle. The skin is soft and he can't resist trying to bruise it with a hickey.
"I want you," Hikaru whispers, "but only if you're going to be there when I wake up in the morning."
Touya realizes that it's going to take some time to overcome the inadvertent damage he did to Hikaru's trust by leaving that first night without a goodbye. He's willing to make the effort, because his instincts are telling him Hikaru is going to be worth it. Hikaru is going to become the most important person in Touya's life.
Touya kisses him on the forehead, before kissing his lips. "Where else would I be? This is my home."
Hikaru smiles, and pulls Touya to his feet. "Where's your bedroom?"
Touya gestures for Hikaru to follow him, and Hikaru does so without comment.
When they reach the bedroom, Hikaru starts to remove Touya's clothing. Touya's own hands work on returning the favor, and they laugh as they inadvertently get in each other's way. Finally they are both naked, both sporting visible arousals.
"What do you want?" Hikaru asks.
The images Touya's mind has entertained for the past couple of weeks nearly overwhelm him, and he feels himself getting harder at the idea. He promises himself they will have time to try some of the others out later, but for tonight he wants to focus on making Hikaru scream.
"Take a seat," Touya says, gesturing toward the bed.
Hikaru sits on the edge of the bed with a bemused look. Touya kneels between his legs. He's never liked giving blow jobs, having done it as a bit of quid pro quo in the past. This time, though, he's excited by the idea. He wants to send Hikaru out of his mind with pleasure.
He kisses Hikaru's stomach, tracing the light sprinkling of hair that runs from Hikaru's bellybutton to his groin with feather-light pecks. Resting a hand on Hikaru's hip, he uses the other the other to grasp his cock firmly at the base.
Hikaru nearly hisses as he exhales, and Touya tilts his head back so he can watch the reaction. Still holding on, Touya takes his free hand and wraps it around the shaft. He moves his hand up and down, applying firm pressure. Hikaru tries to buck once, but Touya pulls away.
"No," he says firmly.
Hikaru gives him a dark look in response, but what Touya does next earns his approval. Touya touches his tongue to the slit of Hikaru's cock, tasting the saltiness of the precum, before running his tongue along the length of the shaft. Hikaru murmurs his pleasure. "Yes, like that..."
Hikaru's expression makes all the difference. It's exciting to see the effect his touch has on his lover. He finds the feeling of Hikaru in his mouth arousing, and he takes a moment to savor the firmness between his lips. He sucks on the head of Hikaru's penis before opening his mouth and trying to swallow as much as he can.
"God, stop... I'm going to come!" Hikaru says frantically, but Touya has no intention of stopping. Rising up on his knees, he sucks just a little bit harder and is rewarded for his effort.
The cock jerks and there's a couple of spurts of cum. It tastes interesting, Touya thinks as he swallows, before pulling away. He licks his lips, deciding that he likes the flavor.
Hikaru falls back onto the bed, panting as he tries to catch his breath. "Damn," he says finally, and Touya grins as he climbs up beside Hikaru. He's going to have this beautiful man, he thinks with satisfaction.
"You are something else," Hikaru manages to get out a moment later.
"I am not a cock tease," Touya says, smiling slyly, running a hand over Hikaru's chest affectionately. He's still hard himself, painfully so, and he considers asking Hikaru to return the blow job in kind. He drops his hand to his cock, and starts to stroke himself, looking at Hikaru suggestively.
Hikaru watches him masturbate for a moment, before catching Touya's hand to stop him. He reaches his other hand behind Touya's head to pull him down for a kiss. Touya opens his mouth in surprise as Hikaru pushes his tongue in, swiping it around inside Touya's mouth like he's drinking him in. They kiss for a minute or so, then Hikaru breaks it off.
"You taste like me," Hikaru says, smirking in satisfaction. "I guess I owe you a thank you."
"I guess you do," Touya replies. He waits, wanting to see what Hikaru has in mind.
"Lay back," Hikaru says, and Touya does so, making himself comfortable. Another kiss, tangling their tongues and saliva together, and then Hikaru starts to move downward, earning loud encouragement.
"Don't be a tease, Hikaru," Touya says as Hikaru kisses his stomach. "Use your mouth on my cock."
Hikaru answers with a smile, and a teasing hand that goes down to massage his balls. Touya pushes against it, but Hikaru pulls away before the hand job really can get going.
"Bastard," Touya swears at him.
Hikaru kisses his thigh lightly. "You'll like what I've got planned more," he promises. "You got any lube around here?"
"Night table... drawer..." Touya manages to get out, distracted for a moment by the feel of a playful nip on his left hip.
Hikaru moves quickly, finding what he needs. There's a ripping sound as a condom package is opened. He slides the condom on Touya, and Touya groans at the feel of fingers. Then Hikaru gives him a sexy smile, opens the lube, and squeezes a small pool onto Touya's chest.
Touya has a moment to blink in confusion before he understands what Hikaru has planned. Hikaru crouches over him, dipping into the lube to spread it over the condom. Then he gathers more and starts to finger himself, preparing to take it up the ass.
"Ready?" Hikaru asks a moment later. He doesn't wait for an answer, grabbing Touya's cock in one hand, and lowering himself onto the tip. His face is pinched, but then he sinks down and starts to move.
Hikaru rides on top of Touya grunting and panting as he finds a rhythm. He moves up and down, his hands clenched tight at his sides. Touya can't help but see Hikaru's erection returning, and he smirks.
Touya tries to keep from coming too quickly. The feel of Hikaru's body around him is hot and tight, and he has to twist the sheets to keep control. He lifts his hips upwards, meeting Hikaru's downward stroke.
"Damn," Hikaru says, and his body is shining with sweat. He angles himself so Touya is hitting his prostate each time he slides back down, and it's so good he's saying so out loud in a string of nonsensical words that Touya can't quite decipher.
They're close, both of them, to climax again, and Touya decides to help things along. His hand reaches out and starts stroking Hikaru's cock, and he's not surprised when Hikaru comes again, splattering cum onto Touya's chest. He starts to slump forward but Touya's hands catch him, before Touya rolls them over. Hikaru's legs are splayed on either side of him and Touya stares down into unfocused gray eyes.
"You're beautiful," he whispers, stealing a kiss, before seeking his own completion. He gives two more thrusts, and then he orgasms, too.
Three months later, Touya inks the final page of his current arc. He feels satisfaction, and knows there's a grin on his face as he pushes back from the desk. He's again three months ahead of deadline, but that's not why he smiles. Bleach will keep running for quite a while, and he still has enough plot twists up his sleeves to keep his readers engaged.
The surety in his abilities is comforting to him, and he knows having Hikaru in his life is one of the reasons for it. He has someone to talk to, someone to compete with, someone who understands. Getting used to living together - Hikaru moved in a month ago - has been challenging, but a series of compromises has helped.
They work in separate rooms, since both are too idiosyncratic to be able to work in close proximity. Hikaru has a tendency to talk to himself while drawing, which drives Touya mad. Touya can get violent when interrupted, so it's best they have their own space.
It's a pleasant life, and Touya's doing well. He still spends all day drawing, but when night comes he sets aside his pens and enjoys Hikaru's presence. They discuss - usually quite loudly as they insult the other's intelligence, talent and taste - what they're working on. When the pre-copies of Shonen Jump arrive they spend a couple hours reading through, critiquing the printing job and catching up on their favorite series. Both of them are otaku at heart, and they can spend hours debating the merits of the latest match up in Prince of Tennis, or what is going to happen next in Naruto. Of course, they could always call and ask Ogata or Ashiwara personally, but that would spoil part of the fun.
Sometimes they go out and meet with some of their other friends, but often times they stay in. He knows that at some point, the constant sex should grow old, but he can't imagine ever getting tired of Hikaru. Hikaru is full of life and motion, and can shakes Touya out of his occasional moody phases. In turn, Touya understands Hikaru, and is able to shake him when melancholia strikes.
They've toyed about working together someday, but neither has yet to suggest an idea they both can agree on. They see the world too differently, although they do think of similar topics. Their different interpretation of shinigami are a running argument between the two, especially when Hikaru spends too long working on his series. Working with Raito, Hikaru's homicidal, would-be god of a protagonist, for extended periods of time tends to make Hikaru positively strange for a while after.
Touya knows that if they ever find a topic to work together on, they'll draw the perfect manga. That is, provided he can ever drag the truth about Sai out of Hikaru. There's still a certain secrecy about Hikaru's doujinshi-partner that Touya wants to get to the bottom of. Hikaru has promised to tell the truth "someday," so Touya is forcing himself to wait.
He has faith that day will come. Hikaru claims he fell in love with Touya as soon as he set eyes upon him; Touya pretends to humor him, since telling him the truth would only lead to a fight.
Touya doesn't believe in love at first sight; he's not sure if he believes in love at all. He does know that what he feels for Hikaru transcends anything he's ever felt before, and that's enough for now. All that matters is that they somehow work, and Touya doesn't feel alone anymore.
It's on their first anniversary - the night they met in the bar, since Hikaru insists the first time they had sex should count - that they manage to stumble across the idea that marks their first (of many) successful collaborations. They're walking together, hand in hand, down the streets of one of the older neighborhoods.
Hikaru stops suddenly, glancing over at a go salon. Touya wonders what has attracted his attention, since Hikaru tends to find inspiration in weird places.
"What is it?" Touya asks, feeling like something momentous is about to happen. He has good instincts, and he knows Hikaru is about to suggest something that will change their lives.
"You know, I bet we could write an awesome manga about Go," Hikaru says.