Notes: Do not own anything in this fic. Originally written for the Tenipuri Xpair community on LJ.

i"Yuuta, how did you get this cut?"/i

The ten-year-old scowled, pushing his sister's hand away. Using his own, he tried covering up the small cut on his forehead. It was just a little scratch, nothing else. No need for Onee-san to get all worried like she always did. It wasn't like she was his mother.

"It's just a scratch, Onee-san," he grumbled. He tried to slip past her. It would have worked too if she hadn't grabbed the collar of his shirt.

"Yuuta." She drew out his name in a way that made it sound absolutely terrifying.

"Nee-chan, we were just playing around earlier," a new, equally familiar voice piped in from behind his sister. Yuuta's scowl only grew.

"Stay outta it, Aniki," he growled, struggling to get away from his sister. He lucked out, managing to get his shirt out of her hands and slip past her. His brother tried to reach for Yuuta but the youngest sibling hunched down as he ran past. The door was still wide open behind Aniki and Yuuta took his chance.

There were advantages to being small sometimes. Yuuta knew all the best hiding spots in the neighborhood. Some of them were so good that Aniki didn't even know about them. And the best one of all was the one Yuuta was currently heading towards. On the edge of their neighborhood, there was a house that no one lived in. Which was strange because their neighborhood was really nice and it was the house closest to the beach but it'd been empty for as long as Yuuta could remember. Onee-san always told them to stay away from it because she got bad vibes from it. Aniki listened but not Yuuta. Yuuta was too smart to fall for Onee-san's silly superstitions.

Yuuta crawled around the side of the house. Last summer Bane-kun and Ryou-kun had dared him to try to get in the house. That was when Yuuta had discovered the window on the side that faced the beach had a broken latch.

It was just a stupid scratch. Onee-san didn't need to worry. She always worried about anything that happened. She wasn't their mother and needed to stop acting like she was. She was supposed to be a big sister and do big sister things. What those were Yuuta didn't really know but he knew his sister wasn't doing them. Besides, if Onee-san knew he'd been playing over on the train tracks with Bane-kun and Ryou-kun, he'd be in big trouble. Huge trouble. Like having to do all of his chores and Aniki's chores for the rest of the summer amount of trouble. No way did Yuuta want that.

"Now what do we have here?"

Hearing the strange male voice, Yuuta jumped up and looked around. He didn't know someone had moved into the house. No one did. If someone had moved in, it would have been big news around the neighborhood. "Look," the kid called out. He didn't see anyone but the house was almost pitch-black. The only light came from the moon. A strange itchiness at the back of his head made it a little harder to concentrate. "I'll leave if you want me to. I'm not here to cause any trouble, I promise."

Who did the voice belong to? Definitely no one Yuuta knew. He knew everyone that lived in the neighborhood and really, at times, it felt like just about everyone in the town. This voice belonged to some stranger but when had the person moved in? There hadn't been any signs of anyone living in the house. If there had, Yuuta wouldn't have hid in it. He scratched the back of his head.

"You're fine." The stranger gave an even stranger sounding chuckle. "I don't often get visitors."

"It's 'cause everyone in town thinks this place is abandoned." Had Yuuta been thinking, he wouldn't have answered the question so directly. Manners were important to Onee-san and she would scold him later about being rude. "If you want people to come visit, you need to go out during the day and meet them." Then everyone would get to meet the stranger and his visitor problem would be solved. It was simple enough to see even from Yuuta's standpoint and he was just a kid.

Chuckling, the stranger stepped forward into the moonlight. "It's not quite that simple." He looked like what Yuuta had said was some kind of joke.

"Don't laugh at me," Yuuta ordered. He was annoyed. This stranger was laughing at something simple that the grown-up should know and the itchiness hadn't gone away. It was making his head hurt.

"Believe me, my pet, I'm not laughing at you but rather at a joke you've unknowingly made," the stranger reassured. "To make it up, I'll introduce myself. I'm Mizuki."

Yuuta woke up. He was cold but there was no comfort in his sweat-soaked bed. He saw the clock and groaned. It was still so early. Times like this, he wondered why he'd even bothered. Yes, there was that job of his to go to. The bills weren't going to pay themselves and sitting around at home all the time had gotten boring a long time ago.

Getting the motivation to get out of bed was hard. Lately it had felt almost impossible at times. Leaving his little apartment felt even more impossible on those days. He had definitely just not gone to his job a couple of times over the last couple of months just for that reason. He knew he couldn't just stay in tonight though. He was scheduled to work and he was hungry. The second was far more important than the first. While he was out, he might as well go to work though. It'd help towards paying the month's bills.

As for the hunger, well, there was always that place his coworker had been talking about last night. It was apparently some new bar that turned into a club on weekends. Yanagisawa hadn't shut up about the place. After the first hour of the shift, Yuuta had almost been willing to knock the guy out just to get some peace and quiet for a few minutes. Of course, that could have also been attributed to his coworker's annoying duck-sounding laugh.

Searching the apartment for a clean pair of pants, Yuuta gave little nods as he figured out the night's plan. He knew the general area of the bar and would check it out. He'd find a drunk and get whoever to feed him. Then, last and worst of all, Yuuta would go to work. And the night he'd hope that he wasn't stuck with Yanagisawa again. If he was really lucky, it would be Tachibana and Yuuta could try to convince his boss to never schedule him to work with Yanagisawa again.

Yuuta couldn't help but wonder about Yanagisawa's taste in things as he searched the area he'd been told the bar was in. Yanagisawa had questionable taste as it was but even this part of town seemed questionable for him. It was darker than most. Once a block or so, there were signs about a missing girl. If Yuuta wasn't who he was, he'd almost feel unsafe. Making matters worse, there was absolutely no sign of the place Yanagisawa had gone on and on about.

Everything about this area made Yuuta miss his childhood. It had been a simpler, happier, brighter time. All he'd had to worry about were his homework and chores. He'd gotten to be awake during the day instead of spending his nights working in a convenience store. Playing in the waves under the warm sun. His brother painting the scenery. His sister attempting to tell the future with her weird cards. Yes, he definitely missed his childhood now more than ever. Being an adult wasn't as fun.

Maybe thinking about those simpler days was the cause for what he could have sworn he saw. Or maybe is wasn't. Still, that didn't stop Yuuta from staring at a doorway five buildings away. He could have sworn the guy that had just stumbled through looked just like Aniki. That was impossible. There was absolutely no way that had been his brother because that would be nothing short of a miracle. But maybe...the idea of Yuuta getting lucky with such a miracle led him to walk towards where the guy had gone in. He knew the guy couldn't be Aniki but Yuuta couldn't stop himself.

As he neared the doorway, Yuuta heard faint music coming from the other side. The sign over the place showed it to be the place Yanagisawa had raved about. He slipped in.

It was crowded. Yuuta knew he shouldn't have been surprised about that. Saturday night meant the place was in club-mode, not bar-mode. Busy was good for Yuuta. He had a better shot of finding a drunk, friendless someone. Friends only ever liked to interfere so Yuuta tried to avoid people in groups as best he could.

Standing near the back wall, Yuuta spent several minutes scanning the crowd to see if he could find that Aniki look-alike. He was starting to wonder if he'd just been seeing things. It wouldn't have been the first time. No one in the place looked a thing like his brother. It had been years since Yuuta had seen the guy but he'd recognize his brother if he saw him. Yuuta gave up, deciding it had just been his mind playing a trick on him.

He was still making decent progress towards his goals for the night. He was in the place he'd meant to go. It was busy and full of people well on their ways towards being drunk. He may not have found his brother but everything else was working out in Yuuta's favor. His mission was practically accomplished already. He just needed to find a drunk and convince the person to feed Yuuta.

A flash of brown by the bar caught his attention. He headed straight for whoever it was. That was the person he'd seen outside. As Yuuta neared, he wondered what he'd been thinking. He was getting a better look and it was obvious the guy he'd spotted looked nothing like Aniki. Well, other than that same shade of brown hair but that was the only physical similarity as far as Yuuta could tell.

Even better, the guy was already tipsy. Maybe even on the verge of being drunk. Yuuta had his target for the night picked out. This would be quick and simple and then he'd go to his job. He'd try not to kill Yanagisawa. After that, Yuuta would go home and sleep all day. Tomorrow night he'd do it all over again, minus the feeding part. If he managed to get a decent enough meal tonight, it would be a couple of days before he had to feed again. Suddenly Yuuta wasn't so sure he wanted a nice, easy meal.

This was the easiest and hardest part. Yuuta hated waiting but he needed to pick the right moment to introduce himself to the target. Seeing his target order a drink and stay at the corner of the bar, Yuuta decided it was time. He slid through the crowd, most people never even realizing he'd gone past. He stayed back for a moment, watching the seat next to his target carefully. When it opened up, Yuuta pounced.

"Looks good," Yuuta started, giving a nod towards whatever was in the glass the look-alike had. He didn't actually know what it was. It didn't matter anyway. Alcohol had absolutely no affect on Yuuta's mind or body.

The target spent the next several seconds just staring at his glass. After what felt like an eternity, he finally looked up. He opened his mouth to say something but noise failed to come out. Yuuta almost gagged from the pure alcoholic stench that came from his target. His goal was so close. He was never going to just happen upon someone this drunk ever again in his life.

There was only one thing that Yuuta could do. He caught the bartender's attention and ordered two of whatever his new companion had. When he was given his drinks, Yuuta set one in front of the look-alike.

"Cheers," the target slurred, raising his glass sloppily.

Yuuta smiled and raised his own glass in a toast. "Yuuta," he added, introducing himself. It was amazing just how fast his target could down a glass. Impressive and useful to know. Yuuta filed the knowledge away for later use. "You are?"

The drunk mumbled something that came out utterly unintelligible. It might have been something with a 'Dai' or maybe a 'Sae'. Yuuta really couldn't tell. On the bright side, if he screwed up and said the wrong name it was doubtful the drunk would even notice.

His new friend was talkative. Yuuta could barely make out what the guy was saying. Every fifth or so word came out somewhat clear but trying to follow that as a conversation would be flat out impossible. So Yuuta did the polite thing and just listened, nodding and agreeing when prompted. As far as he could tell, his target had recently been dating someone and it had ended badly. It was hard to tell for sure when most of it had been a slurred mess. Looking at his watch didn't help Yuuta any. All it did was remind him he was on a time schedule. If he didn't get his target out of here soon and feed, Yuuta was going to have to skip work. Maybe he should do that anyway...

"Shit." Before Yuuta's mind could wander any further, his companion gave a very clear curse. Following the direction of his gaze, Yuuta found himself staring at the doorway. Some people had just entered but he didn't see what the big deal was. They were just people. "Ex showed up." At least, that's what Yuuta thought he heard. Yuuta had no clue who his target was talking about. There was a decent sized group and no one stood out in particular. It was obvious his target wasn't happy about the situation now. This was just what Yuuta needed.

"Want to get out of here?" Yuuta offered. Sae (was that who the guy was?) muttered something that was still completely unintelligible but stumbled to his feet. A good sign. Seeing the guy swaying just from standing, Yuuta moved over to his new friend's side to help the guy out. Some money made its way onto the counter to pay for their drinks but that's not where Yuuta's mind went.

He had to be seeing things. It wasn't like earlier when his imagination had run away from him. No, Yuuta really had to be seeing things now. There was no other explanation. That face. That hair. The laugh as another bartender told a joke. Yuuta stared, mouth wide open. There was simply no other way.

"Let's go," Sae complained. He tried pulling Yuuta towards the door but only managed to jerk Yuuta's arm. It was enough to get his attention though. Yuuta snapped back to what he was doing. Food. That's what he needed and this person was going to help him out with that. He made a mental note to come back to the place tomorrow, to see if what he was seeing was actually true or not.

"My place is nearby." Yuuta helped led Sae out of the bar and off into the night.

iThe ten-year-old paced around the room./i He didn't like it. The place felt too grown-up and boring. And Mizuki-san had all these weird rules. Rules that Yuuta thought were stupid. "Mizuki-san, how come we only get to do stuff at night?"

Yuuta had been wondering about that the last five months. Most of the time he was with Mizuki-san was okay, well, except for his head always itching but Yuuta had learned to ignore that. Not always but it usually didn't bother him. Other than that, his time with Mizuki-san had been kind of weird. Mostly, he'd spend all night talking to Yuuta, telling him history stuff that was really boring but Yuuta was too polite to say anything. Onee-san would have Yuuta's head if he wasn't polite. Not that what Onee-san thought really mattered now. No matter what Yuuta did, he was going to be in so much trouble when he went home. Like, grounded until he was an adult amounts of trouble.

Mizuki-san was really strange though. Yuuta had realized that fairly early on but it seemed like the man only grew stranger by the day. He slept all day and was awake all night. The way he spoke Japanese was kind of weird too. It was all formal and old-fashion-y, like how samurai were supposed speak or something. He spoke weird languages that Yuuta didn't know too. And read those books with the strange characters. It was all weird gibberish. How anyone could make sense out of that Yuuta had absolutely no clue.

"How long have we traveled together, my dear boy?" Mizuki-san asked. He was leaning back on this weird chair that wasn't a chair. Yuuta had never seen something quite like it until last week. And that was another annoying thing. Mizuki-san only ever seemed to get stupid, useless stuff like chairs and clothes. Yuuta had to look around in the mornings to find whatever he could money-wise so that he could go into that day's town to get something to eat. It was usually barely enough for Yuuta so he never bothered sharing. Mizuki-san was an adult. He could go get his own food.

"About five months," Yuuta answered. "Why?" Okay, maybe he wasn't always polite. It was hard to have manners when his head was starting to hurt so bad.

Mizuki-san gave that weird chuckle again and leaned forward. "I think perhaps it may be time to tell you some things," he said after a few moments. Patting the spot on the chair-thing next to him, he added, "come and sit, my pet."

Yuuta gave the spot a wary look. Whenever Mizuki-san did that, it meant he was in for a long and boring story-time. And the itchiness was getting worse. It was taking all of the child's self-control not to scratch.

"I promise I won't bite if that's what you're worried about." Mizuki-san patted the spot again.

It was difficult to get into just the right spot on the chair-thing. If he sat too close to the edge, Yuuta was likely to fall off. If he sat further back, he was sitting in Mizuki-san's lap. Both were uncomfortable. "Tell me about what?" Yuuta demanded, twisting his head up to look at Mizuki-san. He shifted a little, trying to find just that right spot.

"Remember that first night, my pet, when you asked all those questions?" Mizuki-san patted Yuuta's hair. The boy scowled. He hated when people did that. It didn't even help with the itchiness. If anything, having his head touched only made it worse. "Yuuta, oh my dear Yuuta, I am the most unique person you'll ever meet."

For the second night in a row, Yuuta woke up in a wet bed. Sweat from the night before made the thin blanket stick uncomfortably to his skin. He looked around, try to get his bearings. His room. His tiny apartment. His own bed and blanket. All good signs. Judging from the lump next to him in the small bed, Yuuta figured he'd probably ended up skipping work the night before. Feeding always made his head go funny and remembering events was often difficult. Still, this was all good. It meant he'd gotten a meal and would be good for a few days. Maybe more depending on just how much he'd had.

Next time, he decided as he stood up, someone not so drunk. Yuuta hadn't gotten drunk in a long, long time but this morning—well, evening but who cared about semantics, was the closest he'd come. Second-hand alcohol always made his head do even funnier things than normal. His nightly dreams were bad enough but last night...Yuuta shook his head, trying to clear the memories.

The light around the edges of his thick curtains filled the room with a murky light. The darkness and the murkiness didn't bother Yuuta one bit. He'd long since adjusted to the night life. Light only indicated that it might not be as late as Yuuta thought it was. He'd have to find his phone and check the time to be completely sure. Really, the only difference between today and yesterday and all the other days before was the lump still next to him on the rather small bed. It was meant for one person, not two.

The lump moved. That simple fact was a very good sign. Waking up next to a dead body was never a top priority. Or even one at all.

"You awake?" Yuuta hoped so. It would be a lot easier for him to get rid of last night's drunk if he was already up. The lump shifted and Yuuta heard a yawn come from it. "Listen," Yuuta said as he rolled out of the bed, "I'll be back in a few minutes if you just want to leave." That was the deal Yuuta always tried to work out with the people he picked up. Most of the time, it even worked. Yuuta went into his tiny bathroom, turning on the faucet to make his story more believable.

Yuuta's hearing was too sharp to let the water mask the noises in the other room. The good hearing was nice at times but it just made some situations awkward like the current one he found himself in. Leaning against the door, Yuuta wondered just what the person was doing. He was assuming it was Sae. That was why he hadn't done anything to help the guy forget. Sae had been so drunk last night Yuuta didn't think any additional help was necessary.

Still, the amount of rustling around was a little disturbing. There was definitely far more than Yuuta thought there should have been. Who knew, maybe his 'date,' if the person could be called that, was still drunk. At the very least, Sae had to be hungover. Yuuta frowned when he heard something slide. That almost sounded like a drawer. What in the world was the drunk guy doing? He better not be making himself at home. There was no way Yuuta was sharing his tiny apartment with someone else, especially not someone who thought it was a good idea to go off with a stranger when drunk. That was just inviting all sorts of drama in Yuuta's relatively peaceful life.

After what felt like forever, he finally heard the door to his apartment open and close. Yuuta gave a sigh of relief as he left the tiny bathroom to go back to the almost as tiny apartment. No one was around. Nothing looked disturbed other than the messy bed. "Onee-san would be so proud," he muttered to himself as he made the bed. It was accidental but the mention of his sister made him pause.

If he closed his eyes, he could see her face. She always had this look like she knew what kind of trouble he'd gotten into. Her smile was one of the best and worst things he could see when running into the house. If she had a raspberry pie or a punishment, it never changed. She and Aniki had the same eyes but Onee-san's were nicer. Aniki's eye were kind of scary.

He didn't close his eyes. Instead, he noticed something white on the little counter in what passed for his kitchen. A few steps brought him near enough to see it was an unmarked folded piece of paper. Reading it, Yuuta almost had to groan. The message wasn't short but it was enough. There was nothing special, just a name, number, and invitation to meet again. What it told Yuuta was that he really should have done something. Instead, he'd been lazy and had hoped the alcohol had been enough but it wasn't. It never was and why he kept hoping this time would be different he would never know. Yuuta crumbled the paper into a ball and aimed for the trash can.

He had other plans. First, he needed to find his phone. That alone proved to be an almost impossible task. Just when Yuuta thought it'd fallen out of his pocket somewhere last night, he found it under a jacket that wasn't his. It didn't even look like something he'd be comfortable wearing. No doubt the guy from the night before had forgotten it.

Checking his phone, Yuuta almost felt glad he'd given his number to Yanagisawa. Annoying as the guy was, he'd come through just this once. The mails from his coworker told Yuuta that his boss was pissed about the no-call, no-show from last night but also that Yuuta had the night off. That meant he could go back to that bar. He could check out that bartender and see if his mind had really been that cruel or not. That had to be some sort of lighting trick. There was simply no way the universe would have made two of them. This mystery was far more important than anything else in his life.

Between waiting on the sun and travel time, it took Yuuta nearly two hours to end up back at the bar. The place wasn't as busy tonight but that was no surprise. It was a weeknight, not a weekend. The club portion from last night was gone and the place was back to just being a bar. That didn't mean the bartenders, both of them, weren't busy. Finding a spot near the back of the place, Yuuta watched them.

Over the next few weeks, Yuuta found himself back at the bar every night he had off. Sometimes even a few he was supposed to be working. Yanagisawa and Tachibana were getting angry at him but Yuuta couldn't stop coming. It was just so...well, uncanny how much that bartender looked like Mizuki. The clothing and the mannerisms were all wrong. Yuuta couldn't think of a time he had ever heard Mizuki curse or joke around with others. Mizuki had been all about the dark seducer and manipulator. The bartender seemed more honest than that. He had a temper. From the way he just laughed at getting water dumped over his head by the other bartender, Yuuta's bartender could enjoy a good joke or two.

Yuuta thought about approaching the bar sometimes. He spent far more time than he liked to admit daydreaming about what he would do. He would walk up to the bar and lean against it casually. The white-haired bartender would be off doing something else and the Mizuki look-alike would serve Yuuta. They would talk about something. Yuuta didn't know what but some subject would come up. He'd learn the bartender's name. All would be well with the world..

"Look, this is going to be a weird question but do I know you?" It was such an innocent question and the voice was so utterly unfamiliar that Yuuta had to turn to answer.

"I don't thi-" Yuuta stopped mid-word once his brain realized who had addressed him. Internally he started cursing. It was the one drunk guy from that first time he'd been at this place. Yuuta hadn't seen him around or even thought about him once since then.

The guy grinned. "Yeah, I do. I know you," he continued, seemingly oblivious to Yuuta's internal reaction. "We hooked up awhile back, didn't we?"

There was nothing Yuuta could do at this point but give an acknowledging shrug. It had been stupid and sloppy of Yuuta to have taken the guy back to Yuuta's own apartment. It had been even stupider to have trusted the guy's drunkenness to erase any memories from that night.

Yuuta gave a polite look, wishing the newcomer would move. The guy was standing in just the right spot that made it hard for Yuuta to watch his bartender. "How's your head?" He asked, adding, "you were kind of out of it then." It wasn't like Yuuta could just slip away at this point. Maybe if Yuuta appeared uninterested, the guy would take the hint and go away on his own. Or, as Yuuta soon discovered, the guy could drag Yuuta towards an empty table.

"It's good now," the guy replied. "But the hangover wouldn't go away for a few days. I can't believe how much I must have drank for that to have happened." The guy kept grinning. Yuuta knew that he himself was the real cause for that hangover but he wasn't going to admit that. "My name's Saeki, by the way. Saeki Kojirou."

No getting around things now. "Yuuta. Just Yuuta." He'd give up the right to use his family's name a long, long time ago.

"Well, Just Yuuta, how about I buy you a drink? I seem to recall you being so generous on our first date." Just the way Saeki said all of that made Yuuta want to crawl under a rock and never come out. Why in the world was this guy so happy? Shouldn't that be against a law or something? They were in a bar and had had one drunken night together. There was no reason to be acting like this.

As he processed just what Saeki had said, Yuuta paled. Date? Crap. "Sure, whatever you want to get." Yuuta hoped that just maybe it would take Saeki a long time to get them. And while that would happen, Yuuta would be able to slip away. He really hated for former meals to try and befriend him. Yuuta liked them to stay as random strangers.

The plan was to slip away the minute Saeki's back was turned. That plan almost happened too. Yuuta decided that sticking around might not be such a bad idea after all when he saw Saeki and the bartender talking. There was too much going on noise-wise to make out what the two were saying but they were speaking familiarly. Maybe staying a little bit wouldn't hurt. It was just about time for Yuuta to feed again anyway.

iFire./i Ice. It all hurt. Everything felt like it was simultaneously on fire and freezing cold all at once. He just felt like cutting his limbs off was the only thing that would make it all better. He didn't know who he was or where he was at.

A familiar voice was saying something nearby. It took almost all his concentration but he was finally able to make out what the voice was saying. "Yuuta. Yuuta, it's time to wake up." That was his name. He was Yuuta. Nothing more and nothing less.

It wasn't until Yuuta's eyes fluttered open that he even realized they'd been closed. Wherever he was, the light was bright. Too bright for his eyes and he quickly closed them. He opened his mouth to say something but couldn't. His mouth and throat were painfully dry. A strangely familiar itchiness at the back of his head was annoying him but his arm felt too heavy to lift up and scratch it.

Something warm and wet filled his mouth. It was rich and nourishing. It was life. Yuuta bit down to keep whatever it was from going away and drank. Only as he started to feel satiated did Yuuta realize that what he had tasted sharp and iron-y. Blood. He slowly opened his eyes, afraid of what he'd find.

He was drinking blood from Mizuki-san's wrist. The sheer strangeness of the entire situation made Yuuta let go. He couldn't help himself from licking his teeth clean. As he did that, Yuuta discovered his canines were different. They were sharper now, able to easily slice his tongue open if he wasn't careful.

Mizuki-san brought his bleeding wrist to his lips, licking the wound. "It's been just over a month, my pet." Yuuta didn't know what the guy was talking about. "I was starting to worry."

Worry about what? The itchiness in the back of his head worsened. "Wh-what am I?" Yuuta croaked out. He had a feeling he already knew. There was only one real possibility. After a decade of traveling with one, Yuuta had joined the ranks of the undead. He was now a vampire.

"No more sunlight," he murmured to himself. Not that Yuuta had really lived in the sun since his childhood anyway. He slowly tried to sit up. His head was spinning and everything still felt heavy but by taking it slowly, he was finally able to sit.

"My Yuuta, you'll live forever now, young and handsome. What I've given you is a wonderful gift." Mizuki-san gave him a look that said to not continue down the path Yuuta had started.

Giving a dry laugh, Yuuta added, "guess this means I really can't go home now, huh?" Yuuta had often wondered just what had happened to his family. It had been a full decade since he'd seen them. Mizuki-san had never taken Yuuta back anywhere near Chiba since and they moved too often to try to mail them. Besides, what would Yuuta have even said in a letter? The fears he'd had as a child, of them never forgiving him, were gone now. At twenty, he realized that they would probably just be glad to see him.

The look in Mizuki-san's eyes drove all thoughts of family out of Yuuta's head. The itchiness grew even worse. Family wasn't a subject Mizuki-san liked Yuuta mentioning. Actually, it was a subject he'd been forbidden to mention years ago. Mizuki-san was good at changing the subject or giving Yuuta a look. The one he had right now, with the angry and hurt eyes.

"Yuuta, my pet." Mizuki-san pulled Yuuta's face towards his own. The movement made Yuuta feel dizzy. All he wanted to do was lay back down and wake up when he felt better. Mizuki-san wasn't allowing that to happen. "I'm your family. Those people, they don't care for you. They never have. They pushed you away, remember?" Yuuta nodded, the pain in his head lessening for a moment. Mizuki-san continued. "If they had cared for you, my dear Yuuta, why did they never look for you? If they had cared, wouldn't they have tried to find you?"

And it was all true. The facts never changed. Mizuki-san was right. His family hadn't cared. If they had, they would have come looking for Yuuta. "I understand, Mizuki-san."

The clink of a glass being set down in front of Yuuta brought him out of his thoughts.

"First time I've seen you around without Saeki-kun." Yuuta knew that voice. He looked up, surprised to see his bartender in front of him. Not the white-haired one but the one that looked like Mizuki. The bar wasn't busy tonight but Wednesdays usually were fairly quiet. The white-haired bartender was talking to a couple of guys off at the other end of the bar but Yuuta's bartender was right here in front of him. He was even leaning on the counter, watching Yuuta. "You two dating or something?"

Was he really being asked that question? Taking a long drink from the glass in front of him, Yuuta used the time to give him an opportunity to regain his mental composure. "No, not going out," he replied. "He's just..." Yuuta didn't know how to put it. Saeki was a decent guy and had been providing Yuuta with plenty of little snack meals. He was careful to never take too much. Unfortunately, all of that only seemed to make Saeki more determined than ever to spend time with Yuuta. He only stuck around the guy to see if it'd let Yuuta get closer to his bartender.

The bartender chuckled. It was nothing like Mizuki's. "Yeah, I know what you mean. Saeki-kun's a great guy but when he decides to attach himself to someone...well, you know."

"Yeah," was all Yuuta could say. He couldn't believe this was happening. He'd been trying to figure out how to approach his bartender for weeks now. All kinds of scenarios had run through Yuuta's head but never this one. He'd never imagined that his bartender would be the one to initiate their first conversation. "I'm Yuuta, by the way."

"Kirihara," the guy introduced himself. "You looked like you could use a beer," he added. Nodding towards the other bartender and that group, he continued. "A couple of my old schoolmates are in town and are being kind of obnoxious. They like to think I'm still the little kid of the group so I hope you don't mind that I'm kind of using you to stay away."

Was that really the situation? Yuuta wasn't one to complain. "The beer won't help much. Alcohol doesn't really affect me but thanks. And hey, I understand." If Yanagisawa were at the bar, Yuuta would spend all his time trying to stay away from his coworker. Annoying people were really the worst, especially when they decided to not let things go.

"So, if you can't get drunk and you're not with Saeki-kun, what's got you always coming to this place? You're here practically every night."

Yuuta hadn't realized he'd been noticed. "It's something to do," he answered. "It beats sitting around alone all night in my apartment." He was surprised to hear himself say that out loud. All of it was true but those kinds of thoughts were supposed to stay bottled up inside. "So, what's the story with them?" He nodded towards the group with the other bartender.

Kirihara made a face. "I went to school with them. The bald guy's visiting from out of country so a bunch of them are all meeting up after the shift ends."

There was something in the way that was said. "You don't want to go, do you?"

"You got me," the bartender admitted. "I like them and they were really good friends back in junior high and high school but seeing them...it's kind of hard to explain."

Noticing the other bartender, Niou, moving to leave Yuuta saw an opportunity. "Come out with me instead. I'll buy you dinner and you can tell me all about it." That would also give Yuuta a chance to be alone with this guy.

Kirihara thought about it for a few moments before shrugging. "That'd work. Jackal and the others would understand. And, uh, thanks for the food in advance. Just wait a few minutes while I clock out and explain, okay?"

There was only one thing Yuuta could do. He nodded. Waiting a few minutes wasn't a problem. He'd been waiting for weeks just to have an opportunity to speak to the bartender. He'd never imagined he'd be getting some time alone with him so soon. And all it was going to cost Yuuta was the cost of one meal. He was perfectly okay with that. He needed to know the answer to the one question that had been bothering Yuuta ever since he'd first realized his eyes hadn't been playing tricks on him. It just didn't seem likely that the universe would have made two people that looked so alike unless...unless this Kirihara was Mizuki reborn.

And that was how less than twenty minutes later, Yuuta found himself sitting in a small fast-food place across from Kirihara. It was hard for him to keep the look of disgust off his face. It wasn't even so much the food, though really, how could people eat that fried stuff? That didn't look edible but Kirihara was scarfing the stuff down like it was the best thing in the world.

"My turn first," Kirihara said between bites. "What's the real reason you're always around Saeki-kun? Got a crush on him or something?" Yuuta was almost disgusted by his companion's manners. Or rather, the guy's lack of manners. It was nice to see someone who didn't care about what everyone thought but still...maybe manners weren't such a bad thing. Yuuta was expecting some little chunk of food to come flying at him any moment now.

"I don't know. He's just kind of attached himself. What you were saying before at the bar and all," Yuuta answered. "It's the truth. Any time I show up, he just won't go away."

"Yeah, but you two leave together," Kirihara pointed out.

Yuuta couldn't fight that. "We hang out a little while afterwards, that's it." And Yuuta fed but he wasn't about to tell Kirihara that. "My turn. How long have the two of you known each other?"

Kirihara slurped down some of his shake. It sounded disgusting. "Saeki-kun's been coming to the bar for as long as I've worked there so at least a year. But I think I met him a few times in high school."

Something about that seemed so strange to Yuuta. "Wait," once he realized what it was, "how old are you?" There was no way Kirihara could be very old. He barely looked old enough to be an adult let alone having been able to work in a bar for a year.

"And here I thought it was my turn to ask the question." Kirihara leaned back, burping. Yuuta wondered just who had raised the guy. "I'll answer yours if you answer two of mine."

Yuuta shrugged, not really seeing a problem with that. It wasn't as if Kirihara could come up with anything that would stump him.

Kirihara looked smug as he answered, "my twenty-second birthday's in September. You? And as for my other question, why do you keep coming to the bar if the alcohol isn't getting you drunk?"

Every time Yuuta heard someone else's age, it always hit him hard. The boy in front of him was so young, so fragile Part of Yuuta wondered if this was how Mizuki had felt when he'd discovered Yuuta all those years ago. "I'm twenty," just had my birthday in February," he lied. Well, it wasn't entirely a lie. His body had died at twenty. If died was the right term. Time had paused? Maybe. He'd stopped aging when he was twenty. That was probably the best way to put it. His birthday was in February at least. It was just, well, twenty wasn't quite Yuuta's real age. Not when he had been born in an entirely different century. It wasn't even just the last one but the one before. Explaining that to mortals was rather difficult though so instead Yuuta just lied.

"Someone's a baby~" Kirihara teased.

"And I'm looking at him," Yuuta teased back. "I could have sworn I answered your other question already but I'll answer it again. I drink it because it's something to do. I've got a job but that doesn't take up all the hours of the night and it beats sitting home alone all night." There was another reason but Yuuta wasn't about to tell Kirihara it. Getting to see the bartender was Yuuta's primary reason for always going to that particular bar.

"Seems like an expensive hobby if you ask me. I mean, it's cool 'cause without guys like you, I'd be out of a job." Kirihara laughed.

Something about the sheer honesty of that hit Yuuta hard. "Sadly, I'm actually really good with my money compared to this guy I used to know. When I was with him, it always seemed like our money went towards whatever random thing caught his eye. Usually, something purple or covered in a rose pattern..." Yuuta shuddered. Even so many years later it was hard for him to look at that color.

"Ex?" Kirihara asked. "Sometimes when I hear about other peoples lives, I'm glad I haven't been with anyone. I think the longest relationship I had lasted two dates."

Yuuta shrugged. "Kind of. It ended up being a little more complicated than just that but it's a close enough analogy." Trying to explain that whole situation would only get Yuuta locked up in a mental facility. Or pitied. Neither of those was an acceptable option. "That was three questions, by the way. My turn."

"I can take anything you can throw at me," Kirihara replied, looking entirely too smug.

Yuuta doubted that. With age came wisdom and Yuuta had plenty of age. Age had taught Yuuta that there was no thing as wisdom. "Why haven't you dated anyone?" He was genuinely curious about that. Kirihara had the looks and seemed to be a decent guy. He had absolutely no manners but otherwise he seemed like a good catch. Yuuta wasn't exactly complaining about the bartender's single status though.

Kirihara stretched, seeming to be done with his meal. "That's an easy one. Back in high school, I was obsessed with tennis. Actually, remember my friends from before?" Yuuta nodded and Kirihara continued, "they were my teammates for years. We played for the same school in both junior high and high school."

"And?" Yuuta failed to see how that was enough to make someone want to avoid their old friends.

"It was my world. My plan from the time I was eight was to become a professional. That was all I wanted to do with my life. Up until my second year of high school, anyway." Kirihara gave a heavy sigh. "That's why I don't really like to see those guys. They knew me back then. Being around them brings up old memories."

"And that makes you want to stay away how?"

Kirihara shrugged. "I was being stupid one day after practice and got into an accident." He didn't offer any more information for several minutes. It was starting to feel awkward. Finally he continued, "I was seriously hurt and that ended my tennis career. I mean, I play now but I'm nowhere near as good as I used to be."

Some new pop song started playing. It wasn't coming from Yuuta. He couldn't stand the music kids listened to today. No, it was from Kirihara. The guy read whatever message it was. As he read, his facial expressions changed. It was amusing to watch. "Sorry, my friends are trying to get me to go see them. Jackal's getting married." He gave Yuuta an apologetic smile. "I'll see you around, okay?"

"So, what are you studying?" Yuuta asked. He'd noticed a textbook behind the bar.

Kirihara gave Yuuta an amused look. "You guys aren't supposed to see that."

"You guys meaning customers or just me?" Yuuta didn't take offense to either. He just found the fact amusing. "What subject?"

"Normally I don't try to study here but I've got a history test in the morning," Kirihara answered. A customer at the other end ordered something and he went off to tend the person. That left Yuuta to just relax at his own end of the bar.

When he came back, Yuuta was waiting. "What period in history?"

Kirihara just handed over the book. "It's a general history class, covering the basics of everything since 1900."

"Everything world-wise or Japan-wise. You do realize there's a difference right?" Yuuta rested an arm on the book. He had to admit the time period his new friend (was that what Kirihara was?) was studying amused Yuuta. And made Yuuta feel really old. His lifetime was now considered a significant enough amount of time to make an entire class about it.

Kirihara shook his head. "I'm not an idiot. It's actually European history."

"Not at all what I'd picture you studying," Yuuta admitted. In all the times he'd stopped by the bar and they'd talked, all he'd learned about Kirihara was that the guy was a student. He had no clue what subject the guy was studying.

"What'd you think I was going to school for?" Kirihara leaned on the bar, an amused look on his face. "I'm trying to become a teacher."

That was not at all what Yuuta had imagined. "Really?"

A guy came up with a small group of girls. Kirihara went over, leaving Yuuta alone with the textbook. Seeing that his friend was going to be busy for awhile, Yuuta flipped through the pages. He'd never read something about actual events. Well, something other than news articles. To see life as history, that was mind-blowing.

"So, you two friends now?" A new voice asked. Yuuta jumped. Looking, he saw the other bartender leaning in Kirihara's spot. The guy, Yuuta wanted to say Niou, was smirking in a way that made Yuuta feel entirely uncomfortable. Times like this made Yuuta wish he'd figured out the whole mind power thing that Mizuki had been good at.

Yuuta took a drink, taking the time to stall. He'd never actually spoken to this bartender. "Why do you ask?" Suspicion seemed to be the proper attitude. There was something about Niou that had Yuuta on edge.

Niou shrugged. "Bakaya's an old friend. Got to look out for his well-being and all."

"Bakaya?" Yuuta tried not to laugh as he repeated that. "Is that what your group calls him?"

"Maybe. Or maybe I like to give people names."

It was impossible for Yuuta to get a read on this Niou. He didn't like it. "So, what is this? Are you trying to threaten me to stay away or something?"

The laugh Niou gave him only confused Yuuta more. "If I tried to do something like that, the brat would come after me with his crazy face on."

"Crazy face?" Yuuta admitted he was curious about that.

Niou shook his head. "I think that might be enough for now." He nodded towards the other end of the bar. Yuuta looked, noticing Kirihara watching them. Kirihara did not look amused. "We don't want Bakaya throwing a fit after all."

"He might not throw fits, as you put it, if you didn't keep calling him that," Yuuta pointed out. Niou just gave a little chuckle before leaving, throwing out some random nonsense word as he moved down the bar to a couple of guys who'd come over.

It wasn't a surprise to see Kirihara make his way back over towards Yuuta. Or the question of what Niou had mentioned to Yuuta. "We were just talking," was Yuuta's reply. "He just wanted to talk apparently."

Kirihara looked skeptical. "Yeah, that doesn't sound like Niou."

"It's what happened," Yuuta replied. Simple as that. "Why? Don't like me talking to him?"

Kirihara glanced down the bar. "I don't like anyone talking to Niou."

Well that was interesting. Yuuta leaned forward. "He seems like a nice enough guy."

"There's a decent chance that's not even Niou," Kirihara said, scowling. "Him and this other friend of ours like to play dress up as each other. And if it's the other guy..." The human gave a little shudder. "I hope that's Niou over there."

Yuuta laughed. "You're not sure about your own friend?"

"Not when it's that guy," Kirihara admitted. "So, what that really it? He just wanted to talk?"

"Keep talking like that and I'm going to start thinking you're interested in me." The moment the words were out, Yuuta wished he could take them back. Such a stupid, stupid thing to say. Why did he say that? Before Kirihara could respond, a bar patron flagged him over.

When Kirihara returned, all he found was a half-empty bottle of beer and his own textbook.

Three days. It had been three days since Yuuta had last left his apartment. Five since he'd gone to work and a week since he'd seen Kirihara. Yuuta still had no clue why he'd said that stupid thing. He wished he had a mental filter that would have kept him from saying that. At least Yuuta's phone had finally stopped ringing as Tachibana realized Yuuta was a lost cause. Going to that place and spending his nights working that boring job and dealing with Yanagisawa was just something Yuuta found he couldn't do. Not anymore. Not when he'd said that one stupid thing and screwed up everything.

Yuuta did his best to not look at his calendar. He kept careful track of the days he fed and when he needed to feed by. Ever since he'd started to get to know Kirihara, Yuuta had been more lax than he should have been on keeping fed. This time was by far the worst though. His calendar said it'd been almost two weeks since he'd fed. Yuuta should have definitely gone out and eaten a few days ago. And yet, when Yuuta had last tried to get a drunk, all he could imagine was Kirihara's face with a disappointed look.

Rolling over on his tiny bed, Yuuta stared at the small window across the small space. The thick chocolate brown curtain was drawn across it as it always was. If he could have gotten away with it, Yuuta would have nailed boards over the window long ago. He knew the dangers of sunlight. That was something Yuuta knew he would never forget. No matter how much he wished, that image would always be with him.

He knew he needed to get up. He needed to feed, to get something in his system. Going feral wasn't a reasonable option, not if Yuuta wanted to stay in Kanagawa. He did. For the most part it was a decent place. His particular neighborhood and the ones he tended to frequent weren't the best. It seemed like every week there were new posters up about missing people but other than that, the place was nice. More importantly, there was a large enough population to sustain him indefinitely. And there was Kirihara but Yuuta tried to squash that particular thought.

The worst part about life was the sheer cost of everything. It felt like forever ago that Onee-san would hand Aniki a little money and the Fuji boys would run off to the store to get whatever little item she'd asked for. They would spend whatever was left on themselves. Yuuta always treated himself to raspberries. They were even better than chocolate. Aniki would be weird and get something spicy like wasabi paste.

Yuuta made a face at the thought. Wasabi. So spicy and disgusting. And yet Aniki would devour the stuff like it was something delicious. And he'd put it on everything. Like apples. When that had happened, Yuuta had wanted to cry at the waste of a perfectly good apple.

Food. Getting up and finding a drunk was the only priority he really had. He hated to admit just how much an effort even getting out of bed was. It didn't help that all his clothes, the few he even had, were dirty. Not just dirty but hadn't been washed in a couple of wears dirty. They felt all grungy and gross. That was one part of eternal life Mizuki had skipped out on. Yuuta knew all about Mizuki's preferred method of doing things. When he could get away with it, Mizuki had wanted to live like a prince. Yuuta remembered all too well playing the servant role. Not fun.

Yuuta found a jacket and his phone. Even now, it was beyond weird for him to think about the little device tucked away in his pocket. It felt like magic, that there was something so little and simple that gave him the ability to contact anyone in the world. Sometimes it seemed like he was living on a foreign planet. So much about this world had changed. There were times when it was just so tempting to run away, to run back to his childhood when things had been simpler and the world had made sense.

He didn't know what his feet were doing. It was a surprise when he found himself back at the bar. This was the last place Yuuta wanted to be but he couldn't help himself. Almost immediately, he froze.

Kirihara was working. Saeki was here. Those two things alone were enough to make Yuuta run away but instead he watched. He wished he hadn't. They were talking, smiling, and laughing. The place was more crowded than normal so even Yuuta's superior sense of hearing had trouble making out what they were saying. He tried not to eavesdrop but he could make out every tenth or so word. The two were joking around. Since when had those two had been friends? Saeki reached over and rested his hand on Kirihara's. Yuuta could have sworn he heard one of him say his name and they both laughed. Kirihara didn't push the hand away.

Yuuta barely noticed leaving the bar. The only thing he could focus on was that hand on that arm. Those laughs. He needed to feed. Maybe if he did that, he could summon the courage to go back and see just what was going on. Maybe it was something innocent? His gut told him no but Yuuta wanted to ignore that. Maybe if he fed, he could get the scene out of his head. All those questions Kirihara had asked that night, those questions about Saeki, only made the feeling in Yuuta's gut grow.

There was something going on between those two. Why else would Saeki keep returning to a bar his ex frequented? It was obvious that Saeki's relationship hadn't ended well. Yuuta still remembered that first night when they'd met and just how drunk the human had been. Kirihara had pulled Yuuta aside and had asked about Yuuta's relationship with Saeki. There was something going on. That was the only explanation.

Why? Why now? The one time in years, so many years. More than Yuuta cared to think about. The one time that things started to turn around and then it just all falls apart like that. His own stupidity had screwed this up so bad. If only he hadn't said that one stupid little thing. It had been a joke. He should have known to not tell a joke. Teasing was not his forte.

Who knew? That was the only explanation could come up with. Maybe those two were in on it together. Whatever 'it' might be.

"Aww, what's got you so down, sweetie?" Yuuta jumped as he felt a warm arm hug his own. His jacket was gone. He hadn't even noticed taking it off or setting it anywhere.

He just wanted to be alone. "Find someone else," he growled, trying to shrug the girl off. She clung.

"Honey, don't be like that," she whined. It was an annoying high-pitched voice too. Yuuta was reminded of a little girl. That was bad. The pitch of her voice just pissed him off even more.

"Not having a good day," he tried warning her. "You need to go before you get hurt." He wasn't sure how much he could control himself, not when he was this upset and in need of something to eat. He could feel his canines. They were sharp. This situation was even worse than he thought. He needed to feed. He had no clue he'd let himself get this bad. Another day and he-

She, whoever she was, had leaned over. Her head was resting on his shoulder. Her neck was exposed and he could practically see the spot that would give him the life-giving blood he craved. All it would take would be a simple dip of his head and a simple bite. He didn't like to feed from the neck. The spot was too obvious and fragile but it was so close.

"Honey, let's go somewhere private." She tugged on his arm. "All you have to do is pay for the room."

Yuuta tried tugging his arm away again. If he wanted to, he knew he could easily get away. He was far stronger than the girl and she wasn't holding on very tight. He didn't want to hurt the girl. Besides, his sister would have had his head if he hurt a girl in anything other than a life or death situation.

"Honey..." she whined again. "Be a dear and take me somewhere we can be alone."

He ran his tongue over his canines. "Fine," he agreed.

Fire. His arm was burning. It was almost the worst pain he'd ever felt in his long life. The taste of blood was in his mouth. He wasn't in his bed. He wasn't in his apartment. Hell, Yuuta didn't even think he was in Kanagawa anymore. He pulled his arm close, out of the little sliver of sunlight that had made its way into whatever place he was in. Yuuta just laid there, wherever he was.

He could hear the ocean. If he kept his eyes closed, he could almost believe he was ten again, that he was back in Chiba. Onee-san would be outside their house, tending her garden or taking care of her chickens. Aniki would be down at the beach, painting the scenery. Again. Bane-kun and Ryou-kun would be playing by the school. Depending on the game, Atsushi-kun and Itsuki-kun might be there too. Yuuta would run over and they'd all greet him with open, happy arms.

That was all just a long lost dream.

Yuuta opened his eyes. He was in a house. That was a good sign. Surprising but good. He looked around, trying to see if there was anyone nearby. No one. There were a few pieces of furniture but they were dusty. So was the floor Yuuta was laying on. Just looking around made him want to sneeze.

It was sunset. Soon he'd be free to see just where he was. The house must be abandoned. That was the only explanation Yuuta had for how he could be in a residence that wasn't his own. He had no clue how he'd gotten here, wherever that might be. The last thing he even remembered was being in his apartment. He'd left to feed but that was the last thing he remembered. The blood in his mouth indicated he'd done that but he had no memory of who he'd fed on.

Soon the sun set and Yuuta was free to leave. He stepped outside and knew. He was home. This was Chiba. He could tell by the taste and the smell of the air. It didn't exactly look like the Chiba of his memories but he knew it was the place of his birth.

It was the first time he'd been back since that very first night with Mizuki. The sand beneath Yuuta's feet made it hard to walk. He wasn't sure but this stretch of beach looked familiar. Maybe...no. It couldn't be.

But it was.

Yuuta was back in the very same neighborhood he'd spent his childhood in. There were more houses, electric lines everywhere, and all kinds of other signs that time had happened but it was still the same neighborhood. He had to look. His brother and sister were long gone at this point. Yuuta had no doubts about that. Someone else would be living in their house. He had to go check it out to be sure. The house was right were Yuuta had left it. The roof was a different color not but otherwise the property looked almost the same. There was a tree in the corner, near what had been Onee-san's room. It was an old tree from the look of it. Most importantly though was the name plate.

Fingers traced over the characters. Fuji. It still said Fuji. Someone he was related to still lived here. Not one of his siblings. If Aniki were alive, he would be 125 years old. Onee-san would be even older. One of them must have had children. A little niece or nephew could be here.

Even one of those would be old.

"Hey mister, whatcha doin'?" A young voice asked from above. She was in Onee-san's room. She couldn't be more than seven or eight years old and she didn't look familiar at all.

"You shouldn't talk to strangers," he replied. She didn't look it but she was family. She had to be if her family name was Fuji.

The girl giggled. "But you don't seem like a bad stranger," she called back.

"Kid, you don't know anything about me." Yuuta debated jumping the gate. He couldn't enter the house but the yard was okay. He wondered if the shed was still out back. Onee-san had kept her chickens in it. From the smell, they were long gone but maybe their shed was still around. "Besides, isn't it past your bedtime?"

The girl's frown was obvious from even this far away. It was cute. Something about it reminded Yuuta of Onee-san. "Don't tell my mom," she ordered. Yes, definitely reminded him of his sister.

"If you don't go to bed, I'll leave," he replied. She was family. This little girl was some distant niece of his. He should be responsible even if she didn't know Yuuta was her uncle. And all of that was just the weirdest thing to think about.

"I don't wanna..." she whined. A light from downstairs turned on. Yuuta smiled.

"Now you have to, little Fuji," he teased. "Someone's coming to put you to bed."

The girl squeaked and disappeared. The window stayed open but he could hear a woman scolding the girl. Moving to the side so Yuuta couldn't be seen, he waited to see what would happen next. And maybe in a little bit go looking around the small yard. He could hear someone closing the window and a few minutes later the light from downstairs turned off.

Yuuta continued to wait for a few more minutes before he hopped the gate. He slowly crept towards the back of the house where Onee-san's shed had been. As he passed the tree, he noticed something on it's truck. If he needed to breathe, it would have been difficult at that moment. He reached over, resting his hand on the trunk.

iYuuta./i

That's what it said. Someone had taken the time and carved his name into the trunk of this old tree. It hadn't been done recently either. The edges were old and warn. Somehow he just knew this had been Aniki's handiwork.

Honestly that was enough. They hadn't forgotten about him. They'd planted a tree and carved his name into it. Yuuta fell to his knees, resting his forehead against the cool, rough bark. It was comforting. They must have forgiven him if they'd done this. Why else would they have done all this if they hadn't?

The next night, barely after sunset, Yuuta found himself back at the house. The little girl was playing outside with a man who must have been her father. "Mister, you're back!" She gave a little cheer when she noticed Yuuta. Her father wasn't so inviting. He was painful to look at.

His brother was so evident in the man. This had to be his brother's grandson. The same face. The same eyes. How Yuuta could have ever thought Saeki had Aniki's hair color was a complete mystery. This man. This many looked just like how Aniki must have looked as an adult.

"Can I help you?" The man asked, his voice polite but distant. At least he didn't sound like Aniki. There was no way Yuuta could have handled that.

Instead, there was another way of handling this. "I...I think we might be related. My great-grandfather was from here." He didn't mean the voice crack but then, Yuuta wasn't entirely sure what he was doing at the moment. And was Yuuta really that old? It didn't seem possible.

The man looked at Yuuta, suspicion in his eyes. "Oh? Why's that?"

"I...found some old letters with this address on it from him. His name was Yuuta." It was harder than normal for Yuuta to lie. He felt like he was speaking to Aniki's ghosts. Those blue eyes were trying to force Yuuta to admit everything.

The name Yuuta gave must have been the magic word because the man's demeanor changed. He looked rattled. "Honey, could you please get Oji-san and tell him we have a guest?" The little girl nodded and disappeared into the house. The man turned back to Yuuta. "If what you say is true, my father's the one you need to be speaking to, not me. He's the one who knows all about that part of the family history."

Aniki's ghost walked to the gate, letting Yuuta in. "Come on it. It'll take my father a few minutes to make his way out so I'll get some tea going."

The moment Yuuta entered the house, he was hit by a case of deja vu. The layout hadn't changed but this house looked nothing like the home in his memories. The walls were a different color. That alone was jarring. There was a picture of a family on the wall. Yuuta recognized Aniki's ghost and his daughter but everyone else were complete strangers. The picture just looked so wrong in that spot. If Yuuta needed to breathe, it would have been hard to do again but for entirely different reasons this time. He felt the urge to run away again. Being in this house was overwhelming.

Yuuta squashed the urge which was how he ended up sitting across from a strange old man. But the man wasn't strange. There was something about him that felt so familiar. Yuuta knew he was older than this man. His nephew. In another life, Yuuta would have watched this boy grow up. He would have seen the man's life from the other end, to see the start of his life rather than the end.

Looking at this man, Yuuta finally realized what running away with Mizuki had cost him. A life of normalcy and sunshine, of family and children. He swallowed, the motion hurting his throat.

"I know who you are," the old man started, skipping introductions. "You're from my uncle's family."

Yuuta nodded. He was. He was this boy's uncle. "My name's Yuu...suke. Fuji Yuusuke." Having the same name might seem a little suspicious. "I...found some old letters with this address," he continued on. "I know my great-grandfather came from Chiba. I just thought...maybe it wouldn't be bad for the two parts of the family to reconnect."

Once he said it, Yuuta realized just how true that sentiment really way.

His nephew smiled. "I was named after my uncle."

The hard lump in Yuuta's throat was back and more painful than ever. "If...if you don't mind the question, what happened here after my great-grandfather left?" This would be the absolute hardest thing to hear. Yuuta had to know what had happened to his brother and sister after he'd left their lives.

His nephew, and namesake, didn't answer the question right away. "Yuki," he instead started. Aniki's ghost, who had been sitting off to the side looked up. "Go and get my father's paintings." While the young man did that, the older turned back to Yuuta. "My father was an artist. When I was young, he painted but he moved into photography as the years went on. There are a few I think you might be interested in."

Aniki had been an artist. Yuuta wanted to be surprised about that but he wasn't. Art had always been Aniki's passion. His ghost, Yuki, returned with a small stack of papers and handed them over to his father. The man went through them for a moment before handing a few over to Yuuta.

The top one took his breath away. "Is...is that...?" Yuuta stared at the picture, fingers reaching out to touch the lines of the face. His face.

"My uncle," Yuuta's nephew replied. "My father thought he would have looked something like that as an adult. I think he looks a bit like you."

It was uncanny how right Aniki had been. Yuuta almost felt as if he were looking in a mirror. "I..." There were no words. Yuuta went to the next painting.

"My aunt, before she died," the man explained. "I was a young boy when it happened."

Onee-san looked so beautiful. Yuuta could feel his eyes burning as he tried to hold back tears. She was older than he remembered but she was still Onee-san. "What happened?"

His nephew gave a sad smile. "My father said she never stopped searching for my uncle, not until what would have been my uncle's twentieth birthday."

Her cards. Somehow Yuuta knew that's what was how his sister had searched. That's how she'd known when he died. The timing fit. "Then how?"

"An illness. I don't know which one. My father," the man had a sad look in his eyes. "He would always worry whenever my little sister and I fell ill. I think he was afraid we would end like my aunt."

"You have a sister?" Yuuta had a niece. A little baby niece that was all grown up and then some at this point.

His nephew nodded. "My little sister, Haruha. She lives in Hawaii now with her daughter."

Hawaii. So far away. But Aniki had lived on and had children who now had their own families. That was enough. Yuuta's nephew shuffled through some of the photographs his son had brought with the paintings. "This one," his nephew said as he showed one in particular. "This is one of the first pictures of my family."

Yuuta took the photograph and stared. Aniki. This was Aniki, all grown up. He looked beautiful. There was a woman that Yuuta assumed was Aniki's wife and two little children, a boy and a girl. They were standing in front of a house, this house. Yuuta felt something wet on his cheek.

The man smiled. "You should keep these," he told Yuuta. "My son," who crossed his arms and looked like a petulant child, "he and his family don't appreciate the history. You look like you do."

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. "I...thank you. My...family will really appreciate them."

His nephew nodded and leaned back. "There's just one thing. My father never stopped looking for my uncle, not even after my aunt said he was gone."

Never? Yuuta couldn't help but hurt for Aniki. It had been a fruitless search. Mizuki had hidden them well both in and out of Japan. "My...he ran away," Yuuta tried to explain. He couldn't tell the whole story but he'd tell it the best he could. "When he did that, he met an older boy and they ran away together. They traveled around and were happy."

His nephew watched Yuuta, his expression hard to read. It was strange just how much his namesake didn't look like Aniki but did.

"They had a comfortable life," Yuuta continued. "The older boy was from a wealthy background so they didn't have to work hard." He closed his eyes, trying to keep his face as blank as possible. "...my father said that my great-grandfather was happy but that he never forgot his family, your aunt and father."

"My father would have loved to hear that," his nephew replied.

Yuuta nodded. "I'll be in town for a few more days," he decided right there, "so if you wouldn't mind, would it be okay if I came back tomorrow evening?"

iMizuki was pacing around their apartment./i It would have concerned Yuuta if it hadn't become a long time habit of Mizuki's. For the last couple of years, his companion had been acting restless. In the beginning, it had worried him but after a few years of it the pacing was just plain annoying.

Little did Yuuta know how different this particular night would be.

"Calm down," Yuuta said, trying to get Mizuki to stop. Every night, starting around sunset and continuing until sunrise, Mizuki would do this. A few nights every so often it wouldn't happen but this appeared to be life now. "We'll go hunting soon." That would help Mizuki. It usually did anyway.

"It won't be enough." Mizuki's voice sounded odd. Yuuta looked up. This was the first time he'd actually looked at his companion tonight. And maybe really the first time he'd looked at Mizuki in a long while.

The clothes Mizuki wore were rumpled. They smelled like they had been worn for a few days now. His normally perfectly styled hair was messy. It probably hadn't been brushed in days. If Yuuta didn't know any better, he'd have thought Mizuki was someone who never took care of himself.

"I miss the sun, my Yuuta." Mizuki had this look in his eyes that made Yuuta worried. It looked like Mizuki wasn't there, like he was an empty shell. "It was so warm, far warmer than these cold, dark nights."

For the first time since he'd been turned, Yuuta started to feel fear. He crossed the room, grabbing his sire's arm. The snarl Yuuta received sent a cold chill down his spine.

"Unhand me, child."

Actually afraid, Yuuta did as he was told. And then, just pain and darkness.

When he came to, Yuuta found himself alone in the apartment. Something about the place seemed strangely off. Something was different and that was even scarier then the way Mizuki had been acting. Speaking of him, there was no sign of Mizuki anywhere.

Yuuta left the apartment. He had to find his sire. He could admit it now but there was something seriously wrong with Mizuki. Whatever it was had been wrong for a long time. As Yuuta wandered the streets, he saw very few signs of life anywhere. The cats that wandered the night streets were gone. Even in the dead of night, there should be something. The bad feeling in Yuuta's stomach grew. The later it got, the worse the feeling grew and the more he worried. An uncomfortable itch told Yuuta he had to turn back. If he didn't turn back soon, the sun would destroy him. Yuuta had a little time, being a young vampire but not much. He sincerely hoped Mizuki was somewhere safe. The sun would destroy him after just a moment.

"My dear Yuuta," a voice more familiar to Yuuta than his own cooed from the darkest corned of the apartment. Yuuta instantly felt relieved. Mizuki was home. Mizuki was safe. Whatever was wrong with Mizuki could be dealt with, starting tomorrow.

"Yes, Mizuki-san." Yuuta moved cautiously towards the corner. It was the darkest corner of the apartment but it was also dangerously close to the one window in the room. At this point, the sun was almost completely up.

Mizuki seemed to realize that fact at the exact same moment. "My dear Yuuta," Mizuki's voice sounded strangely joyous. Yuuta's fear came back. "I'm going to feel the sun."

Before Yuuta could react, the curtain was thrown open. Mizuki faced Yuuta and stepped into the light. Mizuki had the most hauntingly joyous look on his face that Yuuta would ever see.

The sunlight was painful for Yuuta to even look at. Already his skin was starting to burn from the sunlight. As much as it was hurting Yuuta, the sun had to be even more excruciating for Mizuki. And then it happened.

In the blink of an eye, Yuuta was suddenly alone for the first time in his 97th year of existence.

"Man, you're the last person I expected to see here."

Hearing the familiar voice, Yuuta looked up. The feeling was mutual. He never would have expected to see Saeki on the beach in Chiba in the middle of the night. "I could say the same." Yuuta answered. He didn't move from his spot on the sand.

Saeki plopped down next to him. "I'm from here. My classes are done for a few weeks so I came back to visit."

"And the surfboard?" Yuuta nodded towards where it lay on the other side of Saeki.

The guy grinned. "Night surfing. It's seriously the best. What about you? What's got you here?"

That was a hard question for Yuuta to answer. "I just needed to get away for a little bit. My family's originally from the area so I just came to reconnect with him." Technically all true.

"Really? What family?" Saeki seemed genuinely interested. The honest, earnest look on his face gave Yuuta this feeling of guilt that he couldn't explain.

"The Fuji family," Yuuta answered. There was no reason to lie or hide that. Yuuta wouldn't stay; he'd told his nephew is was only in town for a few days. After this he would try to stay in contact. Yuki, his nephew's son, didn't seem interested in Yuuta. The man's daughter, the cute little girl, did though. Yuuta could write her letters. Through her, he could keep in contact with his family that way. Letters were a decent place, a way to communicate without being around for them to see that Yuuta never changed.

Saeki's smile grew. "That's awesome. My family and them go way back to the time when my Grandpa Ryou was a kid. Apparently he grew up with Yuu-nii's grandpa."

Ryou. Could it be? Yuuta found himself suddenly studying Saeki's face. It was hard to tell but...yes, the cheekbones. Saeki had the same cheekbones. Yuuta's childhood friend Ryou had had kids and one of them had had Saeki. Probably a daughter due to the different last names but that didn't change a thing.

Yuuta felt sick to his stomach. A child, or rather grandchild of his childhood friend. Yuuta had used this boy for his own personal gain. He'd gotten the boy drunk and used him as a walking snack. In all the 100 plus years of his life, this was undoubtedly the worst thing Yuuta had ever done.

"I never would have guessed," Yuuta said as he realized he'd gone quiet for too long. "So, glad to be here?"

"Yeah. I mean, Kanagawa's nice but things were getting messed up so it's nice to get away." There must have been some sort of confused look on Yuuta's face because Saeki continued on. "You didn't hear? Man, you're really out of the loop then. A few days ago, this girl went missing. It was right in the area of the bar too. And then the other day they found her body in a trash can. The freaky part? She had no blood."

Yuuta's insides froze. A girl, no blood, Kanagawa. Had he lost control? He hadn't fed at all in all his time in Chiba. It had been a few days so he should have needed to have fed at this point by now, right? In all the everything, his meetings with his nephew and learning about his siblings, Yuuta hadn't even noticed. The fact that it was a girl who was found really disturbed Yuuta in some unknown familiar way.

"I...I should go," Yuuta said, yawning. "Long day and all. Have fun out there surfing." He stood up and waved.

"Hey." Saeki grabbed Yuuta's arm. "Thanks. I'll be here every night if you want to chill, like, sans booze and all."

The next night, Yuuta found himself back at his little apartment in Kanagawa. Nothing inside appeared to be out of place. It was strange how nice it felt to be back. After so many years of moving around and not having a home, it felt strange to think of this dark little apartment as just that. Meeting his nephew had been completely wonderful but that house was just not home anymore. That house belonged to those people now.

Yuuta set his bag down on the bed. It was full of the paintings and photographs that his nephew had shown him That was the one thing Yuuta knew he would always take with him. Most of his belongings Yuuta didn't care for but that...that little bag was a treasure that no one or thing could take away.

"Haven't seen you in a while," Kirihara greeted as Yuuta took his normal spot at the bar. "I was starting to think my devilish good looks had scared you away."

"Family stuff," Yuuta added after ordering. "I ran into Saeki-kun."

Kirihara grinned. "Over in Chiba, huh?"

Yuuta nodded. There was no point in denying it. "So I have to ask, what's the deal between you two? You guys seem really close for just friends."

"We just get along well, that's all. And apparently our sisters go to school together. We found out about that recently so we've been comparing notes on how to deal with them." Kirihara glanced down the bar, noticing a young woman at the other end. His coworker didn't seem to notice so Kirihara headed over.

Yuuta felt like the universe was giving him a second chance. Mizuki was long gone but there had to be a reason why Yuuta had found someone who looked so much like him. There was just no way it was a simple coincidence.

"So, want to hang out after you get off?" Yuuta decided to test his luck. If the universe had decided to finally reward him, Kirihara would agree. It was as simple as that.

Kirihara, in the middle of pouring a drink, looked up. He had a surprised expression on his face. But then. With a shrug, he replied, "why not? I get off in an hour is you want to hang around." Those words were golden.

The universe seemed to want things to go right for Yuuta for once.

"So, what do you want to do?" Kirihara asked when they met up outside the bar roughly an hour later. It had been one of the longest and quickest hours of Yuuta's long life.

"I have no clue," Yuuta admitted. That must have been the right answer because his companion burst out laughing.

"You play tennis?" Kirihara asked. Yuuta shrugged. He'd learned to play long ago but it had never really interested him. He'd always played against Mizuki. The vampire had been faster, stronger, and more experienced so Yuuta always lost. Well, not always. The one time they had played after Yuuta had been turned, Yuuta had won and it'd made Mizuki angry.

"I know the basics," Yuuta admitted. "But it's been years since I've played."

Kirihara kept grinning. "I got my bag with me. I was playing with an old friend, that red haired guy from that one night, before my shift. You can use my spare racquet." For the first time, Yuuta noticed his companion had a black bag slung over his shoulder.

"It's the middle of the night," Yuuta pointed out as he followed Kirihara into the unknown. A parking garage as it turned out.

"We can take my bike. I know where there's a street court." Those green eyes sparkled with mischief. "Besides, middle of the night means it'll be just you and me."

Green eyes. Not violet. Green. This wasn't Mizuki reborn. This was just some mortal, some human, with an uncanny likeness to Yuuta's long gone sire.

"No room for me?" A strange voice asked from somewhere in the darkness. Yuuta went cold. The long-forgotten itchy, prickly feeling of someone trying to influence his mind was back. He hadn't felt that since before whatever had happened to make Mizuki lose his mind.

Vampire. That was the only reasonable explanation. Yuuta stared at the darkness, trying to make out just who had addressed them.

"Hey 'Mura! I didn't know you were back in town." Kirihara seemed happy to hear the newcomer's voice. "How'd the surgery go?"

The newcomer chuckled and stepped into the still horrible lighting of the parking garage. He was male but looked rather effeminate. It was a different sort of effeminate from Aniki's though. Just looking at this new vampire had Yuuta completely on edge. There was something not right about this vampire. Yuuta didn't know what it was but there was something about him that reminded Yuuta of Mizuki at the end. It didn't seem completely connected to the other's vampire-ness either.

"It went fine, Akaya," the newcomer answered as he continued to step closer towards just Kirihara. It didn't help that Kirihara practically bounded over to greet the new vampire. "Have you been practicing?"

"Yeah, me and Yuuta-kun here were going to go play just now." Kirihara pointed over in Yuuta's direction. "Oh, yeah, this is Yuuta-kun. Yuuta-kun, this is a friend of mine, Yukimura."

"An honor," Yuuta answered. His eyes never broke contact with the other vampire's.

"The same," Yukimura responded, doing the same. He reached out to grab Kirihara, guiding the human over to his side in a way that Yuuta immediately recognized. The look on Kirihara's face was heartbreakingly familiar. That look was the exact same as the one Yuuta wore for so many years of his life. Watching the two before him was hard on Yuuta. All he could see was himself with Mizuki. "How did you two meet?" Yukimura asked, addressing Kirihara.

"Yuuta-kun hangs out at the bar I work at." It was torture to see and hear this.

"Does he now? I wonder why..." The tone of Yukimura's voice just made Yuuta sick to his stomach.

"I was just in the neighborhood and it seemed like an interesting place," Yuuta answered. "Kirihara-kun, we had plans?" Maybe if he distracted Kirihara, it would help break some of Yukimura's control over the human's mind.

Yukimura's eyes gleamed. "An accident." Old, Yuuta decided. This vampire was very old. Possibly even older than Mizuki had been.

Yuuta nodded. "I've been living in the area for a few years now."

"I'm surprised we've never met." The look in Yukimura's eyes sharpened. "I've lived here for a long, long time."

Kirihara seemed oblivious to the tension between the two vampires. "Stop messing with him, 'Mura. You've been gone for the last two years." He playfully jabbed the vampire in the side. The smile on Yukimura's face only made Yuuta's uneasiness grow.

"Only to recover," Yukimura answered. "You know I'd never leave you, my precious Akaya, for long."

Yuuta cleared his throat, hating just how Yukimura had addressed Kirihara. Watching the two of them was uncomfortable at best. "Then there shouldn't be any conflicts. I've been here for just over a year." Meaning he'd found the area unoccupied. It belonged to Yuuta. It was his territory, not Yukimura's.

"So...tennis?" Kirihara asked, finally noticing something was up. He took a step away from Yukimura but didn't go far thanks to the vampire's hold on him.

Yukimura seemed to ignore the human. His gaze never left Yuuta. "Five years. I've been watching and waiting." His free hand moved to Kirihara's shoulder, holding on to keep the human from going anywhere.

Yuuta shifted, moving his weight from one foot to the other. "Maybe you should let him go then."

"I've spent too many years, too much effort to just, as you put it, 'let go.'" Yukimura stayed where he was.

Kirihara shrugged his shoulders, getting out of Yukimura's hold. "So, me and Yuuta-kun were going to go play." He took a step away, heading back towards the safety of Yuuta. "If you want to meet us at that court near the hospital, that'd be cool, right Yuuta-kun? And then we can do something tomorrow if you don't have plans."

Yuuta's eyes didn't leave Yukimura's but it was a relief to have the human leave the other vampire's side.

Yukimura's eyes narrowed. "Akaya..." he called, his tone a sickly sweet warning that made Yuuta feel physically ill.

"Sorry," Kirihara answered, giving his friend an apologetic smile. "I kind of already promised Yuuta-kun tonight."

Even for a vampire, Yukimura was unearthly fast. "My pet." He had a hold of Kirihara. This one looked much tighter than the one before. The human looked notably spooked at the sudden movement.

"Um, 'Mura..."

"It would be a shame to lose someone I've put so much time into." Yukimura traced a finger along the side of Kirihara's neck. The human shivered. Yuuta's eyes went wide as he recognized the spot. It wasn't one Yuuta liked to feed on, too noticeable for one, but it was a prime location for just that. "But I'd rather lose him than let someone take him away."

Kirihara's eyes went as wide as any human eye could go as Yukimura bent his head down and bit the human's neck. Even from a short distance away, it was clear to Yuuta that the bite was sloppy. It was meant to harm, to destroy. Not to feed. Struggling was fruitless. Instead, it only made the situation worse.

Frozen in place thanks to a mixture of shock and horror, Yuuta could only watch.

As the human fell to the ground, the spell broke. "A shame to lose someone who tasted so sweet," Yukimura said with a sad sigh. Wiping the blood from his mouth, Yukimura finally looked over at Yuuta. He smirked at the horrified reaction. "I'm feeling kind. Three days to get out and to never return. If I'm willing to do this," the older vampire motioned towards the body on the ground, "just imagine what I would do to you."

Poking Kirihara's body with his foot, Yukimura added, "get rid of this. I've been taking care of your messes, really it's been so sloppy of you to leave your food alive, so you can do this for me." Still unable to say anything, Yuuta could only watch as Yukimura seemed to vanish into the shadows once more. The itchy sensation vanished with him, letting Yuuta know he was truly alone. Well, almost. There was still Kirihara.

Yuuta knelt next to the body, placing a hand on the boy's neck to see if there was any sign of life. It was doubtful. A wound like that would have killed in just minutes. Yukimura had fed for what felt like an eternity. Fully expecting to feel a warm, dead body, the faint throbbing of an artery took Yuuta by surprise.

Not dead. He was very close to death but Kirihara wasn't dead.

"I hate to do this," Yuuta murmured to himself. There was only one option. "But better a choice of a living death than no choice at all."

Biting down as hard as he could on his wrist, Yuuta held the bloody appendage up to Kirihara's mouth. He forced the blood into the human's mouth. It felt like another eternity had passed before Yuuta felt lips moving, before he felt blood being taken from him.

This was the absolute worst. Yuuta winced as he felt Kirihara bite down. He needed somewhere safe for Kirihara, somewhere that wasn't a random parking garage. This process was going to take longer than just a few minutes and they were both far too vulnerable for Yuuta's liking here. What Yuuta—okay did Kirihara already have unnaturally sharp teeth? Forcing himself to concentrate, Yuuta realized that what he really needed right now was time and that was something he definitely did not have.

It was a relief when Kirihara let go. Yuuta's wrist was bleeding badly and Kirihara was a bloody mess. Yuuta knew his apartment would be safe. Hopefully. Yukimura said three nights and there was a large possibility that this night was the first of those three. There was quite a bit to do but absolutely not enough time.

Yuuta pulled his wrist back to himself. Priorities. Kirihara in a safe place and leaving Kanagawa. The second could possibly wait until tomorrow night but the first couldn't. Yuuta's apartment was safe and while it was in the neighborhood, it wasn't exactly close. He wasn't worried about not being strong enough to carry Kirihara. It was just, well, Yuuta knew he wouldn't be able to go fast enough to avoid detection. And his head felt odd and lightheaded. Feeding soon was an absolute must.

Seeing a potential solution, Yuuta ripped a strip off the bottom of his shirt. He tied it as a scarf around Kirihara's neck. A wrist was easier to hide or explain. If anyone asked, they'd drank. A fight had happened and Yuuta was taking his friend home.

Yuuta gazed up at the moon as he sat outside. It looked so cold and uninviting but beautiful at the same time. Kanagawa felt like forever ago. A rustling came from behind him. Yuuta turned around and looked at the door. Really, at this point, just hearing his companion moving around was a good sign. The creak from the door as it opened echoed loudly.

His companion yawned, looking around confused. "W...where am I?" He asked. Yuuta wasn't sure if he had been noticed yet. At the moment, his companion didn't exactly seem the most aware.

"Not Kanagawa," Yuuta answered. They were far, far away from the place. He'd managed to find a little secluded place near Chitose, Hokkaido. Telling Kirihara this right away would no doubt be a terrible idea. Everything had changed. About the only way Yuuta could help keep the situation from getting any worse was to introduce everything slowly to Kirihara.

"Yuuta-kun?" The other looked more than a little confused. "The fuck's going on here? Did we drink a ton or something?"

Drink, yes. Alcohol, no. Yuuta wasn't sure how he was going to break that particular piece of news. How was he going to tell Kirihara that the guy was now a vampire?

"It's going to take a while," Yuuta said, motioning Kirihara to sit on the steps with him.

Looking around, Kirihara was still confused but did as he was told. "Where are we?"

Yuuta didn't answer right away. "This is Hokkaido," he finally answered. A long whistle was his only response for several moments.

Well, up until, "geez, how much did we drink?"

At least it was a normal, reasonable question. There was one topic that Yuuta really needed to talk about. "What do you know about the supernatural?"

Skeptical was the only word for the expression on Kirihara's face. "What, like gods and spirits and that kind of stuff?"

"More like vampires." Yuuta watched the other's face carefully, trying to gauge the reaction.

Kirihara chuckled. "You're just playing around right? Everyone knows those are made up stories for movies and crap. Keep talking like that and you're going to start sounding like 'Mura."

Yuuta stayed quiet. What Kirihara said wasn't true and sadly he was going to find that out all too soon. "You can answer at any point, you know," Kirihara continued, poking Yuuta in the side. "I mean, I know I was the kid who believed in Santa Claus until I was fifteen but even I'm not gullible enough to believe that vampires are real."

The continued silence was obviously getting to Kirihara. "You do realize just how crazy you sound right now, right?"

Yuuta nodded. This was all so entirely different from his own experience. Yuuta had known what Mizuki was long before getting turned. The subject had been an open secret between the two of them for years. "There's one more thing..."

"Next you're going to tell me it's some crazy amount of time in the future. Like, it's been ten years or something." There was a nervous chuckle from Kirihara as he tried to play it off as a joke.

"Just a year," Yuuta clarified. "Well, almost. It's been about ten months now."

The only reaction Yuuta received was a skeptical look and another nervous chuckle. Yuuta just sat there, waiting for it to sink in. Finally, Yuuta heard it. "Are you on drugs?" Kirihara asked as he stood. He didn't move far. Yuuta watched as the newly turned vampire paced up and down the little walkway in front of the house.

"I wish I was," Yuuta sighed. "If you try them, they won't affect you at all."

Yuuta wished he just had a manual to give Kirihara. Yuuta felt like he was doing this all wrong. Maybe he should have written a list.

"What's wrong with you? Is this some kind of sick joke? You seemed like a cool guy but you're just messed up." Kirihara looked ready to bolt. Yuuta didn't move to stop him.

"I wouldn't joke about this," Yuuta answered, speaking honestly. "If you want to go, I won't stop you either. Just...remember these few things: Chitose's three days that way," Yuuta pointed in the direction to the left of Kirihara, "stay away from sunlight because it'll kill you, be careful if you go to Kanagawa. There's another one of us there that's made the area highly dangerous. When you feed, stop when you start to see memories. If you go much further, you'll kill the person. And...just take care of yourself. You have eternal life but you're not immortal."

"Okay, something is seriously messed up in your head if you think any of that stuff's true." Kirihara looked at Yuuta and shook his head. It wasn't a surprise to see Kirihara run off into the trees.

iTwo months./i That's how long it had taken Yuuta to get away from Yukimura. On his second night, Yuuta had left the apartment in Kanagawa. It was strange how the place had felt like home one night and didn't the next. When Yuuta left, he'd only taken what he could fit in the little car he'd managed to rent. Kirihara and a few clothes and the collection of pictures from his nephew were all Yuuta had fit into the thing. The first place Yuuta had gone hadn't been safe. After just three days there, Yuuta found a bloodless body outside the door.

Messages didn't get much more clear than that. It happened again at the next place Yuuta found. And again. It was only now, after a week and a half of peace, that Yuuta started to let his guard down a little. Not completely but it was a sign that things were turning around.

Yuuta couldn't completely relax. He made his way from room to room. Each window was locked and even more importantly, each only held an effective vampire deterrent. Yuuta knew they all worked because they worked on Yuuta himself. All to try and keep this little place in the middle of nowhere in Hokkaido safe. He'd managed to find a mostly decent old house surrounded by trees. Chitose was nearby so Yuuta had a source of food thanks to the beat up old car he'd picked up along the way. This place was about as secluded as Yuuta could find and so far it seemed to be safe. Which was good because all the running and moving had started to severely deplete the trust Mizuki had left in Yuuta's name.

The last room on Yuuta's nightly security check was the one that held Kirihara. During all the chaos and moving around, the unconscious vampire had never stirred. Yuuta was worried about the guy. When Yuuta had been turned, he'd woken up after roughly a month. Kirihara had been out for more than twice that.

A pillow was set on the floor next to the futon. Sitting down, he stared at the body. "I'm sorry, you know. This isn't the kind of life I would force on anyone unless the alternative was your death." This way, at least, Kirihara could have a choice on if he wanted to live or die.

Looking at Kirihara, it was hard to believe this wasn't Mizuki. Kirihara looked so peaceful in his sleep. The illusion was shattered the moment he rolled over. Every night when Yuuta checked in, Kirihara would mumble something completely incoherent and roll around, never staying still for more than a few moments. He was such a restless sleeper, like all his energy needed some sort of physical outlet.

There was one thing Yuuta missed most of all. He missed being close to someone else. Twenty-seven years of being on his own. It'd been wonderful to reconnect with his family but even that wasn't quite the same. Speaking of, next time he went to Chitose to feed, Yuuta would have to mail his little niece a letter. Even that mess months ago with Saeki was just a little fling. There really hadn't been a connection there whatsoever. That was why learning who Saeki's grandfather was had hurt so bad.

No one else was around. There were no witnesses. Yuuta took a chance. He leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on Kirihara's lips.

Yuuta could have stayed next to Kirihara forever. He could hear something going on outside. Yuuta knew he needed to check it out. It was probably just some animal again. Last time, the dog that had been wandering around the edges of the property had been nice. Petting him had been a nice break from the normal. However, it ihad/i only been two months since the last time Yukimura had found them.

Stepping onto the steps, Yuuta knew tonight was different. The animals were gone. They had left when Yuuta first appeared but over the last month, they had started to come back. He closed the door behind him. It wouldn't physically do much but maybe Yuuta would get lucky and it would keep Yukimura out.

Because that's who was waiting outside. He was on the edge of the tree line.

"I told you to leave," Yukimura called, his voice cold and eerie in the dark night.

"I did leave. And I took Kirihara-kun with me," Yuuta replied, leaning against the door. "Just as you ordered."

Yukimura's chuckle echoed. "Indeed. I meant this place entirely."

Yuuta shrugged. "You should have said so at the time. Besides, Hokkaido's far enough away from Kanagawa that I'm not taking away from your food supply." Not to mention the fact that Kanagawa could have easily supported the two of them anyway.

Yukimura didn't move any closer. Yuuta smiled, realizing why. "Afraid to come any closer?" He called out.

"You've only trapped yourself in here," Yukimura answered. His annoyance was clear alone from his tone.

"Maybe. Or maybe I haven't." Yuuta kept his tone as nonchalant as possible. "I've had no problems leaving or entering the property." Yukimura didn't take a step forward. Yuuta kept smiling. "It's the true belief thing, isn't it?" Yuuta continued.

The other vampire didn't say anything. He was watching Yuuta. Even from the distance, Yuuta knew that Yukimura was watching for any signs of weakness, searching for some hole in the younger vampire's defenses.

Yuuta decided he might as well explain. "I've never been one for religion. Mizuki was Catholic and he tried to teach me but it always just didn't make sense." At the mention of Mizuki, Yuuta could have sworn he saw Yukimura's expression change. "But I've always believed in my sister and her cards."

Yuuta watched, waiting to see if Yukimura would say anything. He'd recently gotten a small package from his nephew and Onee-san's cards had been inside. A quick trip into town had let Yuuta wrap them into protective coverings and then, on a whim, Yuuta had hidden them around the perimeter. He really had had no clue at the time if it would work. The fact that it did was a great sign. True belief was more powerful a weapon than Yuuta had thought. And he wasn't lying. He really didn't have any problems entering or leaving the property. It being his own belief must have canceled the effect out.

"I admit, you have caught me in a good mood." Yukimura tried to act like he wasn't annoyed. Yuuta smiled. It was obvious the measures he'd taken had worked. "I am going to let you stay for now but this is not the last you will see of me."

Yuuta just nodded. Whatever he'd done to draw Yukimura's attention, well, it meant that some day there was going to have to be some sort of definite ending. At some point, the running and hiding would have to end but that day was still far off in the future. He stayed where he was, watching as the older vampire disappeared into the darkness. That was the one drawback to living away from others. No electricity meant no artificial lighting so the darkness was absolute.

A cricket chirping was Yuuta's sign that the coast was clear and that he could go back inside.

Yuuta sat on the steps of the little house. It was the next night. The first time in almost a year without Kirihara. The steps had become Yuuta's place to go each night after making his nightly rounds. He enjoyed coming here and regrouping. Just watching the moon was relaxing and it helped Yuuta forget about his worries. There was just one thing different about tonight. Yuuta wasn't alone.

"Okay, so maybe you aren't completely nuts," Kirihara started. He was sitting in a tree, watching the steps Yuuta was sitting on.

"What happened?" Yuuta asked. There had to be some sort of catalyst to have brought Kirihara back, especially so soon. Well, that or the guy had gotten completely lost.

Kirihara stayed in the tree. "I might have seen the date. And all the messages people sent the last few months."

"There was something else, wasn't there?"

Kirihara gave Yuuta a look. He jumped down from the tree. "Are you psychic?" He didn't leave the tree's side.

Back on the step, Yuuta shook his head. "Well, not really," he tried to explain. "We all are. I'm not good at it thought." That was the main reason Yuuta liked to pick up drunks when he needed to fee. It was much easier to tweak their memories. Even when he didn't, they usually just assumed it was a drunken mistake and were more than willing to just go away on their own.

"I really can't tell if you're serious or not." Kirihara leaned back against the tree. "Daylight." He held out his arm.

Yuuta couldn't see what he was being show but he could take a guess. "How bad did it burn you?"

"Fifteen minutes gave me the worst burn I've ever had," Kirihara admitted. "Bright red and blistering but it seems to have started healing decently already. I was near a temple and tried ducking in but I couldn't even step on the grounds."

Yuuta nodded. "True belief. Any holy grounds or objects will repel you. It's part of the curse." Well, the objects only worked when wielded by a true believer but that was it.

Crossing his arms, Kirihara started to look interested in what Yuuta was saying. "You actually know what you're talking about."

"I've been involved with this whole world since I was ten." Even now, Yuuta could hardly believe just how long that time had been.

"So, this has been your life the past, what, ten or so years? You said you were twenty-something, right?" Kirihara took a few steps away from the tree.

"Yes and no," Yuuta answered, still staying honest. It was the only way he could handle this. Making up lies would only make things worse for Kirihara. Even if this was a hard topic to talk about. "We're not like normal people, Kirihara-kun. You might have realized a little of that already."

"Keep talking." The look on Kirihara's face showed just how interested he was in Yuuta's words.

Yuuta nodded. The only thing he had now were his words and the truth which sucked because Yuuta always thought that he was horrible at explaining himself. "I was changed into one of these—"

"Vampire. I mean, that's what I am now, right?" Kirihara interrupted.

Again, Yuuta nodded. "It was my twentieth birthday present." That felt like forever ago. It was a completely different lifetime. "I stopped aging at twenty."

Kirihara gave Yuuta a curious look. "What year was that?" He asked, words coming out slowly.

"1909." Yuuta just let that sit there. It was hard for him to believe his age at times. He could only imagine how someone else would take that piece of news.

"My grandfather wasn't even born then." Kirihara's look changed. Now he was just looking at Yuuta like the older vampire had grown a second head.

"I have a nephew who has a granddaughter." That simple fact was still hard to get his head around at times.

Kirihara's response was a long whistle. "So, you keep in touch?"

"No, I just met them recently." Yuuta's face went hard and serious as he looked Kirihara directly in the eyes. "Don't go looking for your family now. Wait until they're gone." As much as it pained Yuuta, knowing his siblings were gone had helped. If hey were still around, they would have just served as constant sources of guilt.

Kirihara didn't respond immediately. Instead, he made his way towards where Yuuta was sitting. He stopped, leaning against the side of Yuuta's house. It was practically falling apart but it was safe. Yuuta had been working on repairing the place and it had slowly gotten better.

"So..." Kirihara was looking at the little house with it's boarded up windows. "If I was asleep for so long, how'd I end up here?"

Taking a chance, Yuuta motioned for Kirihara to take a seat. "I brought you here. Kanagawa wasn't safe."

Kirihara didn't move. "Why's that?"

There was no getting around this. "You...you almost died. That's why I did this. If I hadn't, you would have died." Yuuta gave a little smile. "I wanted to give you a chance. I really do mean this when I say that I wouldn't force this life on anyone unless the alternative was death."

It took Kirihara an eternity to speak. At least, that's what it felt like. "So, basically it's on me now."

Yuuta hadn't thought about it that way. He realized it was true. "Yeah," he admitted. "I guess you're right. Sorry." How could he have been so stupid? Yuuta hadn't saved Kirihara. He'd cursed the guy even more. Not only was this lovely life thrust upon the younger man but the only choices Yuuta had left him were to live cursed or suicide.

Kirihara sat on the steps. "Hey look, for what it's worth, thanks. I guess. I mean, this is going to take some adjusting but at least I'm not dead." He gave Yuuta a smile. "I don't think most people could have save me from death. And I mean, you did kind of take care of me while I was...doing whatever that was."

Yuuta didn't answer.

"No, seriously," Kirihara said as he poked Yuuta in the side. "I guess if it's okay with you, I think I'd like to stick around for a little while. I mean. You do seem to know what you're doing."

"Not really," Yuuta warned. "I still screw up and make mistakes all the time."

Kirihara rolled his eyes, not believing that for a minute. "Yeah. Just...can you do me one favor?"

Yuuta nodded.

"Stop looking at me like that," Kirihara ordered. "It's really kind of creepy, like you're expecting me to save you or something." The serious expression on his face told Yuuta this wasn't a joke.

Yuuta gave a single nod. "It's not on purpose. You just, you remind me a lot of someone I used to know, that's all. You look so much like him that it's uncanny."

"Well, I'm not that person whoever he? Was it a guy?" Yuuta nodded and Kirihara continued. "Yeah, I'm not him. And I probably never will be because that's super creepy, dude."

Yuuta could try. He could do that much. "I think...you're right. It's time I stop chasing ghosts anyway."

i-fin-/i