Chapter 1

The sunlight was harsh on Kisa Shouta's eyes as he opened them, dreading the tinny beep of his alarm clock. It was a digital number, one you could just set to go off at the same time every day. Why he thought that was a good idea when he had such an irregular schedule, he'd never know. The rapid succession of beeps started right on time, and he glared at the large numbers that read seven AM. It was the start of a new cycle, and he should've felt refreshed, but he could've done with about two more days of sleep.

When Kisa reached to hit snooze, though, he realized there was someone else in the bed with him. Kisa glared at the man, trying to place him, but his mind had become a haze fairly early in the evening. The editors of Emerald, the shojo manga magazine Kisa worked for, had decided they needed to go out drinking to celebrate another successful cycle. There had been teasing of the head editor Takano-san and his boyfriend, another editor at the magazine. Poor Ritsu, or Ricchan as Kisa called him, was terrible at holding his alcohol and had ended up being dragged home by Takano-san, who wasn't perfectly steady on his feet himself. The other two editors, Mino and Hatori, had ended up going home, but Kisa didn't.

Kisa had nothing to go home to. Takano-san had Ritsu, Hatori had Yoshikawa Chiharu (whom Kisa had never seen, but knew existed since she was one of Emerald's top authors) and Mino… well, no one knew about Mino besides maybe Takano-san, and he wasn't saying anything. Kisa was thirty-two years old, single, and gay. He didn't even have a roommate to go home to. He'd ended up drinking long after his coworkers left, and the unfamiliar man lying next to him was the apparent result.

The man finally started to stir, and Kisa tensed. This was usually the most awkward part of his numerous one-night stands. It wasn't always that way, of course; if Kisa was in the right state of mind, he'd bring the men he picked up to a love hotel so he could fuck, maybe get a few hours of sleep, then sneak away when his partner was still sleeping. He preferred it that way, in fact. Men he brought back to his apartment tended to get too attached to him.

Finally the man cracked open one eye, gazing up at him with half his face buried in the pillow, and Kisa said, "I have to go to work."

The man seemed entirely too confused at his surroundings. Kisa suspected he was just as smashed as himself when they agreed to go back to his apartment. As Kisa stood up, though, the aching in his bare backside and bruises on his chest confirmed his suspicions about his night: he'd seen a guy at the bar, they'd maybe flirted for a bit, and then they'd gone to his apartment and had sex.

This was not a new occurrence.

"I thought you said you were in college," the man muttered, staring appreciatively at his body. Kisa was a small guy, and his delicate features and flawless skin let him get away with leading people to believe he was a lot younger than he really was.

"I say a lot of things when I'm drunk," Kisa muttered, finally shutting off his alarm clock when the beeping grew loud and shrill. "Now you can either leave by yourself or I can escort you out, and I promise the second option is a lot more embarrassing than it sounds."

The man simply nodded and pulled the covers off. Kisa took care not to watch as he went around and gathered his clothes. There was a tie draped over one of the ceiling lights, and Kisa stared up at it until the man stretched up and grabbed the thing. Kisa preferred to have his one-night stands while sober, mostly because when he had drunken sex, he'd wake up the next morning to more than a few questions about the state of his surroundings.

Finally the man was gone, not even asking for his phone number or email. Good man, Kisa thought.

Kisa didn't bother putting his own clothes on, because he intended to take a shower before he got something for breakfast and headed into work. Takano-san was usually more lenient on people at the start of a cycle, and the past few months he'd been pushing his boss's forgiveness as far as possible. This was actually the first time in a while he'd woken up after the last night of a cycle and found a strange man beside him. Mostly, he just liked to catch up on his sleep. It wasn't like he needed beauty sleep, but the "magical transformation" that happened every month when an issue of Emerald was finished production was hard for him to accomplish on two hours of sleep.

Unfortunately, Kisa's apartment was a mess. Takeout boxes and beer cans were strewn everywhere, as well as copies of his author's storyboards, tossed aside haphazardly as soon as he had faxed corrections to them. He should've had them filed away at the Emerald offices, but they only went back a month and the people in record keeping hadn't bothered him about it yet. Just for safety's sake, though, Kisa bent down and gathered them together, then put them beside his work bag. In all the craziness and disorganization of the previous night, his work bag had somehow managed to land upright on his coffee table.

Kisa's friends, the ones who didn't know he was gay, had often said that he needed a cute little housewife to stay home and clean and cook for him. It would certainly make things easier on him, he'd secretly admit to himself, but having a cute little woman in his house was not top on his list of priorities. Having a cute little house husband didn't appeal much to him, either.

When it came right down to it, Kisa mused as he picked some fresh clothes from over by the washing machine and headed for the bathroom, Kisa simply didn't like long-term relationships. In his more dramatic moments, he'd even say he didn't know how to love. He certainly didn't know what it felt like, at any rate; he'd been with what had to have been hundreds of guys since high school, and he hadn't felt that warm, fuzzy feeling people claimed to have when they were in love. Kisa couldn't see himself in a relationship like Takano-san had with Ritsu, with the playful teasing and stolen kisses when they thought no one was looking.

Kisa suddenly stopped as he stepped into his shower. Perhaps it was time to be a bit pickier about when he picked up men. The end of a cycle at Emerald always made him way too emotional, and being emotional made him introspective. He'd learned a long time ago that you got through life easier by just not thinking.


There was a café Kisa liked to stop at when he had the time, which wasn't as often as he liked. It was right between Marukawa Shoten and his apartment, so if he felt like walking instead of taking the subway, he could stop in and get a bagel and some coffee. He'd made good time with his shower, so he decided to stop in there instead of getting a premade breakfast from a convenience store. He sat at his usual table near a set of windows and ordered, then let his eyes drift around the store.

Most of the customers were ones who were getting takeout on their way to work. The bar was lined with people just waiting for their disposable travel mugs of tea or coffee, muttering to themselves about how early it was and complaining that they didn't have time to eat a real meal. Kisa rolled his eyes, but he smiled at the waitress as she put his coffee down and said his bagel would be out in a few minutes. His eyes followed her as he picked up his mug, all the way to where she stopped at another customer's table.

Kisa coughed as he saw the man whom the woman was giving a takeout bag to. Even sitting down he was clearly tall, with light hair, supermodel proportions, and the most sparkly aura about him Kisa had seen outside a shojo manga. He'd been drawing in a large sketchpad before he noticed the waitress approaching, and he flipped it closed and held it to his chest as he conversed. Even his smile seemed to radiate sparkles, and Kisa finally had to look away, lest the man notice he was staring and try to approach him. Kisa had picked up more than one one-night stand that way, and it was too early in the morning for that shit.

"You're not working at the bookstore anymore, Yukina-san?" the waitress asked, clearly used to conversing with this sparkly creature.

"No. I actually have a job at a publisher now," the man named Yukina said. "I start today, so that's why I'm in a bit of a hurry. Have a good day." He stood up at that, and the waitress got out of the way so he could leave the booth. She watched him leave, a dreamy smile on her face, before someone called out a ready order from the kitchen and she was forced to go back to her job.

Kisa seemed to be the only one who noticed a book had dropped out of the man's bag. Kisa's bagel hadn't been the called order, and he was feeling especially nosy at the moment, so he carefully snuck over to the table the man had been waiting for his order at. The book was just lying there on the floor face-up, and when Kisa reached down and grabbed it, he immediately recognized the title.

Mostly because it was one of the manga he was currently editing. The new tankobon had been released just yesterday but the spine was already slightly bent and crinkled from use, the front cover unable to lay completely flat anymore. It had clearly been appreciated, and Kisa couldn't help but smile down at the volume as he held it in his hands. He'd seen this a million times before through the approval process, but it was somehow different this time.

"Kisa-san, your bagel is ready," Kisa's waitress said from behind him, smiling the entire time. Kisa jumped in surprise and quickly hid the tankobon behind his back, but it didn't seem she had seen it. As far as she knew, Kisa had just been randomly kneeling on the floor because he was, in fact, an incredibly imbalanced person and just did things like that from time to time. Kisa was the first to admit that description wasn't entirely off.

The waitress just smiled at him and went about her job, because clearly, Kisa wasn't as worthy of making a big deal over as "Yukina-san" had been. Kisa stood up, the manga still in his hands, and he quickly looked outside to make sure Yukina wasn't coming back before going to his table and slipping it into his bag.


Kisa was feeling incredibly refreshed by the time he got to the Emerald offices, and he couldn't help but grin as he sat down at his desk and said, "Ricchan!" to his neighbor. Onodera Ritsu simply nodded at him, considering the juice box he'd been sucking away at before Kisa got in. No matter how long Ritsu worked at Emerald, he'd never be quite as sparkly as the rest of the men were on the first day of a new cycle. He'd clearly had a good night, though, because Kisa could see fresh hickies on his neck, hidden under the neckline of his shirt but visible when he shifted just the right way. Kisa couldn't help it; he reached over and poked at one of them, much to Ritsu's chagrin. "Did you have a good night with Takano-san?"

"…I don't actually remember," Ritsu muttered, staring down at his juice box again. It was one of those small ones you'd buy in packs of ten or twelve for children, loaded with sugar but a better fruit alternative than none. Kisa briefly wondered where he'd gotten it; they certainly didn't sell anything like that in the vending machines in Marukawa. "By the way, Takano-san wanted you down in general affairs when you got here."

"Huh?" Kisa blinked, forgoing his juice envy. "Did he say why?"

"New recruit," Ritsu said, waving a hand like that would help explain it. "Something about having you train him because he 'doesn't have the damn time'."

Kisa stood up, forgoing the temptation to tell Ritsu how cute it was when he swore and heading for the elevators again. He flirted with Ritsu a lot, it was true, but he was never serious about it. It had been obvious early-on there had been chemistry between Ritsu and their editor-in-chief, and while Kisa didn't know the whole story, they had both been off the market long before they officially got together. And Kisa was fine with that. Ritsu had a cute face, but it wasn't the kind he usually fell for. Being shallow had its advantages, he supposed.

The general affairs department was usually lively, simply because they weren't an editing department with a harsh schedule like Emerald was. Kisa immediately spotted his boss standing over at a table occupied by two people, smiling his best despite what Ritsu had told him earlier. Kisa would give him at least that much credit: Takano-san sure knew how to charm a room.

"Here he is," Takano-san said as soon as he spotted Kisa, and he signaled him over. "This is one of our editors, Kisa Shouta. Kisa, this is our new recruit, Yukina Kou." Takano-san went on to say something about Kisa being in the department even before he was hired, but Kisa wasn't listening anymore.

Of course Yukina wouldn't recognize Kisa, considering that morning in the café was the first time Kisa had even seen him, and Yukina certainly hadn't spotted him. The hour or so it had been since that one-sided meeting had done nothing to dampen Kisa's opinion about Yukina's looks or his sparkly aura. In fact, the aura seemed to be even stronger than in the café, simply because he was sitting there in Marukawa. He looked like he had never, in his wildest dreams, expected to get that far.

Finally Takano-san discretely nudged Kisa in the ribs, and Kisa bowed deeply. "It's good to meet you. Yukina-san, was it?"

Yukina stood up and bowed as well. "You can just call me Yukina, if you want." That radiant smile he'd seen a few times before was directed at him, and if Kisa were even a tiny bit more dramatic, he would've shielded his eyes.

"Anyway," Takano-san, said, and he reached into the front pocket of his shirt and produced his glasses. "I have a meeting to get to, so could you bring him upstairs, Kisa? We already have a desk set up for him so just show him around."

Kisa nodded at that, watching Takano-san leave before realizing that Yukina was waiting for him to say something. Finally he turned and just nodded, pointing towards the elevator he had used just moments ago.

"And here are the Emerald offices," Kisa said, back into moe mode as he found himself surrounded by all the pink wallpaper and stuffed animals. He actually twirled around a bit with a flourish as he reached the editors' desks. "Here we have the magazine editors. Ricchan also works as our scheduler." Kisa grinned and patted Ritsu on the head, earning a glare from his coworker as he still sucked away on that juice box. "Across from him is Hatori Yoshiyuki, our second editor-in-chief. Mino-san doesn't seem to be here yet, though."

"He's late?" Yukina asked with concern.

Kisa's happy smile faltered, and he felt a shiver go down his spine reflexively. "We don't much question Mino-san. He gets his things in on time and… that's as far as we bother him."

Even the previously stoic-faced Hatori looked uncomfortable at that, and Yukina decided it was best not to ask. Kisa pointed out one of the empty desks and told him he could set up there before saying he needed to go get more coffee. Instead of setting up, Yukina found himself putting his bag down on the desk and following his coworker to the lounge.

"Um, sempai," Yukina said, and Kisa jumped in surprise. He'd been reaching for a can of coffee when Yukina finally caught up to him and said something. "Takano-san said you should show me around, so I was hoping you could do that now, if you had the time!" His eyes sparkled in a different way than when he smiled; he looked genuinely happy at his position, standing there in the floor's employee lounge while Kisa tried to get his heart down to its regular rhythm.

Kisa finally reached down and took the coffee, but he didn't look especially happy. "You don't have to call me sempai, you know. We're not in school."

"Then- Sho-chan?" Yukina asked, but even he could tell Kisa wasn't especially pleased with that designation. "I just thought, since you called the other man Ricchan…"

Kisa held up a hand at that, stopping Yukina's thought before he could say any more. "Just call me Kisa-san." And then he smiled. "And of course! You came on to Emerald at a great time. Later in the month wouldn't be as ideal."

"Why do you say that?"

Kisa glanced back at his new coworker as he took a long gulp from his coffee. Then he wiped his mouth with his sleeve and said, with a light shrug, "You'll see if you last long enough, newbie."