A birthday, for a vampire hunter, is not so much a celebration of another year of life as it is a celebration of another year of not being dead.
In the profession of vampire hunting, which does not deserve any adjectives because they would not be nice ones, being dead is not at all hard to achieve. Being alive is much more difficult. As such, the survival of another whole day is quite something, so birthdays are not of great significance, but they do tend to make one rather proud of oneself.
As it were, Yagari Touga and Cross Kaien were getting rather old for vampire hunters (Cross, of course, was getting rather old for any occupation). They were, what, grown-ups. Mature, responsible adults. Something to that general effect.
And it was Yagari’s birthday, and he wasn’t dead yet (thank you very much), and he’d raised an eyebrow at Cross for knowing about it.
“Don’t look at me like that,” Cross had said. As one does on one’s lover’s birthday, he’d brought wine. In his experience that’d always worked the best. “You can’t just do paperwork all night.”
Yagari had learned by now that it was best not to argue with him, especially when he was holding a bottle of the sort which could easily be used to whack another person over the head, even if Cross wasn’t exactly inclined to violence. Agreement was far less trouble either way.
So Yagari had left the work for some other time, and, like the mature, responsible adults they were, they had proceeded to get ever so slightly drunk and debauched. More of the latter, really (a lot more of the latter, really), and as such more of the former was imminent. It tended to work better that way around.
Cross extricated himself from the tangle of sheets and somebody’s limbs, arranged the pillows so that he could sit reasonably upright without doing something unfavourable to his back, and leaned over to get the wine. There was a good amount left. This was promising. He ignored the un-promising flicking noises and the smell of smoke that appeared as he refilled the glasses.
“You know why I’m still alive?” Yagari asked mildly, taking the glass Cross handed to him. He breathed out, and smoke curled into the air.
Cross settled back onto the pillows. “I could guess,” he said. “Is it something to do with love and honour and all sorts of healthy things like that?”
Yagari, were he not Yagari and effortlessly suave, might have choked on the wine he was swallowing. “Absolutely,” he said a moment later, in a voice that was mock-serious to a terribly impressive degree. “Can’t fool you.”
“Of course not,” Cross said. “I am Cross Kaien.” He very cleverly refrained from adding, And I am getting quite nicely drunk, so everything I say is the express truth. For the record, he was very assured of that second bit.
“But I,” Yagari said, taking the cigarette out of his mouth and drinking more wine with enviable style (he was drunk too, clearly), “am still at the top of the Hunters’ Association’s rankings list.” He stretched his legs out. “And that’s what’s important around here.”
“Indeed it is,” Cross had to agree. “One can’t be on the list if one is dead.” He was quite sure of it. Quite, quite sure.
Yagari looked thoughtful. “You’re neither.”
“This is true.”
Cross contemplated the whole thing for a while, and came to the conclusion that he’d rather be not-on-the-list than dead. Although, to be fair, were he dead there’d be no list to worry about. And no Yagari to worry about either. But then there’d be no Yagari at all, which was probably a bad thing for reasons that Cross couldn’t have explained even when sober.
He sighed, and poured more wine.
“I’m still Cross Kaien,” he said, a tinge hopefully.
Yagari held out his cup. Cross refilled it.
“And I have the deepest respect for you,” Yagari said mildly. Given the intoxication and the post-coital languor, it might just have been true. Cross was warmly reassured.
“But,” Yagari went on, “I’m still top of the list.”
Cross couldn’t begrudge him that, though it was somewhat discouraging. He didn’t quite see why Yagari had needed to say it again. “How fortunate were you, thrice fortunate and more,” he said dejectedly.
Yagari snorted. “Didn’t he say that to all his dead comrades?”
It took a second’s thought. “Never mind, then,” Cross said. “He did.”
“You’re not trying to foreshadow something, are you?” Yagari asked, putting his glass aside, lying back and folding his hands behind his head. “It sounds bad.”
“Not at all,” Cross replied. He was, more than anything, surprised that Yagari was using words like ‘foreshadow’ when he was probably wonderfully drunk. (The wine was almost gone at this point.)
“Good,” Yagari said contentedly. He took the last drag off his cigarette and put it out, finding the ashtray without looking. “And it’s not fortune, anyway,” he said with what may or may not have been the utmost disdain. “It’s skill.”
“Maybe it’s fortune that everyone else is less skilful than you,” Cross said.
Yagari gave him as scornful a look as he could manage. Then he muttered something which sounded like, Why do I even bother?
“Don’t worry,” Cross said in his best encouraging voice. “Whatever it is, I have every faith in you.”
“Knew I could count on you,” Yagari said. He was gazing almost dreamily at the ceiling. It was probably a good thing that they’d stopped drinking. “You know, we should do this more often.”
Cross agreed. It was quite nice. “Don’t die, then,” he said. “Have more birthdays.”
“I’ll try,” Yagari said.
Cross had no doubt that he would.