Black Alleyways and Bleak Hearts

Chapter One.. Again

I let out a breath. Writer's block. It was unintentional, and forbidden to writers like myself. The way this industry worked, the way my industry worked was always fast paced and never lacking. We put out manga faster and better than any company around, and we always treated our authors with patience and respect. I was a member of the editorial team when I wrote my first novel, and after its unprecedented success, I had to juggle editing and writing manuscripts.

I let out a breath. My internal muse was dead. Looking around the café, I tried to find a pretty face, a charming smile, inspiration of some kind- any kind at this point. I'd been coming to this café for years, since my first excursion out of my newly acquired apartment. It had been a thrill, no supervision, no hands to hold, I was free. And even then I felt trapped by my family, like somehow they were watching me, or would find me if I went outside. It brings a few of those morbid childhood stories to mind, you know, the ones about how children would be eaten by horrible monsters. Yep, that's my family.

"Hey." A voice came from behind me, right next to my ear and asked, "You Yumiko Anda?"

I was already having a bad day, and I was not in the mood for stalkers! Only stalkers knew me by my pen name. "If I'm not?"

He shrugged. "Wrong girl."

I raised an eyebrow until I feared it would shoot right off my face. "It's as simple as that? Well, sit down. What do you want?"

Stepping back and pulling a chair from another table (I was reclined in the two designated for my own) he kicked his feet up precariously close to my coffee cup. I eyed him, a completely natural response to a new factor in this equation of life; who knows, he may prove useful. He was wearing fitted dark blue pants of some material I didn't recognize, his jacket was the same except it had printed snake skin on it, and he wore a black button up open with his black undershirt exposed. On top of that, he had blue eyes the color of said pants, and black hair the color of said shirts. Who is this guy?

"Well, I'm here now, lets get this done."

Am I supposed to know what he's talking about? "… What done?"

He leaned over towards me. "I realize you don't quite meet the height requirement for most day to day activities, but I was hoping your brain could keep up."

I sat up a little straighter and glared at him. "There is nothing wrong with my brain, and I am not short."

"You're right, 5'8" is quite a feet."

Glaring, I got into his face. "Look buddy, all I know is that you're an ass and I would like for you to vacate my table. Immediately."

He raised his eyebrows at me and then smiled. "Testy."

I glared in reply. Men like him made me angry, if you couldn't tell.

"Oh well," He sighed, faking a look of resignation. "I came to cure your obvious lack of inspiration, but as you have found me unfit for this cause, I'll just have to go and tell Towa you're not interested in finishing your manga."

I flinched when he was done; surely it wasn't that apparent I was struggling with writer's black. But if Towa decided to play one of his games… I sighed; Towa is the master of surprises, and he didn't think it was good sportsmanship to not get into it.

Grudgingly, I asked, "What on Earth makes Towa think you're going to be any help?"

Raising his eyebrows and inspecting his finger nails he shrugged slightly. "You'll never know until you decide to find out."

"By trusting some maniac I've just met? That doesn't sound too smart to me."

"Maybe you're right." He shrugged again and turned his uninterested look towards the bar. "Get me a drink." He turned back to look at me and winced with a chuckle. "Kidding! Do you want something?"

I was going to tell him I had a drink when the quick movements of his feet dumped my perfect cup of coffee over. My glare was his answer.

As he got up and sauntered over to the bar, I started to think… It is possible he's not actually with Towa and has been stalking me for the past year, dead set on kidnapping me and making me live underground with him. Or, you know, he's your garden variety rapist. Looking back over his shoulder he gave me a kissy face and resumed checking out. Maybe he was sent from our competitors meant to drive me insane.

Hearing chitty-chitty-bang-bang I grimaced, that was my editor's ringtone. How did I tell him I didn't even have an idea for the story, much less any printable results?


"Hey, Anda-san, he there yet?"

"By 'he' do you mean the atrocity that just walked into the café and jumped me?" I asked, once again eyeing the man across the room. He had a nice backside.

"Yep, that's the one." He said cheerily. "I know you're having problems, so I sent you some inspiration. Be nice to him."

"Why should I? He knocked over my perfect cup of coffee, undermined my intelligence, and called me short! As far as I'm concerned, he's Satan."

Laughing, he replied, "That could be good for you, I know you want an edgier manga. Think about Vassalord* you don't have to do those certain scenes to produce what you want. Use this guy, let your anger and frustration fuel creativity, goodness knows the kind of work you do when you're pissed."

"Point," I reasoned. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea. And if I could get rid of him as soon as he became useless or destructive to my work, I'd give my editor (the sneaky bastard) a call and have him handle what he started.

"Oh, and by the way, he's staying at your place for the duration of this series. We all look forwards to your twenty five volume manga series!" Click.

Staying at my place… twenty-five volume manga… That was almost two years! My face spasmed and complete shock took over. I couldn't even form words as the freeloader sat down at my table once again. He seemed unperturbed, even happy as he set my coffee in front of me, seemingly oblivious to the complete and utter shock and horror on my face.

"So, I assume that was Towa and he told you I was staying at your place?" He leaned back, taking the lid off his coffee. "Personally, I think we are going to have a wonderful relationship."

"Oh yeah?" I whispered with equal amounts of venom and utter shock.

"Yeah," He whispered in a sultry tone and leaned forward, still holding his coffee. "Do you know why, Anda-san?"

I gritted my teeth and decided to entertain him for the moment. "Why?"

"Because you hate me."

"Well that's obvious!" Covering my mouth quickly, I glanced around at all the faces looking back at me. I really hadn't meant for that to be so loud.

Laughing a bit, the freeloader sat back and watched me for a moment. As I was completely flustered, I rearranged this and took a sip of that before finally turning my attention back to the man before me.

"I didn't mean it to come out like that. It's true I dislike you somewhat, however hate is a strong word. I apologize."

Raising his eyebrows he grinned. "Apology accepted. I'm sorry for knocking over your coffee, you obviously needed it."

"That's right, I'm still mad at you for ruining my coffee." Haughtily I pulled my fresh cup of coffee up to my lips and quickly put it back down. Too hot.

"I got you another one didn't I?"

"Yes, but now I have to wait for it to cool to the perfect temperature- wait, why are we talking about coffee?" I rubbed the sides of my head, there was something more important.

"Because you brought it up?"

"No, I meant, this is ridiculous. You can't stay at my apartment."

Taking a sip of his coffee he said, "Can and will; everything's set up. I already laid out my futon so I could take a nap when we get back."

"You've been in my apartment?" I growled.

He laughed a sexy sound. "I liked that other look of yours- complete and utter astonishment, but this one is even better; sexier."

I gave him a look that had don't-mess-with-me written all over it. "Listen bub, I don't tolerate freeloaders, and-"

"I'm not a freeloader, I'm your muse."

Sitting there, with his legs lazily crossed, he was trying to convince me of the impossible. Let a man in my apartment? Live with him? Towa!

* Vassalord is an awesome yaoi manga by Nanae Chrono that has no sex scenes and is still incredibly sexy. See, it can be done!