The Great Lord Usami Akihiko. A name revered by many. In fact, it was a rarity to come across someone who didn't know of the young genius.

At only twenty eight, the man's novels were topping the charts. Critics called him inspiring, and if you were to ask anyone, they would tell you his works were touching in a way all their own. Words were his domain, and he had the power to spin them in such a way as to reduce even the most dry-eyed being to tears. With a simple phrase, the man could light up just about anyone's face into the brightest of smiles, or darken their hearts with despair. With the power held within his pen, Usami held the emotions of his dedicated readers in the palm of his hand, his to shape and mold as he pleased.

Many found his books relatable. Most found comfort in them. Perhaps that was because his was a writing that could touch the very souls of those who choose to look upon it. It was his words that managed to snake their way into a person, willing or otherwise, and find a home in their hearts. It was his wise phrases that echoed in one's head for days, as if the mind weren't quite willing to let them go, and so kept them as prisoner, wishing to keep them all to itself. Wishing that perhaps such words were meant for them. Surely, they were meant for them, for how else could they carry such weight? How else could they pertain so much to their lives? Could Usami Akihiko really be that good?

Surely the man was a genius. It was no wonder that this Usami Akihiko had become the youngest recipient of the prestigious Naomi Award. No one could deny that he deserved it. In light of this, it was hardly shocking that this brilliant man had managed to graduate at the top of his class at Teito University. Certainly things of that nature came easily to such an accomplished man.

Aside from being an undeniably gifted writer, Usami Akihiko also came from one of the most powerful families in Japan. Despite this, he never threw his weight around. He was above that. Of course he was. Usami Akihiko had made his own fortune, as he was an honest, hardworking man. Or, at least, that was the media's opinion. It must be true, though, as that seemed to be the only opinion that mattered.

One also couldn't forget that the man was, without a doubt, absolutely gorgeous. With his silky silver hair and piercing lavender eyes, Usami was a modern day Adonis. Women swooned over his tall, lean build. He held himself confidently, and remained composed at all times, as was befitting a man of his status. His gentle smile and the alluring tone that was always present in his deep, smoky voice was enough to make women throw themselves at him. Obviously, Usami could have any girl he wanted, so it remained a mystery why he, of all people, stayed single. Some speculated that maybe he was just above it all. Maybe no woman lived up to his level of perfection.

The man wasn't arrogant, though. He remained charming and friendly despite his success. He was well liked by many, and those lucky enough to have engaged in conversation with him found themselves taken by him. How he remained so down to Earth was a mystery.

Yes, all things considered, Usami Akihiko was the perfect man. Intelligent, rich, successful, attractive, what more could you ask for? In the eyes of the public, he possessed not a single flaw. After all, The Great Usami couldn't possibly be afflicted by some of the darker aspects of human nature. He was perfect. Perfection wouldn't allow for that.

They were so sure their admirable Sensei could do no wrong. What they saw on the outside was what they choose to believe. No one cared to dig any deeper. No one saw the need to. They trusted the beautiful face presented before them, perhaps too fearful to look past it. After all, no one wanted to see what they might find. For if they were to actually try to know the man they so idolized, they might discover something disagreeable. Flaws were unacceptable. They were messy and all too real. No one wanted to shatter the beautiful illusion. Usami Akihiko was perfect, just look at him. It was best to leave it at that.

If only they knew what Usami Akihiko was truly like. What kind of man he actually was. If only they would allow themselves to see. Usami Akihiko was a man who wore a beautiful skin, if only to mask the rotting corpse that lie not far beneath. He was a man dying from the inside out, corrupted by the ways of man and betrayed beyond trust. He was lonely, and he was weak. That was all he had ever been, and despite how highly they thought of him, he truly believed that was all he would ever be. He let insecurity gnaw at his insides, and he knew that one day it would eventually devour him whole. That was the kind man Usami Akihiko really was. That was his true face, but who wanted to see such an ugly thing?

He was not perfect. Far from it, actually. He only pretended to be the man they all respected. It sickened him. Were they really all so blind? Could none of them see him for what he truly was? How could they all look at him, day after day, and not recognize the dying man, riddled with flaws. His act was nearly transparent. Surely, if they bothered to look, they could see the atrocities beneath his smile. Would anyone ever recognize the monstrosities that lie beneath the thin layer of skin? Would anyone ever see how he hurt? How twisted and pained his soul had become?

Deep down, the man longed for someone to see through him. He wanted desperately for someone to look into the depths of his heart and accept the real Usami Akihiko. The hideous face he wasn't allowed to show to the world. People didn't love Akihiko, no one did, they loved his image. That was all he had ever been; his image. Such knowledge only pained him, and sent him further into despair. He wanted to reach out, and expose himself to everyone, but he was scared. Scared they would scorn him, as they always did. Scared that he wouldn't be met with the love and warmth that he so craved. He wasn't allowed flaws. When you were a man of his standing, flaws were inexcusable. Flaws weren't something to be loved.

Perfection was all they would ever see. Their eyes molded his image into that of one that pleased them. They would never see him. They would never see anybody. Not truly. They would continue to see only what they wanted. They would wholeheartedly embrace the masks we all wear, in order to hide our faults and insecurities. To cover up our true nature. They would see only what was presented before them, too stubborn to look from another perspective. Once a judgement was passed, it would stick, and said person would be nothing more than that; an off-base assessment of a thin disguise.

It had always been such a sad thing to Akihiko, that we could live our whole lives alongside people we called close, and really know nothing about them. In the end, we only knew who we wanted them to be, who they had made themselves out to be, but not who they truly were. A sad thing indeed.

The world was nothing more than a junkyard our eyes painted gold. And until the day came when we could all recognize the world for what it truly was, and still find beauty in it, that was all it would ever be. That was all we would ever be. We would all remain hidden and riddled with self-hatred, until the day came that flaws stopped being a crime. Until the day came that we could embrace them, share them without shame, and love them. After all, as much as we all hated to admit it, they were a part of us. They helped define us, just as much as anything else did. They weren't a bad thing. Flaws were only natural. Everything had flaws. Why was such an easy concept so hard to grasp? Usami Akihiko would never understand, and truly didn't wish to.

Currently, said man was making his way home from yet another endless interview. His cheeks ached from having had to plaster on such a phony smile, and he truly thought he might gouge his eyes out at how fake and shallow the woman conducting said interview had been. He felt sick to his stomach, the way her painted face remained perpetually cheerful, as if it had been set that way. He wanted to cringe at the upbeat way she talked, and flirty way she held herself as she praised yet another one of his "inspiring" novels.

What was so great about those rags anyway? People were ridiculous, reading so deeply into the words he has simply tossed down at a whim. How far gone did you have to be to find such deep meaning in the pages he had simply written because he had no other choice. Because his editor would have killed him if he didn't. His works weren't "inspiring" in the least, nor were they "uplifting" or "touching." They were just words, words that, if anything, held his sorrow. They spoke of his loneliness, and how bitter he felt. They weren't meant to be anything else. They contained no hidden meaning, and conveyed no hope. How people had managed to interpret them in such a way completely baffled him.

I'm not as great as you all think I am.

As he entered his apartment, Akihiko was overwhelmed with a sudden urge to drink. His body craved it, and the blissful ignorance that came with it. It became his escape, when he needed to free himself of the weight of his situation. When he needed to get away from the views of society. Get away from himself. He knew it was shameful, yet another flaw, that he felt the need to drown himself in alcohol in order to escape his reality, but sometimes he just couldn't help it. Sometimes it became too much. When your reality was so fake, so riddled with lies and pretensions, it quickly became overwhelming. Unbearable even, and the sweet temptations alcohol offered simply became impossible to pass up.

He shuffled his way into the kitchen, grabbing the strongest bottle of wine he owned. He then tossed himself down upon the burgundy couch. Not even bothering with a glass, he began to down the bitter liquid, relishing as it burned his throat, taking with it some of the pain he felt. It never quite went away.

As he tossed back the rest of the strong liquid in an angry swig, he cursed everyone and their stupidity. He hated them. He hated how shallow they could be. He hated how they never bothered to try to see the real him. But most of all, he hated himself. He hated how he hid and blamed other people for his misery. It sickened him how he couldn't even face himself. How he drowned his true feeling in alcohol, and refused to change anything. And that was just like him. He would wallow around in self pity, waiting for a hero. He knew he should just accept things the way they were. No one was going to swoop down out of nowhere and right this wrong. The world would never change, and neither would its people. Until the day he became confident enough to show his true face to the world, things would remain the same. He would remain embittered and misunderstood. He knew he should accept it, but he couldn't. He still held out hope that things would get better. That one day, everyone would know the real Usami Akihiko.

However, more than his desire to reveal his true self was his desire to be accepted. He wanted people to love the real Usami Akihiko, in all his faults. Even if he was ugly, he wanted to be loved in spite of that. No, because of that. It was the fear of rejection that kept the real Akihiko at bay, lying in wait. Waiting to be discovered. Longing to be accepted. He knew he couldn't handle it if his true feelings were to be scorned yet again. It would be at that moment he would know for sure that he was truly worthless. That no one cared for the real Akihiko.

Ever since he was a child, he had been taught to be a perfect gentleman. He was to act with the utmost respect and courtesy, and he was never to betray his true feeling. An Usami never let emotions rule them, they never broke character. If ever he were to be an unruly child, or try his hand at self expression, he was punished. It was a habit he never quite broke, and it didn't help the way his publishing company encouraged him to keep up his image. They loved the fake Usami Akihiko too. In fact, he could imagine they would be rather upset if he ever tried showing his true self to the world. That certainly wouldn't be good for his perfect image. He smiled bitterly at that.

Maybe he was being selfish. The whole world could think whatever they wanted, see him however they wanted. He knew, deep down, that he would be happy if just one person were able to see through him. If just one person could love something so imperfect. It would make him the happiest person in the world, as it would be the first time in his existence he would feel he truly mattered. That if he disappeared, someone would miss him, not the profit he raked in or the stupid stories he wrote, but him.

"Damnit," he muttered, irritation welling up inside him, "selfish bastards. All of them." He was overcome with a sudden rage. It was so potent that at that moment he could feel it coursing through his veins, seeping through the chinks in his armor. He held back the feral scream that wanted to tear its way through his throat. He wanted to yell. He wanted to break things. He wanted to smash something into oblivion, and despite his desperate attempt to control himself, he found himself hurling the empty wine bottle across the room before he even knew what he was doing. It exploded against the wall opposite him, and bits of translucent glass rained down.

Somewhat satisfied, Akihiko decided to get some rest. Drinking himself into a stupor was doing nothing for him tonight save fanning the flames of his hatred. That wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to forget. Hopefully he could find his peace in the blissful realm of sleep.

Turning away from his mess, which he had no desire to clean up, he began making his way to his bedroom.

Under normal circumstance, Akihiko was not a lightweight, but exhaustion and rage had taken their toll, and the wine was getting to him perhaps a little more than it should. Drunkenly, he stumbled his way through the large apartment, and how he managed to make his way up the stairs and into his bedroom was a mystery.

He loosened his tie as he fumbled his way through the dark and into the bathroom, located on the far left side of his bedroom, next to the large jack-in-the-box.

Leaning over the sink, both hands planted in front of him, he was about to wash his face when he caught sight of himself in the mirror.

He didn't recognize the man staring back at him.

The man in the reflection stood proudly, his jaw firmly set. His piercing lavender eyes were playful, yet dangerous. Those weren't his eyes. His eyes held a different light. Whose eyes were they? This man held himself a little too high. Surely that wasn't his confidence. He didn't have that kind of strength. He had never possessed enough energy to hold his head up, to look straight forward. This wasn't the man he knew. His silver hair looked a little too soft, and far too well kept. It was styled neatly. Since when had he had the will to do such a thing? He couldn't imagine he could bring himself to care enough about something so trivial as hair.

This man wasn't him. The man in the mirror was someone foreign. A complete stranger. A chill ran down his spine as he gazed into those cold eyes. The eyes that didn't belong to him. The eyes of a fake.

The person he was looking at had his features. They had the same face, no doubt about that, but the expression was all wrong. The man in front of him was too cool, too confident, and far too intimidating to be him. That would never be him. He could never be so arrogant, so scary. He didn't like the man looking back at him, as if leering. The smirk on the stranger's face seemed a little too malicious in the dim lighting of the bathroom. Fear bloomed in the pit of his stomach as he continued to gaze at the guy before him, the guy whose violet eyes seemed a little too dangerous.

"Who are you?" He demanded of the strange man.

This isn't me.

The mystery man just continued to smirk, as if mocking him. The expression on his face conveyed challenge. Surely he wasn't making that face. He wouldn't make that face. That expression wasn't his.

Who are you?

This man wasn't him. Panic began to well up in Akihiko, the appearance of the strange man was too overwhelming. He wanted the man to disappear. To cease this ridiculous game and leave him in peace. He wasn't in the mood for this. He didn't want to answer to the man's challenge. He just wanted those eyes to stop boring into him. Whose eyes were those?

What are you doing here?

The panic bordered on hysteria. He was sure he wasn't making that face. That evil face. This man had nothing but ill intentions. This man was too calculative. It was chilling. What happened to the playful glint in the stranger's eyes? Now all he could see was malice.

Please, just leave me alone.

He wanted to shout. He want to scream. He want to run away. He wanted to hide from the man before him. The man making the scary face. The stranger. The experience was all too real to his drink addled brain. He was confused and scared, but he knew there was no way to hide. He couldn't hide from his own face. From what he had become.

Why are you doing this?

The man simply continued to smirk. It was as if he could hear the voice echoing in his head. It was his voice, but it wasn't. It was icy. He didn't sound like that.

Don't you get it, Akihiko? I'm you. The better you. The you people love. The you your parents always wanted. It's me they adore. Me! Because you're worthless. You stay hidden in the shadows while I shine. It's me they want. Can't you see? No one wants you. No one loves you. No one will ever love you. You're weak. Pathetic. Nothing. Who could ever love something so worthless?

"Shut up!" Akihiko screamed, beginning to tear at his face. "Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!"

His fingernails dug deeply into the soft flesh of his forehead. Crimson droplets seeped from the red rakes left by the desperate nails as the hysterical man frantically clawed down his own face. He felt no pain as he did so, too intent instead on removing the horrible mask. He wanted to get rid of this awful face, to peel the phony countenance away and reveal his true self once more. The man he knew he .. this.. thing was not him. He was not the twisted being in front of him, mocking him. He wasn't! He wanted the evil mask to disappear, and yet it couldn't be removed. All that came with his nails was bits of torn flesh. His own flesh. He stared at it in horror.


For the second time that day anger welled up inside of him. Anger driven by fear. In desperation, he drew back his fist and punched the reflection with the last vestige of energy his body possessed. The hated reflection shattered beneath his fist upon impact, ridding him of the nightmarish image. Shards of the splintered mirror cut Akihiko's knuckles, but he didn't care. He sighed in relief, running his undamaged hand through his silver locks.

Slowly, he sank down to his knees. He pulled them up against his chest, wrapping his arms around his long legs. His broad back leaned up against the sink as he sat there in the fetal position, drawing shaky breaths.

There was no telling how long he sat there, trying to still his racing heart.

At some point, he must have drifted off the sleep, as the next thing he remembered was being woken by an angry female voice.

"Sensei. Sensei!" The woman's voice grew louder as she became increasingly irritated. She tapped her foot impatiently, her arms crossed her large chest as she glared down at Akihiko disapprovingly.

Akihiko groaned but refused to look up, not quite willing to see such a bothersome presence so soon after waking. His editor tsked.

"I hope you're happy," she began, and Akihiko knew he was in for a lecture that would undoubtedly make him wish he had a couple of knives to shove into his ears, "I'll have you know you completely slept through your book signing this afternoon! Do you know how humiliating that was for the company to cover up! Of all the irresponsible things you've done Akihiko! Is this the kind of image you want to associate with yourself? Do you ever once stop to think about the consequences of your actions? Oh, but at least you had a nice nap. Don't worry your pretty little head about how this might affect the company, after all, your beauty rest is of the utmost importance. Geez Akihiko, when are you gonna grow up and realize you can't just go around doing whatever you want anymore! You have an image to maintain now, and we expect you to behave accordingly! No matter what you may think, our star author not showing up to his own book signing is, in fact, a very big deal! And so, I suggest you get your act together 'Oh Great Lord Usami,' or I'm seriously gonna kick your ass!" The woman huffed in annoyance as she brought her tirade to an end.

Akihiko pondered this for a moment. Had there been a book signing that afternoon? He couldn't recall. He thought he had been free for the day after that hellish morning interview. Hadn't that been more than enough torture for one day?

He really wasn't in any mood to deal with her right now, especially after the experience he'd just had with that hateful mirror. The last thing he wanted to hear about was that damn image it was so important he maintained. That hateful image was the root of his misery, and at the moment it seemed it was all she could talk about.

And why shouldn't it be? His success as an author was what kept her employed. Without that, Akihiko meant nothing to her. He was only a paycheck. It was stupid of him to believe that she cared for him on any level deeper than that. It was foolish to hope that anyone did. They all worshiped his name, and the books that they could slap it on, but the man who bore it was worthless.

If one day he chose to quit writing, they would all abandon him quicker than he could utter his own profitable name. They would all leave him once they knew they could no longer get anything out of him. Just like his family had when he had choose to relinquish the Usami family name in search of a career he felt was more suited to him.

When was the last time he had heard from his dear family? The family he had once believed to care for him to some extent. How wrong he had been. Their so called love was shallow. Once he had made it clear that he would not be following in his fathers footsteps for the benefit of the company, they had cut off all contact. To this day it still stung when he thought about it, like a wound that wouldn't quite heal. He was left feeling empty and more alone than he had ever thought possible.

Trust had never been his strong suit, and he found himself wondering if he could ever bring himself to exercise such a ridiculous concept again. Trust brought about nothing but pain, that much had been made clear long ago.

In the end, Usami Akihiko was a successful name, and a beautiful face, but he wasn't a person. To the people around him, the people whose livelihoods depended on him, he didn't have human emotions. It didn't seem they thought him capable of possessing such things. To them he was a show pony. They would dress him up and parade him around as they wished, and then they would toss him aside. Such complicated things as feelings were never thrown into the mix. They would use him until he wore out him usefulness, and that would be the end of it.

Aikawa was no exception.

Currently said woman was growing increasingly infuriated by her star author's utter disregard for her very presence. Here she had been chewing him out for his irresponsibility, and the man wouldn't so much as utter a simple reply to acknowledge he ever realised she was there. In truth, he deserved a lot more than the verbal beating he had received. The book signing had been a rather important event! The fact that the man couldn't be put upon to look even remotely guilty for missing it served only to anger her further.

The man remained silent and still as death. There was obvious tensions in his muscles, and he stared intently down at his hands, as if they would disappear if he did so much as blink. She felt a pang of guilt at the same time worry surged up within her. It was true the man seemed off today. She hoped nothing was seriously wrong, and this was just his way of tuning her out as he usually did.

Still, she couldn't bring herself to torture the man anymore, on the off chance that something really was amiss. He looked so pathetic there it seemed almost an act of utmost cruelty to bring him down any further.

Taking a deep breath to calm herself and deciding to leave the man be for the moment, Aikawa got her first good look around the room she was standing in. It was the author's personal bathroom, and the place was a dump.

Her eyes settled on the cracked mirror, caked around the center in what looked suspiciously like dried blood. She didn't even want to know how the man had managed to do this. In the time she had been his editor, she had discovered that he was capable of creating messes that were utterly baffling.

She knew the appropriate response to an alarming sight such as this would be concern, but this seemed to be the norm for Akihiko. He had an unsettling talent for screwing up even the simplest of tasks, and he somehow managed to turn even the most trivial aspects of daily life into a disaster a normal person wouldn't even be able to create on purpose. Sometimes the man seemed almost a danger to himself, and his lifestyle was more that worrying. She couldn't fathom how anyone actually managed to survive in such a pig stye.

"Honestly Sensei," she sighed, massaging the tension in her furrowed brows, "this place is a dump. I don't understand why you can't just hire a housekeeper. Or better yet, get yourself a wife to take care of it. You're not getting any younger you know."

Of course, no one knew of Usami Akihiko's preferences. It was almost unfathomable that such a seemingly perfect man could possibly be gay. It was sure to be a huge scandal if that were ever to get out, and so it was yet another thing Akihiko had to hide from the world. Another aspect of his true self that was too ugly to be shown to the public. While he didn't see how he was doing anything wrong by craving the love of a member of the same sex, not everyone saw it that way. To many it was wrong, sick, shameful, and so was he. So while he didn't care to hide it, he was forced to, and that was what made him sick.

While Aikawa hadn't said anything that was to her knowledge overtly wrong, it grated on Akihiko's last nerve. He looked up and gave her the full force of his glare. She gasped as the long red rakes in his forehead were revealed.

"S-sensei, your face.."

He ignored her shock and tremulous inquiry as he stalked past her, making his steady way towards the front door of his wreck of a home.

Aikawa seemed to recover herself and she hurried after him. She caught sight of him just in time to see him turning the handle roughly.

"Sensei! Where are you going! Sensei!"

"Out." He replied curtly, before slamming the door behind him, leaving the woman alone and utterly confused in her star author's apartment.

Akihiko wasn't sure where he was going. Currently the only destination he had in mind was away. He wanted to escape from the reality he currently resided in, if only for the moment. He didn't feel up to dealing with it right now. He couldn't handle anymore unnecessary comments about his career, his image, or his life choices. He just couldn't process it, and the stress it put on him, he feared, was almost enough to make him crack.

That was, if he was even all that sane to begin with. After the little incident he'd had earlier with the mirror, he couldn't be too sure of his own mental stability. Maybe he should just check himself into the loony bin now. It seemed to be where he was headed anyway. It might just save him a lot of trouble later on.

He managed a half smile at the thought of how the media would react to that. The amazing Usami Akihiko, mentally insane. The idea was somehow far more amusing that it should have been.

After about twenty minutes of aimless wandering to let off steam, Akihiko found himself in the midst of a small park.

Dusk was settling in, and the place was nearly abandoned, but he found the park to be rather pleasant and tranquil. It had a stable, earthy smell to it, and signs of early spring were evident in every aspect of its setting. The trees were a vibrant green as they flaunted their healthy new coats, and flowers in hues of lavender and peach blossomed eagerly throughout the surrounding area, blanketing the fertile soil in cheerful hues. The night was crisp, and clear of clouds. Hopeful stars winked out at him from amidst the inky sky, as if to remind him light could be found in even the bleakest of situations, if only he were to hold up his head high enough to search for it. The clean air was alive with the goings on of new life, and from the peaceful lull of crickets chirping and small animals rustling around in unseen shrubbery, he was reminded how insignificant he was indeed.

Everyday, life went on around him, unaware of the dire situation he believed himself to be in. While he moped alone in his dreary apartment, other people faced their own struggles, shared their pain and joy while they experienced the miracle that was life. Each of them had their own lives. Each of them had their own stories. They experienced hardships, just as he did, and still they plugged on. They were all separate, wonderful beings, just as he was, and in the end, they were all united at the core by the very thing that made them human; emotions. A thing everyone knew, everyone had in common, as everyone felt the same emotions flowing through their beings at some time or another. They're the most primal of things; a universal language, and they connected everyone, as if to unite them on the most simplistic of levels.

Yes, Akihiko felt insignificant, yet at the same time, less alone than he'd ever felt before. In reality, he could have it a lot worse. His life could be a lot worse. Others had suffered a lot worse, more than he could ever imagine, and at this moment, he could understand that. Looking at the big picture, his problems weren't as bad as he had made them out to be, and that was comforting.

Deciding he liked this place very much, Akihiko took a seat on the edge of a worn out old park bench and breathed deeply. He felt content as he sat there, letting his inner turmoil dissipate into the air, carried away by the light breeze.

He wasn't sure how long he sat there, at peace with the world around him, until he sensed a presence behind him. He tensed, turning around cautiously to peer into the the most stunning emerald eyes he had ever seen. The eyes belonged to a lithe young boy with beautiful, delicate features. Between the eyes- whose shade seemed to match that of the tree's vibrant leaves perfectly- and the boy's fine stranded chocolate hair, Akihiko found himself wondering if the boy might belong to the park itself. It seemed as if the boy had materialized to embody the beauty of nature that he had been so taken with earlier, and for a moment Akihiko had himself convinced that the beautiful creature must be some type of tree spirit.

Akihiko blinked and shook the ridiculous thoughts from his head, needing no more cause to convince himself of his budding insanity.

The boy seemed to hesitate for a moment, before cautiously speaking.

"M-may I sit down?"

The boy's voice was soft and timid, yet melodious, like a delicate symphony, and Akihiko found himself being swept away by it.

He nodded dumbly while the boy perched himself on the opposite side of the bench, peering up at the man shyly with innocent eyes.

Unsure of what to say next, Akihiko simply stared at the boy curiously. After several awkward moments spent silently examining each other, the boy spoke up again, in the same sweet voice, and Akihiko found himself hoping that the boy might never stop gracing him with such a delightful sound. He hoped the boy might go on talking forever, just so he might keep hearing that voice. It was such a sappy sentiment, so unlike himself, but the boy's presence made him uneasy, constantly on edge, and he blamed that for his odd thoughts.

"I-I'm sorry, I don't know why that I... y-you just looked so lonely here t-that I..." The strange boy stuttered as he tried to organize his thoughts.

In all honesty, the young man had no idea why he had stopped to talk to this stranger, especially at this hour. He knew it was dangerous, but the man looked so broken hearted, so alone and utterly at odds with himself, that he couldn't resist the temptation to provide some comfort to the tragic stranger. His feet had led him to the broken man, against his better judgement, and now here he was, struggling to explain his reasons for doing so and no doubt coming off as a total creep.

He had been taking a shortcut home through the park on his way back from his part time job when he spotted him. At first, the boy thought had had been seeing things; the man didn't seem real. He looked like a fallen angel, with that unguarded look of unfathomable sorrow and his fair coloring that seemed to glow under the intensifying starlight. Even though the person he saw sitting so forlornly on a bench a distance away from him was obviously a man, and he was a man as well, he couldn't help but think that the man was beautiful. He didn't quite understand it, but he thought it such a shame that that beautiful face seemed so miserable at the moment. So, without any regard to his more rational self, he spoke to the man.

Now he found himself floundering to explain to said man what he himself didn't quite understand, and it didn't help that the older guy was staring at him as if he were some kind of alien. He found himself growing nervous and self conscious under the intense stare, and trailed off uncertainly.

Akihiko was taken aback by the stranger's perceptiveness. In all his life, he had been called a lot of things, but the one adjective that was never used to describe him was 'lonely.' No one believed that a man of his standings could possibly be lacking in good company. Yes, people had said many things about him, but none had hit this close to the truth before. How was it possible that this complete stranger could see through him so easily, when even those who he dared to call close could not see past his mask? It was unsettling, in a curious sort of way, and he felt excitement stirring within him despite himself. He had been gaping at the boy for quite a while now, and deciding he was probably creeping the poor kid out, he managed a weak smile, hoping it would reassure him that he wasn't a complete weirdo.

"Why do you smile?" The boy asked suddenly, mentally cursing himself for being so blunt. He couldn't help it. The man's smile just looked so pathetically forced to him that it almost brought tears to his eyes, that someone could really be that unhappy.

"Huh?" Akihiko had never been asked such a strange question before. His reasons for smiling, no matter how fake, should be obvious, shouldn't they? There were plenty of reasons for him to wear a smile, and no one had ever questioned them before. Smiling was simply his own awkward way of faking politeness, nothing more.

"It's just, i-it doesn't reach your eyes. You smile, but your eyes look so sad." Was the boy's hurried explanation, and in that moment, Akihiko could feel his carefully constructed mask melting away, crumbling down around him as if made of nothing more tangible than dust. He was left feeling naked, revealed entirely in front of the stranger. It was as if the boy could see through him, and dissect from him the contents of his life as if he were a particularly interesting book. It was terrifying, and exhilarating.

He knew that the man the boy was looking at right now was the real Usami Akihiko. No one had ever done that before. The boy didn't seem interested in his name or his face, but rather the man who bore them. The boy didn't to see the stranger who wore his body- the confident author of noble blood- but rather the soul that resided in it- Usami Akihiko.

It was the moment that his defences crumbled before the strange kid that Akihiko discarded all formalities, and, for once in his life, acted like himself. None of his actions from that moment on were forced, they were the actions he himself choose to make, simply because they felt natural to him. The boy didn't scoff at him, he didn't sneer or reprimand him for stepping out of line and acting in such a natural, undignified way. Rather the boy smiled genuinely, and accepted him. Accepted the real Akihiko, as no one had before. In fact, the boy seemed more at ease now that he had let down his guard. It was amazing, really. Akihiko had never experience something so liberating in his entire life. He had never felt less alone.

He continued to talk to the interesting boy- who he soon learned was called Misaki- well into the night. The two talked about anything and everything, whatever felt natural. They talked about big things and little things, and about their own lives and selves. Around Misaki, Akihiko didn't have to pretend, and whatever words that came out of him mouth, whatever expression he showed, was completely his. Misaki seemed only to appreciate this, and would simply look up at him with those innocent emerald eyes and take in whatever Akihiko said, the words he truly meant.

At one point early on in their lengthy conversation, Misaki had boldly reached up to gently caress the area around the red welts Akihiko had left in his own forehead. Misaki choose not to comment, he didn't want badger the man with questions he might not want to answer, instead he tenderly touched the area around the raised skin, with an expression so unbearably unguarded and full of sorrow that it made Akihiko instantly regret bringing such a look to the boy's beautiful face. It hurt him deeply, to see the boy in pain, and he was overcome with the irrational urge to protect the innocent soul from anything that might want to hurt him. It was ridiculous, he knew, but he just wanted to envelop the boy in his warm embrace and hide him from the world. He wanted sweet Misaki to know nothing but happiness. He wanted to be the one to personally ensure that he did.

The thing about Misaki was that he didn't wear a mask, as most people did. He didn't hide himself from the world and pretend to be something he wasn't. He boldly showed his true face to the world, in the most unguarded and innocent sort of way, and put his best foot forward. Misaki seemed to care for others, to the point where he disregarded his own well being in order to ensure the happiness of those around him. He was selfless, and pure, and to Akihiko, he was truly an amazing creature.

And so they talked for hours that night, comfortable in the other's presence, simply enjoying the company of the opposite man. And by the end of the night, Akihiko was smiling genuinely, for the first time since he could remember, at the young man who had so recently waltzed into his life.

As the night wore on, Akihiko began to wonder if this was what it was like talking to a friend. He had never had a friend before, not a true one, and the whole experience was really quite surreal, yet entirely pleasurable.

When the sun began to peek out from behind the distant horizon and illuminate the park in hues ever more brilliant than they had been the night before, Misaki reluctantly admitted that he should be on his way. It was then that Akihiko decided to take a chance. It was risky, to put so much stock in a person he just met. To leave himself so unguarded to someone who could just as easily break his heart and leave him irreparably damaged, but it was a chance he was willing to take. He wanted to see Misaki again, the person who allowed him to be so honest, no matter what. He wanted to show Misaki all of himself, and so he asked.

"Would you like to get some coffee sometime?"

It was such a simple request, so seemingly innocent, but to him it weighed heavily with promise for the future. He had no idea what lie ahead of him, what the future held for Misaki and himself, but he wanted to find out. It was scary, and uncertain, but he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Misaki would be a memorable person in his life, if he wasn't so already, and he wanted to see Misaki again. So he asked, because he wanted that person to see through him some more. He needed Misaki to see his true self, to accept him, as he had been. He wanted Misaki in his life, for better or for worse. At that moment, that was all he knew. That was all he needed to know.

Misaki agreed hurriedly, eager to talk with the man some more, and see his true smile, which, as it turned out, was heartbreakingly beautiful.

And that was that. Akihiko sat there for some time longer, watching the back of the smaller man retreat into the distance, filled with unnamed emotions and hope for a bright future. Hope he hadn't allowed himself to entertain since he was very young.


Two years later found Akihiko wrapped in the tight embrace of the lithe young boy. The two clung to each other with desperation as they slept peacefully, as if any distance was too great. The bare bodies seemed to meld together, and if not for the slight difference in skin tone, it would have been impossible to tell where one man stopped and the other started. They were connected in such a way as to suggest their souls longed to become one, as their bodies had the night before. It had been one of many nights spent locked in the throes of pleasure, as the two's eager palms roamed broad expanses of exposed flesh, reaching new levels of ecstasy as they expressed their love. Yes, love, for the men had quickly become inseparable.

Not long before, Misaki had officially moved in with Akihiko. He had been spending so much time over at the other man's place anyway that it only seemed natural. For Akihiko's part, he was just ecstatic that he would be able to hold the beautiful boy's body every night, the body he loved so much, as it belonged to the man who had quickly occupied the empty space in his heart. What was even better than falling asleep in the comfort of Misaki's arms was waking up every morning to the breathtaking sight of his lover's delicate features.

Truly, he was the luckiest man alive to have been gifted with this beautiful soul. Misaki was gorgeous, in every aspect of the word, and he would never tire of gazing upon that innocent face he could no longer bear to live without.

With Misaki around, for the first time in his life, he knew what it felt to be truly loved. It was a greater feeling than he could have ever imagined. He had never been happier in his life than in the time he had spent with his Misaki. Sometimes he felt his heart swell with so many unbridled emotions that he feared it would overflow. Misaki made him complete.

When he was around Misaki, he didn't feel judged, or pressured. The boy was patient, and kind, and never expected too much of Akihiko. He only asked that the older man be open with his true feelings, and Akihiko couldn't have thought of a more perfect condition.

At the moment, Akihiko was gazing down at his sleeping lover, whose face was still buried deep into his broad chest. He couldn't stop the huge smile that forced itself upon his lips as he held the boy tightly. He was simply too beautiful, with the white sheets wrapped loosely around his bare torso, and the early morning light gently kissing his exposed shoulder. He looked peaceful while he slept, and, if possible, even more innocent, and Akihiko never wanted to let go.

Misaki groaned quietly, burrowing himself further into the older man's chest with a small whine before looking up at the man, revealing his beautiful emerald orbs, which peaked out at him from behind tired eyelids. Misaki gave him a sleepy smile- which left Akihiko utterly speechless- before tightening his grip around the older man's torso and drifting back off to sleep.

Akihiko truly wish for nothing more than to linger in his beautiful Misaki's embrace for the rest of eternity, but unfortunately, he had places to go. He had a meeting that morning he needed to get ready for, although it seemed such a shame to get out of bed when Misaki had just been acting so cute.

With a heavy heart, he gently pried himself from Misaki's grip. He planted a gentle kiss on the younger man's forehead, stroking his soft chocolate locks with a look of tenderness he hadn't thought possible.

He dressed himself hurriedly before stopping in front of the mirror to fix his unruly hair, as well as ensure that he looked presentable. The face that stared back at him was distinctly his own. The man who peered at him from behind the new mirror appeared tired and decidedly frail, yet more fulfilled than he ever had in his life. There was no false confidence. No arrogant smirk. The man that looked back at him was himself, the true Usami Akihiko. He even had the small white scar in the form of three faded jagged lines to prove that fact. It served as a reminder of what life had been like before he had Misaki. He never wanted to go back to that.

He gave the familiar man a small smile, one of which the man returned. It was as if greeting an old friend. And in many ways, it was. It was all thanks to Misaki that he no longer saw the lies painted on his own face. Misaki was the one to remove his horrid mask.

His life had changed in many ways since meeting the mysterious young boy that faithful day in the park. Surely, it would continue to change, and he would keep moving forward. With Misaki by his side, he knew things would go well, as they always did. Everything was okay when he had Misaki.

Truly he had never felt more at peace with himself than in that moment.

Hi! I just wanted to say thank you so much for reading this! It means so much to me! I really hope you enjoyed it! Really, I just can't thank you enough if you managed to finish this! I know I can be pretty long winded, so thanks for bearing with me. In all honesty even I couldn't force myself to read back through all the way! So I apologize for any mistakes I may have made.

I got the idea for this while I was watching the music video for Mine (this songs ruining my life). The sparkly mask at the ending put this idea in my head and it wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it down! Actually, at the beginning, the mask idea was supposed to be a lot more literal, but it kind of changed into something more symbolic as I went along.

I almost didn't finish this story, because about half way through I completely ran out of ideas, and didn't know where I was going with it at all. I hope I did okay in giving this some kind of plot. I honestly have no idea where I was coming from with this, so I kind of feel as if I did nothing but ramble! Sorry!

Anyway, I just want to thank you again for your time! If you like, please tell me what you think! I'm still not quite sure about this story, so your feedback is greatly appreciated!