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Love Bites

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Echizen Ryoma, Prince of the kingdom of Ensinkil, nervously looked out of the car window at the storm raging around him. They were driving along a mountain road, surrounded by tall, ominous trees that were being bent by the wind. Ryoma shivered and leaned forward to talk to the driver.

“Can you turn the heating up?” He said. The driver ignored him, so Ryoma tried again. “I said, turn the heating up,” he commanded, wondering if the driver could hear him over the sound of the rain pelting against the roof of the car.

Karupin looked up at him from his lap, where he was curled so that he looked like a big ball of fluff with a face and mewled at him.

Ryoma huffed and sat back in his seat, wishing they could go quicker so he could get out of this damn car. They’d been going since the early hours of the morning and now-Ryoma glanced at the clock- it was past 10PM. He’d slept through a lot of the journey, but now he could sleep no longer and it looked like they’d be driving through the night to the country of Taranis. If he’d had his way, he would have flown across, but the government had confiscated the royal jet, sentencing him to this never ending car journey. He was sure it wasn’t safe to make his driver drive for so long without a break, but he knew that neither the government nor his subjects would grieve for long if his life ended in a wrecked car in the middle of nowhere.

At least he’d been allowed to take his cat with him, one of the few things that had not been sold to pay off his father’s debts. He buried his hands in the cat’s thick fur around its neck and touched the collar that as hidden in it. He slid it around until he found the chain of the necklace that had been wrapped tightly around it and the jewel that was wrapped in a wire cage and tied to the leather collar. He was glad he’d managed to smuggle them out and that he’d managed to hide them before the government’s forces had stormed the palace.

The car suddenly stopped.

“What’s going on?” Ryoma asked, he couldn’t see anything that could have caused the car to stop in front of them.

“Stay here,” The driver said gruffly, opening the door and letting in the sound of the howling wind and the rain. He got out, shut the door and disappeared into the darkness.

“What the hell?” Ryoma muttered to himself, pushing Karupin off his lap and crawling around to look out the back window. All he could see was raindrops reflecting the light from inside the car and the thick darkness beyond. He suddenly felt very alone. Now the engine was off he could hear the wind and rain more clearly, emphasising how he was all alone in the forest in a metal can.

He looked down at Karupin, who had crawled under the driver’s seat. “Come out from there,” he snapped, secretly wishing he could swap places with the cat. He felt very exposed like this. He slipped down into the footwell and lay down, the bump in the middle pressing uncomfortably into his stomach.

“Karupin,” he said in a sing-song voice, tickling the cat’s paws that were sticking out. Karupin mewled and withdrew his feet under the seat. “You’re no fun,” Ryoma muttered.

Later in his life, he would remember that the luckiest thing that had ever happened to him was the fact he had lain next to Karupin instead of sitting up and trying to see what was going on.

Behind him came rapid gunfire, followed a split second later by rear window smashing, spraying glass all over Ryoma.

Karupin let out a panicked screech and leaped from his hiding place, scrabbling over Ryoma’s arms and leaping out of the rear window. His departure was followed by more gunfire, this time lower and just missing the top of Ryoma’s back.

Ryoma had to escape. He would die if he stayed in the car, at least outside he had a chance. However small.

He reached up to the door handle and shoved it open, scrambling out as fast as he possibly could. He ran into the woods, followed by shouts and gunfire.
There was almost no light and Ryoma stumbled through the trees, being clawed at by branches and briars. The ground was a lethally slippery mixture of mud and decomposing leaves and Ryoma’s feet slipped out from underneath him. He fell forward and smacked his head off a rock. Dazed and bleeding, he scrambled to his feet and carried on.

He could hear voices all around him, or was it just the wind howling through the trees, their branches creaking and cracking against each other.

His heart sank when he came upon a rocky crag, the break in the tree cover above it let in a small amount of light revealing just how much it towered over Ryoma and how long it ran either side of him. Desperately, he tried to climb it, but it was slippery from the rain and his muddy boots couldn’t find any purchase on the rock. He started to run along the side of the rock face, using it as a guide. His heart was in his mouth, his hands searching desperately for something, anything, that could help him. Finally, he found a crack down the rock face, just large enough to fit him in. He squeezed in, now happy for his small frame and stature, and kicked off his boots and socks. Now, he had enough grip to climb up the walls.

He got half way up, before stopping. He’d found a nice little ledge to sit on and hoped he could stay here until his pursuers were gone.

He listened as hard as he could, trying to hear footsteps and voices over the sound of the wind in the trees and the small stream of water that was flowing down the crevice, making small splashing sounds as it hit the ledge Ryoma was sitting on. He was too scared to feel the cold or the wet. He was torn between hiding here or climbing all the way up and fleeing. Here he was hidden and there could be people above, but if he was found in the crevice it would be easy to pick him off.

Then he heard it, the squelch of footsteps below him. As quietly as he could, he started to scale the walls of the crevice again, making sure his hands and feet were in secure places as he made his way up. At the bottom a figure emerged shining a torch along the ground. Following Ryoma’s footprints.
Ryoma was so close to the top now, he started to panic, grabbing at anything for a hand hold, his hands slipping on the slick rock. The figure had just shone his torch into the crevice and seen Ryoma’s boots when Ryoma heaved himself over the top of the rock face and lay there panting as the man at the bottom radioed his friends.

He had to get moving.

The mud felt disgusting between his toes, but the trees had thinned out somewhat so it was easier for him to run. He needed somewhere to hide. Maybe there would be a house somewhere where he could seek sanctuary.
He almost ran into the hedge that had suddenly appeared in front of him and clawed his way through the thick branches. Once through, he found himself in a well tended garden and in front of a giant gothic castle.

Hope and relief blossomed in his heart and he jogged along the garden path leading towards the castle. He reached the front door, made of solid wood and darkened with age so it was almost black. He knocked on the door as hard as he could and, to his surprise, it swung open.

Once inside, Ryoma closed the door behind him and took a few steps into the grand entrance hall, his steps echoing in the darkness and his feet trailing mud across the marble floor.

“Hello?” He called into the darkness. “I need help!” It hurt his pride to admit that, but he had no other option. The castle remained silent as Ryoma crept further and further into the room.

A pair of strong arms wrapped around him, pinning his arms to his sides.

“What the-” Ryoma started, turning to see who had grabbed him.

And then pain exploded at the junction between his neck and shoulder. He could feel four sharp needle like teeth penetrate his skin and sink into his flesh.
He screamed in pain and then, the pain faded away to be replaced with pure arousal. He couldn’t stop himself moaning as the person behind him started to suck at the wound, drawing the blood out of him. His vision started to darken at the edges and his body fell limp, held up only by the arms around him.

“Please stop,” he said weakly as a hand tipped his head to the side to allow easy access to the wound, “please-” he managed before he passed out.

Chapter Text

Ryoma woke up feeling warm and totally relaxed, like he was floating. He opened his eyes and found himself in a richly decorated room, lit only by a fire crackling happily in the grate opposite the bed. Someone had cleaned him and dressed him in soft cotton pyjamas. He reached up and found a bandage on his head where he’d hit it off the rock. There was also a drip attached to his other arm, connected to a bag of blood

So last night had happened.

Tentatively, he touched his neck and found another bandage there.

Last night had definitely happened.

Why had he been bitten? Who had bitten him? Where was he now? Had his assassins given up? Or where they still trying to find him? Was Karupin okay?
He tried to sit up, but all his muscles protested so he gave up and settled down amongst the soft pillows, waiting for someone to come.

He must have dozed off, because he couldn’t remember anything between waking up and hearing the door open. He looked over and saw a pretty, young man smiling gently at him.

“You’re awake,” The man’s voice was soft and bright, but there was something about him that put Ryoma’s nerves on edge.

“Where am I?” Ryoma asked, his eyes moving to the bowl of soup on a tray in his hand, his stomach remembered it hadn’t eaten for a very long time and started gurgling loudly. Ryoma ignored it and tried to remain as regal as possible. He was a prince after all. “Who are you?”

“You can call me Fuji,” The man replied, bringing the tray over. He helped Ryoma sit up before setting the tray in front of him. “You’re in Seigaku Castle. Don’t worry, you’re safe.”

Ryoma’s stomach growled and he dug into the soup. It was bland and the bread roll was stale, but he didn’t care.

“My friends and I got rid of your pursuers,” Fuji continued, “they won’t be coming back.” He sat on the edge of the bed and watched Ryoma eat, “I’m sorry it’s not a good meal, we don’t keep a lot of fresh food.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Ryoma assured him as he scraped up the last of the soup and stuffed the last of his bread into his mouth. “What happened to me last night? Who bit me?”

“I think I should tell you when you’re a bit stronger.”

“No. Tell me now,” Ryoma glared at him.

“If you’re sure,” Fuji said. “Last night, you were bitten by the man who is now your mate.”

“My mate?” Ryoma repeated. “I can’t have a mate! I’m going to get married in a few days.”

“I’m afraid you’re not,” Fuji told him, “if you leave you will die.”

“What?” Ryoma asked, totally confused now. Humans didn’t have mates and, even if they did, they didn’t die from being away from them.

“Use your brain,” Fuji said softly. “Think. What sucks your blood?”

“A mosquito?”

“No, not quite,” Fuji chuckled, he was having far too much fun with this, “you need to think of something more human shaped.”

Ryoma had an answer. But it was so stupid it surely couldn’t be right.

Fuji grinned at him, took his tray and was at the door in the blink of an eye. “I’ll leave you to rest.” And then he was gone.

Ryoma slid down into the bed and stared at the canopy above his four poster bed.

Vampires? It was like he’d ran out of the car and right into a fairy tale. Of course, he knew vampires existed, everyone did. They had an entire country to themselves. At least that helped place where he was. The Hyotei Empire.

And he couldn’t leave? Well that was stupid. How could leaving kill him? He didn’t feel any different, couldn’t feel anything that felt like he was bonded to someone. Not like he knew what that would feel like, but still, he would know if something was different.

Was Fuji his new mate (whatever that meant)? It hadn’t sounded like it, but it also seemed like Fuji liked to mess with people. He really hoped it wasn’t Fuji.
Well, one thing was clear. He wasn’t going to get answers by lying around in bed, not unless Fuji or someone else came back.

I’m a vampire’s mate, huh? He thought. Could it be any worse than being married to some princess he’d never met? He shook his head, not sure why he’d even considered it being a good thing. He wondered what his new vampire looked like. Probably a decrepit old man, dressed all in black who spoke with a horrific accent. He shivered at the thought.

He spent the next few hours dozing and staring at the canopy above him, lost in his own thoughts. The same questions swirled around his mind, none of them any closer to being answered. Occasionally, he heard voices from outside the door, but no one came in to visit him.

He did feel a lot stronger now though and was able to sit up in bed without any help. He didn’t feel brave enough to try standing up though.

The door opened and Ryoma jumped, he hadn’t heard anyone approaching the room.

“Good morning,” Fuji said cheerfully, “Did you sleep well?”

“It’s morning?” Ryoma asked, looking over at the closed curtains.

“It is,” Fuji replied, pulling open the curtains before disappearing and appearing on the other side of Ryoma’s bed.

“Doesn’t sunlight dissolve vampires?” Ryoma asked, noting that Fuji was sat in the shadows.

“Legend says we set on fire,” Fuji corrected him, “but we have a drink that stops us from doing that. There are some unfortunate side effects though.”

Ryoma was tempted to pull Fuji’s hand into the sunlight and see these ‘unfortunate side effects were’, but had the feeling he might lose his hand if he tried.

Instead he just huffed and asked, “so when do I get to meet my mate?”

“Soon,” Fuji replied, “when you’re better. So, how about you tell me a bit about yourself. After all, you know my name, but I don’t know yours.”

Ryoma was taken aback, he was so used to everyone knowing who he was and had just assumed Fuji had known too. “My name is Echizen Ryoma,” he said, “I’m the Prince of Ensinkil.”

“I thought you were,” Fuji purred, brushing Ryoma’s dark hair out of his face to get a good look at his eyes, “they say the eyes of the Echizen family were turned gold by the wealth they hoarded around them.” His face was incredibly close to Ryoma’s now and Ryoma couldn’t look away from the piercing blue eyes that were pinning him down. “Of course, that’s not the case now. Is it?”

“No,” Ryoma muttered bitterly.

“Successive generations of kings spent all the money and now your country is stone broke,” Fuji continued, “and after the tragic death of your parents the government, sick of watching useless kings empting the county’s coffers, took over and got rid of all the monarchy’s power. I take it they were sending you get married so they could get your bride’s dowry?”

“Yeah.”

“Poor little prince.”

“Shut up,” Ryoma pushed Fuji’s hand away.

“Well, good news for you, you’re not being sold off.”

“But I’m stuck here.”

“It’s not that bad. And it’s not like you have a choice.”

“Do you have a mate?” Ryoma asked, wanting to get as far away from his countries problems as he could.

“Not at the moment. I am currently in the process of courting him.”

“Is he human like me?”

“You’re really nosy,” Fuji chided him gently, “yes, he is a human.”

“And he gets a choice whether he gets to be your mate?”

“Of course. You were just very unlucky and bumped into Tezuka whilst he was in a state of bloodlust. He could either make you his mate or kill you, you’re lucky he came to his senses before it was too late. Vampires usually only mate with the person, or people they love.”

“Usually?”

“Well, sometimes you have odd situations,” Fuji told him, “I’m sure you’ll find out about it someday.”

“Right,” Ryoma nodded, he figured he should get as many answers out of Fuji whilst he had him here. “What are my duties as a vampire’s mate?”

“Don’t worry, Tezuka’s not going to make you do anything you don’t want to. The only human’s blood he can now drink is yours, but he can survive off animal blood if needs be. We also have the ability to take some of your blood without you needing to be bitten.”

“So I don’t need to do anything?”

“Traditionally, you would love and look after your mate and they would do the same for you. You drank some of Tezuka’s blood to become his mate, so now you have slightly enhanced speed and strength. You’ll notice it more when you fully recover. "The one thing you cannot do is leave Tezuka’s side for too long, otherwise you’ll both die.”

“What if I get killed? Or die of old age?”

“Then Tezuka will die as well. It doesn’t work the other way round though, although it’ll feel like you’ve lost part of yourself.”

Ryoma nodded. That bit didn’t quite make sense, but then again, he had slept through most of his lessons about the citizens of other countries. “And there’s no way to get out of it?”

“Well,” Fuji was now very close, running a finger up Ryoma’s neck and taking a hold of his chin, “you can always change your mate. How about it?”

“No,” Ryoma batted Fuji’s hand away. He had no idea what his mate was like, but he definitely didn’t want to be bound to Fuji for eternity. Fuji just laughed at him. “So, what’s he like then?” Ryoma asked, definitely not pouting.

“Who? Tezuka? It would spoil the fun if I told you now,” Fuji replied.

“He’s not like you, is he?”

“He’s almost the exact opposite of me,” Fuji told him, “he’s nice.”

“Is it just you and him living here?”

“No, no. There’s seven of us. Eight now, including you. They’re all eager to meet you, but you need to rest.”

They must be bad if they sent you to take care of me, Ryoma thought, then realised Fuji was still talking.

“You need to be stronger before you meet Tezuka. You’ll find out why when you do.”

Ryoma filed that under deeply suspicious. He wanted to press further, but the look on Fuji’s face told him all he’d receive for his efforts would be more riddles. He was suddenly feeling very tired and dealing with Fuji wasn’t helping. “If I need to get stronger, go away. I need to sleep.”

“As you wish, my prince,” Fuji replied in a tone of voice that made Ryoma want to reach out and strangle him.

Fuji left in a flash, and Ryoma settled back against his pillows. After a few minutes, overwhelming fatigue set in and he fell asleep.



It was still light when he woke up. He’d slept like a log and now felt a lot better than when he’d first woken up. He swung his legs out of bed, ready to see if his legs were strong enough to take his weight. They were, if rather shaky. He wobbled his way over to the mirror on the other side of the room and peered at his reflection.

He looked like hell. Whilst he was naturally pale to begin with, he’s never been this chalky white, the only colour was the dark circles under his eyes. His hair was a mess and his eyes, there was something different about his eyes. They looked…wilder. His attention was drawn to the bandage at the joint between his neck and shoulder. He reached up and gently peeled it off, wincing as it tugged at his hair.

Underneath were two small holes and further exploration found two more further back.

Vampires, huh?

They were just four tiny dots now. He must have been given superfast healing powers or something.

He walked over to the window, his legs now much less shaky. The view was stunning, looking out over the valley and down into a large town. He pushed the window open, letting in the crisp, cool air, a refreshing change from the stuffy air in his room.

He looked down into the courtyard below him and relief washed through him. Karupin was sitting on a bench, casually cleaning himself. He leaned against the windowsill and smiled to himself, his cat was alive and well. He wasn’t alone.

His eyes wandered over the landscape, all mountains and forests. He’d spent all his life in the palace, rarely being allowed outside into the city. He’d never been out into the countryside so the landscape around him was so beautiful it almost didn’t seem real, almost like he’d walked into a painting.

He looked back down at Karupin, who had been joined on the bench by a man. One of the other vampires, Ryoma assumed, he couldn’t make out much detail beyond his neat brown hair and lavender shirt and how he was awkwardly petting Karupin, who seemed to enjoy it.

He was starting to feel hot, his skin prickling and breaking out in a sweat.

And then, the man looked up at him.

Ryoma’s heart beat so hard he was sure it was about to break free of his chest. It suddenly got hard to breathe and Ryoma was gasping for breath as he stumbled back from the window.

How had just looking at one guy caused this? Was that Tezuka? Was this why Fuji had wanted him to wait before meeting him?

His legs gave out from underneath him and he collapsed on the floor, shaking and gasping for breath, his blood feeling as though it was on fire.
He wasn’t aware of the door opening, but was oh so thankful for the cool hands on his shoulder and forehead.

“Relax, it’ll be over soon,” A deep soothing voice said.

Ryoma wanted to tell him that he couldn’t relax, that his body was in so much pain, but all that came out was a strained moan. He wanted to turn his head to see the owner of the voice, but his body wasn’t obeying him right now. The voice kept repeating 'relax’, it was a nice voice, Ryoma couldn’t help thinking, it felt like it was cutting through the pain, pulling Ryoma away from it.

The pain started to die away and his body stopped shaking. He was starting to feel more in control now, enough to push himself up, the cool hands guiding him into a sitting position. Ryoma quickly wiped away the tears in his eyes and looked up at the man.

He recognised him as the man who had been patting Karupin. He was older than Ryoma, although probably not by much despite the air around him that made him seen centuries older than his face.  His face was handsome if rather emotionless, although Ryoma could see the concern in the brown eyes watching him through a pair of glasses.

“You’re…Tezuka?” Ryoma asked, still getting his breath back to normal. Tezuka nodded. “What…was that?”

“A reaction human mates have when they see the vampire they are mated with for the first time,” Tezuka explained, helping Ryoma to his feet and guiding him back to the bed, “it won’t happen again.”

Ryoma just nodded, “you were playing with Karupin.”

“That cat? He’s yours?”

“Yeah, he escaped with me,” Ryoma replied. “Can-”

“He’ll be brought up to you as soon as possible.”

“Thanks.”

“It’s the least I can do,” Tezuka said, stepping away from the bed, “If you need anything, all you need to do is ask.”

Ryoma nodded, “I will.”

“I’ll go and get our doctor,” Tezuka said, “I’ll be back soon.”

With that he left the room leaving Ryoma to his thoughts.

Well, his new mate did seem nice, if rather emotionless. He was rather good looking as well, Ryoma couldn’t help but note. He was still stuck here though, although if the assassination attempt hadn’t happened he’d just be stuck in another castle, just with a human and not a vampire. Except, he knew what he was walking into with other humans. 

Vampires were different.

Why had he never payed attention in his lessons? He tried to remember something, anything from them. But there was nothing, all he could think about was the tutor’s voice droning in the background as he played with Karupin under the table and tried not to fall asleep. He’d never considered them important, always thought his parents would be around and that he would learn this stuff once he was let out of the palace. Well, now he was out of the palace and had to learn everything he’d missed quickly.

He couldn’t help but feel bitter about Tezuka biting him though.

Tezuka appeared a few minutes later followed by a kind looking man with an…unusual haircut. Tezuka introduced him as Oishi Shuichiro and he smiled and gave Ryoma a small wave.

“I didn’t want you to meet Tezuka until you’d fully recovered from your bite,” Oishi said, putting his bag of equipment on the bed and getting ready to examine him, “but it can’t be helped.”

Whilst he was being examined, Ryoma noticed a gathering of people around the door. He recognised Fuji, who gave him a cheery wave which Ryoma returned with a glare. Fuji’s companion was gazing at him curiously, he had red hair and was practically bouncing. But Ryoma’s eyes were drawn straight to what was in his arms.

“Karupin!” He tried to get up, but Oishi kept him in bed.

“Is that his name?” The red haired man asked, Ryoma nodded, smiling slightly as Karupin tried to struggle out of the man’s arms. “Ahh, Karupin! You can’t go over there yet!”

Ryoma sat sulkily through the rest of his examination, his eyes fixed on Karupin.

“Well, you seem to be okay,” Oishi said, “I wouldn’t do anything too strenuous for a few days though.”

The people at the door took this as a cue to come into the room. Karupin was deposited onto the bed and he strutted over to Ryoma, who pulled him into his arms.

I’m so happy you’re safe, He thought at Karupin, not wanting to say it out loud in front of his visitors.

“Hi,” The red haired man said brightly, interrupting Ryoma’s beautiful reunion with Karupin, “I’m Kikumaru Eiji.”

“Hi,” Ryoma said simply. Karupin stretched himself over his lap and purred loudly as Ryoma stroked him.

“Do you want a tour of the castle?”  Kikumaru asked.

“Eiji!” Oishi admonished him, “he needs to rest.”

“No, I’m fine,” Ryoma insisted, “I want to have a tour.” He was sick of this room now anyway, plus it’d be nice to have a walk, even if his legs didn’t agree.

His first few steps were wobbly, but his legs soon found their strength and he was ready to go.

Then he realised he was dressed in a pair of badly fitting pyjamas.

“Your clothes were in a bad state,” Tezuka said, almost as if he could read Ryoma’s mind, “you can go shopping tomorrow.”

“Yes, I’ll take you!” Eiji volunteered enthusiastically, “it doesn’t matter about your pyjamas now, it’s warm in the castle!”

“Maybe for a vampire, but not for a human,” Oishi protested.

“Here,” Tezuka was suddenly at Ryoma’s side, offering him a knitted jumper.

“Thanks,” Ryoma muttered, taking the jumper and putting it on.

The castle was a maze of passageways, rooms and staircases all mashed together in no logical manner. It was like someone had gathered the parts you needed in a castle and smashed them together without any vision as to what it was supposed to finally look like. In the end, Ryoma stopped trying to memorise his way around and just resigned himself to getting lost anytime he wanted to go anywhere.

Half the rooms seemed to be exactly what Ryoma expected a vampire castle to be. Grand, dark rooms filled with antiques and, in a couple, torture devices and coffins. The rest was, well, normal. Ryoma had grown up in a palace so knew all about keeping one half private, whilst the rest was open to the public. 

According to Fuji, the castle was open to the public during the summer, whilst the vampires retired up into the mountains. The public expected vampires to live in dark, sprawling castles with no modern technology, so they’d made the parts of the castle that weren’t in use into a tourist attraction. The tour included the fake torture and coffin rooms as well as the grand rooms of the castle like the ballroom and long gallery.

“Where is everyone?” Eiji moaned as they walked down an empty corridor, “they were all so eager to meet you, but they’ve disappeared!”

“They’ll appear,” Fuji said cheerily, patting his friend on the shoulder.
There should only be three people I haven’t met, Ryoma thought.

“Let’s go to Inui’s lab, then you meet with our other human friend,” Eiji said.

“You’ll probably meet Kaidoh as well,” Fuji added and Eiji giggled. “Oh, and Eiji, we have more than one human friend.”

“I’m sorry I forgot about your boyfriend,” Eiji said teasingly.

Inui’s lab was, quite appropriately, in the deep depths of the castle cellars.

“We refurbished the dungeons for him,” Fuji said pleasantly as they passed through a set of wrought iron gates.

“Right,” Ryoma said, “what do you use as dungeons now?”

“The local police station.”

The passageways under the castle were well maintained, well lit and clean, nothing like the dank, dark tunnels Ryoma had imagined. They reached a door with a small sign on reading 'Inui’s Laboratory’. Inside was a tall man with spiky black hair and square glasses standing behind a bench filled with what Ryoma could only describe as 'science equipment’. Next to him was another man wearing a green bandana and a surely expression.

“These are Inui and Kaidoh,” Fuji introduced him, “Inui is our resident university student. He’s studying vampires for his PHD.”

“Kaidoh, the cat’s called Karupin!” Eiji interrupted, “he belongs to Shorty!”

Ryoma, in his whole life, had never been called 'Shorty’. Everyone around him had treated him with the reverence and respect he deserved as a prince and future king. He opened his mouth to protest his new nickname, but Inui was at his side, towering over him.

“So you’re Tezuka’s mate?” Inui asked, holding out a hand.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, taking the hand and shaking it, “Echizen Ryoma.”

“Do you prefer 'Echizen’ or 'Your Highness’?”

“Echizen’s fine,” Ryoma said, “'Your Highness’ is a pain.”

“You’re right,” Inui said, producing a notebook out of somewhere, “So tell me, how does it feel being a vampire’s mate?”

“Urm…” Ryoma started, taken slightly aback, “no different to how I feel normally.”

“Did it hurts when you first saw him? How painful was it? What did it feel like?”

Ryoma looked to Fuji for help, who was watching them with amusement.

“Inui, he’s only just woken up.” Luckily for Ryoma, Kikumaru had seen his distress and had come to save him. “You should wait before you interrogate him.”

“But it is best to do it whilst the memories are still fresh,” Inui objected.

“Oh, okay then,” Kikumaru said, floored by the barrage of logic. Both men turned and looked intently at Ryoma.

“Doesn’t anyone else have a mate?” Ryoma asked.

“I do,” Kikumaru said, “but I was a vampire when we mated so I didn’t have the same reaction.”

“It hurt,” Ryoma gave up resisting, “it was like my blood was on fire.”

“Very interesting,” Inui said started scribbling in his notebook, “anything else?”

“It was hard to breath and I couldn’t stand up, I don’t know, all I really remember is the pain,” Ryoma finished lamely. It was true though, all he could really remember was the overwhelming pain and how Tezuka’s voice had helped clear the pain away.

“Excellent,” Inui said, “this is good data. My thesis will be much improved with a first hand account of what a human goes through when they mate with a vampire.”

“That’s good,” Ryoma said, not quite sure it was the right thing to say. He didn’t want to sign himself up for endless questioning.

Fuji cleared his throat and for a fraction of a second Ryoma thought he was going to be saved. Until Fuji opened his mouth. “I have to leave now,” he said and Ryoma’s heart sunk. “Have fun,” he added before slipping away, leaving Ryoma behind to be interrogated for science.



Vampires had had to evolve over the years. It made no sense to stay as the evil monster in the dark castle kidnapping women when the mob that would come to your door arrived with more and more advanced weaponry. And so, vampires and humans had come to live in peace. Or, as peacefully as humans lives with other humans.

The town below the castle was peaceful, most of it’s income came from vampire related tourism, so if anyone were to think of trying to drum up a mob with pitchforks and torches they would be run out of town long before any of the residents turned against the vampires.

Fuji strolled down to the town, humming happily to himself.  It was certainly going to be interesting having Echizen around the place.

There was a full moon, casting enough light for him to easily see his way. He enjoyed the moonlight a lot more than the sunlight. There was a lot of truth about vampires being weak against sunlight. It wasn’t instant, but if a vampire stayed out in direct sunlight for a few days in a row they would set on fire. 

Thankfully, scientists had found that it was due to vampires being very sensitive to UVA radiation and come to the conclusion that sunscreen would allow vampires to go out in the sun everyday, as long as it was applied thoroughly and regularly.

Inui had applied himself to the problem and created a drink that would allow a vampire to go into the sun without applying sunscreen. Unfortunately it had two minor side effects, one being that it tasted disgusting to anyone but Fuji. Fuji much preferred it to sunscreen because he didn’t like the spending the day sticky. It wasn’t like he went into the sun very much anyway and turning into a human shaped glitter ball (the other side-effect) when he did so didn’t bother him.

Something at the side of the road caught his eye, shining in the moonlight. He walked over and picked it up, sliding it through his fingers and grinning to himself. He pocketed it and continued down to town.

His destination was a sushi shop in the town centre. The regulars nodded at him as he walked in and took his place in his seat at the end of the counter.

“Hello Fuji,” the man behind the counter said, giving him a warm smile. The man was Kawamura Takashi, the owner and head chef of the restaurant as well as Fuji’s boyfriend.

They’d met a few weeks after Taka-san had moved to the town and had literally bumped into each other. Taka-san had insisted that Fuji come back to the restaurant and have some sushi on the house as an apology.  They’d got talking and everything had just clicked. They had now been dating for a couple of years.

Fuji was broken out of his reminiscing by a plate of sushi being put down in front of him along with a jar of wasabi paste, with his name written on the label.

“Thank you,” Fuji said, smiling up at Taka-san, who blushed. It was nice making Taka-san blush.

Fuji spent the rest of the evening slowly eating his sushi and watching Taka-san serve the other patrons.  Soon, closing time rolled around and Fuji was the only person left in the shop.

“Do you need a hand?” Fuji asked as Taka-san gathered up the last of the dirty dishes.

“I’m fine,” Taka-san assured him, “How are you? I haven’t see you for a few days.”

“I’m sorry about that, but we’ve got a new guest at the castle and I volunteered to look after him.”

“A guest?”

“A very unexpected one,” Fuji chuckled, “he’s now Tezuka’s mate.”

“I didn’t know Tezuka was seeing anyone,” Taka-san said, “send him my congratulations.”

“Sadly, it’s not like that. It was an accident and now they’re stuck with each other.”

Taka-san’s face fell, “that’s not good,” he said pointlessly, just wanting to say something.

“That’s the way it is, hopefully they’ll grow to like each other.”

“Yeah,” Taka-san nodded. “It just makes you realise how lucky we are.”

Fuji hummed in agreement.

“So, who is it?” Taka-san asked a bit nervously, not sure if he was allowed to be privy to such information.

Fuji’s eyes slid along the counter to a pile of newspapers. The top one had a picture of a grumpy looking Echizen on the front page, emblazoned with the headline 'MISSING PRINCE FEARED DEAD’. Taka-san followed Fuji’s eye line, his eyes widening as he came to the realisation of who exactly Tezuka had become mates with.

“So, he’s not dead then?”

“Not unless someone’s murdered him since I left the castle,” Fuji replied. “We’re not telling anyone about it yet though.”

“I’ll keep it a secret,” Taka-san promised.

“I know you will.”

“Wasn’t he going to marry Taranis’s princess or something?” Taka-san asked. Whilst he did keep up with world news, the details were fuzzy.

“Yeah,” Fuji replied, “but he doesn’t seem to be too bothered about not going. I think he cares more about his cat than his country.”

“Does he hate Tezuka?”

“I don’t think so,” Fuji said thoughtfully, “I don’t think he’s made up his mind about him. The poor kid’s been through a lot recently, that’s why we’re keeping it a secret he’s here. I think there’s something deeper going on that what we can see, but we’re going to have to play it by ear until we find out what it is.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Someone tried to assassinate him. He was running from them when, well, when he ran into Tezuka.”

“Damn,” Taka-san breathed, slightly shell shocked, “poor guy.”

“Indeed,” Fuji agreed, “but I think that’s enough about Prince Ryoma for the night.”

“Are you staying the night?”

Fuji shook his head, “I shouldn’t,” he said, getting to his feet and, in a flash, appearing by Taka-san’s side. “But I can stay for a few hours,” he said, looking up through his eyelashes.

“I’m almost done here,” Taka-san said, turning red.

“Excellent,” Fuji practically purred. He leaned against the counter, watching Taka-san finish cleaning up for the night, his mind slowly turning over everything he knew about Echizen. There wasn’t enough information to come to any real conclusions yet, but he was definitely going to get to the bottom of it.

Taka-san finished and turned to Fuji, smiling. “All done.”

Fuji put away all thoughts of Echizen and walked straight into Taka-san’s arms. “Shall we go up to your room?”

“Of course, Fujiko” Taka-san said, kissing his forehead and then picking Fuji up and tossing him over his shoulder.

Fuji laughed and Taka-san carried him to his room.

Chapter Text

The frost was starting to form as Fuji walked back up to the castle hours later, his breath rising in streams of white. He didn’t mind the cold at all, unless it gave him an excuse to cuddle up to Taka-san.

The thought of Taka-san made him feel all happy and warm inside. He wished he could have stayed the night, but with everything that had happened he felt it would be best if he stayed at the castle.

He could hear lots of movement and noise coming from the forest. He knew there were wolves and the occasional bear that lived in it, but they were sensible enough to not come near the town. As he got closer to the castle the noises turned into voices. Curiosity sparked in him and he sped up. He didn’t quite have the stamina to speed run up to the castle and, quite frankly, he enjoyed the anticipation as he walked quickly along the road.

Inside the castle, Echizen was sat on the stairs hugging Karupin and looking very worried. Next to him was Tezuka, looking as if he wanted to say something, but couldn’t decide what.

Fuji suddenly remembered what he had in his pocket. He dug into it (thankful that it hadn’t fallen out earlier when he’d stripped) and pulled out the cat collar, complete with jewellery.


“I found this on my way to town,” Fuji said, watching with amusement as Echizen’s face lit up and he practically ran over to take the collar out of Fuji’s hands.


“I should call off the search party,” Tezuka said, starting towards the door.


“I’ll do it,” Fuji volunteered, “you’ll probably want to show Echizen the safe,” he added and then left before Tezuka could protest.



Tezuka watching him go, bemused, but quickly pulled himself together. Fuji was right, Echizen would probably want to store the jewels in the safe down in the vaults.

He turned to Echizen, who was looking at him expectantly.

“There’s a safe?” he prompted.

“Yes.”

Echizen put down Karupin, who came over to weave through Tezuka’s legs. “Lead the way then.”

The safe was down in the bowels of the vaults. It was actually a large room, separated from the rest of the world by a thick wooden door, blackened and hardened with age with a metal safe door behind it.

Tezuka put the code into the lock and opened the door, leading Echizen into the room, the walls of which were lined with draws of various sizes. In the middle of the room was a large table where he left Echizen whilst he went to find an empty draw.

“You have a diamond and a necklace?” he checked.

“Yeah,” Echizen replied. He was taking them off the collar, struggling with the necklace, which had twisted itself into a large knot.

“Do you need any help?” Tezuka asked.

“I’ve got it,” Echizen assured him.

Whilst Echizen fiddled with the chain, Tezuka went through the door behind him into another large room where objects that were too big to fit into draws were kept. It was also where the packaging was kept.

“There!” He heard Echizen celebrate as he obviously succeeded in untangling the necklace. He snatched up a couple of cases and went back into the main room.

The necklace was very simple, just a silver chain with a deep blue, tear dropped shaped sapphire pendant. The diamond was as big as a satsuma and spread rainbows across the desk. He wondered where Echizen had got them from and why they were attached to his cat’s collar.

He handed the two boxes over to Echizen, a lined one for the diamond and a necklace box. Echizen put his valuables into the boxes and then put them into the empty draw Tezuka had brought over.

Tezuka put the draw back into the wall, locked it and then gave the key to Echizen. “This room is fireproof, flood proof and almost impossible to enter without permission,” Tezuka said, “they will be safe in here.”

Echizen nodded, taking the key from Tezuka and putting it in his pocket.
Curiosity got the better of Tezuka, “did you smuggle those out?” he asked, “please don’t feel the need to answer.”

“It’s fine,” Echizen shrugged, “I smuggled them out. The diamond is from the centre of the crown, I swapped it for a replica. I figured since I’m the true ruler I should have it.”

Tezuka’s eyes widened at how flippantly Echizen was talking about it.

“The necklace is a family heirloom, I’m supposed to give it to the person I marry,” Echizen continued, “it’s a family tradition.”

“Did you steal that as well?”

“I inherited it,” Echizen told him, a small smirk on his face, “although I inherited it a lot faster than the government would have liked. They sold the rest of my mother’s jewellery, so I was lucky to keep that one. I was going to sell them when I got to Taranis and run away before I had to marry Princess Whatsit.”

“Oh,” was all Tezuka could say. Honestly he hadn’t expected any of that. “But don’t you need to marry her to save your country?”

“Fuck them,” Echizen said darkly, “I couldn’t care less about them.”

“Oh,” Tezuka repeated. He wanted to ask why, but judging by Ryoma’s thunderous expression, whatever had happened was still very raw and he didn’t want to cause him anymore pain. He was about to apologise for his thoughtlessness, but Echizen continued talking.

“They threw parties in the street when my parents died,” Echizen’s voice as now as cold as ice and as deadly as an avalanche. “they died and my ‘people’ celebrated. At their funeral they were cheering, they were happy that my parents were dead. And then, the government stole everything from me.”

“I’m sorry that I brought it up. You are welcome to stay here for as long as you wish,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma nodded, glaring at the ground. Tezuka waited for him to say something, he was quite happy to be patient and give Echizen all the time he needed. “Have you told anyone I’m here?”

“Only Atobe,” Tezuka said and then corrected himself, “King Atobe. We decided it was best to keep it quiet that you were here until we could judge the current political climate and find out who tried to assassinate you. Of course, if you wanted to leave, we would not stand in your way.”

“I’ve tried to think of who tried to kill me, but there are so many possibilities.”

“If they ever come back, we’ll stop them,” Tezuka assured him. He paused. He’d meant to say this a lot earlier, but things had got in the way and now seemed like as good a time as ever. “Echizen, I apologise for everything I have done to you. There is no excuse for me biting you and making you my mate without your consent. You are welcome to stay here as long as you need, but do not feel obliged to stay.”

“But if I leave here we’ll both die, right?” Echizen asked, “that’s what Fuji told me,” he added at Tezuka’s look of confusion.

“He lied,” Tezuka said, “I will be having a word with him later.”

There was a moment of silence and then Echizen asked, “why did you make me your mate?”

“You almost died,” Tezuka replied, the image of Echizen limp and cold in his arms, soaked to the skin and covered in blood flashed into his mind. “It was the only way to save you.”

“That makes sense,” Echizen said. He sighed deeply. “I guess I’ve got bigger things to worry about right now. I’m not happy about it, but I’ll forgive you.“

“Thank you,” Tezuka said, “If there is anything you need, don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Bed would be good,” Echizen replied.



The next day Echizen was rudely awoken by Kikumaru bursting into his room.
“Get up, Shorty!” He said, shaking him, “we need to buy you clothes.”


No one, in Ryoma’s opinion, should be allowed to be that loud in the mornings. Especially not in his ear. The fact that it was almost midday was not something that changed his opinion.

"Shorty!!,” Kikumaru whined.

“No.”

A pair of arms made their way under the covers and pulled Ryoma out with ease. Ryoma glared at Kikumaru who was carrying him easily. 

“Put me down!” Ryoma ordered.

“Okay,” Kikumaru said brightly and dropped him on the floor. “You can borrow some of my clothes till you have some of your own,” he said brightly.

Ryoma glared at him again, but took the clothes. Kikumaru left the room to allow him to change in privacy. The clothes he’d given to Ryoma fit pretty well, but we’re much brighter than anything he would ever wear. He vaguely wondered if Kikumaru had been a parrot in a previous life.

Downstairs he found Kikumaru and Fuji waiting for him in the entrance hall.

“We’ll get something to eat in town,” Fuji said when Ryoma joined them. Ryoma nodded, he was feeling very hungry, but didn’t feel like arguing. Besides, he doubted anything vampires could cook up would be better than bought food made by humans.

“Vampires eat human food?” He asked as they set off.

“We can,” Fuji replied, “it’s not very nutritious for us though.”

Their first stop in town was a cafe where Ryoma made sure to order the most expensive things on the menu as revenge for forcing him out of bed. The owner of the cafe seemed to know the two vampires and the three of them chatted whilst Ryoma ate.

“Where would you like to go first?” Fuji asked when the owner left to attend to another customer.

Ryoma opened his mouth, but Kikumaru jumped in. “There’s these really cute jackets with bat wings on in the market!” He said enthusiastically, “they’d really suit Shorty.”

“No!” Ryoma protested, “I’m not wearing something with bat wings on!”

“We’ll go and have a look at them,” Fuji said and Ryoma glared at him.

“You know I don’t have any money, right?” Ryoma said, “it all got taken from me.”

“It’s fine,” Fuji waved him off, “Tezuka’s paying. You’re our guest, so don’t worry about it.”

“Is there anywhere where we can get most of the clothes from?” Ryoma asked, “I hate shopping.”

They went to a department store first and Ryoma allowed himself to be dragged all over by the two vampires, gathering up clothes and then trying them on. If it had been up to him, they’d have just bought the clothes without trying them on, but Fuji insisted they did. He was sure that he didn’t need this excessive amount of clothes, but at least he didn’t have to carry them all back up to the castle thanks to the vampires’ super strength.


When they got back, all Ryoma wanted was a long, hot bath.

“Shorty! Where are you going?” Kikumaru called as Ryoma walked away.

“Bath,” Ryoma replied.

“But aren’t you going to show Tezuka your new clothes?”

“Why? He’ll see them all eventually,” Ryoma shrugged. He didn’t see why Tezuka would care about such things.

Kikumaru was about to say something, but Fuji cut in, “have a nice bath, Echizen.”

“Che.”

He got lost trying to find the bathroom, he’d never been good finding his way through twisting corridors and this castle was made of them.

He made his way through the corridors, trying to work out where he was by the paintings on the wall. He knew that his bathroom was next to his room, it was just a case of finding his room. 

Somehow, he found himself in the attics and in what was the servants quarters. They were no longer used, but hadn’t been changed since the servants moved out. It was quite creepy walking down lines of rooms all furnished as if they were just waiting for their occupants to return. He had no idea if the castle still had servants, he hadn’t seen any but someone had to come in and clean the place. He imagined Tezuka cleaning the house and giggled to himself. 

He saw a staircase at the end of the corridor and jogged over to it. It was narrow and uncarpeted and the wooden stairs creaked over his weight as he made his way down them. At the bottom he was met with a closed door. He grabbed the handle and twisted it.

The door was locked.

Ryoma swore under his breath and rattled the doorknob as though that would suddenly unlock the door. He looked around to see if there was a key anywhere. There wasn’t.

With a sigh, Ryoma leant his back against the door. All he wanted was a bath, he didn’t want to have to retrace his steps and find the staircase he’d gone up in the first place.

He remembered back when he was five and he’d gone wandering around the house of a family friend and had become lost. He’d spent hours trying to find his way back to his family, eventually sitting down in a corner of a room and bawling his eyes out thinking that no one was coming for him and he’d be lost forever. And then, a warm pair of arms had picked him up and hugged him close, comforting him. He’d clung to his mother for the rest of the day, not letting her out of his sight until he fell asleep that night.

Back in the future, Ryoma’s chest tightened, he missed his mother. And his father. He just wanted everything to go back to the way it had been. Ryoma wasn’t one to dwell in the past or to dream about what-ifs, but right now he just wanted to hug his mother again.

The lock clicked and the door swung open. Ryoma toppled backwards and was caught before he hit the floor.

He looked upwards and saw his saviour was Tezuka.

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“I’m fine,” Ryoma muttered, getting to his feet. “I was just looking around.”

Tezuka didn’t look too convinced, “I heard you rattling the door.”

“Because it was locked.”

“We keep it locked.”

“Obviously,” Ryoma said, looking around the corridor, his heart fluttering with joy when he saw a painting he recognised. His room was just up the corridor!

Tezuka shut and locked the door, putting the key on top of the door frame. 

“See you,” Ryoma said, turning and leaving. In his room he found Karupin sitting amongst all the clothes that’d been bought that day.

“Did you have a good day?” Ryoma asked, stroking the cat who meowed happily. Ryoma took that as a yes and went to search the draws for a towel.

“You don’t want to come with me,” Ryoma said as Karupin wound his way through his legs. 

He left Karupin in the room and went into the bathroom. It was a large echoey room, completely tiled and with a marble floor. The bath was on the far side of the room, with a shower hanging over it. 

Ryoma went to the cupboards on the other side of the room and rifled through the collection of bath salts to find one he liked. He picked out a citrusy one and went to the bath.

Nothing happened when he turned the tap, but then the pipes around him started clanking and rumbling. The tap coughed a couple of times and then a stream of water spurted out. It warmed up quickly and soon Ryoma had a nice hot bath.

He quickly stripped, leaving his clothes all over the floor and sunk into the hot water. He let out a contented sigh as all his muscles relaxed and all the stresses and strains of the day were washed away.

What are you going to do, Echizen Ryoma? He thought.

He watched the steam rise off the bath, his mind empty.

Someone wanted him dead. Well, he supposed a lot of people wanted him dead, but one had actually hired assassins. 

He didn’t want to go back to his own kingdom. If he did he’d only end up being shipped off to he married again. 

He halfheartedly started to wash his arms. He didn’t have any special skills or work experience. It would be very hard for him to find a place to settle down and get a job somewhere with his face plastered all over the media -probably impossible. It felt like everything was unknown and he was just flailing around in the dark. And somewhere in the dark there was someone with a sharp knife.

He wondered if, in vampire society, he was technically married to Tezuka. The word 'mate’ pretty much implied that it was. It wasn’t that he hated Tezuka, it was just hard to talk to him and he had no idea what was expected of him. At least Tezuka was happy to let him do his own thing and didn’t seem to expect anything of him.

Staying in the castle wouldn’t be too bad. All the vampires seemed friendly and it wasn’t like he had anywhere else he wanted to go. 

He should probably find out more about vampires. There was a library somewhere in the castle, he’d been there yesterday. Surely they’d have a book about vampires. He’d go there tomorrow and find it.

With his mind made up, he sunk under the water and put all thoughts of his future out of his head.

Chapter Text

It took Ryoma a while to find the library. He’d had a vague idea where it was, since it was included in the tourist tour and was near the long gallery. But, knowing what rooms it was near and where said cluster of rooms happened to be were completely different things. He almost cheered where he found the long gallery and then happily walked along the short corridor to the library.

It wasn’t as big as the library back in his palace, but he was sure there had to be a book in here somewhere that would help.

In the middle of the room, there were several comfy looking chairs and Ryoma looked forward to reading in them, that was until he saw Tezuka sat in one of them. He’d wanted to do this all by himself, this way he could find out all the answers to his stupid questions without embarrassing himself!

Luckily, Tezuka gave him a nod of acknowledgement and then returned to his book. Ryoma breathed a sigh of relief and then started walking along the bookshelves. Most of the books were old, bound in dark leather, their titles faded from their spines. Ryoma doubted he’d find what he needed in these books, further inspection of them revealed them to be fiction and, really, he needed a more modern book on vampires.

He found the non-fiction books on the other side of the room. These books were in less order than the fiction, being put where they fit on the shelves rather than being sorted by subject.

He was starting to doubt whether the book he wanted to find was actually going to be in the library. Why would vampires own a book telling them basic things about vampires? So far, he’d found books on everything from gardening to human culture, but nothing about vampires. He was about to give up and go and ask Inui if he had any books he could borrow when he saw it, squashed between ‘Rose Growing for Beginners’ and 'Mountains of Koori’ was 'Vampires: From Monsters to Modern Day’ by Albert Kewnard.

Ryoma grabbed it and flicked through it. Just from a quick glance it seemed to be exactly what he needed and he wondered if someone had planted it there. But maybe he was being a bit too paranoid now.

“Can we take the books out of here?” He asked, knowing Tezuka was listening.

“Of course,” Tezuka replied, “make sure you bring it back though.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said, “thanks.”

He held the book on his side opposite Tezuka as he left. He didn’t really know why, out of all the vampires in the castle, Tezuka was the least likely to make fun of him, but he felt rather embarrassed that he knew so little about vampires beyond the legends. He didn’t like looking ignorant or asking endless questions.

He hurried back to his room, the book tucked under his arm. Somehow, he didn’t get lost on the way back to his bedroom. Karupin was lying, stretched out on his bed, Ryoma sat next to him and pulled him into his lap and the opened the book.

He skipped the introduction and the chapter about the ancient history of vampires. He didn’t see how the creation of the vampire’s country was very important, he sort of knew the story anyway. 

There had been lots of wars, mainly between the vampires and his own country. At the time, his country had been known for its magicians, especially in the royal family. But the magic had long since dried up, something Ryoma was less than happy about. He’d love to have some magical power, even if it was just the power to summon objects he wanted from across the room. The chapter mainly focused on the details of the battles and the wars and Ryoma found he didn’t really care about them. He could always come back and read the chapters later.

He flicked through to the next chapter about modern day vampires and started reading.

Whilst outside of their country, vampires are viewed with fear, within The Hyotei Empire, the human residents regard them the same as they do their human neighbours. The path towards coexistence has been a long and difficult one, as we have seen in the previous chapter, but for the past few hundred years, there has been peace inside The Hyotei Empire.

Ryoma flipped ahead, he didn’t need to know about vampire-human relationships right now. What he really needed to know about was mates. He went to the glossary and looked up 'mates’ and then found the relevant pages.

As vampires cannot reproduce, the most common theory for vampires taking mates is to ensure a regular supply of blood. However, to think that vampires only see their mates as a food supply is not only naive, but completely wrong. Vampires can court their mate for many years before finally forming the bond, often both parties are completely in love before the bond is made (although, that is not always the case, see later in this chapter). The bond itself is permanent, although it can be transferred. However, most prefer to leave the bond intact and create another. Humans can only be mated to one vampire, however, vampires may have an unlimited number of mates.

Whilst vampires can mate with any race, they most commonly mate with other vampires and humans. Normally, the human mate will be turned at some point during the relationship so that the couple may grow old together. With their extended life spans, companionship is very important to vampires.

By the looks of it, being a vampires mate was virtually the same as being married to them, except more physical. The book didn’t explain what the 'bond’ was though, or what it did or how it bound the mates together. The book just went onto explain that mating with the same gender was completely normal in vampire society and that within the human society that had grown up around the vampires, being chosen as a mate was seen as a great honour.

Ryoma sighed and skimmed over the rest of the chapter about mates. The author started to analyse mating for reasons other than love (mainly political gain), but didn’t say anything about mating happening by accident other than saying that it sometimes happened.

Just being bitten by a vampire does not necessary create the mate bond or turn a human into a vampire. To create the mating bond, the vampire must first bite the one that they wish to mate with and then their mate must drink the vampire’s blood. A human mate will often find themselves with greater than average strength and can enhance it for a short period of time by drinking their vampire’s blood.

Ryoma nodded, that made tied in with what Fuji had told him. He suddenly remembered that Fuji had mentioned that Tezuka had been in 'bloodlust’ when he had bitten him. He could guess what the meant, but looked it up anyway, just to be sure.

Bloodlust: When a vampire has not drank enough blood they will lose their senses and go into a feeding frenzy around blood. This usually leads to the death of whatever they bite.

That was exactly what Ryoma had thought and he realised that he’d been close to death twice that night. To distract himself, he opened the book in a random place and started to read about vampire covens and the monarchy (succession in which was determined not by who you were related to but by the fact you’d killed the previous king). He was sure he’d seen the Vampire King once. It had been during some kind of summit and the king had visited the palace surrounded by his guards in their pale blue uniforms. Ryoma had been very young and had snuck out of his room, where he had been instructed to stay, to watch the formal greeting for the balcony overlooking the main hall. He’d been scared of the vampires, having been told stories of how they kidnapped virgins and killed them by sucking out their blood, but had wanted to see them. He’d been rather surprised when he’d seen they looked like normal people.

And then, during one of the long, boring speeches by the Foreign Minister, the Vampire King had looked straight up at him and Ryoma had been frozen to the ground with fear. He’d expected him to tell someone and then Ryoma would get scolded for leaving his room, instead the King had winked and turned back to the Minister.

He supposed that one of the vampires here must be a member of the aristocracy. He skimmed down the page and his eyes caught sight of the name Tezuka Kunimitsu, Lord of the Seigaku region of The Hyotei Empire and trusted advisor of the King. It looked like he’d just married into the aristocracy, although not the one his government had wanted him to. Tezuka had helped king Atobe overthrow the previous King and take the throne, something that surprised Ryoma. He didn’t know Tezuka at all, but from what he’d seen he seemed more like the type to lock himself up in a library rather than join in a plan to kill a monarch. It made him realise just how little he knew about his mate. He picked up Karupin and buried his face in the cat’s fur, wondering again what on earth he was going to do.

The past was in the past though, what had happened to him was permanent. He could run away and it wouldn’t change the fact his parents were dead or that he didn’t have a home to go to. He’d just be stuck in the wilderness, alone and cold.

I need money, Ryoma thought. He could always sell the jewels he’d smuggled out, but now that he was safe and had had time to think, he didn’t think he could bring himself to sell two of the only connections to his past he still had. It would be like selling Karupin.

He wanted to be useful though. He hated the idea of sitting around the castle doing nothing, he didn’t have any skills or anything, not unless someone wanted a public building opening.

But a job would be good. Something to keep him busy and help him earn money whilst he figured out what he was going to do next.


“A job?” Fuji repeated, sounding amused when Ryoma brought up the subject a few days later. “Why would a prince want a job?”

“I’m bored,” Ryoma shrugged.

“Have you ever had a job before?” Fuji asked.

“No,” Ryoma replied, “other than being a prince.”

Fuji turned to Oishi, “do you think he’s well enough?”

“As long as it’s not too strenuous,” Oishi replied, “you should be fine.”

“Where are you going to work?” Kikumaru piped up.

“I don’t know,” Ryoma admitted, “I’m sure I’ll find somewhere though.”

“Somewhere that wants to hire someone with no skills?” Fuji said sweetly.

Ryoma turned his full glare onto Fuji, who continued to look innocently at him. He wished he had a comeback, but Fuji was armed with the truth.

“We could help!” Kikumaru said, “we know lots of people who have shops and stuff, I’m sure they’d hire you.”

“I’m sorry to put a spanner in the works,” Oishi said, “but someone tried to kill you a few days ago!”

“But Oishi,” Kikumaru said, “we killed them. They’re not coming after Shorty unless they’ve risen from the grave.”

Oishi ignored his mate for a moment and appealed to Fuji for reason, “whoever sent them must still want Echizen dead.”

“I suppose so,” Fuji said, “I hadn’t thought about it.”

“Fine, I’ll do something in the castle,” Ryoma said, “I just want to dosomething!”

“We already pay people to do the housework and Tezuka enjoys taking care of the garden,” Oishi said, “you could always make things and sell them,” he offered.

“I’ll think about it,” Ryoma said, knowing his talents didn’t lie in arts and crafts.

“Thanks for your help,” he said as he turned to leave.

“You’ll find something you can do,” Fuji said as he shut the door behind him.

Well, that conversation hadn’t helped at all. Oishi may be right, but Ryoma couldn’t help but feel annoyed at him for scuppering his attempts to get a job. Not that he was likely to find one, Fuji was right, no one was going to hire him. He shoved his hands in his pockets and made his way back to his room, where he sat by the window, watching the rain running down the glass.

Maybe he should develop a talent. He dismissed the idea almost immediately, it would take him years of practice to get to the point where he could sell something. He tried to remember what he’d done back at home in his free time and realised, to his horror, that he’d spent a good proportion of it seducing random good looking men from around the court in an attempt to prove to his father that he was not interested in women. He realised where that thought was taking him and he felt sick at himself for even remotely considering prostitution. He’d rather die than sell himself!

Karupin rubbed up against his legs and looked up at him with his big blue eyes. Ryoma smiled down at the cat and then picked him up and hugged him. He could always open a stall selling opportunities to pet Karupin, although he wasn’t sure Karupin would approve of it.

He wondered if there was anyone else in the castle he could ask for advice. It had been hard enough bringing it up with Fuji, Kikumaru and Oishi, let alone going to someone else as well.

There was a knock on the door and Ryoma internally sighed, he’d quite wanted to spend the afternoon alone, letting his pride heal itself a little.

“Come in,” he said, expecting it to be Fuji. He was rather surprised when the door opened, revealing Tezuka.

“Oishi told me you want a job,” Tezuka said, coming into the room and shutting the door behind him.

Ryoma nodded, “I’m bored and wanted something to do.” Tezuka looked at him and Ryoma felt like he was looking right through him. “And, I want to earn some money,” he added quietly.

“Your money got taken away from you,” Tezuka said, most people would have made it a question, but both Tezuka and Ryoma knew it was true.

“I don’t want to be dependent on you,” Ryoma said, “I never had to worry about money before and now that I don’t have any I feel…” he trailed off searching for the word to sum up his feelings.

“Insecure?” Tezuka supplied.

“Yeah. I don’t like it.”

“No, it is not a good feeling,” Tezuka agreed and Ryoma nodded.

“I just want to do something,” Ryoma sighed, “but I guess if it means someone might try and kill me again there’s no point.”

“We should find you something,” Tezuka replied. “You’ll be happier if you’re busy. I’m sure Inui would be grateful if you helped in his laboratory.”

“Yeah,” Ryoma said, he didn’t really fancy looking after scientific equipment. 

Tezuka seemed to sense his hesitation, “or the library could do with some rearranging.”

“Yeah,” Ryoma snorted, “the non-fiction section is a mess.”

“I would be very grateful if you could make it less of a mess,” Tezuka said.

“I can try.”

“Thank you.”

Ryoma smiled, talking to Tezuka had made him feel so much better. He liked the way it never felt like he was being judged or teased by him, it was just so straightforward to talk to him.

“Did you really help overthrow the previous Vampire King?” Ryoma asked, it had been bothering him since he’d first read it in the book.

“I did.” Tezuka replied, “the previous King was a tyrant who believed the only purpose of humans was to provide food for vampires.”

If it had been from anyone else, Ryoma would have had doubts. He could have easily been making it up to make his actions justified. But Tezuka seemed just too straight laced for that. Ryoma decided to trust him.

“And the current King?”

“Atobe is a very good king,” Tezuka replied. “He’s doing all he can to find out who tried to kill you.”

“Why would he care about that?”

“Because you were attacked in his country. In case you haven’t been keeping up with the newspapers, a lot of people are speculating that you were assassinated by vampires.”

“Oh.”

“You are also my mate and Atobe is a very good friend of mine, he wants to help.”

“And everyone thinks I’m dead?”

“For now, no one knows for sure. We want to know who wanted to kill you and why before we let anyone know where you are.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said, “I wonder what will happen when Tanarsis and my government find out I’m already married.”

“If you don’t want to go then we won’t let anyone take you,” Tezuka said, “you are, of course, free to leave once we find out who your assassins are.”

“I’d rather be with you than a princess I’ve never met.”

To his surprise, Tezuka chuckled. “You’ve only just met me. And I bit you.”

“Yeah, but you’re treating me like a person and not a political tool. Or food,” he added as an after thought.

Karupin chose that moment to jump off Ryoma’s lap and made his way over to Tezuka, threading himself between his legs and purring. Tezuka looked down at the cat, looking a bit confused.

“He likes being stroked,” Ryoma prompted him, “he doesn’t bite.”

Tezuka bent down and carefully stroked Karupin’s back. “He’s a good cat.”

“The best,” Ryoma said.

“I should go. I have work to do,” Tezuka said, giving Karupin a rub between the ears.

“I’ll start on the library,” Ryoma said, getting to his feet. “You stay here, Karupin,” he told that cat when he tried to follow them out the room.

“You can let him out,” Tezuka said as they walked down the corridor together.

“I don’t want him to get lost.”

“He found his way to the castle by himself, I’m sure he’ll be able to find his way around.”

“I guess,” Ryoma shrugged, “it’d probably be good for him to walk around.” He paused for a second before asking something that had been bothering him, “you need to drink me blood, right?”

“I do,” Tezuka agreed, “but not right now and when I do we can extract the blood with a needle. I won’t bite you.”

Ryoma nodded. “When you bit me that night, it felt,” he blushed, “it felt good,” he continued, praying that Tezuka understood what he meant.

“Yes,” Tezuka said, looking suddenly embarrassed, “I believe it has that effect.”

“Right,” Ryoma said and they drifted into silence.

They parted ways at the library and Ryoma was left to his own thoughts as he pulled the books off the shelves and started working out how to re-stack them. He’d never done anything like this before, but Tezuka’s confidence in him made him feel like he could do it.

Chapter Text

Ryoma’s main issue was that the shelves were different sizes, so he could only put the largest books on the bottom and not with the rest of their subject. He contemplated how to fix that whilst he sported the books into subjects.

His mind also wandered back to his conversation with Tezuka. It had been so much less awkward than when Tezuka had ‘saved’ him from the attics, it had even been enjoyable. He was starting to like Tezuka. He was calm and authoritative and was very no nonsense, a nice change to all the worries Ryoma had. He could have had it a lot worse and ended up with Fuji as a mate. Although how careful Tezuka could have ended up in a state of bloodlust was beyond Ryoma, he was very curious about that.

He was now surrounded by piles of books and he decided the best thing to do was group them by size and subject. He’d just finished putting them all back in the shelves when he noticed the shelves of books to his left and realise that the books he’d thought were fiction were actually non-fiction and were in as much of a mess as the shelves he’d just sorted. Further investigation showed that there were shelves upon shelves of books that needed to be sorted. No wonder it had just been left.

He could give up, no one could blame him when faces with this mammoth task. But Fuji’s words had stung. Ryoma knew he was useless and had never worked a day in his life, but hearing it from someone else’s mouth had hit hard.

So, Ryoma steeled himself and started to pull all the books off the bookshelves.

By the time evening rolled around, he had piles of books all over the library, making the room almost unusable. Momo came to fetch him for dinner and they had to make a path through the books to allow Ryoma out.

“Tezuka let you move books in the library?!” Momo exclaimed when Ryoma explained what he was doing.

“Yeah,” Ryoma shrugged.

“Do you want a hand tomorrow?”

“No, I’m fine,” Ryoma insisted.

He received many offers of help over the next few days, all of which he turned down. He wanted to do this all by himself. To prove that he could do it.
And then, after three days hard work (much of which was spend undoing what he’d done previously), he slid the last book into place. He stepped back and looked at his work with pride. It wasn’t much really, but, for him, it felt like an achievement.

“I can use my library again?”

Ryoma spun around and saw Tezuka standing behind him. He hadn’t heard him come in.

“Yeah, your books are all in order now,” Ryoma said.

“I will make sure they stay in order,” Tezuka told him. “Thank you for doing this.”

“I didn’t have anything else to do,” Ryoma shrugged it off.

He left Tezuka to his books and went back to his room. Karupin wasn’t there and was probably exploring the castle, so he sat on the bed and started to read.

Half an hour later there was a knock on the door and Fuji walked in without waiting for an answer.

“You did a good job on the books,” Fuji said, Ryoma just started at him, waiting for him to get to the point. “I’ve found you a job.”

“A job?”

“You do work and someone pays you for it,” Fuji said and Ryoma glared at him. “It’s just waiting tables, but you have to start somewhere, right?”

Ryoma nodded, “where is it?”

“My boyfriend’s restaurant,” Fuji said, “so you’d better do a good job.”

“I will,” Ryoma said, he was sure he could learn how to do it quickly.

“Excellent, I’ll let him know you want to work for him when I go down later,” Fuji said. “I’ll take you down to introduce you tomorrow.”

“What are we going to do about assassins following me?” Ryoma asked.

Fuji just grinned at him and threw him a bottle of bleach.


Ryoma wasn’t sure about his newly bleached hair. It made him look even paler than normal and slightly ill, but if it meant he could work then he didn’t mind.
He liked his new boss. Kawamura was kind and patient with him as he learned his duties in the shop. He wondered how he’d ended up with someone like Fuji.
  
Luckily, his first day at work wasn’t all that busy, which helped him get used to everything he had to do. It was the first time in his life that he’d ever washed up and, whilst he couldn’t say he enjoyed doing it, the feeling of doing something for himself was great.

However, spending all day on his feet was very tiring and when he got back up to the castle all he wanted to do was sleep and maybe get a foot massage.
Kawamura pointed him in the right direction, but Ryoma felt that he was causing him more work than he’d have if Ryoma wasn’t there. Most of the customers were understanding, the small group of regulars at the bar joked about his uselessness, but the ribbing was good natured (it still stung Ryoma, who hadn’t realised quite how hard the work would be). Some were much less understanding and Ryoma was yelled at a few times for being slow or stumbling over his own feet. His argumentative side kicked in and a full scale row was only averted by Kawamura quickly stepping in and apologising.

By the evening, Ryoma had managed to get the hang of it all and was determined to be useful the next day.

His second day at work was worse, the restaurant was busy all day and Ryoma was rushing back and forth, having to do several things at once. At times, he felt like a headless chicken, confused and overloaded with so many tasks he needed to do that he had no idea where to start.

He didn’t even bother undressing when he got back to the castle, just kicked off his shoes and curled up under the blankets, falling asleep almost instantly.
He was woken up by Karupin leaping onto his face at some ungodly time in the night.

“Go away, Karupin,” Ryoma moaned, swatting at his cat and rolling over onto his other side and into a patch of moonlight coming in through the window. He scrunched his face up and opened his eyes blearily, wondering who had opened the curtain. He’d been sure he’d shut the curtains before going to bed.

Or had he just not opened them all day? Either way, he was sure they had been shut before he went to bed.

He was suddenly feeling wide awake, adrenaline spiking in his body.

The window was open as well and, in the corner of the room, there was a shadowy figure.

Right now, he didn’t care if it was just a random shadow. He had to get out of the room. Right now.

The figure was much nearer the door than he was though. He’d have to run really fast.

Slowly, he slipped out of bed, keeping his eyes fixed on the shadow, ready to spring into action at the slightest hint of movement.

The shadow rushed towards him and it was only by ducking at just the right time that he avoided getting a knife in his face. Ryoma kicked out at the man, who was now over him, hitting him in the crotch and then ran for it.

He got a couple of paces before he tripped on the hearthrug and flailed his arms for a second, trying to grip hold of something. His hands found the lower jaw of one of the lions carved into the fireplace, halting his fall. Then, the jaw moved. Ryoma was sure he’d broken it, but it only moved a couple of centimetres.

Next to him, he saw a door pop out of the wall.

He’d just found a secret passage way right at the very second he needed it most. He really was the luckiest person in the world.

He scrambled up to his feet and slipped through the doorway, shutting it behind him. He was glad the man hadn’t recovered from his kick to the crotch to notice where he’d gone.

The passageway was pitch black and narrow. Ryoma guided himself along the walls with his hands, his footsteps echoing off the cold, uneven stone floor. More than once he tripped on a stone that was sticking up, stubbing his toe and making him swear under his breath. The tunnel seemed to curve and Ryoma hurried along it as fast as he could without tripping. He could see light at the end of it now, a soft warm glow that was coming through something and grew brighter and brighter as he got closer.

There was a tapestry covering the end of the tunnel and Ryoma pushed it aside to find himself standing in another bedroom. Sitting at a desk near the fire and writing was Tezuka. Ryoma had never been more revealed to see anyone before.

“There’s someone in my room!” He cried, hurrying over to Tezuka’s side, “they tried to kill me.”

Tezuka stood up immediately, “are you hurt?”

“I’m fine,” Ryoma replied, ignoring the pain in his toe, “I don’t know where he is now though, I kicked him in the balls and found this passage.”

Tezuka nodded. “Stay here,” he commanded and then ducked through the tapestry and into the passageway.

Ryoma suddenly felt very alone. He walked over to Tezuka’s bed and sat down on it, wondering if Tezuka ever slept in it. The book had said that vampires didn’t have to sleep as long as they drank enough blood. He lay down and could vaguely smell Tezuka’s scent on the pillow. Maybe he just sometimes slept in it.

I hope he’s okay, Ryoma thought, I hope Karupin’s okay. He realised that he’d left his cat in the room with the assassin. Karupin was clever and would, no doubt, be hiding from the assassin, but Ryoma was still worried. They’d been through so much together, he couldn’t let Karupin be killed now!

He got up and headed towards the passage way again, slipping under the tapestry and making his way down the corridor and back to his room. He found the wooden door at the other end was open when he reached it and Karupin was sat in the entranceway, looking interestedly at whatever was happening in the room.

Ryoma picked him up and hugged him close before peering around the door.
Tezuka had his attacker pinned up against the wall, his face close to the assassin’s neck, his fangs bared.

“Who sent you?” Tezuka practically growled, digging his claw like fingers into the assassin’s arm. “Tell me, Sanada. Or do I have to go and rip out Yukimura’s throat?”

Ryoma blinked in surprise, Tezuka knew his assassin?

“You know I don’t know that,” Sanada replied.

“Did you know he’s under Royal protection?”

There was an awkward pause.

“I wouldn’t be here if I did know that,” Sanada said and, to Ryoma’s surprise, Tezuka let him go. “You could have publicised it a bit better.” Ryoma couldn’t believe just how disapproving he sounded, as if it were Tezuka’s fault that this had happened.

“Yukimura was informed,” Tezuka said, sounding as put out as Ryoma had felt.

“I must have been sent before he got the message,” Sanada said, “someone must really want the boy dead.”

“They do,” Tezuka replied, “and I want to find out who they are.”

“If he’s under Royal Protection I will made sure no one from my order comes again,” Sanada replied, “but from the amount they paid someone else will come after him.”

“And we’ll protect him,” Tezuka said sternly, “you forget, I have an ex-member of your organisation living here.”

“I didn’t forget,” Sanada said. “I shall see myself out.”

“Do,” Tezuka said rather waspishly. “Use the front door.”

Ryoma watched from the shadows as Sanada left, finally getting a good look at the man now he wasn’t blocked from view by Tezuka. He was tall and muscular and Ryoma wondered just how he’d managed to escape death this time.

“I thought I told you to wait in my room,” Tezuka said and Ryoma jumped slightly.

“I wanted to see if Karupin was safe,” Ryoma replied, hugging the cat close to him as if to prove the point.

“You could have been killed,” Tezuka said, “you’re lucky the people who want you dead paid for the best assassins, most wouldn’t have stopped when they found out Atobe had given you protection.”

“I’m a very lucky person,” Ryoma said, “mostly.”

“Just to be safe, you should sleep in my room,” Tezuka told him in a tone that left no room for argument. Ryoma shrugged and looked away from him.

“Fine, whatever.”

Tezuka looked down at Ryoma’s bare feet and then, a split second later, scooped him up in his arms.

“What are you doing?!” Ryoma cried, clinging to Karupin.

“Your feet will be getting cold,” Tezuka replied, as he set off down the passageway.

Ryoma huffed, but didn’t struggle as Tezuka carried him to bed as he didn’t really want to be dropped.

Tezuka laid him gently on his bed and the stepped back, “would you like your pyjamas?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied and Tezuka disappeared back to his room. Karupin hopped out of his lap and made himself at home on Tezuka’s bed. Ryoma didn’t blame him, the bed as a lot comfier than the one he had, he could easily sink into it and fall fast asleep. He looked at the tapestry hiding the passageway and wondered if Tezuka had known about it. He surely did, Tezuka seemed like the type to know every nook and cranny of his castle, so did he deliberately put Ryoma in a room connected to his own? Ryoma knew he wouldn’t try anything and, if he had done it, it was all for Ryoma’s safety, but it annoyed Ryoma that he hadn’t told him before.

Tezuka returned with Ryoma’s pyjamas and handed them to him. “I have to make a phone call,” he said, “get some rest.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said. With the adrenalin wearing off he was feeling very drained, snuggling down in Tezuka’s comfy bed sounded like heaven on earth right now. He waited till Tezuka left and then got ready for bed, pulling Karupin close as he got under the covers.

Chapter Text

Tezuka felt bad for lying to Echizen. It hadn’t been much of a lie to be fair, he did have to phone Atobe and tell him what had happened. But phoning Atobe at this time of night would only lead to getting his ear chewed off for waking him at some ungodly hour and disturbing his beauty sleep. Vampires didn’t necessarily need to sleep, but many of them had odd quirks. He did like Atobe, but sometimes he wondered just why he’d helped him become King.

He did have someone else to see right now though, especially since he was currently full of protective anger. He walked down the corridor to Fuji’s room and knocked smartly on the door.

“Come in,” Fuji said. He was sat on the bed, sketching his cacti.

“Did you get Echizen a job specifically to lure out assassins?” Tezuka growled. He was losing a grip on himself, the beast deep inside him was clawing its way to the surface, desperate to protect his mate.

“What are you talking about?” Fuji looked genuinely confused.

“Sanada just tried to kill Echizen.”

“I got Echizen a job because he wants to improve himself,” Fuji replied, “he dyed his hair to try and hide his identity.”

“It didn’t work,” Tezuka stated the obvious.

“He’s okay, right?”

“He’s fine, he’s sleeping in my room tonight.”

Fuji grinned, “Don’t let your guard down, he’s very pretty when he’s asleep.”

“Now is not the time nor place for that, Fuji,” Tezuka snarled. He paused and took a deep breath, pushing the inner beast down. When he continued, he was completely calm again. “Could you let Kawamura know that Echizen won’t be at work for a few days? I want to make sure no one else comes after him.”

“Of course,” Fuji said, clearly taken aback by Tezuka’s previous outburst. “I’ll fill in for him.”

“Thank you,” Tezuka said and turned to leave, “good night.”

“Look after Echizen,” Fuji called after him.


He was half expecting to come back to find Echizen being attacked by another assassin, but instead, he was lying in bed, sunk into the large pillows, his blond hair a mess and his large, gold eyes fixed on Tezuka. He looked very attractive.

“How was your phone call?” He asked.

“I couldn’t get through,” Tezuka lied, “I’ll try again in the morning. You should get some sleep.”

“I should,” Echizen agreed, yawning. “Who was that assassin?” he asked, his eyes suddenly sharp and alert.

“There’s an order of vampire assassins that live near the Rokkaku Region,” Tezuka explained, “technically they’re in the Empire, but they also don’t acknowledge that they are.”

“And they’re useful?”

Tezuka nodded, wondering how Echizen had managed to hit on the exact reason why Atobe hadn’t sent an army to wipe them out. “Sometimes there are problems only they can fix." 

"Why did he give up so easily? It can’t be good for their reputation.”

“Killing you would be worse,”  Tezuka replied. “For their relationship with Atobe more than their reputation,” he clarified. “We’re lucky it was Sanada though, he has integrity. Yukimura wouldn’t have stopped. I suspect the only reason Sanada attacked in the first place is because Yukimura didn’t tell him you were under Atobe’s protection." 

"What will Atobe do?”

“Yukimura will have an excuse. He always does, especially when large sums of money are involved.”

“Right,” Echizen sighed. “Are you going to sleep?”

“No, I’ll stay awake,” Tezuka said, “I have to write my diary.”

Echizen snorted and buried his face in the pillow, “of course you keep a diary.”

“I do,” Tezuka said, unsure of what Echizen had meant by that. “I’ve told Fuji to tell Kawamura that you won’t be at work for a while.”

“Okay,” Echizen said grumpily.

“We were lucky you were attacked here, if someone attacked you at work I doubt you’d still be alive now.”

Echizen sighed, “that makes sense. I’m sorry for causing you so much trouble,” he said, his voice quiet and muffled by the pillow.

“It’s no trouble,” Tezuka said, “we all want you to be safe. Now, go to sleep.”

“Yes sir,” Echizen said, laughter in his voice.

As Echizen settled down to sleep, Tezuka set about writing down the events of the night in his diary. He liked to record everything that had happened to him. When you’d lived as long as he had, it was nice to have something to help him remember specific details of events. He’d read through them occasionally, each time remembering something he’d forgotten. He doubted he’d ever forget the night when Echizen had stumbled into his life. Nor the shame he felt at what he’d done to him.

He heard Echizen’s breathing even out as sleep took him and then turn into light snore. He was glad Echizen was in here with him, his nerves would be on edge if Echizen had returned to his own room. He felt very protective of him. Of course, he felt protective of everyone who lived in the castle, but when it came to Echizen… just the thought of him being in danger was enough to wake the beast he tried so hard to keep suppressed. 

It was either the mating bond or he was actually falling for the young prince. Possibly both. He didn’t even know Echizen well, but there was just something about him that drew Tezuka to him. That’s why Tezuka had been going out of his way to avoid him. Perhaps it was time to change that approach. If he was falling for Echizen now, without knowing him, then maybe he should make an effort to get to know him, even if it meant falling in love with someone who didn’t necessarily love him back.

He didn’t even deserve Echizen’s love. He’d bound them together without asking Echizen’s permission, bound them in the deepest, most intimate and most permanent way imaginable. Echizen may have forgiven him, but he doubted he could ever forgive himself.

He put his pen down and buried his face in his hands. He didn’t know what he was doing. He wanted to be with Echizen, to know him, but at the same time he wanted to lock himself away from him and keep him safe from a distance. The latter was what he knew he should be doing, but he couldn’t help himself getting near to Echizen.

As if to prove this, he felt himself getting to his feet and walking over to Echizen. Fuji was right, he was very endearing when he was asleep. Long, dark eyelashes resting on his pale cheeks and his soft, thin lips parted slightly. Tezuka found himself thinking he’d look much cuter with his natural dark hair, but he couldn’t deny that he looked good blond as well.

Karupin looked up at him accusingly with his big blue eyes from where he lay, curled up next to his owner.

“I’m not going to do anything,” he promised the cat, “not unless he wants me to.”

Karupin flicked his ears and settled back to sleep, apparently satisfied by Tezuka’s answer.

He had one last look at the scene in front of him of Echizen fast asleep with his cat, then went back to his diary.

Chapter Text

 

Ryoma was pounced on the next morning by Kikumaru and Momo, both determined to make sure that he was completely okay.

 

"I'm fine," Ryoma grumbled, trying to get out of Momo's headlock, "you're hurting me!"

 

"We were so worried, Shorty!" Kikumaru said, "Tezuka wouldn't let us see you till you were awake!"

 

Ryoma was very glad of that, his bed had been warm and he'd had a wonderful nights sleep, one that Kikumaru and Momo would have inevitably ruined had they been allowed in.

 

"It's so lucky you got to Tezuka," Momo said.

 

"It's lucky Karupin jumped on my face and woke me up," Ryoma said, "I'm just very lucky."

 

He escaped Momo's clutches, only to fall into Kikumaru's bone breaking hug. "You should put 'escaping assassination' as your special skill," Kikumaru joked, then looked sad and squeezed Ryoma again, "I'm really happy you're still alive!"

 

"So am I," Ryoma said, letting himself be hugged.

 

Kikumaru and Momo took it upon themselves to be by Ryoma's side for the rest of the day. He couldn't do anything without one of them appearing. He understood that they were concerned, but it was annoying to be shadowed by them. Around lunchtime, Ryoma had got so sick of them that he gave them the slip and went to read in the library.

He hadn't read a lot back in his old life, but it was something that he enjoyed doing. He picked a book out at random and sat down on the sofa.

 

He was so engrossed in the book that he didn't even notice it get dark and, by the time he surfaced from the book, he realised just how cold he was.

 

A fire had been lit in his room and Ryoma dragged a chair up in front of it and curled back up with his book. Tezuka checked on him a few hours later and brought him some dinner, but didn't say anything more than asking him how he was.

 

The next day, Momo dragged Ryoma out into the garden to collect up sticks for kindling.

 

"The castle must be really cold for you," Momo said as they picked up sticks and snapped them to more fireplace friendly sizes.

 

"It is," Ryoma replied.

 

"The nights are getting colder too."

 

"I should steal Tezuka's bed, it's much warmer and comfier than mine," Ryoma said and Momo just laughed.

 

In the end, their stick finding turned into a competition. Momo's better speed and strength meant he collected more that double what Ryoma had managed to find. Not wanting to admit defeat, Ryoma dragged the competition out till it started to get dark. The pile of sticks grew larger and larger and was almost Ryoma's height by the time Ryoma's hands were so cold he couldn't carry on.

 

"Maybe we should go back in," Momo suggested as Ryoma blew on his hands for the hundredth time and rubbed them together.

 

Ryoma looked at the pile of sticks they'd made and scowled, he knew he'd lost this one. "Fine," He shrugged, "what are we gonna do with all these?"

 

"They should go in the woodshed," Momo said, "but I'll do it."

 

Ryoma made a non committal noise and helped Momo clear up. He'd helped make the mess after all and he wanted to shake off his spoilt prince image.

 

It didn't take them too long to get the sticks into the woodshed, Momo did most of the work, but Ryoma carried as many as he could.

 

The castle felt a lot warmer inside than it normally did, Ryoma supposed that was because it was so cold outside. He warmed his hands on the fire in the entrance hall and wished the vampires would install central heating. Even after warming himself by the fire he was still cold and, after dinner, he went back to his room to curl up in bed with Karupin.

 


 

 

He woke the next morning feeling horrendous. His body ached all over and he felt hot and clammy. He groaned and pulled the covers over his head. It didn't make him feel any better.

 

He supposed it was better to be feeling ill now, rather than back when he had work, but that thought hardly made him feel better. He buried his face in the pillow and tried to fall back asleep.

 

When he didn't appear for breakfast, Kikumaru came to check on him.

 

"It must be all the stress catching up with you," he said after he'd hugged Ryoma to death.

 

Or staying out in the cold all afternoon, Ryoma thought.

 

"It's raining, so you can stay in bed all day," Kikumaru said, "I'll make sure your fire is stoked up all day!"

 

"Can you get me into Tezuka's bed?" Ryoma asked.

 

"By yourself or with him in it?" Kikumaru asked mischievously.

 

"By myself! His bed is really nice. Why does he have it? It's not like he sleeps in it!"

 

"He'd trade with you if you asked."

 

"I'm not going to ask," Ryoma muttered.

 

"Do you want some breakfast?" Kikumaru asked.

 

Ryoma considered it for a bit, he didn't feel very hungry, but eating would probably be a good idea. "Sure."

 

Kikumaru returned with some toast and Oishi.

 

Ryoma sighed and tucked into his toast whilst Oishi gave him an examination.

 

"You've got a cold," he concluded, "just get some rest and you'll be fine."

 

Ryoma nodded, glad for an excuse to stay in bed.

 

"Is there anything you want, Shorty?" Kikumaru asked, looking at him like he was on the verge of death.

 

"A book," Ryoma said.

 

"Okay, which one?"

 

"I don't know, one that looks good."

 

He had expected Kikumaru to come back with a book picked at random, but he was taking so long to return that Ryoma was starting to think he's gotten lost, or was actually trying to pick a good book out. When he did come back, he had a whole stack of books.

 

"I asked Tezuka for recommendations and he gave me these," Kikumaru said, putting the books down on the bedside table, "your mate takes good care of you."

 

"Not enough to actually come and see if I'm okay," Ryoma muttered, picking the first book off the top and opening it.

 

Kikumaru took this as a cue to leave, "there's a bell pull somewhere in here, if you need anything then pull it and I'll come running."

 

The rain picked up a few minutes after Kikumaru left, the wind blowing the rain against the window. Ryoma wondered vaguely if he'd deliberately been given the room that always had the rain splashing against the window. The book Tezuka had given him was good. It was a murder mystery set in ancient Ensinkil and was complicated enough to keep him interested, but not so much that his cold-addled brain couldn't keep up.

 

Around lunchtime some sandwiches appeared with Momo and Ryoma gladly took them, his appetite returning.

 

"Tezuka's got a guest coming later," Momo said, watching Ryoma eat.

 

"Like a girlfriend or something?"

 

Momo burst out laughing, "Tezuka? Have a girlfriend?"

 

"What? It's not that ridiculous," Ryoma muttered.

 

"I've been here for a couple of hundred years and you're the closest thing Tezuka's come to having a 'girlfriend'!"

 

"So, who is it then?"

 

"Who?"

 

Ryoma rolled his eyes, "the guest!"

 

"Dunno, probably someone from Koori."

 

"So a politician or something? Koori's the capital city, right?"

 

"Yeah, probably. Tezuka's got a lot of friends from there."

 

Ryoma hummed contemplatively. "By the way, what do you know about the vampire assassins?" He'd been meaning to ask someone for ages, none of the books he'd looked at had any information about them in, but he thought he should wait till the right time.

 

"They live on the edge of the country," Momo replied, "I don't know much about them really, other than they're really good and expensive. Tezuka knows them, I have no idea how though. So does Fuji, actually."

 

"Right," Ryoma said, making a note to ask one of them. Preferably Tezuka, although he would have to seek him out.

 

He was rather interested in who his guest was, even if he had no idea why.

 

"I'm going to get some sleep," Ryoma said.

 

"Alright, sleep well," Momo said as he left.

 

Ryoma settled down and picked up his book again. It wouldn't hurt to read for a little before going to sleep.

 

A couple of hours later he heard the sound of a car pulling up outside. He didn't have a good view of the front of the castle from his room, but leaning out of it he could see the front wheels of a very expensive looking car.

 

He quickly pulled on a pair of jeans and a jumper over the top of his pyjamas and hurried out of the room. He was good at hiding in the shadows and watching guests be welcomed, having perfected the technique as a child. Of course, as he'd grown up he'd been expected to participate in the welcomes.

 

He hurried along the corridors to the top of the door onto the balcony overlooking the sweeping staircase and peered out. Down below was Tezuka with Atobe Keigo, the King of the Vampire Kingdom of (name). He hadn't changed at all since Ryoma had seen him when he'd been very little, other that he wasn't dressed in military uniform.

 

"When you called me I realised that I haven't met your new mate," Atobe was saying, "and I was my way to see Yukimura, so I dropped in."

 

"Thank you for giving me some warning," Tezuka said, the words 'for once' were pretty evident in his tone.

 

"So, where is the prince? I was expecting him to greet me here with you."

 

"He's not feeling very well," Tezuka replied, "I will see if he's well enough to come and see you, but if he isn't I hope you understand."

 

"He's not on the verge of death is he?" Atobe didn't sound at all concerned.

 

"Of course not," Tezuka said.

 

"Then he won't mind me dropping in to see him."

 

They were now walking up the stairs towards him now and Ryoma scrambled back into the shadows.

 

"He will," Tezuka said and Ryoma smiled, "We should go to the library, I'll send someone to get Echizen."

 

"Not on first name terms with him then?"

 

Tezuka didn't reply and Ryoma chose that moment to escape back to his room. He'd learnt a few short cuts recently.

 

He dived under the covers and picked up his book just as there was a knock on the door. Atobe didn't wait for a reply before barging in, an exasperated Tezuka behind him.

Ryoma glared at Atobe, "who are you?"

 

"You know exactly who I am," Atobe replied, a nasty smirk on his lips.

 

"I don't think I've ever seen you before."

 

"Echizen," Tezuka said sternly.

 

"What? I haven't!"

 

"I think you were about five, you were spying on my welcome party in your old palace," Atobe said.

 

Ryoma shrugged, "don't remember. I was five."

 

Atobe chuckled and looked at Ryoma like he was a particularly interesting toy. "This is why you shouldn't date children, Tezuka. They lie."

 

"We're not dating," Tezuka said. "Echizen, this is King Atobe Keigo. Atobe, this is Prince Echizen Ryoma."

 

"Nice to meet you," Atobe said, "again."

 

"I still don't remember you," Ryoma lied.

 

"Would you leave us a while, Tezuka," Atobe said, "I want to get to know your mate."

 

Ryoma gulped, without Tezuka there, he doubted that he could get away with baiting Atobe. Tezuka gave them both a look and then left the room.

 

"Remember he's ill," he told Atobe as he left.

 

"He didn't see you spying on us," Atobe said once the door was shut, "or thinks he just imagined it."

 

"He doesn't know me well," Ryoma said, "we've only know each other a few weeks."

 

"That's true," Atobe said.

 

"Are you here to tell me that if I hurt him you'll kill me?" Ryoma asked, "that's rather cliche."

 

"I came to remind you that your life is connected to Tezuka's," Atobe said, his voice suddenly serious, "if you die then so does Tezuka, who is one of my closest friends. I will not permit him to die because of you."

 

"I'm not sure how you could stop that."

 

"I'm telling you not to put yourself in stupid situations," Atobe said, "If I could, I would lock you up in this room, but Tezuka won't let me."

 

"Assassins can still get in through the window," Ryoma pointed out.

 

"Then I would lock you in a windowless room."

 

They glared at each other.

 

"Why would I deliberately put myself in danger?" Ryoma asked.

 

"Because you are nineteen," Atobe replied, "and therefore you are an idiot."

 

Ryoma huffed, "I've managed to survive so far."

 

"Through sheer luck. If magic hadn't disappeared centuries ago I would put it down to that."

 

Ryoma knew what he had said was completely true, but there was something about Atobe that rubbed him up the wrong way. He had no idea why Tezuka liked him!

 

"I have to talk to Tezuka now," Atobe said, "try not to be killed whilst we're away."

 

He left, leaving a fuming Ryoma in his wake. How dare he say something like that! As if Ryoma wanted to get killed! It wasn't his fault all of this had happened! If it had been up to him, he'd be back in his own palace with his parents. But it wasn't up to him and nothing that had happened was his fault. He hadn't asked to be shipped off to Taranis or to be assassinated or to be bitten and turned into Tezuka's mate! But it had happened and now he was trying to deal with it.

 

Angrily, he got out of bed and pulled on his jumper again. He was going to eavesdrop on Tezuka and Atobe's conversation and nothing was going to stop him. He had no idea where they would be though. He knew Tezuka had an office, but where it was he had no idea. He went to the library first and was surprised when he heard voices from inside. He pressed his ear up against the door and heard Tezuka and Atobe inside.

 

"You know what Sanada's like, I doubt Yukimura was able to get in contact with him once he found out," Atobe said.

 

There was a pause in which Ryoma could only assume Tezuka was giving Atobe a look. "If he decided to tell him at all. They would have known he was under my care from the start. There must have been a lot of money involved from them to risk our wrath." 

 

"I will talk to him about it," Atobe promised.

 

"Find out who sent them as well."

 

"He won't tell me that," Atobe grumbled, "he never tells me anything like that."

 

He heard Tezuka sigh, "have you found out anything?"

 

"Other than there are plenty of people who want your little prince dead, no," Atobe replied, "Should we let him in, or let him continue eavesdropping?"

 

"Come in, Echizen," Tezuka said, "we heard you coming along the corridor."

 

Bloody vampires.

 

Ryoma opened the door and defiantly walked in, "you were talking about me."

 

"We were," Tezuka agreed, placing a hand on Ryoma's back and guiding him to a chair, "you should be in bed, you're ill."

 

"I have a cold, not the plague," Ryoma told him, then threw a glare at Atobe, who was watching them with a smirk.

 

"Such a nice scene of domesticity," Atobe said.

 

"Atobe," Tezuka said, using the same stern tone of voice he'd used on Ryoma earlier.

 

"You said that there were lots of people wanting me dead, who?" Ryoma asked.

 

"Well, first off the republicans who wanted the monarchy completely abolished. If they kill you then there are no more heirs and the monarchy may as well be abolished," Atobe said in a bored tone. "Then there's the people who don't want your country to be allied with Taranis. There are a lot of powerful and very rich people who do not want that to happen. Including myself, of course, but I wouldn't send assassins after you. If I wanted you dead, I'd do it myself."

 

"That's comforting to know," Ryoma grumbled and Tezuka came to sit down next to him.

 

"There are a lot of people in those groups who don't want you dead," Tezuka told him, "we've just got to find the ones that do."

 

"And that's easier said than done."

 

"Indeed," Tezuka agreed.

 

"There's also the people who want you dead now that you're Tezuka's mate," Atobe continued, not happy with being interrupted.

 

"But who knows I'm here?"

 

"A few people, along with anyone who saw you in town," Tezuka explained, "it won't be long before we can't keep your presence here a secret."

 

"That's a pain," Ryoma had been enjoying his anonymity, he knew once the press found out then he would be hounded by them.

 

Tezuka nodded in agreement, "Atobe is keeping the press silent at the moment, but he can only do that within this country, once it leaves here then we will have problems."

 

"Believe me, it's not easy," Atobe said, "I've put you under Royal Protection as well-"

 

"I know," Ryoma interrupted him.

 

"Yes, well, telling people that you are protected whilst not telling them where you are or why I have done so is very hard. I've made quite a few enemies because of it."

 

"I'm sorry that you've gone through so much trouble," Tezuka said and Atobe looked taken aback, as if he hadn't said that to get an apology.

 

"It's fine," Atobe waved it off, "I owe you a lot, Tezuka."

 

"Is there anyone else that could be after me?" Ryoma asked.

 

"Not that we can think of," Tezuka said, "although we shouldn't let our guard down."

 

"You shouldn't leave the castle for a while," Atobe told Ryoma firmly, "you were lucky this time. I doubt you'll be so lucky again."

 

"So, what should I do?"

 

"There are plenty of books in the library," Atobe said, motioning to the books around them, "read something."

 

"How long for?"

 

"Until we can be sure no one's going to try and kill you," Atobe said with a theatrical sigh, "your life isn't the only one on the line here."

 

"Would you like to stay here tonight?" Tezuka asked.

 

"No, I have to get going," Atobe replied, getting to his feet.

 

"I'll see you out," Tezuka said.

Chapter Text

They left, leaving Ryoma fuming alone in the library. So, all the effort he’d put into his job was now wasted. He felt really bad that he’d put Kawamura through the pain of putting up with him being useless and not then had the benefit of him having learnt what to do. He guessed he’d have to somehow get in contact with him and apologise. It annoyed him that he was being told what to do like a child, but couldn’t disagree because what Atobe and Tezuka had said was true.

 He wasn’t safe in the town, assassins could easily be anywhere and there would be no one to defend him unless he employed Momo or someone as a bodyguard. He hated having a bodyguard back in his old life and he knew he would hate it now, even if it was Momo. Even if he did have a bodyguard, someone could easily recognise him and follow him till he wasn’t guarded any more and then strike. He’d have to give up his job- at least it meant he could dye his hair back to normal.

He got up and went back to his room, he still didn’t feel very well and he’d rather sit around in bed than around the library. As he walked he thought about all the people who wanted him dead, but got nowhere. He could think of a lot of people who he knew hated him, but whether they would pay for him to die was another thing. He doubted they would- if only because their careers would be over if they were found out.

He spent the next couple of days locked in his room, fuming, only coming out when he got hungry. He knew he was acting like a spoilt child, but didn’t care, he had nothing else to do after all.

On the third day, Tezuka came to see if he was okay.  

“I’m going away for a week or so,” he told Ryoma, who was playing with the fire, bored out of his mind.

“Right, have fun,” Ryoma replied, not looking at him, “I’m sure I’ll survive.”
“I was wondering if you’d come with me.”

Ryoma looked up at him, “where are you going?”

“Into the mountains,” Tezuka replied, “I have to check on the eagles before winter sets in.”

That sounded like fun, Ryoma supposed.

“What would we be doing?”

“A lot of walking and eagle spotting,” Tezuka said, “There’s a small cabin in the mountains that we’ll be staying in.”

That didn’t sounds too bad, at least they wouldn’t be camping.

“I know the mountains very well, you won’t be in any danger,” Tezuka promised.

“Okay, I’ll come,” Ryoma said. Eagles were cool, he supposed, and it would get him out of the castle. “When are we leaving?”

“Tomorrow morning. I was hoping to leave by seven.”

Ryoma nodded, “I’m not good at getting up.”

Tezuka gave him a soft smile, “I’ll make sure you’re awake.”

Fuji and Momoshiro were sent down into town with Ryoma’s measurements to buy him hiking equipment that afternoon. Ryoma meanwhile, started packing. He wanted to take Karupin along with him, but doubted he’d be allowed. If he escaped and ran away they’d never find him. Plus he’d be very well looked after here in the castle. He’d no doubt come back to find Karupin had doubled his body weight through being spoilt.

When Fuji and Momo got back, Ryoma was immediately forced to try on the jumpers, trousers, boots and coats they’d brought back with them.

“You look very cute,” Fuji said, laughing as he pushed a knitted hat onto Ryoma’s head and Ryoma tried to bat him away.

“I’m not,” Ryoma muttered.

Once Fuji grew bored of forcing clothes onto Ryoma, he was left in peace to pack his new clothes. He had to admit, Fuji and Momo had done a good job with their shopping. It all fit well and suited him. He assumed it was down to Fuji and that Momo had basically been there just to carry the bags.

He set an alarm for six the next morning, but ended up sleeping through it and was woken by Tezuka shaking him gently awake.

“It’s quarter past six,” he said gently, “you should get up.”

Ryoma groaned and pushed himself out of bed. He really didn’t want to be awake right now.

He quickly dressed and pulled his suitcase down to the entrance hall. Kikumaru was waiting for him and forced breakfast on him.

“It takes hours to drive up to the cabin,” He told him and Ryoma was silently glad, at least he’d be able to sleep through the journey.

Waiting in the kitchen was a much less nice surprise. Oishi was there with a bag full of medical equipment.

“Tezuka will need some of your blood to drink on the trip,” he explained, looking nervous, “and you don’t want to be bitten again, right?”

“No,” Ryoma agreed.

“We don’t need much,” Oishi held up a small sample bottle, “it’ll take seconds.”

“Fine,” Ryoma said. It would be better than Tezuka biting him again.

He sat down and Oishi carefully disinfected the inside of his elbow and put a tourniquet around his upper arm. Ryoma shut his eyes as Oishi prepared the needle. He didn’t want to watch.

“This will hurt a bit,” Oishi said and then stuck the needle in. It was no worse than a scratch and was indeed over in seconds.

“Okay,” Oishi said, pulling out the needle, “press down on here,” he said, putting some a cotton pad over the spot where the needle had gone in. Ryoma did what he was told as Oishi sorted out the blood and needle.

He finished his breakfast and went to help Tezuka pack their things into the old 4x4 that was waiting for them in front of the castle.

“I’ve given you some blood,” Ryoma said as he pushed his suitcase in and started to pass the bags of food to Tezuka.

“Thank you,” Tezuka said.

The rest of the vampires and Inui gathered around to see them off.

“Have fun, shorty!” Kikumaru said, hugging him, “say hello to the eagles for me.”

Ryoma wondered how he was going to do that, but nodded. Then, he and Tezuka got into the 4x4 and drove off.

The car was pretty old and noisy, but Ryoma soon fell asleep, his head lolling on his shoulder. He woke a few hours later when they were driving along a narrow road, mountains towering over them on either side.

“How much further have we got left?” He asked, breaking the warm silence around them.

“At least another hour,” Tezuka replied.

Ryoma hummed in acknowledgement and went to staring out the window at the mountains around them.

Rather suddenly, Tezuka pulled over to the side of the road.

“There are normally some eagles around here,” he said, picking up some binoculars and getting out the car. Ryoma followed and was hit by the cold air as he left the warm interior of the car. He started to search the sky, not sure what he was looking for beyond a bird. On the other side of the car, Tezuka was doing the same thing, but with a trained eye.

“I can’t see anything,” Ryoma said after a few minutes.

“They must not be out today,” Tezuka said, “we should get going.”

Ryoma was very happy to get back into the warm car, he kept his eyes on the sky for the rest of the journey, just in case he could spot an eagle.

“Are the eagles special?” Ryoma asked.

“They’re the national animal of our country, They’re very endangered, so I look after the two nesting pairs we have living in these mountains.”

“So there’s only four here?”

“There are also some juveniles, they stay in their parents territory till they are fully grown. We used to have another pair until they were shot a couple of months ago.”

“Oh,” Ryoma said, “did you find the poachers?”

“In the end,” Tezuka said grimly, “they’re in jail now.”

“Good.”

The road started to rise up the side of the valley, twisting and turning until they were up in one of the high valleys, a small glacier glittered in the sun at the end of it. Ryoma spotted a small hut on the side of a mountain, the road twisted towards it and Ryoma assumed that was where they were going to be staying.
He was right and they pulled up outside the cabin. It was pretty modern and very well maintained, clad with wood and with small, triple glazed windows. They unloaded the car and quickly turned on the heating inside the cabin, which was very cold inside.

“We keep it unlocked so that hikers can use it if they get stuck in the mountains,” Tezuka explained as they restocked the kitchen, which was full of canned food, “the fire is always made with a match stuck out of the matchbox so that people can light the fire if they have frostbite.”

Ryoma nodded, “can I light the fire?”

“Of course.”

He’d never lit a fire before. It was such a weird thing to realise, he was sure lots of people had never lit a fire before. He was surprised that Tezuka left him alone to do it without any supervision. It took him many tries to get the match lit and was elated when he managed it. Soon, the fire was crackling away in the grate and Ryoma stood back to admire his handy work.

“I’ve unpacked,” Tezuka said, poking his head around the door. “Your room is on the left.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, sitting down on the sofa opposite the fire.

“It’s a good fire,” Tezuka said, coming to sit next to him. “It’ll be getting dark outside soon.”

“I suppose it will,” Ryoma replied, slightly off put by the small talk. He wasn’t very good at it and neither, it seemed, was Tezuka. “Will we see any eagles tomorrow?”

“That depends on the eagles, I’ve sometimes had to wait weeks to see them.”

“Oh.”

“Patience is the key.”

“Do they have names?”

“Who?”

"The eagles.”

“I believe Fuji and Kikumaru have named them,” Tezuka replied, “I don’t remember their names though,”

Ryoma didn’t believe him, but didn’t push it. Knowing Fuji and Kikumaru, they’d given the eagles rather embarrassing names. He looked at the wall where there was a photograph of one of the eagles, soaring towards them. It was white with black bars over the back of its wings and tail. The photo didn’t show much of the belly of the eagle, but Ryoma could just about make out a black collar marking around its neck.

“That’s the female of the pair that nests nearest the cabin,” Tezuka said, seeing where Ryoma was looking, “we will hopefully see her at least once on this trip.”

Ryoma nodded, he couldn’t tell scale from the photo, but he was sure that she was a very big eagle.

“Females are bigger than males,” Tezuka continued, “They have a very beautiful mating dance.”

“Will we see that?”

“No, they only perform it in the spring. They mate for life, so it’s a way of reforming their bond,” Tezuka said and then they fell into silence, staring into the flicking fire.

“Is there a bath here?” Ryoma asked after a while, he was feeling stiff after sitting in the car for hours on end.

“Upstairs at the end of the corridor,” Tezuka told him, “the towels are in the cupboard next to your room.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, getting up and making his way upstairs.

The bath wasn’t very big, but neither was Ryoma. He couldn’t lie in it properly like he could back at the castle though, something which annoyed him. One advantage of his height was that he could easily submerge most of himself in baths. There weren’t any bath salts or bubble bath, just some soap and 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner.

“Don’t use too much water,” Tezuka said through the door and Ryoma sighed, he wasn’t going to have a nice relaxing bath after all.

He half filled the bath and then sat miserably in the water. At least it was hot and the room wasn’t draughty.

Normally, he could take hours in the bath, but he didn’t feel in the mood, so he washed and was out in fifteen minutes.

Downstairs, Tezuka was sat in front of the fire, reading.

“What are we having for dinner?” Ryoma asked.

“Whatever you want to make,” Tezuka replied, looking up from his book at him.

“Me?”

“You’re the one who will be eating it.”

Ryoma blinked in confusion, then realised what Tezuka was talking about. He was a vampire, of course he wasn’t going to eat human food. He looked towards the kitchen doubtfully, he’d never cooked anything for himself. He didn’t even know where to start!

“I’ve never cooked before,” he admitted quietly.

“I haven’t for a very long time,” Tezuka said, “but there are some recipe books, we can work it out together.”

Luckily, amongst the recipe books was one dedicated to very simple cooking.

“I’ve found one,” Ryoma said, returning to the kitchen with it, “what should we make?”

They opened it on the unit and flicked through the pages, dismissing anything that looked too complicated or had something that they didn’t have in the cupboards. The problem with being halfway up a mountain was that you couldn’t just pop down the shops for something you needed for dinner.

“How about that?” Ryoma said, pointing at a recipe for pasta with some vegetables.

“That looks easy enough,” Tezuka said, “do you want some help with it?”

If Tezuka thought it was easy, then Ryoma shouldn’t be able to mess it up. “I’ll be fine,” he said.

“Call me if you need anything,” Tezuka said and then left Ryoma to his own devices.

Ryoma looked intently at the recipe. First, he needed to cut up the vegetables. He’d seen enough chopped veg in his life to know what it should look like, so that shouldn’t be too hard. He then had to cook pasta. The recipe just said ‘cook the pasta’, which was very helpful indeed to someone who had no idea how pasta was cooked. He picked up the book and flicked through it, hoping that somewhere it would explain how to cook pasta.

It didn’t.

So, he went to search through the cupboards for the pasta. He had to pull a chair over to search the top cupboards, which was where he found the pasta shells.

On the back of the packaging it explained perfectly how to cook it.

He then went to get the vegetables and started to chop them up. His efforts were nowhere near as neat and perfect as in the picture, but they were, at least, chopped. It took him a while to find the saucepans and get the cooker working, but soon he had the pasta water heating up and the vegetables starting to cook.

“A watched pot never boils,” Tezuka said as he came in to check on Ryoma, seeing him staring intently at the water for the pasta. “it also boils quicker if you put the lid on.”

Ryoma nodded and put the lid on the pan, then checked on the vegetables.

“Shit,” he hissed as he looked in. He hadn’t stirred it enough and the vegetables had become burnt on the bottom.

“They’ll be fine,” Tezuka said, “just keep stirring them.”

In the end, the pasta was cooked a long time before the vegetables were and Ryoma ended up giving up and having slightly raw vegetables. He ate it alone in the kitchen, not wanting Tezuka to see the failure that was his first attempt of cooking and then washed up, so that all evidence was hidden.

“Did you have a nice meal?” Tezuka asked when Ryoma came back and sat next to him.

“It was nice,” Ryoma lied, “have you eaten today?”

“I had a sip of blood whilst you were in the bath,” Tezuka replied, “I didn’t think you’d want to see me drinking it.”

Ryoma shrugged, he didn’t think it would bother him at all. He’d never been squeamish about blood. Although watching Tezuka drink his own blood would probably be a bit too much.

He yawned and stretched, he quite wanted to go to bed now.  Tezuka was just reading, so he wouldn’t miss him, but he felt he should stay up for a little longer. This trip would be a good time to get to know Tezuka after all. But he wasn’t good at small talk and it didn’t seem like Tezuka was either. He wanted to ask him questions, but when he came to open his mouth he had no idea what to say and thinking how stupid he would look if he barraged Tezuka with questions. He didn’t want to annoy him.

Ryoma sighed and flopped back on the sofa, wondering what to do.

“There are plenty of books if you would like to read,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma got to his feet and went to the bookcase, picking a book out at random and going back to sit in front of the fire.

He managed to read for an hour before the journey and early get up caught up with him and he decided it was time to go to bed.

“I’m off to bed,” he informed Tezuka.

“Good night,” Tezuka said, looking at him disapprovingly as he marked his spot in his book by turning over the corner of his page. Ryoma put the book on the side table and then went upstairs to his room.

The room was a lot colder that downstairs and Ryoma quickly got changed into his pyjamas and climbed into bed. Hopefully, tomorrow would be a nice day and they could do some walking or something. After being stuck in the castle for days, he really wanted to get out and do something.

Chapter Text

Ryoma got up the next day and looked out the window to see that the cabin was surrounded by cloud. He couldn’t see anything further than a few metres away from the cabin.

Today looked like a bust.

“We’re not going to see any eagles today, are we?” He sighed as he came down the stairs. Tezuka was still sat on the sofa, reading. Ryoma wondered if he’d been there all night. Ryoma’s own book had been given a bookmark, the folder corner now folded back into place.

“The cloud cover should lift this afternoon,” Tezuka replied, “then we can go for a walk.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said and went to make some breakfast.

After getting dressed, he went outside and stood in the small area of flat land around the cabin. It was really eerie standing out there, not being able to see anything, but still hearing the faint noise of a stream running nearby.  He stood there for a while, his mind completely blank, until he started to feel the biting chill of the wind and went back inside.

Tezuka was right. Just after lunch, the cloud started to dissipate and the mountains came into view. By two o'clock, the cloud had completely gone, leaving clear blue sky.

“We can’t be out long,” Tezuka said as they pulled on their boots, “we don’t want to be out after dark.” It was clear from his voice that he had no concern about being out after dark himself, but it would be very dangerous for Ryoma.

Their little walk was just along the edge of the valley and involved very little gradient change, but Ryoma was still completely out of breath after half an hour. He knew it was the lower oxygen levels in the air and that he’d get used to it, but that didn’t make it any less annoying. Especially since Tezuka was walking ahead of him, completely fine.

“Wait a second,” Ryoma called at him and sat down on a rock to catch his breath. Tezuka came back along the path to stand at his side, looking out over the mountains and up into the air, scanning, no doubt, for eagles.

“We’ll see them this week,” Tezuka said, when no eagles appeared “if they don’t come out then we’ll put down some food.”

Ryoma hummed and got to his feet, “let’s go.”

They walked up to the glacier, a great sheet of dirty grey ice. It was a lot bigger than Ryoma had thought it was, rising up the side of the valley and fingering out between the peaks at the top.

“Be careful,” Tezuka said as Ryoma jumped up on the ice, “there can be hidden crevasses.”

“Okay,”  Ryoma said, keeping an eye on the ice beneath him. He walked around the edge a bit before hopping back off onto the rocks.

“Put your ear against it,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma looked doubtfully at the ice. It would be really cold and his ear was not feeling particularly warm at the moment. “Why?”

“Do it and you’ll see.”

“You’d better not be planning something,” Ryoma said, getting carefully down on his knees. It was stupid to say that, of course Tezuka wasn’t planning something. He wasn’t Fuji. He put his ear against the ice (it was indeed very cold) and wondered what he was supposed to be listening to, all he could hear was a faint creaking noise.

“The creaking noise is the glacier moving,” Tezuka explained.

“Okay, that’s pretty cool,” Ryoma admitted, sitting up, his ear was feeling very cold.

“It is,” Tezuka agreed, “and so is your ear, I would think.”

Ryoma brow furrowed for a second, “did you just make a joke?”

They didn’t stay long at the glacier, since they had to get back before dark. The walk back seemed a lot easier than the one up the valley, the thought of a warm fire and food drawing them back faster. They got back just as the sun was about to set, dying the scattered clouds pink and orange.

“It’s going to be a cold night tonight,” Tezuka said as they reached the cabin, “there’s not a cloud in the sky.”

“It’ll be good for stargazing,” Ryoma said.

Later, after another slightly botched dinner, Ryoma went outside to see the stars. He hadn’t realised there were so many, the sky was literally covered in millions of tiny, sparkling dots of light. Tezuka had been right, it was a very cold night. He could feel the cold through all his layers of jumpers and coat and his thick gloves and hat. He wrapped his arms around himself and jumped up and down a couple of times to try and warm himself up. At least the wind had died down, leaving the night air completely still.

“This is where you are.”

Ryoma spun around and saw Tezuka standing in the doorway. He stepped out, shutting the door behind him.

“How do you do that?” Ryoma asked, “you always appear behind me!”

“It’s a vampire speciality,” Tezuka said, his voice completely deadpan.

“Well stop it, it’s really annoying,” Ryoma snapped, “although it’s not as annoying as Fuji and his running around.”

“Fuji likes to show off that he can do it,” Tezuka explained.

“Can you do it?”

“Of course,” Tezuka replied, “but I’m faster than Fuji.”

Ryoma snorted with laughter, it was rather ridiculous to hear Tezuka bragging about his speed. “You two should have a race.”

“Momoshiro has already made us,” Tezuka replied with a sigh, “I won, but Kaidoh can speed run for the longest amount of time.”

“How were you in terms of endurance?” Ryoma asked. If it came off as an innuendo then it was not completely accidental.

“I was better than Fuji.”

Ryoma smiled to himself, “of course you were.”

“I don’t understand.”

“It’s nothing,” Ryoma replied, shaking his head. Flirting with Tezuka was going to be harder than with most people. Not that he needed to flirt with him really, it was just fun to mess with him.

“It’s cold, I’m going in,” Ryoma said.

Tezuka could have grabbed him and pulled him back, leaning down to press a gentle kiss on Ryoma’s lips. One that would not remain gentle for long. Soon they’d have their hands in each other’s hair, tugging and pulled each other closer as their tongues danced together, their breath coming out in clouds. Tezuka would start biting Ryoma’s lips and Ryoma would pull him back into the cabin and up to bed.

But he didn’t.

Tezuka gave the stars one last look and then followed Ryoma back inside.


The next morning dawned bright and sunny and Tezuka woke Ryoma up early so that they could set off.


“Where are we going?” Ryoma asked as he pulled on his walking boots.
“Into the next valley,” Tezuka replied, “We have to walk out of this valley and around into the next. There’s no path up and over the top and the sides are covered in loose rock, which is very dangerous to walk on.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said, packing extra jumpers into his rucksack along with his makeshift lunch. Tezuka started to rub on sun cream, Ryoma watched him, grinning. He didn’t have to wear it.

“You should put some on too,” Tezuka said, handing him the bottle, “the sun is very strong in the mountains.”

Ryoma groaned and took it, lathering it onto his face and hands. “I hate this stuff.”

“It’s better than sunburn,” Tezuka said, “you’ve missed a spot.” He reached out and rubbed a smear of white on Ryoma’s cheek into his skin, his hand lingering there a lot longer than necessary. “We should go.”

They walked down into the bottom of the valley and met the path next to the stream of glacier melt water. Ryoma hung back, letting Tezuka lead the way. Normally, he liked being in the lead, but he didn’t really know where they were going and this way he had a nice view of Tezuka’s rather fine butt (even if it was dressed in baggy walking trousers).

The path left the valley and then went downhill before turning upwards and into the next valley. Near the entrance of the valley was a small wooden hut. Inside it was just a bench.

“This is cosy,” Ryoma said sarcastically as Tezuka opened a couple of flaps in the wall next to the bench.

“The eagles nest in those trees,” Tezuka said when Ryoma came to sat next to him, pointing at a cluster of trees on the other side of the valley.

Ryoma nodded and picked up the binoculars, focusing them in on the trees. There were no eagles.

“They’ll be out hunting,” Tezuka said, scanning the skies.

Half an hour later, there were still no eagles and Ryoma started to eat his lunch.

Four hours later and all they’d seen were a few crows, a raven and a collection of small brown birds. Tezuka was currently watching a pair of rabbits. Ryoma sighed, bored out of his mind.

“We should probably go back soon,” he said, putting his binoculars up to his eyes and scanning along the top of the valley.

“You’re right,” Tezuka said, “Just give it a couple more minutes.”

Ryoma sighed and continued scanning.

And then a saw it, a broad wing appeared above the peak Ryoma was looking at.

“There!” Ryoma shouted, his cry sending the rabbits scattering. He pointed at where the wing was, but it had soared down into the next valley. “There was a big white wing with black stripes on it,” seeing it had caused a spike of adrenaline and he couldn’t stop talking. “It disappeared though.”

“Well done,” Tezuka said calmly, “let’s see if it comes back.”

They sat with their binoculars trained in on the spot where the eagle had been, but nothing showed up.

“We should go,” Tezuka said and Ryoma nodded, packing up his binoculars.

“You should always bring me with you,” Ryoma said smugly as they left the hide. “Since I spotted the eagle.”

“I should,” Tezuka agreed. “I’m glad we know that they’re still in the area.”

It was almost dark by the time they got back to the cabin. They both changed into more comfy clothes and then made up the fire together and sat on the sofa.

Ryoma felt very satisfied, despite only seeing the wing of an eagle.

“Why would anyone shoot an eagle?” Ryoma asked, looking over at the picture on the window, “they’re magnificent.”

“Mostly it’s poachers wanting a trophy or to sell the body parts,” Tezuka said, “feathers sell for a very high price.”

“Yeah, I sighed a thing a few years ago committing me to clamp down on the trade,” Ryoma said, “I doubt it helped.”

“It helped a lot,” Tezuka said, “The number of shootings have fallen, but the price of feathers has now shot through the roof and there are some very desperate people out there.”

Ryoma nodded solemnly.

“Sometimes a farmer shoots one because it took one of their sheep,” Tezuka continued, “nowadays though farmers are tolerant of them. We’ve found that putting food out stops them going after sheep. Normally they only take old sheep that are close to death anyway. The eagles are big, but a sheep can do a lot of damage to them.”

“I bet it can,” Ryoma agreed, “we’ve got some rare eagles in Ensinkil, our main problem is with egg thieves.”

“That’s the main threat to our eagles,” Tezuka said, “Every year during the breeding season the Ice Eagle Foundation send vampires to watch over each nest day and night. The number of cases went down with the threat of having your throat ripped out.”

Ryoma snorted, “you’d have to be suicidal to try.”

“People still do,” Tezuka said wearily.

“Have you ever watched over the nests?”

“I have a few times,” Tezuka replied, “It was tiring, but you do see the chicks being raised.”

“Maybe next time I’ll come with you.”

“That would be nice,” Tezuka said. “Next spring we’re releasing a pair of eagles into the area.”

“To replace the ones that were shot?” Ryoma asked.

“No, there are a couple of juveniles reaching maturity, the old territory will be taken by them. But there’s plenty of land around and we need some new blood. The new eagles will be released in the mountains near Seigaku.”

“That’ll be fun,” Ryoma said.

“I would like you to be there.”

“Did the eagles that were shot leave any young behind?” Ryoma asked after a pause.

“They did,” Tezuka said solemnly, “They’d mated late that year, so it was very young. I rescued it and sent it to the Ice Eagle Foundation. They raise chicks there.”

“Okay,” Ryoma said.

“I came back and found you bleeding in my hall,” Tezuka said, “and then I lost control. I’m sorry.”

“I already forgave you,” Ryoma reminded him. “I didn’t want to go to Tanaris. I’d be right here even if you hadn’t bit me.”

“I’m glad you’re here.”

“Same,” Ryoma said softly, “I need to lie down.” He was going to do the sensible thing and lie with his legs in Tezuka’s lap, but Tezuka’s words had made him feel a lot bolder and braver. He lay down with his head in Tezuka’s lap.

“Did my lap look comfy?” Tezuka asked, Ryoma was relieved that he didn’t seem to mind.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied. He paused for a moment, “What do you think about love?”

“I know I wanted to wait till I was in love till I mated,” Tezuka said. “I feel rather jealous of Fuji.”

“I’ve only ever felt lust,” Ryoma admitted, “All I ever did with my ‘partners’ was sleep with them.”

“We make a good pair,” Tezuka said, “I’ve never been with anyone and you’ve been with-”

“All the hot men in the Ensinkil court,” Ryoma said, “or the ones who were gay or bi or just curious at least. And the ones who just wanted to fuck a prince.”

“Were they queuing up?”

Ryoma snorted, “sometimes.”

“I spent a long, long time with Atobe,” Tezuka said, “he has seven mates.”

“Seven?!” Ryoma asked, astonished, “do they all take turns or is it an orgy every night?”

Tezuka looked scandalised, “I wouldn’t know. He cares for them all deeply, but within their group there are two couples.”

“That sounds complicated.”

“It is,” Tezuka replied, “I can explain it properly if you’d like.”

“I think it’d give me a headache. Anyway, who cares about Atobe?”

“I do,” Tezuka said, brushing Ryoma’s blond hair out of his eyes.

“Yeah, well, you’re weird.”

Tezuka didn’t say anything more, just started down at Ryoma, carefully brushing his hair that refused to stay out of his eyes. Ryoma suddenly felt very warm, the blood rushing to his face. He was blushing! He was lying in Tezuka’s lap blushing! Tezuka was looking at him so tenderly and Ryoma thought his heart was about to explode.

Kiss me, Ryoma thought, I’m right here waiting!

He flicked his eyes away for a second and bit his lip, trying to look as cute as possible.

Give in! Give in! Give in! He chanted in his head, please!

“You should start your dinner,” Tezuka said, completely destroying the mood.

Fine, If that’s what you want, Ryoma though, getting up and going to the kitchen. It had all been going so well! They’d had a nice talk and then he’d been lying in Tezuka’s lap and Tezuka hadn’t kissed him and taken him up to his room and had his way with him! Well, if Tezuka didn’t want him in his bed then that was his loss!

I’m going too fast, Ryoma realised as he chopped up the vegetables. I need to slow down.

He managed to make something that was actually tasted nice and wasn’t burnt this time and allowed himself to be a bit proud of it as humiliation caught up with him. At least Tezuka hadn’t outright rejected him. He remembered how tenderly Tezuka had looked at him and found himself blushing. Surely that had to mean something!

He finished his dinner and washed up then returned to the sofa in front of the fire where Tezuka was reading.

“Do you want to lie down again?” Tezuka asked as Ryoma sat down and picked up his own book.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, putting his feet in Tezuka’s lap and lying back against the sofa cushions. Tezuka put his free hand on Ryoma’s feet, it was cold, but comforting at the same time. At least Tezuka hadn’t changed how he acted around Ryoma.


The next day found them at the bottom of the valley in a clearing in the woodland. They’d driven down and were now sat on the car’s roof, looking for more eagles. So far, the only bird of prey they’d seen was a sparrowhawk. Ryoma had lain down on the roof and was dozing in the sun. It was a lot warmer today and Ryoma was feeling relaxed and happy.

“Any eagles?” he asked.

“None yet,” Tezuka replied, “I heard one earlier though.”

“That high pitched chirping noise?” Ryoma asked, it wasn’t a good description at all.

Thankfully, Tezuka knew exactly what he’s meant, “yes.”

“So they’re around?”

“Yes.”

Ryoma sat up and started to look as well. It was harder to see with the trees around them compared to the openness of the valley the day before, but Ryoma had always had good eyesight.

“Up there,” Tezuka said, pointing high in the sky where a small dot was swirling in the thermals. Ryoma raised his binoculars and focused in. The dot turned out to be an eagle. An Ice Eagle.

“It’s too high to see which one it is,” Tezuka said, “hopefully it’ll drop down a bit and we can see the colour of the tag on its leg.”

“Let’s hope so,” Ryoma agreed. Even with his good eyesight, the eagle was far too high for him to be able to see the tag.

They watched the eagle as it soared.

“Have you ever wanted to fly?” Tezuka asked.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, “when I was kid I dreamt about flying away from the palace. Normally, during really boring functions.”

Tezuka chuckled, “I can imagine you’d get very bored at formal events.”

“Especially ones where the Queen Mother of Tanaris was there,” Ryoma added, “she was always telling me about her stupid granddaughter and how I was going to marry her one day.”

“Is she the one you were on your way to marry?”

“Yes,” Ryoma replied, “We were betrothed for years, the government of my country needed the dowry though, so the wedding plans went into fast track. I’ve never even met the woman I was supposed to marry.”

“Atobe was very against your marriage,” Tezuka said, “Tanaris has always been anti-vampire, an allegiance with your country would have given them the means to go to war.”

Ryoma snorted, “my country’s flat broke.”

“But you have a very large army,” Tezuka pointed out, “and your country was once home to powerful magicians.”

“All of which are dead!”

“Magic doesn’t die out that easily.”

Ryoma shrugged, “I don’t want to be responsible for a war.”

“I wouldn’t want you to be responsible for one either.”

“I should set up an alliance between our countries,” Ryoma said, “since I’m now with you.”

“Your country won’t acknowledge our mating bond as a marriage,” Tezuka said, “we would have to get married.”

“Maybe in a few years,” Ryoma replied, smirking, “or we could have a political marriage.”

“I don’t want you to be in a political marriage,” Tezuka said, “you deserve better than that.”

That was very touching and Ryoma looked back to the eagle to avoid having to look at Tezuka. He’d resigned himself to a political marriage, there was no way his father or his country would allow him to be with a man, so he’d realised that he would be married off to some woman he didn’t love and, as long as a child came out of the marriage and Ryoma’s affairs were secret, he could sleep around with as many men as he wanted.

“Out of everyone I could marry, I think you’d be the best option.”

Tezuka didn’t reply to that, which Ryoma thought was probably for the best. They were there to find eagles, not make out on the car roof.

However tempting the idea was.

The eagle had flown further away from them and was only a speck against the clouds.

Ryoma put his binoculars down and sighed.

“This is the territory of one of the pairs, so we can narrow it to one of them,” Tezuka said, “the weather is due to stay like this for the next few days, so we’ll have plenty of chances to see them again.”

Ryoma lay back again and looked up at the crystal clear blue sky. He felt Tezuka lie down next to him and looked over, coming face to face with him.

“This isn’t comfortable,” Tezuka said.

“It’s not that bad,” Ryoma replied, “it’s more comfortable than the benches yesterday.”

“It’s not.”

Ryoma inched closer to him, their eyes locked together.

“If you’re cold then getting close to me won’t do you any good,” Tezuka said.

“I’m not cold,” Ryoma told him.

He shut his eyes and smiled as Tezuka brushed his hair off his face.

“Do you like my hair?” Ryoma asked, “you play with it a lot.”

“Your hair is very nice,” Tezuka replied.

Ryoma opened his eyes and looked up through his eyelashes at Tezuka. He knew the effect very well and with his platinum blond hair he was sure he looked practically angelic, although he was ruining it with his devilish grin. He saw Tezuka catch his breath and his grin became even more devilish.
He could easily lean in and kiss him, Tezuka would pull him close and kiss him back, rolling them over so that Ryoma was underneath him, pressed between the car roof and Tezuka’s body.

But he wanted Tezuka to kiss him. Playing this game, tempting Tezuka into kissing him was far too much fun for him to give it up by kissing him first.
To his disappointment, Tezuka didn’t close the few centimetres between their lips.

Ryoma gave up this time, rolling over onto his back.

Just as an eagle flew over them.

“Eagle!” Ryoma shouted as the bird flew away and landed on a tree. They both scrambled for their binoculars, focusing in on the eagle that was sat in the tree, tearing into a rabbit.

“It’s the male,” Tezuka said, “Can you see the purple tag on its wing? The female has a red one.”

“He’s huge!”

"The female is bigger.”

“I’m starting to think you were lying yesterday,” Ryoma said, “that thing could easily kill a sheep.”

A few minutes later, the eagle was joined by his mate. It was lucky they were sat on a thick branch, anything smaller would have snapped under their combined weight. The male wasn’t keen on the idea of sharing his meal with his mate, and let her take a couple of bits of meat before taking off, rabbit firmly in his clutches. The female sat on the branch for a few minutes, preening herself before taking off and flying out of sight.

“They both looked well fed and healthy,” Tezuka said, sounding rather relieved, “They’re well prepared for the winter. We just need to see the pair from the mountains now.”

“Should we drive back and see if we can see them?” Ryoma asked, “since today seems to be our lucky eagle spotting day.”

“That would be a good idea,” Tezuka agreed, “unless you want to stay here and see if they come back.”

“We’ve seen them and they look fine,” Ryoma said, “we should go and see the other two.”

They spent the next couple of days searching the area for the mountain eagle pair. They’d seen the valley pair a couple more times, but the mountain pair proved to be as elusive as ever.

And so, they decided to climb a mountain. Partly because Ryoma had suggested that they could get a good view from the top of the mountain, but mostly because they were sick of just sitting down all day and going for a long walk sounded like a nice idea.

Or it had the night before when they made their plans. Tezuka was completely fine, but Ryoma was realising just how bad he was at walking uphill. His legs were starting to ache and he was completely out of breath and they weren’t even half way up. The hard, rocky path didn’t help matters. His feet kept catching on the edges of rocks and slipped on loose ones.

But he trudged on, following in Tezuka’s footsteps.

“We’re almost there,” Tezuka told him sometime later, Ryoma couldn’t tell how long.

Ryoma looked up and saw they were about to get onto the ridge that went up to the mountain’s peak.

“Be careful,” Tezuka said as they got onto the ridge, a small path winding its way along with sheer drops either side.

Ryoma gulped, it really didn’t look safe.

“Here,” Tezuka said, holding out his hand, “I won’t let you fall.”

How romantic, Ryoma thought, taking Tezuka’s hand and letting him lead him along the narrow path.

“It’s best not to look down,” Tezuka said and Ryoma tore his eyes from the dizzying drop and locked them right onto the back of Tezuka’s head.
Tezuka had nice hair, it shone in the sunshine. He had a nice back too, it was wide and muscular and Ryoma wanted to know what it was like to cling to it in the throes of passion.

It look a lot less time than Ryoma expected to get to the peak of the mountain. One minute they were walking, hand in hand, along the ridge, the next the were scrambling up the last couple of meters and up to the top where there was a couple of rocks that made a good seat.

Ryoma sat down, thankful to get the weight off his feet. All around him was mountains. Ranges of mountains that went on forever, right into the horizon, disappearing into blue.

“It’s breathtaking,” Ryoma said, not realising he’d said it out loud.

“It is,” Tezuka agreed, staring right at Ryoma.

Ryoma looked puzzled for a second and then smiled at him, a beautiful, completely genuine smile.

“Echizen,” Tezuka said tenderly.

“Tezuka,” Ryoma said, sliding his hand over the top of Tezuka’s. It was cool and big with long, delicate fingers. he knew from earlier how perfectly it fit around his own. Maybe they were meant to be.

Tezuka’s free hand slid onto Ryoma’s cheek, his thumb rubbing against his skin.

He wasn’t sure whether Tezuka had leaned in, or if he had or whether it had been both of them. But either way, a moment later their lips were pressing softly together. It was good, so much better than his fantasies. Ryoma’s free hand wound itself into his hair, tugging on it as his tongue tried to get into Tezuka’s mouth.

Tezuka pulled away before Ryoma could manage it.

“That’s enough for now,” he said.

“One more,” Ryoma said, “I won’t do anything.”

Tezuka leaned in and pressed their lips together again. His lips were chapped, but felt wonderful against his own, with the soft little movements.

“Do you want another?” Tezuka asked as he pulled back and rested their foreheads together.

“Of course,” Ryoma replied, “but maybe we should wait till we get back,” he said, sliding his hand up Tezuka’s leg.

“Not yet,” Tezuka said, taking Ryoma’s hand and moving it back to a more decent place, “we barely know each other, Echizen.”

“You’re right,” Ryoma sighed, “I wish you weren’t. Anyway, we should be focusing on eagles.”

“Yes,” Tezuka agreed, unpacking the binoculars from his bag and handing a pair to Ryoma.

“Is that one there?” Ryoma asked, pointing at what he was sure was an eagle sat on some rocks nearby.

“It is,” Tezuka said, “you are good at this.”

“It’ll look good on my CV,” Ryoma joked, “it’s a new one, right?”

“It’s one of the mountain pair,” Tezuka told him, “the female. She looks very healthy. I think we can assume the male is as well if we don’t see him.”

“All your eagles are fine.”

“I’m glad,” Tezuka said. “We should go back down.”

Ryoma nodded and got to his feet, stumbling. Tezuka caught him before he could fall, pulling him back into his body.

“Are you okay?”

“Fine,” Ryoma grunted, enjoying himself being pulled up against Tezuka. “I’ll lead the way down, I trust you to catch me.”

He took Tezuka’s hand and lead him all the way back to the hut, thankful that he could remember the way.  And, with the fire crackling in the grate and his dinner cooking, he deposited himself in Tezuka’s lap.

“What are you doing?” He asked as Ryoma wrapped his arms around his neck and started to plaster kisses over his face.

“Kissing you,” Ryoma replied, “like we were doing on the mountain.”

“I don’t remember you -ah-  biting on my ear up there.”

Ryoma tugged more roughly than he’d meant to on his earlobe and then slid it between his teeth, “I would have done. If you hadn’t stopped me.”

“Echizen, we’re going too fast,” Tezuka said.

“It’s just a bit of kissing,” Ryoma replied, pressing their lips together, “relax, let’s have some fun.”

“Just kissing?”

“Just kissing,” Ryoma promised, “and maybe some touching.”

“Just kissing,” Tezuka said sternly.

“But I can’t kiss without touching you.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Fine,” Ryoma sighed and then Tezuka pulled him closer and slammed their lips together. Ryoma quickly changed position so that he was straddling Tezuka’s legs. Tezuka’s hands slid down from his shoulders and rested in the small of his back, applying pressure to keep Ryoma exactly where he was. Ryoma finally managed to get his tongue into Tezuka’s mouth and he moaned as Tezuka kissed him back with just as much ferocity.

“Want to go up to your room?” Ryoma asked, panting.

“No,” Tezuka replied, “down here is fine. Anyway, your dinner is burning.”

“Shit,” Ryoma hissed, getting to his feet and running to the kitchen where his dinner was indeed burning. He managed to salvage what he could from it, but it was one of the worst things he’d ever eaten.

“At least blood doesn’t burn,” he grumbled as he returned to Tezuka.

“But it can taste very bad,” Tezuka said, “I’m sure your dinner wasn’t that bad.”

“It was,” Ryoma pouted, “it was the worst thing I’ve ever eaten. I don’t even want to make out now.”

“Perhaps that’s for the best.”

“You were having fun though,” Ryoma said.

“That may be. But we were getting close to going too far,” Tezuka told him. “I’m sorry.”

Ryoma shrugged, “I do want to sleep with you,” he admitted, “but it’s not fun if you don’t want to.”

“Thank you.”

“I’m going to go to bed,” Ryoma said, “my whole body hurts.”

“It’s good we didn’t have sex then.”

Ryoma laughed, “you’ve never had sex before, have you?” He asked as he gave Tezuka a peck on the lips and got to his feet.

“Goodnight,” Tezuka said and watched him leave.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Tezuka was acting weird. He’d brushed Ryoma off when he tried to give him a good morning kiss and was avoiding looking at him. He was clearly regretting the previous night.

“Te-” Ryoma started, but he was rudely interrupted by the phone ringing. He jumped, he hadn’t even realised there was a phone.

“Hello,” Tezuka said as he picked up the receiver. “Good morning, Fuji…. Yes….Yes…. No, we have not……”

Ryoma sat down on the sofa, Tezuka’s phone calls were not interesting to listen in to.

“Of course, we’ll come back immediately.”

Wait, come back?

“We’ll see you soon.” With that, Tezuka hung up. “We’re going back to Seigaku,” he informed Ryoma, “Atobe needs us.”

“And we can’t keep the Monkey King waiting,” Ryoma said, ignoring Tezuka’s look of disapproval and going upstairs to pack up his things.

It took them a couple of hours to get everything packed, the house cleaned and the fire laid for any lost hikers.

“We didn’t see the last eagle,” Ryoma said as they finished packing the car.

“We’ll have to come back,” Tezuka said, “next spring.”

Ryoma nodded and gave the view one last look. Then, his right eye hurt, as if someone had pricked the back of it. It was over in a split second, but still made Ryoma twitch. He wrote it off as tiredness and got into the car, “that sounds good, I guess.”

Tezuka gave him a look that told him his lack of enthusiasm was noted and would be questioned later. Ryoma had questions to ask Tezuka too, but they would have to wait till Tezuka had navigated the tricky roads down to the bottom of the valley and onto the main roads.

“Why won’t you look at me?” Ryoma asked.

“Because I’m driving.”

“Not now, I meant this morning,” Ryoma grumbled, “I tried to kiss you and you brushed me off!”

“Echizen,” Tezuka sighed, “I think last night was a mistake.”

“Really?” Ryoma said disbelievingly, “I don’t think it was.”

“You wouldn’t.”

Ryoma glared at him, his temper flaring up “why?”

Tezuka sighed again, “you’re used to doing things like that.”

“So, I’m a slut and therefore not good enough for you?!”

“That’s not what I said,” Tezuka said calmly, “or meant.”

“What did you mean then?”

Tezuka pulled over to the side of the road and switched off the engine. There was a pause whilst Tezuka collected his thoughts. Ryoma waited, there was no point in yelling till he’d heard what Tezuka had to say.

“What I meant was that I am not used to kissing, or jumping straight into bed with someone after just getting to know them,” Tezuka explained. “And…”

“And?” Ryoma pushed.

“There is a bond between us -one that you had no say in- I don’t want you to feel like you’re being forced into something by my mistakes.”

Ryoma narrowed his eyes. “Mistake?”

“I bit you,” Tezuka clarified. “and made you my mate, both without your consent.”

“And the bond makes me attracted to you?”

“It might make you think that.”

“But if I’m attracted to you then I’m attracted to you

“Right,” Ryoma said, drawing the syllables out. “So you just want to go slower?”

“Yes,” Tezuka said.

“All we did was kiss last night,” Ryoma said, feeling confused, “what do you want me to do? Scatter your bed with rose petals?”

“Maybe not that,” Tezuka said, “a little romance wouldn’t hurt though.”

“Oh.”

“What?”

“Romance is… well, I’m not good at it.”

“Clearly,” Tezuka said, “I also have no experience with it.”

“Excellent,” Ryoma said, his anger dying down, “so we’re both at the same level.”

“As a prince, you have the advantage.”

“You want me to use my title to romance you?”

“In stories there’s always a handsome prince.”

“Who falls in love with the princess,” Ryoma said, grinning, “but we can change that to lord.”

Tezuka smiled and reached over to tuck a loose lock of Ryoma’s hair behind his ear.

“I’ll order a thousand roses when we get home,” Ryoma joked, then leaned up and kissed Tezuka softly. “You will have to tell me when I’m going too fast, I’ve never done romance before.”

“Of course,” Tezuka replied, kissing Ryoma himself, “although, roses remind me of Atobe.”

“No roses then,” Ryoma promised.

“Is that why you weren’t as eager about coming next spring?” Tezuka asked, “because you thought I was avoiding you.”

“Yes,” Ryoma sighed, realising how petty it was. “I do want to come with you though. It’s been fun.”

Tezuka turned on the engine, “We need to go back.”

“Why are we suddenly going back?”

“Atobe called, he needs us somewhere where he can easily get to us,” Tezuka explained, “Fuji doesn’t know why.”

“Am I the only one with a bad feeling about this?”

“No, you’re not,” Tezuka agreed.


It was dark by the time they drove up the drive and parked outside the castle. Ryoma was tired and achy and was very much looking forward to a nice hot bath- one that he could lie in.

“Shorty, you’re back!” Kikumaru cried as he ran out of the castle and latched himself onto Ryoma, “did you get to see Countess Beatrice the 4th?”

“Who’s she?” Ryoma asked, they hadn’t seen any people at all.

“The eagle!” Kikumaru said.

“We did see her,” Tezuka said and then turned to Ryoma, “she’s the female from the valley pair.”

“Oh, okay,” Ryoma said, “we saw her mate as well.”

“Count Winston,” Kikumaru corrected him and Ryoma understood why Tezuka refused to remember the names. “The male from the mountains is Boris Eagleson and his mate is Lady Elicchi.”

“We didn’t see the last one,” Ryoma said, “we saw the male though.”

“They’re all healthy and well,” Tezuka said, “we should get all of our things inside.”

Kikumaru let go of Ryoma, “okay, I’ll help!”

Finally, the car was unloaded, their things had been put away and Ryoma had run a hot bath and sunk into the water. The mountains had been fun, but it was nice to be back home.

Wait.. home?

He’d never thought about it, but he supposed this castle was home. He didn’t really think of his old home, the palace back in Ensinkil, as home any more. His parents and Karupin weren’t there any more, so Seigaku Castle was as close to being ‘home’ as it was possible to be.

Plus, Tezuka was in the castle.

He sank down into the bath as he felt his face heat up.

Tezuka was indeed here, wanting to be romanced by Ryoma.

He really should have read some of his cousin’s romance novels, he had no idea what to do! Seduction, yes, he could do that. Romance though? He was completely loss. Would Tezuka appreciate flowers and being wined and dined? He wouldn’t mind doing it if he and Tezuka were the only people in the castle, but with the others around there was no where he could keep it a secret. He guessed he couldn’t leave the castle either, so he’d have to get someone to go into town to buy him what he needed.

He was sure he’d seen a book about romance in the library, but he couldn’t stomach going to find it.

He knew that, right now, he should be focusing on why Atobe had brought them home and why he needed them here. But the idea of romancing Tezuka was what was filling up his mind. Stupid hormones wanting him to get laid.

He’d go and ask Fuji. Out of everyone, he was sure Fuji would be the one who could tell him what to do. Even if meant being teased.

Finding Fuji was another matter, however. After his bath, Ryoma went on mission to scour the castle for him. He asked everyone he could find and no one had seen him. He seemed to have disappeared off the face of the planet.

“He might be down in town,” Momo said, “visiting Taka-san.”

“If you see him, let him know I’m looking for him.”

He went back to his room, it didn’t look like Fuji was in the castle so he was going to have to wait until tomorrow. It was getting late and he might as well go to bed.

Karupin wound his way around his ankles, purring and clearly please to have his owner back with him. He was pleased to be back with Karupin. He picked the cat up and hugged him close.

“I missed you, Karu,” He muttered into the cat’s fur. Karupin meowed in response, Ryoma took it as an 'I missed you too’.

He went to the bed, carrying Karupin and climbed in.

He hadn’t seen Tezuka since they’d unpacked the car, he’d run off somewhere. Ryoma knew it had to be for something important, but he didn’t appreciate being left alone.

Not that he minded being alone, it was just he’d been spending his evenings with Tezuka in front of the fire and now that he was alone in his room he felt rather…well, alone. He looked down at Karupin, who had stretched out on the bed.

“What do you think about Tezuka?” He asked.

Karupin looked at him with big blue eyes and twitched his ears. It could be worse, he could have hissed.

“I think I like him,” Ryoma said, “I do like him, but I think I like him, you know?”
Karupin continued to stare at him, he obviously didn’t know.

“I’ve been with him for a few days and we kissed and didn’t have sex. You wouldn’t understand, you’re a cat, you don’t do romance.”

Karupin mewled and started kneading the covers.

“I wanted to sleep with him, but he wanted to go slowly and I realised I wanted to as well,” Ryoma continued, scratching Karupin behind the ears, “I’ve never felt like this before. Which is why I’m telling you, you can’t tell anyone else!”

Karupin flicked his ears.

“If you meet someone who can talk to cats, you’re not allowed to tell them!” Ryoma said sternly, “this is our secret.”

“Secrets?” A voice by the door said and Ryoma’s head jerked up. It was Fuji. “I like secrets.”

“Only because you can use them against people,” Ryoma grumbled.

“Nonsense,” Fuji said and in a flash he was sat on the edge of the bed, “I don’t do that with secrets that would hurt someone.” Ryoma rolled his eyes. “You were looking for me?”

“I was,” Ryoma said grudgingly. He was wishing that he’d just decided to flail about in the darkness.

“Is it something to do with the secret you were telling Karupin?” Fuji asked sweetly as Karupin climbed into his lap. Ryoma cursed his cat for being such a traitor.

“Yes,” he muttered and Fuji’s face lit up.

“Go on.”

“Do you know anything about romance?”

“Romance?” Fuji asked, surprised, “are you planning on sweeping Tezuka off his feet and showering him in roses?”

“Something like that,” Ryoma muttered, his eyes fixed on the fire crackling in the fire place and well away from Fuji. He didn’t need to see Fuji to know that he was grinning.

“If it’s Tezuka then put on some tight clothes and take him some tea,” Fuji said.

“I don’t want to sleep with him! I want him to fall in love with me!” Ryoma snapped.

“Why not? Tezuka is very attractive.”

“He is! But I tried and-” He stopped when he saw the look on Fuji’s face.

“You tried and he turned you down?” Fuji guessed, barely hiding his amusement.

“He wants to go slowly.”

“Of course he does. He’s Tezuka,” Fuji said, “his idea of 'slow’ is more akin to 'glacial’.”

“I’m not going to do anything he doesn’t want!”

"Of course you’re not,” Fuji said, “you’ve just got to make him realise that he does want to have sex with you.”

“And I do that with tea?” Ryoma asked, “it’s hardly something considered romantic.”

“That’s why the tight jeans are needed,” Fuji said, “or something equally sexy. I think I have a maid outfit somewhere.”

“No!” Ryoma snapped, “I’m not doing that.”

Fuji laughed, “Tezuka’s a romantic deep down, just appeal to that.”

“That’s why I was asking you!” Ryoma snapped, feeling this conversation was just going in circles. “I don’t know how to do that.”

“Romance is more Oishi’s area,” Fuji said, “I prefer things to be a bit more…”
he let the sentence hang in the air, Ryoma knew exactly what Fuji was getting at.

“How did you manage to get Kawamura to fall in love with you?” Ryoma asked.

“Mind blowing sex,” Fuji replied, smiling innocently.

“Obviously,” Ryoma said, rolling his eyes. Talking to Fuji was useless.

“You have to let Tezuka get used to the idea of having sex with you,” Fuji said, “he’s very much on his way to falling in love with you without you having to even lift a finger. Give him a bit of time and he’ll be all yours.”

Ryoma gave that a bit of thought. He was happy to give Tezuka time, he just didn’t particularly want to wait years.

“What’s his favourite flower?” Ryoma asked and Fuji laughed.

“You’ll have to ask Oishi that one,” he said, “he’s on guard duty at the moment so ask him in the morning. For now, you should go to sleep. You’ve had a long day.”

Ryoma nodded, “why did we have to come back?”

“Tezuka will have to tell you that,” Fuji replied, “Atobe didn’t tell me.”

“I’m going to bed,” Ryoma said, hoping Fuji would take the hint and leave.

Fuji pulled him into a hug, “it’s good to have you back, it’s been quiet with you away.”

“Yeah yeah,” Ryoma said, “you had fun without all the assassins coming after me.”

“Well, I did rather,” Fuji agreed, letting Ryoma go. “Do you want to go back to your natural hair colour or would you prefer to remain a blond bombshell?”

“Natural,” Ryoma said almost immediately.

“That’s a shame, you look angelic as a blonde,” Fuji said. “I’ll buy you some dye tomorrow,”

“Goodnight Fuji,” Ryoma said as Fuji got up to leave.

“You know you’re not allowed out of the castle grounds?” Fuji asked as he got up to leave.

“I figured,” Ryoma said, “apologise to Kawamura for me.”

“He understands,” Fuji assured him, “he sends his best wishes by the way. Good night.”

And with that he was gone, the door shutting gently behind him.

Ryoma looked at Karupin, who looked up at him innocently.

“You should be careful of Fuji,” Ryoma told him, “he gives you weird advice.”

He lay down in bed and Karupin slunk under the covers with him. Ryoma wrapped his arms around him and pulled him close, burying his face in Karupin’s fur, his head spinning with thoughts.

If Fuji was telling the truth then he really didn’t need to do anything, but he felt he should. Their relationship wasn’t very romantic at the moment and maybe adding a bit wouldn’t be a bad thing. Something small and touching would be best, Ryoma guessed, the idea of a big, grand gesture was really embarrassing and just wasn’t him.

But what could he do? He’s only been joking with the flowers, but maybe it was a good idea.

Although, he thought, flowers die quickly, it’d only be a temporary gift.

So maybe not flowers then. Maybe a pot plant?

Karupin wriggled in his sleep and Ryoma pet him idly.

He’d have to get someone to buy him his gift for him. Someone how he could trust to not tell Tezuka. That pretty much ruled out Kikumaru, he was sure the vampire would let it slip as soon as he saw Tezuka.

Fuji had a reason to go into town, but Ryoma didn’t really want to trust him.

Maybe Oishi then, although if he let it slip to Kikumaru then his plan was doomed. So, Momo? Or Kaidoh or Inui. He hadn’t really talked to Inui beyond answering his questions about what it was like to be a vampire’s mate and he rarely saw Kaidoh.

Momo it was then.

But he had no idea what to get anyway.

He sighed, annoyed at his inability to think of something. He’d ask Oishi what he thought in the morning. If Fuji had sent him in his direction then Oishi must know Tezuka the best. He didn’t need to tell him that he was planning anything, just ask some vague questions about Tezuka and romance and hope Oishi didn’t put two and two together.

Who was he kidding? Of course Oishi would work it out! But if it was just asking how to romance Tezuka then it would be fine. It wasn’t as if he knew what he was going to do after all.

His mind turned to Tezuka. He’d only spent a week in the mountains with him and he was already in deep. He couldn’t even put his finger on what it was about Tezuka that was so attractive. He was just so…. so… he gave up, he couldn’t put a word to the feeling of calm warmth that surrounded Tezuka and the dignified way he held himself. He was closer to royalty than Ryoma could ever hope to be.

He smiled to himself under the covers, Tezuka really was something. He’d love to see him take on the Prime Minister of Ensinkil. Tezuka would have him begging for forgiveness in minutes.

The thought warmed him thoroughly and soothed his worries away. Within minutes, he was fast asleep.



“Oishi, can I talk to you?” Ryoma asked the next morning when he found Oishi in the kitchen.

“Oishi looked a bit surprised, but smiled at him and said, "Of course, Echizen. Is in here okay?”

“Yeah,” Ryoma said, sitting down. The kitchen was empty apart from himself and Oishi.

“What did you want to talk about?” Oishi asked.

“What’s Tezuka’s favourite flower?” Ryoma asked.

If Oishi had been taken aback by Ryoma asking for help he was even more so when he heard the question. “His favourite flower?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Ryoma said, “I thought you’d know.”

“I’m sorry, Echizen,” Oishi said, “I don’t know. He likes gardening, so you could get him some seeds.”

“I didn’t say I wanted to buy him some,” Ryoma grumbled.

“Oh, sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

“So, do you want to get Tezuka to like you?” Oishi asked cautiously.

“Something like that.”

Oishi took that as a 'yes’, thankfully. For some reason, it was easier to talk to Fuji about this than Oishi. He could fight back against Fuji, he felt bad snapping at Oishi.

“Well,” Oishi started, “you should just be yourself.”

“I know that!”

“Okay, well…” Oishi trailed off, “this is actually quite hard.”

“I know,” Ryoma moaned, “that’s why I’m asking you.”

“I’ve known Tezuka for centuries and I don’t know what you could do,” Oishi admitted, “he likes useful things though. I mean, I’m sure he’d appreciate you buying flowers, but there are better things you could buy him.”

“Right.”

“In all honesty, you don’t need to buy him anything,” Oishi added, very unhelpfully.

Ryoma felt like hitting his head against the wall. None of this was helping! “How did you and Kikumaru get together?” He asked, thinking he might learn something from hearing the story.

Just then, Kikumaru bounced into the room.

“What are you talking about?” He asked, “you mentioned me.”

“Echizen wanted to know how we fell in love,” Oishi explained as Kikumaru sat down next to him.

“Want some tips to get Tezuka?” he asked Ryoma, winking at him.

“Not really,” Ryoma muttered, wondering how transparent he was if even Kikumaru could see through him.

“Eiji,” Oishi sighed wearily.

Kikumaru ignored him, “how long ago did we meet?” he asked.

“It was just after I’d arrived here,” Oishi replied, “so five hundred years ago?”

“Oishi! You should know exactly how many years it’s been,” Kikumaru teased him.

“I’m sorry,” Oishi said, “I have the year written down in my room.”

“I was just joking,” Kikumaru said, linking an arm through Oishi’s and squeezing it, snuggling his face against Oishi’s neck. Ryoma felt rather embarrassed watching, it was like watching his parents being affectionate.

“How did you meet?” Ryoma prompted.

“It was just after Atobe had become King,” Oishi started, “Tanaris saw it as a good opportunity to attack.”

“They wanted to take advantage of the confusion a change of leader could have created,” Kikumaru explained.

“Humans weren’t popular in the empire at the time,” Oishi continued, “Ensinkil were neutral, but it was obvious at the time that they wouldn’t stop people from coming through to attack our country. So, Tezuka and I came to Seigaku as it’s so near the border with Ensinkil. Eiji-”

“I was hanging around Seigaku,” Kikumaru jumped in, “I’d just been turned and didn’t know what to do with myself.”

“Why were you turned?” Ryoma asked, genuinely interested, something in the way Kikumaru had said it sounded like he had been turned against his will.

“Some vampires decided that the best way to win the war was to turn humans into vampires,” Oishi explained.

“I was one of the humans they turned,” Kikumaru said, “it sucked. They came to my village one day, kidnapped everyone fit enough to fight and turned us.”

Sucked was an understatement, Ryoma thought. He wasn’t known for his tact, but he knew not to push Kikumaru for details. If he was honest, he didn’t want to know.

“Most of us gave in and decided to fight, but I ran away,” Kikumaru explained, “I ran to the furthest edge of the empire. I was really scared.”

“I bet you were,” Ryoma said and Oishi gave him a sympathetic look and gave his arm a comforting squeeze.

“But I met Oishi here,” Kikumaru said, brightening up, “he helped me a lot.”

Oishi flushed and Kikumaru looked at him with an expression of abject adoration on his face.

“I would still be lost without Oishi,” he said.

Oishi was now bright red and Ryoma let him cool off a bit before prompting the story to continue.

“So you met in town?” He asked.

“He stopped me killing someone,” Kikumaru said, “I didn’t want to hurt anyone, or to drink their blood. I didn’t know about bloodlust though, so one day I snapped and bit the first person I came across.”

“I saw him and got him off before he could do any damage,” Oishi said.

“You punched me!”

“It was the only way to get you back to your senses! Then I pulled you back up to the castle and gave you some blood.”

“I just remember you punching me and then drinking blood,” Kikumaru said.

“You put up a good fight on the way to the castle. You scratched and kicked me a lot.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“Well, you were mad with hunger, it’s natural that you wouldn’t remember,” Oishi explained.

“Tezuka let me stay with you at the castle,” Kikumaru said.

“He saw the potential in you,” Oishi said fondly, “you’ve become a fine vampire.”

It was Kikumaru’s turn to turn red.

“So,” Ryoma said, not wanting to watch another round of affectionate cuddling, “how did you fall in love?”

“The war was averted,” Oishi said, “Fuji had joined us near the end of the war and afterwards we were put in charge of permanently guarding the border.”

“We spent a lot of time together,” Kikumaru said, “I don’t really remember falling in love, it just happened.” Oishi nodded in agreement. “I wasn’t in the best place during that time, Oishi helped me accept what I had become.”

“I couldn’t stand seeing you so miserable,” Oishi said, “I chose to become a vampire, but you didn’t. I just wanted to help.”

“You’re so nice,” Kikumaru grinned at Oishi. He turned to Ryoma, “I hope Tezuka is as nice to you, if he isn’t tell me and I’ll tell him off.”

Ryoma couldn’t imagine Kikumaru scolding Tezuka, he wondered if Kikumaru even had the nerve to do it.

“Did hearing our story help at all?” Oishi asked.

“Not really,” Ryoma admitted, “I’ll think of something.”

“Take him tea,” Kikumaru said, “He likes tea!”

“That’s what Fuji said,” Ryoma told them, omitting the part about sexy clothes.

“Then I must be right! It’ll give you an excuse to see him,” Kikumaru said, “I used to take Oishi things just to be able to see him.”

“You mean you don’t do it now?” Oishi asked, a knowing look on his face.

“I don’t need excuses to see you now,” Kikumaru told him, “you’re my mate, I can see you any time I like.”

Ryoma got up and went to the stove where the kettle was waiting, full of water.

“How does he like his tea?” he asked the two vampires.

“I’ll help you,” Oishi said, standing and giving Kikumaru a quick kiss on the top of his head before coming over and talking Ryoma through how to make Tezuka’s tea.

Ryoma made sure to commit it to memory, he had a feeling he’d be doing this quite a lot. Whilst they made the tea, Kikumaru prepared the tray and teacups (two, one for Tezuka and one for Ryoma)

“Go up to the library, Tezuka’s office is the door opposite,” Oishi directed him once the tea was made.

Ryoma nodded and set off, holding the tray was a lot more confidence than he would’ve done had he not had his few days working at Kawamura’s. The stairs were a bit tricky, but he made his way up without spilling anything and would have jumped for joy at the top if that wouldn’t cause the tea to spill.

Chapter Text

He used the tray to knock on Tezuka’s office door, hard enough to cause a noise, but not so hard the tea slopped out the pot.

“Who is it?” Tezuka called from inside.

“Ryoma,” Ryoma replied, “I have tea.”

“Come in then.”

“I can’t open the door,” Ryoma called back, “I have a tray.”

There was a pause and then the door opened, “come in,” Tezuka said, standing back to let Ryoma into the room.

Tezuka’s office was very simple, a few bookcases and a big desk in the middle of the room, covered in neat piles of paper. Ryoma found a spare spot on the desk and put the tray down. He pulled the tea cosy off the teapot and poured Tezuka a cup of tea.

“Aren’t you making one for yourself?” Tezuka asked as he took the tea from Ryoma.

“Do you mind if I stay here?”

“I don’t,” Tezuka replied, “you’re welcome here at any time. I will be working most of the time though,” he warned.

“That’s fine,” Ryoma said, making himself a cup of tea. He wasn’t the biggest tea fan, but it was better than leaving. “I’ll be quiet when you’re working.”

“How has your morning been?” Tezuka asked, taking his seat behind the desk. It it had been anyone else Ryoma would have just thought he was asking to be polite. But this was Tezuka, he was asking because he genuinely wanted to know.

“It’s been fine,” Ryoma replied, sitting in the seat on the opposite side of the desk, “I’ve been talking to Oishi and Kikumaru.”

“I’m glad you’re making some friends,” Tezuka said, “it can be very lonely by yourself.”

“Kikumaru told me how he became a vampire,” Ryoma said.

“Oh,” Tezuka was silent for a while, “It is very sad what happened to him, and to many others like him. I’m glad he found a home here with us.”

“I can’t imagine Kikumaru being unhappy,” Ryoma admitted, “I know that sounds stupid.”

“I agree with you,” Tezuka said, “I remember him being very unhappy, but I’m used to him being happy now. I don’t want him to go back to the way he was.”

“I like him like this too,” Ryoma said, “he’s annoying, but I don’t want him to change.”

Tezuka nodded and sipped his tea. “This is very good.”

“Oishi helped me,” Ryoma admitted, “but I think I can do it myself now.”

“Thank you for bringing me tea,” Tezuka said.

“I didn’t know vampires drank tea.”

“We all have to have our own little eccentricities,” Tezuka said, a soft smile on his lips.

“There are worse ones than liking tea,” Ryoma told him, “you could be into stamp collecting.”

“How do you know I’m not?”



Ryoma left half an hour later, a tray full of used tea things in his hands and a happy feeling in his chest. He was glad that he’d taken the others’ advice and made Tezuka tea. They hadn’t really talked much, but Ryoma felt happy in Tezuka’s presence. He knew how being with Tezuka had made him feel in the mountains and he was happy to know that he felt the same now that they were back home.

It was real.

“How did it go?” Kikumaru asked, pouncing on Ryoma when he got back to the kitchen and almost making him drop his tray.

“Fine,” Ryoma said nonchalantly, “his office is very empty.”

“It helps him think,” Fuji said, Ryoma’s head shot round to him, he hadn’t noticed that he was in the kitchen when he’d come in. But then, it was easy to miss something when you were immediately pounced on by Kikumaru.

“Thanks for the tea advice,” Ryoma said, more to Oishi than Fuji.

“I’m glad I could help,” Oishi said.

“You wore the wrong clothes though,” Fuji said sweetly.

Ryoma glared at him.

“So what did you talk about?” Kikumaru asked.

“Not a lot,” Ryoma shrugged, “just about how well I’m settling in.”

“That’s boring,” Kikumaru whined, “you should of talked about romantic things!”

“Like what?” Ryoma asked. Everyone had been talking about ‘romance’ and 'romantic things’, but no one had actually explained what that meant. He knew about roses and romantic dinners for two and showing the other with gifts, but he’d never understood why people did those things. They just weren’t things he would ever do. “Is flirting considered romantic?”

“Did you flirt with him?” Kikumaru asked, perking up.

“No,” Ryoma said and Kikumaru deflated, “I meant in general.”

“As long as you keep it innocent, I guess,” Oishi said, unsure of what he was saying.

Fuji laughed, “some un-innocent flirting is really nice.”

“With Tezuka?” Oishi asked.

“Well, it would ruffle his feathers a bit,” Fuji said, smirking.

“I’ve already tried,” Ryoma said, “he didn’t realise I was flirting with him.”

Fuji and Kikumaru burst out laughing, “That sounds so like him,” Fuji gasped.

“Poor Shorty,” Kikumaru said, wiping a tear from his eye, “hang in there, you’ll manage it eventually!”

“You should just seduce him,” Fuji told Ryoma.

“We’ve agreed to take it slow,” Ryoma replied.

“By his standards or yours?” Fuji asked.

“Probably his.”

“You’re going to have to compromise then,” Fuji said.

It was easy enough for Fuji to say that, but Ryoma didn’t know how to compromise about something like this. He didn’t want to force Tezuka into something he didn’t want to do, but at the same time he couldn’t think of a way of getting Tezuka to compromise. Even then, it wasn’t like either of them had a length of time that they wanted to wait before they could have sex. Ryoma was just waiting for Tezuka and he couldn’t understand what Tezuka was waiting for. It wasn’t really about the sex, not really. What they had now couldn’t really be classed as a romantic relationship, it was more like friends with…not benefits. They were friends, Ryoma thought, but it was definitely closer to a romantic relationship. It just wasn’t. He couldn’t sum it up in his mind.

He took Tezuka tea over the next few days. Each time, they’d talk a bit about what they’d done that day and then sat in comfortable silence. Nothing seemed to be changing at all.

It was stupid! They both liked each other, so what was the next move supposed to be?!

Ryoma knew that normal people didn’t jump right into bed with each other. But what did normal people do between getting together and having sex for the first time?

Go on dates and get to know each other, Ryoma thought. But he’d been on holiday with Tezuka and… well, he couldn’t say he knew Tezuka very well, but he was getting to know him! For some reason, it didn’t feel very important, knowing about Tezuka’s past wouldn’t change who he was now. Anyway, he was trying to get to know Tezuka now! That was what the tea sessions were for. It wasn’t his fault Tezuka liked the silence!

He could always give him the necklace.

His mind turned to his mother’s necklace in the safe, the one he was supposed to give to his beloved, but he quickly dismissed it. It was too early for that.

Maybe he could ask Tezuka out. It was stupid and they couldn’t exactly go anywhere, but it might work.

So, the next day when Ryoma took Tezuka his tea, he asked.

“I’m sorry?” Tezuka asked, looking nonplussed.

“Will you go out with me?” Ryoma repeated, looking defiantly at Tezuka. Daring him to laugh.

“I thought we already were.”

“Oh,” Ryoma said, feeling stupid.

“But I’m glad it’s formal now,” Tezuka said, “and thank you very much for the tea.”

“It’s okay,” Ryoma said, “I made it completely by myself today, but Fuji gave me the biscuits,” he admitted.

“It’s very nice,” Tezuka said when he took a sip and Ryoma felt proud of himself.

“Tezuka,” Ryoma said after a bit, “You like me, right?”

“I do,” Tezuka replied, “very much so.”

“And I like you,” Ryoma said. “I just wanted to get our feelings out in the open.”

“I appreciate you being so straightforward about it.”

Ryoma shrugged, “there’s no point in being roundabout. It just confuses everyone.”

Tezuka nodded, “I’m glad our feelings for each other are reciprocated.”

“Yes,” Ryoma said, “I’m also letting you know that I want you.”

“Want me? As in…” Tezuka looked away and trailed off.

“Sex?” Ryoma asked and Tezuka nodded, “yes. And not because I’m horny, but because I like you.”

Tezuka paused for a bit, gazing into his tea, Ryoma gave him time to mull it over, hoping that Tezuka would want the same as him. “Alright,” Tezuka said, “I’ll prepare myself.”


Over the next few days, Ryoma continued to bring Tezuka tea. They still didn’t talk very much, preferring to sit in their little silence. But, Ryoma was starting to notice that Tezuka was staring at him at he thought Ryoma wasn’t looking. Every time Ryoma caught him, Tezuka would turn slightly red and look away as Ryoma grinned smugly at him.

It was really cute. 

Ryoma knocked on the office door with his foot, trying hard to keep the tray level. There was a moments silence and then Tezuka called, “come in.”

“Can you open the door?” Ryoma asked.

From inside the room, he heard a chair slide back followed by footsteps and then the door opened revealing a slightly frazzled looking Tezuka.

“I brought you tea,” Ryoma said.

“Thank you,” Tezuka said, standing back and letting Ryoma in.

Ryoma steadily walked in, trying to keep the teapot and cups for rattling. He avoided the neat piles of paperwork as he put the silver tray down on the desk. He knew he should be used to carrying the tray, but he had something planned for today and he was rather nervous.

“Fuji says you need to take a break,” Ryoma relayed the message, “just because you’re a vampire doesn’t mean you should work yourself to death.”
“And do you want me to take a break?”

Ryoma looked for another free space on the desk and found the spot in front of Tezuka’s chair. He walked around the desk and sat in the free spot, “I didn’t see you yesterday.”

Tezuka came back to sit in his chair, contentedly sipping his tea. “I had to go into town.”

Ryoma frowned. He was sat in front of Tezuka, wearing his tightest pair of jeans and Tezuka was more interested in his cup of tea! He leaned back slightly, his t-shirt riding up slightly, hoping that the movement would catch Tezuka’s attention.

This was getting awkward, but Ryoma didn’t want to leave until he had at least kissed Tezuka. He pulled his shirt up a bit more, exposing more pale skin in a way he hoped looked natural.

And still Tezuka didn’t look at him.

Ryoma wasn’t used to this. Normally he’d just have to look up at his intended partner through his eyelashes and say something vaguely innuendo-y and they’d be having sex with him as soon as they’d found somewhere out of the way.

He wasn’t used to just being ignored. The least Tezuka could do was look at him! He glared at Tezuka, who was staring into his tea, apparently deep in thought.

He reached a foot out and rested it on Tezuka’s chair, side by side with Tezuka’s thigh.

Finally, Tezuka looked up at him, a look of slight confusion on his face. “What are you doing?” he asked and Ryoma almost groaned.

“I’m trying to seduce you,” Ryoma replied, smirking as the confusion grew on Tezuka’s face. “Like I said I was going to do. Don’t tell me no one’s tried to before.”

“I think Atobe might have,” Tezuka said, now looking a bit uncomfortable, “a few hundred years ago.”

Ryoma put his other foot up on the chair and pulled it forward, so Tezuka was between his legs. He took Tezuka’s cup out of his hand and put it back on the desk. “I guess you have two options: Leave or kiss me.”

“Just two?” Tezuka asked, his eyebrow raising.

“Yes. And I know which one I want you to chose.”

“I think I can guess,” Tezuka said, gently stroking the inside of Ryoma’s thigh, making him shudder. “We shouldn’t be doing this,” he said, his hand stilling, but not leaving Ryoma’s leg.

“Why not?” Ryoma huffed, “I want to, you want to. What’s wrong with us doing it?”

“Echizen, I forced you into being my mate,” Tezuka said, “I can’t-”

“You’re not forcing me into doing anything!” Ryoma snapped, “I’m here because I want to be here. I really like you, okay?” He was suddenly aware that he was now the one doing the forcing. He didn’t want to do this if Tezuka was unwilling in some way, it would ruin it. “I’ll go,” He said, making to push himself off the desk, but found Tezuka holding him on place.

“Please don’t leave,” Tezuka said, sliding his hands off Ryoma’s legs, to give him the option of leaving if he really wanted to.

“Can you at least kiss me again?”

Tezuka chuckled, “I can do that.”

He stood up, his hands moving to Ryoma’s shoulders, sliding them down his arms as he kissed Ryoma’s lips sweetly. It was as good as the one on the mountain. Ryoma wrapped his arms around Tezuka’s neck, trying to keep the kiss going as long as possible. Neither of them tried to deepen it, both content with the gentle press of their lips against each other.

Tezuka pressed a soft kiss against the tip of Ryoma’s nose when they broke apart.

“I read that vampire bites feel good,” Ryoma said just before taking another kiss from Tezuka.

“I’m not biting you unless you’re sure you want me to do it,” Tezuka said sternly.

“I trust you not to take too much blood,” Ryoma said.

“You’re serious.”

“I want to know what it feels like.”

“Promise me you’ll tell me when you want to stop,” Tezuka said, “as soon as you feel you want to stop.”

“Promise.”

“Where would you like to be bitten?”

Ryoma thought about it for a moment and then offered Tezuka his wrist. “Is this okay?”

“It’s perfect,” Tezuka said, kissing the soft skin on Ryoma’s wrist. He sat back down in his seat, carefully holding Ryoma’s arm like it was a priceless piece of art. “This will hurt at the start,” he warned as he started to lick and kiss Ryoma’s wrist.

Ryoma nodded and Tezuka let go of his arm with one hand and slipped it into Ryoma’s free one. 

“You’re very sure about this?”

“Yes!” Ryoma assured him, “I’ve already donated blood to you once, this is just a more direct method.”

Tezuka didn’t look too convinced by his bravado, seeing as he could feel Ryoma’s pulse increase, but could see how serious he was about this.

“I’m going to bite you now, are you ready?”

“Yes,” Ryoma replied. He saw Tezuka’s canine teeth grow and sharpen before he squeezed his eyes shut. Tezuka squeezed his hand and then he felt the sharp pain of two needle like teeth breaking through his skin and sink into his wrist.

He heard himself whimper and Tezuka squeezed his hand reassuringly again.

“Hurts,” he managed to say, biting his lip hard to try and distract himself.

And then the pressure of the teeth lessened slightly and Tezuka began to suck.

All pain disappeared almost instantly to be replaced by the most exquisite pleasure. He gasped, his heart beat raising and his breath coming in pants. His tightest jeans were now too tight and with one hand holding Tezuka’s and the other attached to the wrist that was being sucked at he could only rock his hips back and forth uselessly, trying to find some stimulation.

He cracked his eyes open slightly and saw Tezuka looking up at him, his irises scarlet and his pupils now thin slits like a cats.

“Tezuka,” Ryoma moaned, realising he must look like a needy mess.

And then, in an instant, Ryoma was pulled into Tezuka’s lap. It took him a second to realise what had happened and then he immediately threaded his newly free hand into Tezuka’s hair and started to kiss every part of Tezuka his lips could reach, before settling near the vampire’s ear, panting and moaning as his erection finally found the friction it needed as he thrust his hips against Tezuka’s hip.

Tezuka continued to suck at Ryoma wrist, moaning softly against it every time Ryoma nipped at his ear. A few minutes later, he slowly let go of Ryoma’s wrist, lapping up the blood that seeped out of the two holes. He reached into one of the desk drawers and pulled out a first aid kit. He pressed a cotton wool pad against the holes and then wrapped a bandage around it to hold it in place.

Ryoma watched with a cross between fascination and frustration. He was touched by Tezuka’s care, but it wasn’t doing anything to help his erection. He thrust his hips against Tezuka and moaned, just to remind him.

“Be patient,” Tezuka told him.

Ryoma whined and made do with nibbling Tezuka’s ear. The bite had felt good. No, better than good. It had been amazing. He wondered how good it feel to be bitten during sex, whist Tezuka thrust roughly into him.

A pair of lips appeared on his own and Ryoma moaned as Tezuka kissed him deeply, he’d washed his mouth out with tea before kissing Ryoma, but he could still taste the coppery tang of blood in Tezuka’s mouth.

Finally, Tezuka’s hand started to knead his erection through his jeans.

“Is this okay?” Tezuka asked.

“Yes,” Ryoma panted, “need more though.”

Tezuka kissed the tip of his nose again, “I think you managed to seduce me.”

“I’m too irresistible,” Ryoma managed to say, his words catching in his throat. “Fuck me.”

Tezuka shook his head, “not here, not now. I want the first time to be-”

“Special?” Ryoma cut in, Tezuka nodded. “So do I.”

“Doing it over my desk doesn’t scream 'making love’.”

Ryoma laughed and then gasped when Tezuka squeezed him. He moaned Tezuka’s name again, he was so close, but this wasn’t going to be enough to get him off.

“What do you want to do?” Tezuka asked and Ryoma thought for a second that he was just asking to make him beg, but then saw the look in Tezuka’s eyes. It was a genuine question.

“I dunno, get me off with your hands or your mouth or something,” Ryoma replied, “anything as long as it’s you.”

Tezuka kissed him, biting on his bottom lip gently.

And then, Ryoma was back sitting on the table. Later, he’d be embarrassed about how easily Tezuka could pick him up and move him, but right now Tezuka was kissing him and he was knotting his fingers into Tezuka’s hair, keeping the kiss as long and deep as possible. Ryoma gasped as Tezuka cupped his erection again.

“Hang on,” Ryoma gasped, his hands untangling from Tezuka’s hair and starting to fumble with his belt.

“Your trousers are very tight,” Tezuka commented, “I’ll do that for you.”

Ryoma grinned, “okay,” he said and started to run his fingers through Tezuka’s hair again, “but hurry up.”

Tezuka kissed the tip of his nose, “you should learn to be patient.”

“That’s hard when you’ve got me turned on and aren’t doing anything about it,” Ryoma said, mouthing at Tezuka’s chin, “hurry,” he caught Tezuka’s lower lip between his own and sucked on it, “up.”

Tezuka undid Ryoma’s belt and fly, and wormed his hand into Ryoma’s underwear. Ryoma gasped and moaned as Tezuka’s hand wrapped around his erection, the other pushing down his underwear and jeans and releasing it into the cold air.

Tezuka’s had slid up and down slowly, nowhere near fast enough for Ryoma.
Maybe Tezuka was secretly a sadist.

“Tezuka,” he whined, “faster.”

“I thought I told you to be patient.”

“It’s hard to be when -ah- you have my dick in your hand,” Ryoma snapped, the effect ruined slightly by Tezuka squeezing his erection and making him gasp and moan.

“I’m enjoying looking at you like this,” Tezuka admitted.

“You can be a pervert after I’ve come!”

“Sorry,” Tezuka said, kissing his forehead and increased the speed of his hand.
Ryoma’s head dropped onto Tezuka’s shoulder as his body was consumed with pleasure.

It was over quickly, Ryoma coming into Tezuka’s hand, clinging tightly to his shoulders through his orgasm.

“Echizen,” Tezuka said softly, pulling Ryoma close and hugging him, “you’re wonderful.”

“You’re not bad yourself,” Ryoma panted, “do you need-”

“I’m fine,” Tezuka told him.

“Really?” Ryoma asked, “I can do something about that.”

“I have work to do, Echizen,” Tezuka said, “You can repay the favour next time, if you would like to.”

“Of course,” Ryoma said, “and there’s definitely going to be a next time.”
“Yes,” Tezuka said, “definitely.”



Ryoma left the office in a happy little bubble. Tezuka saying there would definitely be a next time, that their relationship was real, had sparked all kinds of happiness inside him. Not to mention Tezuka jerking him off.

He was very happy indeed.

He went back to his room and picked up Karupin, hugging him tight. Karupin mewled and struggled out of his grasp, not wanting to be hugged at that time.

Not even being rejected by his pet could dent his happiness.

He lay back on his bed and sighed happily.

Was this what love felt like? He supposed it must, he’d never felt like this before. He hadn’t even believed that someone could feel like this.

And yet, here he was, Echizen Ryoma, Prince of Ensinkil, lying around on his bed like a lovesick fool.

He decided that this was not something he wanted to do and got to his feet and left the room.

After wandering around the castle for a while, Ryoma went to the library. He had realised he’d been automatically walking to Tezuka’s office, so changed course at the last second. And now, he was surrounded by thousands of books, all happy to distract him.

After perusing the shelves for a while, Ryoma decided to just grab a book at random. If it was rubbish, he could just change it.

He sat down and opened the book. On the cover page was the message:

'To Tezuka,
From Atobe.’

written in absurdly curly handwriting.

Ryoma rolled his eyes and sighed. Clearly, the universe didn’t want him to forget about Tezuka for even a second.

To his slight annoyance, the books was really good. A fictionalised story set in the ancient vampire court. But Atobe had given it to Tezuka, so he’d been hoping that it was rubbish.

He was getting really getting into the story, various vampires were all vying for the king’s favour, each sympathetic yet? villainous in their own ways, when there was a knock at the door.

He looked up and saw Fuji, who was looking deadly serious.

A lead weight fell in his stomach and his bubble of happiness deflated quickly. It felt like a bucket of cold water had been thrown over his head.

“There you are,” Fuji said, looking relieved, “we need you.”

 

Chapter Text

Ryoma nodded and put his book back and then followed Fuji out of the room. Fuji seemed twitchy and wouldn’t answer any of Ryoma’s questions. If even Fuji was ruffled, then this couldn’t be good.


Fuji lead him to a sitting room that Ryoma had never been in before. It was fairly small and intimate with lots of seats around a round coffee table. Waiting inside were the rest of the vampires, looking very worried.

“What’s happening?” Ryoma asked as Fuji forced him down in a seat facing Tezuka.

“We’re on the verge of war,” Tezuka said gravely.

“It’s my fault, isn’t it?” Ryoma asked, he could tell by the way everyone looked at him that it was true.

“No one knows you’re here or that you are alive,” Fuji explained, “they all think you’re dead. And, since you disappeared in our country, they think vampires did it.”

“They?” Ryoma asked.

“Ensinkil and Taranis,” Tezuka replied, “they have announced that they meant to attack us in revenge.”

“Just tell them I’m here then!” Ryoma told them, “I don’t want a war fought over me!”

“Unless we present proof they will believe we’re lying,” Tezuka explained

“Well, they are idiots,” Ryoma said, “of course they’ll think that.”

"So,” Tezuka continued as if Ryoma hadn’t interrupted, “Atobe has decreed that you are to travel with him to Taranis for a peace conference.”

“A what?”

“They’re going to try and avert a war,” Kaidoh said from where he was standing, leaning against the wall.

“And I’m going there?”

“Yes,” Oishi said, “that way you can reveal that your are alive and well to them in person. They’ll have to believe it.”

Ryoma nodded, it all made sense. “Will any of you be coming with me?” He really didn’t want to spend an entire peace conference with Atobe and his hangers-on.

“Fuji and Kaidoh will be accompanying you,” Tezuka said and Ryoma’s heart sunk.

“It would be dangerous if Tezuka went with you,” Oishi explained, “if they wanted to undo your mating bond for you to marry the princess then all they would need to do would be to kill Tezuka.”

“You make it sound like that would be easy,” Ryoma said, smirking. He’d seen Tezuka take on a professional vampire assassin and win.

“Thinking like that is very careless,” Tezuka reprimanded him. “Oishi is right, I need to stay here.”

“Fine,” Ryoma said, unhappily. “When will I be leaving?”

“You’ll be driving to the station in two days time, there you will meet with Atobe and get the train to Taranis,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma nodded, feeling weird, like his body and his mind weren’t quite connected together. He wanted to be alone to process all this information, to hide and not come out till all war negotiations were over. But he was a prince and Tezuka’s mate. He couldn’t do that, he couldn’t run away.

“If there is a war,” Ryoma said, “the vampires would win, right? You’re much stronger than humans.”

“Humans have numbers,” Fuji said, “and they’ve had many years to create ways to kill vampires. If there is a war, there will be no easy victories.”

“Humans are good at killing,” Kaidoh grumbled.

“Hey! Echizen’s human!” Momo piped up, glaring at Kaidoh.

“He’s right,” Ryoma said, his mind wandering back to the eagles in the mountains. “We are good at killing.”

“As are vampires,” Fuji said, light glinting off his now fully grown fangs. He looked truly terrifying with his eyes flashing scarlet.

“Enough,” Tezuka said, his voice calm but authoritative. “We will avoid a war. I have confidence in everyone to see sense and avoid senseless bloodshed.”

“We will,” Ryoma said confidently.



The next day passed very slowly. Ryoma had no idea what to do with himself. There was no point in starting anything as he’d be leaving in a couple of days any way. He couldn’t settle to anything and ended up walking around the castle, completely lost on his thoughts.

A war. A war over him.

It seemed like such a stupid thing to happen. Did people really want him that much? He didn’t want people fighting over him. He’d found a place for himself here amongst the vampires of Seigaku Castle. He didn’t want to leave.

At least they had a plan to avoid any fighting. He couldn’t fathom anyone wanting to go to war once he turned up alive and well. But then, someone had tried to kill him on the journey to Taranis and had hired a vampire assassin to go after him. So, whoever this person was knew that he had survived the first assassination attempt. He had a bad feeling that it was someone from his own country.

What if they wanted him to marry the princess anyway? He couldn’t do that. Not now, not now he had Tezuka. He hadn’t even been planning on staying around before he’d become Tezuka’s mate. But now had Tezuka, he couldn’t marry someone else!

What if it stopped a war, a traitorous thought entered at the back of his mind. What if marrying the princess stopped the war?

He didn’t want to think about that. He didn’t know if it had to do that yet and wondering about it wouldn’t achieve anything but making the worried knot in his stomach grow. Either way, he would not marry without putting up a fight.
He didn’t sleep well that night and woke feeling tired and irritable. He had to pack today. Packing would make the entire thing more real.

“I wish I could take you with me,” he told Karupin. “But I want you to stay here. Keep Tezuka company for me.”

Karupin purred as he rubbed himself against Ryoma’s head.

“You better keep him company,” Ryoma said, “I’ll ask him and if you haven’t we’ll be having words.”

The rest of the vampires kept casting him worried looks as he walked through the castle that day, something that Ryoma soon found very annoying. He was going to Tanaris, not to his death!

He spent most of his day in his room, under the pretence of packing. He managed to pack in half an hour, although it took a little longer to get everything into the suitcases. Folding clothes neatly was not his forte, so most of them were shoved in and would, no doubt, be crumpled and creased by the time they arrived. But he really didn’t care.

What he wanted to do was say goodbye to Tezuka. And not just a farewell peck on the cheek before leaving, but one that Tezuka would remember and the others would not be around to see.

Tezuka wasn’t against sex any more, it seemed, and even if they just ended up making out all night then Ryoma didn’t think that was a bad thing. But he wanted to do something tonight. He was sure Tezuka was working at the moment and Ryoma didn’t want to disturb him. He’d creep through the secret passageway tonight and spend the night with Tezuka.

Karupin came up to him and leaped into his arms.

“Sorry, you’re going to be by yourself tonight,” He told the cat, “you could go and sleep with Kaidoh or Kikumaru if you want.”

Over the next few hours, Ryoma surreptitiously walked down the corridor to check if Tezuka had returned from his office. By ten o'clock, he was starting to worry that Tezuka was pulling an all nighter, but then he saw the chink of light under Tezuka’s bedroom door.

He hurried back to his own room and checked himself in the mirror. He had a slightly less tight pair of jeans on (to make getting them off faster) and a black button down shirt with a lot of the buttons undone. He looked good.

It took him some time to find the mechanism to open the secret passage way, but he found it and then put Karupin out in the hall.

“Have a good night,” he told the cat, who looked thoroughly disgusted with Ryoma, and then went through the passageway.

Tezuka was writing his diary when Ryoma slipped past the curtain.

“Tezuka,” he said softly, not wanting to shock him.

“That passageway is only there for emergencies,” Tezuka said, it took Ryoma a while to realise that he was joking.

“Maybe you should have put a sign on it.”

“I should,” Tezuka agreed, taking Ryoma’s hand that was now resting on his shoulder and squeezing it.

Ryoma wanted to say something, say anything. But he had no idea what to say. The silence settled around him begging him to say something, to tell Tezuka that he didn’t want to leave, that he was happy here, that he wanted to be in the castle with the vampires forever. But he couldn’t. The words were just stuck in his throat as his brain realised how stupid anything he could say would sound.

He slipped his hand from Tezuka’s and walked around so that he was as close to facing Tezuka as he could be (the desk being up against the wall prevented him from being face to face with Tezuka) and offered in his hand.

“Tezuka,” he said, his voice low and soft. He hadn’t meant to plead, but there was a hint of it in his voice.

Tezuka took his hand and Ryoma lead him over to the bed. He sat down on the edge and looked up at him through his eyelashes.

“You dyed your hair back,” Tezuka said, running his hand through Ryoma’s silky hair.

“I was bored of being blond,” Ryoma said, leaning into Tezuka’s hand.

“You look very nice,” Tezuka told him. He leant down and kiss Ryoma’s lips carefully.

Ryoma ginned and wrapped his arms around Tezuka’s neck, pulling him backwards onto the bed.

“Ryoma,” Tezuka whispered, pressing kisses over Ryoma’s face. Ryoma’s grin grew, he liked the way Tezuka said his name in that deep, smooth voice of his.

“Say that again,” Ryoma said as Tezuka moved down to his neck. Pressing soft, biting kisses along its length.

“Your name?” Tezuka asked.

“You didn’t say anything else, did you?”

“I thought you might want me to compliment your hair again,” Tezuka said, smiling when Ryoma huffed, “Ryoma.”

Ryoma hummed, “it sounds nice.”

“What about mine?” Tezuka asked, sucking on Ryoma’s Adam’s apple and making him gasp.

Ryoma thought for a moment, he had no idea what Tezuka’s first name was. He looked guiltily at Tezuka.

“Kunimitsu,” Tezuka told him.

“Kunimitsu,” Ryoma repeated, feeling foolish, “you know I’m still going to call you ‘Tezuka’, right?”

“That’s fine,” Tezuka said, moving back up Ryoma’s body to his face and kissing the tip of his nose.

“I’ll call you it sometimes,” Ryoma promised, “like when we’re in bed together,” he ran his hands over Tezuka’s wonderful back and shoulder muscles, “like this.” He stuck his tongue out cheekily and Tezuka caught it between his lips, sucking on it for a second before releasing it.

“Like that?”

“Being cheeky is my thing,” Ryoma said, “you’re supposed to be straight laced!”

“Would you like me to go back to being straight laced?” Tezuka asked, his hand sliding up Ryoma’s leg, fingers pressing into the sensitive spots, making Ryoma take in a gasping breath.

“Not if you keep doing that,” Ryoma replied, fiddling with the top button of Tezuka’s shirt, “Some of these need to be undone. Possibly all of them.”

“Being cute doesn’t suit you.”

“You know it does,” Ryoma said, leaning up and kissing Tezuka, “and you like it.”

“I do,” Tezuka agreed, “your buttons need to be undone as well.”

“I think they do,” Ryoma nodded and started working on Tezuka’s buttons. He had to pull the shirt out of Tezuka’s trousers to get at the bottom buttons, his vampire was such a dork. He pushed Tezuka’s shirt off his shoulders and, after a bit of faffing around with the sleeves, threw it across the room.

“That’s going to need ironing,” Tezuka said disapprovingly.

“Well,” Ryoma said, sliding his hands up Tezuka’s chest, feeling all the muscles under his cool skin, “you can do that later.”

“What are you proposing we do now?” Tezuka asked.

“Sex,” Ryoma replied, “or a lot of kissing and touching. I can pay you back for the other day. Does that sound more fun than ironing?”

“Infinitely,” Tezuka said, leaning down and kissing Ryoma deeply. Ryoma moaned and relocated his hands into Tezuka’s hair. He loved having Tezuka’s hair threaded through his fingers, being able to twist his fingers in and tug at it. He sighed happily, he’d never felt this good during sex before and they hadn’t even started. 

Tezuka started to undo Ryoma’s shirt, his cold fingers making Ryoma shiver when they touched his skin. It felt good though, in a way that Ryoma couldn’t describe. 

He helped Tezuka get him out of his shirt, where it was thrown to join the other one.

“You can iron mine whilst you’re doing yours,” Ryoma smirked.

“You can learn how to iron it yourself,” Tezuka said, running a finger up the middle of Ryoma’s chest to rest on his chin. Ryoma didn’t reply, he just pulled Tezuka down for another round of deep, wet kisses.

He was starting to get hard, Tezuka had been rubbing up against his crotch with his leg.

“Tezuka,” he whined, “Kunimitsu, please.”

“You really aren’t patient, are you?”

“No,” Ryoma huffed, “so get to it.”

“Weren’t you supposed to return the favour for the other day?” Tezuka asked.

“Fine.” Ryoma said, flipping them over. “Lie on the bed properly,” he ordered.
Tezuka looked confused, but complied.

“I don’t like people coming in my mouth,” Ryoma said as he undid Tezuka’s belt, pushing his trousers and underwear away to reveal his cock. It was bigger than Ryoma thought it would be. At least making out had affected Tezuka as much as it had done to him. “Tell me when you’re about to come.”

“I will,” Tezuka promised, his brain trying to catch up with what was happening.

“Good,” Ryoma said, swiping his tongue against the top of Tezuka’s cock.
He started working his way down Tezuka’s cock with his tongue, licking and occasionally kissing the swollen flesh. He felt it grow in his hand until it reached it’s full size. Ryoma grinned devilishly against it and looked straight into Tezuka’s dilated pupils. He couldn’t wait for Tezuka to fuck him. But, right now Tezuka was flushed and panting all because of Ryoma and that was making Ryoma uncomfortably hard. With his free hand he undid his jeans and pushed them down, taking some of the pressure off his cock.

“I’m really looking forward to you fucking me,” Ryoma said and then took Tezuka’s cock into his mouth.

He couldn’t fit all of it in, it was far too big and Ryoma much preferred licking and kissing to trying to force an entire cock into his mouth. But he knew exactly how to make up for it. He used his hands to rub the part of Tezuka’s cock that was neglected by his mouth whilst he sucked on the top, his tongue playing with whatever it could reach.

Slowly, he started to bob up and down, trying not to grin when he heard Tezuka finally let out a moan.

“Ryoma,” Tezuka gasped, “I’m-”

He couldn’t finish his sentence, but Ryoma understood exactly what he meant. He slid Tezuka’s cock out his mouth and started to place sucking kisses all around the top and length of it.

It didn’t take long for Tezuka to come. Ryoma moved his face away just about in time, although he ended up with a bit of come on his cheek. The rest was over his hands and Tezuka.

“Was that good?” Ryoma asked, already knowing the answer. Tezuka was lying bonelessly against the pillows, breathing heavily, an arm over his eyes and his face flushed red. “It was weird how cold it was, but I got used to it.”

“It was very good,” Tezuka managed to say eventually, “I don’t want to know how you got that good, do I?”

“Let’s just say practice makes perfect,” Ryoma said, smiling when Tezuka moved his arm to look at him.

“I hope you didn’t neglect your duties to lean how to…” he trailed off, obviously trying to think of the polite term for 'blow jobs’.

“Suck people off?” Ryoma suggested.

“That’s just as bad.”

“I didn’t neglect anything learning how to do it,” Ryoma assured him. Tezuka didn’t look like he believed him, “well… I did neglect a few things. They weren’t important though!” He looked around the room, “where are the tissues?”

“On the desk,” Tezuka replied, “right in front of you.”

“I didn’t see them,” Ryoma huffed and got up to get them.

He quickly cleaned Tezuka up and then climbed into his lap.

“Want to carry on?” He asked, leaning his body against Tezuka’s and kissing him softly.

“Do you?”

“I haven’t come yet,” Ryoma said, “of course I want to. We just need to get you nice and hard again,” he said, rubbing himself against Tezuka’s crotch.

“That won’t take long with you doing that,” Tezuka said, taking Ryoma’s face in his hands, “especially when you have something white and sticky on your face.”

Ryoma glared at him, “you pervert.”

“Here,” Tezuka said, grabbing a tissue and wiping the come off Ryoma’s face, “you’re clean now.”

“But you found it hot?”

Tezuka looked away, “I suppose I did.”

Ryoma’s cat like grin spread across his face as he leant in to nip at Tezuka’s ear, “when I get back I’ll let you come on my face,” he purred into his ear. He felt Tezuka’s cock twitch against him and his grin widened.

Tezuka decided that right now the only thing he could do was to kiss Ryoma so hard that he forgot everything. It worked and soon they were wrapped around each other, kissing each other as hard and as passionately as they possibly could.

“You’re hard,” Ryoma panted, “do you have any lubricant anywhere?”

Tezuka looked blank and Ryoma’s heart sunk. If there wasn’t any lubricant then there was no way they were going to have sex. He knew there were plenty of other things they could do instead of penetrative sex, but he’d wanted to feel Tezuka inside him. To know exactly what it felt like to have sex with Tezuka before he left.

He groan and rested his head against Tezuka’s shoulder, “you don’t have any, do you?”

“Not unless someone has put some in here without my knowledge.”

“If they had, where would they put it?” Ryoma asked hoping against hope that Fuji had decided to tease Tezuka by hiding some in his room.

“Probably in a drawer.”

“Help me look,” Ryoma said, jumping up from his spot in Tezuka’s lap and heading straight to Tezuka’s bedside table. Tezuka followed suit and started to look through his desk.

Their hunt didn’t take long. Ryoma pulled out the second draw and found a bottle of lubricant and some condoms lying in it with a post-it note with a smiley face drawn on it stuck to the bottle. Ryoma was suddenly very thankful for Fuji’s existence.

“Got it,” Ryoma called, tossing the bottle and condoms onto the bed and wriggling out of his clothes.

“That was fast,” Tezuka said, walking back to the bed and jumping onto it to join Ryoma. “Where do you want me?”

“Go back where we were,” Ryoma said. The mood may have been destroyed somewhat by the lubricant hunt, but now it was replaced with an air of excitement. Ryoma practically jumped back into Tezuka’s lap and started taking long, sucking kisses off of him.

“Do you know how to prepare me?” Ryoma asked, pressing the lubricant into Tezuka’s hand.

“Talk me through it,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma nodded, “cover your fingers in lubricant,” he instructed, “and then carefully slide one into my ass.”

Tezuka did as he was told, sliding the finger in much slower than Ryoma had expected him to. He drew in a breath through gritted teeth.

“Your finger’s cold,” he asked explained at Tezuka’s confused look, “it’s okay, keep going. Move it around a bit once it’s in then put another one in.”

Ryoma wrapped his arms around Tezuka’s neck and pressed his head into Tezuka’s shoulder, arching his back at Tezuka’s fingers started to scissor inside him, his hard nipples pressing up against Tezuka’s cold body, making him gasp.

“Put another in,” Ryoma moaned, “slide them all in and out and stretch me.”
Tezuka did exactly what he was told, so well that Ryoma might have thought he’d done it before if Tezuka hadn’t told him he hadn’t.

“I think that’s enough,” Ryoma panted and Tezuka’s fingers slid out. Ryoma grabbed the condoms and ripped one open, sliding it onto Tezuka’s cock and covering it in lubricant. He prepared himself for the fact that it would be cold, but the lack of Tezuka’s body heat hadn’t turned him off yet and it wasn’t as if it was as cold as ice.

“Are you ready?” Tezuka asked gently, wiping his fingers off on a tissue.

“Yes,” Ryoma replied, positioning himself so that the tip of Tezuka’s cock was pressing against him. “You?”

Tezuka nodded and Ryoma slowly started to press down, taking Tezuka’s cock inside him centimetre by centimetre. He was so big, Ryoma’s mind was too full of the feeling of Tezuka’s cock filling him to think if Tezuka was bigger than his other conquests. It didn’t matter if he was anyway. Eventually he had all of Tezuka inside of him and he looked up at him to see Tezuka looking at him lovingly.

“Move,” Ryoma gasped, “move now.”

They started to find their rhythm, with Ryoma moving up and down whilst Tezuka trust in and out of him. Ryoma clung to Tezuka’s shoulders, his fingernails digging into the skin. Tezuka’s pupils became more and more dilated and his thrusts became harder and faster, something Ryoma was very appreciative of.

Then, he grabbed Ryoma and flipped them so that Ryoma was pressed into the pillows, the vampire instinct inside him taking over and robbing him of his senses.

Ryoma laid back and enjoyed the ride. Tezuka holding his hips tightly and thrusting wildly. And then, his cock hit a certain spot inside Ryoma that had him arching off the bed, the edges of his vision going white as he moaned, his hands fisting the sheets.

“Do that again!” He managed to gasp and Tezuka did as he was told.

He was sure at some point Tezuka made him scream. He had always been noisy in bed, but no one had made him shout like this before. He couldn’t think about anything, he was so focused on Tezuka’s cock inside him and his wild thrusts. It was better than he could have ever imagined.

He wildly flung his arms out for Tezuka and Tezuka caught his hands, interlocking their fingers and squeezing them lovingly. He leaned down to kiss Ryoma with much more care and attention than he was putting into his thrusts.
It was all too much for Ryoma. All the feelings of pleasure and emotions welled up inside him and he came so hard that his vision went white.

He didn’t know how long he was lost in pleasure. He was only vaguely aware of Tezuka coming with a rather un-Tezuka-like grunt and pulling out of him. When he came back to the land of the living, Tezuka was lying at is side.

“That was good,” Ryoma said.

“Just good?” Tezuka asked, looking amused.

“It could be better,” Ryoma said, the grin returning to his face. “I would suggest going again for practice, but I really want to sleep.”

“Then you should sleep,” Tezuka said, “you’ve got a long journey in the morning.”

Ryoma groaned, “don’t remind me about that!”

“It’s the only way, Ryoma.”

“I know,” Ryoma said, letting out a long sigh. “Stay with me till I fall asleep.”

“Of course,” Tezuka said, kissing Ryoma softly on the forehead, “goodnight, Ryoma.”

“Goodnight,” Ryoma said, snuggling into the pillows.

He fell asleep with Tezuka gently stroking his hair.

Chapter Text

He didn’t want to wake up the next morning. Absolutely nothing about the day made him want to get out of bed. At least he had someone nice in the bed with him. He cracked his eyes open and saw Tezuka lying next to him, propped up on the pillows and reading. He smiled, glad that he had such a nice sight to wake up to. Especially since Tezuka was still naked.

“Maybe I shouldn’t go and we can lock ourselves up in your room,” Ryoma suggested.

“That sounds good,” Tezuka said, not looking up from his book, “I spent all night thinking of ways to have you stay here. Sadly, I couldn’t think of one.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, “at least you tried.” He stretched and yawned, “how long before I have to get up?”

“You should start thinking about getting dressed.”

Ryoma groaned and buried his face in his pillow, “Don’t wanna.”

“Echizen,” Tezuka said sternly, “get up.”

Ryoma did as he was told, pulling himself out of bed and gathering his clothes from around the room, slowly pulling them on.

“You need to get breakfast,” Tezuka said, “and Oishi needs to take some of your blood.”

“You could have bitten me last night,” Ryoma said.

“I wanted to show you that I see you as something other than food.”

“What do you see me as?”

Tezuka got to his feet and walked over to Ryoma, “I see you as a bratty prince who has had his world turned upside down and is trying as hard as he can to get back on his feet,” he cupped Ryoma’s face in his hands, “you are very precious to me.”

Ryoma smiled and kissed Tezuka.

“What are we going to do if they don’t think I’m the real Prince Ryoma?” Ryoma asked. It had been bothering him for a while now. “All they have to do is say I’m a look-a-like and we’re all fucked.”

Tezuka frowned, “Do you have any proof of your identity?”

Ryoma thought for a while, “They don’t make Prince Identity Cards,” he said, “and I can’t drive or anything… hang on,” A thought struck him, “the diamond from the crown jewels! They must know that I took it!”

“I’ll come down to the safe with you,” Tezuka said, “you should get the key.”

“You need to get some clothes on first,” Ryoma said, “I like seeing you like this, but I don’t want any of the others to.”

“Rather possessive, aren’t you?”

“And I would have never thought you’d be such an animal in bed,” Ryoma replied, picking up Tezuka’s shirt and throwing it at him, “vampire instincts?”

“Yes,” Tezuka said, “I’m sorry I couldn’t hold back.”

“Why are you apologising? It was the best sex I’ve ever had,” Ryoma said, not holding back from watching Tezuka get dressed.

“Let’s go,” Tezuka said as he pulled on a jumped over his shirt, “are you sure you’re not going to be cold like that?” he asked, noting Ryoma’s thin shirt. “It’s cold in the safe.”

“It is,” Ryoma supposed, “Can I borrow something?”

Tezuka went to his chest of drawers and pulled out a large, grey cardigan.

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, pulling it on and rolling up the sleeves.


It was indeed cold down in the vaults. Ryoma wrapped his arms around himself whilst Tezuka unlocked the doors. Once inside the safe, Ryoma went found and the draw with his valuables inside, pulling it out and putting it on the table. He picked out the box with the jewel in and opened it. The diamond twinkled at him and he snapped the box shut.

“Ready?” Tezuka asked.

Ryoma nodded and Tezuka put the draw back, locking it and handing the key back to its owner. They went back up to the kitchen where Oishi was waiting with his medical kit.

“This is just in case you’re away for a long time,” he explained as he took Ryoma’s blood.

“How long do you expect this to take?” Ryoma asked, looking up at Tezuka. He’d thought he’d just be away for a few days, a week at most.

“The least you’ll be away is two weeks,” Tezuka said, “It’ll no doubt be longer.”

Ryoma huffed and watched the blood drain out of his arm. He’d be leaving soon, probably once they’d finished taking blood. He didn’t want to leave. He felt sick just thinking about it. He squeezed the box in his free hand. Their plan had to work. It had to.

“Echizen,” Fuji said, coming into the kitchen, “have you eaten yet? We need to go.”

“Not yet,” Ryoma replied as the needle was slid out of his arm and a cotton pad pressed onto the spot.

“Toast?” Fuji asked.

“That’ll be fine, I guess,” Ryoma said. It would take a while for the bread to be toasted, more time that he could spend here.

Fuji set about making toast and put it in front of him. “No butter or jam?” he asked, looking at the plain toast.

“Yes, Your Highness,” Fuji said, pulling the butter and jam out and putting them in front of Ryoma.

When he was sure Fuji wasn’t going to butter his toast, Ryoma did it himself.

“Your luggage is in your room?” Fuji asked and Ryoma nodded, “okay, I’ll get it into the car.”

“You should eat quickly,” Tezuka said, “it’ll be for the best if you leave soon.”

“Don’t like goodbyes, huh?” Ryoma asked.

“I don’t.”

“It’s not goodbye though,” Ryoma said, “I’m coming back.”

Tezuka squeezed his shoulder, “you are,” he affirmed.

It was with some regret that Ryoma finished his toast. Tezuka and Oishi escorted him to the entrance hall where all the other vampires and Inui were waiting for him.

“Have a safe journey, Shorty,” Kikumaru said, pulling Ryoma into a tight hug.

“I can’t breath,” Ryoma gasped, but hugged Kikumaru back.

Momo was on the verge of tears when he clapped Ryoma on the shoulder and told him to be safe and to come back. Inui told him to take lots of notes about Taranis as he’d never been there before and wanted to know what it was like. Ryoma promised to do so, although he wasn’t sure how much he’d get to see on this trip. Oishi shook his hand, like Momo, he looked like he would probably start crying once Ryoma was gone, and gave him a basket full of sweets and snacks for the journey.

Fuji and Kaidoh were waiting by the door for him, both dressed in powder blue military uniforms, but he wanted to say goodbye to Tezuka properly. Tezuka lead him over to the door and Fuji and Kaidoh took that as a cue to go wait in the car.

“Ryoma,” Tezuka said, pulling Ryoma off to one side, “Be safe and don’t trust anyone but Fuji, Kaidoh and Atobe.”

Ryoma nodded and Tezuka cupped his head in his hands and leant down to kiss him.

“You will be missed,” he said, “by all of us.”

“I’m not going away to die,” Ryoma said, hoping what he was saying was true, “I will be back.”

“You will,” Tezuka said and pressed a small bottle into his hand. “This is some of my blood. If you are in danger, drink it.”

“Thank you,” Ryoma said, tucking the bottle into the basket.

“I hope it won’t come to that,” Tezuka said, “but this is the only way I can protect you if something happens.”

Ryoma nodded, “I promise I’ll come back. This is where I want to live.”

Tezuka smiled and straightened up the cardigan that was falling off Ryoma’s shoulders. “Take care of this while you’re gone. It’s one of my favourites.”

“I’ll see you soon, Kunimitsu,” Ryoma said, “This isn’t goodbye.”

“How very mature,” Tezuka smiled, “I’ll see you soon.”

Ryoma leant up and kissed Tezuka quickly then Tezuka lead him over to the car.

“Good luck,” he said once all three of them were sat inside, Ryoma squashed between the two vampires. “Phone us when you get there.”

“We will,” Fuji promised.

Tezuka shut the door and stood back as the car pulled away. Ryoma looked back and saw the others stood at the doorway, waving, then the car rolled down the driveway and the doorway disappeared.

“I have a present for you,” Fuji said as Ryoma turned back around to face the front. He handed Ryoma a suitcase and Ryoma looked at it dubiously. “It doesn’t bite.”

Ryoma opened the case and found a powder blue military uniform inside, complete with a hat.

“The King has made you a member of his honorary guard,” Fuji explained.

“Oh,” Ryoma said, “why?”

“To keep you hidden of course. We don’t want them to know you’re with us until it’s advantageous for us.”

Ryoma huffed, but did as he was told. “Does Tezuka know about my new rank?”

“Yes and he’s not happy about it. He’d rather you hadn’t come along with us. He wants you safe with him until all this is over rather than send you into the lion’s den, as it were. Now, hurry up and put it on, When we arrive at the train we will most likely be being watched.”

Ryoma nodded, he felt bad about putting Tezuka through all this.

“When we’re there, keep your head down and don’t insult anyone,” Fuji told him sternly, “it’s not just your life that’s on the line here.”

“Will we find out what’s going on?” Ryoma asked, buttoning up his jacket.

“We’ll find out more there than we will staying put,” Fuji replied, “besides, we need to keep the peace.”

“Even if it means marrying me off?”

“No, we won’t allow that to happen,” Kaidoh said. He’d been so quiet that Ryoma has almost forgotten he was there.

“That’s right,” Fuji agreed, “you’re Tezuka’s mate, we won’t let anyone do anything to you against your will.”

Ryoma had thought they’d just be going to a train station in Seigaku, but they drove around the town and headed further into the country. He didn’t ask where they were going, neither Fuji or Kaidoh seemed nervous by this direction, so Ryoma went with it.

They drove past fields and woods and villages. Ryoma wished he was by a window so that he could look out at the landscape, at the rolling hills and the backdrop of towering, snow capped mountains. Instead, he made do with resting back in his seat and looking out the windscreen, watching the road roll under the car.

Eventually, they reached a small, unassuming market town, made up of shops and houses packed around a few winding streets. On the edge of the town, there was a train station. One platform with a small house on the side where there was a ticket office. Pulled up in the station was a sleek, grey train made up of four or five carriages.

“You’re late,” A tall vampire drawled as they got out of the car. He wore round glasses and had long blue hair.

“There was traffic,” Fuji lied.

“Traffic?” the vampire asked smugly, “I don’t know where you would find that.” His gaze turned to Ryoma, “is this our cute new recruit?”

Ryoma bristled, but Fuji stepped in before he could say anything. “He is. Echizen, this is Oshitari, one of Atobe’s mates.”

Ryoma gave him a nod and Oshitari smiled a smile that was almost as creepy as Fuji’s.

“There’s no sense in standing out here,” Oshitari said, “come aboard.”

The inside of the train was beautifully decorated in blues and dark woods in a manner that befit a royal train. There were eagle motifs everywhere along with the royal coat of arms (which also heavily included eagles).

They were taken into the luxury sitting room in the middle coach, comfy seats and sofas were scattered around, set out in little sets to allow multiple conversations to happen at once. Three vampires were sat around on the seats, two conversing quietly together and one lying across one fast asleep. In the far corner, overlooking the rest of the seats was a large red throne, upholstered with red velvet and with an eagle with outstretched wings carved on top.

Lounging in the throne was Atobe, a large vampire was standing at his side, his face completely expressionless.

“You finally arrived,” Atobe said, springing up and sauntering over to them, “welcome aboard my train. Shishido,” he turned to a vampire sat on the sofa, wearing a baseball cap and a surly expression, “bring their luggage on-board then tell the others we’re ready to depart and once they’re all on please tell the driver to start.”

“I know not to leave without the others,” Shishido grumbled, but did as he was told.

“I’ll go with him,” the vampire he’d been talking too, a tall man with silver hair, said, jumping to his feet.

“Your journey went well?” Atobe asked once the two vampires had left.

“They were caught in traffic,” Oshitari said, “that’s why they’re late.”

“We had some things to sort out,” Ryoma said.

Atobe’s piercing gaze turned on him, “you look good in our military uniform.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said.

“It took us a while to find one small enough for you.”

Fuji stepped in before either Ryoma or Kaidoh could say something stupid. “Where will we be sleeping?” he asked calmly.

“You’re in the fourth carriage,” Atobe said, “be very thankful, Gakuto didn’t want to leave his carriage and stay with Shishido and Ootori.”

“I’ll be sure to thank him when I next see him,” Fuji said.

As they headed towards their carriage the train jerked ever so slightly and then started to pull away. Their carriage was as richly decorated as the lounge car. The front of the carriage had a couple of tables with seats around them, the other half was taken up by two sets of bunk beds, one on either side.

“I wouldn’t take the bottom one on the left,” Fuji said airily, “That’s Gakuto’s. I don’t want to even think what he and Oshitari have done in it.”

“I’ll take the top bunk,” Kaidoh said.

“Which do you want?” Fuji asked Ryoma, who worked out whether it was safer to sleep above or below Fuji.

“Bottom,” He decided eventually. He could run out of a bottom bunk quicker should Fuji try something.

Their luggage had been brought in and put in the racks next to one of the sets of beds.  The basket Oishi had given him was on the table, Ryoma went over and check inside, nestled between the snacks was the bottle of Tezuka’s blood and the box with the diamond in. He picked out the box and put it in his pocket, he didn’t want it to leave his side.

“How long will we be on the train?” Ryoma asked.

“The best part of two days,” Fuji replied, “so make yourself at home.”

Ryoma doubted he could do that whilst surrounded by Atobe and his mates. He sat down in one of the seats and pulled out a packet of crisps. “There’s not going to be any food, is there?”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Fuji said mysteriously.


Ryoma kept himself to himself over the rest of that day. Fuji went to be with the other vampires and Kaidoh went to the gym in one of the carriages. Ryoma stayed in their carriage and read one of the books he’d brought along.  
He didn’t notice it get dark outside or someone come into the carriage until a plate covered in a cloche was placed in front of him. He looked up at the man who’d brought it in recognised him as the tall vampire who had been standing by Atobe’s throne.

“Thank you,” Ryoma said. The vampire nodded and left.

Ryoma lifted the cloche and found a steak with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. He dug in. It felt like he hadn’t eaten proper food in a year! At the castle he’d been reduced to eating instant meals or warmed up canned food. None of the vampires ate human food and Inui seemed to be more into convenience than taste when it came to food. Ryoma had never thought he was the type to be picky about food, but if this was what he was going to be eating, he was going to enjoy this trip away. At least, the mealtimes of this trip.
Almost as soon as he’d finished, the vampire returned and replaced his dirty plate with an ice cream sundae.

It was delicious.

“Are you still sulking in here?”
Ryoma had just finished his ice cream and had looked forward to lying back and having a rest, but Atobe had decided to come a see him, ruining his good mood.

“I’m not sulking,” Ryoma said, glaring at Atobe, “I was reading.”

“Really?” Atobe said, looking bored, “I hear you’ve brought along something to prove your identity.”

“I have,” Ryoma said, “I didn’t think just putting me in front of some nobles and expecting them to recognise me was a fool proof plan.”

Atobe ignored the jibe. “Can I see it?”

Ryoma considered telling Atobe to go away (in much ruder words), but Tezuka had told him to trust Atobe and he trusted Tezuka. He dug his hands into his pocket and pulled out the box and opened it, revealing the diamond.

Even Atobe seemed impressed by it. “That is from the crown jewels, isn’t it?”

Ryoma nodded, “I stole it before I was sent off to Taranis,” he explained, “I was going to sell it.”

“Do you know the origins of this diamond?” Atobe asked, taking it out the box and holding it up to the light. Ryoma shook his head. As far as he knew it had always been in the crown of Ensinkil. “It was found in my country,” Atobe said, “in the mountains near Seigaku. Its discoverers were on their way to bring it to Koori, but they were robbed one night whilst staying in an inn and the diamond was taken to Ensinkil.”

“Of course it was my country’s fault,” Ryoma grumbled.

“The people who took it to Ensinkil claimed that they were the ones who found it,” Atobe said, “either way it’s ancient history now. It’s probably not even a true story, just the story a stone this size deserves.”

“So why tell it?”

“Because that’s just the backstory,” Atobe said, “not the interesting part.”

“What’s the interesting part?” Ryoma asked, now bored with talking to Atobe.

“When they cut it, the diamond went cold,” Atobe said, “and a mysterious light shone from the centre of the diamond.”

“Yeah, it’s supposed to be magic,” Ryoma said. He’d heard this part of the story, his history tutor had pointed it out every time a picture of the crown came up in their studies. “but that’s just an old story for kids.”

Atobe smiled, “I’m sure it is,” he said patronisingly. “You are aware that magic exists?”

“Existed,” Ryoma corrected him, “if anyone magical had been born, my family would have known about them. But magic is gone.”

“That’s a shame,” Atobe said, “magicians made some spectacular fireworks.”

Ryoma nodded, he’d heard those stories as well. A long time ago, Ensinkil had been home to most of the magicians in the land, it had been a hive of magical learning and understanding. But over the years less and less magicians were born. The last magician had died over a hundred years ago and since then magic had completely disappeared beyond unconfirmed rumours of magicians in far flung corners of the kingdom.

“Can I have my diamond back?” Ryoma asked, holding out his hand for it. Atobe took one last look at the stone and placed it back in his hand.

“Take good care of it,” Atobe said, “It’s a very special diamond.”

Ryoma put it back in its case as Atobe sauntered to the door.

“We’re about to have a strategy meeting,” Atobe said, “your presence is required.

He should have just said that at the start, Ryoma thought, getting to his feet and putting the box in his pocket.


The strategy meeting went on long into the night, covering every aspect of the plan and all the back ups. Ryoma didn’t like the looks Fuji and Atobe shared during the ‘what if there’s an assassin?’ part of the plan, but let them go.

All of Atobe’s mates had been at the meeting. Ryoma didn’t particularly like any of them, but at least three of them were quiet (although one was due to him being asleep), so he assumed they were his favourites. Jirou had been sleeping with his head in Atobe’s lap and Ryoma had felt a pang of loneliness. He missed Karupin. And Tezuka. He doubted sleeping with his head in Tezuka’s lap would be very comfortable, but he wanted to give it a go. One day.

Afterwards, Ryoma went back to the carriage and got ready for bed quickly before Fuji and Kaidoh returned. He considered it for a moment and then pulled on Tezuka’s cardigan and climbed into bed. It was comforting to be surrounded by Tezuka’s scent. It was cold inside the carriage, but the bed was amazingly comfy and the soft rocking of the train was very soporific. Besides, he was very used to the cold by now.


He was pretty sure neither Fuji nor Kaidoh had slept in the room when he woke the next morning. The curtains were open and he could see the world flashing by outside. He groaned and rolled onto his front to hide his head in the pillow. He’d slept well that night, but he still didn’t want to get up, especially since they’d be arriving in Taranis later that day.

When he did, finally, manage to pull himself out of bed, he found a plate of pastries waiting for him on the table. He grabbed the plate and crawled back under the covers with it. He didn’t care about crumbs, it wasn’t as if he’d be sleeping in it tonight.

"Are you awake?” Fuji asked when he came into the room half an hour or so later.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, sticking his head out of the covers.

“Atobe says you can wear whatever you want for now, but when we get near the capital you will have to change into the military uniform,” Fuji told him.

“Right,” Ryoma said, wrapping Tezuka’s cardigan around him. It smelt mostly of himself now, but it was still warm.

He changed into a pair of jeans and a shirt and wore the cardigan over the top.
Fuji gave it an amused look when Ryoma walked into the lounge car.

“It’s too big for Tezuka as well,” he said.

“And yet he still insists on wearing it,” Atobe said, “it’s horrific.”

“I like it,” Ryoma said, looking down at the thick grey wool, “it’s warm.”

“I’m sure you can find clothes that are warm and don’t look like you’ve had an elephant’s skin draped over you,” Atobe told him.

“But this one was given to me by Tezuka,” Ryoma said, “I bet you don’t have any of Tezuka’s clothes.”

Atobe gaped at him and Ryoma smirked. He’d won this round.

He sat down on one the of sofas and opened his book.

“I don’t get Tezuka,” Shishido said.

“Not now, Shishido,” Atobe sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“He’s really cold and boring,” Shishido continued regardless, “and yet this kid’s wildly in love with him.”

“Shishido,” Ootori said worriedly, “Tezuka is a very good man.”

“Tezuka has hidden depths,” Ryoma said, a smirk on his face as he remembered the night before he left.

“They must be very hidden,” Gakuto snorted, “he even turned down the chance to be one of Atobe’s mates.”

“That is a matter between Tezuka and myself, Gakuto and not something you should be discussing,” Atobe reprimanded him sternly.

“Especially not in front of Tezuka’s mate,” Oshitari said, placing a hand on Gakuto’s shoulder, “it’s not the done thing, Gakkun.”

Gakuto crossed his arms and pouted.

Ryoma was pleased that Tezuka hadn’t joined this group of vampires. If this was how they talked about Tezuka he wondered how they talked about each other behind each other’s backs. He was glad Tezuka was surrounded by nice, if weird, vampires back in Seigaku. He clearly made the right choice in leaving.

He turned to gaze out the window. The land had completely flattened out and all there was for miles around was arable land, all bare. In the distance, Ryoma could see large, dark clouds, pouring down rain on the land underneath them. He tuned out the conversation around him and gazed into the landscape, his mind blissfully blank. His eyes started to shut and within minutes he was fast asleep.

Rain was lashing against the windows when he woke up, lying awkwardly on the sofa. It was pitch black outside, but the train was still moving. He sat up and looked out the window, houses illuminated by orange street lights were flashing past.

Opposite him, Fuji smiled at him. He was the only other person in the lounge car with him.

“We’ll be arriving soon,” Fuji said, “you should get dressed.”

Ryoma stretched, his back and waist hurt from sleeping so awkwardly on the sofa. He felt chilly from sleeping without a blanket. He got up and went to the next carriage. Inside, Kaidoh was lying on his bunk, staring at the ceiling.

“Hi,” Ryoma said, going to the luggage rack and pulling out the suitcase with his new military uniform in.

It was much more uncomfortable than his normal clothes. A starchy white shirt with a pale blue silk tie (he hated wearing ties) with the crest on the bottom, over the top was the powder blue, woollen jacket, trousers made from the same material and then shiny black boots and the hat.

All together, it looked pretty good on him. He’d worn it in the car to the train, of course, but changing in the car had crumpled the uniform making it look like he’d just rolled out of bed. He looked in the mirror and rearranged his hair slightly so that it looked better poking out from under the hat.

He looked closer at the crest on the pocket of the jacket and saw that the symbol was a green and yellow viper, it’s mouth fully open, mid-strike.

“It’s the symbol of my regiment,” Kaidoh grunted and Ryoma looked up to see him watching. “you are an Officer Cadet.”

“What are you?” Ryoma asked.

“Major General,” Kaidoh replied.

“So I should salute you then?” Ryoma asked cheekily and saluted him.

“That’s the wrong hand,” Kaidoh said.

At that moment, Atobe burst into the room, dressed in his full uniform. It was covered in an obscene amount of gold braid and a large amount of medals hung from his chest. A cape hung from golden epaulettes with a lemon yellow lining and a ceremonial sword hung at his side. Ryoma wondered vaguely why he had a sword, surely a vampire had no need for one, but, as it was Atobe, it was probably just for effect.

“Are you ready yet?” He asked, pulling on a pair of white cotton gloves.

“Yes,” Ryoma said.

Atobe looked him up and down, and sighed, “your tie is a mess,” he said, pulling it out from under Ryoma’s jacket and retying it for him. Up close, Atobe really was intimidating, his face was handsome, but his eyes had a cold sharpness to them that warned that this was a vampire who was not to be crossed. The hint of a fang pressing against his lower lip did not help matters.
Ryoma refused to let himself be intimidated by him, he kept his eyes locked on Atobe’s, glaring slightly.

“You remind me of Tezuka,” Atobe said, “he was never intimidated by me either. No matter how much I tried.”

Ryoma snorted in amusement, “why would I be intimidated by you?”

“He was never insolent though,” Atobe said, pinching Ryoma’s nose, “brat.” He turned to leave, “we’ll be arriving in a few minutes. Remember, I may put up with your impertinence in private, but once we are in public you are a member of my guard and will do as you’re told.”

Ryoma crossed his arms, “yes,” he sighed. Of course he remembered that, it had been drilled into him the previous night.

“If you step out of line I will not hesitate to punish you,” Atobe said. “Do not let anyone know who you are until the right moment. Now, I must speak to the driver.”

Ryoma watched him go, simmering in annoyance. He couldn’t say that he hated Atobe, but he couldn’t be around him for long periods of time without wanting to hit him.

He turned to the mirror and made sure the rest of his uniform was perfect, not wanting to be pounced on by Atobe again. He straightened his tie, not caring that it was perfectly fine before hand.

He heard the door open and shut, but didn’t look up until someone poked in the small of his back. He jumped and saw no one behind him in the mirror. Spinning around, he found Fuji standing behind him, grinning. He’d forgotten that vampires has no reflection.

“Here,” Fuji said, holding out a chain, on the end of which was the bottle of Tezuka’s blood, “wear it around your neck, then you’ll always have it with you.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, taking the necklace. He put it on and tucked it under his shirt, the bottle was small enough to fit under without being seen. It felt nice having a bit of Tezuka close to his heart…. even if it was his blood.

He could feel the train was slowing down now as they entered the city, the pressure changes in his ear indicated they were going through a lot of tunnels.
A few minutes later, they were pulling up in the station.

“Leave your luggage here,” Fuji told him, “someone will pick it up. But make sure you have the diamond wit-”

“Already have it,” Ryoma said, patting his pocket where the diamond was safely stored.

Canopies of glass and ironwork covered the station, held up by ornate pillars. There was no one to meet them off the train, which Ryoma was thankful of, if he had to keep a low profile he didn’t want people swarming around him. It was cold outside and he wished he had a pair of gloves like Atobe.

“Of course there’s no welcoming party,” Atobe said, “Taranisians have no sense of style.”

Ryoma took in obscene amount of gold braid on Atobe’s uniform, Taranisians weren’t the only ones.

He looked around the station at all the trains around them. Their train looked rather out of place surrounded by much plainer ones. 

“Here comes someone,” Gakuto said and Ryoma looked over to the entrance of station to a small gaggle of people dressed in suits making their way over to them.

“Your Majesty,” The leader of the group, a tall, balding man said as he reached them. “I apologise for our lateness.”

Ryoma tuned out the conversation between Atobe and the party of greeters, he couldn’t be bothered to listen to Atobe being patronising. He shuffled back slightly, so that he was mostly hidden behind Kabaji. He wasn’t going to give Atobe the satisfaction of him being the one to ruin the plan by being recognised.

After the greetings were done, they were lead out of the station to the limos waiting outside. Ryoma noticed armed men in the shadows around the edge of the building, standing guard and, by the way Kaidoh stiffened next to him, he’d noticed too.

Memories of being shot at in the night flashed through his mind and he looked down at the floor, forcing them away. He couldn’t lose it now.

He felt a lot calmer once he was in the limo with Fuji, Kaidoh, Gakuto and Oishitari (not that Atobe’s mates brought him comfort).

“Are you okay?” Fuji asked, squeezing Ryoma’s arm.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, “I just don’t like guns.”

Fuji nodded understandingly and squeezed his arm again. “Relax, you’ll be fine.”

They were driven to a hotel near the palace, a Gothic style, towering building made of red and cream brick. Ryoma looked up at the spires and fine ironwork covering the roof as he got out the car, a clock tower at the end of the building informed him that it was past midnight.

“We’ll be staying here tonight,” Atobe said, “and then we’ll be moving to the palace tomorrow.”

Ryoma was put in a room with Fuji, which was not something he was particularly happy with. He knew Fuji was just there to protect him and that, as an Officer Cadet he couldn’t expect the penthouse suite that Atobe was currently staying in, but still, he could have at least had his own room! Fuji could just stand outside it all night, it wasn’t as if he needed to sleep.

He flopped back on his double bed and covered his face with his arms. At least the bed was comfy. The problem was there was only one of them!

“I won’t do anything you don’t want to do,” Fuji said teasingly as he took off his jacket and hung it in the wardrobe.

“Shut up,” Ryoma snapped, “I only want to share a bed with Tezuka.”

“Aren’t you faithful,” Fuji said. “Don’t worry, I don’t want anyone but Takashi.”

“Good,” Ryoma said, “Kawamura’s really nice.”

“He is,” Fuji agreed.

“Too nice to be dating you.”

Fuji just laughed. “You should take your uniform off, it’ll get crumpled otherwise.”

Ryoma sighed and pulled himself onto his feet, “where’s our luggage?”

“It’ll be here in a few minutes,” Fuji said.

“So you want me to walk around naked?”

Fuji grinned, “I wouldn’t complain.”

Their luggage arrived a few minutes later and Ryoma changed into his pyjamas, hanging up his uniform as per Fuji’s instructions.

“What’s the insignia on your uniform?” Ryoma asked as he got into bed. It was some kind of fish, one that Hiyoshi, Oshitari and Gakuto also had on their uniforms. 

“It’s a pike,” Fuji replied from where he was sat on one of the sofas. “It’s a predatory fish.”

“Right,” Ryoma said, snuggling down in the pillows. It was a very nice bed. “You can sleep in the bed if you want,” he said, “I trust you.”

In a flash, Fuji was sat next to Ryoma in the bed. “Thank you,” he said, ruffling Ryoma’s hair.

Ryoma fought him off and glared up at him, “stop it!”

“You’re very cute.”

“I am not!”

“Go to sleep, Echizen,” Fuji said, “tomorrow is going to be a very long day.”

Echizen nodded, “turn the light off.”

“As you wish,” Fuji said.

Chapter Text

Ryoma didn’t want to wake up the next morning. It was normal that he didn’t want to get up, but the thought of what they had to do today was making him want to sink into the bed and never leave.

“Wake up, sleeping beauty,” Fuji said cheerfully, “Atobe has sent you some breakfast.”

Ryoma groaned and sat up, rubbing his eyes. Outside it was still raining. On the table there was a selection of breads, meats and cheeses.

“Can you pass them over here?”

“No,” Fuji said, “you have to get up if you want to eat.”

Ryoma glared at him, but got out of bed and went to get his breakfast. He felt very hungry right now and the food was delicious.

“I’ll leave you to get dressed,” Fuji said and left the room.

Ryoma sat down on the bed and glared at the wall. Today was the day. Finally, after days of worrying, it was all coming to a head. He hoped everything went smoothly, that as soon as they saw him they’d realise war was a terrible mistake and that he should be allowed to live safely and peacefully with Tezuka.

He doubted that it would all go so well though, there was a history between the countries that couldn’t be easily solved just by him being alive.
He dressed and went downstairs to the bar where the other vampires were waiting.

“We’ll be leaving in a few minutes,” Atobe was telling the others as he lounged on a plush red chair. He looked up at Ryoma as he arrived, “What’s your name again?” he asked.

Ryoma glowered at him. As if he’d forgotten his name! He opened his mouth to snap at him, but then realised all the people around him. All the staff and guests that could hear him revealing his identity before it was time. 

“Horio Satoshi,” He replied smartly. Horio had been a kitchen boy at the palace and Ryoma had always used his name when he needed to be someone else. “Sir,“ he added, imitating the soldiers back home as much as he could.

"Well, Horio,” Atobe said, sounding annoyingly amused, “are you ready for your first day at the palace?”

“Yes Sir,” Ryoma replied.

“Good,” Atobe purred and Ryoma suspected he was just getting off on Ryoma calling him ‘sir’. The sick bastard.

“That’s the driver,” Oshitari said, nodding towards the door where a man had just come in.

“And here’s Shishido,” Atobe said as Shishido joined them, “is everything sorted?”

“Yeah,” Shishido grumbled, “you always give me the crappy jobs.”

“Nonsense,” Atobe replied.

The palace was huge. Ryoma had expected it to be big, but this was at least twice the size of the palace in Ensinkil. It was built in a classical style out of creamy stone and roofed with grey-blue tiles.It was built in a horseshoe shape, with two long wings, covered in windows, stretching out towards them a they drove towards it. They passed through a pair of golden gates and into the inner courtyard and parked in front of the entrance.

“Stay behind me,” Fuji said as they got out the cars.

Ryoma nodded and did as he was told.

A butler lead them into the grand entrance hall. It was light and airy, painted white with lots of gold gilding.

“The King is currently in a meeting with his government and the Prime Minister of Ensinkil,” the butler said, “You may wait in-”

“You will take us to that meeting,” Atobe said.

The butler looked thoroughly taken aback, “I’m afraid-”

“I don’t care about etiquette,” Atobe said, leaning forward to the small man, his fangs glinting in the light from the chandelier. “Take us there now. I will not mention that you took us.”

The butler nodded and Atobe leaned back, a satisfied smile on his face, “excellent.”

Ryoma stuck close to Fuji, he didn’t want to get lost in this palace. He didn’t mind getting lost back in Seigaku castle where all the would happen was someone might laugh at him, but here the building seemed to exude animosity.
“They’re in the room at the end of this corridor,” The butler said, “I will leave you to your grand entrance.”

Atobe smirked “thank you very much.”

As they walked past the man, Ryoma could have sworn he saw Oshitari slip a wad of cash into the man’s pocket.

Atobe didn’t even pause before pushing the doors open, they swung inwards, bouncing off the walls.

“Here you are,” Atobe said strutting in, “we’ve been looking for you.”
Inside the room, a lot of old people were sat around a long table. Ryoma recognised most of them, various politicians from his country and from Taranis.

“A-Atobe,” The King of Taranis stuttered, “we didn’t know you were here.”
“Well, we did tell you that we’d be arriving today,” Atobe said, “I’m wondering why you are stating the negotiations without us.”

“We weren’t,” The Prime Minister of Ensinkil said, Ryoma smirked at the panic in his voice, “we were just talking about matters completely unrelated to war.”

“Naturally,” Atobe said, turning his charisma onto him, “well, since we’re here now we should get started. Could you get some seats for myself and my friends?”

Silence fell on the room. No one moved or spoke as the two sides stared at each other, each challenging the other to be the first to do something.

Then, the Queen Mother spoke up.

“You come here having murdered Prince Ryoma and expect to be treated like guests?” She asked darkly, “you are monsters.”

Atobe looked at her and smiled, “Officer Cadet, could you step forward please.”

Hiyoshi gave Ryoma’s back a small nudge and he walked forward to Atobe’s side.

“Give your full name and rank, please,” Atobe said, “the true one,” he added under his breath.

Ryoma couldn’t help the smirk that came to his lips, “Officer Cadet in the Royal Army of The Hyotei Empire, Crown Prince of Ensinkil,” he could hear the intakes of breath from around the room as he took off his hat, “Echizen Ryoma,” he looked up at the Queen Mother and grinned, “Mate of Lord Tezuka Kunimitsu of Seigaku.”

A shocked silence fell over the people at the table, all of them had their eyes locked on him, gawping as if he were some mythical creature.

“Atobe, how dare you bring an impostor of my granddaughter’s beloved fiancé?” The Queen Mother said venomously.

“How can I be her 'beloved fiancé?” Ryoma asked, whilst Atobe grinned smugly, “I haven’t even met her.”  

“Just because they haven’t met does not mean that they are not in love!” The Queen Mother snapped indignantly, drawing herself up to her full, unimpressive height. She was a short, squat woman with a face like a toad.

Ryoma ignored her and turned to his Prime Minister.  He was tall and a lot thinner than Ryoma remembered him being, his face was looking as worried as usual. “Ask me something only I would know.”

“Or how about,” Atobe cut in, draping an arm around Ryoma’s shoulders. His hand was cold and not in the same, almost comforting way Tezuka’s was. "Ryoma shows you something that you’re missing. You know he took it, right? You must have him on a security tape.“

"What is he talking about, Tokunaga?” The King asked. So his Prime Minister was called Tokunaga, Ryoma was glad that the king had said the otherwise he’d be calling him 'The Prime Minister’ for the whole trip.

Tokunaga’s eyes darted to Ryoma, who put his hand into his pocket, closing it around the diamond.

“The Star Diamond was stolen just before Prince Ryoma left,” Tokunaga said, “it is the diamond that takes pride of place in the crown jewels.” He turned to Atobe and Ryoma, “if he did have the jewel it would prove that he is real.”

Ryoma took his hand out of his pocket and held it out, the diamond resting innocently in the palm of his hand.

“That’s it,” Tokunaga said, “welcome back, my Prince.”

Ryoma smirked, “I’m surprised you’re glad to see me. I thought the whole point of you sending me here was so that you never had to see me again.”

“How do you know it’s not a fake?” The Queen Mother insisted.

Tokunaga sighed, “It’s Prince Ryoma, an imposter wouldn’t be this rude.”
Ryoma smirked, he was glad his Prime Minister knew him so well. Everyone in the room was staring at him as if he’d just come back from the dead, which, to them, he had.

“If you were alive, why didn’t you come back to us?” Tokunaga asked Ryoma.

“To protect him from assassins,” Atobe replied for him.

“And because you forced me out of my home,” Ryoma jumped in and Atobe rolled his eyes, “you made sure I knew I wasn’t welcome back, so I found myself a new home.”

“But you were always welcome here,” The Queen Mother simpered, “your fiancée is here after all.”

“I also fell in love,” Ryoma continued, it was bit of a lie. He couldn’t quite say that he was 'in love’ with Tezuka, but he was very sure of his next statement, “and I’m not leaving him.”

“Well then,” Atobe said, “Now that that’s sorted, we should talk about matters of war.”

“Ryoma, dear,” The Queen Mother said and Ryoma felt his skin crawl, “would you like to go for a walk around the gardens?”

“Not really,” Ryoma replied, “I’d rather stay here.”

“I wouldn’t mind a walk,” Fuji said brightly, “Come on, Echizen,” he grabbed Echizen’s arm and pulled him forcibly from the room.

“What the hell?!” Ryoma asked as Fuji pulled him along the corridor.

“Do you really want to be in the all day listening to Atobe grandstanding?” Fuji replied, “it’ll be very boring.”

“I want to know what’s going on!”

“A lot of fighting,” Fuji said, “nothing will get decided for days yet. Taranis is very set on war whether you’re in the room or not.”

“This is really pissing me off,” Ryoma said.

“Same,” Fuji agreed, “I’m sure Atobe will call on you at some point to tell your story, either way, he won’t make you marry the princess to stop the war. He likes Tezuka too much for that.”

Not at all reassured, Ryoma relented and let Fuji take him out to the gardens.

“I wish I’d brought my camera,” Fuji said as they walked through the bare hedges and empty flowerbeds, “don’t you think it all looks beautiful?”

“Maybe it does in the summer,” Ryoma replied, kicking at some dead leaves under his feet. He didn’t find gardens particularly interesting when they were in full bloom, let alone when the only things with leaves on were the evergreens.

“I love how bleak it all looks,” Fuji continued and Ryoma rolled his eyes. Of course Fuji loved it, he’d probably love it even more if the garden was growing out of a dilapidated palace.

The gardens were indeed bleak, especially around the front of the palace where the ornamental gardens were empty apart from a couple of leafless bushes. Beyond the ornamental gardens were pathways crisscrossing through hedges that lead to little secluded spots with seats and fountains. It would be romantic if he were with Tezuka and not Fuji.

“In Ensinkil, we have a big fish pond in the garden,” Ryoma said, “it’s full of carp. Karupin once caught one of them and dragged it through the palace to give it to me. It’s the only time he’s ever killed anything.”

“I bet he was very popular,” Fuji laughed.

“He was, especially when he got fish guts on the eight hundred year old carpet. It stank of fish for months!”

Fuji chuckled and looked into the pond they were walking past, “there’s no fish in here.”

“Karupin came here in the night and ate them all.” Ryoma looked up at the sky, “do those clouds look dark to you?”

“We should probably head back inside,” Fuji agreed, “It’s a shame, I was hoping to see the parkland.”

“You said we’ll be here for days,” Ryoma reminded him, “if I’m not allowed in the peace negotiations tomorrow I’ll explore them with you.”

It started raining as they got back to the ornamental gardens.Not just a light shower, a full, sudden downpour. Ryoma was soaked to the skin as he and Fuji ran through the door, his woollen coat seemed to have soaked up all the water that had fallen from the sky. He shrugged it off his shoulders quickly and let it fall to the floor with a squelch.

“Your shirt’s wet as well,” Fuji said helpfully.

It was also see-through.

Ryoma groaned and quickly took it off as well.

“Here,” Fuji said, grabbing a towel off a butler who had just run into the room with them and starting to dry Ryoma off.

“How are you not as wet as me?” Ryoma asked.

“I run faster than you.”

Ryoma was about to retort, but a shriek from the door stopped him in his tracks.

Chapter Text

“Sakuno, don’t look!” a girl screamed, trying to cover her friend’s eyes.

“Tomo, what’s happening?” the girl next to her asked, her voice panicky.

“There are naked men about to kiss!” Tomo said.

“We are not!” Ryoma snapped, “I’d never kiss him!” He added, looking at Fuji in disgust.

Sakuno pushed Tomo’s hand away, saw Fuji and Ryoma standing there, soaked to the skin and, in Ryoma’s case, shirtless and blushed bright red.

“Who are you?” Tomo asked.

“Prince Echizen Ryoma,” Ryoma spat, the implication of cheating on Tezuka with Fuji had riled him up, “who the hell are you?”

Tomo bristled, “Princess Tomoka of Taranis,” she said.

Before the royal argument could get any worse, Fuji clamped a hand over Ryoma’s mouth.

“Ladies, would you happen to know where our rooms are?” Fuji asked, “We’re some of the delegates from the Hyotei Empire.”

“Isn’t he supposed to be dead?” Tomoka asked coolly pointing at Ryoma.

“That was a misunderstanding,” Fuji said smoothly.

“Your rooms are in the east wing,” Sakuno said, “I can take you there if you want.”

“That would be very nice, thank you,” Fuji said before Tomoka could object.

Sakuno showed them to their rooms and then scuttled off, looking very embarrassed.

“Has she never seen a shirtless man before?” Ryoma asked incredulously.

“I think she’s just shy,” Fuji said, pushing him towards the bathroom.

“I really dodged a bullet by not marrying that princess,” Ryoma continued, “we’d end up killing each other!”

“I’m glad Tezuka has you as well,” Fuji said, “now take a bath and warm up.”

“Humans aren’t that fragile,” Ryoma muttered as the bathroom door shut behind him.

The bathroom was big, covered in marble and had a large window overlooking the gardens at the side of the palace. Ryoma filled the bath and sunk into the hot water. There had been a bottle of bubble bath on the edge of the bath, so Ryoma had added some. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but he really liked bubble baths.

He let out a long breath and settled back, the tension running off him into the hot water.

He was really thankful that he’d made his decision to stay at Seigaku. Princess Tomoka was probably nice when not confronted with two wet men, but right now Ryoma couldn’t care less. He was happy he wasn’t going to marry her. He’d run away if he was forced into marriage, he’d find some way of getting back home to Seigaku.

He wondered how negotiations were going. He’d never been in any kind of political discussions before, so it probably had been a good idea to send him away. But still, they would be talking about him in there, he wanted to know what they were saying.

He glanced out of the window once he was dried off and dressed and saw Oshitari and Gakuto playing around in the rain and hiding under a tree were Shishidoh, Ootori and Hiyoshi. They’d all escaped the peace negotiations as well. It was a definitely good thing that Ryoma had left too if it were that boring.

Dinner that night was a grand formal affair, Ryoma hadn’t eaten in a formal setting for so long that he’d forgotten some of the etiquette and was glad he had been sat between Fuji and Kaidoh who didn’t judge him for forgetting which spoon was for the soup. The vampires all sipped blood from crystal champagne flutes, their plates remaining empty in front of them.

After dinner, Ryoma was surprised to find Kabaji follow him back to his room. He didn’t say anything until they were both in his room.

“Did Atobe send you?” He asked.

“Yes,” Kabaji replied.

When he didn’t elaborate further, Ryoma asked, “To protect me?”

“Yes.”

Ryoma nodded and quickly changed out of his dinner suit into his pyjamas. “Look after this,” he said, placing the diamond into Kabaji’s hands, “do not give it to anyone! Not even Atobe.”

“Yes,” Kabaji said, his giant hand closing around the jewel.


Whilst Ryoma was getting ready for bed, in the next room, Fuji was lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He got up and pulled a suitcase out the wardrobe. It hadn’t been unpacked by the palace’s maids as Fuji had locked it with a code that only he knew, it wouldn’t do to have anyone find out what was in this particular suitcase.

He put it on the bed and input the code into the lock. Inside the suitcase were an array of throwing knives and a gun. He’d felt exposed walking in the garden without a weapon, he always felt exposed without at least one weapon on his body, a feeling that was left over from his previous life. He knew he could take on a human opponent one-on-one, but taking on multiple opponents whilst trying to protect Echizen was perhaps too much to do unarmed.

At least he’d been right and they hadn’t attacked on their first day there. Echizen had Kabaji in his room tonight and Fuji trusted him to keep Ryoma alive and if he heard any sound of trouble he could get to Echizen’s room in a matter of seconds. He’d checked out the windows when they’d been walking around the gardens and knew he could jump from his windowsill to Echizen’s with little trouble at all should it come to that.

He felt guilty parading Echizen around the grounds, hoping to attract trouble, especially since Tezuka had expressly forbidden it. But this was Atobe’s plan and the best way to find out who was after Echizen was to capture them whilst they were attacking. He would protect Echizen, no matter what.

He started to hide the knives and gun under his clothes in places where they’d be easy to get at should the need arise. Once they were all hidden, he shut the suitcase and put it away then sat in one the chairs, staring at the door and listening intently.

He could hear all the noises of the palace, people moving around above and below him, the sounds of the night outside and the palace creaking gently around him, listening for anything that might indicate an attack.

It was going to be a long night.

Chapter Text

Fuji might not have slept all night, but Ryoma had. Even with Kabaji towering over him all night, he’d fallen asleep as soon as his head had hit the pillow.
At breakfast, he was informed by Atobe that he would be telling his story that morning to everyone.

“It’s best that you don’t mention how Tezuka made you his mate,” Atobe whispered to him.

“Of course I was going to lie about that,” Ryoma muttered back.

And so, a couple of hours later, he was back in the large meeting room with all eyes on him again.

“We were driving through the Hyotei Empire,” Ryoma started, “and the driver stopped in the middle of the woods and got out and left.”

“What did you do?” Atobe prompted.

“Karupin hid under one of the front seats, so I lay down in the foot well with him and then someone started shooting up the car,” Ryoma said.

“Who’s Karupin?” The King of Taranis asked.

“His cat,” Kaidoh replied.

“Karupin escaped out the window and then I ran when they stopped shooting,” Ryoma continued as if no one had interrupted, “they chased me through the woods until I reached Seigaku castle. Tezuka found me in the entrance hall and invited me to stay.”

“He found a strange young man in his hall and he invited him to stay?” Someone from Taranis’s government asked.

“Tezuka is a very kind man,” Ryoma said, glaring at the man, “I was muddy, wet and bleeding. Everyone in the castle looked after me.”

“How did you become the vampire’s mate?” The Queen Mother asked.

“We fell in love,” Ryoma replied simply, “he told me exactly what it meant and I agreed to it.” He saw Fuji smirk and wished he could hit him. “This is the bite mark,” he said, pulling his shirt out and showing the fang marks on his shoulder. A ripple of muttering spread around the room.

“And you stayed with the vampires?” the King asked.

“I did,” Ryoma said, “They welcomed me into their home and made me part of their family. I wanted to stay, there wasn’t anywhere else to go.”

“You couldn’t come to Taranis?” the Queen Mother asked.

“I didn’t want to,” Ryoma shrugged, “the only thing waiting for me here was a marriage to a girl I’ve never met, I don’t even like girls in that way.”

“Who tried to kill you?” Tokunaga asked before the Queen Mother could interrogate Ryoma further.

“We don’t know,” Atobe said, “that was why we were keeping his location a secret, to protect him from any other assassins. Not that it helped.”

“What do you mean?” A member of Ensinkil’s cabinet asked.

“One night someone broke in to try and kill me,” Ryoma explained.

“They were a member of the Order of Assassins,” Fuji added, “Yukimura’s right hand man, one of the top assassins in the business.”

“You would know all about assassins,” Ryoma was sure he heard someone in the room mutter and stashed it away in his mind for further investigation later.

“Tezuka saved me,” Ryoma said, wanting everyone to see how great Tezuka was.

“Have you found out who hired them?” Someone asked.

“We don’t know,” Atobe said, “we would have done something about them had we found out. Sanada didn’t know anything and Yukimura is adamant that their services were hired anonymously. He owes me a few favours, so he isn’t lying.

"However,” Atobe continued, “I have been talking to my contacts and we have narrowed it down to someone in this room.”

“Well, it was obviously a vampire,” the Queen Mother said.

“Why would we save him, take him in and lead the investigation into the assassins?” Fuji asked, “surely, if we wanted Echizen dead, he wouldn’t be standing in front of you now.”

The Queen Mother bristled, much like Tomoka had done earlier but didn’t have an answer to that.

“So, ladies and gentlemen,” Atobe said, “either someone from Ensinkil or Taranis or possibly both of you working together, hired assassins to send after our cute little prince,” Ryoma glared at him, Atobe smirked and carried on, “I will show you all the evidence we have and then leave you to settle it amongst yourselves. Kabaji?”

“Yes,” Kabaji said from where he was standing behind Atobe. He handed Atobe a large folder and Atobe slid it into the middle of the table.

“My country is completely innocent,” Atobe said, “and I would appreciate a full apology.”

Could it all be this simple? Was it this easy to get the Hyotei Empire out of war. Taranis could still go to war with Ensinkil though. Ryoma felt uneasy about that. His country may have abandoned him and he had loathed everything about the place when he’d talked to Tezuka in the safe. But it was still his country, where he was born and brought up. His entire family was buried there, he couldn’t let it be destroyed!

There was silence for a while whilst the documents in the folder were pored over, Atobe watched them, a smug look on his face.

“Do you really expect us to believe this?” The King asked, “facts from anonymous sources? Even the named sources are probably fabricated!”

Ryoma’s eyes flicked to Tokunaga and the rest of the Ensinkil representatives and realised they were all siding with the King.

“How do we know these aren’t forged!?” cried the King.

“We came to your capital to come to a peaceful solution, however we uncovered more unsavory results along the way,” Atobe said calmly, but Ryoma could see some tension in his shoulders.

“Well, you seem on the defensive so you must be hiding something Atobe,” Tokunaga intervened.

“I’ll say again, do we look prepared for war?”

“You brought an assassin with you!” shouted one of the dignitaries, Ryoma couldn’t tell where they were from.

All eyes turned to Fuji, who smiled serenely at them, “I’m retired, I’m merely a bodyguard now.”

“A bodyguard with the insignia of the King’s assassins!”

“I don’t kill people,” Fuji clarified, “unless I absolutely have to. I’m not the only one here from my regiment.”

“But you’re the only one who trained under Yukimura,” said the King.

“Can we leave Fuji out of this?” Atobe asked, sounding bored, “he is here because Tezuka ordered him to protect the brat. Rest assured, I don’t need him here, I can send him home right now if you wish.”

Ryoma hoped he didn’t. The idea that Fuji was an assassin and that had been with the same group that Sanada was from hadn’t sunk in yet and, quite frankly, scared him. But still, he trusted Fuji and knew he would come to his aid, he didn’t want him to go home.

It seemed Atobe’s comment had put the others on the back-foot, they’d obviously expected Atobe to leap in and defend Fuji.

“Shall we get back to more important matters?” Oshitari asked calmly, “like averting a pointless war.”

“You’re just as bad as him!” a politician cried, point an accusatory finger at Oshitari.

“The Secret Service are not assassins,” Atobe clarified, “you have people in your armies that do the same jobs, so please stop being such hypocrites. As Oshitari said, there are more important matters to attend to.”

“Like these forged documents?” The King asked and Atobe gave him a toothy smile.

“Like those documents,” Atobe agreed, “naturally, you’ll want some time to read over them and talk to your people to determine their authenticity. Dismissing them out of hand as fake would just be childish.”

The King and Atobe shared a look and the King backed down.

“Of course,” he said, “I apologise for my rudeness, shall we adjourn for today?”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Atobe replied and the meeting was called to a halt.

“You did well,” Atobe told Ryoma as they left the room.

“Good,” Ryoma replied, knowing Atobe wasn’t lying to him. “I need to talk to Fuji now,” he said and sped up to catch up with Fuji.

“That was a nice speech,” Fuji said as Ryoma fell into step with him.

“Thanks,” Ryoma said.

“You want to talk to me about my past?”

Ryoma felt stupid as he nodded. It wasn’t any of his business after all. “I want to know more about the vampire assassins,” he said, “if you don’t want to talk about your past.”

“It’s a nice day outside,” Fuji said, “we should go and find somewhere quiet to talk.”

They found a secluded area in the maze of hedges in the garden with a bench in the sun. Ryoma watched in amazement as Fuji’s skin started to sparkle slightly, as if he were covered in very fine glitter.

“You glitter?” He asked, smirking.

“It’s a side effect of Inui’s Special Vampire Anti-Sun Juice,” Fuji explained, “It’s better than suncream.” He paused to let Ryoma ask his questions, “What do you want to know?” he prompted when Ryoma remained silent.

Ryoma looked at the ground, his mind blank. He had so many questions, but he couldn’t think of one now.

“Where are they?” He asked, it was a vague enough question to start off with.

“To the East of Seigaku,” Fuji said, “in the Rikkai mountains near the coast. They have a large house and a bit of land that is used to train assassins.”

Ryoma nodded. He only had a vague idea about where that was. “Is there an application process to become one?” he asked.

Fuji looked grim, “It depends if you’re talking before or after Atobe became king. He forced them not to take people against their wills.”

“And before?”

Fuji took a deep breath, “they used to steal children.” His hands balled into tight fists and Ryoma didn’t know what to say to that. From Fuji’s reaction, it was obvious that this was what had happened to him. “They went into a village, found the human children with the most potential, then destroyed the village and only kept the children with potential alive, they would tell them that they were here to save them. An assassin with a family is no good to them, they need people with no ties.”

Ryoma nodded, “so they trained you and then turned you?”

“Yeah,” Fuji said, “You weren’t fully trained till you were around nineteen, they picked the best and turned them, the rest had to fight their way out.”

“Against vampires?”

Fuji nodded gravely, “none of them ever survived.”

Ryoma felt sick, “so why are the assassins kept around then?”

“Because they’re useful,” Fuji said, “you want someone killed discretely, then you go to them. They always ally themselves to the king and they’re powerful allies. Atobe made them change most of their ways, but I still wouldn’t trust them. I wouldn’t put it past Yukimura to send Sanada to kill you even with Atobe’s protection over you.”

“But you left?” Ryoma asked, “sorry, but the don’t seem like the type to just let you hand in your resignation.”

“Tezuka saved me,” Fuji said, smiling fondly.

“He does that a lot,” Ryoma said and Fuji chuckled.

“Yes, the whole castle is full of strays that Tezuka brought into his fold.” Fuji paused for a while and then continued, “I was sent to assassinate Tezuka. He caught me before I even got close.”

“You were a good assassin?”

“Of course. I was one of the best,” Fuji replied. “However, I made a mistake and was sent after Tezuka as punishment. He doesn’t look it, but Tezuka is very strong.”

“Yeah,” Ryoma agreed.  He had seen Tezuka holding Sanada up against a wall.

“I couldn’t even put up a fight,” Fuji said, “I thought I was dead. I-.” He paused for a second, collecting his thoughts, “sorry, I don’t like talking about my time as an assassin. I managed to convince myself for a long time that what I was doing was right. Then, I was sent on a suicide mission. Tezuka offered me a safe place to stay and I took it.”

“How did the assassins take it?”

“They had to accept it.” Fuji said, “Tezuka was high on the list of vampires they were not allowed to target, so when Atobe and Tezuka demanded that I would be released out of their order they didn’t have much choice but to obey. Atobe killed the old king single handedly after all.”

“The old king was a tyrant, right?” Ryoma asked, remembering what he’d skimmed through in the vampire book he’d read.

“Yes,” Fuji said, “he was terrifying.”

“No one’s ever told me what Tezuka did to help overthrow him,” Ryoma said, “is that why Atobe likes him so much?”

“They were close before,” Fuji replied, “Tezuka came up with the plan on how to kill the king, I believe he masterminded most of it. In all honesty, I think Tezuka could have ended up as the king.”

“Tezuka would be a good king,” Ryoma said, “I’m glad he’s not though.”

“He didn’t want to be king,” Fuji said, “you should ask him anything else though, I can’t give you any specifics and it’s not really my place.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said quietly, “for telling me all this.”

Fuji laughed, “it’s no problem, I trust you.”

Ryoma didn’t reply, not sure how he could reply. He trusted Fuji too, it didn’t matter that he used to be an assassin, he couldn’t help but trust him after all he’d done for him.

He opened his mouth, but was interrupted by Atobe appeared in front of them. He hadn’t heard any footsteps.

“I’m here to invite you to a grand ball tonight,” Atobe drawled.

“Tonight?” Ryoma asked, “that’s short notice!” All the balls he’d been to had been planned meticulously over the period of a few months, especially the ones for foreign dignitaries.

Atobe smirked, “it seems our hosts want to catch us off guard. Thankfully, I planned for this.”

Of course you did, Ryoma found himself thinking. “Do I have to go?”

“Of course you do,” Atobe replied, “what else are you going to do tonight?”

“Sleep,” Ryoma muttered, but Atobe carried on.

“I brought you all formal dress clothes, you’ll find them in your rooms.”

“Thank you, Atobe,” Fuji said, “what time does it start.”

“8 o'clock this evening,” Atobe replied, “do not be late.”

With that, he disappeared.

“He’s as annoying as you with your fast running,” Ryoma grumbled. He hated balls, there was nothing worse than dressing up in uncomfortable clothes and being surrounded by strangers.

Fuji gave him an enigmatic smile and then vanished from Ryoma’s side.

With a sigh, Ryoma got to his feet and headed back to the palace. He didn’t jump when Fuji leaped out at him from behind a hedge.


The suit Atobe had picked out for Ryoma was, in his personal opinion, horrible. The jacket and trousers were fine, but the shirt had frilly sleeves! Frills that wouldn’t be hidden by the jacket! And, worst of all, came with a cravat! He hadn’t worn a cravat since he was twelve! He dressed as slowly as possible, wanting to show up as late as he could. Thankfully (for him) the cravat was a pain to tie and he refused to ask anyone for help. He was not going to have Atobe fix up his appearance again!

He put the bottle of Tezuka’s blood in his pocket as he wouldn’t be able to get at it quickly if it were under his shirt and cravat. The diamond glittered at him from the bedside table and he picked it up and pocketed it.

Downstairs, the party was in full swing, full of men and women dressed in their finery. Ryoma fiddled with his cuffs, feeling stupid. He felt nervous, like he did around all rooms full of people where he was likely to be the centre of attention. It would be fine if he were actually there to do something, but all anyone wanted to do was curry favour with him.

As he entered the Great Hall, the Master of Ceremonies called out his name and an excited murmur flew around the room. He kept his eyes straight ahead of him, avoiding any eye contact until he reached Fuji on the other side of the hall who was being given a wide berth by the human guests.

“Where’s Atobe?” Ryoma asked, when he realised the king was not with them.

“He hasn’t arrived yet,” Fuji replied, “Your Highness.”

“Why are you calling me that?” Ryoma snapped. Being called by his title by Fuji, by anyone from Seigaku, made his innards tighten. At Seigaku he was just ‘Echizen’, they didn’t see him as a Prince, they saw him as him.

“Because we’re at a formal party and we have to use each other’s titles when talking to each other,” Fuji explained, smirking. He was enjoying this far too much.

“Fine, what’s your official title?” Ryoma asked, “or would you like me to knight you?”

“Maybe later,” Fuji chuckled, “Your Highness.”

“You have to call me ‘Sir’ after the first ‘Your Highness’,” Ryoma said.

“But ‘Your Highness’ sounds so much better,” Fuji replied, “does Tezuka call you that in bed?”

Ryoma felt his hackles rise, “No, he calls me by my name.”

“Shame,” Fuji said, “I’m sure you’d enjoy it.”

Ryoma was about to snap back that he didn’t enjoy anyone calling him ‘Your Highness’, when a  young lady, dressed in a fine red dress and bedecked with sparkling jewels came to join them.

“Your Highness,” she said, curtseying to Ryoma.

Ryoma gave her an impatient look.

“I am Keiko, the daughter of Lord Aoki of Westash,” she introduced herself and Ryoma nodded despite not having a clue who she was, who her father was or where Westash was. “I was hoping that you would dance with me later.”

“I already have my dance rota filled,” Ryoma lied. He’d just dance with Fuji all night if he had to.

“Oh,” Keiko said and sudden comprehension dawned in her eyes, “you’ll be dancing with your fiancee, won’t you?” She asked in a hushed voice, eyes sparkling with excitement. Why she was excited was beyond Ryoma, especially since she’d been asking him for a dance. “They say the wedding will be the grandest yet.”

Of course, the wedding.

“It will be,” Ryoma agreed just to get her to go away, “Now, I have to talk to Sir Fuji here.”

Keiko curtseyed again and left.

“Surely that would be Sir Shusuke,” Fuji said.

“Fuck off.”

The room around them suddenly went silent, the last voice to be heard was Shishido’s indignant shout that his suit did not look stupid with his baseball cap, and their eyes turned to the entrance to the room where Atobe was waiting, dressed in a white military uniform, complete with sword, gold braiding and a cloak lined in a scarlet silk. Only Atobe could have pulled it off.

“His Royal Highness, King Keigo Atobe of The Hyotei Empire,” the Master of Ceremonies called out into the hall, “King of the Vampires.”

Atobe grinned at the room and walked in, his footsteps were soon drowned out by the buzz of conversation starting up again.

Ryoma looked at the buffet table, piled high with food and completely untouched, and wondered if he could eat something. He was starting to feel hungry, but didn’t want to start a war over going to the buffet table too early.

A hand clasped his shoulder and a mouth leaned down to whisper, “you’ll be dancing the first dance with me,” into his ear. It was Atobe.

“Will I?” Ryoma asked, trying not to sound like Atobe had shocked him.

The hand squeezed his shoulder, “Yes, you will.”

“Aren’t you popular,” Fuji commented as Atobe left.

“I wish I wasn’t,” Ryoma grumbled, giving into his hunger and grabbing a cream cake from the buffet table and shoving it into his mouth.

They were the first to take to the floor after the King and Queen of Taranis. Atobe looked very pleased with the stir they’d caused by taking the first dance together and Ryoma wasn’t sure how he was feeling. He was quite happy with all the shocked looks, almost revelling in them as much as Atobe, but Atobe’s hand was very tight on his waist and Ryoma knew how to dance, damn it! He didn’t need to lead him around like a little kid! He took Atobe’s hand firmly and looked definitely up at him. If Atobe was going to challenge him then he was damn well going to fight back.

They started to dance, Ryoma following Atobe’s every move and not putting a step wrong. He’d hated dancing lessons, but right now they were turning out to be incredibly useful. He was thankful his dance teacher had mercilessly hunted him out of his hiding places and made him practice until he was perfect.

“You’re doing well, brat,” Atobe said as Ryoma didn’t put a foot wrong through a particularly difficult part of the dance.

“This is easy,” Ryoma scoffed as Atobe dipped him and the crowd around their barely contained gasps. “It’d be better if you were Tezuka.”

Atobe laughed, “Tezuka is rubbish at dancing.”

“I can teach him.”

“I’m sure you can. But tonight, I must ask that you only dance with members of my entourage,” Atobe told him, “you must not dance with the princess.”

“I wasn’t planning to,” Ryoma replied in disgust. “She hates me, anyway.”

“Excellent,” Atobe replied, “I was only expecting to have an unwilling groom on my hands. This will make things smoother.”

“I’ll run away if they make me marry her.”

Atobe snorted, “and where will you run to? They’ll have people looking for you as soon as they notice you’re missing, there will be nowhere for you to hide.”

“I’ll find a way,” Ryoma snapped.

“Will you? That will be amusing to watch.”

Ryoma clenched his jaw. The words ‘I’ll take Fuji with me’ were on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t say them. It would do Atobe good if Ryoma suddenly disappeared, let him worry about the political implications. Maybe he should take Kaidoh instead of Fuji. Kaidoh would be a lot less annoying and then Fuji would be worried as well. Yes, that was a far better plan. He just smirked at Atobe and Atobe smirked right back at him.

The song ended and, much to Ryoma’s dismay, Atobe raised his hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. He tried to keep his face completely neutral, but couldn’t stop himself glaring and snatching his hand back as fast as possible.

“You looked wonderful together,” Fuji said when Ryoma found him at the back of the room.

Ryoma glared at him, ”I’m never dancing with him again!”

“That’s a shame,” Fuji sounded highly amused with the situation, “I’ve never seen anyone dance as well as that before.”

“I’m going to get some food,” Ryoma said and stomped away.

The buffet table was now swamped with children and middle aged men, who wanted a first stab at the food. Ryoma gravitated towards it too, he’d never been one to turn down free food.

With heavy use of elbows, he made his way through the crowd and to the table, grabbing a plate and proceeding to fill it with as much cake as he could reach. His mind turned towards Tezuka and he smiled at the look of disapproval that would undoubtedly grace the vampire’s face if he saw Ryoma’s plate. He grabbed a carrot stick, just to make it healthier.

He’d just made it out of the scrum when someone grabbed the collar of his jacket and pulled him sharply backwards. He stumbled and steadied himself as he was pulled backwards towards the double doors leading to the balcony.

Chapter Text

“What the hell?” He snapped as he tried to get out of the vice like grip. “Who the hell are you?!”

He didn’t get a reply and one of his cakes dropped from the plate as he thrashed particularly violently to no avail. He was pulled out into the chilly night air and then freed. He spun around, ready to give whichever vampire it was a piece of his mind.

It wasn’t a vampire.

It was Princess Tomoka.

“What was that for?!” Ryoma asked, glaring at her.

“We need to talk,” Tomoka replied.

“You could have just asked me,” Ryoma grumbled, walking over to the edge of the balcony and leaning against the ornate railing. “What do you want?”

“We’re supposed to be getting married,” Tomoka said, joining Ryoma at the railing, “we should get to know each other.”

“Did your grandmother put you up to this?” Ryoma asked, taking a bite of chocolate cake.

“She told me to speak to you.”

“Look, there is no way I’m marrying you,” Ryoma told her flatly, “I’m already in love with someone else.”

“And you think I’m not?” Tomoka answered, bristling slightly. “I don’t want to do this either!”

She looked down at the floor, angry tears in her eyes, “I have to do what my country expects me to,” she said through gritted teeth, “it’s my duty and your’s too! You have a duty to your country!”

Anger flared up inside Ryoma, how dare she say that! “My country celebrated my parent’s death! They took everything away from me! I have no duty to them!”

“So you’re going to go slinking back to your captors.”

“No, I’m going to go back to the man I love.”

“He’s a vampire!”

Ryoma was getting sick of this. “Yes, he is a vampire and he’s a thousand times better than any human I’ve ever met.”

“My father will go to war if you don’t marry me. Thousands of people will die. So will your beloved vampires,” Tomoka spat.

“Why? Why would he go to war? What on earth will your father gain from me marrying you? A political allegiance? There are plenty of ways of doing that without marriage! My country is more than happy to make ties with yours, so why the big deal about us marrying?”

“I-I,” Tomoka spluttered indignantly.

“There’s something else, isn’t there?” Ryoma asked.

To his surprise, Tomoka didn’t kick up a fuss, she just looked thoughtful. “There isn’t any reason for us to marry,” she said finally.

“There isn’t,” Ryoma agreed, “so why the insistence that we marry?”

Tomoka leaned back against the railing and looked up at the starry sky, “It has to be something about you.”

Ryoma nodded and tried to think what was so special about himself. He was the legitimate heir to the throne of Ensinkil, but as he’d said, there were far better ways of creating a political alliance. “They probably just want me out the way,” he said, thinking aloud, “at least on my country’s side. They’re broke and your country is rich, I know they sold me to you. It’s easy to see why my country wants me to marry you. Why yours wants it is a mystery though.”

Tomoka shrugged, “I have no idea. I was just told that I should marry you, after all, Granny has been planning the match since we were born.”

“I know,” Ryoma grumbled. His own parents hadn’t groomed him for marriage and, he was sure, would have allowed him to marry whomever he wanted. But Tomoka’s grandmother had visited multiple times and anytime she saw Ryoma had unsubtly hinted towards her matrimonial intentions for him.

“What would you have done had you not been kidnapped by vampires?”

“I wasn’t kidnapped!” Ryoma snapped, “they helped me!”

“Fine. But would you have married me?”

“God no!,” Ryoma replied, “I was going to run away and find a life for myself.” It had sounded so easy in the car, so easy to say it now, to leave and find a new life. He wondered if he could have actually done it.

“That sounds mature,” Tomoka snorted, “shirking your responsibilities.”

Ryoma shrugged, “I don’t care. And don’t start yelling at me, I have my reasons. What matters right now is that we’re agreed that we’re not going to get married.”

Tomoka nodded and sighed, “Hopefully as this will be sorted soon and we can go back to our own lives.”

Ryoma offered her his plate, “cake?”

She smiled and took a small sponge cake with a strawberry on top, “thank you. I’m not allowed to eat cake.”

“My mother had to drag me away from the cake during parties like this when I was younger,” Ryoma admitted, “I used to sneak back after I’d gone to bed and hide under the buffet table.”

Tomoka laughed, “I always dragged Sakuno with me and we would fall asleep under it and only be found once the party was over.”

“Did you grow up with her?”

“Yes, She’s my lady-in-waiting technically, but she’s always been my best friend.”

“You love her?” Ryoma asked, shoving some chocolate cake into his mouth.

Tomoka puffed out her cheeks, “it’s that obvious?”

“It’s just the way you talk about her,” Ryoma shrugged, His eyes caught movement at the door and he looked up to see Sakuno. Speak of the devil, he thought.

“Your Grandmother wants to see you,” She said, her eyes darting warily to Ryoma.

Tomoka sighed, “okay,” she turned to Ryoma, “thanks for the cake.”

“See you around,” Ryoma said as she left and then turned around to gaze out of the grounds, picking at his plate of food.

Would it have been so bad to marry her? He supposed they’d both just sleep with other people and only be together in public. It would be a lie, but at least they’d both be living the lie together.

He’d much rather be with Tezuka.

The thought of Tezuka, of his Tezuka, made him feel happy and he smiled to himself.  He wouldn’t be living a lie once he got back home, he would be happy.

Absent-mindedly, he pulled the small bottle of Tezuka’s blood out of his pocket, it was nice to have a part of Tezuka with him, even if it was blood.

He supposed he should go back to the party, but it was cool and peaceful on the balcony and all that was waiting for him inside were simpering girls and being teased by vampires. The chatter and music floating through the doors was anything but enticing. He wondered if he could sneak out and go to bed, but someone would inevitably catch him before he could.

The bottle slipped from his grasp and fell to the floor. Ryoma’s heart was in his mouth as he watched it hit the stone floor and didn’t break. He breathed a sigh of relief and bent down to pick it up. Just as his fingers closed around it, pain exploded in his arm.

Chapter Text

He groaned in pain and terror ran through him as he saw the knife in his arm. Something kicked in and he ran, the blade sliding out of his flesh, adrenaline numbed the pain. He quickly unscrewed the lid off the bottle and forced the contents down his throat. It was disgusting and he had to force himself not to gag as the coppery taste filled his mouth. 


He stopped and spun to look at his assailant, but only got a glance of a man dressed in a suit before he had to dodge out the way of another knife thrust. He was starting to feel lighter now, moving out the way of the knife was so easy, like the world was in slow motion, or rather, like he could sense where the knife was going long before it was moved.


He saw an opening and shoved the assassin hard, sending him flying across the balcony and into the fence. He couldn’t believe how easily he’d done that, was this what it was like to be a vampire? 


“Who are you?” Ryoma growled, advancing on the other man.


The assassin stumbled to his feet, Ryoma braced himself for another attack, but the assassin leaped off the balcony. 


Part of Ryoma screamed to go back inside, to find Fuji or Kaidoh and tell that what had just happened, but the vampire powers were in control now and his blood was craving a chase. He threw himself off the balcony.


He landed on the gravel below gracelessly, falling forward and landing on his face. He tasted fresh blood in his mouth and realised that he’d cut his lips on his newly grown fangs.


The assassin was opposite him, waiting for him to make a move. Ryoma pushed himself up onto all fours, readying himself to pounce.


Then, something heavy connected with his head, sending him back down into the gravel.


There were two of them. Ryoma cursed himself for being so careless as he rolled away, his head aching. He tried to get to his feet again, but was hit over the head again.


There was nothing for it.


“Fuji!” He screamed with all his might before being hit again. He flailed his hand, looking for something to grab hold of, anything that he could use as a weapon.


His fingers closed around a smooth, cut stone and he realised that the diamond must have fallen out of his pocket when he fell. 


I’m going to die, he thought as another blow hit that back of his head, the vampire powers are going to wear off and then I’m dead. He squeezed his eyes shut, I don’t want to die!


A brilliant light erupted from his hand, so blindingly bright that, even with his eyes closed, Ryoma had to turn his head away. The assassins stumbled back, shielding their eyes. 


The light didn’t last long, maybe 5 seconds and when it faded Ryoma knew he’d missed his chance to escape. They were advancing on his now and he was exhausted, his body refusing to move no matter how much he willed it.


And then Fuji appeared behind one of the assassins, quickly and efficiently cutting his throat as if he were merely slicing a cake. The other assassin was immediately set upon by Oshitari and Gakuto, Oshitari holding him still whilst Gakuto plunged his hand into the assassins mouth.


“Yuushi told me all the assassin tricks,” he said, pulling out a pill from the man’s mouth.


The rest of the vampires arrived soon after and Kaidoh helped Ryoma to his feet as the all gathered around the surviving assassin.


Ryoma felt disoriented and nauseous, his head was full of pain and his vision kept blurring.


“So are you going to tell us who sent you?” Atobe asked the assassin, his voice deadly, “or must I set Fuji on you?”


Ryoma’s gaze fell on the body of the dead assassin, lying in a pool of blood and his stomach turned.


“Sorry,” he muttered as he stumbled into the flower beds to throw up. He was shaking all over and wanted nothing more than to go to bed. Tears came to his eyes as he retched again, he didn’t want to be here! He wanted to be anywhere but here!


He brushed the tears away, refusing to cry, but his exhaustion started to take over his body as he tried to stand and the world went black.



Fuji didn’t find much joy in torture, certainly not as much as some members of the assassin clan had. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to enjoy hurting the man in front of him, he had tried to kill Echizen, he deserved everything he was going to get.


Atobe sighed when the assassin remained silent, “Fuji, make him talk.”


Fuji stepped forward with his sweetest, loveliest smile on his face. He took the assassin’s arm in one hand and said, “tell us who sent you?” In a velvety voice. “If you don’t, I will hurt you.”


“No,” the man said.


Fuji smiled at him, “okay” and twisted the man’s arm. The assassin’s face crumpled in pain as a series of stomach turning cracks and pops came from his arm. “If I twist it anymore it’s going to come off,” Fuji crooned, “tell me who sent you and I won’t rip your arm off.”


The assassin remained silent, other than a slight whimper of pain. 


Amature, Fuji thought, a vicious feeling of delight spreading through him. He’d found a crack.


“We’ll let you live if you tell us,” Fuji continued, “let you go back to your wife and family.”


He saw the flicker in the man’s eyes and knew he’d hit the mark.


“You won’t kill me if I tell you?” The man asked.


“I won’t,” Fuji promised and loosened his grip on the assassin’s arm, “They must have been someone high up if they managed to sneak you into the party.”


“Yeah,” the assassin agreed, “he gave us everythin’. Look, we’re just a couple of thugs for hire, we’re not professionals or anythin’!”


“Then you’ll tell us who payed you to kill our cute little prince,” Atobe drawled, inspecting his fingernails. 


“It was just some guy in a bar. He was foreign, from Ensinkil. He paid us cash up front and told us the plan, all we had to do was follow it.”


“He didn’t tell you anything about himself? You didn’t recognise him at all?” Fuji asked.


“No, never seen him in my life.”


“And that’s all you can tell us?” Atobe asked. 


“Yes.”


There was a blur in the air and the assassin’s neck snapped. Oshitari let him crumple on the floor.


“I didn’t say I wouldn’t kill him,” Atobe said. “Someone from Ensinkil, that wasn’t completely unexpected,” he mused. “Where’s the brat?”


“He went to throw up over there,” Shishido said, vaguely pointing to where Echizen had disappeared off to.


Fuji walked over to the flowerbed and found nothing. Only an Echizen shaped imprint in the earth and a pool of vomit.


“Echizen,” he called out, “Echizen, where are you?”


When he received no reply, he looked back to the other vampires, “if we spread out we’ll find him quicker,” he said, a note of panic in his voice. How could he have been so stupid and let Echizen out of his sight!?


Atobe nodded, “I will return to the party and see if he’s there. The lack of my presence there will be more suspicious than any of yours. Shishidou, clean up this mess. Kabaji, you help him.”


They split up and started to search the gardens, looking in every bush, fountain and flower bed for Echizen. Fuji was getting frantic now, it was as if Echizen had just vanished, there was no trace of him anywhere. To make matters worse, it had started to rain heavily, washing away any possible scent of Echizen.


By the time they had all gathered back in the ballroom, all dirty and irritable, the ball was coming to an end.


“Shishidou and Gakuto, go and search the city,” Atobe said, “Oshitari, you go with them. I’m not returning home without the brat. Now, there is blood waiting for us in our rooms. We’ll continue the search after we’ve recovered.”

Chapter Text

Tezuka’s mouth trailed its way down his body, wet and cool and oh so pleasant. Ryoma felt so tired and heavy, unable to do anything beyond lying back and letting that wonderful mouth do its work.

“Ryoma,” Tezuka whispered huskily, sending tingles right through Ryoma’s body. He tried to reply, but his words were strangled by the moan ripped from his throat as Tezuka’s mouth engulfed his cock.

It was amazing and intense, but there was something wrong, Ryoma tried to ignore it, but the feeling was getting stronger and stronger and soon he couldn’t feel any pleasure, only anxiety.

Then, he wasn’t feeling pleasantly heavy at all, he felt sick and his body ached all over.

“Tezuka!” He called and forced himself to move his head up.

And woke up.

He rolled over and pressed his head into the fluffy pillow. His entire body hurt, as if every centimetre of his body had been beaten. His mind felt so fuzzy and he groaned as he tried to remember where he was and what had happened to him.

Well, he could fix one of those things.

He opened an eye and blearily looked around the room. He didn’t recognise it at all.

He opened both eyes and pushed himself up. Bright light poured in through the window, making Ryoma squint until his eyes were used to it. The room itself was decorated in a quaint country style, all pastels with little pictures of farm animals on the walls and on every surface were small porcelain figures of girls dressed in impractical clothing doing twee country things.

He pushed the patchwork quilt off and tried to get out of bed. His legs gave way underneath him as he put his weight on them and he collapsed on the floor. Memories of the night before flooded back into his mind, along with the terror.

Someone had tried to kill him and now he had no idea where he was or whose mercy he was at.

“Fuji?” He called, his voice catching in this throat, “Kaidoh?!”

No one replied.

Right, he thought, his brain slowly kicking into gear. He crawled over to the door and tried it. Unsurprisingly, it was locked.

But, he was clean and dressed in cotton pyjamas, last he remembered he was in a suit and collapsed in a pool of his own vomit. So, whoever had bought him here cared for his welfare. The fact he was alive was another point in that direction, so he guessed he was somewhere where he was vaguely safe, for now.

He crawled over to the window next, his body protesting and shaking the whole way there and making it virtually impossible to pull himself up onto a chair.

Outside was a an idyllic country village, full of small thatched buildings and, in the centre, a pond with white ducks swimming around on it. He hadn't got a clue where he was.

Wherever he was, he wouldn’t be able to leave by himself, not unless he suddenly regained the full use of his limbs. The vampires would be searching for him though, he was sure they wouldn’t give up until they found him. All he could do was sit back and try and work out what was happening and try to formulate a plan.

A glint of light caught he eye and he looked towards the bedside table where the diamond was sparkling in the sun.

Whoever had bought him here hadn’t taken the diamond.

His brow crinkled as he remembered last night, how the diamond has glowed so brightly it had put off his attackers.

Atobe was right, it was a magic stone.

He crawled over to the bed, pulled himself up and grabbed the diamond. It was cool in his hand and twinkled innocently, it didn’t look like anything but a regular diamond. He flipped it between his fingers and stared at the door, waiting and pushing his fuzzy mind into thinking clearly.

It was possible that the vampires had left him here. That, for some reason they had to get him out of the palace to a safe place. It was an entirely reasonable thing.

But even so, why was the door locked? Why was there no one in the room with him to make sure he was okay? No one had come when he’d called either and they would have surely heard him flailing around earlier and no one came to check on him.

Everything about this place effectively ruled out that he was still under the care of Atobe and the others.

A cold dread sank over Ryoma. He trusted the vampires and now who knew who had him or what their agenda was! It wasn’t like he could escape wither, with his legs as weak as they were and the rest of his body trembling. He clearly couldn’t run anywhere or put up a fight.

He hated to admit it, but he was entirely helpless.

He looked down at the diamond again. Atobe had said it was magic, so how had he managed to set it off?

He squeezed his eyes shut and clasped the stone tightly between his hands.

Please, he thought, please give me the strength to leave here.

Nothing happened.

He sighed and leaned back against the ornate metal bedstead. It was cool against his back and gave him something to focus on. Slowly, he could feel his mind begin to clear and body regain some of it’s former strength.

Let’s try the door again, he thought, getting to his feet.

He managed to stand up for half a second before his legs gave up and he ended up on the floor again, feeling sick to his stomach.

That was stupid, he thought, climbing back onto the bed and pulling the covers around himself, now feeling exceedingly cold.

He wished he had someone to talk to, someone who knew why his body was acting so weird. He assumed it was a reaction to Tezuka’s blood, but he didn’t know and that scared him.

He didn’t know how long it was until he heard footsteps outside his room, he didn’t have a clock in his room so time had become some kind of abstract concept to him.

He tensed up, ready for an attack, although he had no idea what he’d do.

The door opened, revealing a round, dumpy woman who looked like she’d stepped right out of a castle kitchen in a fairytale.

“I’m glad you’re awake, Dear,” She said with an Taranisian accent that made Ryoma’s hackles rise.

“Where am I?” Ryoma asked, drawing himself up and bringing every piece of his princely training to the fore. “Who are you?”

“I’ve brought you something to eat,” she said, completely ignoring Ryoma’s questions, “you look pale as a ghost.”

“I’m not hungry,” Ryoma snapped, glaring at the porridge and toast in front of him. It worried him slightly that he wasn’t hungry, but right now he was too angry to care. “You kidnapped me!”

“You haven’t been kidnapped,” the woman said kindly, “we just moved you somewhere safe.”

“And locked me in,” Ryoma growled.

“For your own safety,” the woman said, “to keep you away from those animals.”

Anger flared up inside Ryoma, how dare she refer to his friends as animals!  “I was safer with them than with you!”

“I saw those bite marks on you. They’ve brainwashed you, they only see you as a meal.”

“Get out!” Ryoma yelled, he had no authority here, but he was not going to sit here and listen to his friends being insulted. “Get out or I will.”

“I’ll leave you to your breakfast,” the woman said and bustled out of the room leaving a fuming prince in her wake.

Ryoma glared down at the food; he was sure it wasn’t poisoned, but he felt nauseous just thinking about eating. He picked up a slice of toast and took a small bite, his stomach turned and he put it back down. Eating was clearly out of the question. He pushed the tray away and lay back against his pillows

He didn't know when he fell asleep or how long he'd slept for, but when he came too it was almost dark outside and raining again.

He crawled out of bed and over to the sash window and found, to his utter surprise, they weren't locked. They didn't slide up very much though, nowhere near enough for him to escape. He rested his head on his folded arms and gazed through the small slot of open window at the downpour outside. He didn't think about anything in particular, the sound of the rain washing away his thoughts, but he couldn't shake the feeling of helplessness. He wanted to go home, or to just do something! He sighed and gazed unseeing into the darkness.

In the darkness below, a nose twitched. Leathery, bat-like wings twitched in anticipation and a feral grin spread across a fanged mouth. He’d finally found him.

Chapter Text

500 years ago

 

Fuji stood in a rocky crevice, looking over Seigaku Castle. His target would be in there somewhere, unaware that an assassin was stalking him. This was what Fuji loved; the thrill of the chase. The killing was just what happened after the chase, it wasn’t something Fuji enjoy all that much. In his younger days, the kill had been the reward, but now Fuji wished the reward was just more chasing.

 

But this mission, this was a mission he couldn’t fail.

 

He eased himself further up the cliff face to get a better look at the castle. It didn’t look particularly well defended, but looks could be deceiving. He would attack at night, he could slip through the shadows and remain unnoticed. Vampires had better senses than humans, but they could still be fooled, especially those who hadn’t trained as stringently as Fuji had been.

 

He sniffed the air, his finely tuned nose could smell plenty of vampires, but he could narrow them down to about four or five, easy enough to take on without getting overpowered. Right now though, he was trying to distinguish them all from each other, they were so mixed it was almost impossible.

 

A slight breeze picked up, bringing him a new, fresh scent. One that he recognised instantly.

 

He’d been stalking Lord Tezuka Kunimitsu for some time now. It was important to know your targets before you went in for the kill so you wouldn’t get taken by surprise, that was the skill, to know all their strengths and weaknesses before making a move. But Tezuka hadn’t seemed very impressive. He carried himself like a noble and gave off the impression of strength, but beyond that there didn’t seem to be anything. He didn’t train at all, spending most of his days doing paperwork and reading.

 

This was a mission for Fuji to prove that he wasn’t a failure, that his last mission had been a small blip in his otherwise stellar career, why he’d been given such a weak vampire to kill was beyond him.

 

Of course, he knew why someone wanted Tezuka dead. He was rumoured to be one of the new King’s mates and, in this period of confusion and instability, it was a perfect time to pick off King Atobe.

 

He found a ledge and pressed himself down flat, eyes scanning the forest below him. It was winter, so he could see through the bare, tangled branches to the leaf strewn ground below. He could hear the crunch of footsteps now and made himself as small and unnoticeable as he could, the scent coming up to him on the breeze told him that this was who he had been waiting for and now he had the perfect opportunity to ambush him alone in the forest.

 

He caught a glimpse of brown hair through the branches and grinned. This was so easy, how could Tezuka be so careless? He started to slide down the cliff face- he could pounce from his position, but it would be one hell of a landing.

 

Tezuka didn't notice him as he made his way down, continuing his walk as usual.

 

The bushes at the bottom of the cliff didn’t so much as rustle as Fuji slipped into them. Tezuka had walked further on down the path, but not so far away that Fuji couldn’t hear him.

 

Vampires were not as easy as humans to kill, but the theory was exactly the same; there weren’t many species that could survive having their head ripped off or being disembowelled.

 

He caught up with Tezuka fairly quickly, not that that mattered too much, he would happily stalk him all day. As he went, he silently slipped on his gloves with long metal claws as nails. He could grow his nails into claws, but these metal ones were far more effective.

Tezuka had stopped by a large oak tree and was inspecting it. Fuji crouched down, his body tensed, waiting for just the right moment to strike. He dragged his tongue over his lips and then sprang up and shot towards Tezuka. He thrust out his metal claws, aiming to slice through his neck and then- a millimetre away from his target- Tezuka disappeared, leaving Fuji to run into the oak tree.

 

He pulled his claws out of the wood and was about to push himself away when a weight hit him in the small of the back, throwing him back against the tree. His arms were pulled behind his back and held there and a hand wrapped around his neck.

 

He’d failed and now he was going to die. The thought hit him as he tried to get out of the iron grip holding him. The hand at his throat squeezed and Fuji was sure that he was going to be killed. It was the downside of this life, if you were caught no one thought anything of putting the assassin to death.

 

And then, something hit him over the head and everything went black.


 

 

He hadn’t really expected to wake up, so he was surprised to find himself in a bed (less surprised to find himself chained to it) with Tezuka sitting at his bedside, watching him sombrely.

 

“Good morning,” Fuji said, “or is it afternoon?”

 

“Late evening,” Tezuka replied, “you haven’t been asleep long.”

 

“Oh good,” Fuji said. If he could be friendly and knock Tezuka off guard then all the better.

 

It didn’t appear to be working. “You were sent by Yukimura?” Tezuka asked.

 

Fuji nodded. “You’re a better fighter than I thought you were.”

 

“You let your guard down,” Tezuka replied, “I was luring you out.”

 

“I was desperate,” Fuji admitted, “This assignment was my second and last chance.”

 

Tezuka nodded, “you failed to kill Amane from the Rokkaku clan.”

 

“The entire assignment was a mess,” Fuji said cheerfully, underneath he was seething.

 

He’d been assigned to kill the leader of the Rokkaku clan, a clan of vampires who had been given territory at the mouth of the Rikkai River, effectively locking the clan of assassins in their mountain fortress. However, a mix-up in the information they’d been given, led Fuji to believe that Amane was the leader of the clan, not Aoi. When he’d attacked, he’d been effectively beaten off by Amane and Kurobane and would have been killed if he had not made a tactical retreat.

 

Yukimura had not been pleased by his failure and had almost finished him off. His only saving grace was that he had always been a perfect assassin, so he’d been given one last chance. Kill Tezuka Kunimitsu and have your failure will be forgiven, if you fail you better let him kill you.

 

And now he was captured.

 

“Why haven’t you killed me yet?” Fuji asked, “you had me at your mercy in the woods.”

 

“Do you know how the old king died?” Tezuka asked and Fuji looked at him nonplussed. Why was he talking about that now?

 

“Atobe killed him.”

 

“He did,” Tezuka agreed, “Do you know how Atobe got him alone? You are an assassin, you must know that the king was guarded at all times.”

 

Fuji shook his head. He’d always wondered, of course, everyone had.

 

“I was the old king’s secretary, he trusted me fully with all of his appointments and engagements,” Tezuka said, “I arranged it that he would be alone in the throne room with Atobe. I sent him to his death.”

 

“You knew Atobe’s plan?”

 

“I created the plan with him,” Tezuka replied, “I am fully responsible for the old king’s death and now I wish to make up for it somehow.”

 

“How?” Fuji asked, “By letting me kill you?”

 

“Of course not,” Tezuka said. “I’m going to give you a second chance.”

 

A second chance? Fuji thought, feeling utterly confused, “So you are going to let me kill you.”

 

“A second chance at life,” Tezuka clarified, “you will live here and protect the border.” He pulled a key out of his pocket and held it in front of Fuji. “Say ‘yes; and I’ll free you.”

 

Idiot, Fuji thought. “Fine, let me free.”

 

Tezuka nodded and swiftly unchained Fuji.

 

“You trust me not to kill you now?” Fuji asked. He could have just killed Tezuka there and then, but something was holding him back. Tezuka’s trust in him was almost infuriating, there had to be a reason for it and it intrigued him to no end.

 

Tezuka looked at him straight in the eye, “I need a good fighter living here and you need a place to hide.”

 

“And I’ve been standing behind you this whole time and you haven’t noticed at all,” a voice drawled behind Fuji. A voice Fuji recognised very well. The owner of which he’d thought was dead.

 

He spun around and found Oshitari Yuushi standing behind him looking very smug and very alive.

 

Oshitari had been an assassin and he and Fuji had served together many times, he’d disappeared, presumed dead, a year ago. So many questions buzzed through Fuji’s brain and Oshitari just smirked at him.

 

“This is Oshitari,” Tezuka said pointlessly, “he works for Atobe.”

 

“I wouldn’t say ‘works’,” Oshitari said smoothly, “I get rewarded with far more than money.”

 

“We don’t want to think about that,” Fuji was sure he heard Tezuka say under his breath.

 

“We already know each other, Tezuka,” Oshitari said.

 

“You were lurking behind me to kill me if I attacked?” Fuji asked.

 

“He’s a smart one,” Oshitari smirked, “I can see why you wanted him.”

 

“Assassins are skilled killers that use all their wit and nerve,” Tezuka said, “we need someone like that here.”

 

“What makes you think I’m going to stay here?” Fuji asked.

 

“Where else are you going to go?” Oshitari asked, “Yukimura will have your head on a pike if you return there.”

 

“He’ll send Sanada here if I stay,” Fuji said.

 

“I’ve know Sanada for a long time,” Tezuka said, “he has never beaten me in a fight.”

 

“Atobe wants you to stay here too,” Oshitari said, “which is why I’m here to oversee everything.”

 

“You had this planned?” Fuji asked.

 

“We knew someone would come after Tezuka because everyone thinks he’s one of Atobe’s mates,” Oshitari replied, “Tezuka thought it was the perfect opportunity to recruit someone to his clan.”

 

Fuji looked at Tezuka, who nodded. He forced himself to think. If he went back he would be killed, there was no doubt about that. If he killed Tezuka now and somehow made it back to Rikkai Castle alive, Yukimura would just send him out on harder and harder assignments until he was killed. So, he could stay here and wait for Sanada to come and kill him. But… well, he couldn’t take Sanada on alone, but he might be able to with Tezuka and the other vampires here at his back.

 

And so, he’d stayed.

 

The other vampires had treated him well, if with suspicion at the start. Eiji had been the first one to befriend him, he’d tried very hard not to ask him about his previous life as an assassin, but when one slipped out Fuji answered it as quickly as possible.

He hadn’t realised how much he was enjoying his new life until, as predicted, Sanada had shown up. The ensuing battle between Tezuka and Sanada had been fierce, but Tezuka had succeeded, sending Sanada away. Fuji wasn’t worried about what would happen to Sanada, he was fiercely loyal to Yukimura and Yukimura was far too sensible to kill him.

 

After that, he spent a lot of time with Tezuka. He didn’t know why the other vampire drew him in, but it was an effect he had on many people. He drew people together, was a strong and confident leader, was stoic and moral and disciplined and had plotted the death of the old king and had lead him to his death. He’d said that saving Fuji was his repentance for doing so, but Fuji couldn’t understand why! Was it just an excuse to get him to stay? Or did Tezuka really think that bringing an assassin back from the brink would really absolve him of his sins?

Tezuka fascinated him, he would happily admit that.

 

When he’d found out that Atobe had multiple mates and Tezuka wasn’t among them, he’d asked him why. Tezuka had told him that he would only form a mating bond with someone he truly loved and Fuji had made a vow to protect whoever that was with his life.

He’d been a bit mad when Tezuka had formed the bond with Echizen out of an unfortunate accident- that there had been no feelings between them when they had bonded. But now anyone with eyes could see how Tezuka worshiped the ground Echizen walked on and Echizen… well, Echizen was in deep. He didn’t know if they’d told each other yet, but it was plain to see that they both were head over heals in love with each other.

 

And now, Echizen had been kidnapped and Fuji would show his kidnappers no mercy.

 

His wings retracted into his back and his face slid back to normal and, in the middle of the front lawn, Fuji Shusuke grinned.

Chapter Text

Ryoma had a plan. He was going to hide near the door and then, when someone came in, make a run for it. He might not get far, but he was not going to sit around and be a good little boy!

 

His body still wasn’t cooperating, his legs had given up as soon as he got out of bed and he'd had to crawl over to his hiding place behind the door. His brain was starting to get fuzzy now, unable to think of concentrating on anything but curling and falling asleep. Only one thing cut through this haze; the thought of escaping and returning to Seigaku castle.

 

Hurry up, he thought bitterly to himself, the hard wood floor was making his knees hurt. He was sure someone would be coming up to check on him. The woman before hadn't seemed upset by how ill he was, almost like she'd expected it, but Ryoma would have thought that she'd at least want to know that he was alive. But then, he'd been crashing around so much, she must be able to hear him.

 

He pressed his ear to the door and listened hard. He couldn't hear footsteps, but there were definitely voices. He strained his ears, trying to pick out what they were talking about or any words at all. It was a continuous speech, it sounded more like a radio than a conversation.

Sighing, he sat back against the wall, wishing he'd bought the patchwork quilt over with him.

 

His eyes found one of the china girls, a particularly intricate one with a large basket of flowers and multiple layers of flowing skirts, and wondered how good of a weapon it would make.

 

Not very good if you can't throw it properly, a voice at the back of his brain said and he couldn't help but agree. If only he had some more of Tezuka's blood, he could escape so easily.

 

Before he could dwell on it any further, the door rattled as someone stomped up the stairs. Ryoma scooted back into his hiding place, reading himself to crawl as fast as he could as soon as his path was free.

 

The door swung open and barely missed smashing Ryoma in the face.

 

"Are you sleeping, Dear?" the woman from earlier asked when she saw the lump under the covers on the bed. Ryoma was rather proud of his handiwork on that, he hadn't expected it to work out that well.

 

Smirking, he took advantage of the woman thinking he was under the covers and crawled out of the room, as soon as she touched the lump she'd realise it was made out of pillows.

 

The stairs were right in front of him, but navigating his way down them on his hands and knees without making any noise was going to be close to impossible. But something being impossible wasn't going to put Prince Ryoma off.

 

He realised going down head first was a mistake about half way down when his hand slipped from under him and he tumbled down the stairs. He was sure he'd broken something when he finally came to a stop at the bottom. He struggled back onto all fours, gingerly testing all his limbs. Nothing seemed broken, but he hurt all over.

 

At the top of the stairs the woman had come running, she gazed down at him with a look of pity and worry and Ryoma glared up at her. He gathered all of his remaining strength and staggered through the door into what turned out to be a combined kitchen and living room. A couple of guards were sat on the armchairs around the fire and they got to their feet as Ryoma fell into the room.

 

"The prince has escaped!" The woman shouted as she clattered down the stairs.

 

None of Ryoma's limbs were working now, his muscles screamed in protest every time he tried to push himself up. The guards were advancing on him now, amused expressions on their faces as one hoisted Ryoma onto his feet.

 

"He puts up a good fight," he said, as Ryoma tried to wriggle out of his grasp. "Calm down, Your Majesty, you'll hurt yourself," he said whilst his friend laughed.

 

"Shut up," Ryoma snarled, "you're just a bunch of kidnappers."

 

They just laughed at him, as if he were a little kid.

 

"Stop bullying him, you two!" the woman snapped, brushing Ryoma off and glaring at the guards. "He's not very well."

 

Ryoma gave up struggling and went limp, he was going to be locked up in that room again.

 

There was a knock on the front door.

 

"Who's could that be?" One of the guards asked, looking suspiciously at the door.

 

"Sasabe?" The other suggested, shrugging. "Bringing the beer?"

 

"Hold the kid," The guard holding Ryoma up said, handing him across to his friend.

 

He stomped over to the door, a hand moving to the gun at his side. "What do you want?" he snarled at whoever was on the other side, clearly it wasn't Sasabe.

 

"I'm here to pick up my friend," Fuji's voice said pleasantly and Ryoma's heart skipped a beat, Fuji was here. He was going to be saved.

 

"Your friend?" The guard asked.

 

"Yes, I'm sure you know him," Fuji replied, "in fact, I can smell him all over your hands," he continued, his pleasant voice picking up the hint of a snarl.

 

"Fuji!" Ryoma cried, "I-" he was silenced when the guard holding him shoved a hand over his mouth. Ryoma tried to bite it.

 

"I hear that he's here," Fuji said smugly. "Now, you're going to let me take him away or I'm going to kill you. Your choice."

 

The guard stepped back and pulled out his gun. "You don't have any weapons!" he shouted, but his voice was uncertain.

 

Ryoma could practically hear Fuji's smile that came along with his soft little laugh, "I don't need any."

 

The gunshot exploded through the room, leaving Ryoma's ears ringing. The guard's grip on him loosened and he was able to pull himself away. His legs gave way under him and he fell to the floor, but now he could see Fuji through the other guard's legs. Fuji was still stood in the doorway, holding the bullet in his hand and grinning. "Echizen, please close your eyes," he said firmly. "I don't want you to see this."

 

Ryoma rolled his eyes, but did as he was told and pushed his fingers into his ears for good measure. He could still hear the screams and gunfire though.

 

The fight didn't last long, less than half a minute. Then, a hand pulled one of the fingers out of his ears and another slid over his eyes.

 

"Don't open them," Fuji said gently.

 

"You won?" Ryoma asked as Fuji helped him up.

 

"Of course."

 

"Good." Ryoma said, Fuji let him go to stand on his own and Ryoma lunged for him to prevent himself collapsing again. "I can't walk," he explained, "I dunno what's wrong with me."

 

"We'll find out," Fuji promised, scooping Ryoma easily into his arms. "Let's go back."

 

There was the overwhelming impression of speed, the wind whipping through Ryoma's hair and rain plastered his face and then, they came to a sudden stop. They must be under cover, as Ryoma could hear the rain falling, but wasn't getting any wetter.

 

"You found him," Kaidoh said gruffly, sounding relived all the same.

 

"I did," Fuji replied, "I took care of his captors as well."

 

"Atobe will need to send a clean up team then," Kaidoh said and Fuji chuckled.

 

"I got a bit carried away."

 

"Can I open my eyes now?" Ryoma asked huffily, sick of being treated as though he wasn't there. His body was starting to shiver again and he was sure it was a fairly warm night.

 

"Not quite yet," Fuji said, "Kaidoh, could you take him for me?"

 

Kaidoh grunted and Ryoma was passed between the two vampires. There was an organic, squelchy sound and then Fuji tapped him on the shoulder.

 

"You can open your eyes now."

 

Ryoma did and found they were under an awning attached to a barn, the rain falling heavily around them. Next to him was Fuji, looking completely normal other than the blood staining his clothes.

 

"Where are we?" Ryoma asked.

 

"In the parkland," Fuji said, "it's a fantasy village a queen built a couple of centuries ago so that she could play at being a peasant girl."

 

Ryoma rolled his eyes, "that's pathetic." Kaidoh grunted in agreement. "At least they didn't take me too far away."

 

"Some of us are searching the city," Fuji said. "We should get back to the palace."

 

Kaidoh nodded and then he sprinted away. Ryoma found it easier to shut his eyes as Kaidoh ran, the speed of the scenery rushing past was making him feel rather nauseous.

 

"We'll jump onto Atobe's balcony," Fuji called and then, they were flying upwards and landing on the second floor balcony. Fuji knocked on the french doors and they opened to reveal Kabaji. He didn't seem to be put off or amused by the slight of the three of them, soaking wet, Ryoma being held in Kaidoh's arms and Fuji covered in blood.

 

"Who is it?" Atobe asked, sweeping across the room to the doors. He took one look at them and raised an eyebrow, "I take it you need a clean up crew."

 

"To one of the buildings in the fantasy farm," Fuji said.

 

"I'll send Shishidoh when he arrives back," Atobe said, "you need to clean up," his eyes moved onto Ryoma, who Kaidoh had put in an arm chair near the fire, "and you," he said, pulling an ermine trimmed cloak off his bad and draping it over Ryoma, "need to warm up."

 

Fuji cast Ryoma an unusual look over Atobe's shoulder, but then turned away to change into something not covered in blood.

 

"What's been happening since I left?" Ryoma asked and Atobe grinned.

 

"You've only been missing a day," he said, "the only thing you missed was an exceptionally boring ball. We just told everyone you had a bad cold."

 

Ryoma snuggled into the velvet cloak, it was so warm and the fur tickled slightly, he wished it was Karupin and not just a cloak. "It was a lame kidnapping attempt then."

 

"It was," Atobe agreed and then turned to Kabaji, "call everyone to return to the palace,"

 

"Yes," Kabaji said and then disappeared out into the night.

 

"Did they treat you well?" Atobe asked, sitting on the edge of his bed.

 

 

"It was," Atobe agreed and then turned to Kabaji, "call everyone to return to the palace,"

 

"Yes," Kabaji said and then disappeared out into the night.

 

"Did they treat you well?" Atobe asked, sitting on the edge of his bed and crossing his legs.

 

Ryoma shrugged, "they locked me in a really tacky room. You would have loved it," He added, the cloak hiding his smirk.

 

Atobe merely raised an eyebrow at his remark. "Have you eaten?"

 

Ryoma thought back and remembered the toast that had turned his stomach. "No," he replied, "I'm not hungry."

 

Atobe's eyebrow rose even more, "What's wrong with you? Have you picked up a cold?" he asked, sneering slightly.

 

Ryoma huffed, "No," he snapped, feeling annoyed. He'd had thought that now he was warm and in a safe environment, he'd start to feel a bit better or, at least, stop shaking. Instead, the exact opposite was true.

 

"You look pale," Atobe said, although how he could tell was beyond Ryoma, who was hiding most of his face under the cloak, "a lot more than usual."

 

"It's cold outside," Ryoma replied, "and wet."

 

"You should have a bath."

 

That sound good. Nothing sounded better right now than lying back in a nice hot bath. But, as he was now, he would have to be carried to the bath and undressed like a child. His pride couldn't take that. "I'm fine, I just need some dry clothes."

 

"I'll get them," Kaidoh said and left the room in a flash.

 

Atobe was still staring at Ryoma, as if he could diagnose what was wrong just by looking at him. Ryoma stared back, taking it as a challenge, although he did want to hide under the cloak.

 

Kaidoh returned a minute later, bearing Ryoma's pyjamas. Ryoma took them gratefully and changed under the cloak, his shaking hands making it all the more difficult to undo his buttons and refasten them on the new pyjamas. At least he had already been dressed in pyjamas, not the over complicated military uniform or suit and cravat.

 

"You'll be sleeping in here," Atobe informed him, "where we can keep an eye on you." He turned to his bed and shook the lump taking up most of it. "Jiroh, wake up."

 

The covers rose up, like a monster rising from the dead, and then flipped off, revealing Jiroh yawning and rubbing his eyes. "Atobe?" He said, looking painfully confused at the other vampire.

 

"The brat needs the bed," Atobe replied, running his fingers along Jiroh's jawline, "You'll have to find another one."

 

Jiroh looked over at Ryoma, who was feeling uncomfortable at the display of affection from Atobe, and smiled, "Okay," he said brightly, jumping out of the bed. "Did I miss anything?" he asked Atobe.

 

"Just the brat being kidnapped," Atobe said, smirking at the deadly look Ryoma shot him.

 

"You should of woken me up!" Jiroh exclaimed, "I want to help!"

 

"You can help by getting Echizen to bed," Atobe told him and Jiroh practically bounced over to Ryoma. Jiroh reminded him a lot of Kikumaru, except that Jiroh seemed to have an off switch. Despite this, Ryoma felt he'd rather spend time with Kikumaru, he was more interesting than someone who slept for most of the day.

 

"Come on," Jiroh said, lifting Ryoma easily and depositing him on the bed. "Can I do anything else?" Jiroh asked.

 

"Yes," Atobe replied, grabbing Jiroh's arm and pulling him into his lap.

 

Ryoma groaned and pulled the covers over his head as Atobe started to kiss Jiroh noisily. It didn't last too long, half a minute later he heard Atobe's muffled voice telling Jiroh to help Kabaji bring back the others.

 

"Did you have to kiss him?" Ryoma asked grumpily, still hiding under the covers.

 

"Of course," Atobe replied, "you kiss Tezuka, don't you? Or doesn't he let you?"

 

"Of course we kiss!" Ryoma snapped, "just not in front of other people!"

 

Atobe chuckled, "you should try it, you might even enjoy it."

 

Ryoma felt his cheeks burn, he'd done a lot of things- quite a few that he wasn't proud of- but they'd always been in locked rooms, away from prying eyes. It had been common knowledge around the palace that Prince Ryoma was easy to sleep with- provided they were a tall, good looking man- but anything that involved being watched by others sent him running. Of all the things he was, an exhibitionist was not one of them.

 

Beyond the cave of duvet, Ryoma heard the door open and close.

 

"Echizen's never kissed anyone in public," Atobe said and Ryoma heard Fuji laugh in reply.

 

"What a shame," Fuji replied, "maybe I should help him with Tezuka when we get home."

 

"I don't want to!" Ryoma snapped, throwing the covers off of him and glaring at the two vampires, who just laughed.

 

"Where's Kaidoh?" Fuji asked and Ryoma looked around the room. He was sure Kaidoh was still in the room!

 

"He slipped out earlier," Atobe said nonchalantly. "You took some time changing," he added accusingly.

 

"I had to check something," Fuji replied airily.

 

"And did you find it out?"

 

"No," Fuji said, "they told me it was too early to use the phone."

 

"The phone has opening hours?" Ryoma asked and Fuji snorted.

 

"It does when I want to use it, it seems," he replied.

 

Atobe's eyes narrowed, "why would they not let you use the telephone?"

 

Fuji shrugged, "who knows. I'll try again once the sun has risen." He turned to Ryoma, "how are you feeling?"

 

Ryoma held up a shaking hand, "I'm trying to hold it still," he said, to emphasise the point. "And I can't stand up."

 

"Are normal human colds like that?" Atobe asked, "it's been almost a millennium since I was human."

 

"It's not like any I've had before," Ryoma replied, worry starting to knot his stomach. If the vampires didn't know what was wrong with him then who would?

 

"Oshitari has medical experience," Atobe told him, "he'll have a good look at you." He looked over at the french doors, "They're being very slow, I will-"

 

What Atobe was going to do was cut off by Kaidoh sideling through the half open door, holding a large mug. He walked straight over to Ryoma and handed it to him. "I made you a drink," he said as Ryoma took the mug.

 

"What is it?" Ryoma asked suspiciously, looking at the slightly orange liquid with flecks of leaves floating in it.

 

"Warm milk with various herbs and spices," Kaidoh replied, his eyes fixed determinedly on the ugly statue on the bedside table.

 

"Thanks," Ryoma muttered, his cheeks heating up with embarrassment and gratitude. He took a sip and was relieved to find that he didn't feel sick at all, so he took a large mouthful, the liquid warming him all the way through.

 

"One of the herbs should settle your stomach," Kaidoh said, still not looking at Ryoma, "and another will help you sleep."

 

"Kaidoh's so cute," Fuji teased and Kaidoh glared at him.

 

"The others aren't back yet?" Kaidoh asked gruffly, sitting in the armchair Ryoma had previously sat in.

 

"No," Atobe replied, "Kabaji and Jiroh must be having trouble finding them."

 

It was half an hour before the first group of vampires returned; Ootori, Shishidoh and Hiyoshi, all drenched to the skin.

 

"I told you to go with Oshitari and Gakuto," Atobe said, shooting Shishidoh a look.

 

"We split up and I met up with Choutaro," Shishidoh shrugged, "we found Hiyoshi on our way back."

 

"Jiroh went off in search of the other two," Ootori told Atobe, who nodded.

 

"Shishidoh, for leaving your group, I have a clean up job for you," Atobe said and Shishidoh groaned dramatically.

 

"You always make me do the shitty jobs," Shishidoh grumbled.

 

The remaining vampires returned an hour later just as the rain stopped and dawn had begun, casting a dirty light over the extensive lawn.

 

"Oshitari, I need you to look over Echizen," Atobe told him as he pulled off the raincoat he'd been wearing. "He's got a cold or something."

 

"A cold?" Oshitari repeated, his eyes roving over Ryoma, an eyebrow raised. He sauntered over to Ryoma and placed a cold hand on his head. "You don't have a fever," he said, "what are your symptoms?"

 

"I can't stand up, I'm shaking all over and sometimes my head gets really fuzzy," Ryoma listed off, "like there's something blocking my thoughts. I feel sick when I eat things too," he added.

 

Oshitari put his hands on his hips and looked at him critically, behind him, Gakuto was looking at Ryoma as if he were an interesting new animal. "When did you start feeling like this?"

 

"Urm," Ryoma said, casting his mind back. "When I woke up in that house, I tried to get up and my legs weren't working."

 

"What about when the assassins attacked you, did anything happen then?"

 

Ryoma thought again, realising that Atobe was now watching him intensely. "I drank Tezuka's blood," he said, "and then I got really strong and fast. Then, I was overpowered," he said this very quietly, not really wanting to admit it, "and I touched the diamond and it glowed really brightly, or there was a really bright light, I dunno, but that put them off and then you lot showed up."

 

"The diamond glowed?" Atobe asked, his eyes narrowing.

 

"Yeah, or the light came from somewhere near it," Ryoma replied.

 

Oshitari and Atobe shared a knowing look and then Oshitrai picked up the poker and held it out to Ryoma. "Hold it," he instructed.

 

Ryoma's face scrunched up in confusion, but he reached out and took the poker.

 

And felt completely normal.

 

His body stopped shaking immediately, his head cleared entirely and he suddenly felt very hungry.

 

"Get up and walk," Oshitari said and Ryoma threw his legs out of bed and got to his feet.

 

Whilst he was holding the poker, he could easily walk around the room, even jump and run. Had he just been cured? He looked down at the poker in his hand, it was made of ornate ironwork, the handle twisted into the shape of a horses head. "What happens if I let go?" he asked.

He had a feeling he knew. "I'll go back to how I was?"

 

"Only if this is caused by magic," Atobe replied, watching him like a cat watches a fly that's just out of reach.

 

Ryoma nodded and gazed at the poker again, his brain buzzing. He'd never be interested in academic pursuits, but he was sharp. He also knew a bit about magic, that it could only truly be stopped by iron. The thing was, he didn't want to go back to how he'd been; shaking and unable to move by himself or think, it was humiliating. But he couldn't hold onto the poker for the rest of his life- it would certainly make having sex with Tezuka much harder.

 

"If it's blocking the magic inside you then the longer you hold onto that the worse you'll be when you let go," Oshitari drawled, "it's pooling up inside you right now, it wants to break out."

 

Shishidoh made a disgusted noise, "that sounds so perverted when you say it."

 

"Thank you," Oshitari replied whilst Gakuto glared at Shishidoh.

 

Ryoma tuned them out, staring intensely at the poker. He needed to let go. It was impossible to hold onto it forever. But, well, he was scared to let go. To go back to depending on the others for everything.

 

He took a deep breath and let the poker tumbled to the floor.

 

And crumpled up on the floor next to it.

 

The magic flooded back through his veins, sapping all strength from his muscles. His head felt like it was suddenly clouded by fog, any scraps of thought obscured so that as soon as he grasped them they slipped away into the mists. Something wet slipped onto his cheeks and he realised he was crying, he pushed his face into the carpet so that the others wouldn't see.

 

Someone picked him up and Ryoma found himself in Kaidoh's arms. Ryoma was glad to see no pity in his eyes. Kaidoh lay him down in the bed and let Ryoma pull the covers up himself. At least he wasn't being tucked in like a little kid yet.

 

He snuggled down into the pillow and listened to the conversation happening around him, but it sounded a long way off and muffled, as if it were coming through a radio on the other side of the room.

 

"Why is his body reacting this way?" Fuji asked as Ryoma managed to tune his ears in. He sounded worried.

 

"The old magicians weren't like this," Atobe agreed.

 

"I don't know much about magic," Oshitari said, "do you, Hiyoshi?"

 

Hiyoshi made a non committal noise, "I've never heard of this happening."

 

"Would taking him back to Tezuka help?" Ootori asked, "being near my mate makes me feel better."

 

There was a pause and Ryoma assumed they were all giving Ootori A Look.

 

"He'd be better there than here," Atobe said, "there's less chance of being kidnapped again."

 

"I'll acquire a car," Hiyoshi said and then slunk out the room.

 

"I trust you'll take care of him," Atobe said, presumably to Kaidoh and Fuji because they both made affirmative noises in response.

 

There was more talking, obviously planning the trip back to Seigaku, but Ryoma's brain was being taken by sleep and all he could do was fall into it's embrace.

Chapter Text

He was woken by a pair of strong arms lifting him off the bed.

"Tez-ka," Ryoma murmured. He felt so tired and heavy and warm and just wanted to be in Tezuka's arms.

In reply was Fuji's chuckle, "not quite."

He wasn't even sure if he was being held by Fuij or someone else, everything was blurry when he opened his eyes, so he resolutely kept them shut as he was sprinted through the castle and out into the cold. Cracking his eyes open, he could see it was dark and the arms holding him offered him little in the way of warmth.

Then the crunch of gravel turned into clunk of footsteps on cobbles, a car door opened and Ryoma was sat in the back and strapped in. To his surprise (and pleasure) he was covered with warm blankets and he sighed happily as a pillow was put behind his head. But something was wrong, a tiny part of his sleep addled and foggy brain was trying to tell him something, but it just wasn't getting through. He scrunched up his face in confusion, trying to hear what was being screamed at him.

Then it hit him.

"You need me for the negotiations," he slurred, opening his eyes and seeing Fuji swimming in front of him.

Fuji smiled, "it's fine, they know you're alive. Atobe will sort it out from here."

"But-" Ryoma started.

"No, we're going home," Fuji said firmly. "It'll be a long journey, but I think you'll sleep through a lot of it."

"We've got your food!" A cheerful voice cried from beyond Fuji's shoulder and was immediately shushed by the other vampires. Fuji gave Ryoma a pat on the head and stood up.

"We'll keep everyone under the belief that the brat is here," Atobe said, "get back as fast as you can without causing trouble. My train will be able to meet you when you cross the border."

"At the place we agree?" Fuji asked.

"Of course."

Ryoma tuned out whilst the car was packed up and goodbyes were said. Atobe ruffled his hair and Ryoma couldn't summon up the energy to fight him off. Next time they met he wouldn't let him do it. Still, it had felt quite nice.

The next thing he knew, the car engine had started up and they were driving away.

 


 

He wasn't sure when he'd fallen asleep or what time it was when he woke up. His however-many-hours sleep and fixed up his eyesight somewhat and now he could see the country road they were driving along. He settled back against his seat, wanting to fall asleep again, but his stomach growled loudly.

"Here," Fuji said from the passenger seat, passing Ryoma a parcel wrapped in tin foil. Opening it, Ryoma found what looked like half a loaf of bread sliced and buttered. "You'd better eat up, Tezuka won't forgive me if you starve to death."

Ryoma took a bite of the bread and his stomach didn't immediately turn, so he forced the rest down. He felt a bit sick after eating, but not enough to throw up and having not eaten for who knew how long, it was nice to finally have some food in him.

He yawned and Fuji laughed.

"Did you sleep well?" he asked.

"Yeah," Ryoma replied, "I'm gonna sleep more now."

"Sleep well," Fuji said.

The journey took several days as they were sticking to quiet country lanes. Ryoma was woken several times by the car taking corners too quickly, throwing him from side to side. He slept a lot whilst Fuji and Kaidoh took it in terns to drive. He wasn't really feeling any better, despite all this rest and his body was just as weak as ever. The two vampires kept him very well fed and watered, neither wanting him to become even more ill due to starvation or dehydration.

As signs for the border appeared, they pulled over onto the side of the road.

"I've got a present for you," Fuji said brightly and Ryoma couldn't help but sigh- he doubted anything Fuji had bought him could be good.

Fuji bounced out of the front seat and was soon opening Ryoma's door and forcing a platinum blond wig onto his head.

"What are you doing?" Ryoma asked, half heartedly trying to push Fuji away.

"It's your disguise," Fuji explained, "don't worry, you can just sleep."

"It's itchy," Ryoma grumbled, reaching up to scratching his scalp.

Fuji slapped his hand away, "don't do that, you'll mess it up." As far as Ryoma was aware, the wig was already a mess and Fuji's attempts to smooth it down were not helping all that much. "Keep your hands away from it or I'll have to handcuff you," Fuji said sweetly and Ryoma shuddered.

"I'll behave," he muttered.

"Good boy," Fuji said, patting Ryoma's cheek before going back to his seat in the car.

The tension in the car rose as they got closer and closer to the border. They were now on a motorway, the only road out of Taranis. Fuji, wearing a long blond wig and a red dress, was playing with their passports, all forged to make them all look like humans. Kaidoh was the only one not in disguise, only because the brown wig had looked terrible on him and Kaidoh had had to take it off to stop Fuji laughing at him.

They joined the end of the queue for passport control and started to shuffle forwards towards the guards.

"Do I have a fake name?" Ryoma asked, the tension had been too much for him to sleep and he didn't think his brain could hold remember a new name.

"Just pretend to be asleep," Fuji told him, "you're my son and Kaidoh here is my strapping husband."

In the driving seat, Kaidoh was looking very uncomfortable.

As they got closer to the guards, Ryoma found himself holding his breath. They hadn't stopped anywhere that had had any newspapers, so they had no clue if Ryoma's disappearance from the peace talks had got out or if people were searching for them.

Ryoma didn't quite understand /why/ someone would be out looking for them -after all, they were just going home, not fleeing a crime. Still, it felt like they should hide their true identities as much as possible.

Finally, they reached the border guards and Fuji wound down his window and handed over their passports. Ryoma let his head drop, but could surreptitiously watch what was happening through his hair.

"You're returning home?" The guard asked gruffly, flicking through the passports, hardly even looking at them.

"We are," Fuji said pleasantly. His voice was slightly higher than normal- but not unnaturally so- he definitely passed as a woman and Ryoma wondered if he was used to doing things like this, given how easily he'd put on the dress and make up.

The guard gave the passports a last look, gave the occupants of the car a searching look and then let them through.

"That was easy," Fuji said smugly once he'd wound the window up.

"We're not at the train yet," Kaidoh warned him as they set off for the station where the train would be waiting for them.

"You sound like Tezuka, Darling" Fuji replied, laughing.

 


 

Tezuka was worried. Atobe had phoned a couple of days ago to let him know that Fuji and Kaidoh were smuggling Echizen back home, but that was all he could say from fear of being overheard. Something was definitely wrong though and not knowing what was driving Tezuka mad. He'd locked himself in his study and drowned himself in work, as he usually did when he needed to not think about things. The others had taken to avoiding him, not wanting to be pulled into the maelstrom of emotions that were tearing him apart.

All he knew was that Echizen was certainly alive. He wouldn't be if he wasn't, but that didn't mean that Echizen was okay- there were plenty of ways to just be alive. He just wanted Echizen back home with him.

Karupin was rubbing against his feet, mewing for attention. Tezuka picked him up and carried him over to the window that looked out over the drive.

"Ryoma will be home soon," he told the cat, who twitched his ears and looked curiously up at Tezuka, as if questioning why he was using his master's first name. Tezuka ignored the cat's questioning eyes and looked out the window. His ears caught onto a faint engine sound and he concentrated hard, determining what direction it was travelling in.

Was it coming this way? It was certainly getting louder and there was no other road nearby. Yes, it was definitely coming up to the castle.

He put Karupin down and ran down to the front of the castle. He arrived just as the car pulled in and the doors flew open, revealing Fuji and Kaidoh, who both look shattered.

“Tezuka,” Fuji said, walking straight over to him, “Echizen is magic.”

“What?” Tezuka asked.

“He has magic inside him,” Fuji replied, “I’ll tell you the rest later, but right now he’s not doing too well.”

Tezuka looked up, Kaidoh was helping a shaky Echizen out of the car. He was deathly pale and didn’t look like he had the strength to do anything let alone walk. But he still had a determined glint in his eyes and pushed Kaidoh away as he struggled to walk over to them.

“Don’t be silly, Echizen,” Tezuka chided him, “we won’t think any less of you for relying on us when you need to.”

Echizen nodded and let Kaidoh help him over.

“How are you feeling?” Tezuka asked.

“I look better than I am,” he replied, a hint of a smile on his lips.

“Let’s get inside,” Fuji said, “we need to get you into bed as fast as we can,” he continued, resting a hand on Echizen’s shoulder.

It soon became obvious that, whilst Echizen could just about walk, stairs were beyond him.

“Tezuka,” Echizen said in a voice so quiet that Tezuka only just heard him, “you need to carry me.”

Without a word, Tezuka picked Echizen up bridal style. It was only with Echizen pressed up against him like this that Tezuka could tell just how much he was shaking, tremors running up and down the length of his body.

“Fuji, find Oishi and bring him to my room,” Tezuka ordered, “Kaidoh, please bring Inui up as well. Tell him to bring all his notes relating to magic.”

The two vampires nodded and set off on their tasks whilst Tezuka carried Echizen up the stairs and to his room, where Karupin was waiting for them on Tezuka’s bed.

“Karupin,” Echizen said happily as Tezuka put him down on the bed and Karupin crawled into his lap.

“He missed you,” Tezuka said, “he went to look for you every day.”

Echizen smiled at Karupin, who looked up at him with his big blue eyes, confused as to why his owner was shaking so violently.

“I’ve missed both of you,” Echizen said quietly and Tezuka felt something warm bloom inside of him, a nice change to the anxiety eating away at his insides.

“We’ve missed you too,” Tezuka said as the door opened and all of the vampires rushed in.

“Shorty!” Kikumaru cried, only just restraining himself from throwing himself at Echizen. “What’s wrong?” he asked, looking at Echizen as if he were on death’s door. Tezuka wished he wouldn’t, his own mind was giving him enough trouble.

“That’s what we want to find out,” Tezuka said calmly. Kikumaru settled himself on Echizen’s other side and cuddled up to him, something Tezuka wished he could do. Instead, he got up so that Oishi could examine Echizen properly and joined the other vampires standing around the bed, watching on worriedly.

“I brought up the books,” Inui said, “Kaidoh filled me in on what happened.”

“What do you think it is?” Tezuka asked.

“Based on what little I know, I would think it’s the magic in Echizen reacting with something in your bond with him,” Inui said, “I will wait for Oishi’s diagnosis before I put a percentage to that prediction.”

Tezuka nodded.

“It’s snowing,” Fuji said quietly.

Tezuka looked over to the window and saw the large white flakes floating down, illuminated by the light coming from the room. It was the first snow of the season, soon they would be inundated by it. He looked back to Echizen and made a note to make sure the castle was kept warm enough for him.

Oishi finished examining Echizen and came over to them, looking worried.

“I can’t find anything wrong with him,” he admitted, “other than the shaking and lack of energy.”

“I’m right here,” Echizen snapped.

“Sorry,” Oishi said and they all went to circle around Echizen. “I think it has something to do with the magic you’ve suddenly developed.”

“That fits in with my prediction," Inui said. "According to my research, when magic first makes itself known in an individual it does not cause any adverse effects. However, there have never been any cases of magic appearing in someone who is a vampire or a vampire's mate. I will have to conduct further research to find a cure." 

Oishi nodded in agreement, “I’ll have to do some research as well, till then I would suggest that you stay warm, don’t do anything strenuous and make sure to eat and drink.”

“And keep away from direct contact with iron,” Fuji added and they all turned to look at him. “When he touches iron he stops shaking, but once he lets go the shakes come back worse.”

Something about that struck something inside Tezuka’s brain, bringing up a piece of information he’d learnt long ago and forgotten.

“Iron is resistant to magic,” he said, although ‘resistant’ really wasn’t the right word, but neither was ‘absorb’ and those were the two words he could think of that best described the relationship between magic and iron. “From what I’ve read, the iron absorbs the magic and neutralises it.”

“Precisely," Inui said.

“Wait,” Kikumaru said, “so magic has been hiding in Shorty all this time?”

“It was strong in the Echizen line hundreds of years ago,” Inui said, “it makes sense for it to reappear in a member of that family.”

Tezuka nodded, it all made sense logically. “We should let you rest, Echizen,” he said, giving Kikumaru a pointed look.

For once, Kikumaru took the hint and bounced off the bed, “Sleep well, Shorty,” he said, giving him a hug.

Tezuka followed the others out of the room, but was stopped by Echizen reaching out and grabbing his sleeve.

“You can stay,” he said in a quiet voice, looking down at Karupin.

“Of course,” Tezuka said, shutting the door and sitting down of the edge of the bed. He reached out and cupped Echizen’s face with a hand, softly stroking his fingers over his face, checking for any sign of injury. Echizen sighed and leant into his touch, his eyes fluttering shut.

“‘m so tired,” he said quietly, “I slept most of the way here too.”

“If your body is telling you to sleep then you should listen to it,” Tezuka told him.

“Only if you stay with me,” Echizen said and Tezuka smiled.

“I will stay by your side for as long as you want me to,” he replied, leaning down and kissing Echizen’s lips softly. “Ryoma.”

Echizen smirked, “you’re cute,” he said, snuggling down into the bed and hiding his face in the pillow. “This isn't what I had planned,” he muttered into the pillow, “I was going to come home after averting a war and then steal you away to your room for a few days.”

“These things happen,” Tezuka reassured him, rubbing his shoulder comforting. A few days, he thought, feeling amused despite his worry at Echizen’s current condition.

Echizen sighed, "when I get better, I'm going to do it," he muttered.

Tezuka smiled and squeezed his shoulder lovingly, "I will look forward to it. Now, it's time for sleep."

"Good night," Echizen sighed, now on the edge of sleep.

"Sleep well, my love," Tezuka said, stroking his hair gently and pressing a kiss to his head before picking up his book and settling in for the night. Outside, the snow continued to fall.

Chapter Text

Ryoma was so warm. It was a warmth that began in the core of his body and radiated out, covering everything around him. It was so nice. He just wanted to lie like this forever, like he was floating in fire, warm and safe and comfortable and-

He was cold and wet and sat in the blackened embers of something- he couldn't tell what.

Frightened, he looked immediately to Tezuka, who was stood at the edge of what Ryoma now realised was a burned out bed, holding an empty bucket. His face and arms were red raw, peeling and covered in blisters as if he'd been badly burnt. Despite this and the pain he must undoubtedly be feeling, he looked utterly relieved.

"Tezuka? Ryoma asked as Tezuka dropped the bucket and plucked him from the burnt bed and settled him in an armchair by the fire. "What happened?" Ryoma demanded when pulled a shirt out of his chest of draws and helped Ryoma, who had been completely naked, into it.

Instead of answering, Tezuka brushed Ryoma's hair out of his eyes, smiled and then pulled him into a tight hug.

"Tezuka?" Ryoma prompted, hugging him back anyway and nuzzling into his neck.

"The bed was on fire," Tezuka replied after some time. Ryoma had never heard him sound this emotional before. He doubted Tezuka had either. "you were in the middle of it. I tried to pull you out, but the flames were too hot. I had to get water. I was so..." he trailed off, hugging Ryoma tighter, "I felt so helpless."

"I'm fine," Ryoma reassured him, his fingers now stroking through Tezuka's hair. "I'm not even shaking now."

Tezuka was though.

Ryoma rubbed his shoulders as Tezuka continued to shake, sobbing occasionally into his neck. He was glad they were like this, he would have no clue what to do if he could see Tezuka's face and he was sure that Tezuka didn't want him to see him cry.

So, he just held Tezuka until the shaking and sobs died away.

"I'm sorry," Tezuka said and Ryoma averted his eyes whilst he wiped his eyes. "I thought I was going to lose you."

"How did the fire start?" Ryoma asked as Karupin slunk out from under the chest of draws and out of the room. He suddenly felt really guilty, he'd been so thrown by Tezuka crying that he'd forgotten about his cat. He was so happy that he was safe.

"Karupin leapt off the bed and then it suddenly set on fire," Tezuka explained, "with you in the centre of the flames."

"It was my fault then," Ryoma said. "It must be the magic or something."

"How are you feeling?" Tezuka asked and Ryoma couldn't help but laugh. Tezuka was asking how he was whilst his own skin was blistered and raw.

"I feel better," Ryoma replied. He was definitely feeling in control of his body now and he was sure, should he decided to stand up, he'd  be able to easily stand on his feet and walk. "Completely better."

Tezuka knelt in front of him and put his hands on Ryoma's shoulders. "You were on fire a minute ago."

"I think that made me better," Ryoma said and Tezuka gave him a look. "I don't know how," he admitted, trailing off.

"I'll get Inui and Oishi," Tezuka said, but made no move. "But first-" The hands grabbed Ryoma's head and pulled him into a hard, passionate kiss. Ryoma moaned as Tezuka slipped his tongue into his mouth and kissed back as hard and Tezuka was kissing him.

It was so good to be back here. Back kissing Tezuka and having his skin set alight by Tezuka's cool fingers tracing all over his face and down his neck.

He whined, threading his fingers into Tezuka's hair. He wanted more. Now.

His nipple brushed against Tezuka's arms and he moaned loudly. He was feeling so needy right now, he would do anything Tezuka asked of him just to feel his mouth around his nipples, to feel that mouth on his cock. His cock twitched in appreciation of the thoughts in Ryoma's mind; of Tezuka sucking him off and then fucking him hard. There wasn't a bed in the room anymore, but Tezuka could easily carry him through the secret passageway that connected their rooms. Or they could just do in on this seat; Ryoma sat in Tezuka's lap, riding his cock hard and fast. Oh god, before he'd left he'd promised to let Tezuka cum on his face. At that though, his cock got very hard, they'd definitely have to do that later. Or maybe now, Ryoma didn't care.

He wouldn't be able to last long the first time, but they had all day, didn't they. Maybe a couple of days if Ryoma had his way.

"Tezuka," Ryoma breathed when Tezuka pulled away for a second, "Kunimitsu, please."

Tezuka sighed, but there was definitely smile on his lips, "not yet, we still don't know if you're fully recovered."

Ryoma almost screamed, but help himself together, "you got me hard and now you're going to leave me?"

"I just kissed you," Tezuka reminded him, "you got yourself so excited."

"So you're just going to leave me like this?"

"Well," Tezuka said, leaning in and kissing Ryoma's softly, "I don't want Inui or Oishi to see you like this."

"Hard and sweaty and just wearing your shirt?" Ryoma asked, smirking. “So, what are you going to do about it?”

Tezuka hummed and started to kiss his way down Ryoma's neck, his fingers plucking open the first few buttons of the shirt. Ryoma shivered in anticipation as Tezuka's hand traced across his chest and settled on one of his nipples, his fingers tracing around the nub of overly sensitive flesh.

"A-Ah! Yes!" Ryoma moaned, "don't tease me!" he snapped when Tezuka took too long (in his opinion) to carry on.

"Patience," Tezuka told him.

"I don't have much of that!" Ryoma hissed as Tezuka finally took the nipple between his fingers and squeezed it. Ryoma groaned, his fingers digging into the arms of the chair as Tezuka moved aside the other side of his shirt and began to suck on his other nipple.

It was so good. Better than good- utterly amazing! The contrast between the cool dry fingers and the wet mouth was sending sparks right through his body and into his cock. His breath was coming in long, drawn out moans as Tezuka's tongue kneaded his nipple.

And them, it was all gone. He groaned in frustration, he'd been so close!

Tezuka was watching him and it took Ryoma a couple of moments for his brain to catch up, but then he realised when he must look like, stretched out on the chair, shirt half undone, revealing two pink nipples, each aching to be touched. And then, further down, the edge of the shirt brushing his thighs, not short enough to reveal anything, but still very short and then there was the tent, at his crotch, the shirt outlining his cock nicely. He rolled his hips suggestively and Tezuka took a sharp intake of breath.

"You're beautiful," he said, before kissing Ryoma again.

Ryoma grinned; he'd spent the time Tezuka had been staring at him well. "Am I making you hard?" He asked, catching Tezuka's retreating bottom lip between his teeth and teasing it gently.

"You have that effect on me," Tezuka replied once his lip at been released.

"I have a good idea," Ryoma purred, "come here." He pulled Tezuka towards him by the hips, quickly undoing his trousers and pushing them down so that his impressive cock was fully exposed. Acting on impulse, he leant forward and dragged his tongue across the tip. It was worth it to hear Tezuka moaned, a sound Ryoma very much wanted to hear again.

"How do you want me?" Tezuka asked and Ryoma had to stop himself saying 'inside me'.

"Lean over me," Ryoma ordered, positioning Tezuka so that his cock was pressing against his own. He wrapped one of Tezuka's hands around their cocks, whilst Tezuka held onto the back of the chair with the other.

Ryoma wished he was taller, so that he could easily lean up and kiss Tezuka, but if he tried now, he'd put them out of position. Instead, he started to slide his hand up and down their cocks, prompting Tezuka to do the same. Ryoma was soon in a daze of pleasure, moaning and panting as he gazed into Tezuka's intense eyes.  His face had almost healed now, only slight scar tissue left where he had been burned. Soon his skin would be as perfect as ever.

It was all too much; the coolness of Tezuka's hand, the heat of his own, Tezuka's soft moans and just being with Tezuka. He'd been through so much and now he was at home with his lover. With his mate.

He came hard into their hands, bucking his hips and moaning loudly as his body was consumed by pleasure. It only took Tezuka a couple more strokes before he joined him in the pleasure, having to quickly adjust himself so that his head was rested against Ryoma's chest. Ryoma lazily draped his arms around him and held him.

"I need a bath," he finally said,  smiling down at Tezuka.

"That would be a good idea," Tezuka replied, "you are a bit of a mess."

Ryoma swiped playfully at Tezuka's head, "you look just as bad. Want to have a bath together?"

"Ryoma," Tezuka sighed, "you are insatiable."

"Thank you," Ryoma smirked.

"Go and take a bath," Tezuka said, leaning up to kiss Ryoma softly.

"You'll have to get off me first," Ryoma reminded him, "unless you do want to come with me."

"It sounds wonderful," Tezuka said, "but now is not the right time."

Ryoma sighed, "okay, get off me and I'll go clean myself up quickly."

Tezuka sat back on his knees and released Ryoma, who quickly rebuttoned the crumpled shirt and got to his feet. It felt so good to be able to walk under his own power again! He gave Tezuka a quick kiss, which turned into a not-so-quick kiss when Tezuka's hands started to trace their way up and down his legs, and then slipped away to bathe.

 


 

When he returned, fully dressed and wearing Tezuka's cardigan (that he'd found at the top of his suitcase), he found Tezuka sat in the armchair, reading his book with Karupin in his lap.

"I owe you a new bed," he said, looking at the blackened remains sat sadly on the other side of the room. He would miss Tezuka's comfy mattress.

"I'll lend you the money to buy me a new one," Tezuka replied. They both knew it was highly unlikely that Ryoma would pay him back, with money at least. Ryoma could think of quite a few non-monetary ways to pay him back. "I've informed the others that we'll meet them in the library."

"Now?" Ryoma asked, leaning over Tezuka with his hands in the pockets of his oversized cardigan.

"Now," Tezuka replied simply.

 


 

Ryoma had expected just Oishi and Inui to be waiting for them, not the whole coven. He was immediately jumped on by Kikumaru as they walked in. The rest just stared at him, dumbfounded (in the case of Oishi), amused (Fuji) or somewhere in between .

"Shorty's better!" Kikumaru cried, hugging Ryoma so tightly that he could barely breath.

"How did you manage it?" Momo asked, looking amazed by Ryoma's miraculous recovery, "you looked like you were gonna die yesterday!"

Ryoma managed to fight Kikumaru off, "I don't know," he replied, truthfully, "I think setting Tezuka's bed on fire helped though."

"You... set fire to Tezuka's bed?" Oishi asked uncertainly.

"I didn't mean to."

"He was asleep at the time," Tezuka tried to clarify, but just make Oishi look even more confused.

"Magic?" Fuji suggested. "I mean, seeing as Echizen is completely unharmed despite setting fire to your bed," he paused to look highly amused, "it has to be that."

"That's what we believe," Tezuka replied. He turned to Inui, "does that sound correct to you?"

"An explosive release of magic would relieve the tension inside Echizen's body," he said thoughtfully, "thus allowing him to return to his normal state."

"Didn't you say that the magic was fighting with the mating bond?" Momo asked.

"That was merely a theory," Inui replied, "I was not able to take sufficient data at the time, so my theory could still be correct. Either way, what happened to Echizen was unprecedented, we have no way of knowing whether or not he is truly recovered."

"I feel recovered," Ryoma said. "I feel exactly the same as I did before I left."

"Interesting," Inui said, pulling out a notebook, "could you try and do some magic."

Ryoma looked uncertainly at Tezuka, who nodded, but there was one big problem. He had no idea what he was supposed to do.

He tried to focus on a vase on the table, to make it move an inch or two. But all he could think of was how stupid he must look glaring at a vase.

"Maybe he burnt all the magic off," Kikumaru suggested when nothing happened.

"That's not how it works," Fuji told him.

"Echizen," Oishi said, "could I examine you, just to see if you're okay?"

"Sure," Ryoma shrugged.

Oishi's examination revealed nothing off and Ryoma found himself breathing a sigh of relief. Next to him, Tezuka looked thoroughly relieved as well.

"I would suggest reading into how previous magicians controlled their powers," Tezuka said, "it's ridiculous to expect Echizen to be able to use them straight away when they've been hidden inside him all his life."

"Atobe said that the diamond amplified magic," Ryoma told them. "Where is it?"

"Fuji locked it back in the safe," Tezuka replied. "It would be better to learn the basics of magic control before you try amplifying it."

Ryoma nodded, although he couldn’t help but feel the diamond might make it easier to learn the basics. But he was messing around with things he had no understanding of, he didn't want to mess up and burn down the whole castle.

"I'll find you some useful books," Inui said, striding off to the shelves and beginning to pull books of the shelves, muttering under his breath about the value of the knowledge in each of them.

"What happened in Taranis?" Kikumaru suddenly blurted out, "no one's said anything about it since you came back!"

"We were worried about Echizen," Momoshiro added, "and Fuji and the viper wouldn't tell us anything!"

"That's because we wanted to tell Tezuka first," Kaidoh growled and Tezuka shot them both a look before they could start fighting.

"I was almost assassinated," Ryoma said, "again," he added, it was almost funny how many times he'd slipped out of Death's grasp. "Then I was kidnapped."

He was very aware of the vampires staring at him, even Inui had stopped picking out books. The silence was almost deafening.

"Whilst he was being kidnapped, we captured the assassin," Fuji added, "he said he was hired by an official from Ensinkil."

Ryoma's eyes widened in surprise, "did they also hire that vampire guy?"

Fuji shrugged, "we killed him after that. I have not doubt that he wasn't lying, but he could not give us any information other than that." He looked at Tezuka, whose whole body had stiffened, "Atobe promised to hunt them out."

"Did you find out who kidnapped you?" Tezuka asked Ryoma, who nodded.

"It was the Taranisians, they wanted me to marry their princess." To his surprise, Kaidoh let out a soft growl.

"Echizen belongs here," he muttered gruffly when the room turned a curious eye to him. Ryoma smirked, but felt a warm glow inside him.

"I talked to her for a bit before I was almost assassinate," Ryoma said, "she doesn't want to marry me either."

"That's good," Fuji said.

"She has good taste then," Momo said, grinning at the glare Ryoma shot at him.

"When did you fall ill, Echizen?" Tezuka asked.

Ryoma explained the whole attack, how he had drunk Tezuka's blood and chosen to fight, how he had then been overpowered and almost killed when he'd touched the diamond and how it had glowed so brightly it had blinded his attackers and how the vampires had come to his rescue. And then, how he'd passed out and woken up in an unfamiliar room. He didn't go into how pathetic and helpless he'd been, he was sure they could all work that out from seeing him the previous night. He did tell them how he'd managed to half escape and how Fuji had come to his rescue.

Fuji explained the rest as Ryoma had been either asleep or too out of it to remember too much. There wasn't too much more to say, just how they'd planned to whisk Ryoma away home and that, hopefully, Atobe would be letting the politicians from Ensinkil and Taranis know once they'd crossed the border.

"And he'll be finishing off the peace negotiations?" Tezuka asked.

"Yeah," Fuji replied, "he has enough to blackmail both countries into stepping down now. Kidnapping and planning to assassinate princes does not go down well with the public."

Ryoma snorted, "yeah, I'm sure my country really cares about my well being and happiness," he said sarcastically.

"You'd be surprised," Fuji told him, "according to what I've heard, your people are rather missing their prince."

"They can continue missing me!" Ryoma snapped.

Tezuka put a hand on his shoulder, "you will only  return to your country when you decided you want to."

"I've found all the relevant books," Inui said, interrupting Ryoma and Tezuka's little moment and pilling the ten or twenty books, all of various sizes into Ryoma's arms. "I will assist you however I can, however, from the little research I have done into the subject I believe that it is up to you to read these books and determine your own way to control your magic."

"Right," Ryoma grunted, struggling under the weight of all the books. Tezuka took pity on him and took half his load off of him.

"Magicians also tend to have a speciality," Inui continued, "as you set Tezuka's bed on fire, I would guess that your speciality is controlling fire. There are plenty of  chapters in those books about fire related magic."

"Thanks," Ryoma said. "I'll take these to my room."

Tezuka followed him out of the library, with the pair of them gone, Ryoma could hear the others break out into excited conversation, no doubt discussing everything they'd learnt. "Would you like me to take the rest of those?" he asked once they were far enough away from the library that the others couldn’t hear.

"No," Ryoma replied, "I can do it myself."

Once in Ryoma's room, the books were piled in a chair and Ryoma sat back on the bed and stared at them.

"I'm not in the mood to read all those," he admitted.

"You have to," Tezuka told him sternly, "you have to be able to control your powers."

"Yeah, I know," Ryoma replied grumpily, his eyes turning to the window where snow was flurrying down. "I've never see snow before."

Tezuka followed his gaze to the window, but didn't say anything, waiting for Ryoma's next words.

"It never snowed back in capital," Ryoma continued. "It snowed in the mountains, but I was never allowed to leave the capital…  Okay, I was, but only the surrounding little towns and villages and even then only for a few hours."

"A prisoner in your own country," Tezuka murmured.

"Huh?"

"Nothing," Tezuka said shortly. "Come with me, I have something to show you."

Intrigued, Ryoma hopped off the bed and followed in Tezuka's footsteps as he lead him through the castle,  up staircases and through corridors that Ryoma had never been down before reaching the narrowest, tightest spiral staircase in the castle.

"After you," Tezuka said, holding open the door that separated the staircase from the corridor.

"So you can catch me if I fall?" Ryoma asked, smirking.

There was a twinkle in Tezuka's eye, "that as well. You'll see why when you reach the top."

Ryoma smiled and pecked Tezuka on the lips as he walked passed and onto the stairs. It was a hard climb, but worth it when he came out into a small room with large windows on each wall.

"This was originally built as an observatory," Tezuka said as he reached the top- Ryoma was rather annoyed by how he wasn't out of breath like Ryoma was. "It was converted to give a panoramic view of the surrounding area."

"It's cold," Ryoma said.

"I never said it was converted well," Tezuka replied, "although, I doubt it was warm when it was first built."

Ryoma smiled and gazed out the window that looked out the front of the castle. The view was stunning, like one of the pictures in the palace that Ryoma had stared at when he'd been young. The town was nestled in the valley below, surrounded by snow covered trees and snow capped mountains. The snow glistened in the sunlight that was shining through the gaps in the cloud, as though someone had sprinkled a good helping of glitter over the scene.

The castle's grounds were covered in the same blanket of snow, making it look like a cake.

Ryoma's was desperate to go out and walk in it, to see what it was like to be outside in the snow. But Tezuka had been right, he needed to learn how to control his powers. Still, a couple of hours couldn't hurt, he wouldn't be able to concentrate properly if he didn't go out.

"It'll be cold won't it?"

"It will," Tezuka replied, "you'd better wrap up warm."

 “You going to come out too?”

“No, I have to catch up with some work. I haven’t been working very efficiently over the past few days.”

“So responsible,” Ryoma laughed.

“Momoshiro and Kikumaru will be sure to join you.”

Ryoma nodded, but had a note not to let either of them know what he was doing until he’d enjoyed snow for the first time by himself.

“I’ll go get dressed,” Ryoma said and Tezuka nodded.

His warm clothes were at the bottom of his chest of draws, neatly folded. He swapped Tezuka’s cardigan for a thick jumper with geometric patterns on it. And then pulled on a padded coat, hat, gloves and a pair of boots and hurried outside, Karupin at his heals.

Karupin stopped at the threshold, looking out uncertainly at the white fluff that had covered the world. Ryoma didn’t stop, he took the stairs two at a time and jumped into the snow, revelling in the crunch under his feet.

“You coming?” He asked the cat, who still looked very unsure. Taking that as a ‘no’, Ryoma left Karupin behind and walked out across the drive. The air smelt and tasted crisp and like nothing Ryoma had experienced before. All around him, the snow continued to flutter down; big, thick flakes that fell gently, but heavily, filling the air with snow and muffling all sound.

He looked up and watched the snowflakes floating down to the ground, some falling on his face and melting. Something rubbed against his ankle and he looked down to see Karupin rubbing against his leg. The cat raised his blue eyes to his and mewed pitifully, as if this was the worst thing that had ever happened to him.

“You didn’t have to follow me,” Ryoma told him, picking him up and burying his face in Karupin’s damp fur. Karupin mewled and Ryoma set off back to the castle, Karupin batting at snowflakes as they went.

A large ball of snow hit him square in the face. Karupin panicked and leaped out of Ryoma’s arms, sprinting back to the castle as Ryoma wiped the snow out of his eyes. He glared up at the castle where Fuji was standing, smiling innocently.

“What did you do that for?!” Ryoma snapped.

“It’s fun,” Fuji replied, laughing at Ryoma’s dishevelled appearance. “You look cute like that.”

 “Shut up,” Ryoma grumbled, brushing the snow out of his hair.

“Some of the others will be out in a minute,” Fuji said.

“Where are you going?”

“To see Takashi, of course,” Fuji replied, “some of us aren’t lucky enough to live with our boyfriends.”

“Have fun,” Ryoma muttered, still trying to sort his hair out. He was foiled in this attempt by Momo appearing next to him with an armful of snow and throwing it over him.

They were soon joined by Kikumaru and Oishi, who had dragged Kaidoh with them too. There was an attempt to have a five way snowball fight, but it soon descended into Momo and Kaidoh pelting each other as hard as they could with snow whilst yelling at each other. Having grown bored of watching the fight, Ryoma helped Oishi and Kikumaru make a snowman.

Around lunchtime, Ryoma left them to warm up and get some lunch. Karupin was waiting for him in the kitchen, sitting next to the stove and grooming himself.

Ryoma made himself some lunch and a cup of tea and made some chirping noises to get Karupin to follow him back to his room.

The pile of books was still waiting for him on the chair and Ryoma looked at them glumly. He did like to read and would be reading now even if he hadn’t suddenly gained magical powers. The thing was, what if he read them all and nothing helped? What if he couldn’t summon any of his powers and the magic just released itself randomly? How could he stop himself from hurting others?

The thought that he’d been putting off since this morning clawed its way into his mind. What if Karupin had been in the bed with him when he’d spontaneously combusted?

He’d seen how badly burnt Tezuka had been, but Tezuka could heal quickly and was almost immortal. Karupin wasn’t.

Determined, Ryoma grabbed the first book and threw himself on the bed. Karupin curled up on his lap and Ryoma pet him as he started to read.

The first book was long and dull and so poorly written that Ryoma found himself having to read sentences three or four times to work out what they were trying to say. So, he threw it to one side and pulled across another book.

This one was a little better, although not all that helpful. According to the book, magic wasn’t controlled by waving a wand and saying a spell, you had to concentrate on what you wanted it to do and will it into existence.

Ryoma frowned and held out a hand, concentrating hard on igniting a fire in the palm of his hand.

Fire, he thought, fire, fire, fire.

Nothing happened, although Ryoma did think he saw a feint spark in his palm. Or it could just have been a trick of the light and wishful thinking.

The fourth book suggested that the magic user should be able to feel the power of magic flowing through them. Ryoma concentrated, trying to feel anything flowing through him, but right now all he could feel was tiredness.

He really didn’t feel like reading anymore, having read through four books- although he’d skimmed a lot of them- he wanted to know how to do magic, not how the theory worked.

Karupin was so warm in his lap and he would be quite happy to join the cat in having a nap. He looked back at his book and wished it would just impart whatever information he needed into his head so that he could get on with other things. He had a niggling feeling that Tezuka would not let them have their romantic reunion until Ryoma had learnt to control his magic. Ryoma agreed in the sense that having him ignite during sex would not be a pleasant experience, but he still wanted to have sex with Tezuka soon.

Learn to control the magic and you can have sex with him, he told himself forcefully.

He managed to skim through another two books before he got bored and stopped. His stomach was starting to growl and Karupin was starting to rub against him in the way he always did when he wanted food.

“Come on then,” Ryoma sighed, putting the book down and picking Karupin up.

Tezuka was making tea in the kitchen when Ryoma walked in. Karupin struggled out of his arms and trotted over to rub against Tezuka’s legs.

“I think he likes you more than me,” Ryoma said as Tezuka bent down to pet the cat’s head.

“He doesn’t,” Tezuka assured him, “he was pining whilst you were away.”

“Stupid thing,” Ryoma replied, busing himself with opening the tin of cat food to hide his red his cheeks had become.

“How is the research going?” Tezuka asked and Ryoma sighed.

“The books are too vague,” he explained, “they don’t tell me what I need to do. Just that I have to feel the magic and concentrate.”

“Well, have you tried to do that?” Tezuka asked.

“I did,” Ryoma replied, collecting the ingredients from around the kitchen that he needed to make his dinner, “it didn’t work.”

“Show me,” Tezuka said. “Indulge me,” he added when he saw Ryoma’s face.

“For you,” Ryoma said, dropping the ingredients on the sideboard and walking into the middle of the room.

Right, Tezuka’s watching you, he thought, you have to at least be able to produce a spark.

He held out his hand, scrunched his eyes shut and imagined fire. It didn’t matter where it came out, he just needed to produce something!

“Is anything happening?” He asked.

“Nothing,” Tezuka said and Ryoma was glad he didn’t lie.

Ryoma went back to concentrating, searching inside himself for any hint of magic. But what was he supposed to be looking for? He couldn’t feel anything new inside him. “I can’t find the magic,” he said lamely, opening his eyes and looking apologetically at Tezuka.

“It has always been inside of you,” Tezuka said, “you’re so used to it being there that you don’t notice it.”

Ryoma nodded, that did make sense, but wasn’t entirely helpful. “The only way I could tell would be to be in another person’s body for a while.” He winced internally at the innuendo, but Tezuka didn’t pick up on it at all.

“I would think it would be easier to do if you relax,” Tezuka said. “This morning you were asleep with a smile on your face when you summoned that fire.”

“So, relax, concentrate and try and find something that I’m so used to I can’t feel?” Ryoma asked smirking.

Tezuka wrapped and arm around his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. “You’ll manage it.”

“I’ll try,” Ryoma replied tilting his head back so that Tezuka could kiss him properly. “Do you need any blood?” he asked when the start of his meal caught his eye.

“I’ll manage for a week or two,” Tezuka replied, “I’m not biting you until I’m sure you’re better.”

“I am better!”

“Last night you looked on Death’s door,” Tezuka reminded him sternly. “I will not compromise the health of my dearest mate.”

Ryoma snorted, “I’m your only mate.”

“That is true,” Tezuka replied, looking amused, “I don’t think I could cope with having two of you around.”

“Too many assassinations for you to prevent.”

“Indeed,” Tezuka said, giving him a squeeze. “I’ll leave you to prepare your dinner.”

“You can stay, you know,” Ryoma said as he set about chopping up the vegetables.

“I have to do some work,” Tezuka replied, “you are welcome to eat with me, I have something I could use your help with.”

“Okay. I’ll meet you in your office?”

Tezuka nodded and gave Ryoma a quick kiss before leaving.

“Was he pining over me as much as you were?” Ryoma asked Karupin, who flicked his ears and started to wash his paw. Ryoma took that as a ‘yes’.

Chapter Text

Ryoma burnt his dinner a little, although he wasn’t going to admit that was because he was thinking of Tezuka and trying to summon anything magical. Karupin abandoned him on the way up to Tezuka’s office when Kaidoh passed by them and he decided he wanted attention off him. Ryoma didn’t mind too much, if he could get his way Karupin would be a third wheel in the office.

“Karupin said you were pining over me whilst I was away,” Ryoma said when he walked into the office.

“Your cat is a liar,” Tezuka replied.

“So you didn’t miss me?”

“No,” Tezuka said calmly, “he lied when he told me he wouldn’t tell anyone.”

Ryoma grinned, “he told me because I’m his master, he’s not allowed to keep secrets from me. Although, he trotted off after Kaidoh, so he probably tells him everything to.”

“We’d better not trust him then,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma laughed and sat down on the seat opposite Tezuka before starting on his rice, beef and vegetables. He stared at Tezuka as he ate, just checking to see if he was okay. He looked as perfect as ever as he read documents and wrote letters, his back ramrod straight.

“What did you need me for?” Ryoma asked once he’d finished his meal.

“The walled garden needs a redesign,” Tezuka said, “I was hoping you’d like to help me .”

“I don’t know anything about gardening,” Ryoma warned him.

“There are plenty of books in the library,” Tezuka told him, “and I will be available to advise.” He pulled out a large sheet of squared paper from a draw and spread it out on the desk. “This is the plan from ten years ago when it was last redesigned. I’m afraid we’ve let it go to seed since then. I’ve marked the plants on it that are still alive.”

“How long do we have to design it?” Ryoma asked. He vaguely remembered walking in on his mother talking with the gardeners and them talking about what plants had to be planted when.

“We can’t work on it till the snow thaws,” Tezuka explained, “and that won’t be until the spring.”

“Plenty of time then.”

“Indeed. There are a couple of very good gardeners in the town, all we need to do is provide them with a plan and they will follow it.”

“Right,” Ryoma said, looking over the plans and not understanding a huge amount, “I’ll look into it between practising magic.”

Tezuka nodded in agreement. “Gardening is a hobby of mine.”

“Of course it us,” Ryoma smirked. “Do you have any hobbies that don’t make you sound like an old man?”

“I’m over 900 years old.”

“Then you’re definitely an old man,” Ryoma said, leaning over the table and kissing Tezuka softly.

“Some people would take that as an insult.”

“It’s a friendly insult,” Ryoma said, “unless it’s to Atobe, in which case it’s actually an insult.”

Tezuka pursed his lips. “You should be nicer to Atobe. He’s done a lot to help you.”

“I know,” Ryoma sighed, scratching the back of his head distractedly. “He just annoys me.”

Tezuka didn’t reply, just stared at the hand in Ryoma’s hair, his eyes wide.

“What?” Ryoma asked, bringing his hand back. He saw exactly ‘what’ when he saw his hand. It was on fire. “That’s not good.”

“Does it hurt?” Tezuka asked.

“No,” Ryoma replied, twisting his hand back and forth, “it just feels a bit warm.”

“Do you remember how you did it?”

Ryoma shook his head. It was the truth, it had just happened.

“Try and put it out,” Tezuka said.

“Right,” Ryoma said uncertainly. He tried to think back to everything he’d read in those books, but it had all just merged into one big mush of information and all that was jumping out of it was ‘concentrate’, which was fairly obvious. “Have you got a glass of water just in case?”

“You’ll be fine,” Tezuka told him.

Relax and concentrate, He thought, Right….STOP.

He felt the word run through him and suddenly the fire covering his hand disappeared.

“How did you manage that?” Tezuka asked.

“I just thought ‘stop’ and it stopped,” Ryoma replied, the elation he was feeling at finally being able to control his magic clear in his voice.

“Try and get it back,” Tezuka instructed.

Ryoma nodded and relaxed, trying to capture how he felt just seconds before. Fire, He thought over and over again. But, no matter how hard he thought it or tried to force it through, nothing happened. “I need to practice more,” he admitted.

“You’ve made a start,” Tezuka told him. “The more you practice the better you’ll become.”

Ryoma nodded and looked back at the garden plans. “Do you like roses?” he asked, wanting to change the subject.

“I do,” Tezuka replied.

“Then I’ll look into rose species.”

“Summon fire into your hand and I’ll help chose roses with you,” Tezuka said.

“Fine.”

 


 

 

Ryoma lay back in bed, palm out in front of him. He relaxed himself and concentrated on bringing the magic through his arm to the palm of his hand. He’d managed to create a couple of sparks so far, but nothing had stayed.

The book lying by his side said that summoning magic was a lot harder than getting it to go away. The problem was that the only two times he’d summoned the fire he’d done it unconsciously! Well, no. The first time he’d done it he’d been about to be killed and he had the diamond. But he couldn’t ask any of the vampires to try and kill him. Tezuka would put a stop to it straight away.

Something Atobe had said floated back to him: It’s not just you’re life on the line here.

No, he couldn’t put his life in danger. If he died then Tezuka would die to. He couldn’t let Tezuka die because of him. He concentrated on the palm of his hand again. He didn’t know if he was imagining the flow of something through his body, but he was managing to generate flickers of light in his hand now. He managed to get another flicker, one that lasted a bit longer than before. He took that as a victory and decided it was best to go to bed now. He picked up Karupin and put him outside.

“Go sleep with Kaidoh,” he told the cat, who tried to push his way back into the room. “I don’t want to hurt you tonight, Karu,” he whispered to the cat, rubbing him behind the ears.

It turned out Karupin was not leaving without a fight. He sat outside Ryoma’s door, scratching at the wood and mewling pathetically. Ryoma knew Karupin too well to think that if he just ignored him he’d go away.

“Okay Karupin,” Ryoma sighed, opening the door and grabbing the cat before he could shoot into the room, “I’ll carry you to Kaidoh’s room.”

Karupin was quite happy to sit in Ryoma’s arms and he carried through the castle to the room on the other side of the castle that Kaidoh occupied. He hoped that Kaidoh was still inside; he knew that vampires didn’t sleep and surely Kaidoh had better things to do than sit around in his room all night.

He knocked on the door and waited. There was no crack of light under the door, so it didn’t look hopeful.

Then, the door opened to reveal Kaidoh, who looked very surprised to see him.

“Could Karupin stay with you tonight?” Ryoma asked. “I don’t want to accidentally set him on fire.”

Kaidoh nodded and held out his hands for the cat. Ryoma passed him across. He really didn’t want to have to do this, but he was not going to kill his cat by being careless.

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, behind Kaidoh’s shoulder, he could make out an open window and a telescope.

“It’s no problem,” Kaidoh replied gruffly, petting Karupin, who was purring in his arms. There was an awkward silence, neither of them knowing what to say but knowing they would be expected to say something. “How are you feeling?” Kaidoh asked eventually.

“Fine,” Ryoma replied, “a lot better than before. I should go to bed though.”

“Yeah,” Kaidoh said, “sleep well.”

“Thanks. Take good care of Karupin.”

“I will,” Kaidoh replied, “I’ll return him in the morning.”

He felt bad leaving Karupin to sleep with someone else and even worse when he lay down in bed without the ball of fur lying next to him.

 


 

 

He didn’t sleep all that well that night and was relieved when he woke to find that he hadn’t set fire to anything in his sleep.

Why couldn’t it have been water powers? He thought bitterly as he dressed, or growing flowers of something. Still, he couldn’t help but admit how useful it would be to be able to summon fire. Especially of there were still assassins after him.  There was a knock at the door and Kaidoh walked in carrying Karupin, who immediately struggled out of his arms and scampered over to Ryoma.

“He was upset that you left him,” Kaidoh said. “He kept getting up to try and find you.”

“If only I could get him to understand that sleeping with me is dangerous right now,” Ryoma sighed, picking the cat up and hugging him close. He’d spoil Karupin with attention today to make up for it.

“How is the practice going?” Kaidoh asked.

“Not very well,” Ryoma replied. “I can do this though,” he held out his hand and summoned the flash of fire.

Kaidoh nodded, “good luck. I’ll leave you to it.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said as Kaidoh left. His eyes turned to the fireplace where the embers were glowing.

Maybe….

He put down Karupin and picked up a log from the wood basket, placing it in the embers. Then, he knelt down in front of the grate and put his hands out to the fire. He’d see the pose in one of the books, but because he hadn’t even managed to summon a small flame he had decided to save his pride and not try this more complicated thing. He relaxed and sent the flow of magic down through his arms to his hands.

Nothing happened, but he didn’t want it to yet. He wanted to pool as much magic in his hands before he tried this out.

Ignite, he thought when he had what he thought was enough magic.

Whoooosh

The fireplace exploded into life, flames roaring up the chimney and spilling out, licking over the ornately carved stone surround. Karupin hissed and dived under the bed as Ryoma fell back with a cry, just managing to avoid the flames as they roared out of the fireplace, devouring all the antique furniture they could reach.

Stop, Ryoma screamed in his head, “Stop!

The door flew open and Tezuka stood there surveying the scene; Ryoma lying on the floor and the once roaring fire diminishing back into embers, the log Ryoma had thrown in reduced to ashes.

“Are you okay?” Tezuka asked, helping Ryoma back to his feet.

“Fine,” Ryoma muttered, brushing himself off. This was embarrassing, he’d much rather be found looking really cool, summoning fire into his hand.

“You managed to summon fire,” Tezuka said, “congratulations.”

“I summoned a bit more than I meant to,” Ryoma replied, grinning despite his embarrassment. “I think I know what to do now. So,” he looked up at Tezuka through his eyelashes, “how about a proper congratulations.”

Tezuka leant down and kissed Ryoma so tenderly that Ryoma’s heart melted. He slid his hand into Tezuka’s hair, pulling him closer and sliding his tongue into the vampire’s mouth.

“Was that what you had in mind?” Tezuka asked as they pulled apart, their mouths still millimetres apart.

“I was thinking of something a little more…” Ryoma trailed off, a cheeky smile on his lips.

“Let’s wait until you can fully control your powers,” Tezuka said.

Ryoma huffed in irritation, “you can’t just kiss me like that and leave me hanging.”

“Wouldn’t you rather wait and have a romantic night together?”

 “With candles and a bed strewn with roses?” Ryoma asked, smirking. The thing about Tezuka, Ryoma decided, was that it was impossible to stay annoyed with him. Especially when he said such romantic things with his face so straight and emotionless, but his eyes were telling the whole story. The kindness and vulnerability hidden inside him, shining through those brown eyes.

“I love you,” Ryoma said.

To his utter astonishment, Tezuka turned bright red and hid his face in Ryoma’s neck.

“Are you okay?” Ryoma asked, laughing.

“You shouldn’t say that if you don’t mean it,” Tezuka replied, his voice muffled against Ryoma’s skin.

“I do mean it,” Ryoma said sincerely. “And it’s not the bond or whatever we have. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Tezuka said, pulling his head away from Ryoma to look him directly in the eyes, his face was still bright red. “I love you.”

Ryoma felt himself go red at this, at just how open Tezuka was being. He covered his face with his hands, trying to calm himself down.

“I didn’t mean for it to happen like this,” Tezuka said, prising Ryoma’s hands away from his face and holding them. “When I imagined someone becoming my mate I didn’t think it would ever be forcefully.”

“I already forgave you.”

“I know, but I still wish there had been another way to save your life and that I had never been in that condition in the first place.”

“I was really pissed off at you,” Ryoma said, “but then you made no attempt to control me and let me work things out for myself. When you told me I could leave, I only stayed because I had nowhere else to go, but I’m glad I stayed. If you hadn’t given me my space, I don’t think I could have ever fallen in love with you.”

“I would have preferred that we fell in love before you became my mate.”

“I know,” Ryoma said. “But if I hadn’t been attacked I would be married to the princess right now and be really miserable. When I put it that way, I’m glad you made me your mate.”

Tezuka pulled him into his arms and held him tight. “I regret how it happened, but I don’t regret meeting you. Falling in love with you.”

“So, when did you fall for me?” Ryoma asked, snuggling against Tezuka’s chest.

“That’s a hard question,” Tezuka replied. “It’s harder for me to tell because of the mating bond. It doesn’t make me love you,” He said quickly when Ryoma opened his mouth to protest, “it just makes me want to protect you and attend to your needs. I don’t have to follow those instinct of course, I did everything I did because I wanted to.”

“Is that why you’re so perfect in bed?” Ryoma asked slyly, “because you’re ‘attending to my needs’?”

“Of course, it doesn’t tell me what you like directly, it just guides me,” Tezuka replied. “I haven’t had any kind of experience of that nature before.”

Ryoma smirked, “I can fix that.” Tezuka chuckled and kissed the top of his head. “You’re okay with it though? With what I want in bed. If you’re not I don’t mind-“

“I’m happy with everything we’ve done so far,” Tezuka replied, “I will tell you when I’m not comfortable.”

“Don’t worry, I will never ask you to tie me up and hit me,” Ryoma said, shuddering at the though. Pain had never been a turn on for him.

“But biting is okay?” Tezuka asked.

“Stop making jokes, it’s weird,” Ryoma snapped lightly. “I like it when you bite me,” he muttered into Tezuka’s chest. “It hurts at the start, which isn’t fun, but after that it’s really nice.” 

Tezuka squeezed him and let him go. “You should practice your magic some more,” he said, caressing Ryoma’s cheek.

“I guess,” Ryoma said, “that’s so boring though!”

Tezuka leant down and whispered into Ryoma’s ear, “control your magic and I’ll do anything you want.”

“Bribery, huh?” Ryoma asked, smirking. “you’re lucky I’m really into having things whispered into my ear.”

“I am serious,” Tezuka said, “and you should be too. Do you know how powerful you’ll be when you master it?”

Ryoma shrugged, “I just want to be able to protect myself, so I’m not a burden to you.”

“You’ve never been a burden,” Tezuka reassured him, “and you never will be.”

“Still, it would be nice to be able to protect myself,” Ryoma said, “against any future assassination attempts.”

“Which is why you need to practice.”

“Yeah, but that’s impossible with you distracting me like this,” Ryoma said, smirking.

“I’ll stop distracting you then,” Tezuka said. “I’d better find someone to clean up that mess you’ve made,” he said, indicating the scorched wall and furniture around the fireplace. He caressed Ryoma’s cheek again and left.

“What?” He snapped at Karupin, who was gazing up at him from under the bed “I love him, he’s allowed to be romantic.”

Chapter Text

Ryoma spent the rest of the day practicing and, over the next week made progress in leaps and bounds. Everything seemed so clear to him now and he didn’t understand why he’d been so stuck earlier. He hadn’t worked out how to progress beyond summoning fire yet, but for now being able to summon fire at will was enough for Ryoma.

“Tezuka, watch,” Ryoma said, making the vampire look up from his paperwork. He held out his hand to him and, after a little concentration, lit a small fire in the palm of his hand. It now only took him a couple of seconds to get enough magic to light a fire and it was taking less and less time the more he practiced, soon he’d be able to do it instantaneously.

“Very nice,” Tezuka said, watching the little fire flicker happily in Ryoma’s hand.

“I can control what it burns too,” Ryoma told him, tipping the fire onto the desk where it continued to burn, leaving no mark on his desk. “I’m not going to make it burn your desk,” he added when Tezuka looked concerned. He clicked his fingers and the fire disappeared. He didn’t have to, but it added some style. “I can do this too,” he said, feeling he had to show Tezuka everything he could do. This one took a bit more concentration as he hadn’t been able to do it till recently. He closed his eyes, evened out his breathing and thought Ignite!

His whole body was engulfed with a layer of flame. It felt like being immersed in a hot bath and, should he feel like it, he could make it burn anything it touched.

Tezuka gave him a nod of approval and Ryoma smiled then extinguished himself.

“I can conjure up fire anywhere I want too,” Ryoma said, “I can kinda shoot it, but I’m not perfect at doing that yet.”

“You’ve worked hard,” Tezuka said and Ryoma glowed with pride.

“Do I get a reward?” Ryoma asked cheekily, “I can control a lot of my magic now.”

“You shouldn’t let your guard down,” Tezuka said, “there’s still a lot you don’t know.”

“Yeah, but I’m not gonna set either of us on fire whilst we’re having sex,” Ryoma replied. “That was the deal, right?”

“I wasn’t aware we had a deal,” Tezuka said, but there was a twinkle in his eye.

“I was an unspoken agreement,” Ryoma replied, rolling his eyes. “Look, can we have sex tonight?”

“Of course,” Tezuka replied immediately. “To be quite honest, I’m surprised you’ve waited this long to ask me.”

“You’d have turned me down unless I could properly control my magic,” Ryoma said and Tezuka smiled.

“You are correct,” he said. “I love you dearly, but being set on fire is-“

“A complete turn off?” Ryoma asked, smirking.

“Indeed.”

“Do you think we’re the only couple who has to worry about one setting the other on fire?”

“I’m sure there are couples with worse problems than ours,” Tezuka said, reaching over the desk to stroke Ryoma’s cheek.

“A vampire and a human who can set himself on fire?” Ryoma grinned. “I’ll see you tonight?”

“Come to my room when you’re ready,” Tezuka replied. “I plan to finish my work around 8 o’clock.”

“I’ll see you then,” Ryoma said, leaning over the table to kiss Tezuka before almost skipping out the room.

 


 

Ryoma knocked at the door, feeling nervous in spite of himself. It wasn’t as if they’d never had sex before, but… well… that had been a while ago and… He mentally shook himself. There was no point in getting nervous now! He just wanted… well, he just wanted them both to enjoy themselves. There was no point in having mind blowing sex if Tezuka wasn’t getting the same amount of pleasure out of it and Ryoma had never been the most giving of lovers.

The door opened and Tezuka smiled at him. He looked absolutely stunning in a black suit with a bow tie, all impeccably turned out.

“You’re gorgeous,” Ryoma breathed before his brain could catch up and keep his mouth shut.

“You are too,” Tezuka replied, stepping aside to let Ryoma into the room. Ryoma smiled and let his fingers brush against Tezuka’s stomach as he walked by.

“You should have told me the dress code,” Ryoma said, “I’d have put something smarter on.”

“I like you like this,” Tezuka replied, his eyes roving up the curve of Ryoma’s spine. And then, he was holding Ryoma, pulling his back into his chest.

“What would you like me to do, Ryoma?” Tezuka asked, kissing and nibbling on Ryoma’s ear.

Ryoma gasped and leant into him, “keep doing that,” he moaned as Tezuka’s hand glided up his thigh, fingers applying just enough pressure of Ryoma to feel them through his jeans.

“Anything else?”

“I don’t care, just keep touching me!”

Tezuka certainly did that. His hand finished its trail up Ryoma’s leg and then slid under his shirt. Ryoma’s head lolled back onto Tezuka’s shoulder as Tezuka mapped out his stomach. He realised he was staring unfocusedly at a mirror and refocused his eyes- watching Tezuka feel him up would be really hot.

But he was the only one in the reflection, stood limply and clearly being supported by something invisible. The bottom of his shirt was open and there was clearly something underneath it, stroking gently back and forth, tracing over the lines of his stomach muscles.

Why does he even have a mirror? He managed to think before Tezuka took a nipple between his fingers and rolled it, driving all thoughts from his mind.

He moaned and arched his back as Tezuka pinched the nipple, he was in so much pleasure he didn’t notice Tezuka unbuttoning the rest of his shirt. Tezuka’s free hand slid the shirt off his shoulders, leaving Ryoma’s chest exposed. In the mirror, Ryoma’s right nipple was being pulled and pushed this way and that, whilst the other stood up straight- pink, straining and completely, painfully untouched.

“You’re beautiful,” Tezuka whispered as he made Ryoma whine in need by brushing a hand over the bulge in his jeans.

 “And you’re teasing me,” Ryoma moaned.

“Would you like me to stop?” Tezuka asked, a hand trailing up Ryoma’s neck and tilting his head so that he had full access to his neck. Ryoma shuddered, anticipating the pain of the bite. It didn’t come. Tezuka carefully kissed and sucked his way down his neck with the ever so slight bite of canines scratching against his skin.

The fingers holding Ryoma’s head in place moved to his lips and Ryoma greedily sucked them in, moaning and pushing his tongue against them, coating them in saliva.

“You promised me something,” Tezuka whispered in his ear. “Do you still want to do it?” he asked, sliding the fingers out of Ryoma’s mouth, running the slick digits over his bottom lip.

“Of course I still want to,” Ryoma replied huskily, a thrill of excitement shooting down his spine. He spun in Tezuka’s arms, grabbing him by the lapels and kissing him hard. “You didn’t kiss me before you started feeling me up.”

“It won’t happen again,” Tezuka promised, kissing him lovingly.

“It’s fine if it’s you,” Ryoma told him. He was sure he was just being clingy and insecure, but he’d never had a proper boyfriend before. He’d been used for sex so many times (and he’d used them too), but this relationship was special; he didn’t want it to be anything like all those other times with no kissing. And he really liked kissing Tezuka.

“It isn’t,” Tezuka said, pressing their lips together again. “And kissing you is nothing but a pleasure.”

“I love you, Kunimitsu,” Ryoma breathed against Tezuka’s lips, unknotting his bow tie, leaving it hanging around his collar before moving down to unfasten his top button, pressing his lips to the skin revealed. “I love you,” he said again, breathing it hotly onto Tezuka’s cool skin. He fingers went to the rest of the buttons and soon he had Tezuka’s chest exposed and all to himself. His lips immediate descended onto Tezuka’s skin; kissing and licking and nipping at every inch of skin he could reach. Everything he did was punctuated with a little gasp or moan from Tezuka.

“Did you know I can’t resist a man in black tie?” Ryoma asked conversationally as he started on the skin just above the waistband of Tezuka’s trousers.

“I’ll be certain to keep you away from black tie events,” Tezuka said, twisting his hands into Ryoma’s hair.

“There’s only one man I’d want to go home with,” Ryoma said, “and I’m about to suck him off.”

He started on Tezuka’s belt, continuing to kiss and nip at the ‘V’ line that disappeared under the waistband. “You might want to sit down,” he breathed as he pushed Tezuka’s trousers and underwear down, revealing his erection, standing tall and proud. He gave Tezuka a quick push and he stumbled back, inelegantly falling into a sitting position on the bed. Ryoma smirked and settled down between his legs. Tezuka’s hands twisted themselves back into Ryoma’s hair; he shuddered as his fingers dug into particularly sensitive areas of this scalp. Tezuka gasped as Ryoma licked the tip of his cock.

“Good?” Ryoma asked smugly before taking the head into his mouth and sucking on it, making frankly obscene noises as he did so.

“Yes,” Tezuka replied breathlessly as Ryoma continued to suck, flicking his tongue over the head whilst his hands rubbed up and down the shaft.

His work was accompanied by Tezuka’s soft moans and gasps, his fingers tightening in his hair as Ryoma increased the suction.

“Ryoma,” Tezuka managed to gasp and Ryoma’s cock twitched violently.

Ryoma eased off on the sucking and slid Tezuka’s cock out his mouth until only the tip was left in. He looked up at Tezuka mischievously and could only imagine what he must look like to Tezuka. He flicked his tongue over the slit and Tezuka’s hips twitch, an indication that his self-control was slipping. Ryoma grinned around the cock and looked back up at Tezuka through mischievous eyes. Tezuka hands tightened and he pushed Ryoma’s head slightly further down his cock.

His self-control was definitely slipping.

“You…” Tezuka started before trailing off when Ryoma’s tongue started to play along the cock in his mouth.

“Do I look hot?” Ryoma asked huskily, his lips brushing Tezuka’s cock as he spoke. “Do I look hot sucking on your cock? Do you want to come on me?”

“Ryoma,” Tezuka replied sternly.

“That’s a yes then,” Ryoma said impishly and slid the cock back into his mouth.

He alternated between teasing and sucking hard, swapping just as he had Tezuka on the edge. The noises Tezuka was making started to become more frustrated as Ryoma teased him, the groans music to Ryoma’s ears as he wound Tezuka up like a coil.

And then Tezuka snapped.

Ryoma just about managed to get his cock out of his mouth as he came, spreading cum over his chin and cheeks.

“Urgh,” Ryoma groaned in disgust, “I got some in my mouth.”

“Sorry,” Tezuka panted. He was slumped back on his forearms, eyes dilated. He looked at Ryoma’s face and his eyes widened.

“I look good?” Ryoma asked, smirking as he wiped the cum off his lips with a finger.

“Yeah,” Tezuka replied. “There’s a sink in the corner if you want to clean your face.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said. He cleaned himself up and then hopped back onto the bed, straddling Tezuka’s legs, grinning. “Ready to continue?”

 “Of course,” Tezuka replied, leaning forward to kiss Ryoma lovingly.

“I can’t decide whether I want you fully naked or to fuck me whilst still wearing this,” Ryoma said, fingering the tuxedo lapels.

“You need to decide soon,” Tezuka said, kissing his way down Ryoma’s neck. “I’ll do whatever you want me too.”

“That sounds good,” Ryoma moaned as Tezuka nipped at the join between his neck and shoulder. “I need to get you hard again if you’re going to fuck me.”

“Keep making those noises and we’ll be fine,” Tezuka replied, sliding the shirt off Ryoma and throwing it across the floor.

Ryoma groaned and rutted his hips against Tezuka. Tezuka may not be hard, but he certainly was!

“You look so gorgeous,” Tezuka breathed against his neck, continuing to strip Ryoma.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Ryoma moaned as Tezuka worked his magic across his shoulders.

Tezuka made a growling sound at the back of his throat and, in one swift move, Ryoma was on his back in the middle of the bed with Tezuka leaning over him.

“Definitely gorgeous,” Ryoma said, caressing Tezuka’s face and then pulling him down for a kiss.

It started out slow and soft, but it didn’t take long for the intensity to spike and all thoughts of taking it slow flew out the window.

Ryoma moaned and thrust his hips upwards. They both gasped as his erection met Tezuka’s and the two over sensitive cocks rubbed together.

“Is it bad that I want to suck you off again?” Ryoma gasped, gazing down at Tezuka’s cock, his eyes half lidded.

Tezuka smiled, “that does sound tempting,” he whispered huskily into Ryoma’s ear, making him shiver. “But I want to make love to you right now.”

“Then you’d better get naked.”

Tezuka sat up and pushed both the shirt and jacket off in one long motion, revealing his strong, broad shoulders and chest. Ryoma hummed in appreciation, tracing the lines of Tezuka’s muscles lightly with his fingertips. Tezuka grabbed the bottle of lubricant off the bedside table and coated his fingers liberally.

“This is going to be cold,” he warned Ryoma, who scoffed.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve done this,” he said, grinning, “I know just how cold you are- Literally, not metaphorically.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called metaphorically cold,” Tezuka replied.

“Well they’re idiots,” Ryoma hissed as Tezuka’s first finger slipped into him.

“I’m glad I have you to defend my honour.”

“Anyone who besmirches the honour of my –ah!- Lord Tezuka –Oh god, do that again!- will have to deal with me,” Ryoma gasped as Tezuka found all the right places to push inside him.

“Thank you,” Tezuka said, kissing him lovingly.

It didn’t take long for Ryoma to grow impatient. “Hurry up,” he whined, grasping at Tezuka’s shoulders, “please hurry up, Kunimitsu!”

“If you’re not patient you’ll end up being hurt.”

“It’ll be fine,” Ryoma assured him, but Tezuka didn’t look convinced. He continued to prepare Ryoma, sliding his fingers carefully in and out and stretching him. To easy Ryoma’s frustration, he took hold of his cock firmly and started stroking, not enough to get him off, but enough to ease the edge off his frustration.

“Are you ready?” Tezuka asked a couple of minutes later.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, gasping as Tezuka slipped his fingers out. “Fuck me, Kunimitsu.”

“We don’t ‘fuck’,” Tezuka told him, “we ‘make love’.”

“You’re embarrassing,” Ryoma muttered, feeling his face turn red. “But you’re right.”

“I love you, Ryoma,” Tezuka said and the sunk into him.

Ryoma gasped and cried out, his arms flying around Tezuka’s shoulders, dragging him closer so that he could bury his face into Tezuka’s neck as he pushed further and further inside him. Once he was fully in, Tezuka started to move slowly but surely.

Ryoma moaned and loosened his grip on Tezuka, flopping back down onto the pillows. He’d missed this. Not so much the sex (although he had missed that), but Tezuka looking at him like he was the most important thing in the world, his expression holding nothing but love and admiration for him. It made his heart race and head feel giddy. He tried to look back at Tezuka with the same expression, but was sure he’d never be able to pull it off as well as him.

And then, it was all too much- the adoration on Tezuka’s face and the sensation of him thrusting in and out of him- it overwhelmed him and he came with a cry. Tezuka was not far behind.

 He collapsed into Ryoma’s arms, panting heavily, his cool skin cooling Ryoma’s overheated body.

“That was good,” Ryoma murmured into Tezuka’s ear.

“It was,” Tezuka agreed.

Ryoma hummed and nuzzled Tezuka’s head, he was feeling so satisfied and sleepy now, he could easily just fall asleep right now.

They lay together even after their orgasms had finished and the afterglow had faded. Then, Tezuka pushed himself up.

“Wait there,” he said, kissing Ryoma’s forehead and then climbing off the bed. Ryoma laughed, his body felt far too heavy to move any time soon.

Tezuka returned with a wash cloth and cleaned them both up, then brought Ryoma over some pyjamas.

“It’s not very warm,” he said as he pulled Ryoma up until a sitting position, “you shouldn’t sleep naked.”

Ryoma yawned and pulled on the thick flannel shirt. The trousers were a bit more of a pain, but he managed to pull them on (with a little help from Tezuka). Then, he fell back into the pillows, sighing happily.

“Are you going to fall asleep on me?” Tezuka asked, “it has only just gone 9.”

“You’ve worn me out,” Ryoma replied, opening one eye, “unless you want to have another round.”

Tezuka chuckled. It was a lovely sound, Ryoma thought, deep but light.

“You’re insatiable,” Tezuka said, kissing Ryoma’s forehead again.

“I try.”

 


 

The next morning, Ryoma was woken by Tezuka shaking him gently. It was a much better awakening than the last time they’d slept together and he’d had a bucket of water thrown over him.

“Atobe’s here,” Tezuka said softly as Ryoma’s eyes fluttered open, “he wants to see you.”

“Why?” Ryoma asked, tempted to just roll over and go back to sleep.

“I’ll explain when you get up,” Tezuka replied and Ryoma scowled, torn between finding out what was happening and annoying Atobe.

In the end, he pulled himself out of bed and changed. He was sure if Atobe had come here, then the peace negotiations were over- whatever the result.

He found Atobe in the library with Tezuka and Fuji.

“You’re finally here,” Atobe drawled as Ryoma sat between Tezuka and Fuji.

“Some of us have to sleep,” Ryoma snapped.

“Has war been averted?” Tezuka asked before Atobe and Ryoma could get into an argument.

“It has,” Atobe told them. “I wish you had been there, it was glorious.”

“So?” Ryoma asked, his initial relief turning to agitation as Atobe held back on the details.

“Well, first things first, Hiyoshi tracked down the person who hired the assassins and put him out of his misery- he’s from Ensinkil, of course he’s in misery,” he added when he saw Ryoma’s look, which became even darker at his comment. “Anyway, he’s out of the way now and we’re conducting investigations to see if it goes any higher than him.”

“Who was it?” Ryoma asked.

“A clerk in the Prime Minister’s office,” Atobe replied, “which is why we’re suspicious.”

“Tokunaga hates me,” Ryoma said, “I wouldn’t put it past him to send assassins after me.”

“Well, until we can confirm it, it is merely a suspicion,” Atobe said blithely. “The fun really began in the last peace meeting; your princess is a feisty one.”

“She’s not my princess,” Ryoma growled and Tezuka patted his knee.

“It was very boring,” Atobe continued, ignoring Ryoma, “we were at a bit of an impasse until Princess Tomoka stormed into the room and insisted she’d rather die than marry you.”

Next to him, Fuji laughed, “I bet that went down very well,” he said.

“I wish I could have taken a photograph of the Queen Mother’s face,” Atobe said smugly, “she looked like she’d been slapped with a dead fish.”

“And it ended just like that?” Tezuka asked.

“Quite frankly, there wasn’t anything the King could do,” Atobe shrugged. “Neither half of the match wanted to marry the other and Our Little Prince had vanished off home- I told them that you’d run away because you couldn’t stand being apart from Tezuka,” he told Ryoma, “and we forged a note too, they fell for it.”

“How do you know what my handwriting looks like?” Ryoma asked.

A self-satisfied smile formed on Atobe’s lips, “Princess Tomoka gave us the love letters you’d written to her.”

There was a sort of shocked silence as Ryoma tried desperately to remember when he’d ever written her love letters. He’d been made to write a lot of letters, but never anything to Princess Tomoka- everyone had just assumed they’d fall in love as soon as they met and that, if they didn’t, it hardly mattered.

Love letters?” Ryoma exclaimed, “I’ve never sent anyone love letters!”

 “Not even to Tezuka?” Atobe asked, raising an eyebrow.

“No!” Ryoma insisted and then felt bad, maybe he should write one to Tezuka. At his side, Tezuka cleared his throat and Fuji was looking like he was trying very hard not to laugh.

“Someone wrote them for you then,” Atobe shrugged.

“My stupid father,” Ryoma muttered.

“Don’t speak ill of the dead,” Tezuka warned him.

“You didn’t know him though,” Ryoma huffed. “This is definitely the kind of stupid thing he’d do.”

“Either way,” Atobe said, raising his voice so that he they would stop ignoring him, “we copied the handwriting of whoever had sent the letters and fooled them. Of course, the highlight of the meeting was the hour long argument between the Princess and her grandmother and father. We just sat back and listened as they screamed at each other. She’s going to be a fantastic Queen one day, she got them to apologise to us.”

“Really?” Fuji asked. “The King seemed very much like you.”

“It was very impressive,” Atobe said, ignoring the jibe.

“What about Ensinkil?” Ryoma asked.

“Once Taranis pulled out they didn’t have a leg to stand on,” Atobe replied, “you know as well as I do they have nowhere near the military power to take us on.”

Ryoma nodded, “they can’t afford a war right now, not without another country bankrolling them.”

“My spies will still be keeping an eye on both countries,” Atobe said, “just because we’ve averted war this time doesn’t mean they won’t be trying something else behind our back.”

“They want a justification for attacking us,” Fuji said, “at first it was you, Echizen, then when you turned up alive and well and happy, they decided they should fight us for your hand in marriage. They’ll come up with something else eventually.”

“We have beaten them many times over the centuries,” Atobe said, “I can’t think if a time we’ve lost a war, especially not in my lifetime.”

“You shouldn’t be getting so careless,” Tezuka said. “We averted this war thanks to everyone seeing sense. We may not be as lucky next time.”

“Of course,” Atobe agreed, inclining his head towards Tezuka. “But for now, we’re safe.” He turned his eyes to Ryoma, “Fuji tells me you’ve learnt to control your magic.”

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied and, a couple of seconds later, he ignited a fire all the way along his arms. He was quite happy to see Fuji flinch and Tezuka remain completely calm.

“Very impressive,” Atobe said in a fairly bored tone. “I’m afraid I will have to leave you, Tezuka. I am needed back in Koori and my train is waiting.”

“It was good to see you Atobe,” Tezuka said, standing to shake Atobe’s hand.

“Will I see you in Koori for the ball?” Atobe asked, eyeing Ryoma over Tezuka’s shoulder.

“Not this year,” Tezuka replied, “It’s a long way to travel, especially in the winter.”

“Just be sure you don’t turn into Amane and Kurobane,” Atobe said, sounding amused. Ryoma wondered who they were and what they had to do with whatever ball they were talking about.

“We won’t,” Tezuka promised. “We’ll see you out.”

Ryoma joined Tezuka and Atobe as they walked to the front door. Fuji had run off, no doubt to tell all the others the details of what had been discussed (although why he bothered was beyond Ryoma, they’d all heard the scurry of feet of vampires escaping discovery of their eavesdropping).

“You will have to visit me,” Atobe said as they reached the door, “there are plenty of vampires who are clamouring to meet you both.”

Tezuka didn’t look too interested, but never the less promised that they’d visit at some point.

Then Atobe was driving away in his sports car, leaving Tezuka and Ryoma in the doorway.

“I was thinking he was about to kidnap us and take us back to Koori,” Tezuka said as he shut the door.

“Is Koori that bad?”

“Not really,” Tezuka replied, “it’s just very busy and I prefer the quiet. We should visit Atobe sometime next year.”

“What’s the ball he was talking about?” Ryoma asked. He wasn’t at all interested in balls and parties, but if he was going to have to attend one then he’s rather know about it in advance.

“It’s a ball on Midwinter’s day,” Tezuka explained, “traditionally, it is where newly mated vampires and mates are presented to the monarch.”

“Is it fun?”

“Obviously I’ve only ever attended as a guest, but when I did it was incredibly boring,” Tezuka admitted. “I felt obliged to attend every year until recently.”

“Let me guess,” Ryoma said, “You’d be much happier in your room reading a book?”

“I would,” Tezuka replied. “I don’t enjoy being in large crowds for long periods of time and if every vampire in Koori wants to meet us then we’d be swamped.”

“Can we not go?”

“Atobe would not be pleased with us if we didn’t attend once,” Tezuka said. “Although, Amane and Kurobane from Rokkau haven’t attended and they’ve been mates for over 500 years.”

“Lucky them,” Ryoma muttered, knowing full well that Tezuka’s sense of duty would not let them escape the ball for 500 years.

“I didn’t think you’d want to attend the ball given everything that’s happened to you so far this year,” Tezuka said and Ryoma nodded.

“I don’t really want to go at all.”

 “Ryoma,” Tezuka said as they reached the top of the stairs, “I need to feed within the next week.”

“Oh, right,” Ryoma said, a thrill of excitement shooting up his spine. “You could have done it last night.”

“I don’t like to mix feeding and making love,” Tezuka replied. “You are not food to me.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, feeling rather warm. “Do you want to do it now? I don’t mind.”

“I think that would be a good idea,” Tezuka said, “I can last another couple of days, but then I will start to become a risk. I can get Oishi if you would prefer to give blood through a needle.”

“It’s quicker if you just bite me,” Ryoma shrugged, “and it’s not like it feels bad or anything.” Tezuka gave him look. “It feels really good,” Ryoma muttered, embarrassment welling up in him, “and it’s you so I know you’ll take good care of me.”

“All right,” Tezuka said, “shall we go to my office?”

Tezuka lead the way and sat Ryoma down in the red chaise longue by the fire. He fetched the bandages from the desk draw and sat down on the edge of chair, taking Ryoma’s hand gently and kissing the back of his hand. He turned the hand over and carefully pushed his sleeves up off his wrist.

“You can bite my neck,” Ryoma said, shivering slightly as Tezuka traced a finger down the prominent vein under his skin.

“No, Ryoma. I couldn’t,” Tezuka said solemnly. “Biting necks is for changing or mating, it is taboo to use it for regular feeding- not to mention dangerous.”

 “Okay,” Ryoma muttered, feeling a mixture of embarrassed and humiliated.

Tezuka kissed his forehead, “you didn’t know.”

“I still have a lot to work on,” Ryoma said, forcing a smile.

“You’ll learn,” Tezuka said, “you’ve grown up in what sounds like isolation, I don’t expect you to know every single facet of vampire etiquette.”

Ryoma nodded, feeling a little better, if still a bit stupid.

Tezuka kissed his cheek and then moved back to his wrist, kissing the soft, pale skin. “I’m going to bite you now,” he said softly, “are you still okay with it?”

“Yup,” Ryoma replied, bracing himself. He remembered how painful it was for the teeth to break through the skin.

Tezuka continued to press feather light kisses to the skin, occasionally flicking out his tongue until Ryoma relaxed into the cushions. Then, in one swift movement, his fangs grew and sank into Ryoma’s wrist.

He tried to bite back on the cry of pain and ended up whimpering pathetically.

Then Tezuka started to suck and the pain was, once again, replaced with a feeling of ecstasy. Ryoma went boneless, and felt like he was about to sink through the chair. He moaned as Tezuka sucked harder, every nerve in his body was sparking and his cock was feeling very tight in his jeans.

And then, Tezuka teeth slid out of his skin and he started to lap up the blood seeping out of the small wounds. He picked up a cloth and cleaned the wounds up before wrapping a bandage around them, tying it neatly and resting Ryoma’s hand back down on the chaise longue.

“I’m hard,” Ryoma mumbled, breathing heavily.

Tezuka tutted affectionately and then kissed Ryoma’s forehead.

“I’ll fix that,” he said, unbuttoning Ryoma’s trousers and sliding his hand into his underwear.

Ryoma was so wound up by the effects of the bite that it didn’t take long for Tezuka to jerk him off. Tezuka cleaned him up again and a small part of Ryoma’s brain wished he could help, the rest, however, just wanted to lie there, doing absolutely nothing.

Ryoma sighed and yawned. It wasn’t even midday and he felt like going back to bed, but then, he had been woken up earlier than he’d have liked.

“You’re quite welcome to lie there all day,” Tezuka said, sounding rather amused.

Ryoma glared at him and pushed himself up, “I’m awake,” he said, his body not quite believing his words.

“I have some gardening books if you’d like to read them,” Tezuka offered.

The prospect of reading sounded very enticing, especially if it meant he could stay sat in front of the fire, so he agreed and spent the morning looking through books of flowers, marking ones he liked, and listening to the sound of the fire crackling away in the grate and the scratch of Tezuka’s pen.

He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep, but at some point he must have done because he was woken by Tezuka bearing tea and soup at around lunchtime.

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, sitting up properly and taking the tray Tezuka was offering.

“You fed me,” Tezuka said, “it is my turn to return the favour.” Ryoma caught a flicker of concern pass across his eyes, “are you sure you feel well?”

“I’m fine,” Ryoma replied, “just tired.”

“I shouldn’t have fed from you.”

Ryoma rolled his eyes, “I’d rather be a bit tired now than wait a few days and be at risk of you draining all my blood. I’m okay, I promise. I’m a lot stronger than I look.”

“I know,” Tezuka said. “I’m sorry, I just worry about you.”

Ryoma shrugged, “it’s fine.”

Chapter Text

Winter set in hard and fast. There were very few days where some snow didn’t fall and the whole valley turned into a winter wonderland. On a cold, sunny days Tezuka took Ryoma out into the forest for a walk through the snow frosted trees. Ryoma had known that there were animals living in the forest, but only in the way that one knew that there were fish in the sea, the sheer amount of trails of footprints in the fresh snow emphasised just how many there were.  Most were small –foxes and rabbits- but there was a trail high up in the woods of a mountain lion, which had sort shelter in the forest.

As winter closed in around them, the castle was decorated for the Midwinter Festival –a festival held on the shortest day of the year. Inside, it sparkled with silver and gold decorations mixed in with holly, ivy and mistletoe. 

Down in the town, the shops were full of gifts. Kikumaru came back from shopping with a pair of bat wings that could be put on your cat. Karupin was less than happy to have them clipped into his fur, but relented and kept them on for an hour before he finally managed to claw them off. Ryoma had to admit that he did look cute in them, although he now had a very grumpy cat who hadn’t forgive him for helping the vampires put the wings on him.

They spent the festival itself playing board games and all being thrashed at Monopoly by Kawamura, even when Oishi and Kikumaru had pooled their resources in a vain attempt to snatch victory.

During all the festivities, Ryoma kept up his magic practice. Now that he’d got passed working out what the books were talking about, he was progressing fairly well. He’d put back any books not written by magic users as they had a vagueness to them that he just couldn’t get past. There were only two books written by magic users in the library and both were several hundred years old. It had taken Ryoma a while to get past the archaic language, but once he had their writing was invaluable. Both focused on weaponising fire magic, which was exactly where Ryoma had wanted to take his magic. There was no point in having it if he could only perform pretty parlour tricks. One of them mentioned summoning fire demons and how only Ryoma’s ancestors had known the secret on how to do it. He supposed he’d have to go through the library in the palace to discover said secret, although it could have easily been lost when magic had become dormant in his family. He certainly didn’t remember his father telling him anything about summoning demons.

And so, the days had passed. Ryoma was starting to feel that it was soon going to be time to find something to do with his life. All seemed quiet in Taranis and Ensinkil, so he should be safe to leave the castle by himself. He had yet to raise the issue with Tezuka, feeling that it was not quite the time, but that time was coming soon, he could feel it.

 


 

Ryoma woke up one morning with a weight in the pit of his stomach. He had no idea what was wrong, just a bad feeling that today was not going to go well. He pulled himself out of bed and went to the window. Outside the sun was only just starting to rise, not quite yet peeking over the tops of the mountains, dying the snow-capped fringes pink.

“You’re awake early,” Tezuka said from the other side of the room, were he saw sat by the fire, reading.

“I have a weird feeling,” Ryoma replied, “like something bad’s going to happen.”

In an instant, Tezuka was behind him, wrapping his arms around him and pulling him close.

“What kind of bad thing?” He asked.

“I don’t know,” Ryoma shrugged, “it’s probably nothing.”

Tezuka kissed the side of his head, “would you like some breakfast? I believe Fuji, Momoshiro and Kikumaru bought some pastries up early this morning.”

“How do you know that?”

“I heard them as they came back to the castle,” Tezuka replied, “If they wanted to surprise you they shouldn’t have been talking so loudly.”

Ryoma chuckled, “you’re supposed to keep surprises secret.”

Tezuka kissed him again, “pretend to be surprised.”

“I don’t like surprises much anyway,” Ryoma said, shrugging.

 In the kitchen, Fuji, Momo and Kikumaru were indeed waiting for him with a large platter full of pastries.

“Why?” Ryoma asked as he was pounced on by Momo and Kikumaru and dragged to the table.

“We wanted to be nice,” Fuji said sweetly, pushing the plate in front of Ryoma.

“I can’t eat all of these by myself,” Ryoma said, eyeing the pile of food.

"I'll help you," Momo said and Ryoma thought he probably wasn't going to get many of the pastries now.

"We're taking you for sushi tonight," Fuji added.

Ryoma narrowed his eyes, "what do you want from me?"

"Nothing," Kikumaru insisted, "Shorty, you're mean! You didn't tell us it was your birthday!!"

"It isn't my birthday!" Ryoma snapped, "that was ages ago! Just after the Midwinter Festival!"

"And you didn't tell us!" Kikumaru cried, looking very hurt (although Ryoma was sure he was just putting it on).

"So we're celebrating today," Momo said, "we're friends, we can't just ignore your birthday!”

Ryoma wished very much they could, but the fact they were making such an effort touched him.

“How old are you by the way?” Momo asked.

“Twenty,” Ryoma replied.

“We've got you cake and presents and everything!” Kikumaru cut in before Momo could comment on Ryoma’s age. “The rest are going to meet us in the drawing room in an hour.”

“Great,” Ryoma said, grabbing a pastry and shoving it in his mouth.

It wasn't that he hated his birthday- he certainly enjoyed getting presents- but after he'd past the age of ten, everyone around him seemed a lot less interested, preferring that he focused on his studies than celebrating. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had a proper birthday party, so he'd just started to be apathetic towards his birthday like the rest of the palace. The only people who cared were his mother, who always made sure he had a couple of presents and a cake, and the King of Taranis, no doubt trying to tempt him into marrying his daughter through presents. Interestingly (although Ryoma hadn't noticed it at the time), his mother had always treated these gifts with contempt and Ryoma couldn't remember ever seeing them again after he'd opened them.

He had to fight Momo off the last two chocolate pastries, something Fuji found very funny.

“It's Echizen’s birthday,” he reminded Momo, “not yours.”

Then, he was herded upstairs to the drawing room, where the rest of the household were waiting. A big handmade banner had been put up on the wall with the words ‘Happy Birthday Echizen’ emblazoned on it in neat, multicoloured letters.

Ryoma wasn't sure what to say, he felt hot with embarrassment and something warm was glowing in his stomach. The embarrassment grew as he was sat in a chair and a cake shaped hat (complete with candles) was forced into his head and he tried to fight Fuji off as he pushed it on.

“Presents,” Fuji said happily, clapping his hands once he'd made sure Ryoma was not going to take off the hat.

Ryoma glared at Tezuka, had he known about this and not warned him? Tezuka just stated back, his face as calm as ever. Obviously, he had known.

Still, it wasn't so bad once he started opening his presents. Momo had given him a large box of chocolates, which he was going to have to keep hidden from him, and from Kaidoh a cat toy that prompted Momo to say loudly that the presents were supposed to be for Ryoma, not Karupin. The only reason a fight didn't break out was because Tezuka had cleared his throat, reminding them where they were. Ryoma himself had liked the cat toy and was sure Karupin would enjoy it too.

Kikumaru and Oishi had bought him a duffle coat with a fur lined hood that was incredibly warm when he was made to try it on.

“Takashi gave me this to give to you,” Fuji said, handing Ryoma a neat little present. Inside was a box of homemade fudge. Something else he'd have to hide from Momo, he thought in amusement as he put the fudge to one side and was given his present from Fuji.

To his surprise, nothing jumped out at him as he tore open the packaging, instead it was a pair of silver cuff links, simple and plain and all the more beautiful because of it.

Next was Inui’s present, a set of notebooks in which to record any data- Ryoma didn't think he'd ever use them for the purpose Inui has intended them for (i.e. collecting data on what it was like to be a vampire’s mate), but he was sure he could find a use for them.

Last was Tezuka’s present. It was a large, leather bound book.

“I asked Atobe if I could take it from his library and give it to you,” Tezuka explained as Ryoma flicked through it, finding it full of ways to summon different forms of magic. “You’ve been concentrating very hard on fire, but there’s no reason why you can’t move onto other forms in the future. I remembered seeing this book in the library in Koori and felt you would find much more use for it than Atobe.”

Ryoma smiled as he continued to look through it, he was definitely sure he’d find some very useful things in there.

One all the presents had been opened and Ryoma had thanked everyone, he was allowed back to his room to put his new things away. He threw the cat toy to Karupin, who pounced on it immediately and dragged it under the bed.

“Glad you like it,” Ryoma said to the cat as he stored his sweets in the bottom of his chest of draws. From under the bed, he could hear Karupin purring.

He picked up the book from Tezuka and sat down by the fire. He lazily held out a hand and in an instant the fire was roaring.

He was just about to open the book when the door flew open and Momo and Kikumaru barged in.

“Shorty, you can’t just read!” Kikumaru whined, pulling Ryoma up from his chair. He was so strong that Ryoma realised fighting him was pointless straight away.

“Yeah, you can’t just shut yourself up in your room on your birthday, you just can’t!” Momo agreed, grabbing Ryoma’s other arm and pulling him out of his room.

Under the bed, Karupin continued to play with the toy mouse until he suddenly noticed a small eye in the fire looking at him. He flattened his ears back, he didn’t know much about fire, but he’d never seen anything like that. The eye blinked and Karupin puffed himself up, a low yowl building inside him. When the eye started to move around the fire, looking around the room, Karupin hissed at it, showing off his sharp teeth. If this eye came out of the fire, he would attack it.

But the eye made no attempts to leave the safety of the fire. Instead, it gave Karupin another look and then vanished.

Karupin picked up his new toy and then fled from the room, going to hide under Tezuka’s wardrobe.

 


Unaware of Karupin’s strange encounter, Ryoma was being almost carried down the stairs. “Where are we going?” he asked moodily.

“For a walk,” Momo replied, “it’s a nice day and you need to exercise. It’s not healthy being cooped up inside all day.”

Ryoma was about to point out that he wasn’t exactly allowed to go outside, especially not further than the castle grounds without an escort, but was stopped when he saw the rest of the vampires and Inui gathered in the entrance hall.

“Are we all going?” He asked.

“It’s a family walk,” Kikumaru said and Ryoma couldn’t help but think how weird his new family was.

Fuji was waiting for him with his new coat and Tezuka was holding the stupid hat with cat ears and a pair of gloves. He put them on (grudgingly in the case of the hat) and then pulled on his boots.

“Ready?” Oishi asked, patting Ryoma on the shoulder.

“Yeah,” Ryoma replied, outside Momo and Kaidoh were already engaged in a fierce snowball fight, egged on by Kikumaru and Fuji.

Oishi managed to stop the fight as they all filed out and headed off into the forest in a string of groups of twos and threes. Ryoma waited for Tezuka to lock the large oak doors with big, ornate iron key and then they followed on after the others.

“Did you actually get me that book as a present for this?” Ryoma asked.

Tezuka looked a bit guilty, “I only had a days notice,” he replied. “I did ask Atobe for it as a present to you though.”

“Thanks,” Ryoma said, feeling his face heat up despite the chill air. “It looks like a really good book.”

“You’re welcome,” Tezuka said, tweaking the little ears on his hat.

“You like this hat, don’t you?”

“You look very cute in it,” Tezuka replied, not meeting Ryoma’s eye and Ryoma laughed.

“I hate it, but I’ll wear it for you.”

“Hurry up you two!” Kikumaru called from up ahead.

“They’ll scare off all the wildlife being so noisy,” Tezuka said.

“I’m sure they were all scared off by the colour of Kikumaru’s hair,” Ryoma muttered and was pleased to hear Tezuka snort with laughter.

 


 

Their ‘family walk’ turned into a hike up the side of the valley to the top of a hill. Ryoma was panting by the time the path levelled off and he was on the flatter ground of the ridge. None of the vampires were out of breath, for them it was like they’d just walked up a garden path and not up the side of a very steep hill. The only other person looking affected by the climb was his fellow human, although he didn’t look as out of breath as Ryoma. Somehow, Ryoma was less fit than a university student! He was going to have to change that.

Tezuka kept an eye on him as they walked along the ridge, making sure that he didn’t slip and fall to his death.

“I’m fine,” Ryoma muttered as his foot slipped on the snow and Tezuka was immediately at his side. Tezuka was right to be worried, at some points the path went very close to the edge and the very long, very steep drop after it.

“Don’t drop your guard,” Tezuka said as Ryoma righted himself.

Ryoma started to get hungry around lunchtime and he was quite hoping they’d turn back. But, Tezuka pulled a flask of soup out of his backpack, along with other bits and pieces of food, all of which Ryoma ate happily. He’d rather be back at home in front of the fire, but this was fine too.

Thankfully, they didn’t climb up any of the mountains that surrounded the castle. Instead they walked over into the next valley and then back around to the town.

It was completely dark when they got into town and Ryoma’s feet hurt and he was absolutely exhausted.

“We’re going for sushi now,” Kikumaru told him excitedly, “it’s your birthday treat!”

Ryoma debated just walking back home and collapsing in bed, but he was starving and if he went home he’d have to cook for himself. So, he nodded and tried to look pleased.

“Welcome,” Kawamura said cheerfully as they entered his shop, “you’ve got the shop all to yourselves.”

Ryoma smiled, he hadn’t wanted to sit in a full, noisy restaurant. He was manoeuvred over to the head of a big table by Fuji and sat down.

“I’ve just finished making these,” Kawamura said, bringing over large platters full of beautifully prepared sushi.

 Ryoma was fairly sure he caught Fuji grinning, obviously he thought the sushi wasn’t the only thing that was delicious.

It didn’t take long for the alcohol to be broken out. Ryoma had never really drank before. It was something he associated with his father -who had drank copious amounts of alcohol over his life-  and he'd never wanted to follow him down that path. But Kikumaru had forced a glass of something sticky and blue into his hand and Ryoma thought it was best to just go for it.

Half way through the drink, he was feeling relaxed and quite sleepy. Tezuka was sat next to him and his shoulder looked like such a nice thing to sleep against right now.

"Don't fall asleep!" Momo shouted at him as Ryoma pressed his head into Tezuka's shoulder.

"Tired and cold," Ryoma mumbled into Tezuka's shoulder. It was warm in the restaurant, but it still hadn't sunk through Ryoma's body to his chilled bones.

Momo grabbed him and hauled him up as easily as if he were a child.

"Get off!" Ryoma put up an insubstantial fight, but it was hopeless against the vampire's superior strength. He looked plaintively towards Tezuka, who didn't seem at all worried that Ryoma was being stolen away to whatever the other vampires wanted.

Another drink was pressed into his hand -this time acidic yellow- by Kikumaru, who wrapped an arm around him to keep him from escaping. Ryoma gave in a sipped at the drink, it was sweet and tasted like lemons, so he took another sip.

The others were joking and teasing each other and slowly, they all migrated back over to where Tezuka was sitting and pulling him into the conversation too. Ryoma didn't say much, just letting it all wash over him until someone started on him.

Ryoma had expected an overly energetic party, one where he was dragged into a lot of embarrassing games he didn't want to take part in. He wondered who had planned it to be a calmer affair, sat around a table eating sushi and talking. Who ever it was, he was eternally grateful to them.

He hadn't been allowed to sit with Tezuka though, instead he was squished between Momo and Kikumaru. Not that he minded really. Tezuka was sat opposite him, occasionally giving him a fond smile that made his alcohol compromised brain go fuzzy with happiness.

The hours seemed to fly by and soon it was so late Ryoma could barely keep his eyes open. He was sure Tezuka was the first to notice, but Fuji was the first to suggest heading back to the castle.

"What's that?" Kikumaru asked as they piled out into the cold night air. He was pointing out of the town to a mountain valley that was glowing red.

The happy buzz that had been filling Ryoma ebbed away, replaced by a nagging dread in the pit of his stomach.

In an instant, Fuji had gone followed by Kikumaru and Momo.

The rest of them stood there, buffeted by the wind and waiting. Ryoma became aware that he and Inui had been surrounded by the vampires, protecting them with their bodies.

A few minutes later Fuji appeared back, his face drawn and terrified.

"I have no idea what they are," he gasped, his voice hoarse "they're made of fire."

Ryoma frowned, "what are?"

Fuji fought for words to describe what he'd seen just as Eiji returned.

"Demons!" Eiji panted, "they're coming this way!"

All eyes turned to Ryoma.

Of course this was about him, he thought bitterly. "There are fire demons," he said resigned to what was happening. "There must be other magicians or something."

Tezuka nodded incrementally. "Ryoma, Inui, you're coming back to the castle with me. The rest of you protect the town, bar the doors and windows with iron or steel."

The run up to the castle was awkward with Inui draped over Tezuka's back and Ryoma in his arms.

"They're after me," Ryoma said quietly. He absolutely knew that was the case, he didn't know how, but he did.

Tezuka just squeezed him comfortingly.

I need the diamond, Ryoma thought, leaning his head against Tezuka's shoulder. I definitely need it.

It was currently stored away in the safe in the vaults, which was also probably where Tezuka was planning to lock them in.

"I need to find who's casting the spell," Ryoma said aloud. "You can't lock me up."

"I can," Tezuka replied firmly.

"I would suggest being locked in the safe is the safest course of action," Inui said, not taking any notice of the pun.

"Until they break in," Ryoma muttered.

They were about at the castle now and no form of plan had begun to crystallise in Ryoma's mind. But he couldn't wait around in the safe, not whilst everyone else was fighting, Not when this was all because of him.

Tezuka paused only to lock the front door behind them before charging down into the vaults.

"You're both staying here," Tezuka said sternly as he unlocked the safe.

"No!" Ryoma snapped, grabbing Tezuka's wrist.

"Ryoma, we do not have time for this!" Tezuka shouted, frustration pouring out of him.

"You can't defeat them without me!"

Tezuka grabbed Ryoma's shoulder, squeezing it so hard it hurt. "Go in the safe," he growled, pronouncing each word with crystal clarity, his eyes flashing dangerously.

Ryoma's stomach twinged in fear, but he stood firm, glaring up at Tezuka and squeezing his wrist as hard as he could.

"I'm magic," he said, his voice as calm as possible. "Trust me."

Slowly, Tezuka's expression softened. "You'd better be right about this."

"I am," Ryoma replied, praying he was. He just knew tonight was the end of something and that something would not be good if he stayed in the safe.

"Get the diamond," Tezuka ordered brushing past Ryoma into the safe where Inui was waiting, watching their argument with interest.

Ryoma wasted no time in unlocking the draw and pulling out the diamond, which glittered even in the low light. He pocketed it and waited for Tezuka to come back from where he'd disappeared into the depths of the safe. He retuend a few moments later with a crossbow that he handed to Inui.

"There's more back there," Tezuka said, "arm yourself."

There was a crash above them, like the front door had just been smashed in.

"Come on," Tezuka pulled Ryoma outside the safe, locking it behind them. Their last glance of Inui was him sat on the table, holding the crossbow like a natural and grinning.

"Can he use that?" Ryoma asked as they ran off down the corridor- the opposite way to the direction they'd come in through.  Tezuka must know all the secret passage ways of the castle and Ryoma trusted him, following blindly.

"Yes," Tezuka replied, his jaw tense.

The series of corridors and staircases they ran along were right and winding, often taking them on long detours as they meandered around. Ryoma's heart was in his mouth, expecting to see a demon around every corner, coming down every staircase.

"What do you know about them?" Tezuka asked.

"Not a lot," Ryoma admitted. "There are a lot of different types and they're often secrets passed down families, so not a lot was ever recorded about them."

"And iron works on the?"

Ryoma shrugged nervously knowing it was their friends' only weapon, "probably. Look, I think the best thing we can do is find the person casting the spall and attack them. If they're fighting us they'll be too distracted to keep the spell going and the demons will vanish. Hopefully."

Tezuka remained silent and Ryoma knew he was finding all the very obvious holes in the plan. But it was at least better than killing every single demon.

They burst out of a door and into a corridor Ryoma recognised. They were on the third floor, near Tezuka's office. And there were demons.

They were tall and ugly, their heads like decaying horses heads with large fangs. Their skin was the colour and texture of charred wood, stretched tight over the fire underneath, split in places allowing it to blaze through, the radiant heat hitting Ryoma's face like a hammer.  They had long talons, not that they'd need those other than a last resort, the heat and fire surrounding them would burn anything coming close. And indeed it was, the corridor behind them burnt with the intensity of a forest fire.

Tezuka grabbed Ryoma's hand, pulling him into his arms and dashing off at breakneck speed.

"I can't do this for long," he said as they climbed a staircase in a split second before coming to a halt. Ryoma nodded, they had no idea what they were up against, Tezuka would need to save his strength.

"Where are we going?" Ryoma gasped as they climbed higher and higher up the castle.

"Roof," Tezuka replied simply and things slotted together in Ryoma's head.

The demons were catching them up again and only fear and adrenaline were keeping Ryoma's aching legs going.

"Hurry!" Tezuka urged, almost pushing Ryoma up the staircase leading to the observatory..

"I am!" Ryoma snapped back despite the situation. He was going as fast as he could.

They ascended the stairs as fast as they could and emerged out into the viewing gallery. It was freezing cold and there was ice forming on the inside of the windows.

"I can't see where they're coming from," Ryoma said, clearing off the ice and peering through, "that damn hill's in the way!"

In reply, Tezuka smashed the glass on one side of the gallery. "We'll see better from the other side of the castle," he explained. "Be careful of the glass."

Ryoma picked his way through the shards of glass and climbed carefully out onto the narrow pathway that ran from the viewing gallery and across the rest of the castle. The wind was fierce and bitter, buffeting him so hard he almost lost his balance. It wouldn't be too bad if he slipped to the right as he would just slide down into the interconnected rooves below, but to the left was a sheer drop to the ground.

He steeled himself and followed after Tezuka, his feet unsteady on the icy tiles . He envied Tezuka and his vampire powers, he was at the other end now, waiting as Ryoma tottered his way over.

Ryoma focused back on his feet, trying to avoid the large patches of ice glinting in the moonlight. Below, out of the corner of his eye, he could see the drop and the demons streaming into the castle. If he didn't hurry they'd catch up.

A sudden gust of wind hit him, unsteadying him. He tried to regain his balance, but his foot slipped from under him and then he was sliding down the short section of room that separated him from his death. He desperately clawed at the tiles, anything to give him some purchase on the ice covered tiles. His foot caught in the gutter and he came to a stop, his heart hammering in his ears.

"Tezuka!" He cried desperately, trying and failing to pull himself back up the roof. Below him, flames were licking out of the windows.

There was a heart stopping crack as the guttering separated itself from the wall. Tezuka was above him, holding out his hand, desperately reaching for Ryoma. Ryoma lurched from the hand, his foot pushing the guttering further out from the wall.

His mind was going blank, he couldn't control his body at all. It was like he was watching it in slow motion; the guttering sliding further and further away from the castle. Soon it'd go past the point of no return and then…

He regained control of his hands and clawed at the tiled again, reaching futilely for Tezuka's hand. His hands caught light as he scrabbled on the slate, the fire getting hotter and hotter as Ryoma's panic grew.

He dug his fingers into the tiles and they went straight trough, as though it were butter. Now with a handhold, he lunged upwards,  his free hand grabbing Tezuka's and he was pulled back to safety. Below them, the guttering finally gave way and clattered to the ground.

"They all know we're up here," Ryoma panted, extinguishing his hands.

"Come on," Tezuka said, picking Ryoma up in his arms and sprinting back along to the other side of the room.

The flood of demons hadn't stopped, their red glow lit up the valley sides. The hill was still in the way, but they could at least see which valley they were coming from. Ryoma was sure some of the glow must be from the town burning.

"How do we get over there?" Ryoma asked. "It'd be impossible unless we could fly. I can't fly, can you?" There was a pregnant pause. "You can fly?" Ryoma asked tentatively.

"I can," Tezuka replied, "but I will need to bite you; it takes a huge amount of power and energy to turn into my true form and fly."

Without hesitation, Ryoma held his wrist to Tezuka's mouth. "Be quick," he ordered, "we can't afford to waste time."

Tezuka nodded, his incisors growing into fangs.

"Ryoma," he said,  pausing before he sunk his teeth in, "my true form-"

"Is ugly and terrifying?" Ryoma replied, "don't worry, I'm not that superficial."

"No," Tezuka said,  "It's not that. Fuji told me that he saved you in Taranis using his, however Fuji can control his far better than I can. When he was taken in by the assassins he was taught how to control it, how to tame the beast that lies within all us vampires. When I transform I will not hurt you- I will defend you to the death- but I may lose control completely and hurt anyone that I think might be taking you away from me."

"So you turn into a possessive jealous monster?" Ryoma asked.

"I'm afraid so," Tezuka replied. "I will use every ounce of strength not to let the beast control me, but I have not transformed for hundreds of years so it will be hard."

"We don't have a choice," Ryoma said, "so hurry up and bite me!"

Tezuka's pupils narrowed and he sunk his teeth into Ryoma's wrist, sucking hard. There was none of the usual arousal, the fear and adrenaline coursing through Ryoma's body pushing it away. Right now, getting hard was not an option.

Tezuka change was fast and dramatic. There was a ripping sound as the back of his shirt split and two huge, leathery wings stretched out, like over large bat wings. His mouth stretched and all his teeth sharpened as his nose flattened and ears grew, his face becoming more and more bat like by the second. All of it except his eyes; they remained almost reptilian.

He tore his teeth away from Ryoma's flesh and licked up the remaining blood as the wound healed, his tongue unnaturally long.

"Be careful of my claws," Tezuka said, his voice horse and raspy. Ryoma looked at the hands holding him and saw the nails had grown into long, black claws- sharp and deadly.

From the other side of the room there was a crash as the demons broke through the remaining glass and swarmed onto the roof. Tezuka turned his head an snarled at them.

"Go!" Ryoma cried and Tezuka dashed to the edge, leaping into the air and taking off with one beat of his massive wings.

When they landed and when this was all over, Ryoma would describe Tezuka's flying as 'inelegant'. However, right now, he was clinging onto Tezuka's neck for dear life. He wasn't sacred of heights, but he was very scared of dropping out of the sky onto the very hard ground below.

Tezuka climbed high into the sky, surrounded by swirling snowflakes and glowing sparks, then he began to follow the glowing line of demons to their source. Below, there was smoke rising from the town and Ryoma's heart sank. People were inevitably dying. Innocent people who were not involved with him in anyway at all- who only knew his name from the papers and local gossip. And his friends were down there fighting too. He closed his eyes and buried his head in Tezuka's neck.

They had to put an end to this.

Tezuka stopped over the point where the demons were appearing from and hovered.

"They're coming out of nowhere," he said.

 Ryoma looked down and felt his stomach turn. "Is there anyone there summoning them?" he asked, all he could see were a line of glowing red smudges.

"There isn't. Can you feel were the magic is coming from?" Tezuka asked.

Ryoma concentrated, trying to feel anything that was out of place. "No," he admitted, "I can't feel anything."

"Right," Tezuka growled. "We are not going down into those demons. It is too dangerous for you to be down there."

"Is there a cave or something nearby?" Ryoma asked, "you have to be able to see the spot you're projecting your magic too."

Tezuka nodded and started to comb the ground with his superior eyesight. He grit his needle like teeth, as he turned this way and that, his huge leathery wings beating hard to keep them airborne and hovering. Ryoma tried to scan the ground too, but his eyes were nowhere near as good as Tezuka's and the drop below them was making him feel sick. Instead, he tried again to search for any source of magic, but all the demons were blocking any attempt to focus on where the magic could be coming from.

"There's a cave down there," Tezuka said, "and there's light coming from it."

"That sounds promising," Ryoma replied. "Let's go!"

Tezuka swooped down, making Ryoma's stomach drop through his feet. They plummeted down to the ground, headed for just to the side of the cave. Then, as they were just about to crash, Tezuka's wings flared out and they came to land inelegantly in the deep snow.

Tezuka put Ryoma down and he sunk  to his knees in the snow.

"Don't," Tezuka hissed as Ryoma started to summon fire to melt a path through the snow. "We can't draw attention to ourselves whilst we're so exposed."

"Right," Ryoma agreed grudgingly, glaring at the hundred meters or so of knee high snow.

"I'll go first," Tezuka said, easily pushing his way through the snow and leaving a path for Ryoma.

The cave entrance was fringed with icicles and they could hear voices coming from inside.

Ryoma frowned, it didn't sound much like chanting and, with the low hanging icicles, he doubted whoever was inside could see the point at which the demons were appearing.

"Charge in and block off the exit?" Ryoma whispered.

"I'll go in first," Tezuka said.

"We'll go together," Ryoma insisted, "I know magic, you don't."

"I can't-"

"Say 'put you in danger' and I'll punch you," Ryoma snapped. "I have a feeling whoever is in there isn't doing magic anyway. It won't be that dangerous. Anyway, do you really want to leave me out here all by myself?"

"No," Tezuka agreed. "Together then?"

"Together."

They charged, Tezuka making far more progress through the snow than Ryoma. But, with a late surge of speed, Ryoma caught up and they both ducked into the cave together.

"You?!" Ryoma cried when he saw the two men standing in the middle of the cave, wrapped in fine furs.

"What are you doing here?" Tokunaga asked.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Ryoma shouted. "And you!" He added, turning to the other man, who he was fairly sure was the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"You should be in the castle," Tokunaga growled.

"Dying?" Ryoma asked, "I don't really feel like doing that." He grinned at the two old men in front of him and then, with a whoosh, set his body on fire. Next to him, Tezuka snarled and tried to put himself between Ryoma and the two politicians. Ryoma just stepped around him, right now he didn’t need Tezuka's protection.

"You're not the ones summoning the demons," Ryoma said, "so, who is it and where are they?" He knew the question was pointless and that he would not receive an answer, but he couldn't help himself.

"Why do you want Ryoma dead?" Tezuka demanded, his teeth glinting in the light from lantern that was sat to the side of the cave.

"Because if I'm dead, I certainly can't create an uprising?" Ryoma guessed. "Your republic is less popular than you'd hoped?"

Tokunaga visibly bristled and Ryoma was sure that, if he weren't on fire and being protected by a vampire, he would have marched over and slapped him.

“If you’d just died when we sent assassins after you, it would have been much easier!” The Chancellor shouted and Tokunaga glared at him.

“You hired the assassins?” Tezuka asked and Ryoma could feel his control over the beast slipping away. “You sent Sanada after my mate?”

“And they were all useless,” The Chancellor replied, “especially the first ones! And then he was surrounded by you monsters and then it was almost impossible to get near him!”

Tezuka stiffened at the word ‘monsters’ and Ryoma really didn’t want to have to stop him from attacking the two men in front of them. Pathetic and terrible they may be, but Ryoma would not let Tezuka have their blood on his hands. He was too good for that.

“So you hired Sanada,” Ryoma said, “but Tezuka was too strong,” he added proudly. “And then, you hired the ones in Taranis.”

Tokunaga, who until this point had been fuming silently, snapped. “We got Taranis to threaten war in the first place! We knew it would draw you out and then you’d do something stupid! Honestly, I thought we’d find you in a broom cupboard with some pretty guard you’d picked up, I didn’t think you’d ever take to monogamy.”

“I like to surprise,” Ryoma said humourlessly.

“But then your magic made itself known and we knew we had to put an end to you.”

“Who’s summoning them?” Ryoma asked. “It’s obviously neither of you two, otherwise we’d be attacked right now- and don’t even think of calling them for help, Tezuka will kill you in an instant.”

“You plan on killing us anyway,” Tokunaga said, “you should get on with it.”

“We should kill them,” Tezuka said. He didn’t sound like Tezuka, his voice was rough and harsh. Tezuka was definitely at his limit.

“No, Tezuka. We won’t kill them,” Ryoma said firmly, his brain running at a mile per minute. Obviously they had a plan to put this invasion of demons onto him, probably something about him messing around with magic he didn’t understand. Who knew how many people knew these two were here and if they went missing then…. Ryoma had no idea what would happen, not really. But he had a feeling that they should be kept alive.

The anger was rising up in him now; How dare they attack his friends and the innocent people in the town! They wouldn’t die, but they would pay for this!

“Tezuka, I want them both unconscious,” he said. “Don’t kill them.”

Ryoma was pleased to see the look of terror in the faces of the two men before, in a flash, Tezuka was standing next to them and then, they crumpled to the ground.

Then, Tezuka was advancing on Ryoma, his usually calm eyes burning.

“We’re not done yet,” Ryoma said, his voice shaky as he was backed up against the wall, the flames around him faltering and fading. Tezuka had promised no harm would come to him, but the aura he was giving off was so terrifying. His back hit the cold stone wall of the cave and Tezuka still kept coming.

“Tezuka,” Ryoma tried again as Tezuka pushed him up against the wall, taking hold of his chin and tipping it from side to side, inspecting him with those wild, fiery eyes.

Right now, Ryoma wasn’t sure if Tezuka was going to kiss him or devour him or… Ryoma shook his head free of Tezuka’s grasp. He was not going to have sex in this cave whilst there was so much to be done! He threw himself into Tezuka’s body, wrapping his arms tightly around him.

"We can't do this now, Tezuka," he said, "people are dying and it's all because of me. I need your help to fix this."

Tezuka growled softly, one clawed hand carefully stroking his hair. "You are mine. I have to protect you."

"I know, " Ryoma sad, "but sometimes we have to take risks.  And right now I can't do this alone. I need your help."

Tezuka's grip tightened on him and Ryoma was sure his plan wouldn’t work, but then, "what do you want me to do?"

"Find where the magic user is hiding," Ryoma said, "you have better vision than me and know the land."

Tezuka nodded and let Ryoma go from his arms. He turned to the cave mouth and then grabbed Ryoma and shoved him against the cave wall, shielding him from the blast of ice that covered them both, freezing them to the stone.

He could feel Tezuka panicking, he was trying to move, but there was no room between himself and the ice. Something cool and wet was soaking into Ryoma's clothes and he knew instinctively that Tezuka was bleeding.

"This might get hot," Ryoma warned him, "I'll try not to burn you."

He ignited his arms, pressing them against the ice, willing the flames to get hotter and hotter.

"Push back," Ryoma ordered as he continued to melt the ice away from the rock. Tezuka did as he was told, the ice creaking under the pressure.  As more and more room was created, Ryoma could melt more and more ice.

Then, with a crack, the ice broke away completely and they were free. Free to asses the damage.

Tezuka's back was still encased in ice, spikes of which had impaled him through the arms and stomach, one completely sticking through his stomach and another through his shoulder.

"Fuck," Ryoma hissed,  his heart in his mouth. "Are you okay?"

It was a stupid question and it raised a small quirk of Tezuka's lips. "Get this ice off me."

Ryoma nodded and got to work melting the ice as fast as he could.  Under the sheet of ice, small shards were stuck into Tezuka's flesh. Tezuka reached behind him and pulled out the ice spearing through his shoulder, hissing in pain. Blood spurted out of the wound, but as soon as the ice was gone, the hole started to slowly heal.

"I can cauterise it," Ryoma offered.

"No, I heal fast enough," Tezuka said, "just pull the ice out of my stomach."

Ryoma gulped and took the shaft of ice in his hands. The organic noise as he pulled out the ice made his stomach turn and he had to force himself not to throw up. The ice slipped out fairly easily, but left a hole about the size of Ryoma's arm.

Tezuka collapsed to the ground, shaking and gasping for breath. He might be sure he could heal himself, but Ryoma wasn't.

"Tezuka," he said, holding out his unbitten arm, "you'll heal faster if you bite me, right?"

Tezuka looked at the arm, hesitating, the beast was returning down into the depths of Tezuka's soul and his body was turning more and more human, his wings shrinking back into his body.

"I need you!" Ryoma snapped, "don't be an idiot! Bite me!"

"Are-"

"Yes!" Ryoma insisted.

Tezuka nodded, took Ryoma's blood soaked hand carefully in his own and guided his wrist to his mouth. He bit down and quickly drank the blood he needed.

"Are you feeling okay?" Tezuka asked at he licked the tooth marks closed.

"No," Ryoma admitted, he was feeling rather shaky, but they had to keep going.

"I saw where the ice came from," Tezuka said, his wounds healing now at a much accelerated rate. "Thank you for the blood."

"They know we're up here," Ryoma replied.

"I can get to them faster than they can fire," Tezuka said, getting to his feet and brushing himself off.

"You’d better," Ryoma said, "or we're dead. Tezuka, I think they're going to be a lot stronger than I am."

"We won't let our guard down then. Should we kill them?"

"If we have to," Ryoma said grimly, "whatever happens, we have to stop them."

Tezuka scooped Ryoma into his arms and shot out of the cave, ploughing through the snow, dodging about to avoid their enemy's shots. Ryoma was dumped in the snow as Tezuka launched himself at the figure who had appeared in the snow- he'd been hiding under a camouflaged cape.

Tezuka tried to slash at him with his claws, but had to retreat back as the man fired ice at him.

"Who are you?" Ryoma yelled. Now that he was distracted, the demons were fading away and Ryoma resolved to keep it that way.

The man laughed and pulled off the cloth wrapped around his face. For a second, Ryoma thought it was his father, then realised that the man couldn't be more than a couple of years older than Ryoma himself.

"I'm Ryoga, your big brother," the man replied and there was no denying it, they looked far too similar to be a coincidence.

"Then why don’t I know you?"

"Because I'm your father's bastard! You grew in in a palace and I grew up in the red light district."

That made sense. Ryoma knew that his father had slept with a myriad of women before marrying his mother, it wasn't too farfetched for a child to have come out of it. "And now you want to kill me?"

"Of course," Ryoga said.

"Any reason why? Or do you just like being a political puppet?"

Ryoga lobbed a shot of ice at him, but Ryoma was ready, creating a wall of fire. The ice hissed as it melted, drenching both Ryoma and Tezuka with freezing water.

"I bet that's all you can do and you have the Star Diamond." Ryoga said smugly, twisting his arm and sending Ryoma flying high into the air. He fell with a crunch into the snow, his left arm cracking against a hidden rock, breaking it.

Behind him, he heard Tezuka snarl and launch himself at Ryoga once again. But Tezuka was much weaker than he normally was and Ryoga was well practiced with his magic.

Ryoga had mentioned the diamond. Ryoma could feel it pressing into his leg, but what did Ryoga want it for?  Whatever it was he wasn't going to give it to him, but if he could use it to stall Ryoga, to give Tezuka some kind of advantage.

He fished into his pocket and grabbed the stone.  He couldn’t see the fight, but from the noises behind him, he could tell Tezuka was not doing well.

With some effort, he forced his shivering body into a sitting position.

"Oi!" He shouted, putting off Ryoga's aim so that his ice spear shot past Tezuka. Tezuka was a mess, covered in blood and barely sane. As Ryoga turned to face Ryoma, he slumped into the snow.

"You want this, right?" Ryoma yelled, holding the diamond high in the air. "If you want the throne then you need this to prove that you're me!" He was just guessing at Ryoga's motive, praying he was right and, judging by the way Ryoga stiffened, he was!

He started to pump magic into the stone, as much as he could without making himself lightheaded.

"Give it to me, Shrimpy," Ryoga said, "and I won't kill your precious vampire."

Ryoma didn't take his eyes off his half brother. Tezuka would be fine, he would get up.

"Like hell!" Ryoma spat, the diamond was getting warm now and Ryoma risked upping that flow of magic.

Then, he was up in the air again. It was like a giant, invisible hand was holding him, squeezing him so tightly it was hard to breath. His arm screamed in pain, but Ryoma kept concentrating on getting the magic into the diamond.

"Give it to me," Ryoga snarled, "Or I'll crush you."

"Good luck doing that," Ryoma snapped as Tezuka found some strength and lunged at Ryoga, his claws slicing across his back, opening four long gashes.

The invisible hand disappeared and Ryoma fell back to the ground, thankfully not onto his broken arm. Winded and aching, Ryoma focused all his magic into the diamond, trying to ignore the sounds of Tezuka being beaten.

I'll save you, he thought, this time I'll save you.

The diamond was starting to vibrate fiercely, it was so hot that Ryoma could barely hold it. Ryoga was walking towards him now and Ryoma knew this was his last chance.

"Good luck claiming my thrown without this!" Ryoma yelled, holding up the diamond just as it exploded into a trillion fragments.

He only just managed to turn his eyes away, but anything within range was peppered with diamond fragments. His hand took the brunt of it, but he didn't care as he saw the defeated look in Ryoga's eyes.

Neither of them moved, both glaring at each other. Ryoma had no energy left to fight, if Ryoga wanted to kill him it would be like snapping a twig. All he could do was lie there in the snow and hope.

Ryoga grinned and Ryoma was sure it would not lead to anything good. Then, a rock hit his head and he fell to the floor.

"Tezuka," Ryoma manged to murmur, sinking sideways into the snow.

He had nothing left to give, he was so cold and hurt everywhere. Sleep was pawing ever so invitingly at his brain and Ryoma couldn’t see any reason why he shouldn't let it take him.

He was vaguely aware of someone gently shaking in by the shoulders and Tezuka's voice cutting through the haze of his brain.

"You can’t sleep, Ryoma. Stay awake."

But I want to sleep, Ryoma's brain cried. But Tezuka only wanted what was best for him. He could trust Tezuka.

Slowly, he forced his eyes open.  Tezuka was leaning over him, bloody and exhausted.

"Are you okay?" Ryoma asked weakly.

Tezuka smiled grimly, "are you okay?"

"My arm's broken," Ryoma replied, "but you're bleeding."

"I'll survive," Tezuka told him, but Ryoma shook his head and held up his diamond studded hand. "No," Tezuka said sternly, "I've taken enough from you tonight."

"I'm bleeding already," Ryoma replied, "it's better being drunk by you than lying on my skin."

Tezuka sighed, but gave in, gently lapping up the blood on Ryoma's skin, getting more and more desperate as he went.

Ryoma leant back into the snow, his brain getting hazy again. His arm hurt so much and he was so cold and he just wanted it all to end. All he could think of was the warm cotton sheets of Tezuka's bed, of the fireplace and the crackling fire, and Karupin, soft and warm against his head.

"Stay with me," Tezuka's voice was saying, but it was so far away.  He tried to go back to Tezuka, but he just didn't have the energy. Everything was falling away from him and, after some nominal resistance, Ryoma fell with it.

Chapter Text

He knew he hadn't died because his arm hurt. That was a positive he supposed. Something fluffy shifted next to the un-broken arm and Ryoma smiled- Karupin.

His eyes protested at being opened, but he eventually managed, blinking as his eyes got used to the light pouring into the room.

He didn't recognise the room, but he dressed in clean clothes with his arm splinted.

Slowly, he pushed himself into a seated position, his whole body aching. At his side, Karupin stirred, stretching and climbing into Ryoma's lap, purring as Ryoma rubbed him behind the ears. He looked very singed, large patches of fur were missing and the skin underneath was burnt, but he was alive. Ryoma felt very guilty not having gone back into the burning castle to save his cat, but had he done so they'd both probably be dead.

The door opened and Ryoma was relived to see Tezuka walk in, looking as if nothing had happened.

"You're awake," Tezuka said and Ryoma was glad to hear the relief in his voice.

"I am," Ryoma agreed, reaching out his hand to Tezuka.

Tezuka kissed the back of it and then entwined their fingers together as he sat on the bed, pressing their foreheads together.

"What happened after I passed out?" Ryoma asked as Tezuka started to run his fingers through his hair, it felt so nice that Ryoma practically purred. "Where are we?"

"We're currently in Kawamura's bedroom, which he has kindly agreed to lend to you. Oishi and Kikumaru found us and took us back here," Tezuka explained, "along with your half-brother and the politicians. They're locked in separate houses -leant to us by townsfolk- and being guarded by the other vampires, whilst being fed Inui's cooking. "

"That's cruel," Ryoma laughed, then his voice turned serious. "Is everyone else okay?"

"They had a few cuts and scratches," Tezuka replied, "Kawamura had some rather nastier wounds, but is healing well. Fuji is nursing him."

"He'll be enjoying that."

"I believe they both are," Tezuka replied sounding amused. "There were a few casualties in the town," he added more sombrely and Ryoma's stomach constricted in guilt. That was all his fault. "And a lot of rebuilding work to do," Tezuka added, but Ryoma barely heard.

"What's going to happen to Ryoga?" Ryoma asked, "and the other two," he added.

"Atobe is going to deal with it," Tezuka replied. "I think he's looking forward to pulling an Echizen -even an illegitimate one- into his fold."

"I'm glad he's taking him, not me," Ryoma said.

"I wouldn't let him take you."

Ryoma chuckled and buried his head in Tezuka's neck. "I want to do something about Ensinkil. Whatever happens, I'm still connected to them until the monarchy has been abolished."

"That's true," Tezuka said, "but first, you need to rest."

"Kiss me first," Ryoma said.

"Lie down," Tezuka instructed, pushing Ryoma down.

"Be careful of Karupin," Ryoma warned him and in one swift move Tezuka reached under the covers and pulled Karupin out, putting him down on the side of the bed. Karupin gave him a disgruntled look and hopped off the bed to curl up next to the fire where there weren't any humans -or vampires- to disturb him.

Ryoma snuggled down into the pillows as Tezuka leaned over him, slowly and carefully taking his lips as if Ryoma would break if he applied too much pressure.

Ryoma wasn’t going to have any of that. His hand twisted into Tezuka's hair, pulling him closer and deepening the kiss.

"Are you feeling hungry?" Tezuka asked, pulling away before their kissing turned into something a bit more heated.

"Yeah," Ryoma replied.

"I'll get you something," Tezuka said, "any preferences?"

"Meat?" Ryoma replied, hopefully.

Tezuka ruffled his hair fondly, "as you wish."

Ryoma settled down and looked over at Karupin.

"Come back, Karupin," Ryoma called to his cat, who flicked his tail and ignored him. "It's not my fault that Tezuka was about to squish you," he muttered.

Tezuka returned with steak and chips and with Atobe in tow. Atobe shooed Karupin out of the seat by the fire and, much to Ryoma's horror, Karupin jumped into his lap and curled up.

You have horrible taste in men, Ryoma thought at his cat.

Tezuka put the plate down in front of him and Ryoma gave him a look. How did he expect Ryoma to eat that with only one hand?

"You should feed him, Tezuka," Atobe drawled.

"Just cut it up for me," Ryoma muttered.

"How does it feel to have a sibling you never knew you had?" Atobe asked as Tezuka cut up Ryoma's meal.

Ryoma shrugged, "I don't see him as my brother. I didn't know him till now."

"So you won't mind if I take him away when I leave this evening," Atobe said, "I won't be depriving you of some brotherly bonding time."

"Nope," Ryoma replied, stealing a couple of chips off the plate. "Atobe, I need to abolish the monarchy in Ensinkil."

He expected some kind of reaction from Atobe. Some gasp of horror and look of disbelief. He didn't expect the knowing smile.

"I'm glad we're on the same wavelength," Atobe said. "I was going to suggest it to you once you were well."

"My brain's working fine," Ryoma grumbled, "I don't think with my arm!"

"Of course," Atobe waved him off. "Now, we have both the Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer as guests in this town, I was thinking we should run it past them.  And, if they disagree, remind them that we have evidence that they tried to murder an entire town. We have multiple witnesses after all."

"I'll come with you when you talk to them," Ryoma said.

Atobe scoffed, "I doubt you can stand. No, leave it to me for now, I will need your assistance later once an agreement has been made."

"Right," Ryoma grumbled, not liking being brushed off. But he still had questions to ask Atobe and arguing with him wouldn't help. "Why did they do all this? They run the damn country, what more do they want?"

"Do you know what happened in Ensinkil in your absence?" Atobe asked.

Ryoma shrugged, "I didn't care. Fuji said something about the government not being popular, but when are governments ever popular?"

Atobe chuckled and ever Tezuka looked amused.

"It is my duty to keep an eye on Ensinkil," Tezuka said, "so I know what has happened there.  The government taking all the power away from the monarchy was a very popular move at first, but without a monarchy to blame unpopular decisions on the tide of opinion soon swung back in the opposite direction. There were many protests to bring Ryoma back to the kingdom once it was revealed he was still alive.

Naturally, the government knew that Ryoma wouldn't return, so I assume they brought in Ryoga as a replacement. You look a lot like each other, it wouldn't be hard to blame any changes on the time you were away. They needed you dead though, in case you changed your mind and came back."

"Ryoga had proper training in magic, he knew things that were kept as secrets in my family," Ryoma said.

"Having him as a puppet king may have always been the plan should your marriage to Tomoka fall through," Atobe replied with a shrug, "He would be much easier to manipulate than you and, as you said, he had been trained, so they must have known about him for years before they stripped the monarchy of its power. I doubt we'll find out the whole truth, I'm sure they manipulated Ryoga into doing their bidding."

"And now you're going to manipulate him into doing yours," Ryoma smirked.

"Giving him a choice between joining me or death is hardly manipulation," Atobe replied. "He had a choice and he chose his life over his country."

Given the choice, Ryoma would have made the exact same decision. He turned back to his meal, satisfied that what could be sorted had been.

Atobe left with the prisoners that evening.

"I expect to see you in Koori soon," he told Tezuka and Ryoma. "Even if I have to drag you both there myself."

"I'm sure we will be seeing you soon," Tezuka replied tactfully.

And then they were gone and slowly everything returned to normal.

Once recovered enough to walk, Ryoma helped  (as much as he could with a broken arm) out a lot in the town with rebuilding and rehoming those who had lost everything in the demon's attack. It was his fault they were suffering and he wanted to try and make up for it. He was aware there was always a vampire near him, but expected it. They didn’t know the exact ramifications of his decision to officially abdicate and abolish the monarchy. 

The castle was in ruins, gutted completely by the fire.

"What are you going to do?" Ryoma asked as he and Tezuka stood in the snowy driveway, looking up at the charred remains of what had been their home. It was lucky that only two members of the household needed to sleep and could easily be put up at Kawamura's.

Tezuka shook his head and sighed, "It's been refurbished before. Never this extensively though. We can move to Koori until the work's done."

Ryoma sighed, "I don't want to."

"Neither do I."

Nothing could be done about the castle before the town was finished  though and the next few weeks were a whirl of construction and funerals for the dead in Ryoma's head. Having the vampires to do all the heavy lifting made the work fly by. Tezuka took charge of ordering building supplies and refused any offer of payment. In his mind, it was the vampire's fault that the town was in ruins.

No plans however had been made to move to Koori. It would be bought up and dropped again, as though no one want to do it.

"You'd better not have left without me," Ryoma teased a few months later as he readied to board the train to Ensinkil, whisking him away to abolish the monarchy.  The town was now fixed up and they'd moved onto the castle.

"We won't," Tezuka promised. "We'll leave a note if we do."

Ryoma made a face and then leaned in to kiss him. "Make sure to feed Karupin whilst I'm away."

 


 

 

Ryoma was thoroughly exhausted when he returned. Despite coming to abolish the monarchy -a monarchy that was apparently wanted by his people- he was treated like a returning war hero. It was weird, when he left the country before he'd been hated and now he was everyone's favourite prince. Or, at least, the favourite prince of the ones on the street -probably rounded up by the government to make Ryoma feel happy and not change his mind about what he'd came there to do.

The abdication was easy, much easier than he'd though. He'd just signed at the bottom of a letter that had been written out for him and that was it. He didn't feel any different.  He supposed he'd stopped feeling like a prince a long time ago.

And then, he'd exchanged pleasantries with a group of government ministers who all looked very please to see the back of him, given a few interviews explaining his decision before being shipped off home.

Home, he thought pleasantly to himself as they pulled into the station. He'd been gone for a little under a month -most of which had been spent travelling.

He was met on the platform by the vampires, who all looked overjoyed to see him.

"You'll never guess what happened, Shorty!" Kikumaru cried, throwing his arms around Ryoma.

"What happened?" Ryoma asked, laughing as Kikumaru shook him.

"A load of other vampires showed up to help fix the castle," Momoshiro jumped in and Kikumaru glared at him for spilling the beans before he could.

"Momo!" he whined, before brightening up immediately. "Come on, Shorty! You need to see your and Tezuka's new room!"

Ryoma caught Tezuka's eye and smirked, "who says I'm sleeping with Tezuka?"

"Stop being mean!" Kikumaru chided him. "Tezuka spent hours planning it for you," he teased.

"Yes Ryoma," Fuji slid in, "he's been so worried you'll hate it."

Tezuka cleared his throat, hoping that announcing his presence would stop the others from teasing him. It did the opposite.

"It's so romantic," Fuji crowed, throwing an arm around Ryoma's shoulders and leading him away. "You'd better not set this bed on fire though, I don't think Tezuka can cope with having a third bed burnt to a crisp."

"Is it covered in rose petals?" Ryoma asked, the laughter in his chest chasing away his exhaustion.

"Of every rose you picked out for the garden," Fuji replied and Ryoma didn't bother wondering how he knew. It was Fuji, he had ways.

He was lead through the town, regaled by how terribly romantic Tezuka had been in the rebuilding of the castle, making sure everything was perfect for him. At the back of the group, Tezuka was looking more and more uncomfortable, but Ryoma would make it up to him.

In the end, it was very anticlimactic.

"You didn't change anything?" Ryoma asked, trying to keep the smirk out of his voice and failing miserably. He'd just been given a full tour of the room by Fuji and Kikumaru who made sure to point out every little detail that Tezuka had not changed and now he'd been left alone with Tezuka to enjoy the room alone.

"I liked my room," Tezuka replied simply, his hand sliding around Ryoma's waist.

"I did too," Ryoma agreed, putting up zero resistance as Tezuka pulled him close and kissed the top of his head. "That bed is looking pretty good."

"You look exhausted," Tezuka said, leading him to the bed. Ryoma nodded, the exhaustion had been flooding back since the exhaustive tour of his new room.

"It's okay that I stay in here, right?"

"I was hoping."

"We should get married or something," Ryoma suggested as he climbed into bed.

"We should."

"Good," Ryoma sighed, lying back into the pillows. Karupin, who had been stretched out in the sun, pulled himself to his feet and trotted over to curl up next to Ryoma. He smiled as Tezuka kissed him and wished him a good nap.

"Don't set the bed on fire," Tezuka's voice floated through Ryoma's sleepy daze.

He was never going to let that go. Ryoma found that he didn't really mind.

"Show me the rest of the castle when I wake up," he said, smothering a yawn.

"Of course," Tezuka replied and Ryoma drifted off to sleep.

When he awoke, Tezuka was waiting by his side. It was perfect.

He would have to start figuring out what to do with his life, he needed to do something. But for now, that could wait, especially when he pulled Tezuka down to him and kissed him deeply, all chasteness of their kisses before gone.

Yes, this, right now, was perfect.