The radio station was always silent at this time of night, punctuated only by the scrape of chair against floor, the faint buzz of the turned-down speakers outside the actual DJ booth -- and, of course, the music. But there was always music around Ruka, no matter where he was. He'd be the first to admit that he couldn't play a note -- could sing a little (a very little, if you listened to the opinions of certain people), but on the whole, he couldn't make the music. He just listened to it. And played it for everyone else.
The call-in lines were dark, of course; as dark as the rest of the rooms of the station. The only light came from the lamp in his DJ booth, and even that light was muted. He'd gotten tired of the harsh flourescent glow and stripped off his t-shirt, throwing it over the lamp and turning the room's light into a soft luminescence, leaving him in only the long-sleeved thermal undershirt that lived under his T-shirts from November to April. He hated being cold, but bright light was right up there on the list next to it. He was willing to make the trade.
His audience wasn't solely Americans living in Japan by now. It had been at first, but after fifteen years, he'd picked up quite a cult following among Japanese nationals as well. To them, tonight was a night like any other, save for the few like Juri who were Christian. But perhaps the snow that had been falling when he'd made his way into the building that housed the radio station had lulled them all into sleep, or at least into bed with a good book and a mug of tea, because no one had interrupted him in the two hours he'd already been on the air.
Not even the one person he knew -- simply knew -- was still awake.
The last sounds of the electronic symphony faded into nothingness as he manipulated the controls, putting out his cigarette and leaning closer to the microphone. "That was the Trans-Siberian Orchestra with 'Christmas Eve, Sarajevo'. For those of you just turning in, you're listening to 81.4, JSPR, and I'm your host, Tsuchiya Ruka. But I bet you knew that already. If you didn't, you probably wouldn't be listening."
He knew from long experience that the microphone, sensitive though it was, didn't pick up the clacking sounds as he shuffled CD cases back and forth. It was a good thing, too; some nights, he didn't decide what was going to be the next track playing until he was loading it already, letting his fingers pick out the track number for him. If he'd been in America, he'd often suspected, he'd have had issues over not playing the particular tracks that the record label had selected for airplay. But at four in the morning, in Japan, you could get away with an awful lot.
As those slender fingers turned over a jewel case, he smiled a little, and knew that he was about to do something else that would get an American counterpart fired.
"So you probably all know already that for all you good Christians out there -- and for all of you bad ones, too -- it's Christmas Eve. My housemate is, no doubt, sitting at home awake and waiting for Santa Claus to visit -- or, more likely right now, rolling his eyes at me for talking about him on the air. A few of my old friends from school celebrate the holiday; my best friend is no doubt currently sound asleep and subconsciously dreading the moment when his two little devils, I mean daughters, wake up and run screaming into his bedroom and start jumping on his and his wife's head. I bet that there are a lot of you out there right now who are eagerly waiting for sunrise so that you can get on with the tradition that we imported from the evil capitalist bastards. And you know what? I'm one of them. So I think I'm going to put on some of the music that I've imported from the evil capitalist bastards and go off and think for a little while. Which means that you all get a treat: the entire contents of Pink Floyd's album 'Wish You Were Here', commercial-free, while I go and look for something to eat. Enjoy the time without me babbling, folks, and remember: the faster you fall asleep, the faster Christmas morning will get there."
The first distant sounds of the synthesizer and flute faded in as Ruka took his headphones off his ears and dropped them onto the control board, rocking his shoulders back and forth and hearing his vertebrae popping. He grinned a little at the sound, grabbed his coat, and slung it around his shoulders, making sure that both his cigarettes and his walkman were in the pockets before letting himself out of the control booth.
He was halfway through picking the lock on the door to the roof before he realized that he'd left his tshirt back in the control room, and winced. It was going to be cold out there, even with his oversized, fleece-lined flannel jacket. He hated being cold -- too many old memories -- but going back seemed to be more trouble than it would be worth. He'd just have to suffer the cold, and turn up the heat when he got back inside.
The lock clicked open under his fingertips and he smiled, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the walkman's earbuds. The radio was already tuned to the right station; it wasn't the first night he'd done something like this. Fingers that were already beginning to take on a chill fitted one earbud into his ear, as he left a trail of footprints in the virgin snow. It was still falling, gently and softly, and the city lights turned the sky orange and grey and hazy. The music was symphonic and synthesized, electric guitar picking out the main theme behind the keyboards, drums not yet having made an appearance.
Ruka could count down the seconds; he was reaching inside his pocket to rescue the cellphone before it even rang. "Tsuchiya."
"You'd better have your jacket on," came the voice from the other end of the phone. Ruka grinned and tucked the phone against his ear, letting his hands drop back into his pockets.
"All reports to the contrary, I'm actually not insane, Souji." He could imagine the other man, curled up in bed, bedside radio on, watching the stars through the window. The pillowcases were stained red and green this month, companion to the colors that adorned his own hair. "I also have quite a firm sense of my own internal temperature, and I'm perfectly capable of determining when to put on a jacket. In other words, yes, I have my jacket on."
A low chuckle over the click and hiss of the cellular line. "But your shirt's back in the control room, isn't it?"
Ruka laughed. "Okay, no, don't tell me, you put a videocamera in the hallway ... what are you still doing up? I thought you'd be sound asleep by now."
Mikage's voice was serious. "I have to stay awake and wait for Santa Claus to visit. Isn't that what you just said?"
Ruka laughed again and fished his cigarettes out of his pocket. "Santa's already been and gone, Souji. You didn't look downstairs under the tree, did you?"
"I didn't want to get out of bed," Mikage confessed. "That would have meant putting on clothes."
That was understandable; Ruka had barely managed to peel himself out of bed and force himself into his own clothes, buoyed only by the knowledge that if he didn't go to work, the new kid on the 10 to 2 shift would be stuck. It was bad karma in the radio world to stiff your coworkers; what goes around, comes around. "Yeah, well. Sometimes we have to make these sacrifices." He shifted the tiny phone and brushed snow out of his hair. "Couldn't sleep?"
Mikage's voice was sleepy. "Didn't want to," he said, stifling a yawn. "The college is on break this month. It seems like such a shame to waste the chance to get onto your sleeping schedule."
Ruka was touched beyond what showed in his voice. "That's sweet of you, but silly. Get some sleep, Souji. I'll wake you up when I get home."
Again, that low chuckle, and Ruka smiled in response as he put the cigarette in his mouth and fished for his lighter. Even after all these years, that chuckle could still melt his heart. "So why Pink Floyd, Tsuchiya? It's hardly suitable for Christmas Eve. You're not depressed, are you?"
"Nah, it was just the first CD I had in my hand when I decided that I wanted some time off. I'm not depressed at all." Ruka couldn't find the lighter, and wondered if he'd left it back in the control room. "Though now that you mention it, I'm kinda sore." He smirked a little, imagining the blush that was no doubt spreading across Mikage's cheekbones.
Blushing though he certainly was, Mikage still managed to respond, "And whose fault is that? You'd better not be lighting a cigarette."
"Well, I would be if I could find my damn lighter -- oh, there it is." Ruka's thumb brushed against the volume control for the walkman radio as he pulled the lighter out of his pocket, and he jumped a little as the song got louder in his one ear -- "Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun, shine on you crazy diamond. Now there's a look in your eyes, like black holes in the sky, shine on you crazy diamond..." He cursed, and turned the volume down again so that the music was just a faint hiss in one of his ears. "And yeah, it's probably my fault. Does it really matter?"
Ruka could imagine the expression that the click of the lighter earned him; an affectionate eye-roll, with a healthy dose of the martyrdom of someone who knows full well that he's fighting a losing battle. "Of course it matters. If it's not your fault, it's my fault. And it's certainly not my fault."
The faintest glimmer of an evil idea crossed Ruka's mind, and he exhaled a cloud of smoke into the air and decided what the hell. It was Christmas Eve, after all, and he had quite some time before he'd need to be back downstairs. "Of course it's your fault, Souji," he said, and he could feel his voice slipping down to a low purr, the sort of rumble he knew drove Mikage nuts. "It's entirely your fault that I love the feel of your hands against my skin so much, you know. I blame you completely."
"Oh." Mikage's voice sounded suddenly breathless. "Should I apologize?"
"No." Ruka took another drag off his cigarette. "I get my revenge, you know."
"I know how much you love it when I talk to you." Another drag off the cigarette, and Ruka idly held out a hand to catch a few snowflakes as they fell. "You've always made that much pretty clear. I figured it out pretty quickly. You know how often I exploit that fact, I'm sure."
He could imagine Mikage on the other end of the phone, curled in a pile of blankets, smiling as he held the phone to one ear. "I know. I'm not complaining."
Ruka laughed. "You'd better not be. Or else I won't tell you what I have in mind for you when I get home this morning."
The sound from the other end of the phone didn't translate well across cellular lines, but Ruka could imagine it anyway; a little breathless swallow, through suddenly dry throat. "What do you have in mind?"
Ruka laughed, pausing long enough to toss away his cigarette. "I really shouldn't tell you, you know. It's Christmas. Part of the fun of Christmas morning is not knowing what you're going to get; isn't that what you told me back when we started celebrating the holiday?"
"Part of the fun of Christmas morning also includes your housemate not strangling you. What do you have in mind?"
There was a long, comfortable pause, while Ruka tried to pick through what he could say to find what he wanted to say. "Well, I figured I'd come home and put on the coffee, go ahead and feed Chuck so that he'd stop yowling at me and trying to trip me..." If they'd been in the same locale he would have ducked, even though Mikage did not often reach to swat him, at the exasperated noise coming from the other end of the line. "Maybe stop in the living room and shake the presents under the tree, try to figure out what you're giving me. And then I'll head on upstairs, where you'll be asleep, if you knew what was good for you." His voice dropped again, took on that purr. "I like looking at you sleeping, you know."
The little catch in Mikage's voice gave him away, despite his best efforts to sound casual. It made Ruka smile, not only to know that he was having that effect on his partner, but to realize that he could hear it even though Mikage wanted it to be silent. Long practice, he supposed. "It's a good thing. I certainly do enough of it while you're awake. And vice versa."
"Yeah," Ruka said, and he knew that his smile was audible. "I like watching you sleep because you're so quiet and peaceful. You just tuck yourself up under the covers like there's nothing else to worry about in the world. You're beautiful, you know." He didn't wait for the embarrassed protest, just kept going. "I like waking you up when you're sleeping, too. I like climbing into bed naked with you and chewing on that spot just on the curve of where your neck meets your shoulder. I like that little sleepy catch of breath when you realize that I'm there and nuzzling you. You're bright red, aren't you."
A long pause. "No."
"Liar." Ruka chuckled. "I can imagine you now. You're curled up in bed, just where I left you. The radio's on, and quiet. You've got a book sitting on the bedside table, which you put down to call me. You're blushing bright red, and you're trying to deny it. You're precious when you blush, you know. It makes me want to curl up next to you, lean over you, and just start nuzzling. I like the way your skin tastes, you know."
Breathless, hazy. "Are you trying to kill me, Tsuchiya?"
Ruka chuckled again. "Is it working?"
"No." There was a rustle, as though Mikage were sitting up. "It takes more than that to do me in."
It would have taken a stronger man than Tsuchiya Ruka to resist such an opening. "Oh, yeah? Well, how about the image of you, sprawled flat on your back, lying in bed and waiting for me to get home. And me coming up the stairs, tossing clothing as I go, not even really caring that you're going to yell at me later because of it and I'm going to have to pick up every last scrap of clothing before we can go ahead and have breakfast later. How about the image of me sliding into bed with you, skin against skin, all lips and hands and fingertips, running one hand down your side until you squeak and jump, and that's how I'll know you're awake. I'll wait until I know that you're awake enough to realize what's going on, and then I think I'll just kiss you all over for a few hours. You'll get tired of it, of course. You always do. And when you do, you'll flip me over and bend down over me and run your lips over my collarbone before you take one of the nipple rings in your teeth and tug on it." He paused, listening to the suddenly hoarse breathing from the other end of the phone line. "And that's about when things will get really interesting."
It took another long moment before Mikage could respond. "You are trying to kill me."
Ruka laughed. "Come on, Souji, it's just a bedtime story. You know; since I'm not talking on the air, the least I can be doing is talking to you." He fished out his pack of cigarettes again, trying to shelter them from the snow, which was beginning to fall with more enthusiasm. "There's only one catch."
Ruka patted his pockets, absently. Dammit, he'd had his lighter just a few damn minutes ago. "You have to be asleep when I get home for it to work." He grinned, knowing Mikage would be able to hear it.
Mikage laughed as well. "All right. All right. I'll go to sleep. Are you happy?"
The lighter, of course, was in the last place that Ruka looked for it. "No. I won't be happy until I can be home and curled up next to you. But in the meantime, yeah, that's a good approximation."
"I do love it when you talk to me, you know," Mikage ventured, his own voice dropping, as though he were trying to force himself to speak. "I love touching you. I love it when you touch me."
Ruka smiled. He knew precisely what Mikage was trying to say, even though neither one of them would ever say it out loud. "Good. I'm glad." A pause, while he lit his cigarette. "Get to sleep, Souji. It's Christmas Eve. I'll be home in another two hours."
Neither one of them ever bothered with long, extended good-byes on the phone. Neither one of them really bothered with good-byes at all, and this time was no different. Ruka flipped the phone closed and took a drag on his cigarette, smiling as he looked out over the snow-covered streets from his vantage point on the edge of the roof. It was Christmas Eve, and he was still stuck at work, but having something to look forward to when he went home made it a little bit better.
The radio broadcast in his ear was crackling and snapping -- it was hard to pick up, this close to the broadcast tower, but he could make out enough of it. Just enough to realize that he still had some time left on the album. He stretched and shivered, just a little, as the cold finally got to him. Maybe he would go inside anyway. It was warm inside, and there was coffee, and after all, there was only a little while left to go on his shift.
The song played on in his headphones as he tossed away the cigarette he'd just lit -- he'd light another when he got inside. There was time, after all.
"And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts, hot ashes for trees, hot air for a cool breeze, cold comfort for change? And did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage? How I wish, how I wish you were here. We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year. Running over the same old ground, what have we found? The same old fears. Wish you were here."
And maybe, if he let the album keep playing without the interruption of his voice, Mikage would be able to catch some sleep before he got home.
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