Summary: Incandesce – (verb) glow with heat. Keigo is an ethereal being nothing like Ryoma's ever seen, and he'll lift the curse on Ryoma. AU.
Disclaimer: I don't own Prince of Tennis. And none of the things mentioned here are actually found in any book of lore. Don't go and believe this.
A/N: Hello. I hope you like this. This is pretty short, but even so. I'm sorry if it seems vague. And hello again.
Ryoma won't sleep.
He won't close his eyes except to blink. He can't see the moonlight from his window, but he can feel it.
An aquarium bubbles away in a corner of the room, its artificial light beautifully illuminating the silvery movement of half a dozen angelfish, twisting around live plants, long, flowing fins trailing behind like satin threads. Ryoma got them because they prevent Ryoma's transitions from his current, human state to something less mortal, more monstrous, more dangerous.
Ryoma is sitting on his bed, back against the wall, staring at black air, breathing in and out. The open window lets a cool breeze float in occasionally, ruffling the curtains.
He yawns once, running a hand through his hair. He ponders upon the reason for his existence and his forced insomnia.
If he sleeps, he turns into a monster. If he doesn't, he stays Ryoma. It's as simple as it's supposed to be. The fish help – they prevent his claws from emerging, they prevent the poison from replacing his blood, but he still changes form.
The witch who cursed him, a meddling witch known as Sakuno Ryuzaki, did this to help him. Ryoma doesn't see how turning into a figment of children's nightmares would help him.
The breeze blows in once more, chillier, sharper than before. Ryoma shivers, reaches for the blanket lying folded at the end of the bed. Wrapping it around himself, and feeling it not helping at all, he sighs. Then yawns, wiping a tear away from the corner of his eye. But he won't go and close the window, for Sakuno Ryuzaki promised him that his curse-lifter would come through that window with a hundred nights.
He has waited ninety nine nights. Today is the hundredth. He knows his curse-lifter is coming tonight. And he can't wait to get rid of his second skin, the scales and the scabs, the pus and the horns.
He takes a look at the bright clock on the wall – 11:59 pm. All clichéd circumstances. He should have predicted this.
He turns his head towards the tall window precisely as the clock strikes midnight.
For a moment, nothing happens.
Keigo Atobe died a hundred years ago, but was pushed out of Hell, because a witch had other plans for him.
He really doesn't know why he chooses to take on the shape of his human body. He can be anything he wants. He can be a ribbon, he can be a butterfly, he can be a giant, but he chooses the form he had when he was alive.
But he can never change the golden glow he emits, or the heat. The searing heat.
He doesn't know why he has to do the witch's bidding, too. Her personal servant-boy. Her odd-job man. Exorcism? Keigo's there to do it. Reverse exorcism? Oh, Keigo'll take care of it.
Tonight he has to break a curse, his hundredth job, after which he'll be able to escape the limbo he's trapped in and finally go to Hell.
Sakuno Ryuzaki hasn't yet divulged her reasons for ensnaring him.
As he soars through the air, shining golden streak of light visible to no one, he spots the house with the open window on the third floor, and aims for it. The town clock booms the onset of a new day at 12 am as Keigo alights on the windowpane.
They stare at each other blankly for a while. Atobe dislikes the boy on first sight.
"Are you my curse-lifter?" Ryoma ventures after a while.
"I suppose I am." Atobe folds his arms, looking around the room, gaze finally resting on the aquarium and the magical fishes. He smirks a little at that.
"Okay. Lift my curse."
Atobe raises an eyebrow, still looking at the fish. "Are you going to order me around, now?"
Ryoma scowls. "Just lift it."
"It's what I came here for."
They don't say anything after that for some time, Keigo still standing on the windowpane, the metal beneath his bare feet melting, as well as the edges of the windows. Ryoma notices. "Are you going to burn my house down?"
"If you want me to."
"I want you to lift my curse."
"It's what I came here for."
"Then why haven't you done it yet?"
"Because I'm fucking with you." Because really, Atobe does dislike the rude boy. The rude boy with the gaunt eyes, and the thin arms. The rude boy with the smudges of black ink on his fingers. (Or maybe he doesn't, and is pretending. Ryoma looks awfully vulnerable.)
Ryoma gets out of his bed, flinging the blanket aside. "Then stop fucking with me."
"Stop being so fucking rude. You should be kissing my feet for coming to save your life."
"The very feet turning my wall to dust?" Because Atobe's heat has now reached the wall, and it's crumbling beneath his toes.
Atobe looks down. And then steps into the room. The heat instantly diffuses from him. The golden light doesn't. But Ryoma doesn't comment on it, choosing instead to stare at Atobe's face now, shimmering heat finally gone and not blurring Keigo's face anymore.
He's beautiful. Even with the golden skin. A mole beneath his right eye, and hair a darker shade of his skin, and magma eyes that are currently figuratively burning nice little holes through his eyes.
But Ryoma doesn't care. "Lift the curse," he insists, pouting, only inciting Atobe to fuck around more.
"I will, in due time. Why have you got the fishes?"
"They prevent the really bad effects of the curse."
"Ryuzaki gave them to you?"
"You do know they also allow her to spy on your... not-so-human form."
Ryoma halts, heart skipping a beat. "What?"
Keigo pities the poor boy, who's shaking in shock.
"What did you do as a monster these hundred nights that you're so distraught now?"
Ryoma doesn't say anything.
Then it hits Keigo. Ryoma didn't do anything. So Keigo stops fucking around.
"You did everything you could to stay awake, didn't you?" he whispers, going toward the boy.
Ryoma looks at Keigo. Something in his eyes makes Keigo realize all the truths of the world.
"Did you cut yourself?"
Ryoma extends his arms. They're bare and spotless, but Atobe sees the shining white lines hidden beneath the light Atobe's emitting.
"I don't think that's all you did."
"How often did you drink coffee?"
"Often enough," Ryoma says. But coffee and self-harm really aren't the only things he has used as tools to prevent sleep.
"What did you do as a monster?" Atobe grabs hold of Ryoma's shoulders.
Ryoma steadily meets Atobe's eyes, and says –
"Ripped the first two floors apart, killed my parents and cousin."
In the silence that follows, Atobe hugs the boy.
"If I were to go downstairs, what would I find?"
"Ash." Because Ryoma had burnt everything down much before Atobe had a chance to.
"How did you put out the fire? Why hasn't it affected the outside of the house?"
"It put itself out when it reached my room. I don't know."
"Have you gone out of your house since?"
The horror of it slams into Atobe, bringing tears to his eyes. Suddenly, despite all his affectations and thoughts, he's glad he can lift the curse on Ryoma.
So he breaks it.
Ryoma doesn't expect the lips on his.
Atobe, even after a hundred years of not doing this, kisses like he's breathing the life out of Ryoma. He actually is breathing the curse out of him.
As they kiss, Atobe's light dims. Further and further until it's gone.
Ryoma devours Atobe's mouth, trapping as much of the contact that he's getting, because he hasn't had any in a hundred days.
When they pull apart, Ryoma sees the true color of Atobe's eyes. Blue.
Atobe likens the color of Ryoma's eyes to the color of his own skin. But, as he looks down at his hands, it's not golden anymore. It's pale, the color of Ryoma's skin, and the hair falling into his eyes is brown, not golden, and Atobe reels back, recognizing his... humanness.
He clenches his fists. The knuckles strain his skin white. Not golden.
"Are my eyes blue?" Atobe croaks weakly. Ryoma nods. And then faints.
When Ryoma wakes up, it's day, the sunlight streaming into the half-melted window. The curtains glitter with the light.
Atobe is sitting beside him, looking at him.
Ryoma blearily smiles, and then snaps fully awake.
"Did I sleep?"
Atobe says, "You did. And you didn't turn into a monster."
Ryoma looks at Atobe. "I really didn't?"
"You really didn't. And breaking your curse made me human again, when I was supposed to go to Hell. Ryuzaki, that bitch," Atobe says, shaking his head. "She planned this."
Ryoma can't believe any of it, so he kisses Keigo again, to try to believe.
They kiss all day. The fishes swim around in the aquarium.
Ryuzaki Sakuno leans back in a sigh of relief.