For the No Style crowd, my source of entertainment and quality braincrack.
His phone was ringing. He could hear the persistent electronic chirp through the apartment door. How long had it been ringing and, more importantly, when would it stop? The answering machine should have picked up. Unless... had it happened again?
"Damn." Wrong pocket. He shuffled the items in his arms -- his shopping bag to his other hand, Kumagoro to to dangle from an ear in his teeth -- and dug in the other side. Stupid keys. They'd better not have gotten lost again. He would have to call Tohma and admit that he'd been locked out. Again.
The phone was still ringing.
It probably was Tohma. Anyone else who might call him -- few people had the number -- would have given up many rings ago. Tohma was stubborn. But if it was Tohma, why hadn't he called Ryuichi's cell phone first?
Come to think, where was his cell phone? It wasn't hiding in his pockets either. The last time he remembered using it was... two nights ago. Pizza night. He'd been nestled under some blankets on the sofa watching TV.
Sofa. The sofa must have eaten his cell phone. He would have to knock on his neighbors' doors until he found someone still awake and willing to let him use their phone. He would call Tohma. Tohma would bring the spare key, but he would take his time doing it. He would also wear the grouchy face Ryuichi hated and sigh a lot. Tohma sighs were bad.
Of course, so was a rumbly tummy. Supper was in his shopping bag, all raw and disassembled. Maybe the neighbor who let him use the phone would also let him use their kitchen.
/Be patient,/ he chided, thumping his stomach. He paused, listening, and did it again. There, a coy jangling sound when he moved his arm.
His jacket pockets were clogged with forgotten trinkets, a veritable treasure hunt had he been less frustrated. He scattered store receipts and empty wrappers, shiny pebbles and a pencil nub. His keys were too good at playing hide and seek. The phone-
Kumagoro fell from his mouth when he let out a squeal of triumph. He dropped his bag without thinking first if there were -- or more appropriately had been -- any breakable items in it. The keys he left dangling in the open door. Lights took too much time, as did removing shoes; he bolted across the dim apartment, led by the incessant ringing, ringing. Anything to make it stop.
"HELLO?" he demanded into the mouthpiece. No answer. "HELLO?" He hoped he was speaking into the mouthpiece. Where was the antenna? There -- no, upside down. He reversed it, tried again. "Hello?"
There was a click, then the hum of a disconnected line.
Dumping the phone into the toilet seemed like a fine idea, once he'd turned on some lights and could find the toilet. But... sadness. He couldn't. He needed to call Tohma back unless he wanted to be met with sighs and scowls at tomorrow's publicity event. Tohma probably expected him to forget, despite having reminded him several times before they'd left the studio that afternoon.
Later, he would call. Shoes first, then food. Visibility lessened even though his eyes were adjusting, and he turned to see the bar of light from the hallway narrow as the door inched shut. Right -- there was a floor lamp somewhere...
A flashing red warning light on the answering machine drew his attention. The light meant that the machine's memory was full -- it HAD happened again. He would definitely tell Tohma this time. Once, perhaps twice could have been a joke. After the third time he'd purchased a new machine.
He slapped at the light, trying to remember where the playback button was. The only way to clear them out was to let them all run, a dozen or so empty, lifeless messages. The machine beeped. The first message clicked into silence.
Maybe he was being contacted by a ghost? The intriguing idea sent a thrill down his spine. It would make a good song. Maybe he wouldn't tell Tohma -- Tohma would scoff and fret about mundane threats and order extra security -- and keep his ghost to himself.
Another beep, another thirty seconds from beyond the grave. He took care in edging for the door, the quest for the floor lamp having been superseded by snatches of lyrics tumbling in his head. Capture them on paper first, THEN food. Some days it was a wonder that he ate at all.
He was half way across the room when his ghost spoke.
[We should meet,] whispered a voice from the answering machine, just before a beep signaled the message's end and another began. He froze, the thrill on his spine running up now, lifting hairs on his neck. He felt like a cat that had been stroked the wrong way.
Please let it have been his imagination! It was tricky, and he knew that some times it didn't quite behave as other people's did. Let it be one of those times, please!
His ears combed the darkness, catching minute sounds and desperately identifying them. Traffic, an airplane overhead. The rattling of his own heartbeat. Human, ordinary-
[I tire of waiting. Tonight,] warned the voice. [Look forward to it.]
Beep. Three, four more messages filled only with silence -- how long had he been standing there, unable to move?
He ran for the door, the thread of hallway light promising relief from invisible terrors that lurked in the dark. He didn't want to meet a ghost! Especially not one that whispered as his did, full of confidence and secret knowledge. A whisper a lover might put into his ear.
The entrance way step stumbled him and he pitched forward, but with flailing arms he righted himself. He was nearly there, nearly safe...
Beep. His light disappeared as the door closed... and latched. The next sound he heard drove his heart into his throat. Cold sweat joined the prickle of hairs on his neck. It was a soft sound, a metallic hiss-snick. The sound of his deadbolt sliding home.
Something brushed his shoulder, fell across his chest and squeezed. The grip was painful. He opened his mouth to scream.
Gloves. He tasted the leather as fingers crawled into his mouth; the same hand forced his chin back, and a thin, cold line pressed against his throat.
It was his ghost. The voice of his ghost, menacingly warm and husky. Breath gusted his ear. "Not a sound. Nod if you understand."
Ryuichi nodded, choking a little on the fingers that stroked his tongue.
"Good," purred his ghost. More pressure was was applied to the line at his throat. He felt its sharpness when he swallowed hard. "I wouldn't want to cut you."
A head shake had not been requested, but Ryuichi gave one anyway. The thing at his throat was... a razor? A knife? Did it matter? His career, his life could be ended with a simple twist. The ghost owned his absolute obedience.
"Goooooood," said his ghost again. The fingers slid out of his mouth and rested on the side of his neck, where the pulse was. Warm, wet from his spit -- they drummed thoughtfully. "It was too easy, you know. I've wanted to meet you for so long, Sakuma-sama. If only I'd known it would be so easy. You should remember not to leave your keys in the door. It isn't safe."
"Wh-" Keys. Then, the phone... If not a ghost, what, who? What had K always told him to do if he ever found himself in a dangerous situation? Think. He had to think.
It... was impossible, like trying to make a song from lyric fragments that were too small, too disparate. The same fear that locked his limbs overflowed his mind.
"Where is the light switch, Sakuma-sama?" The sharp thing eased away from his throat. "You may answer if you promise not to scream. Do you promise?"
Ryuichi nodded, then realized the... stranger could not see any better than he could. "I p-promise," he whispered. He licked his lips, trying to rid his mouth of the leather taste. "On the l-left wall."
"Such a historic meeting can't be accomplished in the dark." There was a soft clatter as something fell to the ground, and the stranger's grip shifted, sliding down Ryuichi's arm. It stopped at the wrist, gentle, but with the threat of strength in reserve. "I need to see you. So close, in the flesh... I wonder if you're everything I've imagined."
He might be able to pull away, but where would he run? The door was locked. He would be captured again before he could undo the bolt. The phone? He wouldn't be allowed to finish dialing a call for help.
There was a jangling sound and something metal, warmed from body heat, encircled his wrist. Just as quickly his other arm was forced in front of him and captured. "However, there are some precautions that must be taken first. The handcuffs aren't too tight, are they, Sakuma-sama?"
Ryuichi flexed his hands, testing. The metal bit and was definitely too tight to slip off. "Please... whatever you want, I'll b-be good. Just don't hurt me."
"Hurt you?" The stranger's voice was sharp, slightly insulted. "I'm Sakuma-sama's biggest fan. I only want a little..." The word was purred, "Fanservice."
A stalker? He shivered, remembering. "You sent the-"
"The gifts, yes. Did you like them? You never acknowledged them, after I took such care in selecting them, especially for you." A hand crept up his chest, pausing over his heart. "Sakuma-sama is a busy man, I thought. Perhaps he simply forgot to show the proper gratitude."
"I-" Flowers first. He received flowers all the time, so they hadn't been noteworthy except for their sheer quantity. Tohma had confiscated the underpants as soon as he'd learned of them; any other "gifts" had doubtless been intercepted by NG security.
The hand slid up his neck, curled around an ear. "I understand, Sakuma-sama. That's why I'm here tonight, to give you the opportunity to thank me properly."
"I'm sorry!" he blurted, his teeth chattering. "Please, Stalker-san, I didn't-"
"Hush, hush... There will be plenty of time for that later."
Something was drawn around his head and tied snugly behind. A blindfold. He hiccuped, nearly screaming at the prospect of more darkness.
"Shhh..." All touch was abruptly gone; as repulsive as it had been he regretted its loss. Alone in the dark he felt detached, his head unbalanced and swimming. The ground seemed to be falling away...
A soft click, and blessed light seeped in beneath the blindfold. So little light, but so precious. He let out a quiet sob, and realized he was crying.
There was a reverent intake of breath, nearing footsteps. "Ohhh, yes. Beautiful. You're everything I'd hoped." Glove leather brushed his cheek. "I do wish the blindfold wasn't necessary. I need to see more, so much more."
He was led, stumbling, further into the apartment. Near the kitchen? He couldn't be sure; he'd lost all sense of orientation.
"Come," coaxed the stranger. Hands on his shoulders pressed down. His knees refused to unlock, so more strength was applied, pushing him off balance. He fell, arms floundering and useless.
A soft and abrupt landing. He curled on his side, felt the fabric beneath him. Sofa. He was on the sofa.
He wasn't really, but gave a slow nod. "I'm sorry," he whispered again, "and I really want to see. If you take the blindfold off... we can talk. I'll make some tea! Or m-maybe-"
Weight settled next to him, and his hands were lifted above his head and pinned. "I don't want tea. The only thing I want is right..." The sharp thing returned, drawing a line down his throat to pluck at the collar of his shirt. "Here."
Scream. That's what K had told him to do if he was ever in this kind of danger. But he couldn't! The knife... he didn't want to be cut. "M-maybe some vid-deos..." His perfect voice had a raw quality, the words stumbled by hitching breaths.
"Oh no," said the stranger. "I won't be satisfied by anything less than the real thing. Hold still now, very still."
Ryuichi froze, afraid even to breathe. A sharp tug, a ripping sound, and cool air was on his chest.
"Please..." he whimpered. His tears soaked the blindfold; the soft fabric stuck to his eyelids. "Don't! I don't-!"
Lips nuzzled at his jaw. "So beautiful. To see you ravaged by fear... I want you even more." The knife peeled back the frayed edges of his shirt, traced down his abdomen. "Cry if you like. I'll have to gag you if your cries are too loud, but that will only encourage me, I'm afraid."
He held back a sob as the knife's tip lazily circled his nipple. The press was so sharp, it had to be cutting! He imagined what it would look like in a mirror, a jagged circle that wept blood. Dripping down his chest... His sobs broke free.
The phone rang.
The shrill chirp startled both men. His stalker's hand jerked; there was a flare of real pain.
Ryuichi's scream was cut short. The glove covered his nose as well as his mouth. He thrashed, desperate for air.
"Shit," hissed the stranger, hesitantly taking away his hand. "I didn't want to cut you. Believe me, I didn't mean to!" A tender touch explored the area.
"I'm bleeding," Ryuichi moaned. "I can feel it. Oh God..."
The answering machine picked up to the hum of a disconnected line. The phone rang again.
"Only a drop!" defended the stranger. "Shh, shh..." Hair swept against his chest, and a hot tongue delicately licked the cut. It was... soothing.
"Such a tiny thing. Shhh. I bet the hurt is already- GODDAMMIT!!"
Ryuichi twitched, confused at the outburst until he realized that he was no longer being pinned. Stomping, then the sound of the phone being swept off the table, its cord ripped from the wall. It hit the ground with a clatter and was sent tumbling with a good swift kick.
He propped himself up, wondering if he should run. At least get the blindfold off, see for himself how badly his chest had been sliced. The pain had lessened to a mild prickle, but that might have been the effect of fear and the adrenaline it forced through his veins.
He had managed to hook a thumb beneath the cloth when his hands were forced down. "Ah ah, none of that." The weight was back, straddling him now. He squirmed his legs and the weight increased, grinding him into the cushion. "I apologize for the interruption. Now, where were we...?"
"Please, let me go! I need to see! I want-" Lips were on his, a slow demanding kiss that forced him to silence and sent a tremor through his body. Another kiss, hungrier; he couldn't evade it, couldn't do anything but yield. The stranger's tongue stroked his parted lips.
"I know what you want. You're afraid to say it, but I know." The voice was the same that had crooned to him from the answering machine, smug with secret knowledge.
Ryuichi shook his head, whimpering. The kisses had stolen his words.
"Yes," said the stranger. Fingers snagged his waistband, deftly popping the button before easing over his groin. They lingered, petting his growing arousal. "Oh, yesss. Sakuma-sama can't lie, with the evidence so... obvious."
He groaned, flexing his hands into fists. This couldn't be happening. It couldn't!
"I'll make it good, very good," promised the stranger. "A private performance for two."
The zipper lowering made him jolt, the teeth parting with slow tick tick tick sounds.
His stalker's chuckle oozed glee. "What's this? No wonder Sakuma-sama didn't like my gift. It seems he doesn't like underwear at all."
Of all the wretched days to dress in a hurry and go without!
Ryuichi squirmed again, his hips fighting against the superior weight that held him down. It only pleased the stranger, who gave another chuckle and a slow grind in return. Gloves wrapped around his freed cock, thumbing the head. He groaned, writhing.
The phone rang.
No -- not the phone. The phone had been torn from the wall. The sofa was ringing.
His cell phone.
The stranger's attention was divided; he paused, sat back. "Where in the HELL is that coming from?"
"Please..." he begged, no longer aware of what it was that he was asking for.
"Are you sure I can't just..."
"Ignore it!" panted Ryuichi.
A new chirp entered the fray, a fast familiar melody plinked out in polite electronic tones. Sleepless Beauty. One of his songs.
The... stalker was ringing?
"I'm sorry," growled the stalker. "I can't- Damned thing's here somewhere!!" he swore while patting down his pockets.
Chirp chirp chirp. Hold me gently...
Ryuichi slumped back on the sofa. His sob was pure frustration.
[Tatsuha.] The voice at the other end of the line was a highly exasperated sigh. [Ryuichi isn't answering his phone. Is he with you?]
"It's... for you." Tatsuha held the phone to Ryuichi's ear.
"H-hello Tohma." Ryuichi winced, trying to forestall the inevitable onslaught. "Can I call you back? You caught us at a REALLY bad time."
[I won't hold you long. I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow's interview. ...are you listening to me?]
"Yes," Ryuichi whimpered. He only wished otherwise.
[Six o'clock, on location. I want your butt in the chair and ready for make-up!]
There was a tremendous boom and an explosion of splinters as the front door was kicked in by a large blond man waving an even larger gun. "THIS IS THE POLICE! NOBODY MOVE!"
[What the hell was that?! POLICE? Ryuichi, are you two in some sort of trouble?]
Tatsuha peered over the sofa to survey the damage. No, not damage -- total devastation. He leveled a finger at the newcomer. "You're early! You were supposed to wait for the signal!"
The blond shrugged. "You were taking too long. I got tired of waiting." He uncocked the gun, lifting it to his shoulder, and bent to survey the shattered door jamb. "You weren't supposed to deadbolt the door."
[That sounds like K,] Tohma accused. [This had better not be one of your kinky games.]
"Tohma-kun has REALLY bad timing," Ryuichi affirmed sadly.
"It was a spur of the moment thing!" Tatsuha sputtered. "I was gonna undo it..."
[I don't want to hear about it!] Tohma squealed and hung up.
Ryuichi blew a raspberry at the cell phone before hurling it -- it took some coordination with his hands cuffed together -- across the room.
Tatsuha watched his phone arc, bounce, and slide into the kitchen. If it had survived the landing it was safer there; he wanted to stomp it to tiny bits quite badly. "So..."
"So," agreed Ryuichi, pushing up his blindfold to wear it like a headband.
"New game," K sighed, dragging a tool box out of the closet. "Ryuichi... no shirt -- I like it. You can stay like that. But do up your pants. Tatsuha, get rid of the boxcutter. I've got a new toy for you."
"Not 'but' -- hammer." K hauled him over the back of the sofa, stood him on his feet, and shoved the tool into his hands. "You and I are handymen, come to fix the door..."
"Handcuffs?" Ryuichi reminded with a hopeful jingle. "Guys...?"