title: Lust
fandom: Prince of Tennis
characters/pairings: Fuji/Tezuka, Tezuka's father, mother, and grandfather, Yuuta, Yumiko, all of Seigaku
rating: T
warnings: sexual situations, kinkiness, bloodplay, AU
summary: Tezuka has a secret that could destroy him... and Fuji.
notes: blaming this on Bryan, who also named this (perfectly), and who kept me going as i wrote it. apologies for any errors regarding Japanese culture or schools; did the best that google and wikipedia would let me. much luhff to xelloss, who provided me with off-the-cuff beta'ing as i posted. thankyou!!

Their Third Year

He smiled at a few girls as he walked down the hall. They were in the flower arranging club? Something like that. He probably shouldn't have been swinging his racquet around like he was, but he, at least, was confident that he wouldn't lose control of it.

His quarry was right where he expected him to be, in the student council office. All the student council business was, of course, pushed aside so Tezuka could spread out the ranking matches charts.

He had been quiet while approaching, so he had a few moments to just watch Tezuka. The way his hair fell over his eyes, the precise, quick motions of his pencil, the perfect line of his spine, even as he was bent over his work...

Fuji wished he had his camera.

Tezuka looked up, exhaling forcefully as he returned to his work. "Aren't you supposed to be on court A?"

That was an invitation, as far as Fuji was concerned. He stepped inside, and closed the door behind him. "Inui was starting to get annoying, with his data collection, so I decided to come in and help you out." He sat down opposite Tezuka, propping his chin up in his palm. "Looks like we have an exciting first year, mm?"

Tezuka looked up at him, but only for a moment. He made a noncommittal noise, and continued with his work.

Fuji smiled. He reached out, pushing Tezuka's hair out of the way. "The last time we had one of those, the Captain kept him back, but I don't think we need to worry about that this time around. We're a lot more confident and talented than our senpais were. Everyone seems to be looking forward to the challenge."

"A challenge?" Tezuka raised an eyebrow, but did not look up. "Is that how you see him?"

Laughing, Fuji leaned back in his chair. "Well, I wouldn't mind playing him sometime, if that's what you mean."

"And would you play seriously?" Tezuka looked up, meeting Fuji's gaze.

"You seem obsessed with the idea of playing me seriously. Wouldn't you rather be my opponent, and not just to watch?" Fuji grinned.

Tezuka snorted softly. "Would you play me seriously?"

"If I were properly motivated," Fuji replied, using his best seductive voice.

Tezuka looked up at him, and then frowned.

"Oh, don't look at me like that. You know you have what it takes to motivate me," Fuji purred.

"Is there a reason you came up here to see me? Because practice is still going on," Tezuka reminded, sounding a little bored.

Fuji grinned. And Tezuka thought Fuji didn't play him seriously... "I know. I'll go back in a minute. But I haven't had much of a chance to see you so far. Is that so bad?"

He looked up, and held Fuji's gaze for several heartbeats before looking away. "You've made it so my... last year of freedom, as you said, will be very busy."

Fuji scooted to the very edge of his seat. "Are you enjoying it? I think you must be. You secretly love things like this, don't you?"

Tezuka almost smiled, but he caught himself. Still Fuji saw it. "Do I?"

"Of course you do," Fuji grinned. "Keeping everything neat and tidy, doing things right, following the rules..."

"Mm. You make me sound boring," Tezuka tapped his eraser against the table idly.

"Oh, you would be. But I've seen your naughty side. Nothing boring about that." Tezuka's pencil stopped moving, and his nostrils flared. Fuji licked his lips. "Come home with me after practice."

Tezuka's head snapped back so he could glare at Fuji. "What? You know I can't..."

"You've done it before," Fuji cut him off. "And it's been too long. Besides, you've never really thanked me for helping you get elected class president. That's unkind of you."

"I don't think that's something I should be thanking you for," Tezuka rebuffed.

"Of course it is," Fuji dismissed his objections. "So, you'll come home with me?"

"I can't," Tezuka replied, and he turned his attention back to his work.

"Please? I want to take your picture," Fuji pouted a bit. Tezuka looked up for a moment, appearing troubled. Fuji grinned. "Naked."

"No," Tezuka quickly replied, scowling.

"Oh, come on, I'm joking! Why won't you even consider it? There's no excuse, you know. Your parents can't possibly expect you to be home before dark with all you have to do. And Oishi would be ecstatic to cover for you for one afternoon." He stretched out over the table, and tapped his fingers on Tezuka's neat boards.

Tezuka set his jaw. "I can't be alone with you," he sighed.

"No?" Fuji laughed, feeling his skin tingle. "But we're alone now." He ducked his head down, looking up to see Tezuka's eyes. "And I don't see the tiniest trace of.... Oh." He couldn't stop himself from grinning. Tezuka narrowed his eyes, and then looked up, defensive, turning away from Fuji. But Fuji had already seen. "Do I affect you so much, Captain?" He reached out, and rubbed his fingers over Tezuka's wrist, over the blood vessels that should have been there, but Tezuka's skin was too cold. "You should know, you affect me the same way."

Tezuka looked down at Fuji's fingers on his skin. "You aren't likely to kill me as a result, though." He pulled his hand away, and stood up. "Go back to practice, Fuji."

"Fuji?" He sighed, and pulled his knees up to hold them. "I've told you. You've said it before. 'Mitsu, you can be cruel."

"Better that than lethal, Syuusuke," he sighed. "Now, go back to practice?"

"Is it my choice?" Fuji laughed. "In that case, you have to give me a kiss first, and then I'll go."

"It's not a negotiation. It's an order," Tezuka sighed.

"It's our last year, 'Mitsu. Isn't it worth a little risk, since there's so little time left?" Fuji sighed, feeling a bit out of sorts, like he was going to lose this point, no matter how hard he tried.

"There are some things that I would never risk," Tezuka replied firmly. "I'm ready to make up the boards. You have to go now."

"Fine, fine," Fuji sighed, exaggerating the labor of getting up. "Hey. Are we in the same block?"

"You'll find out tomorrow, won't you?" Tezuka sighed.

"I think you are afraid of playing me seriously," Fuji yawned. "Just don't put me in the same block with the brat. It's too soon in the season to get too fired up."

"You are, as always, a bundle of contradictions. I'll see you on the court," Tezuka shook his head.

Fuji laughed. "Yes, Captain!"

Eiji put his head down on Fuji's desk, right on top of the worksheet he was filling out. Fuji did resist the temptation to just write on Eiji's face. "What's up?"

"Fu~ji~ko~chan! I'm bored." Eiji batted his eyelashes at Fuji.

It was actually cute, so Fuji laid aside his pen. "Well, what do you want me to do about it?"

"What do you think of that new freshie? He reminds me of Tezuka." Eiji snickered.

It was still cute, so Fuji ignored it. "Really? I don't see that."

"That's because you only ever look at Tezuka." He poked Fuji in the nose, giggling. "Our fearless leader is a little less stony this year, don't you think?"

"Do you think so?" Fuji smiled. He was always curious to hear how other people saw Tezuka. "What do you mean?"

"We~ll," Eiji rolled his eyes. "It's hard to say. But you seem happier. That's gotta mean something."

Fuji hummed and looked up at the ceiling. "Whatever do you mean, Eiji?"

Eiji pulled his head up and laughed. "Whatever, Fujiko. Hey, hey, let's play a game, ok?"

"All right," Fuji smiled, and pushed away his worksheet.

He still wondered, though, if Tezuka went to the roof for lunch, and what would happen if he joined him.

Tezuka slipped inside the house as quietly as possible. He slipped his shoes off, and walked quietly to the back of the house, to the kitchen.

"You're home a bit late, aren't you?"

Tezuka froze, and turned his head. His father was at his desk, but he wasn't looking up at him.

"Then again, what time do you come home, anymore? It seems to change day to day. Which is convenient for you."

"I was at practice," Tezuka replied dully, not expecting his father to be satisfied.

"That is not your uniform," his father looked up long enough to look disgusted. "I would expect the Captain to be required to be in uniform at practice."

"I had to take some time to train a first year," Tezuka explained, quietly.

His father looked up at him. "This training... the first year still has all his blood?"

Tezuka recoiled in horror. He didn't expect his father to understand, but really, this... "He is not my type."

"Not your..." His father almost let out a chuckle, and he smiled. Tezuka's eyes widened in shock. "That was either a joke, or a snub. Either way. Go back to your business."

Tezuka nodded quickly, and went to the kitchen.

If it had been Fuji... But Tezuka wasn't allowed to think like that.

There were an endless stream of boxes pouring in, and every time Tezuka thought he had them organized, more would appear, and Tezuka's expression would get just a bit stonier. Fuji found it amusing, actually. As it turned out, being student council president was nothing but annoying work. Who knew?

They had the forms for all the classes to use to organize their contributions to the various festivals over the years, and they had to collate them and distribute them to each classroom. Obviously, Oishi was helping, since he was then vice president, and Eiji was there, too, since he and Oishi were going to study together later. Fuji was there, because it was good to help out a friend.

Tezuka was his friend, after all. His close friend. And helping him was going to give Fuji a great opportunity that he might never have had the chance to grab otherwise.

He picked up a box of pamphlets on booth construction guidelines, and he caught Tezuka's eye. He smiled, and picked up the box cutter. Oishi and Eiji were busy collating. Tezuka furrowed his brow.

Fuji sliced his hand open, watching Tezuka the whole time.

The blade never got anywhere near the box.

It hurt, but not that much, not really. He waited until after it started to bleed a bit before letting out a small "Oh!"

Oishi and Eiji stopped what they were doing, and then dropped everything to rush over to Fuji and fuss over him. But Fuji was still just watching Tezuka, watching his eyes, searching them for hints of red...

"Fuji, are you all right?" Eiji asked anxiously, biting his lip.

"One second, I know we have a first aid kit here," Oishi said calmly but urgently. "It won't take long. Is it deep? Eiji, does it look like he'll need stitches?"

"Oishi!" Eiji gasped. "He's bleeding!" He frowned and looked at Fuji's hand, like the blood might leap up at him.

"Eiji!" Oishi sighed. "We have to keep a cool head! Maybe we should flush the would out..."

Tezuka strode over, his eyes down, and he grabbed Fuji's wrist, and dragged him out of the room. Oishi tried to call out some instructions to him, but Tezuka wasn't listening. It was hard for Fuji to keep up, but he was willing to run, if he had to; Tezuka's fingernails were long and pointed.

Finally, Tezuka threw open the door to a darkened classroom, and then tossed Fuji inside, slamming the door shut after him. "Ow," Fuji complained jovially, rubbing his wrist. "You were a bit rough there..."

Tezuka pushed Fuji up against the wall, and grabbed a hold of his wrist again. Fuji inhaled sharply; there was enough light from the lamps outside for him to see the jeweled red of Tezuka's eyes, the pearly white of his fangs, resting on his bottom lip. Tezuka put his tongue out, and lapped up the blood on Fuji's hand, probing the wound. He held Fuji's hand in both of his, sucking on Fuji's blood, and Fuji could feel Tezuka's teeth, could feel Tezuka's breath, the way Tezuka's tongue laved over him.

Fuji moaned nasally, and pushed himself against the wall, throwing his other hand over his head. "Mm, 'Mitsu, you're being naughty, aren't you?"

Tezuka pulled Fuji's hand away. Already, a neat scab had formed. "This is exactly what you want." Tezuka's eyes were focused on Fuji's fiercely. The glittering red was intoxicating. Fuji felt breathless under Tezuka's attention. "This is what you want to do to me."

"Do to you? Do you know what you do to me? 'Mitsu, kiss me," Fuji purred, sliding his hands up Tezuka's sides.

For a moment, it appeared as if Tezuka was going to brush him off, but then Fuji was tasting his blood off of Tezuka's teeth, cutting his tongue on Tezuka's fang. Tezuka sucked on Fuji's tongue, until Fuji thought he might just asphyxiate, but it was worth it. When Tezuka broke the kiss, he put his forehead on Fuji's, and, with his eyes closed tight, he inhaled slowly, his hands gripping Fuji as he exhaled. "Can't you tell that this is wrong?"

"Why? Isn't it the most natural thing in the world for you? Being with you feels like the most natural thing in the world to me. Why does it have to be wrong? Why can't it just be the way that we are together?" Fuji clung to Tezuka's shirt, pulling Tezuka closer.

"It would be natural for me to kill you, too. What's natural isn't always right," Tezuka sighed, and his head slipped down, so he could nip at Fuji's ear, at his neck, so he could pull Fuji into his arms, and dig his fingernails into Fuji.

"You don't trust yourself. It's ok. 'Mitsu. I wouldn't let you hurt us both that much," he lifted Tezuka's chin, and kissed his lips, biting his lower lip. "I want to be with you. Doesn't that mean anything?"

"It means you don't understand," Tezuka sighed, and pulled away from Fuji.

Fuji grabbed Tezuka's hand, though, clinging. "Maybe you're the one who doesn't understand. Aren't you in love with me? But your love is weak. You aren't willing to fight to be with me. It's all right, though, isn't it? If it's just like this?"

"Syuusuke..." Tezuka sighed. Fuji was a bit happy, though, that he didn't have to remind Tezuka to use his name. "Temptation..."

Fuji laughed. "If you think I'll stop tempting you just because you are resisting me, you're a fool. The harder you push me away, the harder I'll push to be near you. I'll cut my wrists open if I have to. As long as I can be with you."

Tezuka shook his head in denial, but he was moving closer to Fuji in the meanwhile. He reached out, and ran his fingers down Fuji's cheek. His nails had already receded. His eyes were a warm brown again. "Syuusuke. Don't do something like that. Don't even threaten something like that."

"Than don't push me away. Maybe we only have this year left, 'Mitsu. Maybe, after graduation, we'll never see each other again. So don't push me away, when we have so little time left." He pressed closer and closer to Tezuka, leaning up on his tiptoes to kiss Tezuka's lips softly. "Let me have lunch with you again."

Tezuka wrapped his arms around Fuji, and sighed. "You can never be satisfied until you have your own way, mm? I believe there's a word for that."

Fuji laughed, a bit louder than he should have, but it was such a relief, to once again see this side of Tezuka, this side that was hidden from most people, and had been hidden from him for so long now. "But it doesn't matter, as long as I'm right, mm?"

Tezuka shook his head, and turned from Fuji. "Yes, true. But are you right? I'm not convinced."

"I am," Fuji cheerfully replied, following Tezuka back to the student council office. Undoubtedly, Oishi would insist on fussing over him, but Fuji didn't mind, because the tear in his tongue still stung.

Tezuka thought he was being perfectly discreet in his exit, but he knew that there was one pair of eyes that he could never fully elude. Fuji slipped out of Kawamura sushi just as Tezuka was turning to go to his train.

"Hey, wait up," Fuji smiled. "I'll walk with you."

"You should go back inside," Tezuka insisted, feeling a bit guilty. "The celebration is far from over."

"It's all right," Fuji shrugged, and started off for Tezuka's train. As he passed Tezuka, their hands brushed against each other. "I'm already full. And it's really nothing to get so excited about. It's just one tournament." He looked over his shoulder to smile brightly at Tezuka.

Sighing, Tezuka shrugged. "As you like."

Fuji seemed to be a bit more exuberant than normal. Tezuka found himself watching the way that Fuji walked, almost bouncing in his step. Fuji had been like this for a little while now. Ever since the hand incident, as Tezuka thought of it. It wasn't an unpleasant thing. Tezuka was pleased that Fuji was happier. He hadn't even realized that Fuji wasn't happy before, but he tried to tell himself it was only because they hadn't been spending time together that had allowed him to miss the signs of Fuji's melancholy. He stoutly refused to put the two concepts together to form a cause and effect.

"It's a pity you didn't get to play," Fuji idly mused. "That other Captain seemed awfully eager. But then, everyone is eager to play you."

"Not everyone," Tezuka looked sidelong at Fuji.

"Mm?" Fuji shrugged, doing his best to appear innocent. "Who do you mean?"

Tezuka just raised an eyebrow. "Indeed."

Fuji laughed. "You know, 'Mitsu, there are some who see you as being uncommunicative."

"Really." Tezuka stared straight ahead. "How unfortunate."

"I'm not really getting a true sense of remorse from you. I think you must be feeling a bit out of sorts. Dare I say... even naughty?" Fuji crooked up one corner of his lips, and gave Tezuka a speculative look.

Tezuka felt the hair on the back of his head raise. "I don't know what you mean."

Fuji chuckled. "Of course you do, 'Mitsu. You know perfectly well. Will you indulge me?"

Tezuka stopped short. They were close to the station; only had to cross the street. Fuji stopped, too, and they were facing each other. There wasn't much foot traffic here, so it wasn't hard for people to walk around them. "What did you have in mind?"

"Are you considering it?" Fuji's eyes gleamed with mischief, and he took a step closer to Tezuka. "Will you come with me?"

"Where?" Tezuka asked, suspicious, but even he could not mask his curiosity.

Fuji reached out, and took Tezuka's wrist. "C'mon. Let's go!"

It did occur to Tezuka to ask where they were going. He almost did, but then he wondered if it would matter. Wherever they went, it would be someplace he had never been, and someplace that he would never get to go to again. And he would be with Fuji. There was only a limited amount of time he had left to be with Fuji. He could control himself.

He would control himself.

They got on a train that Tezuka didn't recognize. It wasn't part of any route that he had memorized.

"It's a good thing we got done early. I think we can still make it in time." Fuji bounced a bit in his seat, beaming. It was hard not to feel relaxed when Fuji was so content, though Tezuka was sure that he was fidgeting just to have an excuse to rub their legs together. The train was loud, and busy, and after only a few stops, they gave up their seats for an elderly couple. Tezuka held the bar just over Fuji's hand, and the heel of his palm was in contact with Fuji's thumb for the rest of the ride. The way Fuji was smiling at him, he suspected that he was showing signs of excitement, but he was in control. He had to be.

He recited seven of the meditations on control as the train sped toward their destination.

They got off at the Ikebukuro Station, which was so loud and crowded, Tezuka wanted to get right back on the train again. Fuji took his hand, though, and they wove through the massive crowds. Since there were so many people there, no one seemed to notice that they were holding hands; surely, it seemed more a defensive gesture than an intimate one, but Tezuka was keenly aware of the heat and pressure of Fuji's hand.

Even out on the street, it was hectic, but it gave them a chance to continue to hold hands. Tezuka had no idea where they were going or what they were doing, so he was content to hold Fuji's hand and let Fuji guide him. They were in a huge shopping district, surrounded by high-rise department stores, and there seemed to be thousands of young people overflowing the sidewalks and streets. Even though Tezuka had no interest in any kind of shopping, he was grateful when they finally stepped inside a building.

Of course, the Sunshine City was a whole other complex, like they had just entered another city, but Fuji still expertly and efficiently threaded them through the crowds, angling for his destination. A few escalator trips up, and they were where Fuji wanted them to be, the Sunshine International Aquarium.

It was nearly closing time, so they were among the last group of people let inside. Tezuka frowned slightly as they paid for their tickets. Oishi often talked about his fish, or the aquariums he had visited, but it didn't seem like something Fuji would be interested in, and besides, what sort of aquarium would there be inside a mall?

Once inside, though, Tezuka understood.

Fuji chuckled. "I bet you thought I was crazy, mm?" Still, they were holding hands, even though now, it was calm and quiet, and even cool, probably from all the water. They were surrounded by so many colorful and amazing displays, Tezuka felt like he wasn't able to blink. Even here, though, Fuji had a purpose, and he led Tezuka right to the giant pool for the penguins. He leaned over the side, looking down, and then he grinned at Tezuka, and handed Tezuka his bag. "I have my camera in here. Lucky, isn't it?"

Where Fuji was concerned, luck was never a consideration. Tezuka held Fuji's bag dutifully, and stared out at the pool. "I didn't know there were penguins so close. I've never seen one in real life." They were odd little creatures, bizarrely nimble as they trotted over the ice. There were large penguins, and stout, furry-looking penguins, and small penguins, all together in a huge pool with crests of ice forming little nooks for the penguins to huddle up in between bouts of poking at each other and swimming.

There was a flash in his eye, and Tezuka blinked, and looked at Fuji, who was grinning unapologetically. "You had the most beautiful expression on your face. Like you had just discovered ice cream. I had to take your picture."

He felt his cheeks warm, and he slipped his own bag off his shoulder, and set their two bags together on the ground next to each other, and leaned on the banister. It was a whole other world there, separated from him by only a few feet. He watched these almost alien-looking creatures waddling sure-footedly over the ice, and diving elegantly into the water. "This is better than ice cream."

"You say that, but you don't eat, so how would you know?" Fuji snapped a few more pictures, and Tezuka knew that he must have been smiling for at least a few of them, but that was good. Something he could give Fuji that would be special, later on.

After they would no longer be able to see each other.

Maybe Fuji would put these pictures in his album. Tezuka could take the album home after graduation. After all, what was done was done, right? "Do you still have my album?"

"Of course I do," Fuji scoffed, horrified at the notion that he wouldn't. "I have three, actually. They are waiting for you at my house."

His expression slowly settled back into its usual blankness. "Thank you."

"Hey," Fuji pinched Tezuka's elbow. "Don't give me that face. You'll come to get them, someday. After the next match, maybe."

Tezuka licked his lips, and turned to face Fuji. "You don't ever give up on me."

"You haven't given up on yourself, have you?" Fuji replied, cheerful.

"What makes you so sure of that?" Tezuka asked, honestly a bit surprised by Fuji's confidence.

"You're still alive," Fuji shrugged. "I'm sure you've thought of just killing yourself. In your position, I can't imagine many who wouldn't. Doesn't seem like there's much point to your being alive. But whatever point there might be, you keep looking for it." For being so brutally blunt, Fuji was able to maintain an air of casual indifference.

Tezuka had never specifically thought about suicide, but he had neither specifically thought about living. "It would make my mother sad," he said quickly, under his breath.

"What is she like?" Fuji asked, genuinely curious.

Frowning, Tezuka shrugged. How could one describe a person adequately in words? He wished that Fuji could meet his mother. "She is... ah, well, I suppose she is not unlike you. Not entirely, at any rate. She is... a confident woman."

Fuji laughed, and hugged Tezuka's arm. "Like me, hm? Well, that bodes well."

Tezuka blushed.

They spent so much time at the penguins, they didn't have any time to explore the rest of the aquarium, or even go down to see the penguins swimming from the below water viewing area. It was all right, though. Tezuka liked the view that he had. He liked the way that Fuji held his arm.

They went up to the observation deck, though that cost more money, and they sat on benches before the huge panoramic windows. It was getting dark out, and the lights of the city were glittering all around them. Fuji took a few more pictures of him before Tezuka took the camera, and took a few of Fuji. That got Fuji to put his camera away.

Fuji put his hand on Tezuka's thigh, and leaned over, as if he could see outside better that way. "Isn't Tokyo beautiful?" His fingers dug in, squeezing Tezuka's leg hard.

He just had to inhale. Then exhale. And again. He was in control. "I had never really thought about it before. It's so large... the lights seem to go on forever." It was a far too big world, especially knowing that the world that he was going to inhabit was just a tiny corner of this world, and he might never get up to see it from this height again.

Fuji was watching him, too closely. He leaned in, and even though they were in public, he kissed the corner of Tezuka's mouth. "I grew up on the beach. I love the ocean, and the sand. But I love the city as well. I love being surrounded by people. I love all the sights. I love to feel like I'm a part of something huge, even if it makes me small." He leaned in very, very close, and licked his lips, the tip of his tongue touching Tezuka's earlobe. He whispered, in a low, husky voice, "I love you more than anything."

Tezuka's eyes widened, and he knew his control slipped. He stood up fast, shucking off Fuji's hand, his heat.

His heart was pounding. He wanted so badly to say something perfect here, but he was afraid of at least a million things. "W-we should get back. It's already late... I'll be in trouble."

Haltingly, he held his hand out for Fuji, his lips barely parted.

Fuji smiled, and Tezuka hoped that he could really see understanding in his smile. He reached up and took Tezuka's hand.

She walked right in without knocking, but that was all right, because she closed the door behind her. He was sprawled out on the ground, surrounded by the pictures he'd just had developed. Tezuka's albums were in front of him, too. He was arranging everything, making sure that he had it all in order before slipping the pictures into their slots.

She straddled him, and laid down on top of him. "Mm, looks like you were naughty again."

Fuji smiled, and playfully elbowed her, gently. "Hey, get off, you're heavy."

She smacked his bottom, laughing. "Be careful, there, cutie. How many pictures did you take, anyway?" She reached out, and took a picture of Tezuka smiling.

Fuji tried to grab it back, but she rolled off of him, holding it up so he couldn't get to it; at least, not without turning around. "The usual. More than he thinks." He winked at his sister, and continued to work. She had the duplicate, after all.

"Mm," she sighed. "How is your hand doing, by the way?"

"My hand?" he asked, implying with his tone that he had no idea what she was talking about.

"Yes, your hand," she sighed. "How did you cut it again?"

"Ah. A box cutter accident, while I was helping with student council stuff," Fuji shrugged, sounding as casual as he could about it.

"That's right," she sighed. She rolled onto her back, and held the picture of Tezuka up above her head. "How unusual. For you to be helping with student council, I mean. And also to have an accident like that. You never have accidents..." She trailed up, narrowing her eyes at Tezuka.

Fuji smiled. "Never say never."

"Hmph," she smiled. She reached up, and touched the cheek of the Tezuka in the photograph. "He really is beautiful. I can imagine wanting to do anything for him."

"Don't bother. I don't think he's into girls." He grinned, and started to put the photographs away in their slots. There were so many pictures. He had inserted some of himself, and pictures he had taken at matches and practice. He had taken some pictures at Kawamura sushi, too. Their life together, here in pictures.

"Make sure you always use protection when you are having sex with him, Syuusuke," she ordered, out of the blue.

"Sis!" Fuji laughed. "We're not having sex!"

She rolled her eyes. "Now is not the time to get shy and bashful around me, Syuusuke. This is important. Especially... especially if you or he or the both of you are into kinky... things. Even if you are both virgins, there are risks. Just be careful, all right? Protect yourself."

"Yumiko," Fuji said, trying to laugh. If only his sister knew... "Really, it's not something you need to worry about."

"Promise me, Syuusuke," she said firmly. She held the picture in front of his face. "Even as beautiful as he is, he's not worth your life. Promise me you'll practice safe sex."

Was there any way to have safe sex with Tezuka? "I promise, sis, should we ever have sex, I'll be as safe as houses." He leaned in and kissed her, to lend more credence to his lie.

She sighed. "I wish you wouldn't hide so much from me. It's not necessary. It's not like I'm a novice here. I could help you."

"I don't need to know those sorts of things about you," Fuji grinned, and went back to his albums.

Yumiko pouted. "I worry about you."

He smiled at her, and caressed her cheek. "I'm safe, sis. Don't worry. I wouldn't do anything risky. It's really not a concern."

She sighed, and put the picture back, exactly where she had gotten it from, remarkably. "If he does something to harm you, I'll never forgive him, even if he is nearly the ideal man."

"Nearly?" Fuji raised an eyebrow.

"Well," she smiled and shrugged. "He'd be perfect if he was into girls. But I'm serious, Syuusuke. I won't allow anyone to mistreat you, no matter what."

"I'm serious, Yumiko," Fuji said, and he sounded serious. "I won't let anything happen to me."

If only she knew...

There was something different about the way that Tezuka was watching him eat today. There was something pensive about Tezuka's posture, something melancholy in Tezuka's eyes. The reason for it was not hard to fathom; in fact, as soon as Fuji thought about it, an answer presented itself, but it was an answer that he was not entirely pleased with, so he decided to ignore it.

It was hard to ignore Tezuka, though. He had a powerful presence, and Fuji spent so much of his energy working his way into Tezuka's attention that, now that he had it, he could scarcely ignore it.

"Unusually sunny today, isn't it? Is it all right to be eating out here? Do you need to reapply lotion?" Fuji leaned forward, an implicit offer to assist evident in his body language.

Nonplussed, Tezuka took a small sip of his 'juice.' "Do you want me to attempt to arrange it so you play your brother this week?"

Fuji blinked, and feigned ignorance quickly. "What do you mean? I don't need you to arrange meetings with my brother."

"I apologize," Tezuka sighed, but did not look apologetic. "I misspoke. But if you wanted to be placed in a particular position for the St. Rudolph's match, I would not be inflexible."

"It's unusual for you to discuss match orders with me, or anyone, I suppose," Fuji mused. "Is there something special about this opponent that bothers you?"

Tezuka scowled, and looked over Fuji's shoulder. "It's likely that Yuuta will be placed in singles 3. He's the upcoming star of the team, from what I have heard, and has been playing singles so far in his matches. If you wanted to play him, you just need to say so."

"Can you be sure, though? I understand their manager is a bit of a strategist," Fuji ruminated as he chewed. "Who knows what plan he has put together to bring us down?"

Tezuka sighed. "Of course, match order isn't known until the day of the match, but because of that, one can only depend on logic. Strongest players are kept in reserve, and potential weak links are used early. It is the honorable way to play."

"Honorable?" Fuji laughed. "There is honor in tennis?"

"Of course," Tezuka blinked. "There is honor in everything."

"Well, that's a little funny, all things considered," Fuji winked at Tezuka. "What honor is there in match order? Surely, you pick the order to gain victory. That's all."

"If it were that simple, we'd use the same order every time," Tezuka replied, almost pedantically. "Certainly, there is strategy to consider, looking over the opponent's various strengths and weaknesses, and who has played what position in the past. For instance, Yuuta has played singles 3 in St. Rudolph's last three matches. Captains usually play at singles 1, because to be the Captain, one should be the strongest, but one must also lead. To be there on the sidelines to guide and teach, and, in dire situations, to be the one who carries the burden of bringing home victory."

"Is it a burden to you, Tezuka?" Fuji smiled. "But I think that would be boring. You don't get to play that much. Remember those fools early on who thought you were avoiding playing because of your arm." Fuji laughed, and leaned over, putting his hands on Tezuka's arm, squeezing the muscles. Tezuka's body was rock-hard. It was thrilling.

"That's true," Tezuka sighed, looking down at Fuji's hands on his arm. "But not really of consequence. And you've avoided my question. Many times. Do you want me to place you at singles 3, or should I just choose the match order without any external considerations?"

Fuji smiled, and leaned over more into Tezuka's space, looking up into Tezuka's eyes. "Kiss me."

Tezuka furrowed his brow and exhaled, annoyed. "No."

"Please?" Fuji laughed, and crawled over to Tezuka's lap. Tezuka turned his head away, so Fuji licked his neck, under his ear. "'Mitsu. No one will see."

"That's hardly the point. And if you wanted to avoid the conversation, you didn't really need to go to such extremes." He picked up his thermos, taking a sip, and trying to ignore Fuji's presence in his lap as best he could.

When he pulled his lips away from the straw, Fuji bent down to try to steal a sip, but as always, Tezuka's reactions were too sharp.

"What are you doing?" He asked, sounding horrified.

Fuji sighed. "I just wanted to see what it tasted like."

"It's not safe for..." Tezuka began, blushing.

"For people like me?" Fuji cut him off, not wanting to hear Tezuka say something like, not safe for normal people. "I'm sorry. I just..." He dug his fingers into Tezuka's coarse, thick hair. "I want so much to know what it is like for you. I can't help it, especially not now when you are being so nice to me."

"I'm always nice to you," Tezuka sighed, sullen. Fuji almost laughed, but he didn't want to hurt Tezuka's feelings.

Fuji kissed under Tezuka's jaw, running one hand over Tezuka's chest, while his other hand intertwined itself in Tezuka's hair. "Not always. You make me want things, and then you tell me I can't have them."

Tezuka sighed, but he didn't push Fuji away. He looked up at the sky, and shut his eyes. "You do the same to me, or at least, you create the same feeling."

"But I'm not the one telling you to stop," Fuji grinned. "I'm the one telling you to go on, go further. There isn't anything I'd deny you."

Tezuka looked him straight in the eye. "Except a straight answer to a question."

Fuji paused, and considered. "I don't want to play Yuuta yet. If I beat him now, I don't know if he'd ever forgive me." His throat constricted painfully. That actually physically hurt to say.

Tezuka's eyes widened momentarily, and then he looked determined. Fuji found himself on his back. Tezuka was holding down his arms, and kissing him, hard, and Fuji could feel Tezuka's fangs, but they weren't quite sharp enough as yet to cut. Tezuka's body was over him, pressing him down onto the roof, causing his body to heat up.

Tezuka pulled away, and Fuji looked into Tezuka's glittering ruby eyes. "I'll have to remember what effect honesty has on you."

Tezuka stood up, and walked away from Fuji, rubbing his face with his hands. He straightened out his glasses, and put his forehead on the fence that lined the perimeter of the roof. "It's not really necessary."

It sounded like Tezuka was muttering to himself, so Fuji stood up and went to Tezuka's elbow. He put his hand on Tezuka's arm. "Hey. What are you reciting?"

Tezuka opened his eyes and looked at Fuji. His eyes were brown again. "It's a meditation on control."

"Looks like you have all the control you can handle," Fuji chuckled, a bit bitterly.

"Not really," Tezuka sighed. "I still can't help myself around you."

"Around me, you aren't supposed to," Fuji cheerfully replied.

Tezuka turned his eyes away from Fuji. "I know this match won't be easy for you. You don't have to say anything, but don't forget, that I'm there for you. Just to stand by your side, if that's all you want."

Fuji felt his stomach flip, but he ignored it. He hugged Tezuka's arm, and smiled brightly. "I always want that. Thank you."

Tezuka grunted, and pulled away from the fence, letting his arm slip out of Fuji's grasp. "Lunch is almost over. We should get back to class."

Fuji grinned. "Yes, Captain!"

Tezuka leaned back on elbows. He shouldn't be staying up so late. Tomorrow, he had morning meeting for student council, he had to spend lunch with more student council activities, and he had tennis practice. After that, homework, and he was really behind on his essay on the Meiji era policies that still influence modern Japan, but then, his teacher was afraid of him, so that wasn't really a problem. It was a tad bit irksome that he knew more about the Meiji era customs than he did about modern Japan, but he had plenty of source materials.

Maybe he could ask Fuji for some help.

He stared up at the enemy, and sighed. If he were 100% honest with himself, he would have to admit that he was letting the enemy make inroads. One small concession here, another there, it added up. But, he was still confident that it wasn't a problem. He had control.

He had kissed Fuji on the roof all through lunch today. He had to spend five minutes washing his face after the bell had rung, waiting for his fangs to retract. He never got into trouble, though. Tezuka wondered if he could get into trouble. If he strolled into school at ten thirty and started spray-painting the walls, they would probably just give him an award for artistic achievement when he was done.

As long as the tennis team kept winning.

The door slid open, and Tezuka's back went rigid.

"Ah, again with the late night meditations. Your father used to do this as well. I believe it was his third year of high school that he decided to paint that thing," his grandfather said, pointing to the enemy. He sat down next to Tezuka, and smiled blandly. "He would stay up, staring at it, chanting meditations... I think you can guess how well that worked for him." His grandfather chuckled.

Tezuka shifted a little, sitting up straighter. When he was younger, his father used to shield him from his grandfather. His grandfather, though, would come into his room late at night, and bring him toys. Tezuka could remember being very young, and his grandfather pricking his fingers to let Tezuka feed.

But his father told him about what his grandfather had done when Tezuka had turned eleven. Tezuka still had trouble reconciling the grandfather he knew with the man his father knew.

"I read in the paper that Seigaku is a 'near sure thing' for the Nationals this year. They said many good things about you," his grandfather turned to him and smiled. "And that little first year of yours. I didn't think you were allowed to play your first year. At least, not until the end of the year."

Tezuka shrugged. "Captain's prerogative."

"Ah! It's good to be in charge, eh?" His grandfather chuckled, smiling amicably. He looked up at the enemy, tilting his head to the side, speculatively. "You remind me so much of your grandmother sometimes, you know. So practical and calm, always. I bet that boy disturbs your calm, though." He raised an eyebrow, smiling a bit too knowingly at Tezuka.

Tezuka narrowed his eyes, and looked down. "I don't know who you mean."

"Oh ho ho, you see, that's just how your grandmother would have responded." He smiled cheerfully. "As long as you are alive, I feel that there is a piece of her still in this world."

"Do you... miss her?" Tezuka asked cautiously. No one had ever told him before that he was like his grandmother. His father might not have known...

"Every day," his grandfather sighed. "Every minute of every day. But, Kunimitsu, life begins, and life ends, for us all. We just keep living, and finding what meaning there is in each new day. I thought that I would die from grief, but if I had, I never would have met you." He smiled, looking up at the enemy again. "She would have liked you. And, so, I am glad that I can be here, now."

He baldly watched his grandfather. It was rare for anyone in the family to speak of Tezuka's grandmother, and even less, for his grandfather to speak of her... or of these matters...

"I want to see one of your matches, too. I'd like to see your Fuji play, and you, of course. You can't spend your whole life being afraid of this," he waved his hand at the enemy dismissively. "There's nothing worth having that doesn't come at a cost, you know."

"I've heard that," Tezuka replied, sounding bored. "But you shouldn't pay more for anything than you can afford."

"Cost is hard to judge sometimes, when it isn't a matter of numbers," his grandfather replied, his tone just shy of a reproach. "Your father has done his best to contain risks, for himself, and for you. But, while he is strict with you, he is less so with himself, is he not?"

Tezuka frowned, shifting slightly. Fuji had said much the same thing. And he knew that there were times that his mother let his father...

"Thinking of this as an enemy is, I believe, dangerous. It is akin to thinking of your need to eat, or sleep, as an enemy. It can only lead to self-destruction. Rather, it would be better to learn to embrace and moderate those appetites that you cannot expel. However," he chuckled, somewhat humorlessly, "I can't say that to your father." He shrugged and smiled, but it sent a shiver down Tezuka's spine.

He could see why his father was often less than respectful to his grandfather.

"One way or the other, you certainly can't spend all night here, staring at this, when you have school in the morning. Can you?" He patted Tezuka's leg affectionately.

Tezuka bowed his head. "Goodnight, grandfather." He stood up and hesitated. He looked over the enemy for a moment. He could still taste Fuji's kisses. "There isn't much time left, anyway. After school, he'll go to college, or to America, or he'll intern somewhere. He has a future."

"He does at that," Tezuka's grandfather smiled. "So do you. And neither of you know what that future will hold. One day at a time, Kunimitsu."

Tezuka bowed to his grandfather, and retired to bed.

He wasn't going to have much time to see Fuji tomorrow.

He didn't notice the rain, not anymore. Everyone else was inside the clubhouse, or already gone. It was almost funny. He hadn't expected to have such a serious conversation with Tezuka, not yet, at least. But, as always, it was Tezuka's eyes that were his undoing.

Through the rain, he could barely see them, but he knew that they were still brown, warm brown. However, what they were now was intently focused. That sort of intensity made Fuji's skin crawl. And when Tezuka asked him about his motivation, he could be nothing but honest.

The only thing on my mind is winning the National title.

Was that true? It made Fuji a little melancholy, but he could understand how Tezuka felt. If there was only ever going to be one chance for glory, for proving oneself, it was reasonable to take it. But how much time did they have left?

If I become a hindrance, remove me as a member of the team.

Why had he said that, exactly? But he didn't want to be a burden to Tezuka. It was hard enough to stay close to Tezuka as it was. If he was the cause of Tezuka losing his dream...

And now, Tezuka had his hand on Fuji's arm. They were soaked to the skin. The layers of clothing that Tezuka wore were drenched, clinging to his body.

Fuji reached up, and put his hand on Tezuka's skin, on his neck. As expected, he was as cold as the rain.

"Are you cold? You seem so cold..." Fuji leaned up, and pressed his lips to Tezuka's neck, drinking in the rainwater that was sloughing off his body.

"Syuusuke," Tezuka sighed. "This is more important. What do you mean by..."

"'Mitsu, do you really believe in that boy? He doesn't seem much like the type to carry a team. He blazes ahead without looking back, doesn't he?" He smiled up at Tezuka, pressing himself closer to Tezuka's body. This should not be allowed. They were in public. Someone could see them. And Tezuka could lose control. Fuji wanted him to.

"It's not really relevant, is it? If Echizen wants to find the greatness in himself, he'll need to be more than just a prodigy. But that's not what concerns me. You... you have so much talent. Why do you choose...?" Tezuka put his hand, cold as stone, to Fuji's face.

Fuji chuckled. "I always thought that you and I were so alike, at least in some regards. But maybe we aren't. You have to admit, though, I never fail to be interesting. Isn't that a good thing?"

"Sometimes, too much of a good thing," Tezuka sighed, and ran his fingers through Fuji's wet hair. "That may well be the best way to describe you. Too much of a good thing."

Fuji grinned widely. "Mm, 'Mitsu, it's cold, and we're all wet. Let's wait until everyone is gone, and take a shower together."

"We can't do that," Tezuka shook his head immediately, unable to meet Fuji's eye.

Fuji reached around, and pinched Tezuka in the ass. "Well you can't go home like this, can you? Even you could catch a cold, right? ...Can you?"

"I never have," Tezuka shrugged, sighing. "But you might. It's time to go in."

"Not yet..." Fuji pulled away, and waited while a small knot of their teammates ran out of the clubhouse, toward the entryway to the campus. "Wait a few more minutes. I want to be alone with you."

"Syuusuke..." Tezuka murmured, but he wasn't saying no.

He reached out, and brushed his fingers over Tezuka's hand. "Just a few more minutes. Time is short. Let's enjoy what we have now, mm?"

Tezuka looked troubled. He looked around, searching for something, perhaps. "The now. You aren't planning on quitting the team?"

"Eh?" Fuji blinked. "When did I say that?"

"You said..." Tezuka scowled.

"Tezuka! Fuji! For the love of... get inside! Get changed! No getting sick allowed!" Ryuzaki-sensei barked out, shaking her head. "Tezuka! I'll leave the rest to you. No more dawdling!"

"Yes, sensei," they both called out. They grabbed their racquets, and walked to the clubhouse. The only people left were Taka, Eiji, and Oishi. Oishi immediately went to Tezuka, but Tezuka assured him that he could handle the rest on his own, and he should get home quickly. Fuji chatted for a few moments with Taka and Eiji, and then the three of them were leaving.

Fuji stripped out of his wet clothes slowly, watching Tezuka undress. When Tezuka was shirtless, he went over to him, and wrapped his arms around Tezuka, laying his hands flat against Tezuka's chest. "You're so cold," Fuji murmured. "Do you get hotter when you drink my blood?"

He wasn't sure that Tezuka would answer. He could hear nothing over the steady sheets of rain that pounded the small clubhouse. Slowly, Tezuka's hands came up, and covered Fuji's hands. "I don't need to be warm. I'm used to the cold."

Fuji stepped around Tezuka, keeping his hands on Tezuka's body. He looked up into Tezuka's eyes, watching him closely. "You want to know the real me? I'm here waiting for you, 'Mitsu. Find me." He broke off contact with Tezuka, and bent over to remove his wet shorts and boxers. He looked back up to Tezuka's face, but Tezuka was staring, almost blankly, at Fuji's body. It was like he could see Tezuka fighting with himself to stay in control. He wanted Tezuka to lose that fight. He put his hands on Tezuka's hips, and pulled down his track pants and briefs. "We should shower. Warm up our bodies."

"I already told you," Tezuka sighed, weakly. "I don't need to be warm."

"I do," Fuji sighed, leaning up to kiss Tezuka, forcing his lips open, slipping his tongue inside of Tezuka's mouth, over Tezuka's fangs. A cold thrill swept through his body. He pulled away, and took Tezuka's hands, pulling him toward the shower. "Let's both get warm."

Tezuka wasn't agreeing, but he wasn't resisting, either. When they got into the shower, Fuji turned the water all the way up to scalding, and put his fingers on Tezuka's lips, offering him his hand. It hurt when Tezuka bit down on his palm, and the water was too hot, but Fuji didn't mind either pain.

There was only so much time left. Each encounter brought them closer to the end.

Fuji came off the court smiling. Of course, he had every reason to be smiling, but it was for Tezuka that he was smiling. "Want to warm up while I cool down, Captain?"

Tezuka glanced over to the other side of the stands. Atobe was there, waiting for him, watching him. There was something in the way that Atobe was watching... Tezuka couldn't put his finger on it, but it was odd. Tezuka was already excited. This match, this opponent... this was significant. Not as significant as Rikkai Dai, perhaps, but still. Winning this match would mean something, like Fuji's match had had meaning, like Kawamura's match.

He was anxious to begin, wanted to play now.

"It's not necessary," he said, blankly, but he wasn't surprised when Fuji followed him away from the court. Because of the way that Fuji was watching, because of the way that Fuji smelled, Tezuka went to an out of the way spot, a picnic area that was a bit removed from the courts that were active today.

The way that Fuji smelled... was as exciting as the thought of playing Atobe.

"Did you approve of my match, Captain? Did I play well?" Fuji had his hands behind his back, and he was staying a few paces back from Tezuka, but he was just there, just behind him, and Tezuka's body was reacting to him, to the sound of his voice. His body was too worked up as it was, with the match he was about to play.

He started to go through the seventh meditation on control in his head.

"Mm, Captain, you're being so quiet. Tell me. What did you think? My triple counters are impressive, aren't they? Would you like to receive those shots?" Fuji came up to Tezuka's elbow, and smiled at him.

Tezuka swallowed, and looked away. "Would you ever play me seriously?"

"I would, if I were properly motivated." Fuji reached down, and took the sunscreen from Tezuka's bag. "Here, you need to reapply, don't you? Drop your pants, and I'll do your legs."

Tezuka blushed. Fuji was far too precise with words not to have intended that to sound the way it did. "I can do it."

"So can I," Fuji said, reproachfully. He reached up, and tugged Tezuka's track pants down. "Here, I'll do it."

This was a torture, to be sure, but Tezuka was stronger than this. He had to be. He lifted his feet so Fuji could pull of his pants, and he shoved them into his bag. He took off his jacket for Fuji, and then stood still while Fuji spread slick fingers over his legs, taking his time with each leg, going up and down, to be sure he got every inch of skin. He stood up and took Tezuka's right arm, and started to work the sunscreen up his arm, even so much as slipping his hand into the armhole to cover Tezuka's shoulder.

"Have to make sure your precious skin is safe," Fuji explained quietly, watching Tezuka's eyes with amusement. From the way that Fuji reacted to his eyes, from the flash of wild approval in his eyes and in his smile, Tezuka surmised that his eyes were getting bloodshot.

He couldn't deny that he was reacting to Fuji a bit, but he'd be on the court in less than ten minutes. "It's fine, you know."

Fuji just chuckled. "But, best not to get careless, right?" He took Tezuka's left hand, and started to work on Tezuka's left arm. He went all the way up the shoulder again, and then he pulled up Tezuka's shirt. "Have to make sure any exposed flesh is covered." He spread his fingers over Tezuka's belly, pushing his hand up, flicking his finger over Tezuka's nipple.

"Fuji!" Tezuka gritted his teeth, and grabbed Fuji's arm to push him away, but Fuji held onto Tezuka, and they ended up on the ground.

"Kunimitsu," Fuji narrowed his eyes, and pushed his hips up, to bump against Tezuka's. "I've told you a dozen times, when we're alone, call me Syuusuke!"

"Syuusuke," Tezuka growled, aware that it was useless because it would just incite Fuji. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I know, you have a match. I know, you don't want to... do this..." Fuji sighed, and grabbed a hold of Tezuka's hair. "Just one kiss, 'Mitsu. Please. I've been good, haven't I? I played well. Please. Just one kiss..." He leaned up, his lips parted.

Tezuka knew perfectly well this was wrong. He knew he should just pull away. Fuji was griping him, was grinding their hips together, Fuji's leg was between his, pushing up... He knew very well that it was wrong, but he did it anyway, he touched Fuji's lips, he kissed him, slipping his tongue in Fuji's mouth. He could feel it, overwhelming him, like a great rush of heat, his heart pounding in his chest. He was getting used to this feeling, and maybe that's why he let it happen, because he thought he knew. He cut Fuji's tongue on his teeth, and then there was the thrill of blood, the taste of which was like nothing he could describe. Was all human blood like this?

But it had to be because it was Fuji. No one else was like Fuji. No one else made him feel this way, like he was alive, he was free, he was human. Fuji's hand has slipped up his shirt, and his fingernails were digging into Tezuka's back. His other hand was at Tezuka's shorts, slipping under the waistband.

He broke the kiss, but his thoughts were clouded, indistinct. Fuji's lips and teeth were washed red with blood. He looked Fuji in the eye, and Fuji's eyes widened, and he smiled, and...

Tezuka grabbed Fuji by the hair, and pulled his collar aside. Here's where the blood was thickest, and the hottest. Here's where the blood flowed fastest. It was here that he could feel Fuji heart beating with his teeth, and here that his own moans of pleasure mixed with Fuji's.

He started to feel sluggish.

No, he wasn't the one who was feeling sluggish. He was feeling elated, like he could leap over buildings and crush bones with his jaw. But, while he was feeling this way, there was also a feeling like each breath was labored.

Fuji's hands fell off of Tezuka's body to the ground.

Tezuka pulled away. Fuji's eyes were rolling back into his head, and his eyelids were fluttering closed. Fuji's neck was... It was...

Tezuka jumped off of Fuji, and stumbled back. Fuji was...

He panicked.

He grabbed his tennis bag, and ran.

About a block away, he found a pay phone, and he called for an ambulance.

He was shaking, but he forced himself to go back, to check on Fuji. His heart was pounding. Pounding with Fuji's blood. Fuji's life was coursing through his veins. Was Fuji...

He was still prone, but Tezuka could tell, even from a distance, that Fuji was still breathing. He could hear the siren coming.

He had to...

He climbed up into a tree, and watched from there, listening for where they were taking Fuji.

Fuji... might still die.

Tezuka felt sick.

He paced the entire length of the hallway, his hands behind his back, and his mouth in a tight line. His father and his wife had wisely chosen to stay out of his way, which was good because he had no desire to lose his temper, but he trusted that they understood. He had been right, all along! This had been a mistake!

He was tempted to go out after his son, but he had no idea where he might be. Perhaps at that... friend's of his house. It didn't matter. Wherever he was, he was late, too late.

Much too late.

It was nearly midnight when the backdoor slid open. He kept himself from running, but he still met his son before he had stumbled far into the house.

Tezuka Kuniharu set his jaw. "Explain yourself. The tournament and any celebration must have been over hours ago. Why are you just coming home now?"

His son looked away, looked pained, and he had his arm around his stomach protectively. He cleared his throat, but he wasn't able to speak.

He grabbed Kunimitsu's collar, and forced him to look up. "Answer me! Where have you been?" He blinked. Was that...? "Is that blood on your jacket? Tezuka Kunimitsu, explain yourself!"

Kunimitsu looked as if he had been struck, and he crumpled. "H-he's going to be all right. T-they took him to the hospital..."

Kuniharu's eyes widened. Just what the hell...? "What have you done?"

Kunimitsu fell to his knees, and stifled a sob. "Why? I don't understand. Why? Why didn't you kill me? When I was a baby, before I could... I know you wanted to, why didn't you?" Kunimitsu looked up at his father, confused, broken, aching.

Kuniharu felt like the air had been knocked out of him. Wanted... to kill his own son? Is that what Kunimitsu thought?

Kunimitsu leaned forward, shaking, clinging to his father. "I... I wanted to kill him. I wanted... all of his blood! I'm a monster... a monster!"

Heart breaking, Kuniharu tried to hold onto his son, but it was the first time he had ever tried to do anything like that, and he didn't know how.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. It's not the first time I've bit him, but... I'm sorry! Please, take me away from here! Send me to Nyuto-san! I don't want to hurt him again! I don't want to kill him, please!" Kunimitsu curled up into a ball, shaking.

Kuniharu looked around. His father was at the top of the stairs, looking down at his feet. His wife was on the other side of the stairs, covering her face with her fist.

He patted his son's head, and sighed.

"Don't worry. I won't let you hurt that boy again. It's going to be all right, son."

This was their curse. It was his fault, his lack of control, that caused his son to suffer this fate.

He would make sure his son would not suffer anymore.

Fuji woke up slowly. He was aware that he wasn't where he was supposed to be, but he had forgotten what had happened, why he felt like this. It didn't hurt, though. Somehow, he thought he should be hurting, but instead, he was just tired, and so weak.

He opened his eyes, but thankfully, the room was dark.

"Wakey, wakey, Syuu~chan. Remember when I used to wake you up like that?" Yumiko leaned forward and smiled. "You've been a naughty boy, keeping things from your big sister."

Fuji smiled. "Naughty. I like that word."

Yumiko shook her head. "Whatever do you mean?" She sighed. "There are going to be questions, Syuusuke. Everyone is all worked up about whatever bit you. Causing a stir on and off the court... Just your style, mm?"

He tried to touch his wound, but his arm had tubes stuck into it. How distasteful. "Mm. But I'm fine, right? There's nothing to worry about."

"You're not fine!" she hissed, leaning forward and clutching the sheets. "You lost a lot of blood! I don't know what the hell kind of games you were playing, Syuusuke, but this is serious."

"It is serious," he smiled, meeting her eyes, drowsily. "Very serious. Have you seen Tezuka?"

"Forget about him!" she pled. "If you don't want to get him into trouble, I understand, but he hurt you!"

He just shook his head, though that made him ache. "No. It wasn't like that. You can't understand. You just can't." He slumped down in the bed, and looked away from her. He could feel Tezuka's strong arms around him, pinning him into place as his teeth broke Fuji's skin. "You can't understand."

"Don't push me away, Syuusuke," Yumiko beseeched, her voice breaking. "You have no idea how worried you made me!"

"Sorry, sis," he smiled, and closed his eyes again. Tomorrow, maybe, he could make it up to her.

He wanted to remember Tezuka's embrace tonight.

Because they could not ascertain to anyone's satisfaction the cause of Fuji's injury, they insisted on keeping him in the hospital for an extra day, so he could have a full course of IV antibiotics, and so they could poke him for blood every half hour to run tests. The only results, however, were that he was healing with near-abnormal alacrity.

Eiji, Taka, and Oishi came to visit him, bringing news of their victory over Hyotei. That was good news, to be sure, but their tales of Echizen's exciting win over Hyotei's reserve player disturbingly lacked essential details, such as why Echizen had to play, and how Tezuka's match against Atobe went.

After his day in the hospital, his parents kept him at home for another day. It was true that he wasn't checked out of the hospital until after school had started, but no matter how much Fuji insisted he was fine, everyone just pushed him into bed, told him to drink plenty of fluids and rest, and closed the door.

The only bright spot was that Yuuta came home from school to visit with him. This would have been good enough, all on its own, but Yuuta had a more detailed account of what had happened at the match, from Mizuki.

Tezuka had disappeared.

When he was fifteen minutes late, he was considered a forfeit, and the reserve players were called upon. A search yielded no evidence of Tezuka, but that's how they found Fuji, although the paramedics were already there. Mizuki further informed him that no one still knew where Tezuka was, but that his parents had contacted the school. Mizuki's information, however, fell short of the content of that communication.

Fuji had never been so anxious to get to school as he was that night.

He resorted to calling Tezuka's house, though Yumiko tried to hang up the phone the first few times, but it was useless. If there was anyone home, they were ignoring it, and his parents wanted him to rest up if he was going to go to school.

So, he waited.

He kept hoping that he would go to school, and find Tezuka in his seat, as always. Until he saw it for himself, he just couldn't let go of that last lingering thread of hope. It was all he had to ward off the gloomy despair and dread that otherwise claimed his heart.

This was because of what they did. What he enticed Tezuka into doing. But it wasn't wrong! It maybe went a little far, but Fuji didn't mind!

He waited outside Tezuka's classroom until first bell, smiling politely at all the well-wishers passing by.

During class, he passed a note to Eiji, asking where Tezuka was. Eiji looked a little sick, and took a long time to write back. Fuji impatiently tapped his pencil on his notepad until, finally, Eiji passed him a note back.

Fuji stared down at the page in horror. Quickly, he scribbled, This has to be a joke, right?

Eiji turned to look at Fuji, and he shook his head sadly.

At lunch, Fuji bolted out of the classroom, and went straight for Ryuzaki-sensei's office. He'd get the truth, straight from the horse's mouth.

She seemed less than thrilled that her office was invaded, but her expression softened when she realized it was Fuji. "Ah, Fuji-kun, how are you -"

"It can't be true," he stated firmly. "Tezuka didn't drop out of school."

She grimaced, clearly perturbed at being interrupted. She looked at the way his fists were planted on her desk for a moment, and sighed. "I'm afraid it is. Tezuka had a blood condition. The school wasn't given precise information about it, but when he was first enrolled here, we were told about it, and that it was in remission. Apparently, it has something to do with the sun... regardless, apparently, during the match, Tezuka had some sort of relapse, and his parents needed to withdraw him from school for treatment."

Fuji stared in horror. It was the exact truth, just without the sexy details. And what sort of treatment would Tezuka's abusive parents come up with?

She patted his hand. "I know he was a close friend of yours. And the circumstances... you being attacked, and him just disappearing...! But it seems it was just really bad timing. By the way, who or what attacked you, anyway?" She narrowed her eyes and regarded him closely, like she would be able to see if he was lying.

He smiled, though it felt weak, even to him. "Who knows? Maybe a meat fork wielding mugger. Thank you, sensei." He bowed, and turned to leave.

"Fuji. You know how important tennis was to Tezuka. But it's possible, maybe, that he played at the risk of his own health. Take care, all right? You have too much talent to throw it away so young. Take a few days off from practice, all right?"

She was trying to be kind, and Fuji appreciated it. But there was only one thing he needed, and he wasn't in school or playing tennis anymore. "Yes, sensei. Thank you."

The house was painfully quiet. She wasn't used to this, and she didn't like it. She mixed together a few varieties of tealeaves. This would be her third pot, but so far, she hadn't made anything palatable.

"There's only so much tea in the world," her father in law reminded quietly, with a smile.

She smiled back at him. "Ah, well. They can grow more, can't they?"

He smiled broadly, and came to sit down. "I hope you don't mind if I join you."

"Please, do. The house is..." Her face fell, and she sighed, turning back to the stove. "Well. Anyway."

"You're wondering if you made a mistake. If you hadn't pushed to let him go to school, he would still be here with you." He sounded too knowing, too direct in what he was saying.

Her shoulders drooped. "How can I not feel that? He's been taken away from me."

"Even a moment's joy can outweigh a decade of misery," he said, and she would like to believe that he was being sage. "How long do you think that boy could have lasted, caged in here? He was like a lion born in the zoo; his blood knew that he was born for better things."

"It's blood that's the problem, isn't it? ...How long will it take to get to the house on Nyuto-san?" She poured the water over the tealeaves, and brought the teapot to the table.

He put his hands on the table, and examined his fingernails. "Oh, it doesn't take long. Though, to get to the house, they will have to walk. The best route is a secret pathway, but it's only accessibly on foot. The locals... might not be happy to see them. I don't really know. My father left that house when he was young. I can't even say what condition it will be in."

She closed her eyes, and put her face in her hands. "Was it worth it? Really? Could it have been?"

Her father in law smiled mysteriously. "That depends entirely on the young man Kunimitsu gave everything up for, doesn't it?"

Fuji walked past the gate to the Tezuka household three times before he summed up his courage enough to ring the bell. He was fairly sure there was nothing that anyone in the house could or would do to him - Tezuka was being punished for hurting him, after all - but he didn't want to get Tezuka into any more trouble, either.

He desperately needed to see Tezuka, though. They had just begun the Kantou Tournament. They were poised to go to Nationals. It was everything Tezuka had been dreaming of, probably even since he was small. Fuji had taken all of that away from him. Perhaps, if he could speak to Tezuka's father, he could make him understand. If he had to promise to never see Tezuka alone again, he would. Anything, just to get Tezuka back.

And maybe, if he could have perhaps just five minutes alone with Tezuka...

He rang the bell at the gate, and waited, and he rang it again, and he waited again, and he rang it again. There was no sign of life anywhere, however, even though the gate was not too high, there were too many people on the street for him to try to climb over it. There was a woman down the block who was playing with her toddler, teaching her to ride her tricycle, and there was a deliveryman a few doors away, seemingly taking a break. Frustrated, Fuji walked around, trying to see if there was any other entrance.

He had to walk to the end of the block, and then to the side. There was an alley behind the houses, just wide enough for one small car to drive down. Back here, there were only garages, sheds, and garbage bins. He walked as far as he thought the Tezuka house would be, but it was hard to tell. He had seen the front of the house, but not the back, and many of these houses looked the same. He hefted himself up a tall stone fence, and looked around, but it couldn't have been Tezuka's house, because the backyard was littered with children's toys. The next house had a nice outdoor grilling area, which didn't seem like something a household of vampires would have much need for. The next house on the other side, though, had a koi pond and a small rock garden. The house itself looked much larger than the other two, as well, and it seemed like it might be the Tezuka's house.

"Can I help you?"

Fuji jumped down from the fence, and smiled his best smile, useful for getting out of trouble. The woman who had spoken to him was wearing a fine kimono, with a most elegant obi. She was middle-aged, if he was being unkind, and rather attractive.

She had warm, brown eyes.

Fuji bowed low. "Forgive me, Tezuka-san. I don't wish to intrude. You probably don't remember me. My name is Fuji Syuusuke, and I'm a friend of your son's."

"Oh, I remember you, young man. I dare say you are a might bit more than just a friend of Kunimitsu's, mm?" She smiled a bit coldly, but she was watching Fuji carefully. "If you've come to see Kunimitsu, I'm afraid that will be impossible."

"I realize... I mean, I don't want to interfere, but you should know, you and your husband, it wasn't Tezuka's fault. I'm fine," he shrugged, smiling. He stepped a bit closer, trying to angle his way between her and the door in the fence. "I don't know what you might have heard about what, er, happened, but it was really nothing."

"This isn't something we discuss in the alley behind our house," she replied firmly, quietly. "You should go on home, Fuji-kun. You won't be able to see Kunimitsu today."

"When can I see him, then?" Fuji slipped between her and the door entirely. "It's important that I see him. Tezuka has to come back to school. Things got out of hand, and I realize that his... blood condition... may seem to be getting worse, but I'm sure he can regulate it. He has to come back to school. He has to lead the tennis team to Nationals. He has student council duties. Everyone at school is in mourning, practically, because he's gone."

"Everyone?" She raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms over her chest. "Did you come here on behalf of everyone, then?"

He wasn't sure what she wanted him to say. He couldn't read her mood, couldn't read her eyes. She was clearly measuring him, though. He had nothing else to do, then, but to resort to honesty. "I came because I love him. I need to see him. You... maybe you could understand. I-I don't know how your relationship with Tezuka's father began, but... I need to see your son. It's my fault, what happened. I can't stand to think that he's being confined because of me." He bowed down low, beseeching. He couldn't read her expression, anyway. She was definitely looking for him to say something specific, but he was at a loss. And he needed to see Tezuka. Needed to see his 'Mitsu...

"It's not possible," she said softly. "Not today." She sighed. "If my husband even knew you were here... It would be best, I think, if you just forgot about Kunimitsu. Your team will have to get along without him. So will you. I'm sorry."

"I can't!" His head shot up, and he reached out for her, grabbing her arm. "I can't forget him! Please don't ask me to do that. Please, I need to see him..."

With firm but gentle hands, she released his grip from her arm. She looked him in the eye, and she narrowed her eyes. "Come back in two weeks. If you come back in two weeks, I can see what I can do. Come to this door, after school, two weeks from today. Now please. I would like to go inside."

Fuji stepped aside reluctantly. "I can see him in two weeks?"

She pulled a key out from her sleeve, and smiled at him, kindly. "Come back then, Fuji-kun. We shall see."

She slipped inside, and he heard the door click shut, with a resoundingly locked feeling to it. He stood there in the alley, and stared at the door handle, which was preventing him from being part of the world where Tezuka now lived.

It was unfair, and we shall see didn't sound too promising.

Two weeks later, he skipped tennis practice, and went to the Tezuka house. He went straight for the alley, and he found their backdoor easily. He wasn't sure if he should knock, or just wait for her to come. He paced back and forth for nearly an hour. He did climb up to look over the high fence a few times, but he never saw any signs of life. Finally, he sat down on the ground, and put his hands together, and he waited.

It was a quarter of an hour later that the door quietly opened, and Tezuka-san raised her eyebrow at Fuji. "You're going to get your uniform all dirty."

"It's laundry day, anyway," he cheerfully informed her, jumping to his feet. "Can I see Kunimitsu today?"

If she was put off by his lack of formality, she didn't really show it. Her kimono today was no less fancy than it had been the other day, but today, she had her hair down. "Why are you here? By that I mean, why do you want to see my son? He injured you. He could have killed you. Don't be flippant about that. Because you are so young, it only means you have more to lose. You could have died behind that tennis court. Why do you want to see the person who risked your life like that?"

"It was my choice," he shrugged. "I'm not being flippant. I understand the danger. But I would rather live with the danger and have him in my life than be safe and alone."

She stepped further out into the alley, and she smiled broadly. "You are an attractive young man, a tennis star, and you have your whole life ahead of you. You won't be alone for long."

"I'll always be alone, if I can't be with him," he countered soberly.

"You're young," she sighed. "You think this now, but..."

"Is it impossible to be in love when you are young, then?" he asked, edging closer. "Are you not going to let me see him?"

"Youth falls so quickly into love," she smiled. "And out of love. And back into it. It is still impossible to see him, I'm afraid."

Desperate, he slammed his fist into the fence. "Please, I don't want to be offensive, but... is it Kunimitsu's father? Is he the reason why? If I could talk to Tezuka-san, maybe I could make him understand..."

"Come back in two weeks," she shook her head. "We will see then."

"Why?" he cried out, frustrated. "What will have changed in two weeks? Why can't I see him now?"

"What will have changed?" she cocked her head to the side. "It will be two weeks later." She slipped inside the fence, and shut him out once again.

Yumiko opened his door, and sighed. She flicked on the light, and stepped inside, closing the door after herself. "You missed dinner. You can't keep doing this, Syuusuke. You're still playing tennis. You'll drop dead from exhaustion before too long." She picked up his bag, and propped it up next to his desk, and stepped around him on the carpet to gather up his clothes. She put the dirty clothes in the hamper, and she hung up the clean clothes, and then she sat down next to him, combing her fingers through his hair. "If you are so miserable, why do you keep playing tennis? It's only going to remind you of him."

"He'll come back," he said into the carpet. "And we'll go to Nationals together. I won't let him down."

"You've been to his house four times," she sighed. "Every time, it's always the same, isn't it? You talk with his mother for a bit, and then she sends you away, telling you to come back in two weeks. How long are you going to keep going back there?"

"Until I can see him," Fuji sighed.

"Syuusuke, I'm worried about you. I can understand if you need closure. But you are becoming more and more obsessed with this boy, and you are harming yourself. You hardly eat, you never study, you never do anything but mope about. You don't go out with your friends anymore." She paused, piling his hair up on the top of his head. "This weekend, let's go to Chiba. We can stay with Kojirou. Some sun, some sand, some water... it will do you a world of good. And some time alone with Kojirou couldn't hurt, either."

"No," he replied flatly.

"Why not?" she asked, sounding a bit frustrated. "He's your best friend."

Fuji shook his head. "Tezuka is."

"Tezuka!" She seethed. "Tezuka barely knows you! He's been to this house once. You've been out with him maybe a half dozen times. His home life is, at best, restrictive, and at worst, out and out abusive. I sympathize with him, Syuusuke, but that doesn't change the fact that he nearly got you killed. It's time to move on. Maybe not with Kojirou, but with someone, anyone who can get your mind off of Tezuka."

"No one can," Fuji replied stubbornly. "I love him."

"You don't even know him," she bitterly replied. "You're deluding yourself."

He shrugged.

She couldn't understand. She had never seen his eyes, not when they were warm and brown, and filled with affection, and not when they were ruby red, shining with lust.

There could never be anyone but Tezuka.

"Hey, Fujiko, are you seeing a therapist?" Eiji poked around at Fuji fries, picking out the best ones.

"E-E-Eiji!" Oishi turned purple. "Don't ask someone something like that!"

"Why not?" Eiji stuck a small handful of Fuji's fries into his mouth.

"Because it's rude!" Oishi hissed, looking around as if everyone was staring at them.

Fuji shrugged. He'd been eating lunch with these two ever since Tezuka left school. "It's ok. I'm not. Why do you ask?"

"Oh," Eiji sighed, a bit disappointed. "You miss practice every other Tuesday. I mean, you were attacked and all. It would make sense."

Fuji laughed, and picked up his drink. Nothing was worse than cold Mos Burger, except maybe hot Mos Burger. But he wasn't eating, anyway. "No, I'm not going to therapy, Eiji. I'm going to visit a friend. That's all."

"Tezuka?" Eiji asked in a hushed tone.

Oishi looked like he might want to correct Eiji's behavior again, but he was also interested in the answer.

Fuji just looked away. "No, not Tezuka."

"Have you heard from him at all?" Eiji asked.

"No," Fuji replied quietly.

"Oh," Eiji sighed. "I thought he might be talking to you. I keep hoping he'll come back."

"He will," Fuji said, sounding more confident than he felt. But Nationals were beginning this week, and he was still being told to come back in two weeks every time he went to see Tezuka-san. He was getting to have quite a rapport with Tezuka's mother, but that was irrelevant.

He was beginning to worry that something had happened to Tezuka.

The door opened a bit earlier this time. "I read all about the tournament in the paper. Third place isn't bad."

He smiled up at Tezuka's mother. She was wearing the blue kimono today. Fuji liked that one second best. "We would have won if he had been with us."

"There's no way to know that now, I'm afraid," she sighed, and she seemed like she really meant it.

Fuji pulled the medallion out of his bag. "Here. The team wanted him to have this. Even though... he wasn't there, he was still leading us in spirit. Could you give it to him?"

She took the bronze medallion, and ran her fingers over it, smiling softly. But then she handed it back to Fuji. "I think he would like it more if you gave it to him. But..."

"Not today. Maybe in two weeks." He smiled up at her.

"Perhaps," she smiled back.

He sighed, and pulled himself up. "As you like, Tezuka-san. Thank you."

"What for?" she asked, honestly confused.

He smiled at her, brightly. "For at least pretending there's still hope. I can't quite fathom being without hope just yet."

It started to get colder, and he stopped going to tennis practice. Many third years did, because exams were coming up, but Fuji was only half interested in his exams. He had signed up to take tests for three different colleges, all in the Tokyo area. Kojirou was going to go to school in Hawaii, where he could chase waves. Oishi took an early exam, and was accepted into a medical program at the University of Tokyo. Eiji was pretending that he wasn't freaking out about college, and would hiss at anyone who talked about college in front of him. Taka had quit the team, too, and he was working more hours at the restaurant, often missing school so he could train as a chef.

Everything made Fuji think more and more about Tezuka. He should be here with them. He should be planning his own future, although Fuji knew that Tezuka didn't really have a future. Still, Fuji liked to imagine that Tezuka was completely normal, and that he was still here with them, planning his future. Tezuka would probably have gone to America, to go pro. And then, Fuji would have gone, too, to study film or photography. Tezuka would have been traveling a lot, so it would have been difficult, but they could have made it work.

Every other Tuesday, he saw Tezuka's mother, and exchanged pleasantries with her. Often, she would ask him why he was still coming to see her son. His answer never wavered; he loved Kunimitsu, and he needed to see him. He could never tell if this answer pleased or displeased her, because her response was always the same; come back in two weeks, and we will see.

It was a grey, windy day, and Fuji was sitting outside the back door to the Tezuka house, reading a bit as he waited. The door opened, and Tezuka's mother stepped out into the alley, her wooden sandals clopping loudly on the bricks. She was wearing a pale rose kimono with a hand-painted pattern of lilies and roses on the bottom, and a brilliant blue obi. Her hair was done up today in a very traditional style.

"You look beautiful, Tezuka-san." He stood up, and bowed to her. "I hope I'm not disturbing you."

"Not at all, Fuji-kun. Please, come inside for some tea." She stepped aside, holding the door open for him.

He just stared at her for the longest time, and then he broke out into a grin. "Is today the day? Can I see him today?"

She just smiled sadly. It made his heart feel cold. "Are you so excited, after so long? Please, come in."

He grabbed his bag, and hurried inside. There was a path that led from the door to the house, threading around the rock garden and the koi pond. There was a room, with its sliding door open, that led out to the garden. Inside, there was a low table, with tea for two set up. Fuji stood in front of the room, a little disappointed. But still. This was the house that Tezuka lived in. Even to be able to enter it, it was a step forward. Maybe, if he passed the test of tea...

"You can leave your shoes here," Tezuka-san showed him. She left her own sandals there, and stepped inside, folding herself neatly into the seiza position at the table. She picked up the pot of tea, and poured out a cup for Fuji, and one for herself.

Fuji slipped off his shoes. He hoped this wasn't supposed to be a traditional tea ceremony. He hated those, and had never sat through one. He seated himself comfortably at the table, and bowed to his hostess. "Thank you."

"You say that, but you're really looking forward to it being over. Maybe you will get to see my son. I will tell you now, he is not in this house," she smiled knowingly.

His face fell, even though he was trying to keep his smile pleasant. "No? Where is he?" He couldn't be... they wouldn't have... She wouldn't keep him waiting for six months if anything had happened to Tezuka, right?

"All in good time. You've been persistent. A half a year has passed, and you've followed my instructions well, coming every two weeks. I expected that, if your feelings were immature, you would eventually grow tired of my requests." She pushed a plate of tea cookies toward him. "So, we have reasonably proven that your feelings are real."

"This has been a test?" he asked cautiously. This was a strange house, as far as he was concerned. Normal rules didn't apply here.

"Perhaps," she half shrugged. "However, determining your feelings is only half of the battle. Now, you must make a choice. But, in order to do that, you will need to know a great deal more about the situation here than you already do.

"As you have already surmised, there was once a time when I had to make a similar choice. But, in order for you to understand, we must go back a bit further." She picked up her teacup, and took a small sip. "Do you see the symbol above me?"

It would be very hard for Fuji not to see it. It covered most of the wall. It wasn't unskillfully done, though it hardly seemed professional. "Lust."

"That is the 'enemy' of the Tezuka clan. Every male child born to this family has the affliction. This 'blood condition' that you are well aware of. Generations back, the Tezukas had control of a few villages in the Akita Prefecture. Back then, there was no feeling on their part that they needed to control their condition. They were the shoguns of their small kingdom, and all of the area lived in fear of them. But times changed, weapons changed, the people changed... Kunimitsu's great grandfather left Akita, and brought his family to this house, in Tokyo. At the time, there was nothing surrounding the house. He wanted to live in peace and quiet, so he taught his son a new way to live; to be respectful of the people around him, and not to let his appetites get the best of him. It was then that the Tezuka clan started to feed on the blood of lower animals, and they learned to use sunscreens to protect their fragile skin, and various other defenses, to allow them to live as members of society."

She cleared her throat, and poured more tea for Fuji, though tea always left him with a bitter taste in his mouth. He waited patiently, though, because clearly, she was telling him something critical.

"Kunimitsu's grandfather, then, was raised in this style, and so, when he grew up, he went to school, he met a girl, and he was married, in the typical fashion. His father died shortly after the birth of his son, my husband, and so, it was mother, father, and son alone in this house.

"My father-in-law does not speak of this time; however, there are photographs, letters, things like that. They were a happy family. But there was an enemy." She pointed over her shoulder, at the calligraphy. "My husband was seven when his father, overcome with his lust for his wife, drained her completely of all of her blood. My husband," she sighed, "he does not remember much of his mother, but he remembers that night, very clearly. Too clearly. He remembers her screams. He remembers rushing to find her. He watched as she died, and his father, his face covered in his mother's blood...

"The family has enough money and influence, from generations past, that the incident was hushed up, but my husband has never forgiven his father for what he did. From that day forward, my husband vowed, this 'curse' that they were living under would be brought under his heel." She smiled sadly, probably thinking of her husband, only seven, being so severe.

Fuji picked up a cookie, and broke it into pieces. Tezuka was always afraid of what would happen if they got too involved. And in the park... Fuji had no idea, however, that someone 'close' to him had died in this manner. "But, surely, 'Mitsu's grandmother must have known the dangers of being with her husband. She bore him a child."

Tezuka-san raised an eyebrow at Fuji's use of nickname, but merely shrugged off his question. "Who knows? My husband can't know, because he can never know his mother. You understand now, the deep pain that my husband carried, all through his life. To have seen his mother being murdered, essentially, by his own father, and to know, always, that the mechanism of her death was inside of him as well. My father in law worshipped his wife, and still, he was not able to control his passion for her.

"Nevertheless, a father is a father and a son is a son. Kuniharu would have preferred, I believe, to cloister himself away, but he had no choice. His father sent him to school, so to school he went. I met him in our second year of high school. He was so dashing, and mysterious, so cold." She smiled, raising her cup to her lips. Fuji could see the girl that was in the way her eyes danced from the memory. "I met him in study hall. I was being teased by a few boys, and they tripped me. Kuniharu caught me as I fell, and one glare sent my tormentors packing. Of course, it was love at first sight, and the more he rebuffed me, the more persistent I became. We never started to date, specifically, but our relationship began.

"However, Kuniharu was adamant that he would not make the same mistake that his father had made. After school, he fully intended to lock himself away in the family house, and never venture out, not for anything. But knowing this, I applied the cunning of seduction. Without going into detail, Kuniharu felt obligated to marry me shortly after graduation. For the nine months that I carried our child, Kuniharu prayed daily that it would be a girl. If the child were a girl, then the family curse could end with our generation. I agreed to his terms, that we take measures to be certain that we only ever had one child. Kuniharu was desperate for it to be a girl.

"Obviously, though, Kunimitsu is not a girl." She smiled, winking at Fuji. "I gave birth in this house, since, if the child were a boy, a hospital would be the last place we would want him. I remember laying out on the bed after it was done, exhausted and miserable and in so much pain, but I just laid quietly, and watched Kuniharu, holding his son, rocking back and forth, just... staring down at Kunimitsu while Kunimitsu slept."

That was a nice image, and a nice memory for Tezuka-san. Fuji sipped his tea quietly as she relived the memory. Tezuka had said once that his mother was like him. It almost amused Fuji. If he were a girl, he certainly would have tried Tezuka-san's method of forcing the point with Tezuka. He never really got the chance, however. She must have been rather... persuasive, though Fuji could imagine his sister being equally so.

"Kunimitsu lived his whole life, ruled by his father's many dictates. It may seem cruel that Kunimitsu was never allowed outside the grounds, or that he had tutors for most of his education. I myself argued that he should be allowed to attend high school, just to give Kunimitsu a small taste of real life. But, everything my husband did, he did because he does love his son, and he didn't want Kunimitsu to suffer like he had. He didn't want Kunimitsu to suffer from the curse." She sighed, and looked away. "So, I'm sure you don't need me to spell out the rest. The condition upon which Kunimitsu was allowed to attend school was that he would not slip. One mistake, and he was to be exiled to the family estate on Nyuto-san. Obviously, you know of his mistake.

"But, I'm sure, you are also aware of something else."

She was waiting for him to speak, so Fuji said what he had been thinking for a while now. "I cannot give your son a child, male or female. Whether he lives in exile, or whether he lives with me, the family curse will end here."

She seemed pleased with his response. "Very true. It alters things, considerably. But one thing is unchanged." She pointed again to the scroll behind her. "If you love each other, even if you love each other with all your hearts and souls, there is still a beast inside of Kunimitsu, and it wants your blood. It wants all of your blood, and it only takes one small slip and you will end up dead. Do you really fully understand, Fuji-kun? You can walk out of this house right now, and never look back. My son will live out his days in isolation, and you, you will go on to school, you will get a job... You will meet someone else. You will have many more chances to be happy. If you walk away from here, and are never seen again, it will be perfectly understandable."

"But," Fuji leaned closer, putting his elbows on the table in an incredibly rude fashion. "I might be able to see him again. I can choose to see him again."

Tezuka's mother smiled serenely, and pulled out a small roll of paper from inside her sleeve. She slid it halfway across the table, but did not let go. "Directions to the Tezuka estate on Nyuto-san. That is where he is. But, take care, Fuji-kun. When you make this choice, every time you are with him, every intimate encounter, it could end with your death."

"It's the same for you with your husband, isn't it?" Fuji smiled. "Your husband has this beast inside of him as well, does he not?"

"He does. He is also the father of my child. I was rash when we were wed. I was ruled by my passion for him. But I do not regret the choice. You are approaching your eighteenth year. You are making decisions that will affect the rest of your life. This will be among the most important. Tezukas do not travel. It is most likely that you will come back to this house. There are facilities here to cope with the various challenges of their blood condition. Whatever hopes or dreams you had, they will change. And, you must be aware that there will always be danger. Even if it is not lethal danger, it is still dangerous."

He grinned wickedly at her. "But, it's exciting, too, isn't it? Once you've seen those eyes... I can give up anything in life. I can give up my life. I can't give him up."

She pushed the roll of paper over toward him, and let go. "The choice is yours. This is all the help I will give you. You will have time to consider your choice, if you decide to go to Akita. I have given you all the warnings I can." She half turned away from him, and delicately dabbed at her lips with her napkin.

Fuji stood up, and took the directions, bowing as low as he ever had in his life. "Thank you, Tezuka-san. I will bring your son back." He opened the door to get outside, and slipped his now cold shoes on, practically running down the walkway.

He was going to see Tezuka again, finally!

She knew that he was right outside the door. He probably had been the entire time. He didn't approve of this, of course, but he would not interfere with her, either. She tidied up the table, and waited for him to enter the salle. After a few minutes, he slid the door open a crack, but he did not enter.

"You are sending that boy to his grave, you know."

She shrugged. "It will be his choice, either way. I prefer to hope, however."

"Hope is all well and good," Kuniharu sighed. "But what is inevitable is inevitable."

"He is your son," she sighed, narrowing her eyes. "Why are you so certain that he will fail where you have succeeded?"

"What success? I still don't trust myself around you," he sullenly stated.

She shook her head, and lifted the tray. "If he brings back my son, then it will be worth it. I don't think you are a cruel man, but..."

"You think it cruel? I didn't do this to protect that boy," Kuniharu said, sounding disgusted. "Think how Kunimitsu would feel if he killed the person he loved. How could he bear that? I did what I had to do to protect my son."

Stopping short, she looked her husband in the eye. "How would he feel? Who knows? Maybe you should talk to your father about that. Really talk. Happiness never comes cheaply, Kuniharu. I don't know what will happen between them. But I'm still willing to have hope for our son's happiness."

She started to walk to the kitchen. Almost dreamily, he sighed, "He calls him 'Mitsu."

She looked down at the tray, and the half full cup of tea he had been drinking from. "He does."

Fuji took the stairs three at a time, making so much noise, his sister poked her nose out of her room. Good, she was home today. "Sis, I need to borrow some money!" He dashed into his room, and dumped the contents of his tennis bag on the bed. He went to his closet, and started to grab things, random things.

Yumiko trailed in after him. "Syuusuke? What's going on?"

He pulled open his drawer, and just grabbed a handful of boxer shorts and a handful of socks. He dumped them into his bag, and spun around, thinking. "How do you get to Akita? There's a train, right? Where do I go to get it? I wonder how much it costs. How much cash do you have on you?"

"Akita?" She stared at him in horror. "Syuusuke, what the hell are you talking about? You can't just up and go to Akita! You have school tomorrow! Why would you want to go to Akita, anyway? What's in Akita?"

"Tezuka!" He grinned at his sister, and brushed past her, going to the bathroom. He got a small garbage bag from under the sink, and dumped everything he'd need in there: toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, razor, and antiperspirant. "I should hurry. I'm not sure what times the trains are at."

Yumiko grabbed Syuusuke by the arms as he tried to get past her to go back to his room. "Syuusuke! Stop! Talk to me! I don't understand. Tezuka is in Akita? And you're going to see him?"

"I'm going to bring him home," he beamed, and squirmed out of her grip. He tossed the toiletries bag into his bag, and the looked around his room. "Shoes. I'll need shoes."

"Syuusuke, this is madness! You have school! Exams are coming up! You can't just run off to the north where they probably have ten inches of snow on a whim to find Tezuka!" She stepped between Fuji and his bag, and glared at him. "Just what in the world are you thinking?"

He couldn't stop smiling, though. "He's up there, alone. Exiled. I have to get him back. Can I some money?"

"No, you cannot, because you are not going up there to get your abusive boyfriend back! My God, Syuusuke!" She pulled him into her arms, and clung to him. "He nearly killed you!"

"He didn't mean to, sis. I was as much to blame as he was. I promise, I'll be more careful. But I need him. And I am going to get him." He hugged her tightly, too excited not to share it with someone. "I'm going to bring him home, and we're going to be together. Finally. And." He pulled out of her arms, and touched her cheek softly. "There's nothing you can do to stop me."

He made a quick circuit of his room. Camera, mp3 player, a few books, cell phone... That should do it. He shoved everything in his bag, and zipped it up.

"Syuusuke, this is just... it's insane, is what it is! What are you going to tell Father about your tests? What are you going to do about school? And... what exactly is it about this boy that makes you so stubborn and irrational! He's no good for you, Syuusuke!" She gestured wildly, her eyes getting watery.

He leaned over and kissed her quickly. "I know. Everyone can tell me a thousand times over. When I get there, he'll probably tell me to leave. I may be the only one who believes in this, but it doesn't matter." He hefted his bag up on his shoulder, and smiled brightly. "I love him. I don't want to live without him, not if I have a choice."

She just sighed. "You're going to need your thick coat, you know." She walked over to his closet, and pulled out his winter coat and scarf. "Keep warm, you hear? I don't want you to come home sick. Really. I might have about 17,000. Maybe a bit less. You will pay me back, Syuusuke. I mean it." She shook her head, and walked out, over to her room. Fuji stuck his coat through the strap of his tennis bag and followed her. She was rooting through her purse for money. She sniffled once, loudly. He came up aside her, and saw that she was holding back tears. Before he could say anything, though, she was shoving money in his face. "Here, take it. But I swear upon all that is holy and good, if you don't come back to me safely, I will never forgive either of you." She pulled him into bear hug, just clinging to him.

He wrapped his arms around her, and cooed soothingly. "Yumiko. Sis. C'mon. I'll be back before you know it. I promise. I won't let you cry on my behalf." He pulled back, smiling, and he kissed the tears off her of cheeks. "Love you. Please, just... trust me. This is the right thing to do."

"It damn well better be, or I'll have to kill him, and I would not do well in prison," she threatened.

He laughed, and kissed her again. "Sis, I would never let that happen to you."

It was colder up here than he had expected, and he was nearly out of money. It took most of Yumiko's money to buy the ticket, and he'd eaten once since he left. He wished that he had had the foresight to pack some food in his bag, but it was too late now. He followed the directions from the train station, and taken a bus to a small village nestled on the side of Nyuto-san, but the 'town' was little more than a few onsen and some tourist shops. He definitely didn't have the money for an onsen, and the map wasn't too clear about how much further it was. Plus, it was getting dark. He didn't relish the idea of going hiking on a snowy mountain at night.

Tezuka had better appreciate all he'd gone through to get him.

He stopped in one of the quieter teashops on the main drag, and approached the counter, pulling off his gloves. At least Yumiko had made sure he had his warm coat. The elderly lady behind the counter beamed up at him. "Can I help you, young man?"

"I'm sorry," he bowed to her briefly. "I don't want to be a bother, but I'm trying to get to a friend's house. Do you know of the Tezuka house? Is it far from here?"

There was a sharp clatter of dishes from the kitchen, and an older man came rushing out. "Tezuka? Did you say Tezuka? Those monsters are back, I told you!"

"Hush, hush," the elderly woman sighed, waving down what might have been her son. "He reads too much. Bad for his digestion, I always say. Young man, you won't find many in this town who don't know of the Tezuka house, but none, I'd fear, who'd take you there, and it's no easy road. Where are you staying tonight?"

"Ah," Fuji smiled, scratching the back of his head. This was an unexpected development. "I don't have enough money to stay anywhere but with my friend. There's no way to get out there tonight?"

"Don't go anywhere near there!" The man pointed his finger in Fuji's face. Fuji hated that. "Those Tezuka's are..." He looked around, suddenly remembering that he had customers who might be listening. He leaned forward, and stage whispered, "those Tezuka's are vampires! For centuries, they ruled this mountain, keeping the townspeople hostages, like cattle! They fed on anyone and everyone they wanted, and reaped all the profit from the land! But, after the Wars, the townspeople were finally able to run them out of town! We saw them!" He pointed his finger at his mother, who just tsked and looked away. "We saw them going back there! But they are nothing but monsters, and you'd be wise to stay away. Why, some of us are thinking of dealing with it, if you know what I mean. Those fanged beasts won't get a foothold on this town again, I swear it." He nodded, looking very resolute.

Fuji glared at him, icily. "Now, now. I go to high school with this boy. He's the class president, and the star of our tennis team. Accusations like that will just foster fear and suspicion, and then, next thing you know, you've done something unforgivable, and you'll spend the rest of eternity paying for it."

The elderly woman laughed in dry, gasping heaves. "Oh, my, what a fine young man you are! I keep telling this one, he's got too much imagination, and not enough brains, but what good does it do me? Get back in the kitchen, you whelp!" She smacked her hand on the counter.

He snarled, and glared at Fuji. "Mark my words. You'd be safer turning back the way you came, city boy." He skulked back the way he came.

"City boy," she chuckled, in the same gasping manner. "Oh, listen to him. What a fool my son is. Thank the gods my daughter in law has sense, though why she married him..." She turned her eyes back to Fuji, looking him over speculatively. "Well, well. Your friend, eh? What the idiot said is true. That house is occupied again. Or rather, someone came, and someone went, but some say that someone stayed behind. That was months ago, and no sign of 'im can be seen or heard. 'Course, not many will get near the place." She rocked back and forth, nodding and grinning. "Tell you what. Yeah. Tell you what. C'mhere." She pulled out a placemat from under the counter, and turned it over. She started to draw on it with a shaking hand.

Fuji drew near, peering down at her emerging drawing with interest.

"There is one in town would go up there, maybe. Maybe. Librarian. Don't believe in that vampire nonsense. It's true as day that back when, these parts were good and oppressed. But then there was tourism trade, yeh? Changed things, it did. Librarian has sense. That one can read. He's got brains to go with his imagination. You see, here we are? And you go out, go right, and go up the lane. You take a left here, and you can't miss that, but then you go to the top of the hill here, yeh, and you look for a blue windmill, like, a lawn decoration, yeh, and then you go up the lane there, it'll be a right, and you go up to the brick house. Only brick house in the town. That's the library, and the librarian lives there. Tell him you are friends with the Tezuka's, see, maybe he'll help. If not, come back here, and I can give you a place to sleep tonight, at least, so long as you don't mind working a bit to earn it." She grinned at him, her wrinkled lip appearing powdery with white hairs.

He bowed low to her. "Thank you! I appreciate your help."

She just chuckled. "No, no, no help at all. You'll need luck more'n help if you get up to the Tezuka house. Place may not have vampires, but there be ghosts there. Many a poor soul found their death in that house. Those Tezukas ruled here, they did, and every last one of 'em was a bastard, so all the reports would have you know."

"Well, thank you," he bowed again, and took the placemat. "I'll keep that in mind."

With luck, he decided, he wouldn't have to see her again. That meant making a good impression on the librarian. He took his time walking there, so he would not be flushed when he arrived. The darker it got, the less confident he became in her directions, and yet, everything flowed smoothly, just exactly as she had described it. The brick house at the top of the hill was hard to miss, as its lights were the only ones visible. Ascending the steps in the dark was perilous, making Fuji more and more determined to succeeding in gaining this librarian's aid. He didn't want to have to traverse the steps twice.

He took a deep breath before ringing the bell, and then he made sure he had his friendliest smile on. He had to make a good first impression.

After a long wait, he could see someone shuffling closer through the frosted glass that flanked the door. It took a few more minutes, still, before the door creaked open, but just a crack. "Eh? Who are you?"

"Pardon me," he bowed. "My name is Fuji Syuusuke, and the lady at the Mountain's Breath Teashop told me you might be able to help me."

"I don't take borders," he sighed, getting ready to pull the door shut.

"No! Please, I came here because I need to get to the Tezuka house! My friend is there..." Fuji put his foot in the door, even though that was terribly rude and potentially painful. He couldn't fail here, not after so long and coming so far...

"Tezukas?" The man barked out a laugh. "Back up, back up, I'll let you in." Fuji pulled his foot back, and the man closed the door enough to undo the chain, and then he let Fuji inside.

The place was more a house that was overrun with books than a library. Book were stacked up everywhere, in piles on the floor, on shelves that lined the walls, and were put back to back in the middle of the rooms, on every table top, and even, as far as Fuji could see from the entryway, on the kitchen countertop. He removed his shoes, and followed the short, stocky, balding man back through the maze of shelves in the room to the left, until they got to a desk. The man went to sit behind the desk, and Fuji sat down opposite of him.

"Fuji-kun, did you say? My name is Sato. My family used to work for the Tezukas, many generations back. We were their servants, as it were. Most of these books were from the Tezukas' library. The family was not driven out of this town; they up and left in the middle of the night." He threw up his hands, but he wasn't looking at Fuji as he talked. He seemed to be looking for something. "Tell me. How do you know the Tezukas?"

"I go to school with the son," Fuji supplied quickly. "Well, I used to. He's up here, now. I came to see him."

"Ah, I'd heard, I'd heard, they'd said they were back. A man and a boy. Yes, I'd heard that. So, it's true, mm? And you're from Tokyo? The accent, of course, they went to Tokyo," he sighed, shrugging. He pulled out from the middle of the stack of books a thin album. "Here, here. See." He opened it up, flipping through the pages. "This, see, it's an artist rendering. From just before the turn of the century, see, here, this is this house. This was the servant's house. It was built a hectare away from the main house, very unusual, very unusual. But then, the Tezukas were an unusual family. Cruel. No doubt. Very cruel. But also, they were fastidious. They were meticulous. And extremely private. They never went out in the daylight. Never. Not a one. Women in their family were considered on par to dogs. They trusted their servants; that is to say, they trusted my family; they trusted us explicitly.

"It changed, you see, it wasn't the war, and it wasn't the townspeople. Oh, they like to say that. My grandfather, he remembered the day they left. Yes. See, see, here. This is the last head of the house to live there. His wife, and see, this is their baby. It was unusual, you see, yes, because, he loved her. My grandfather said, yes. The head of the house, his father was a horrible man, but the man, he was all right. He fell in love with his wife. That was unusual. That was more than unusual. The Tezukas were known to be womanizers. Well, to be totally honest," he leaned forward, and looked up at Fuji for the first time. "It wasn't just women. In fact, it was probably more the other way. You understand? Yes, of course. They were cruel. They owned everything, and they treated everyone like possessions. Until this one fell in love. And one night, up, there they go. No more Tezukas. End of story." He closed the album, and took off his glasses, shining them on his shirttails. "You came here for the boy?"

"Yes," Fuji spoke quickly, before the man started to speak again. "He's a friend of mine. I came up to bring him home, actually."

"Did you? Did you. That's good. Not too soon, I'd tell you. No. Good timing. That boy isn't safe. I'll tell you that. People here like their myths. It makes for good stories at the onsen, you see? They all have the same wood etchings of vampires and monsters, terrorizing the village. Ghosts, they say, of the dead. The victims. Yes. All nonsense. Though, the Tezukas were cruel. If there are ghosts, they are living at that house. But there are those, they want to burn the place down. Well, it's drunk talk, of course. During the winter, no one would bother. Too much snow. Come spring, heh, well, it's not a hard walk come spring. Too much drinking," he threw up his hands again, and sighed, looking away. "Good, good, I'll drive you out there in the morning. I don't take borders, but I can't drive you tonight. I have to be here at nine. This is a library, though I hate to give out any of these books. Some are over three hundred years old. They all belonged to the Tezukas. My grandfather was smart, and got them out of the house. The villagers, they looted the place, but my grandfather got the books. Well, anyway, it's too dark tonight. We'll go in the morning. You can help me shelve books tonight. We'll leave at six in the morning. Yes."

Fuji agreed quickly. His heart pounded with excitement. In the morning, the very next morning, he would see Tezuka again! Whatever the man wanted, he could do. It wasn't actually unpleasant. It was true that some of the books were ancient, and they were all fascinating. As was Sato's filing method, which was in part methodical, and in part haphazard. At midnight, they had tea, and he gave Fuji a bedroll to use. Fuji could barely sleep. He forced himself to close his eyes, because when he woke up, it would be morning, and they would be going to see Tezuka, but no matter how he tried to convince himself of it, he still ended up only getting snatches of sleep here and there, not totaling three hours.

At five thirty, he got up, and washed up, changing his clothes. They had a quick bowl of rice, and then they went out back to the garage, and they got in Sato's truck.

Sato was less talkative in the morning, which was a blessing, because Fuji was too excited to care about his chatter. The drive took about forty-five minutes, because they could rarely go faster than a crawl. The roads, which was a kind term for them, were covered in ice and powdery snow. It wasn't quite bright out, though it was no longer dark, and there was wildlife running in front of them at such regular intervals as to leave one with the impression that there were crosswalks known to the indigenous life.

Somehow, Fuji knew when they were getting closer. It was the condition of the road. Even though it was, if anything, more run over and craggy, it was also wider, and the trees lining the road were thicker. He craned his neck, looking for any sign of the house through the trees. Before he saw even a glimpse of a lane, though, the truck came to a stop.

He turned to look at his driver. Sato was chewing on his thumb vigorously enough that Fuji thought he might just gnaw it off. A bad habit for a bibliophile to have; without his thumb, he'd pretty much be unable to avail himself of the library.

"You sure about this, Fuji-kun? I meant what I said last night, it's good to get that boy out of here, but... I didn't mention... My grandfather told me. Fuji-kun, the Tezukas... there's something wrong with that family, you see? There's poison in their bloods; it's what makes them cruel. My grandfather told me. Most of the time, they were as reasonable a people to work for as any, but at times... There's many an attractive boy or girl who met their death in that house, Fuji-kun." He looked at Fuji with watery, worried eyes.

Fuji, however, just beamed. "Don't worry, Sato-san. This Tezuka isn't like that. It was his great grandfather that left. He's never been cruel a day in his life."

"Your call, your call. But I can't get you much closer. Up ahead, see, there's been treefall. The road's useless. But it's not far. No. Just up this bit of road, and then up the lane to the house. You'll have no trouble if you have decent boots." He looked down at Fuji's shoes, and frowned critically.

Fuji opened the passenger door, and beamed. "Well, thank you, Sato-san. But I know all about the Tezuka's curse. I'll take my leave here, then. Thank you for your help." He nodded quickly to Sato, and then he took off.

He knew that the librarian was trying to help, but he was sick of people telling him not to be with Tezuka. It's not like he was listening to any of them. He had to force himself to keep a steady pace, because the snow was too thick in most places for rushing to be effective. It took him a full thirty minutes to walk from where Sato had left him to the house. It was anything but an unpleasant walk, and he even stopped at one point to take some pictures. They were on the shady side of the mountain, which, of course, made perfect sense, since the sun was no friend to the Tezuka clan.

The closer he got the house, the more his excitement got mingled with anxiety. It had been six months, after all. Six months, during which time, he'd been thinking about Tezuka nonstop. Six months, when he'd known nothing at all about where Tezuka was, or what he was doing. Six months, during which time, Tezuka might have forgotten about him.

Six months was too long.

He didn't bother knocking. He opened the massive oak front door, and started to call out, "'Mitsu!" The place was a bit creepy. It was huge, but empty, and covered in dust and dirt. Whole sections of the main hall were staked out by spiders, and there was definite evidence that other animals had made this their home. And Tezuka was living here alone? Fuji shivered, and continued on inside.

The east wing was fairly well destroyed already, but the west wing of the house was in relatively good condition, and there weren't even that many cobwebs. Still, all the rooms were empty. Fuji rooted around the rooms a bit, until he found an extremely old-fashioned lamp. He was able to put a candle in it, and get it lit. With this, he was willing to venture down the stairs at the very end of the wing.

Unsurprising for the residents the house was built for, the basement was large, and better equipped than any room upstairs. However, it only worried Fuji more, because there was no heat here at all. On warm days, Tezuka's body was cold. What would it be like now?

He kept calling out for Tezuka, but all he got in return was the echo of his voice. A thousand dark thoughts were running through his head. What if he was already too late? Could Tezuka be dead already? Starved to death, or frozen...

Fuji felt sick, and he feared each closed door, for what might be behind them, but he kept searching, until he found his quarry.

Laid out on a long, low table, Tezuka had his hands folded over his stomach, and he appeared to be peacefully sleeping, even though Fuji was screaming out his name. His hands were shaking as he approached. He was terrified that Tezuka was dead. He stood next to the table, and carefully set the lamp down.

Tezuka didn't appear to be moving, but he didn't breath deeply in any situation. Fuji very slowly reached out, until his fingertips touched Tezuka's face. He was shaking, and he retracted his hand quickly. Tezuka was ice cold.

He was crying, but he couldn't help it. Tezuka just couldn't be dead. It just couldn't be. Fuji climbed up on the table, straddling Tezuka, and he put both hands on Tezuka's frozen face.

"'Mitsu. 'Mitsu, wake up. Oh, damn it, 'Mitsu, don't fucking do this to me. Wake up. Please? 'Mitsu," he sighed. His voice was barely above a whisper. He bent down, and pressed his lips to Tezuka's frozen lips, and slipped his tongue out. If Tezuka was dead, then this was a rather macabre thing to be doing. But he couldn't believe it. Tezuka couldn't be dead. He just couldn't cope with that.

He didn't even notice at first when Tezuka started to kiss back. He realized it when Tezuka's tongue swiped out over his lips. He pulled back, ecstatic. Tezuka's eyes were open, and glittering red. "'Mitsu! Oh, thank God!"

"Syuusuke," he croaked. And then, he was on his back, and Tezuka was over him, his fangs dripping in anticipation.

He barely had time to exhale before those fangs were sinking into his flesh. Tezuka had ripped open his jacket, and was now feeding on him, on his shoulder. Fuji clung to Tezuka, grinning. He started to laugh. It hurt. Certainly, it hurt. But his blood was flowing into Tezuka again.

It felt like everything had just loudly clicked back into place.

"I love you," he sighed, and then things started to get dark. He felt Tezuka pull away, and he could see Tezuka's eyes. He tried to say something, he tried to lift his arms, but the world went dark, and he could do nothing but sleep.

He wasn't aware of waking up. He wasn't aware of being asleep, actually. It seemed more like a dream than waking up. Heat was rushing into his body again, like scalding hot lava pouring over ice. He was going to steam away.

Fuji's blood filled his mouth, dripping off his chin. He licked it up greedily. He wanted more. But there was something that was holding him back. Fuji was in Tokyo. Maybe he was dead. If he was dead, than he didn't need blood anymore.

He touched Fuji's cheek. He couldn't believe he had Fuji in his arms again. Fuji's skin was like silk. Tezuka stroked his cheek gently, over and over again.

Gradually, he became aware of things. Like his heart beating. Like the way he could see his breath. Like how cold Fuji felt.

It occurred to him that this was real, and that Fuji was really in his arms. Dying.

He panicked.

After a moment of that, he realized that not only was there nothing that he could think of to do, but there really was nothing to do. The town was too far away for him to get there before Fuji died, if he was going to die. Even if he could get him to the town, it was cold, and the nearest hospital was still a long drive from town.

He really didn't know what he could do to help Fuji, but it was too damned cold here. He carried Fuji from the bedroom they were in to the main room in the basement. There was a great fireplace here. He had to go out to get the wood, and he had to clean out the fireplace before he could start a fire. Fuji was still breathing shallowly when he had finally gotten the fire going. He bundled Fuji up, and went back out, to the well, to get water. He had to let it run for a while before he was satisfied that the water was at all clean. He got two pitchers, and filled one with well water, and the other with snow. He had slightly greater faith in the snow than the well water.

Fuji's breathing was more stable when he got back. He wet Fuji's lips with the water, and then he pulled Fuji into his arms, wrapping him up. Unfortunately, he didn't have much body heat to give Fuji. His heat came from Fuji's blood, and it was already pretty well dissipated through his body.

The fire crackled before them, and bit by bit, color returned to Fuji's cheeks. Tezuka was fairly sure that he would be all right. But now, he was left with too much time to think, and he was completely awake and aware.

What was Fuji doing up here? How had he found Tezuka? When was it? There was still snow on the ground. Was it the New Year already? But it didn't seem like it had been quite that long. Wasn't Fuji in school? Just what was going on here?

There was no way to judge the passage of time. The fire started to die down, and he added another log, but that was the only measure of time down here in this man-made cave. Fuji began to stir, murmuring to himself. He cuddled up to Tezuka, and clutched Tezuka's robes. It sounded like he said 'Mitsu, and he smiled.

Tezuka didn't understand at all. He shifted under Fuji, and kissed his forehead. Fuji blinked slowly, and turned more to face Tezuka.

"Hey," Tezuka said softly, combing Fuji's hair back with his fingers. "Say something."

"Morning, 'Mitsu," Fuji smiled, and slipped his arms around Tezuka's chest.

Tezuka sighed. "Syuusuke. What are you doing here?"

"Mm. Came to bring you home, of course. Why else would I be here?" He shook his head, as if Tezuka was being obtuse.

"Syuusuke..." Tezuka sighed. "This can't work. I should think that would be clear by now." He closed his eyes, and leaned his head back.

Fuji just laughed. "'Mitsu, I don't mean to be rude, but shut up! I came all the way up here. It wasn't easy to get here, you know. And it was all because I wanted to see you. You don't even know what I went through in the interim. The least you could do is be grateful to see me." He poked Tezuka's nose, making his point.

Tezuka scowled. "Yes, and the first thing I did was attack you. I think that should be answer enough for the both of us. I deserve to be here."

"Your mother doesn't think so," Fuji replied quietly. "Neither do I. 'Mitsu, you were frozen when I found you. Living out here like this... What do you even eat? How much of your 'juice' could you have? What, are you feeding on the rats the spiders catch?" Fuji leaned up so he could scowl properly at Tezuka.

Tezuka shrugged, looking away. He couldn't look in Fuji's eyes like this. They were watching him too closely. "Eat? What difference does it make? There's no point to sustaining this monstrous existence."

"What?" Fuji pushed back, glaring at Tezuka. "Do you mean to say that you intended to die? 'Mitsu! Who did you think you'd make happy by doing that? Your parents? Your grandfather? Me? Tezuka Kunimitsu, you are an idiot. Why don't you get it? I love you! I know the risks. Your mother told me all about your grandmother. I understand. I just don't care! I'm going to be with you."

"No," Tezuka replied firmly. "That's out of the question. I won't put you in danger, no matter what you think."

"Danger? Danger? You don't know the first thing about danger!" Fuji pulled out of Tezuka's lap entirely. "I waited for you! For six months, I waited! We went to Nationals without you! I never stopped waiting for you. I love you, damn it! And you love me, too!" He pointed accusingly at Tezuka. "Admit it! You were waiting for me, too. There's no reason for us to be apart. You think I'm afraid of dying? I don't care about that! I'm afraid of walking through life like a zombie because the person that I love with all my heart and soul isn't with me. I'm afraid of drifting through the rest of my life like I've drifted through the past six months, because I have no direction in life without you. I like it when you drink my blood. It's the sexiest damned thing I could think of. There's no one else, and there never will be. No one challenges me like you. No one excites me like you. And after being with you, no one ever will. Ever. If you run away from me again, I'll keep chasing after you. If you kill yourself, then I'll kill myself. If you end up killing me, Kunimitsu, then you can know, as you hold my lifeless body, that I chose to be with you, that I love you, and I was happy to die for you!"

He surged forward, and grabbed Tezuka's face, kissing him, pushing his tongue into Tezuka's mouth. He pressed his body so hard against Tezuka that they ended up on the floor, tangled up together. Fuji was pushing aside Tezuka's robes, letting his hands and lips and tongue investigate every inch of skin they found. Tezuka could feel it happening, like it had happened so many times before, but this time, he knew, he couldn't, he couldn't take any of Fuji's blood.

Turning them over, Tezuka pressed Fuji to the floor, and touched Fuji's lips with his fingers. "I don't understand. What do you want from me? I can't change what I am. This curse..."

"It's not a curse," Fuji stubbornly insisted, taking Tezuka's fingers into his mouth. "It's who you are. And I love you. Now, you tell me that you love me."

Tezuka bit his lip, cutting the skin. Fuji leaned up, and slowly, seductively, stuck his tongue out to lick up the blood. Tezuka felt a red wall of lust hitting him, but he absolutely could not take any of Fuji's blood. He leaned down, and licked Fuji's lips clean. "What does it taste like to you? The blood?"

Fuji made a face. "It's, well, bitter. Thick. What does it taste like to you?"

"It's life," Tezuka spoke seriously. "Your life is my life. Your blood is the sweetest treat... It's not just blood. It's you. There will never be anyone else. I love you; no, more than that. I am yours, Syuusuke."

Fuji smiled beautifully. "Well, that certainly simplifies things. If you are mine, then you have to come back with me to Tokyo. I hope you have money, because I spent almost all of mine."

Tezuka just shook his head, unable to dislodge the thread of amusement that was dominating his reaction. "When I slept, I would see you. Lying in that field, your neck torn up... I wished that I had never been born. I wished that I could go back in time to change what I had done. It... it scared me, like nothing else. It was a whole deeper level of fear. I still think it would have been better if I had died before you found me."

"If I found you dead up here," Fuji replied seriously, looking Tezuka right in the eye. "I would have killed myself. This cave would have become both of our graves."

Sighing, Tezuka brushed Fuji's hair out of his eyes. "And if I ever kill you, I will die right after you. People who are not us may describe our relationship as unhealthy. Your hair has gotten long."

Laughing, Fuji curled up against Tezuka. "Do you like it? It's sort of a nuisance at this length, but it would have been more of a nuisance to get it cut."

Tezuka pulled Fuji's hair gently, letting the strands fall away from his fingertips. "You look good. You look... like an angel." He wrapped his arms around Fuji. "And I must be a demon, because I'm grateful. I'm grateful that you are here with me. Syuusuke. I have missed you..."

"You're not the only one, 'Mitsu," Fuji whispered, and leaned up to kiss Tezuka's lip, letting Tezuka's fang touch his bottom lip. "I haven't just missed you. I've been bereft without you."

"If we go back together," Tezuka sighed, looking in the fire. "You'll have to move into the house with me. With my parents, and my grandfather. You'll be imprisoned, just like me."

Fuji shrugged. "I didn't really feel like taking the college exams, anyway. All that studying and anxiety... We'll take things one step at a time. But my life is with you." He took Tezuka's hand, and intertwined their fingers. "My heart is with you. Besides, it won't be like it was before. I'll keep you entertained." He grinned up at Tezuka, and Tezuka couldn't help but smile. "See, that. You are so beautiful. I can't imagine being happier than being with you."

Tezuka sighed. Right or wrong, they'd decided. "I'll have to carry you back to the town. I have no idea what time it is, or what day it is, even. We'll have to wait for whatever bus is next, to get to the train..."

"The townspeople don't like you very much," Fuji frowned. "There's a man, he's a descendant of the Tezuka's servants. Sato. I think he..."

"I know of him," Tezuka interrupted. "My father told me about him. I don't know him personally, but according to my father, his family was less our servants, and more our slaves. My great grandfather released them from our servitude. It's of no consequence, Syuusuke. These people might be superstitious, but I can handle them. We won't go out until it's light. The buses run fairly regularly. Once we get out of town, there won't be a problem."

"Mm," Fuji sighed, and closed his eyes, curling up to Tezuka. "I'll leave everything to you, then. I'm glad I have you back, 'Mitsu."

Tezuka kissed Fuji's forehead. He should feel guilty. He should feel remorse. But he could only feel joy.

Fuji slept in his arms, and Tezuka watched the firelight playing over his skin.

He had been saved.

Fuji wrapped his arms around Tezuka's neck a bit tighter. Tezuka hefted him up onto his back a bit higher. "Getting tired, 'Mitsu?"

"You don't weigh that much," Tezuka replied, sounding almost bored. Fuji squeezed his legs together a bit tighter.

The walk from the Tezuka estate to the town was, indeed, a great deal shorter along this pathway that went through the woods, though the incline was steep, and the path was mostly overrun. The snow under Tezuka's feet was deep, too, but none of this seemed to bother Tezuka. He walked as sure-footedly as if he were a bear. Fuji imagined Tezuka in a bear costume. It would be very cute.

Not only was Tezuka carrying Fuji, but he was also carrying both of their bags, which were stuffed full of the few things Tezuka had brought, and the odd assortment of things that Fuji had packed. They'd been walking for fifteen minutes now, and Tezuka wasn't even sweating. Impressed, Fuji pulled himself forward so he could kiss Tezuka's neck, and maybe nibble on Tezuka's earlobe...

Tezuka stopped dead. "Please don't do anything that will cause me to drop you."

"I would highly disapprove of being dropped," Fuji warned Tezuka with a smile that Tezuka could not see. "Hey, 'Mitsu?"

"Mm?" Tezuka repositioned Fuji, and set off again, picking up his pace slightly.

"We can have sex, right? I mean, you're capable? Of course, your father and mother were able to have you, so you must be capable... Because I'd like to have sex with you as soon as possible." Fuji ran his fingers up and down Tezuka's neck, over his jugular.

Tezuka had to stop again. And Fuji nearly slipped off of his back, but he did manage to rescue him. "Syuusuke. Must we talk about this now?"

"You're right." Fuji hugged Tezuka cheerfully. "We'll talk about it in the train. It's a long ride."

"Wonderful," Tezuka dryly replied.

Fuji laughed. Plans swirled in his mind...

They emerged from the thicket, and Tezuka set Fuji down to walk on his own, but only because Fuji insisted, and he kept his arm around Fuji's waist for support. Tezuka wanted to go straight to the bus, but Fuji was starved, and he felt he owed a little something to the people who helped him. He dragged Tezuka back to the teahouse, and they got a table. Fuji thanked the elderly woman for her help, and asked her to pass on his thanks to Sato when she could. Her son glared at them from the kitchen, muttering to himself, but Fuji just smiled and waved to him.

Tezuka sat with his arms crossed over his chest, and his nose up slightly, ignoring everyone.

Since Tezuka was paying, Fuji ate just about everything they had, and packed his bag with his leftovers. He bowed to the woman again, and took Tezuka's hand. When they were on the bus, which they only had to share with a newlywed couple, Fuji put his head on Tezuka's shoulder, and sighed. "Maybe the people in town would hate you less if you didn't act like such a prick around them?"

"They would hate me just for my name, and not without reason. There's no way to counteract such fear and loathing. It's good we're out of that place." He put his hand on Fuji's thigh, and squeezed slightly.

"There were some... they were going to set your house on fire," Fuji whispered. So many ways he could have lost his Tezuka! If only Tezuka-san hadn't waited so long to give him the directions to this town.

"I wouldn't have minded if they had," Tezuka shrugged. "But, for your sake, I'm glad they didn't."

"I'm glad they didn't for your sake," Fuji murmured, daring to kiss Tezuka quickly. The driver had to watch the road, and the couple was too engrossed in themselves. Fuji took Tezuka's hand and squeezed tightly. "I'm going to make it my mission to make it so you are glad that you are alive."

Tezuka smiled, and kissed Fuji's forehead. "You only have to stay with me to complete that mission. I will make it my mission to see that you don't regret your choice to come for me."

"That's easy. Just be with me," Fuji grinned, counteracting the sweetness of what he said with the wicked way he was looking at Tezuka. "So, when should we talk about sex?"

"Not now," Tezuka declared, and Fuji chuckled, curling up against Tezuka's side.

Tezuka was just staring out the window of the train. Fuji had gotten up to get something to eat, but Tezuka was a bit tired, and he wasn't going to be able to eat, regardless. The landscape was just streaking by, so that it made his eyes hurt to try to focus on anything. If he looked at something far enough in the distance, he could just let everything blur out. The sensation of motion was overwhelming, but at the same time, it lulled him into a sleepy frame of mind.

He'd rather feel sleepy than anything else right now.

"'Mitsu," Fuji picked up his hand, and tugged, smiling mysteriously. "C'mon."

"Where are we going?" Tezuka leaned forward in his seat, but he was too sluggish to overcome inertia just yet.

"Bathroom's empty. Let's go." Fuji beamed.

"Bathroom?" Tezuka furrowed his brow. "I don't need to use the bathroom."

"Oh yes you do," Fuji assured him.

Tezuka's eyes widened, and he pulled his hand back. "No."

"Oh, come on," Fuji smiled, putting his knee down on the seat next to Tezuka. "The bathroom's open now. And I was thinking, you know, when we get home, it's going to be a bit confusing," Fuji ran his finger up and down Tezuka's arm. "We'll be settling in, and sorting things out... Might be very tired. So, now could be our best chance for up to a week. We should take this opportunity now."

Tezuka looked out the window again. "Where are we going to go when we return to Tokyo?"

Sighing, Fuji sat down more fully, and tapped on Tezuka's arm. "I don't know. I figured we would talk about that when we were much closer to Tokyo. Right now, we have a bathroom waiting for us."

"I could hurt you," Tezuka whispered.

"Then don't."

"What?" Tezuka blinked, and looked at Fuji, who was just smiling brightly.

"Just don't. Stop worrying about every possibility. Just don't. Don't hurt me. Just be with me." It was clear from Fuji's eyes that everything was perfectly simple to his way of thinking.

"It's not that easy," Tezuka hedged.

"Yes, it is. This is the rest of our life, 'Mitsu. Just don't do it. Whatever it is you are afraid of, just don't do it. Just be with me. Because I need you." He leaned forward, and kissed Tezuka on the corner of his mouth. "So let's go."

Tezuka was still resisting, but it was a given that he was on the verge of giving up. "So, our first time will be in a train bathroom?"

Fuji beamed. "That's all right. First times aren't that great. All that matters is that it is us, mm?"

Fuji looked around. His back was aching from being on the train so long, and he was just tired in general, most especially tired of vending machine food. It was good to be home, since he had Tezuka. He frowned, and looked up and down the street. "Ah, I think I'm a bit turned around. Which way do we have to go to get the bus to your house?" He was pretty sure they had to go left, but he thought that maybe they had come down from the platform on the opposite side, so perhaps it was right.

And then Fuji realized that Tezuka wasn't right behind him. He turned around to look for Tezuka. He had to go back up the stairs. Tezuka was just staring blankly down the stairs.

"'Mitsu? What's wrong?" He reached out and took Tezuka's hand, jarring him.

"Ah. Sorry." Tezuka's gaze was still a million miles away. "What do you think your parents will think when they see you again?"

"Mm, well, that will be complicated," Fuji mused. "I didn't tell them I was going. Only my sister knew. I doubt she told them anything, and well, if she did, it was nothing of consequence. So I'm not really sure..."

"Perhaps," Tezuka cleared his throat, and the shrugged nervously. "Perhaps we should go to your parent's house first. Explain things, and spend the night there."

"That's not a good idea," Fuji laughed, feeling a bit apologetic. "They are likely to be... less than happy with me. And they will be even less happy with me if I come home with a boy. It would be better to avoid that for now. Your parents already know about us." The solution seemed obvious.

Tezuka's shoulders slumped slightly. "I see. Of course, that makes sense." He picked up the bags that he had left fall to the ground, and hefted them onto his shoulder.

"You don't want to go home?" Fuji prodded.

Tezuka started down the stairs. "I am being... overly sensitive, I suppose. It is just... Before my father left me at the estate on Nyuto-san..." He shrugged, looking away uncomfortably. "Some things were said. We were not expecting to ever see each other again. Before he left, he... embraced me. It will be awkward to see him again," Tezuka sighed.

Fuji just stared at Tezuka, fairly sure he shouldn't laugh out loud, but sorely tempted. Tezuka could be cute sometimes, and then it was hard not to laugh. He caught up to Tezuka, and slipped his hand into Tezuka's. "Don't worry. Your mother will be so happy to see you, any awkwardness will be easy to avoid."

Tezuka nodded, but he still looked nervous.

The bus ride went quickly, and Tezuka let Fuji lean on him and rest a bit. They walked side by side down Tezuka's street, close enough for their hands to be brushing together every few steps. As they got closer to Tezuka's house, his gait slowed.

"Hey. Aren't you happy to be home?" Fuji asked. He was perfectly willing to try living on their own, but he wasn't sure how Tezuka would feel about that.

Tezuka just sighed. "When we get inside, just... stay back. Let me do all the talking. If you can, stay by my mother's side. Whatever is said, don't interfere with my conversation with my father."

"Will he hit you?" Fuji asked under his breath, biting his lip.

"Hit... hit me?" Tezuka stared at Fuji in bewilderment. "Syuusuke, my father has never struck me in my life. It's just... this will be conversation the two of us will need to have between us."

Fuji nodded. He didn't like to promise this, but he couldn't argue with what Tezuka had said. "All right. But, you don't think he will object, will he?"

Tezuka shrugged. "We'll see." He entered a code in the security panel, and the gate buzzed. He held the door open for Fuji, and then stepped inside.

Fuji once again walked up the stony path to the Tezuka house. It seemed much more foreboding in the dark, but this time, he was walking up with Tezuka, who seemed completely at peace, at least on the surface. He held the front door open for Fuji, and then announced their return.

Tezuka grandfather was the first to greet them, bowing shortly with a smile as they removed their shoes. Tezuka neatly placed their bags to the side as his mother approached. He was preparing to bow to her, obviously, but she threw her arms around him. "Oh, Kunimitsu... Are you all right?"

"Mother," Tezuka blinked, looking uncomfortable with her affection. "I am well. You?"

She bit her lip, looking him over like a mother would, inspecting for obvious signs of mistreatment. Sighing, she turned to Fuji. "Fuji-kun. Thank you for bringing my son home." She bowed low to him.

"Don't even mention it," Fuji bowed lower, and smiled. "Thank you for helping me."

Tezuka stepped up in the hall, and took a deep breath. He went to an open door in the middle of the house, and took another deep breath. He stepped inside, and then got to his knees. Fuji came further into the house to see what Tezuka was doing. Putting his hands on the floor, Tezuka bowed down until his forehead was on the floor in between his flat hands.


Tezuka's father was at his low desk, working at paperwork. He frowned slightly, barely giving his son a glance. He left Tezuka there on the floor, continuing with his work for a moment.

Fuji stepped forward, but Tezuka's mother put her arm around his shoulder, and led him back a few steps. She smiled at him reassuringly, but then she turned to watch her husband with a sharp gaze.

After a few moments, Tezuka's father exhaled loudly, and began to speak, while still looking down at his paperwork. "So, I see you have returned. Are you satisfied, then, with your punishment?"

Tezuka sat up, but he looked straight ahead, past his father. "My decision to return home was solely a result of Fuji's insistence."

Tezuka's father spared Fuji a quick glance, but he wasn't the object of interest. "Have you mastered your base urges, then, or is that to be considered unimportant now?"

"I have mastered them as well as you have," Tezuka boldly asserted. That earned him his father's attention, and he met his father's gaze evenly.

"Have you," Tezuka's father replied dryly. "Well. I understand your mother has your room prepared."

That was as close to a dismissal as they could get, so Tezuka bowed once more to his father, and then stood up. He smiled tersely at Fuji, and then got their bags. He was leading Fuji up the stairs when his father called out.

"Kunimitsu. You will be considered married, as far as family matters go. We will make more suitable arrangements for you and your... partner." He raised an eyebrow at Fuji. "Since returning to school would be impossible now, you should prepare to be trained in the management of family matters. We will begin tomorrow." He went back to his paperwork, completely ignoring everyone else in the house.

Tezuka bowed slowly to his father. "Yes, father."

Fuji followed Tezuka up the stairs, watching him curiously, but Tezuka never turned around, or looked back at him. Tezuka led Fuji to his bedroom, which was a bit more spartan than Fuji had imagined. There was a bedroll in the middle of the room, a small chest of drawers next to a closet, and a low desk. Tezuka closed the door after Fuji, and lined their bags up next to each other against the wall.

It was so still and quiet here. The only light was a ceiling fixture that appeared to be at least fifty years old. Fuji looked up at the fixture.

"I don't understand what happened there."

Tezuka looked at Fuji quizzically. "We have been welcomed home."

"That was a welcome?" Fuji furrowed his brow. "It didn't seem like your father was too happy. And we're married now?"

Blushing slightly, Tezuka shrugged. "Ah, that's just... It was his way of saying that he accepted our choice. We'll need another bedroll. Do you have pajamas? I think anything I have will be too big for you..."

"We don't need pajamas," Fuji murmured, smiling softly. They were accepted.

Tezuka nodded, avoiding eye contact. "A-as you say. I can show you around a bit once we are more settled. Do you need to call your family?"

Fuji bit his lip, and smiled. "Ah. Maybe I should call sis. I'm not really looking forward to that. I don't think they'll be very pleased with me." Fuji laughed, covering his nervousness.

Tezuka stepped over to Fuji, and put his hand on Fuji's face, tracing Fuji's bottom lip with his thumb. He leaned in, and kissed Fuji softly. "I'll go with you to speak to them. To support you."

Smiling, Fuji leaned up to kiss Tezuka with a bit more force. "Will you drink my blood tonight?"

Tezuka took a step back, and looked away. "It won't be necessary, not here. We'll go down to get something to eat in a bit. Just give me a moment..."

A bit disappointed, Fuji watched Tezuka go out to the hall, presumably to get the extra bedroll. He was going to have to get used to traditional living, apparently. He pulled his cell phone out of his bag, and dialed up his sister. He sat on the floor, his back to the wall, and watched Tezuka set up their bed.

He grinned. Their bed.

"You damned well better be calling to tell me that you are on your way home and you're very sorry for all the trouble you've caused me, Syuusuke."

"Tomorrow. Probably. I'm with Tezuka now. He's making our bed." Fuji smirked at Tezuka, who was watching him over his shoulder. His sister let out a screeching string of expletives, so Fuji pulled the phone away from his ear. "Hey, hey! Should you really be using language like that? It's so unladylike!"

"Syuusuke, this isn't funny! Dad is crawling the walls! Mom's bursting into tears at a moment's notice! Yuuta's come home for a while. They're just going nuts! I haven't told them anything, but they know I know something, and they keep blowing up at me!"

Fuji sighed. "Sorry, sis. It's just. Complicated right now. I don't know what I could accomplish by going there tonight. I'm not... I'm not going to live there anymore." That felt weird to say. This house wasn't home, not by a long shot. But Tezuka was.

"What's complicated? Come home! Just... just come home long enough to say, hey, I went to Akita and guess what, I'm gay and I'm moving in with my psycho boyfriend. Anything! Please, Syuusuke, you have to!"

Tezuka kneeled down in front of him, grimacing. "I'll go with you," he whispered.

Fuji felt his stomach falling out. "Sis, I'll be there soon. Just hang on, ok? And I'm bringing Tezuka, so... be ready."

He hung up before she could say anything more. He didn't want to get his sister in trouble. He didn't want to hurt his parents, or Yuuta.

"Let's get something to eat before going," Tezuka suggested, and he leaned in and kissed Fuji quickly. Standing, he held his hand out for Fuji.

"Boy, today is fun. Do you think tomorrow will be as much fun?" He smiled brightly.

Tezuka put his arm around Fuji's waist. "I hope it is much more boring."

They went down, and Tezuka's mother was in the kitchen, making a simple meal. She set a cup of thick red... ah, well, that was blood... on the table, winking at her son. She then greeted Fuji warmly. "Fuji-kun, you're looking well. If I had known you two were coming home today, I would have bought something more extravagant for supper. I was just preparing fish and fried rice."

"That sounds good," Fuji sat down at the kitchen table. He gave Tezuka a look until Tezuka sat down, too. His mother chuckled quietly to herself. Fuji frowned at the glass in Tezuka's hand. The liquid inside looked suspicious, dark and slurry. It also seemed, well, chunky. Like it had been frozen, and not fully thawed. It looked disgusting, especially as Tezuka lifted the glass to his lips. "Hey," Fuji leaned closer to Tezuka, whispering. "You don't have to drink that. You can..."

"He has to drink it," Tezuka's mother supplied cheerfully, putting a plate before Fuji. "The human body can stand to 'donate' about a half a liter of blood every two months. Depends on how much is taken, and where, and when, of course. We'll have to talk about that. But biting will not become a daily thing. Now, son, drink your blood," she patted Tezuka on the cheek, "and have you two already been to Fuji-kun's house, or are you going?"

Fuji and Tezuka shared a look, and then Tezuka lifted his glass to his mouth, taking large gulps. Fuji looked away to preserve his appetite. Where was that sports cup, anyway? "Ah, we're going after we eat. My family will, mm, well, hopefully, it won't take long."

"Oh, it won't be a short visit," she chuckled. "Well, you won't have to tell them you're pregnant. That wasn't a lot of fun."

"Mother!" Tezuka chided, blushing. Fuji laughed, and pinched Tezuka's cheek. This was a bit surreal. Whenever Fuji pictured Tezuka's home life, it... wasn't like this.

"What?" She shrugged, and sat down. "My parents were furious. They screamed for hours. My father threatened to castrate Kuniharu. It was almost amusing, if it had only been happening to my sister..."

"Your sister was a good girl who always used protection," Tezuka's father strolled in, and calmly went to the fridge to get a pitcher of the red sludge.

"My sister was a slut who worked in a host club while my parents thought she was at a cram school." She said pointedly. "Fuji-kun needs to see his family about the change in his living arrangements." She grinned up at her husband, who was pouring himself a glass of... blood.

This house was going to be hard to get used to. Also, looking at Tezuka's father now, all he could see was how much Tezuka resembled his father. Strange.

"That's not something you can do over the phone, mm?" Tezuka's father sighed, and sipped his blood. "Well, don't stay out too late. We can move all of Fuji-kun's things tomorrow, or later in the week. Just try to be quick and to the point." He patted his son on the shoulder, and walked back out of the kitchen. Tezuka was stonily drinking his blood, pretending that nothing just happened.

Tezuka's mother leaned closer to Fuji. "See, he's really not an ogre. Wait 'til you get to know Kunimitsu's grandfather. I imagine you will be rather surprised."

"This will be an interesting house to live in," Fuji smiled.

"You have no idea," she winked.

Tezuka finished off his blood, completely ignoring his mother and his lover and their laughter.

"All in all, I'd have to say, that went pretty well," Fuji said, plopping down onto the bedroll. Bedroll. He'd see about getting a real bed.

Tezuka looked at Fuji briefly, and then he turned out the light. "Syuusuke, your father claimed you were no son of his, and your mother tried to get your sister to hex us both."

"True," Fuji agreed, and he couldn't deny that hurtful things had been said. "But I think it was a good first step."

Tezuka slipped into the bedroll next to Fuji, and leaned over, kissing his lips. "Can always change your mind, Syuusuke. Go home and marry that Aiko person your mother kept going on about. Live in a house with no blood in the fridge. Go to college. Be normal."

Fuji wrinkled his nose, and rolled over on top of Tezuka. "That sounds boring. And Aiko really isn't my type. She's too pure to be into bloodplay." Tezuka rolled his eyes, and Fuji chuckled softly, slipping his hands down to touch Tezuka's skin. "Hey, by the way, what did your father mean by... family business? You aren't yakuza on top of being vampires, are you?"

"We are not vampires," Tezuka sighed. "There are no such thing as vampires. We have a blood condition. And the management of family matters. Our estate is quite large. When my great grandfather left Nyuto-san, he took with him all the liquid assets of the estate. Since then, the money has been invested, and we have lived off of those investments. My great grandfather taught my grandfather, and so on."

Fuji blinked. "Are we very rich, then? ...And this technically blood money, isn't it?"

Tezuka shifted under Fuji. "We don't like the term blood money. It was the assets earned as the landlord of the Nyuto-san area. We are quite comfortable."

"I think the term blood money is very literally appropriate," Fuji insisted cheerfully. "And if we're rich, can we get a real bed? Maybe with a pillow top..." He smiled dreamily, and snuggled up on top of Tezuka.

Tezuka wrapped his arms around Fuji. "A western bed? In this house? That would be interesting."

"They're very comfortable!" Fuji insisted. "All this sleeping on the floor. It gets tiring after a while."

Tezuka smiled, brushing his fingers through Fuji's hair. "I've never slept in a Western bed. Are you really happy? Living like this..."

Fuji stopped his question with a kiss. "I'm happy with you, yes."

"But you won't get to go to college," Tezuka protested. "I... I suppose you could, but... even my grandfather agrees that we need to keep a low profile. Traveling around the world would be difficult. And... your parents..."

"They'll come around," Fuji shrugged. "Right now, Yumiko is talking to Dad. He's being stubborn, but so is she, and she'll cry eventually. My dad can't stand to see Yumiko cry. They'll talk some more... When I go over there tomorrow, we'll sit down and really talk. I won't be able to explain a lot, and no explanation will full satisfy them on some points, but it'll be another step. I know I made the right choice. Nothing else matters."

"My mother is going to police how often I bite you," Tezuka worked hard at not smiling at that. "But even still..."

"We've already been through this. And your mother can't check for bite marks everywhere. I like it when you bite me," Fuji purred, slipping his fingers into Tezuka's hair.

"Why?" Tezuka asked.

"Why?" Fuji frowned. "Your teeth break my skin. It hurts, but it's a good pain. And then. I can't describe it. My blood is flowing into you. It's... exciting. It's sexual. Does it really bother you that much?"

"It's about the greatest thing I can think of," Tezuka smiled wryly. "But it seems one-sided. I'm getting all the pleasure."

"No, not all of it," Fuji reassured, slipping his hand down, under the waistband of Tezuka's boxers. "It's a beautiful thing on my side as well."

Suddenly, Fuji was on his back, and Tezuka was holding his wrist in a vice-like grip. "I'm glad. Your sister promised to castrate me if I ever hurt you. I was hoping this wouldn't count." He opened his mouth, and grazed his fang over Fuji's palm, and then lapped up the blood greedily.

Fuji moaned, his lips shut tight, like the purr of a motor starting. "No, I most certainly won't let her get anywhere near your balls for something like this. Ah, 'Mitsu!" But Tezuka's mouth was covering his, and Tezuka's fangs were scraping his tongue. The bitter metallic tinge of his own blood filled his mouth, but Tezuka sucked it all away.

It was a good way to celebrate their new de facto status as married, and Fuji felt that it would be a further encouragement to abandon the bedroll for a more comfortable and stable bed.

Fuji didn't go back to school until the next week, and that was only because Tezuka's mother kept nagging him, and Tezuka's grandfather kept teasing the both of them for being high school dropouts. It was quite weird to get up in the morning and kiss Tezuka goodbye, and even weirder still to be approaching school from the opposite direction than he normally came, but inside, Seigaku was about the same as it always was.

When he got to his classroom, Oishi was sitting in his desk, and Taka was standing to the side of them. Fuji smiled and shook his head. "I leave for a week and you're all the way down to class three, Oishi? That's not good!"

"Fujiko-chan!" Eiji jumped up and nearly tackled Fuji, clinging to him. "Fujiko, where did you go? No one knew! We called your house and your mom cried at me!"

Fuji pushed aside the stab of guilt, and ruffled Eiji's hair. "Oh, nothing much. I went up to Akita to retrieve Tezuka."

"Tezuka!" Oishi jumped to his feet, and Taka leaned closer. Eiji was practically strangling Fuji now. The whole room, actually, got a bit quieter. "Fuji, is Tezuka back? Is he coming back to school?" Oishi looked like he might just burst into tears of joy.

That certainly wouldn't be a good thing. "He's home. His... blood condition is under control now. But he's missed too much school already. He won't be coming back."

Oishi's face fell a little, and the room was buzzing with whispers as everyone who had been listening in started to discuss what they had learned. "Well, still. He's all right? Can we come visit him, maybe? Did you give him our medal?" Oishi looked a little embarrassed at that. Tezuka was supposed to have a first place medal.

He would have, if he hadn't run away. "I gave it to him. He's proud of us." Fuji sat down, looking around at everyone, so they'd hopefully get the message and leave them alone. The other three crowded his desk, not purposefully, but it did give them some privacy. "I can arrange for us all to get together. Maybe for sushi?" He winked at Taka. "I don't think coming to his house is a good idea. His family is... very private."

"You've been to his house?" Oishi looked a bit taken aback. He'd clearly never been to the Tezuka house.

Fuji beamed. He leaned a bit closer, and whispered, "I'm living there now."

"Wah!?" Eiji reared back. Taka looked a bit upset. But Oishi was grinning. He leaned a bit closer.

"Really? That's great. What do your parents think? What are his parents like? What do they think? Why was Tezuka in Akita? When did you get back? You missed a lot of school. Are you still going to be ready for your exams?" Oishi leaned closer with each question, and Fuji retaliated by smiling wider.

Fortunately, the bell rang, and the teacher swept into class. Oishi and Taka had to go to their own classes, and Fuji had to apologize for his absences.

School was about ten times more boring when he knew he could be back home, chatting with Tezuka's mother, or distracting Tezuka from his work with his father. Or having sex. It would be a lot better to be home kissing his 'husband' or letting Tezuka feed off of him than sitting here doing linear algebra. At lunch, pretty much all the regulars of the tennis team gathered up to collect Fuji and Eiji. To avoid too many extra ears in their conversation, they went to the tennis clubhouse to eat and talk. Everyone wanted to know what was going on with Tezuka, and why Fuji had gone to get him.

Fuji deflected more questions than he answered, as was his custom. It had been a while since they had all been together, so the conversation quickly moved along. It was fun to be back together again with everyone, but it just made Fuji miss Tezuka more. Tezuka should be here with them, sitting off to the side, not saying anything, appearing unaffected...

As soon as the bell rang, Fuji was out the door, rushing to get home. He was on the train, watching the city blur by, when he realized that all day, he'd been thinking about the Tezuka's house as home.

He entered the code to open the front gate, his chest puffing out a bit because he was allowed to enter from here. Tezuka's grandfather was in the front garden, rearranging the rock garden. He smiled cheerfully at Fuji. "Ah, the student! Good that we have at least one." He winked at Fuji.

Fuji nodded to him, and entered the house. As usual, Tezuka was with his father in the study, going over some papers. At home, Tezuka just wore traditional clothes. Fuji rather liked the way the hakama pants hung off of Tezuka's body, and the triangle of chest that was visible, particularly when Fuji messed up Tezuka's shirts.

He liked to do that.

Tezuka looked up from the work, and smiled shyly at Fuji. His father realized that he wasn't paying attention, so he looked up as well. "Ah. Fuji-kun. Welcome home. I trust school went well."

"As to be expected," Fuji replied breezily, bowing to Tezuka's father.

"Good, good," his attention returned to the endless stream of paperwork on his desk. "Well, I doubt Kunimitsu will retain any focus. You may go now."

Tezuka got to his feet, and bowed to his father. "Thank you, sir." He and Fuji left, but instead of going to their room upstairs, Fuji went to the back of the house, to the salle where the scroll was. It got tiring staying up in their room all the time. He sat down in the middle of the room, and looked up at Tezuka.

"Missed you in school today," Fuji purred.

"We didn't have class together," Tezuka reminded as he sat down next to Fuji, nipping at his ear.

Fuji leaned into Tezuka's touch. "We had lunch together."

"I missed you, too," Tezuka sighed, licking Fuji's skin.

"Everyone was glad to hear you were back," Fuji murmured, slipping his hand inside Tezuka's clothes. "They want to get together. All of us."

"Do they?" Tezuka sighed. He nuzzled against Fuji's neck. "I'm not sure. There would be too many questions."

Fuji chuckled. "Like you'd answer them anyway. It will be fun." He laid back, and put his arms over his head. He smiled up at Tezuka, and pointed to the calligraphy of lust. "'Mitsu. Bite me."

Tezuka's eyes widened, and he leaned back a bit. "We can't. It's too soon."

"Not a big bite," Fuji pouted. He started to open his uniform jacket, and he pulled his shirt out of his pants. "Just a taste. Want to feel your teeth in me." He undid the buttons at the bottom of his shirt, revealing his stomach. "Here? Wait..." He unzipped his pants, and pushed them down his hips. He ran his hand over his hip, his stomach. "Just taste me. 'Mitsu. All day I've been thinking about your teeth..."

Tezuka looked at the scroll for a moment, but when he turned his eyes back to Fuji, they were brilliant red, and his nails and fangs extended. He opened his mouth, baring his teeth. "You are too beautiful, my only love..." He let his teeth touch Fuji's skin, pushing his pants down further. Tezuka was going to see, from very close, what affect his teeth had on Fuji's body. He slowly closed his mouth on Fuji's flesh, just below his hip.

Fuji arched his back, opening his mouth to scream, but he only whimpered, he moaned. He gripped Tezuka's hair tightly.

Tezuka lapped at the blood welling up from Fuji's wounds, sealing them with his saliva. His lips were red with blood when he came up to kiss Fuji, and started to pull Fuji's pants down further.

Fuji was looking up at the calligraphy, and it almost made him laugh as he grabbed Tezuka's clothes and pushed them aside.

He grabbed Tezuka's face, and looked into his blood-red eyes, and he grinned. "I'm glad we met. You naughty boy." Fuji laughed, and kissed Tezuka's bloody lips.

Tezuka pulled up, and pushed his clothes off entirely, pushing them down his body. Fuji's heart just pounded in his chest. Tezuka laid his hand on Fuji's heart. He looked down into Fuji's eyes.

"I'm... I'm glad I met you. I'm glad you came to save me."

Fuji ran his hands over Tezuka's skin, and he grinned. There was more than one way to conquer an enemy, he felt. He hoped Tezuka realized that, too, though it certainly seemed like he did.

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