I own neither Sekaiichi Hatsukoi nor Junjou Romantica, Nakamura Shungiku does. This is actually more of a Sekaiichi story than a Junjou story, but it does have Junjou elements. Not a lot of warnings; potential OOCness, lemony fluff, and dirty humor. Enjoy!
Silence is Thy Friend
Onodera Ritsu showed up for work minimally on time, only to crowd into an elevator full of people with swollen eyes, red faces, and masks over their noses and mouths. Three people coughed nosily, another shivered violently, and someone swayed on their feet.
Flu season sucked. It sucked even more when almost every department in Marukawa Publishing was afflicted with the flu.
Ritsu gritted his teeth as sick bodies brushed passed his to get out of the elevator on respective floors. Despite the massive pandemic running throughout the building, he had been saved from the virus. Although, he was getting an increasing headache of irritation being constantly surrounded by sick people.
I guess I should count myself lucky, he thought. I'm not sick, and neither is my department.
The almost every department applied because despite the high contagious flu affecting everyone, the infamous Emerald Department managed to make by without a single sick editor. Granted, their artists were also sick and thus made manuscripts later than usual. Then again, manuscripts were generally ALWAYS late, so this was hardly a big deal.
Ritsu got off on the fourth floor and tried desperately to ignore the suffering around him. Even though most everyone was sick, nobody had it in them to call in sick. As a result departments were full of half-dead editors and artists, groaning and crying from their sickness. The fact that they show up didn't seem admirable to Ritsu. That they continued to show up, whilst being sick, was primarily WHY the virus spread around as violently as it did!
He reached his department. "Ohayo gozaimasu," he greeted his coworkers glumly, quickly taking his seat.
Kisa Shouta garbled out a greeting, his face pressed into his desk while his red pen made the edits to storyboards as though on auto-pilot. If the flu surrounding them wasn't bad enough, they were also coming to the end of their 'hell week' cycle, which was further amplified by sick artists.
Ritsu groaned, and rubbed at his stomach. This isn't a healthy environment…and I don't just mean the flu…
A rolled up packet of paper came down hard upon his head. "Hurry up and get to work! We're way behind!"
Ritsu snarled, and glared over his shoulder as he nursed his head. "I know, Takano-san!"
Takano Masamune glared at him over his glasses before heading towards the front of the room. "Management's coming down hard on my ass because we're all healthy! So get on your writers' asses and tell them to get their shit in today!"
Everyone grumbled acknowledgement and began making phone calls. Ritsu was still rubbing his head as he started his phone calls, glaring at Takano. He didn't know at times what was more irritating. When Takano worked him half to death, or when Takano kissed him into submission. The fact that his boss was his ex-lover (maybe current? like he would ever admit it) made things even harder for him at times.
Then there was the fact that Ritsu could barely keep up his resistance when it came to Takano. His voice, his touches, his kisses…he melted like butter just the way Takano wanted. He would then find himself the recipient of a very thorough and intense lovemaking session that would make his head spin, his heart pound, and his body ache. Because he wasn't supposed to be having this relationship with Takano, not again! He promised himself he wouldn't fall in love again, and certainly not let Takano touch him again!
I, of course, failed at that. But I KNOW I don't love him!
Still, Ritsu knew that both himself and the rest of the department had Takano to thank for their current good health, while others dropped like flies all around them. Last month, maybe by divine intervention, Takano had forced them all to get flu shots, declaring if any of them got sick he would make their lives a living hell. So now all of them were flu-free while the rest of the building suffered.
Hatori Yoshiyuki hung up his phone with a sharp smack, though his face remained coolly calm. "Yoshikawa Chiharu apparently has both the flu and strep throat. I can't make out a word she's saying. I'm going to have to go check up on her personally."
"Tell her that I will personally come to her house if her manuscript isn't done!" Takano snapped.
Hatori looked at him coolly for a moment. "…Duly noted, Takano-san." He gathered his materials and prepared to leave. Yoshino Chiaki, the male artist who was actually Yoshiyuki Chiharu, was really dragging his feet this time. Then again, his whole team also had the flu, including the ever-annoying Yanase Yuu, much to Hatori's pleasure. But there was no denying the fact that Chiaki was late even before he got sick, so Hatori could hardly cut him any slack. Or stand up for him to his boss. "I will give you an update in three hours."
"Yamada-sensei's making too many mistakes," Kisa complained weakly. The storyboard in front of him showed mistakes in every frame. The hand holding his chin slipped slightly and he smacked his forehead on the desk. "Ow, ow, ow, ow…"
"Kisa, get it together! You aren't sick, so there's no excuse for slacking!"
Kisa had a fairly decent excuse, he felt, but he didn't dare say it out loud. But it had to do with why he was sitting at an angle in his desk. Yukina really didn't hold back last night. Since when do sick people have an increased sex drive?
Mino Kanade was still all smiles as he hung up the phone. "Tomoe-sensei has just told me she quits."
While everyone gaped and screamed in horror at him, Mino shrugged. "She told me, quote, "You are a bastard for trying to make me work with a cold!", en quote, and won't finish the ten storyboards she has to do."
Takano bit out a few curse words as he grabbed his phone and stomped this specific author's phone number onto his phone.
"I have your storyboard in front of me, Kumori-sensei," Ritsu said into the phone. He plugged his free ear as Takano proceeded to scream at Tomoe-sensei. "I like the set-up, but a few frames as smudged, and I can't make out dialogue or even some of the characters. Did you perhaps accidentally smear them before handing them in?"
"No," she responded. There was a peculiar edge to her voice. "I just sneezed on them a lot!"
Ritsu's jaw hung open in horror. The unsanitary storyboard slipped out his hands. "…P-Pardon?"
"YOU CAN QUIT AFTER YOU FINISH THE DAMN MANGA!" Takano shouted into the phone. "Until then, you had better have those ten storyboards finished!"
"Is that a problem?" Kumori-sensei asked snidely. "I do happen to have a cold, after all."
"I DON'T CARE IF YOUR VISION IS IMPAIRED! YOUR HANDS AREN'T IMPAIRED, ARE THEY?"
"E-Er…" Ritsu fumbled with his desk and pulled out a few sanitary napkins. "I-I just thought it would be strange for you to sneeze on your storyboards. After all, m-many people handle them after you hand them in, especially me."
"THE STORYBOARDS ARE EIGHT DAYS LATE!"
"…So? Do you have any idea how I feel and how uncomfortable I am? I can barely think, and I'm being hounded CONSTANTLY by you!"
"IF YOU HAVE THE ENERGY TO SCREAM AT ME, THEN YOU HAVE THE ENERGY TO DRAW! SO DO IT!"
"I-I-It's a matter of hygienics, really," Ritsu stammered, trying desperately to ignore Takano's screaming as he repeatedly wiped his hands with the sanitary napkins. "It almost looks like you use this storyboard as a tissue!"
"Are you saying I'm TOO STUPID to use a tissue?"
Ritsu blinked. "Haa?"
"Oh, I'M too stupid to wipe my nose with a tissue! Maybe I'm too stupid to finish the storyboards!"
Kumori-sensei hung up on him. Ritsu sighed heavily and hung up the phone. "Wow…that was bad…"
Takano civilly hung up the phone. "Tomoe-sensei will have her storyboards done and faxed over by four, Mino."
"All right!" Mino said cheerfully.
Ritsu gaped at him. How could he get the artist to finish her work after insulting and screaming at her, and yet mine refuses to do her job after I speak to her kindly?
"Done!" Kisa cheered, though his face was painfully exhausted. He giggled wearily as he picked up his phone. "Time to tell Yamada-sensei about the changes…she has to redo everything!" his laugh turned a little sad as he dialed. "I probably won't be leaving tonight…"
Ritsu slowly turned to his mountain of paperwork. He had storyboards from three different artists he had to proof, though Kumori-sensei's was the biggest pile. And most of the storyboards were smudgy messes because of her sneezing. "I second that, Kisa…"
There was a sudden 'thump' on the desk beside him. Ritsu cried out and jumped to his feet.
"Can you take care of these?—Thank you."
It was all spoken in a quick but casual rush. Ritsu first looked at the person who'd just arrived. "I-Isaka-san?"
Isaka Ryuichiro positively beamed at Ritsu. Unlike the rest of the building, he had been spared the flu as well. Though, he hadn't been by the offices in quite a while, and that was probably a primary reason. "I know I can count on you with this, Onodera-kun."
"'This'?" Ritsu finally looked down to address the 'thump' that had occurred. What he saw made his heart leap into his throat.
It was a manuscript printout. But not a manga manuscript. It was a literary manuscript, a massive pile of paper intended to be published as a book. His heart began to slam in his chest at the sight. It'd been too long since he'd seen such a thing. "T-This…" he slowly reached for the pile with a trembling hand.
A hand caught his wrist and jerked his arm back. "Isaka-san," Takano said. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Aikawa Eri-san just called in," Isaka said simply. "Or rather, she wanted to come in and we forced her to stay home. Apparently she has pneumonia. But her author is finished with his manuscript and there's no one around to edit it."
The grip around Ritsu's hand tightened, but Takano's face remained expressionless. "This is the shoujo manga department. Wouldn't this be better suited in the literature department?"
"The entire literature department has the flu," Isaka pointed out. "This type of book needs…attentive care. It's one of our most popular series to boot. It needs to be out on time, and I need someone with a clear head to edit it." He smiled slyly at Ritsu. "And you have plenty of experience with this, right Onodera-kun?"
Without releasing Ritsu, Takano picked up the cover page and held it in front of him. "'Pure Love Romantica: Volume 20' by Akikawa Yayoi."
Behind him, Kisa subtly spewed out his coffee. "A-A-Ah, no Yamada-sensei, I'm okay—"
"Volume 20?" Ritsu echoed. "Whoa, that does sound like a popular series!"
"Why a printout?" Takano asked, placing the cover page back on the pile. "Where's the digital copy?"
"Aikawa-san's apartment," Isaka said. "But she's too contagious to retrieve it from her."
"Then the author—"
"He won't return my calls," Isaka said bluntly.
"Eh…" Ritsu kept looking between the pile and Isaka. It was too good to be true. He wanted Ritsu to edit a novel? Finally, he would be able to work on a book?
"So, will you do this for me, Onodera-kun?" Isaka said. There was a hint of smugness in his tone. "You will get a bonus, of course, for doing this."
The money hardly mattered to Ritsu. Just knowing he was finally being offered a book to edit suddenly made the world so much brighter. Not bothering to ask Takano, he positively beamed at Isaka. "I can edit a book this size in five hours flat!"
"Good!" Isaka cheered. "Then I know I can trust you to turn this back over to the…author tomorrow at his apartment. Then he can make the necessary changes!"
Ritsu nodded eagerly. "Absolutely!"
Ritsu watched Isaka go, unable to contain his joy. I'm going to edit a book! I'm going to edit a BOOK!
"Onodera," Takano said suddenly.
"Huh?" Ritsu looked at him. "What is it?"
"How do you expect to edit this book by tomorrow when you still have to edit the storyboards of three artists?"
Ritsu's good mood immediately deflated. He'd completely forgotten about that. "I-I said I would do it, and so I will!" Shit, shit…
Pure Love Romantica: Volume 20 remained piled solitarily on the desk as Ritsu struggled through the day. Kisa ended up spending two hours on the phone with Yamada-sensei over her storyboards. Most of which was spent trying to reassure her because she was crying so much.
Hatori ended up not coming back to the office, but he did call Takano to let him know that Chiharu was "almost there" with the storyboards. And Tomoe-sensei faxed in her remaining storyboards at exactly four pm. That seemed to be enough for Takano, but he kept riding Ritsu's ass about getting his storyboards done.
Ritsu sighed heavily, and carefully stacked Kumori's gross storyboards in their own pile. This had been simple at least. Because she had seemed intent on getting revenge on them for making her work during her sickness, her storyboards were completely illegible. That meant, despite her anger, she was going to have to redo all of them. Ritsu tried to find it in him to feel sorry for her, but he couldn't. She'd just ended up creating more work for herself.
That only left Mutou's and Kaitou's storyboards, and he was nearly done with Kaitou's. Blinking the haziness from his vision, Ritsu double-checked the clock. It had just turned six.
"I'm going to finish my work at home," he announced, standing up. More than half of the office had left anyways and only himself, Takano, and Kisa remained.
Takano narrowed his eyes at him over his glasses. "Finish your storyboards before editing the book!"
"I know!" Ritsu snapped.
"Huh…" Kisa was still wheezing, as he had been throughout the day. "Yamada-sensei still hasn't sent me her proofs…I have to cancel…" he pulled out his cell phone with shaking fingers and began to text-message someone.
Probably someone he was planning on meeting, Ritsu surmised. He spared a measure of sympathy for Kisa as he gathered his mountain of paperwork. Unfortunately, it was only after he tried to lift up the literary manuscript did he begin to second-guess himself. It was heavy! And he also had to carry his storyboards as well!
I can do it, he told himself. He glared in Takano's direction, while his boss simply smirked at him. I can get these storyboards done and I can get these edits done too!
Still, by the time he arrived in the lobby he was beyond exhausted. And he still had to carry all of his stuff to the station, and then from there to his apartment. Why did he always bite off more than he could chew? He may have to call a cab at this point!
"Eh?" Ritsu looked over his shoulder. "What is…" he trailed off slowly.
"I'm looking for Kisa Shouta," the stranger told him cheerfully. His voice was muffled by his facemask, but his eyes were shining. He held up what looked like a bento box wrapped tightly. "I have a special delivery for him."
"F-Fourth floor," Ritsu sputtered. "Just ask for the Emerald Department and you'll find him."
"Arigato." The man turned on his heel and headed for the elevator.
Ritsu stared after him for a moment. I-Is that really a delivery person? He doesn't look like it…
"I have to cancel…"
Ritsu blinked. Kisa mentioned having to cancel on someone. Was this the person?
No, I'm reading too much into this. He shook his head as he proceeded to trudge out the building. And it's none of my business…
The train ended up being delayed. Ritsu sighed again as he sat on a bench waiting for the train. I'll never get home at this rate!
He stared down at the literary manuscript in his arms. Takano had warned him not to edit it before editing his storyboards. But his storyboards were already tucked into his bag. And he needed something to do…
All right, Akikawa Yayoi-sensei. Ritsu reached into his bag and pulled out a red pen. Let's see what you're made of.
He removed the cover page and saw the first chapter ready. "'The silence that engulfed the building had more resonance than a simple bang or a scream…'"
Ritsu was on the sixth page by the time the train arrived. He was absolutely amazed with Akikawa's writing abilities and style. The first six pages had no grammatical errors on them, or awkward sentences or paragraphs. It all flowed so smoothly. It made editing the story that much better.
But…there was something that bothered Ritsu as he took a seat on the train, his gaze not lifting from the page. The storytelling was very compelling, but…something seemed odd about this work. He'd worked with so many authors in the past, and he knew each one of them had their own style of storytelling.
Akikawa Yayoi…this was absolutely the first time he was working with this author, but his style…it seemed too familiar to him.
Ritsu shook his head as he focused on the page. He was probably reading into the context too much. And he was exhausted…he was probably seeing things that weren't there.
He focused on the words on the page. "'Akihiko could admit a measure of frustration as he sized up the one who had been his lover for far too long. "Misaki," he said at length. "I am not being unreasonable. You tell me so much with your body, but I want to hear them in words.'"
'Misaki could feel heat on his cheeks—'"
Ritsu's jaw dropped. He reread the line over and over again. Wait, what? Akihiko and Misaki, the couple in the story, were both guys? Did he miss something? He relooked at the other pages. He hadn't been too immersed in the storytelling, just looking for any errors that popped out at him. Looking back at the previous pages, Ritsu realized he missed a lot of the story!
He was on page thirty when he reached his stop. And by then he couldn't deny the content any longer.
This is a BL novel!
Ritsu was scandalized he'd been reading such a thing in front of other people on the train. He thought of Isaka, who'd given him this assignment. He'd said this was a bestselling series, but never mentioned it was a gay romance novel!
He probably thought I already knew the work, Ritsu reasoned with himself.
Despite being embarrassed, Ritsu couldn't lift his head from the pages as he walked home from the station. The storytelling really was compelling. He couldn't almost feel Akihiko's frustration in the story to hear Misaki say 'I love you'. Or at least it was conveyed properly.
Is this how Takano-san feels at times?
Ritsu had a sudden shiver, but he quickly shook his head. No, no! This isn't a dead ringer or ANYTHING like that!
Unfortunately for Ritsu, things got heated in the story the minute he walked through his front door.
"'Having none of the grace that usually led him, Akihiko picked Misaki up and threw him upon the couch. Before Misaki could blink, his pants were off and Akihiko's head had descended upon his—'"
Ritsu screamed, and dropped the manuscript in his entryway, the pages strewing across the floor. Swearing profusely, it took him twenty minutes to re-organize the manuscript. He scrubbed a hand over his face. I have to stop this! This novel…this weird, perverted novel is just secondary! I need to focus on my storyboards!
Two hours later, after a hot shower and a quick snack, Ritsu was sitting on his couch, Pure Love Romantica: Volume 20 still clenched in his hands. His storyboards sat lonely on his coffee table.
It was an absolute struggle to get through the sex scene.
"'Misaki thrashed around on the couch, lifting his hips to the eager mouth that enveloped him. "Ahh…ummm…" his breathing grew haggard, and he wove both hands into Akihiko's hair. "Akihiko-san…Akihiko-san…ooh…" he suddenly sat up as the familiar heat spread in his abdomen. "Wait…wait! I'm going to—'"
Ritsu quickly reached for a tissue to plug his nose before blood dripped onto the manuscript. The scene was written flawlessly; no grammatical errors. That meant he could skip it, right?
Then why couldn't he stop reading it? And why did the writing style seem so familiar to him? He would've remembered if he worked with Akikawa-sensei before!
"'Legs wrapped around his shoulders, Akihiko bent his body over Misaki's. Misaki looked up at him with his beautiful green eyes, his innocent face always holding his blush. "I will dirty your body," Akihiko rasped. "Until you tell me you love me."'
""Akihiko-san," Misaki moaned, pressing his mouth to Akihiko's. "Dirty me…fill me up and make me feel good and dirty…""
Ritsu screamed in shock, and grabbed for the tissue in his nose. "You won't say you love him but you'll say something THAT PERVERTED? What's wrong with you?"
His cell phone suddenly rang. Ritsu yelped and dropped the manuscript as he reached for his phone. "Y-Yes?"
"Why aren't you working on your storyboards?" Takano screamed at him on the other line.
Ritsu held the phone away from his ear. Did Takano hear his reaction? "I-I-I am working on my storyboards—" he began.
There was a sudden loud thud at his front door as it was violently kicked open. "NO, YOU'RE NOT!"
Ritsu yelped, and hung up his phone. He frantically shuffled the manuscript to cover up that he'd been reading a sex scene and slid off the couch to the floor, grabbing the nearest storyboard and tossing his bloody tissues into a nearby waste basket. "I'm working really hard! Get out of my house!"
Takano shook his cell phone at him at him like he was wagging a finger as he stormed through the filthy main room. "I told you to edit your storyboards before editing the novel!"
"That's what I'm doing!" Ritsu snapped, glaring at Mutou-sensei's storyboard so he wouldn't have to look at Takano. "I didn't invite you in!"
Takano didn't respond to this. He looked at the novel pile. "So you've been working on your storyboards this whole time?"
Takano picked up the top piece of paper and showed it to Ritsu. "Then how do you explain this?"
Ritsu looked up then, and froze. His red pen had made a clear underline underneath a sentence, with ¶ (?) written beside it, indicating he felt the sentence could be part of its own paragraph. "Uh…er…"
"I'll get the coffee ready," Takano said, placing the sheet back down and heading into Ritsu's kitchenette. "Where do you keep it?"
"The far left cupboard," Ritsu said. He realized himself and punched the coffee table. "Wait, get out! You barged in here uninvited!"
"Do you still like a lot of sugar in your coffee?" Takano asked, scooping several spoonfuls of coffee grinds into the coffee maker before turning it on.
"For crying out loud, listen to me! If you broke my front door, you'd better pay for it! And I'll make you sorry if I lose my deposit!"
"The coffee will be ready in a minute." Takano continued without skipping a beat, as though Ritsu wasn't screaming at him. He took a seat on the couch, while Ritsu remained sitting on the floor.
"What are you doing?" Ritsu growled with clear frustration. "You barged into my apartment, helped yourself to my coffee, and refuse to leave!"
"We're neighbors," Takano said, as though that explained everything. He picked up the top page of the novel. "Since you seem intent on making things difficult for the rest of us, I'll edit this book while you finish your storyboards."
"W-What?" Ritsu gaped at him as Takano surveyed his previous edit before moving onto the next page. "Thank you, but that's not necessary—"
"At the rate you're going, you won't be in bed until five in the morning," Takano said blandly, pulling his red pen out of his pocket. "Just focus on your actual work, and I'll take care of this side job that was dumped on you."
Ritsu turned back to the storyboard, feeling very uncomfortable with Takano's presence. "I-I accepted the job. It wasn't dumped on me—"
"One of our directors gave you a manuscript to edit, placing full vocal faith in you. That sounds a lot like 'dumping' a job on someone, Onodera."
"Whatever." Ritsu rubbed at his forehead. "Do what you want."
Takano smiled at him. "Always do."
Ritsu rolled his eyes as he turned back to the storyboards.
"Did you take a shower?" Takano asked randomly.
Ritsu glared at him. "Yes. So what?"
"…Nothing." Takano turned back to the manuscript.
Ritsu remembered then the content of the book. How might Takano react to reading a BL novel? He briefly considered warning Takano of the content, but it was brief. He bit his tongue and focused on his storyboards.
Time stretched on as they each sat there and worked in silence. Akikawa's skill did seem to shine. Ritsu kept stealing quick glances at Takano. A forbidden part of him was happy to see Takano willing to help him with his work, when he knew his boss had plenty of work of his own that he needed to take care of.
But…there was a devious side to Ritsu. He wanted to see Takano's reaction to some of the more outrageous material in Pure Love Romantica. Whether it is Akihiko's overblown love for Misaki or their graphic sex scenes, Ritsu wanted to see Takano falter or show shock at the content.
Only…it didn't happen. Takano read each page like he was reading a newspaper. His expression didn't change once as he carefully read the work, and very rarely used his red pen to make an edit. He only stopped when he went to get them coffee. Ritsu accepted it gratefully, and tried to focus on Mutou-sensei's storyboard.
Good, good. She's really on her game this time. Maybe swap these two…this panel for sure is perfect…
"This is an interesting book," Takano said, breaking the prolonged silence.
"Eh?" Ritsu looked up briefly before looking back at the storyboard. "T-That's nice…"
"The storytelling is amazing, and the romance is believable," Takano added bluntly.
"This scene is pretty good." Takano held up the page. "Should I read it out loud?"
Ritsu stiffened, and laughed weakly. "That's not really necessary…"
"We're just sitting here in silence," Takano pointed out. "Besides, it's very compelling."
Ritsu had a terrible feeling about this. "What is it about?" he immediately regretted asking it.
Takano narrowed his eyes at him. "The love confession."
Ritsu lurched, but covered it up with a laugh. "So Misaki does confess his feelings?" he realized what he said and laughed more uncomfortably. "T-That might distract me."
"Nonsense." Takano hoisted the papers up. "Just focus on your storyboards, and I'll just read this one scene. That's all."
Ritsu had a feeling that Takano had a hidden agenda by reading Misaki's "love confession". At the same time, such a scene couldn't be as bad as one of the book's sex scenes. "Fine, whatever. You're going to do it anyways."
Takano smiled. "Thank you." he lifted the first page.
Ritsu sighed, and picked up his red pen again as he took a sip of coffee.
"'The grip pinning Misaki's hands to the wall above his head was unwavering,'" Takano began in a bland, monotone voice. "'He could only writhe and wiggle his hips, grinding his backside into Akihiko's growing arousal as Akihiko pumped him in his fist—'"
Ritsu quickly turned his head and spat his coffee onto the floor. He'd narrowly avoided spewing it all over the storyboards. "Y-Y-You asshole!" He choked. "You said this was a love confession scene!"
"It is," Takano said. "This is part of the scene."
Ritsu coughed and sputtered, scrubbing at his mouth and slamming the cup back onto the table. "Well, warn me if the love confession is really a sex scene!"
"Oh, I don't know if it's a full sex scene really. Akihiko's just jerking him off until he admits his feelings."
A shudder crept up Ritsu's spine as he picked up the storyboard. "T-That's enough. I don't need to hear anymo—"
"'Misaki gulped for air. "Akihiko-san!"'" Takano continued regardless. "'"My body can't handle it!" Akihiko pressed his mouth to Misaki's ear. "Then tell me that you love me." Misaki felt the burning warmth of his impending release as Akihiko's hand rubbed mercilessly up and down over his length. "I-I can't…"'"
Ritsu closed his eyes and counted to ten. He didn't know what was worse; that Takano was reading this out loud, or that his voice remained monotone. Then again, he was relieved that Takano wasn't punctuating the scene with an overly sensual voice.
"'"You will tell me you love me," Akihiko insisted. His teeth nipped at Misaki's ear. "Just hearing it means more to me than making love to your body. "I can't!" Misaki pleaded, pressing his forehead against the wall. "Yes, you can."Akihiko stroked him in his fist. "It's so simple. Tell me you love me."'"
"Takano-san—" Just hurry up and say you love him, idiot, so he'll stop reading!
"'"I can't!" Misaki wailed. The warm pleasure shaking his body was too much to deny. "Ahhh…mmmm…"'"
Ritsu flushed as Takano read aloud Misaki's groans of pleasure, still in a monotone voice. "'"Tell me you love me." "No!" "Say you love me." "Oooh…I can't…" "Please say it. You say it so much with your body, but it's far more beautiful with your voice." "Akihiko-san—"'"
"Takano-san, please!" Ritsu snapped, throwing down Mutou-sensei's storyboard again. "This is distracting me! Please just KNOCK IT OFF!"
"The confession is in the next paragraph," Takano said.
Ritsu scoffed, and scrubbed a hand over his face. "And once the scene's done you'll stop reading it out loud?"
"Fine." Ritsu again picked up the storyboard and tried to focus on edits.
"'Misaki could feel the agony of his denied release, but he felt it was like a metaphor of Akihiko's hurt feelings'," Takano continued blandly. "'If he hurt this much physically, how much did it hurt Akihiko in his heart that he couldn't ever hear the words "I love you?" Akihiko's heavy breathing at his ear, and the looks he'd been giving Misaki lately, always had a twinge of sadness in them. Misaki always felt pain in his heart when he saw Akihiko sad, but knowing he was causing his suffering this time was like a fatal blow. What could it hurt to just say it? They both knew it, and it was all Akihiko asked of him.
'"Akihiko-san!" he gasped. Misaki suddenly turned his head and found Akihiko's mouth. Akihiko was unyielding to the kiss. More than sex, he just wanted to hear the feelings from his beloved. Misaki kissed his mouth and licked at his teeth with his tongue. Green eyes met violet ones as he broke free of the kiss and looked at his lover very intently. "Akihiko-san…I'm so sorry. I'm torturing you unnecessarily over this. Especially since I…" Feeling the heat creep back onto his cheeks, Misaki turned his head forward again. "I love you, Akihiko-san."'"
Ritsu sighed in relief, and began focusing his edits on Mutou-sensei's storyboard. It's over…
"'With a feral growl, Akihiko released Misaki's hands'," Takano surprisingly continued. "'He ripped his pants down to his ankles and dropped to his knees. Misaki braced his now free hands against the wall as Akihiko spread his cheeks and began licking ravenously at his hole—'"
"URK!" Ritsu lurched in shock, and his red pen slip. Right before his horrified eyes, the pen marked straight through Mutou-sensei's aforementioned perfect frame. "TAKANO-SAN!"
"What?" Takano asked bluntly.
"You said you would stop reading after the confession!" Ritsu barked, turning to his boss. "Look what you made me do! I ruined Mutou-sensei's perfect frame!" he shoved the storyboard in Takano's face.
"This is only the first love confession in the scene," Takano said. He picked up a couple of pages from the pile. "Misaki ends up confessing his love nine more times while they have sex."
"You're interfering with my work!" Ritsu said desperately. "Please just stop reading the story out loud! I get the point!"
Takano arched an eyebrow. "Do you, now?"
Ritsu stiffened. He knew it. Takano had read the love confession scene out loud to him for a very specific reason. He was trying to bait and provoke Ritsu. "Just…please get out." Ritsu scrubbed a hand over his face tiredly. "I don't want to ruin anymore of my artist's storyboards."
"Mistakes happen, and this is just a rough draft," Takano said. "How many more do you have to edit?"
"Two for Mutou-sensei and two for Kaitou-sensei."
"I only have ten more pages to go. I won't read it out loud anymore, so just focus on the storyboards."
Ritsu grunted, and wrote a small note on the storyboard that the offending red line was a mistake. Thankfully, Kaitou-sensei's remaining storyboards had very few edits that needed attending, and Mutou-sensei took to heart previous suggestions by both Ritsu and Takano and applied them to her current frames.
"Done," Takano said, capping his red pen and stacking up the novel. "How about you, Onodera?"
"One more frame…done!" Ritsu cheered with relief. "Now I need to fax these back to the artists!"
"Have you contacted Kumori-sensei about her frames?" Takano asked, leaning his chin into his hand as Ritsu took his storyboards to the fax machine.
"Rather than sending them all back to her, I sent her a note letting her know she would have to redo them," Ritsu said. He laughed feebly. "She might email me a virus over this…"
"Then she should learn not to be childish. Flu season occurs around the same time every year, and yet people refuse to prepare for it. Sneezing all over storyboards in a weak attempt at revenge hurts her work and credibility. And because of this, she's not going to be in the upcoming issue. Ultimately though, it's her fans that are going to suffer the most for the delay."
"Yeah…" Ritsu calmly fed each storyboard into the fax machine. "I guess we're just lucky we didn't get sick."
"Luck had nothing to do with it," Takano said. "You just got a flu shot, that's all."
"Hmm." Ritsu noticed that Takano was still hanging around the apartment. Never mind that the book edits were done, and so were the storyboard edits. Ritsu picked up the pace with the faxing, hoping this would be enough of an incentive to make Takano leave. "There's the last one. My work's all done, so you can le…"
Ritsu trailed off very slowly as a warm body pressed against his back. Before he could react a hand caught his chin and twisted his head to the side. "Tak—"
Takano cut him off with a sensual kiss that sent shivers straight to his toes. Ritsu groaned involuntarily, and Takano took the opportunity to ravish his mouth. Still holding his chin, Takano turned his body around so that they faced each other, and pinned him to the side of the table.
God, no, no! Ritsu realized he was melting into Takano's arm too easily again. He had to take control of the situation! Still, his arms felt like lead as he reached up and pushed pitifully at Takano's chest. It was enough though to break the kiss. "Stop it, Takano-san!"
Takano said nothing, only narrowing his eyes into slits as he slammed his mouth over Ritsu's once more. And that was it…resistance fled his body. Those same hands that pushed Takano now curled into his shirt and his head tilted back all on its own in full invitation of the kiss. Shit, shit!
Surprisingly, it was Takano who abruptly broke the kiss this time. Without saying a word he dropped to his knees. "W-What—" Ritsu sputtered.
Takano jabbed his shoulder into Ritsu's stomach and lifted the man clear over his shoulder. "W-Wait, WAIT!" Ritsu shouted. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Taking you to your bedroom, obviously," Takano answered, strolling towards the room in question. "I've had enough of doing it on the floor."
Takano stopped though when he entered the room, and saw the mountain of clothes piled all over Ritsu's bed. Ritsu flushed with embarrassment that Takano see this, even though Takano had seen most of his filthy house anyway.
"…Is this why you're sleeping on the floor all the time?" Takano asked slowly.
Ritsu grunted, but didn't give a straight answer. Takano sighed heavily. "Idiot…"
He stormed over to the bed, with Ritsu still draped over his shoulder. With his free hand he knocked the entire pile off the bed and straight to the floor.
"Hey, HEY!" Ritsu shouted as he tossed onto the bed. "Now you've made a mess in my room!"
Takano snorted. "Now your bed is free." And quickly joined him.
Ritsu didn't know if it was a curse or a blessing that Takano had been his first and current lover. Takano seemed to have his body mapped out, and knew how to get a rise out of him. He knew where to kiss, where to touch, and Ritsu would twist around shamelessly, groaning helplessly and almost begging for more.
"I was thinking…" Takano drawled, suddenly pressing Ritsu onto his stomach. "Of that book we edited…"
"Don't remind me," Ritsu said irritably. "What does it have to do with right now?"
"Hmm, I don't know." Takano's hand slid down his bare back, leaving his skin tingling, until he came to the top of his pajama pants. "Perhaps, since we worked so hard at it, that we might try a few things."
Ritsu's eyes widened, and he tried to sit up. "W-Wait a minute! You're not going to torture me into a confession!"
Takano easily pinned him down. "You think so low of me. But are you saying you wouldn't enjoy such activities?" the hand on Ritsu's hip slipped down over his butt, and the fingers slid between the crease of his cheeks. "I do enjoy having you come to me to make love."
"That didn't happen this time—ah!" Ritsu gasped, and arched his body as Takano's fingers rubbed through his pants over his entrance. The friction sent electrical shivers throughout his body and he moaned. His body relaxed once more, and his hips involuntarily angled him in such a way to increase the contact. "T-Takano-san—"
"I have to wonder, though." Takano rested his head on the back of Ritsu's shoulder, closing his eyes for a moment. "That you have to love me."
"W-WHAT?" Ritsu hollered.
Takano opened his eyes. "You sleep with me constantly, you hardly push me away anymore when I kiss you, and you want to know as much about me as I do you."
"T-That…" Ritsu pressed his face into his pillow. "I-I don't…" he trailed off as Takano started to rub him again.
"What's that?" Takano asked calmly, leaning his head up to look at Ritsu's face. "I'm all ears. I'll listen to anything you tell me."
"I can't think when you touch me!" Ritsu shouted. To his growing embarrassment his body acted on its own, moving against the rubbing fingers.
Takano smiled wryly. "Well…I am good at it, as you know."
"Another time, then?" Takano pulled away from him suddenly. Surprised, Ritsu was about to ask him what was wrong when Takano fluidly yanked his pants off. Before Ritsu could react, Takano had descended upon him, spreading his cheeks and licking at him.
Don't tell me he's—AH! Ritsu threw his head back and cried out. His hands tore at his sheets as Takano licked and flicked at his entrance, squeezing his butt hard in his hands. Ritsu couldn't hold back his voice as delicious jolts kept shooting through his body. He really couldn't think when Takano touched him. He couldn't think about how Takano was copying the book, or how embarrassing this was.
Takano pulled away, leaving Ritsu gasped for air and trying not to long too much for that feeling back. Takano lifted his hips and angled them in just the right way. Ritsu heard him unzip his fly, but he'd stopped telling Takano to stop long before. He only locked his jaw and braced himself on the sheets as Takano slowly pushed inside him. I can't believe it…
Ritsu knew it was becoming harder and harder to deny it, even though he'd accidentally blurted it out to Takano before. Takano gave his body pleasure, but Ritsu felt heat in his chest and his heart was hammering wildly. The words wanted to spill out of him as his body was rocked.
Takano pressed his body over Ritsu's back, and his mouth kissed his ear. "I love you, Ritsu."
No matter how many times he said it, the impact it left on Ritsu was never lost. His head turned, and their lip met in a sensual kiss as Takano to move atop him, his hand sliding around Ritsu's front to stroke him. Ritsu broke the kiss and cried out as his body shook violently from his orgasm.
I can't tell him…or rather, I won't. But at least this isn't like some BL novel or manga.
The next morning, a weary Ritsu stood in front of the massive apartment building that housed Akikawa Yayoi. The sight of the building though put him in a better mood. I know this building. One of my former authors lives here…
He double-checked the apartment number on the slip of paper Takano gave him and rang this apartment's doorbell. It was a long moment before an answer came. "Yes, who is it?" Was this Akikawa Yayoi? He sounded so young!
"I'm Onodera," he said into the intercom. "I'm here in Aikawa-san's place to deliver Akikawa-sensei's manuscript."
"Akikawa-san?" the resident asked. "That name doesn't sound familiar…"
"Akikawa Yayoi," Ritsu clarified. He looked at the paper again. Am I at the wrong place?
"Akikawa Yay—ERK!" the man sputtered for a few moments before he calmed down. "Y-You mean Usagi-san! Right, come on in!"
Usagi-san? Ritsu shrugged, and cradled the manuscript to his chest as he was let into the building. He took the elevator to the top floor, where he knew the penthouses were located. Well, they DID say he was a popular author…
Ritsu found the apartment in question and knocked on the door. A cheerful young man with bright green eyes greeted him at the door. "Come on in! Usagi-san's getting ready right now, but he should be right down!"
"A-Arigato," Ritsu stammered. A feeling of nostalgia though overtook him as he was welcomed inside. This apartment seemed too familiar to him. It was the same couches, same setup…
It was when he saw the teddy bears randomly assembled throughout the main room did he freeze in his tracks. Wait…wait a minute!
"Misaki." The familiar voice at the top of the stairs shook Ritsu's body. "Is the—ah!"
Ritsu turned around and gaped. Snuggling a giant teddy bear to his chest at the top of the stairs stood Usami Akihiko. His former client stared back at him with equal shock. The lit cigarette hung from his mouth at a low angle, as though it were ready to fall out.
The young man—Misaki—looked between the two of them. "I-Is something wrong?"
Usami's shock faded, and a wry smile formed as he made his way downstairs. "It's been a while, Onodera-san."
"U-U-Usami-sensei," Ritsu sputtered, the shock still shaking him. "It was you? You're Akikawa Yayoi-sensei?"
"That's one of my pennames," Usami said. He reached out and shook Ritsu's hand. "It's good to see you. When they told me they had a temporary replacement for Aikawa, they didn't tell me it was you."
Ritsu shrugged. "I'm working with shoujo manga now, but everyone in our literature department is sick. I was sort of a last-minute call."
"And I appreciate it. Here, let me introduce you." Usami waved a hand suddenly. "Misaki."
Ritsu stiffened, taking in the name for the first time. M-Misaki?
"This is Onodera Ritsu," Usami introduced. "He was one of my first editors. You've probably heard enough that I won the Naomori Award, right? Well, he edited the book that won it."
"R-Really?" Misaki sputtered. "That's incredible!" he shook Ritsu's hand vigorously. "It's a pleasure to meet you! I'm Takahashi Misaki!"
"L-Likewise," Ritsu said, forcing a smile. He had an uneasy feeling in his chest that he tried to shake away. "Y-You seem familiar to me, Takahashi-san."
"He also works for Marukawa Publishing," Usami said. "However, I heard you guys have a bit of a…pandemic, so he hasn't been to work lately."
"You won't let me leave!" Misaki snapped. He quickly blushed when he realized what he said. "I-I mean…" he covered his embarrassment up with a weak laugh.
Ritsu looked between the two suspiciously. Usami-sensei is really Akikawa Yayoi. He's living with a man named Misaki. And Sensei's first name is Akihiko…
Realization dawned on him, and he quickly ducked his head to cover up his blush. NOW it makes sense…
"I appreciate you editing my story, especially when you have other work to do," Usami said. He held out his hand. "I'll take a look at those edits now."
"R-Right!" Ritsu said. He shoved the manuscript at Usami, but a couple of pages slipped out of the pile to the floor.
"What's this book about?" Misaki asked, picking up the pages. "But since you used your penname I can only…"
He trailed off ominously as he slowly read the page he picked up. After a few seconds his whole face turned red from embarrassment…and rage. "I TOLD YOU NOT TO WRITE THIS GARBAGE!"
"It's fiction," Usami said. "So I can write what I want."
"Since WHEN have I EVER told you to "make me feel dirty"?" Misaki shrieked, unmindful of Ritsu staring at him blankly. "You say it's fiction, but you put ME IN THE STORY and make me say DISGUSTING THINGS!"
He shredded both papers in seconds. Ritsu screamed. "No, no! That's the only copy of the edits!"
Misaki ignored him, and ripped the rest of the manuscript out of Usami's hands. "I'm not letting you publish another volume of this crap!"
"Stop it, STOP IT PLEASE!" Ritsu shrieked as Misaki continued to rip the manuscript apart. "I spent all night editing that, and I have no digital copy!"
Misaki laughed with triumph as two-hundred plus pages of torn apart manuscript covered the floor. Ritsu dropped to his knees in horror. Oh, my God! It was all for nothing! The humiliation of reading this, and having TAKANO-SAN read it to me! Now it's all gone!
"That's fine," Usami said smugly. "Onodera-san's boss already emailed me the edits."
Ritsu quickly lifted his head. "Eh?"
"No, NO!" Misaki screamed. "Delete the email! I don't want any more of these stories being published!"
"I have to apologize, Onodera-san," Usami address Ritsu, completely ignoring Misaki. "But it seems you were an unfortunate keg in Isaka-san's wheel of manipulation."
"…Pardon?" Ritsu said weakly.
"He gave you only a hard copy of the manuscript, not because he couldn't get a digital copy, but to torture me to read each and every page to find faults."
"Plus…" Usami leaned a little closer. "He wanted you to lessen your opinion of me."
Ritsu gaped at him in silence. Usami continued. "I owe my initial success to you, after all. Since we both work at Marukawa under him now, he wanted to humiliate me by exposing this side of me to you."
So it wasn't because we were shorthanded, or of my experience with literature editing? Ritsu thought with horror. Isaka-san DELIBERATELY chose me to edit this book for the express purpose of STICKING IT TO USAMI-SENSEI?
"I hope this hasn't lessened your view of me, though," Usami said.
Ritsu stiffly shook his head. "I knew the writing style looked very familiar. You're a bestselling author in any genre you write for, Usami-sensei. I couldn't possibly looked down on you for this."
Usami smiled very slightly. "Thank you."
"PLEASE don't publish the book!" Misaki wailed.
"But I'm up to twenty volumes and have an anime," Usami pointed out. "My fans would be very disappointed if I just simply stop."
"I don't care! I don't want MY name being used for BL!"
Ritsu groaned, and rubbed at his stomach. I'm tired…
Ritsu arrived at the office to see Yokozawa Takafumi and Takano once again screaming at each other. Though Yokozawa was also sick, the only indicator of his poor health was the mask over his face. Otherwise, he looked the same as he always did.
"What's this about only HALF of your authors being ready for publication?" Yokozawa shouted. Even his voice sounded strong, despite his flu. "That's unacceptable! How the hell do we advertise HALF of our usual lineup?"
"Half is better than nothing!" Takano shouted back at him. "Just be grateful for that! The Sapphire Department only has three stories done, and don't get me started on the literature departments!"
"We're not talking about other departments! We're talking about THIS department, and the fact that you guys aren't delivering…AGAIN!"
"I'd say having more stories ready than the ENTIRE BUILDING is delivering!"
"Where is Kumori's story?" Yokozawa demanded, suddenly changing topics. "Her story arc is supposed to end THIS MONTH and we've been advertising it for weeks! Onodera!" Yokozawa spun around and saw Ritsu standing at the doorway. He narrowed his eyes over his mask. "So glad to see you actually show up!"
"I-I had to drop off a manuscript to an author this morning," Ritsu explained.
"Why isn't your author on time?" Yokozawa snarled, advancing on him. "She left off on a cliff hanger in her last entry! If we don't get the latest installment out IMMEDIATELY, we're going to lose money!"
"I-I-I'm sorry," Ritsu stammered. "But she's r-really sick—"
"What does that matter? Her fans are awaiting the conclusion of her story arc! Half of the damned emails we've been getting are fans wondering whether or not Kuki is going to choose Yoshimi or Haru!"
"Yuki," Ritsu corrected feebly. "The heroine's name is Yuki, not Kuki."
"I don't care!" Yokozawa hollered. "Where's her manuscript?"
"It's on my desk," Ritsu said, waving a hand to it. "B-But she deliberately sneezed all over everything. She has to redo it, so it won't be out on time."
Yokozawa's glare deepened. "Why am I not surprised to expect something like this from you?"
Ritsu bristled. "Wait a minute—"
"Yokozawa," Takano cut in sharply. "Kumori's decision to sneeze on all of her storyboards was her own choosing. Onodera didn't hold a gun to her head and force her to do it. If you have any problems, call her and yell at her about it." He shoved a slip of paper into Yokozawa's hand. "Here's her number."
Yokozawa glared at the number, then at Takano, then at Ritsu. "Fine. But half of the artists being ready isn't acceptable!"
He stormed off before anyone else could say anything. When he was out of sight though, he allowed himself to cough.
"So the author accepted the edits?" Takano asked.
"Y-Yes," Ritsu stammered. "Usa—I-I mean, Akikawa-san was very open-minded. Although I wish you had told me you'd written a list of edits separately and then emailed them to him." You bastard! Putting me through all that!
Takano smirked. "You didn't ask. Now get to work, Onodera!"
Ritsu muttered a few swear words as Takano walked away. He turned to walk to his desk…and stopped dead. "W-W-WHAT? What is this?"
His desk was covered in tall piles of books. While normally this would thrill him, the books covered every inch of his workspace. Ritsu plucked a book off the top of one of the piles and looked at the cover. "'Romance Belongs in the Student Council Office' by Yayoi Akikawa?" he saw the two boys cuddling on the cover and dropped the book reflexively. He snatched another book up. "'Pure Love Romantica' by Akikawa Yayoi?" he began ruffling violently through the pile. Volumes one through nineteen of Pure Love Romantica were piled there, in addition to a truckload of other BL stories. "Takano-san!"
"What?" Takano asked.
"WHY is my desk covered in books by Akikawa-sensei?"
"Your desk already has dolls and rabbit plush toys," Mino said cheerfully. "What's couple of BL books going to hurt any?"
"Hmm?" Takano craned his neck forward to look. "Oh, that. That's your thank you."
"Aikawa-san called in to say thank you for handling your edits, and wanted to do you a favor." Takano turned back to his storyboards. "Since you seemed to like the newest manuscript, I agreed with her when she offered you every one of Akikawa-sensei's works."
"Wow, that's all of them?" Kisa cheered, looking at the pile.
"WHY would you tell her I like reading BLs?" Ritsu shrieked, advancing upon Takano's desk. "And I DIDN'T LIKE the book I edited!"
"You chose the assignment enthusiastically," Mino pointed out smilingly.
"I didn't know Akikawa-sensei wrote gay romance novels!"
"He's our most popular BL writer," Hatori said blandly. "How could you not know?"
"They have a point," Takano said smugly.
Realization dawned on Ritsu and he gaped in horror and rage at Takano. "You KNEW! You knew this whole time that Isaka-san was saddling me with a BL author! You knew and you SAID NOTHING!"
Takano shrugged remorselessly. "You were going to accept it anyways."
"WHY didn't you tell me?" Ritsu shrieked. Behind him, Kisa was ruffling through the pile of Pure Love Romantica and took two volumes. "You could've warned me of the content!"
"Why are you so angry, Onodera?" Takano asked simply. "It's not anything you haven't seen or done before."
Ritsu died. Or at least he wished he died. Because once again he found himself the receiving end of questionnaires by his entire department.
"You role-play BLs?"
"What's your favorite?"
"What sounds do you make?"
"Tell me, tell me!"
I'M GOING TO QUIT! Ritsu declared for the thousandth time.