well, actually...i wrote this because i was desperate for something to write! i've been trying so very hard to get any inspiration at all recently. i've enrolled in a general art class, and when i'm working on artwork, my interest in writing seems to flag. and this is why i've become so desperately behind in Rasta Guy. and i'm really sorry, and i apologize. i know how annoying it is to have a long time between an update, but i really must say sorry.

and...that i'm having a fanart competition! as of right now, it's for the first two (or three, if the need calls) people to submit a completed fanart to me (posted link sent to me, or the art itself that i may post on my deviantart site. all i ask is that i be mentioned in the descrip in some way....) more details posted in my profile page, email me if you have any questions whatsoever. prize: one shot with plot of your choice, including characters and all that jazz.

ok, back to this fic. i rely heavily upon my own intimate knowledge of certain mangas at points...mainly because i've bought all that are discussed. while an intimate knowlege is not required, some passing knowledge of both them and the anime series i've mentioned could be helpful.

there is no sex in this fic, and hardly a kiss. but there is mild language, as well as other things. and i apologize about the length, but there ya go.

Wednesday, 8 February, 2006. 2:34 am

It's gone. Just…gone. Oh shit on toast, how can it be gone?

Literal beads of sweat cropped up along my temples and between my shoulders…not to mention slicking up my always-damp-anyway palms. One of my manga's is gone, and that is not good. It's not something innocent like one from my Lament of the Lamb series. Not even an Eerie Queerie book. No. Nothing as innocuous as any of those.

My Skyscrapers of Oz is missing.

The explicit yaoi one.

I had always thought my manga collection to be safe, even though I keep them all in plain view on my bookshelves. Even the clearly 'gay' ones. My family doesn't have any need or want to know what a manga even is, not to mention read them. And Nathan would never read one either; I tried to get him to read The Get Backers once, which I thought would play to his interests, but he just blew me off and bent the cover back when he read what precious little he could stomach. And then wondered why I blew a gasket about the cover. He creased it, for Christ's sake!! That crease will never go away, and it's ruined.

But back to why I've begun to hyperventilate like a man about to wet his pants as a speeding train comes barreling to take his pathetic life away.

None of my family knows that I'm gay yet, because I don't feel confident enough about myself to tell them that not only do I not like girls, but my liking of boys is pretty much why my only best friend is a girl. Other than that, I have no one I really talk to, because boys make me so nervous I trip all over myself. This is why I failed the seventh grade when I was made to go to Nathan's all-boys school. All day long, surrounded by boys…I'd actually become suicidal by how retarded I become when in the presence of the male gender. Every day was bad enough to make me come home and cry, to come home and vent in my journal about how revolting it was that I couldn't even meet a guy's eyes for a split second without feeling the urge to fucking puke all over myself.

Like Stan from South Park whenever Wendy talked to him.

The whole year and subsequent botched suicide attempt of asphyxiation with a garbage bag wasn't pretty, and I'm still going to some cheap-ass therapist that thinks that I was only that way to garner myself attention. Stupid bastard. But anyway, I'm always getting off track, aren't I?

Let's retrace my steps, shall we?

I came home at 3: 56 after being dropped off by Athena, my only friend in the whole wide world. And she has her own car, which is like a godsend to me; even though I'm seventeen, I have yet to take driver's ed…because the instructors are always men…yeah, I'm lame, I know. I had a medium cherry limeade from Sonic in my hand that was about half-gone by now, the straw between my thin lips as I let myself into the house with my worn house key. It was quiet, something that has always soothed me, even though I sometimes get antsy when I'm left all alone for a long time. But for now, I'm relaxed, setting my drink upon the dining table as I passed it and continued down the hallway to my bedroom.

I opened my door, pleased that the light was cheery and pleasantly lit up my relaxingly beige room. Just the walls are actually beige; my carpet is essentially a very light silver, while I've placed a few dark royal blue throw rugs around. There's one beside my bed (so soft under my feet as I get in and out of that safe haven), and one just before my comfy (and really battered) armchair that I salvaged from down the street with Nathan's help some years ago.

I also have framed prints of famous artwork that I'd kill to own for real up on my walls…as well as posters of my favorite mangas and anime. No music posters at all ordain my walls, just because I find that rather redundant, when anyone can see by the massive cd collection I've got over on my dresser, and the decently sized collection of record albums I've got tucked into one corner, that I absolutely love my music. Yeah, I have my Dad's old record collection; mostly acid metal and 80's rock. You know, the good stuff.

A place for everything, and everything in its place.

Heh, that reminds me of the room from The Haunting. A room that always seemed rather calming to me…I wish I had billowy curtains like that. Yeah.

Anyway, (insert cough), the red plastic Sonic straw was between my teeth even though I'd left my drink behind when I walked into my room, gently nipping at the plastic obstruction as I dumped my heavy backpack over by my chair for Monday. I toed my shoes and peeled off my sweaty socks with great pleasure, before my eyes strayed over to my bookshelf.

And I froze completely when I zeroed in on that missing space throughout the whole entirely uninterrupted chain of mangas.

And at first, my heart seized up, but I thought that maybe it was something innocent, something that didn't really matter, other than the fact that it would tick me off that someone had just taken it without my permission. But then I realized what was missing…and that's when I began to freak out.

One gay manga, gone.

One closeted gay boy hyperventilating with tiny gasping whines.

This does not equal something pleasant.


Okay, before I go any further, let me just admit one tiny detail that has probably not escaped your attention: I'm clinically anal retentive, and have a compulsive disorder as a result. I am precise, everything must be just so, or I freak out. So this is really a very big deal with me right now, having this missing manga that is having hell knows what done to it's pristine cover and pages…not to mention that there is this wide gap in my knowledge of who had taken it, and what will now happen as a result.

Basically, it all boils down to this one simple fact: I am no longer in charge.

Someone out there is holding the strings of my life, and one sharp tug is all that I'd need before falling completely apart. I can feel it happening right now, even as I speak. Or think. Or whatever. You know what I mean.

--- --- ---

I barely restrained myself when I heard Nathan come home, was at my bedroom door when he passed by…and he paused to see what I obviously had to ask.

"Have you taken one of my mangas?" I blurted out, and his mouth twitched slightly with amusement.

"No, Vin, I haven't. Why would I?"

The knot in my lower belly hitched painfully, and I bit my lip as I lowly admitted, "I'm missing one. I was just wondering if you had it." He got a knowing look on his face, thinking that I was freaking just because it was my manga, and that it was missing.

"No…maybe Mom has seen it. You should ask her when she gets home."

Screw that, I'm calling her cell right now.

My brother disappeared into his room (which is actually just next door to mine), and I slipped from my doorway and down the hall to the kitchen. Finding her number written on a beat-up sticky note of important numbers by the phone, I punched it with sweaty fingertips, before pressing the phone tightly against my ear.

It rang for about three or four times before her slightly puzzled voice sounded in my ear; "Hello; Nathan, Vincent?"

"Yeah, it's me Mom." I replied, my fingers digging into the hip of my jeans and then relaxing, only to repeat this process over and over again.

"Hey, baby. Did you need anything?" she asked, and my fingers again tightened and released.

"Um, actually…I was wondering if you've seen one of my mangas? It's missing from my shelf…." I heard her sigh and winced, knowing that she was still at work, and I shouldn't have called her if it wasn't important. But she doesn't realize that for me, it is important. A lot.

"No, Vin, I haven't seen any of your comic books. Is that all you needed to ask me? Because I'm a little busy, honey." I gave a mental sigh of disappointment, not even bothering to correct her for the umpteenth time that mangas are not comic books, but she'll never understand the subtle distinction that exists between comics, comic books, graphic novels, and manga. And all the other such subtle differences.

"Sorry Mom, I didn't mean to be a bother." I said quietly, and she replied, "No, it's fine. Oh, by the way, did Nathan tell you when his friend was coming over tonight? I'd like to know if the boy's going to eat first, or if I should have your father set an extra plate."

A boy. Hell, I'm going to fake sick tonight and eat when everyone's already in bed.

"No, he didn't say. Want me to go ask?" My voice is so fake in my ears, but she didn't pick up on it; nobody ever does, because I always sound this way.

"Yeah, go do that for me real quick."

I nodded even though she couldn't see it, and gently set the phone down as I walked back to Nathan's room. His door was open, and I knocked on the jamb as I stepped up to the doorway.

"Nathan, Mom wants to know when your friend is coming over." I told him when he looked at me.

"Oh, Yeager's already here." He replied…and my stomach iced over and plummeted. He misinterpreted my 'deer in the headlights' expression as surprise, grinning and shaking his head.

"Thought you heard us both come in…."

I shook my head and numbly slinked back to the kitchen, feeling extremely jumpy and about to fall apart at any quick movement.

I picked the receiver back up, my voice eerily calm as I stated, "He's already here, Mom."

"Oh! Ok, then. I guess I'll see you later honey. Love you, bye."

I let her hang up without responding back, my hand replacing the phone to its cradle without my having to tell it to. Hell, if my body had to wait for my say-so in most of what it did, I'd be more than just a nervous wreck most of the time.

"Vincent…what's wrong?"

I turned at Nathan's worried voice, curious as to why he was so worried. Until he came over and took my left hand into his own, drawing attention to the fact that the knuckle of my thumb is all gnawed and bloody…damn, I'd been doing it again.

"Vin, is it that upsetting that it's gone?" he asked honestly, worry still coloring his voice and clouding his eyes. Now I feel bad, because I always make him worry. The only boy that I can feel comfortable around, the only one that understands that I try to be normal, even though I'm clearly not.

"Maybe." I admitted softly, and he sighed even as he began dragging me to the bathroom at the very beginning of the hallway. He pulled me in and gently began to clean up the bloody teeth marks from my skin, from where I'd gnawed away at myself without realizing. I was quiet as he carefully placed gauzy band-aids over my wounds, while then forcing me to flex my knuckle to make sure they didn't make the joint stiff before letting me go.

"Relax a little, Vincent, ok?" he reminded me, and I nodded, knowing that he was right. I really do get too uptight. And I felt the tension leave my spine as I flashed a true smile at my older brother (by exactly eleven months, yeah, go figure that Dad couldn't keep off of Mom long enough….).

I walked back to my room, and paused as I thought I heard strange humming coming from within. And when I stepped into my doorway, I froze when I saw who could only be this Yeager guy, sitting cross-legged upon my soft navy rug, his spine against my bed as he held a manga in one hand, and twirled my sonic straw in the other. And despite the fact that he was a guy, I only thought of how angry I was becoming that he was sitting in my room, reading my manga, and messing with my straw.

I stepped forward, and he jerked his head up, a fleeting look of fear crashing over his face before he saw that it was…me…I guess. And not Nathan. But there was still guilt written there as he hastily closed the book…oh hell, Brother is a lot worse than Skyscrapers of Oz any day. There are explicit pictures of a penis in there, not to mention the fact that it's all about sex between two men. No bars of light to be found in that manga, none at all.

And he was reading it.

There's no way that any straight boy would own that sort of manga, no way in hell. But it conveniently escaped my blazing white rage that no straight boy would actively read that sort of manga once he'd seen what it was about, either.

I stood there in utter fury, and he obviously knew it, because he quickly leapt to his stockinged feet and deposited the book upon my bed as if it was someone else's used condom or tampon. But his eyes flicked over my face before moving down my body…as if he couldn't help it. And my fury blasted out of control…not only is he messing around in my room, but now he's…checking me out like some common pervert.

I was surprised to find myself giving him the sign to fuck off, almost pleased by the shocked expression on his face when I had done so before I grabbed a hold of his pale blue t-shirt and physically removed him from my room. And just for good measure, to let him know how uninterested I was, I slammed my door with malicious glee.

And that's right about when I had my mental breakdown; my shaking was so bad that I sank down onto my haunches and wrapped my arms about my shoulders, my face between my knees as I began to hyperventilate.

--- --- ---

I had calmed considerably by the time my parents came home, and even had the physical nerve to go out and watch television as they began to cook supper. I was relaxed as I sat in Dad's leather recliner and watched Street Fighter II on the EWAM cable channel, my cherry limeade in my hand as I absently took a sip and crunched on tiny particles of ice.

When they came out into the living room too, my Styrofoam cup squeaked beneath my tightened grip, and my eyes refused to waver from the screen, acutely aware that the guy had sat on the couch end that was closest to me. And that he was talking to Nathan about the show…explaining the premise of it in enough detail that I knew he watched it as regularly as I do.

"…It's not really kung fu, you see? They do all forms of martial arts…most of it forms of Japanese street fighting, actually."

Nathan shook his head in amused submission, opening his mouth, but I beat him to it with an abrupt, "He doesn't care; because he doesn't like animation. Or manga, for that matter."

Both of them looked at me, but my eyes never wavered from the television screen.

"I guess I just don't have the mind for it like you two do. Which reminds me…did you find whatever it was you were missing?" Nathan asked, and my answer was tight, "Yes."

I heard Yeager shift slightly, and hoped that his guilt was just burning away at his soul. The stupid fucker deserves it.

Except his voice came, his question not what I was expecting; "Do you watch Vandread too?"

I looked at him, seeing how he was leaning against the arm of the couch and facing me rather than facing Nathan. And my brother was looking anxious, because he knows I don't like it when any of his friends try to talk to me; usually I freeze up before fleeing the room and holing up beneath my blankets in bed. Because I'm really lame.

But I didn't do that this time; "Sometimes."

He gave me a tiny smile, silently repeating my answer of 'sometimes', as if it was something brilliant I'd said instead. Damn it, he's so annoying! I jerked my head back, looking at the screen once more and pretending that he didn't exist. Right.

Pretending that I can handle this.

--- --- ---

I didn't skip out on dinner like I thought I'd have to, but I did retreat into my little bubble of silently eating the Parmesan chicken and pasta my parents had done up for us. Nathan and Yeager chattered away over everything and anything, while my parents discussed how their days at work had gone. Usual dinner bullshit chitchat.

Until I suddenly opened my mouth and asked, "Can I go out tonight?" Everyone stopped talking to look at me, but I was concentrating on my food, 'pretending' that I was unaware of their stares.

"Um…well, to do what, honey?" Mom asked me, and I looked up.

"Athena said something about going to see a movie. It's Friday…."

Her and Dad exchanged a glance, before Dad was replying with, "I see no problem with it…." I nodded in gratitude, while excusing myself from the table so that I could go call my friend and see if she'd rescue me for the night.

--- --- ---

I was in my room when she arrived, startled when I felt her familiar arms around me in a tight hug of greeting.

"Ah, Vinnie, you took me up on my offer!" she exclaimed, even as I tried to wiggle out of her arms.

"I can't stay here all night…." I muttered, and she raised her eyebrows slightly.

"Because of that cutie I saw when I came in, right?" My cheeks darkened, and her smile became knowing.

"Aw, you're always so shy around boys. He looks nice, though."

"He stole a manga." I interrupted, my irritation at that act coming back to me.

"What? Just…took it?" she exclaimed, knowing that to do so with me would probably warrant murder. Heh.

I nodded just once, indicating the manga that he'd left on my bed; I'd not had the nerve to touch it so soon after him. Her eyes found it, and widened; she'd read the same book, of course, as she was the one that bought it for me. She's eighteen, and has her own bankcard now that she's got a job, so she was able to order it from for me.

"He's gay?" she asked in a shocked whisper, and I froze…he must be, right? And he was checking me…no; I don't want to think about it. She saw the darkening of my features and wisely decided that now was a good time for us to leave; she's awful good at distracting me from myself. Maybe that's why we're such great friends.

--- ---

"Bye Nathan, bye friend of Nathan!"

Athena is way too chirpy for my own good, I swear it. Especially as she gave the pair of them cheerful waves goodbye as we left the house, and I purposely chose to ignore the fact that Yeager watched our every move with undisguised envy and helpless curiosity. Damn it, he's so annoying!! But still…I'm not sure if I truly dislike having his attentions, because I know nobody else has ever looked at me that way before. And…he's into anime and manga, isn't he? We must have common interests…but still, he stole my manga!

And that just jerks my bell cords into natty wrinkles.

I slipped out of the house and felt relief when the door was closed behind me, relaxing even further when I got into Athena's beat-up white car with her burgundy interior. Heh, it almost reminds me of that armadillo groom's cake in Steel Magnolias…a movie that always makes me feel fuzzy and a little bit lost. Most people get sad and cry during that movie, but I feel myself connect with those people differently…Nathan says I have an acute sense of empathy for others. I dunno about that, but I let him try to pick my psyche apart if he so wishes.

--- --- ---

She had to pay for me at the theater, as there weren't any tellers that were girls…thus, I knew I'd fumble all over myself and end up crying in the bathroom once inside because I'm such a fucking retard. I know that I'd end up this way because I've done it before…and it's not a pretty sight, and pretty much ruins an otherwise pleasant evening. So, Athena paid for me, took my cash and bought me an Orange soda/Sprite mixer, and a box of Raisenettesfor us to share.

Have I mentioned that I love this woman? If I didn't find girl anatomy to be sexually unpleasing, I'd so marry her and have twenty babies within the first five months. Really. (Insert innocent blink for authenticity)

Anyway, she'd talked me into seeing some Kung Fu movie with her, so I got to spend maybe an hour and forty-five minutes worth of ogling tight washboard abs flexing all over the place…oh lookie, his nipple moves when he kicks like that! And when he punches, and when he flexes his biceps…especially whenever he moves his jaw, to hell with whatever he's saying…I think he does it on purpose. Just to make my dick twitch in rhythm. Okay, maybe he doesn't do it consciously, but I know a gay conspiracy when I make one up, all right?!

--- --- --- (Later that night)

I was sleepily toeing off my shoes once more when I got the acute sense that I wasn't alone in my bedroom, turning my head to see a hesitant-looking brunette standing in the doorway. I stared at him for a moment before continuing on with my business, much too tired to really want to mess with any of the emotional drama I'd be feeling otherwise. I turned slightly to move my shoes out of the way, and was startled to find that he was standing right in front of me, eyes glassy for some odd reason.

When I made a strangled squeak and made as to take an automatic step backwards, his hands came up and gripped mine, effectively stilling my retreat even as he haltingly leaned forward and pecked at my lips. I froze into place, and he became bolder, kissing me again, but with a bit more feeling.

And hell if I didn't discover that I was responding, even though he was a guy, and a strange one at that. This is not how I envisioned receiving my first kiss from anybody, and especially not from a friend of my brother's.

When I shyly let him taste inside my mouth (oooh, how it made my dick twitch to feel his tongue running along my gums!), his fingers began to tighten their hold upon my wrists. I took it until I couldn't stand anymore, pulling away and faintly murmuring that he was hurting me. And utter humiliation stained the boy's cheeks, helpless tears welling up as he hastily stepped away, a silent apology written all over his face.

And maybe I really was tired, or have finally lost it, but I stepped forward and crushed our mouths together again, placing my wrists back into his palms, pleased when his fingers gently closed around the bones of my hands and pulled me closer again.

A tiny moan slipped out between us…followed by a foreign gasp that hadn't belonged to the either of us. Oh fucking hell.

As soon as I wrenched away from Yeager, my hand slipped to my mouth, my teeth brutally gnawing at my middle knuckle. Yeah, it was Nathan in the doorway now, looking as white as a bleached sheet bought new from a rack at Target. Yeah, he really turned that white.

And I stared as my brother advanced on his friend and grabbed the front of that pale-blue shirt to deliver a resounding blow to his face.

I watched as Yeager grabbed his nose and staggered backwards, his back hitting the door and banging it into the wall even as he stumbled over his own feet, sending him down to the floor with a choked out, "Ow."

"I kissed back." I finally stated, feeling numb and detached from myself, even though I was concerned about the said boy I'd kissed; I hope his nose isn't broken, and that the blood will come out of that shirt eventually.

Nathan's hands grabbed double handfuls of his hair as he jerked his body into agitatedly pacing back and forth, his teeth obviously grinding together.

"I knew those books weren't some fluke! Penis's are penis's, and only a homo would want to see pictures like that…but…argh, why didn't you tell me?" he finally hissed, hurt and so very angry with me now. I hung my head and shrugged, helpless in my utter humiliation. He knew…he'd read them too.

Fucking hell, is nothing private anymore??!

"I have an excuse!" I hissed back, my arms coming to wrap tightly about my abdomen as I fought against the tremors threatening to take hold of my frame. And I was relieved to feel my brother's comforting arms around me instead, relieved that he wasn't really as angry as he made out to be.

He's just protective of me, and I love him for that.

--- --- ---

I think Dad was surprised to see me and Yeager quietly discussing manga as Nathan worked at the stove making our breakfast the next morning. He paused in the doorway of the kitchen from the living room, taking in the sight of the fact that I was animatedly talking to someone outside of my family and safety zone. But then my brother distracted him with a cheerful hello and a remark about the coffee being done just a few minutes prior. And later, Mom joined us, the smell of eggs and hash browns having roused her from her regular Saturday sleep in.

But I was engrossed in discussing the merits of buying manga without reading any of it first, other than reading most of a book before deciding to buy. To me, that just ruins the joy of reading and owning a particular book, especially as so many people will stand there in the store and read one manga after another without giving the artist who spent so much of their time and effort into making it enough credit to buy it. Yeager disagreed, saying that people want to know what it is they're buying; be it a movie, book, cd, or manga. There wasn't a real distinction between any of these…although he did agree that it was rude to read and never buy.


And by the time breakfast was over, we'd already set a time to go look for manga together, just the two of us. I knew it was a date, and he knew it was a date.

And the fact that I was pretty much ok with being alone with him made me feel…normal, for once.

Even though I know that he'll have to pay for me, I know that I'll probably shove my foot in my mouth 24x7 and act a right fool the rest of the time…as long as he remains patient with me, I'll be ok. Because hell, he took a punch to the nose for me; if that doesn't spell devoted interest, what does?

Now if I can just convince Nathan that I'm not going to seduce every boy he has over….

A/N: er, that's the end. and for the record, Nathan is completely straight. i didn't even think about it, until i gave this a second read through and got a weird vibe i'd been previously unaware of. weird.