FANDOM: Prince of Tennis
CHARACTERS: Inui Sadaharu and Kikumaru Eiji
SUMMARY: AU. Eiji has a guardian angel on his side. (1000+ words)
NOTES: Inspired by a prompt from prompt_in_a_box Round 18, "I'm trying to put this as delicately as I can... How do I know you won't kill me in my sleep?" (Firefly: Simon, Ep. 01 - Serenity). Submitted for Round 21 (November Round).
Slowly, gently, night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
- Music of The Night (Andrew Lloyd-Webber)
If he closed his eyes and simply allowed his subconscious to take charge, Eiji could almost imagine that that hushed, prosaic sound was a sort of mystical incantation instead, a spell whispered beneath his breath, a candle flickering in the wind, goose bumps racing up his arm, a ritual, a summoning. The lights were off, the window slightly left open, an eerie creak, rustling leaves (a cat maybe), the vague hums of laughter in the distance – he was probably imagining all that as well.
But somewhere, behind the gates of real and unreal, traveling across that particularly invisible, thin line, Eiji knew that this was neither a hallucination nor even a dream. This was a world beyond all others; this was a world only he could see, concretely, only he could touch, only he could communicate with. And this world belonged to him, just as much as it belonged to the man who had taken a step out of his closet, black trench coat swishing behind him, spectacles glimmering in the dark, what he believed to be fairy dust littering the floor.
“Welcome back, nya!” The redhead grinned, eyes bright, arms already reaching for the man's thick coat. More of that fairy dust flew to the ground. (He would have to sweep it up before morning.) Eiji ran his hand down a long velvet sleeve, smoothing it out, noting just how battered it had become since the last time he'd seen it. His brows furrowed for a second before he shook his head. Then he carefully folded the coat and drew it against the chair across his desk. The ends still managed to touch the ground.
“You must be tired. Come sit on my bed,” he bustled, taking a fairly large, warmed hand in his, formalities forgotten, guiding the brunette towards the side which faced the window – Eiji knew how much he enjoyed staring at the sky. The man's glasses continued to glimmer, a bleary reflection, quite unsettling as Eiji could not see his eyes. But then, in a way, he had gotten used to it, shrugged that slight shiver away and reached for the thermos on his bedside table.
“Would you like to hear about it, Kikumaru?”
Eiji blinked, a bit startled, setting the thermos back down nevertheless. Coffee could wait, he was warm enough. He tapped an index finger against his chin before replying as if it should have been obvious.
“O-Of course! So, where have you been this time?”
It took a moment’s pause – almost as if Eiji were staring at a granite sculpture, chiseled and most life-like, unearthly and closer to home than anything else at the same time – before he replied.
“We call it 'The Fall',” a husky vibrato began, a pulsating rhythm drumming against the shell of Eiji's ears, “It is, in a number of stories, as its name implies, the ends of the earth, though even we are uncertain. Some think that it opens the gates to the Underworld, secrets to immortality and forever. Others believe that only Paradise awaits those who are destined to jump into it, and at the same time it is in that sense a prison, since you are not allowed to return after you fall.”
Lowering his eyes, Eiji waited as a deafening quiet stretched on before he whispered his reply.
“No. I… don’t think I’m ready,” the man did not let him finish, perhaps to reassure him, perhaps to reassure himself. Eiji could pretend that he hadn’t seen the slight clenching of a fist, a lingering of disappointment, of letting go and of forgetting. Because the thing was, he didn’t want to forget, not now, not ever.
“Do you… want to be?” He asked in any case, wasn’t sure why he needed to.
“Kikumaru, it’s time for bed.”
Eiji would have argued, would have asked him again, would have been determined to find out, to face his fears, probably his greatest one then, if not for the way his companion had beckoned him over, pulling the covers back, a quirk of his lips indicating the most captivating of smiles. It was meant for Eiji – his alone, he liked to think. And he rarely ever saw it. He was lost.
“Are you tired?” He tipped his head, meeting the man’s gaze, a hint of lush green, piercing and flickering gold.
“A little, but I’ll stay with you.”
He caught that smirk and threw one back.
“Until morning,” the man replied, shaking his head and later thought to add, “But I’ll always be watching over you.”
“I know,” he whispered in a heartbeat. Really, there was nothing else Eiji could possibly need.
“You went off to see that human again, Inui.” The brunette turned his head, bowed in greeting, promptly ignored the statement and evidently, the accusation in it.
“He’s keeping you here and it isn’t good for you. You know that.”
“No one else can decide what’s good for me,” Inui frowned, tucking his hands into his coat pockets. It was damn freezing. And the unwanted interrogation was not helping, not at all.
“But it is a fact, you can’t deny that. You don’t even see him as a potential meal.”
“And I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I am going to keep it that way.” A soft, nonetheless icy growl followed his reply, full of warning, daring another comment like the one previous. The very idea of sinking his teeth into the redhead’s skin, on the contrary, made his insides turn on end, a reaction so foreign, he knew it could only ever be for Kikumaru; for the boy who assumed him to be some kind of heavenly entity, something divine, beautiful, bright – all of the things, in truth, he most definitely was not.
And in time, perhaps, Inui would have to tell him, disillusion him for his own good. But for now, at the very least, it probably wasn’t too awful to play along and to make-believe, to pretend that there was indeed a trail of fairy dust left behind, if only to allow his ward to anticipate his return.