Find this blossoming story under my DeviantArt name, Lady-Achika. I'm only posting this chapter to provide a sample.
Disclaimer: I don't own any bit of this.
Warning: Refrain from reading this if you're allergic to same-sex couples/boy's love/yaoi.
He bore the weight of the world, all on his shoulders.
Snow was streaming from the heavens, but it wasn't soft nor warm to him. Through his eyes, Heaven's fluff was a requiem, one wishing to draw him into seemingly inevitable silence. He wasn't exactly suited to the Christmas season, unable to bask in the glow of Christmas carols, or even the glow of a simple Christmas pastry. Ornaments were far too bright for him to play with, and he'd probably break them. After all, his hands were only suited for guns.
Or were they?
His feet seemed to be suited for dancing. It was amazingly easy for him to pick up a beat, fly with it, and ride it all across town. Dancing was the very thing he turned to, all in the hopes of escaping the past, present and the future he believed he'd fall into. Building a band was the least difficult part, as his prison mates were all too willing to follow him. After all, he held rather strong influence over the prison walls. No one dared to oppose him, turn him down or even turn a cold shoulder to him. Many of his band mates followed him out of respect, but others followed simply out of fear. They had heard stories, none of which they loved holding against their hearts. In the eyes of a few, their prison King was a force to reckon with. Something devilish, dark and frightening.
But was that really the case?
He didn't like the stories. He never liked being alone. Scaring others off put the worst frowns on his face. He wanted to be a part of a much greater, happier world, but believed he was only suitable for gray, grimy walls. Holding that close to heart, he toiled away in the past seasons, with only his fearful bandmates for company. None of them knew how he truly felt, because he had a reputation to keep up, but he knew all too well. His feelings were as clear as the snow, painful and difficult to breathe around.
He was soon released, allowed to roam freely amongst other people. He hadn't tasted freedom's sweet air since the last dance tournaments, but even then, rapture was short-lived. He had merely been released under temporary circumstances.
But at least his rhythm was able to thrive.
His prison sentence finally met its end, but his nightmares never left. He was always cold, even when he managed to pick up a blanket or two. It seemed as though nothing would keep him warm.
Save for a certain dancer.
The other members of BaG intimidated him. He never said that out loud, but he made that painfully obvious. They were all so happy, so oblivious to the world's darkness. He couldn't have bothered any of them in good conscience, and none of them seemed to be interested in prying him out of his shell.
Except for one.
There was always a certain glimmer about a certain dancer's heart. Of course he bonded with everyone, able to capture and captivate every soul with a single smile, but his kindness towards a certain jailbird was mesmerizing-to say the least. Of course he laughed, sang and joked with everyone he ran into, but his interaction with Strike were special. Special, just like the stars atop Christmas trees. Special, like the stars that sang throughout the sky. He always tried to cheer Strike up, talking about the cheeriest, brightest subjects, but all attempts to uplift that broken soul failed.
And then, the first Bust-a-Groove tournament came to an end.
Strike was horrified to see Heat leave. All of the dancers had their separate paths, and Heat jumped right back into his. Off the special, warm, kind-hearted dancer went, and off Strike went. Back into a life behind bars, and chains.
Off Heat went, without any inclination of the other's feelings.
Three years passed before the two of them were reunited. The Dance Summit was about to begin, and so all BaG dancers just had to reunite. After all, the world desperately needed their magic again. What better way to spice up the magical, warm and fuzzy Christmas season? Strike no longer had to worry about prison life, so he could participate without worry.
But without Heat, everything just seemed so cold.
No pun intended, of course.
Of course Strike accepted his invitation to the Dance Summit. He'd give anything for the chance to cast off a world of burden. But he declined his invitation to the DS Christmas shindig, and even contemplated declining his DS offer. Jumping on the Summit might've been one of the biggest mistakes of his life. What right did he have, treading on the happy lives of others? Would it be right for him to nudge his way back into Hiro's, Kitty-N's or Shorty's life?
Could he, in good conscience, bother Heat?
Was Heat even gay?
Dilemma after dilemma. Problem after problem. That's all Strike's life seemed to be. He thought his world of problems would only grow larger, toiling away through snowy anguish, until-
Heat dragged him out of his shell, and into the DS Christmas shindig.
The blazing racer asked Mr. Suneoka for Strike's contact information. In the past, all dancers were linked to one another not only by smiles, but also by their telephone numbers. The DS Commitee (formerly known as the BaG Commitee) allowed the dancers to share one another's contact info, but unfortunately, for the newest dance-off, Strike's contact information was outdated. He answered his call to arms via email, leaving Heat in the dark about Strike's whereabouts. No harm done, though, as the racer was determined to find him.
And find Strike he did.
The two of them spent hours at a cafe, chatting over the upcoming Summit. Heat did most of the talking, always the laughing chatterbox, and Strike listened all the while. Before either one of them knew it, the DS shindig came to an end. A guilt-ridden Strike apologized for making Heat miss the party, but Heat shrugged it all off, acting as if he had merely missed a stroll through the park.
Without that heat, one of the Summit's participants surely would've frozen.
The days passed, filled with saxophones, snowman cookies and Santa hats. It was also filled with Heat's musical, bewitching chatter and smiles. Strike had never been treated to the Christmas season, his most recent Christmases being spent behind a cell door (or out in the chain yard), but a certain racer cast his light about everything. The former prisoner's holiday season couldn't have been brighter or warmer, as he spent so much of it near Heat.
Heat was determined to put a few smiles on Strike's face, as he was notorious for keeping his smiles hidden. His magic worked wonders, and soon the whole world began to glow, but then the night came forth. Swallowing everything in sight, the night's gales drowned out all light. Strike twisted and turned, crying out against the cold, primal night. Gunshots had replaced the warm, gentle Christmas music streaming out of his hotel room's radio. Cold, gripping faces replaced the faces of kind, jolly reindeer, Santa Claus and-
Fortunately, a certain someone burst through the door, hoping to comfort him. Strike had been quick enough to list Heat as his one (and only) emergency contact. Worried neighbors contacted the hotel manager, believing Strike was in some sort of grave danger. The hotel manager, in turn, contacted Heat, and off Heat went. Twenty minutes passed before the blazing racer arrived, plowing through Strike's door.
It was all over in minutes. Heat, frantic yet loving, drew the frightened man into a hard embrace. The ex-prisoner failed to recognize him at first, lost inside his dream, but then his fluttering eyes acknowledged the warmest, sweetest face. Forever doomed to drown in Heat's kind eyes, Strike failed to register anything the other dancer said. The racer could've spoken in Capoiera's language, and it wouldn't have mattered. He did realize Heat was off to the kitchen, though, having accomplished the task of getting the ex-con warm. Over Strike's shoulders went a thick, warm blanket, infused with a certain flame's warmth.
Heat returned to his side in minutes, setting a cup of steaming liquid into his hands. "It's soup," the racer said, giving the other his trademark, inexplicably warm smile. It was as if he had created something simple. Something without magic, but laden with a child's magical spirit.
"Veggie soup. Eat it if you like, but don't inhale it. Take it slowly."
There he was again, being the world's kindest, sweetest soul. No one else had been so gentle. Behind bars, he had been treated as a criminal. No, more like a cockroach. But Heat was always kind to him. He was akin to Snow White, which meant he betrayed his name. How could someone named 'Heat' possibly be so warm?
Already soothed by the other's presence, Strike took a few sniffs of the soup, observed by a fretful flame. "You made this?" he asked, after inhaling two doses of the liquid. Heat's smile adopted an extra dose of magic, accompanied by faintly red cheeks.
"Yeah. Came to me easily. Used to do it all of the time, for my racing mates. I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I'm quite the cook. The crew eventually stopped going out and always dropped me requests for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Cafes used to hate me because I jacked all of their customers."
The ex-prisoner's eyes widened. "You've got people that actually hate you?"
"Yeah," Heat replied, amused by the other's response. "Should've seen 'em. People actually tried to boycott me, but get this. A bunch of 'em actually became my friends. I even agreed to sell them my recipes. A bunch of 'em only asked for my chili recipe, which kinda hurt my feelings. I mean, come on. Am I only good for chili?"
He laughed after that, warming the cold air with his signature laugh. "How are you feelin'?" he asked softly, turning to Strike with another one of his smiles. Anxiety mingled in with kindness on that particular smile, painting a bittersweet picture. Fumbling with his cup of soup, Strike managed to supply an answer.
"Better, thanks. Hope I didn't interrupt anything."
"At two o'clock in the morning?"
Heat followed that question with more of his laughter. "Relax," he said soothingly, brightening Strike's hotel room. "Don't worry about a thing. If I wanted to leave you hangin', I would've done so."
"Thanks for coming over."
"No problem," the flame said, compassion rising. "Now, what's wrong? I'm glad I didn't have to open any cans of whoop-ass, but...I'm worried. What's up?"
In his twenty years of living, he hadn't heard such questions from anyone. He hadn't seen such a worried face, either. Brushed dangerously close to the edge of his sanity, Strike felt his eyes swell with tears. He hesitated to reveal anything at first, unused to such concern, but in Heat's presence, he could always be himself. He never had to worry about anything. No matter what he said, or what the world thought of him, Heat would always be there to comfort him.
"It's...it's the same every night."
"What's the same?"
"Th' nightmares. They're always the same. Can't seem to get rid of 'em."
"Of course you have nightmares," Heat could've said. "What else do you deserve? You're nothing but a mangy, flea-infested carcass, running around town with bounties on your head! You should be dead, you disgusting roach!"
"Would it help if I stayed here tonight?"
No, it wouldn't. It would only strain a certain relationship. It would only confuse things. Strike would do things he'd regret, and risk losing Heat forever. The racer won every World's Nicest Guy contest, but when things became too hot for him to tolerate, he opened a thousand cans of whoop-ass, without looking back. He couldn't ask Heat to stick around. He just couldn't.
"Yeah, it would. Sorry if you're busy, though."
"I don't need any more beauty sleep," the racer said, putting on a scowl. That scowl was quickly replaced by a wide, bubbly grin, though.
"I'm already totally smokin' hot. I've caught all of the winks I need."
Sweeping Strike's empty cup into the kitchen, Heat struck up more chords. "Glad you had some sort of chicken broth. One time, I had to make do with the world's crappiest chicken stock. Somebody had the balls to ask for soup at four in the morning, after we had all been pulled through Hell's wringer. The crew and I had spent the entire day circling around the track, and hot damn, were we tired. I had never been so tired in all of my life, not to mention that particular track was the largest I had ever been on. But wow, we were all psyched."
"You ever gonna race again?"
Racing was never Heat's favorite topic, even though he spoke of it fondly. Not wanting to do any more harm, Strike silenced himself. "Warm enough?" the gentle flame asked, regaining his seat at Strike's side. He was still wounded by the ex-prisoner's last question, but wished to brush off every bit of sadness. Strike responded with a warm, babyish smile.
Neither of them spoke for what seemed like an epoch, sitting in a world of Christmas lights and song. Sweet piano music emerged from Strike's radio, which had been turned on by Heat upon entry. "Glad you're coming," the racer said, after a moment of painfully awkward, tense silence. "To the Summit, I mean. Wouldn't have been right without you."
"Only going because you want me to."
A glistening smile spread across Heat's face. "Hey, who knows? Maybe we'll face off against each other. Or hook up in Sync. Might be fun. I've always thought you were the coolest of the bunch anyway."
"You've gotta be shittin' me."
Heat tossed his head back in a flirtatious, coy manner. "I shit you not, Sherlock," he said in an equally sweet tone. "The only one that even comes close to you is Z, and he's from some jackass corporation nobody even knows about. I've always thought you were amazing."
If the ex-prisoner had been a school girl (or any one of Heat's fangirls/fanboys), he would've started bouncing off the walls. He merely resigned himself to a sweet, joyous smile, eyes twinkling with an uncharted light. "Me too," Strike said softly, bowing his head.
"I mean, I've always thought you were amazing. You still are."
"Yeah, I'm amazing, all right," the racer said, after releasing more laughter. "I'm one smokin' hawt package of amazing. One-in-a-millon, bay-bee! BOOYAH!"
Another period of silence passed, but it wasn't as nearly as painful as the first. Heat walked through the silence with a smile, while Strike spent the silence in crimson-laced embarrassment. "Thought you'd hate me," the ex-prisoner said, his eyes occupied with the floor. Heat looked at him in clear disbelief, horrified by his words.
"You know, because of the stories. My time in the pen. Thought you'd hate the living shit out of me."
"None of that ever stopped me before," Heat said with a shrug. "You're Strike."
And you're Heat, the world's most amazing, drop-damn gorgeous, I'm-sex-on-two-sticks type of guy.
"Does that mean you don't buy the stories?"
Heat took a moment to answer, halfway between jolly adoration and sorrow. "Wouldn't matter," he muttered, shaking his head. "The stories don't matter. Whether you did those things or not...they don't matter. You're Strike, and that's all that matters to me. Want some more soup?"
"No thanks," the ex-prisoner said, far and beyond nervous. Whenever he became nervous, he became sick to stomach. Hence, the loss of appetite. But at least the warmest piano rendition of 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' began to play.
Ah, what a warm season Christmas was.
"Wanna talk about 'em? The rumors, I mean. Are they behind your nightmares?"
"My life was one big nightmare-up to this point."
Once again, the two men returned to a calm, snowy world of silence. Heat waited patiently for Strike to speak, warm brown eyes locked on him. "Started a thousand years ago," Strike said, filling the calm air with sadness.
"I know that's impossible, but...it seems that way. Don't remember any of my family either. Probably never had a family. I...I was...always on the streets. Did what I had to do, in order to survive. Killed whenever my life was pushed against the ropes. Stole whatever I had to steal."
The look on Heat's face propelled him to laugh. "I'm a one-note, aren't I?"
"No," the racer said, shaking his head. "Just lonely."
Both dancers returned to snowy nothingness, for their own reasons. "Is there something you wanna ask me?" Heat said after an age, melting every hardened heart on Earth. His melodious voice was softer than the moonlight, and far more gentle than a dove's wingtip. Absorbing everything about the other's existence, Strike shyly shook his head. "You'd better get some rest then," the wildfire said, rising from his seat with a smile.
"You've had a rough night. Better rest up if you want me to take you to breakfast tomorrow."
"You'd take me out again?" a doe-eyed Strike asked, following the other into his bedroom. Heat, leading him by the hand, let out more of his musical laughter.
"Why wouldn't I? Come on, I-"
The rest of his words were quickly shoved off a cliff. Heat found his back against Strike's bed, eyes widened. "You wouldn't mind?" the ex-prisoner asked, his voice barely above a whisper. And suffering from a case of bloodred embarrassment, Heat vehemently shook his head.
"You don't give a damn about being here with me?"
"Nooo," the wildfire whimpered, watching as a set of hands loosened his pants. "Ah...ah! W-w-w-wait! Strike, what're you doing?"
"You don't mind, right?" the other male asked, hands freezing on Heat's last thread. Horror pierced his eyes as a million javelins would pierce a single heart. Perhaps Heat would mind. Perhaps he'd be thrown off, and Heat would never want to see him again. Perhaps-
"Of course I mind! I've never done this before!"
"That's it? You're a virgin?"
"Yes, I'm a virgin, and I didn't come over here thinking you'd wanna have sex with me!"
"Don't want sex."
"Then what in the hell do you want?"
Strike whispered his lust-laden, soft response into the other's ears. "I want to make love to you. You, my first-and only."
Two hearts were frozen. A blushing, frantic Heat peered into Strike's eyes, their lips brushed against one another, and the world outside of their window froze. Heat thought he'd explode in the first five seconds, even though the other man was merely bathing his face in sweet, maddening kisses. The wildfire moaned and wriggled, helplessly melting into the other's warm touch.