Red is the Color of You
They napped for only about an hour, and upon waking up Izumi ate the meal Neio prepared for him: an arrangement of vegetables, rice, and salmon, while Wraith rested his head on his lap. Albeit simple, the food was as delectable as it always was. Izumi only wished he could have Neio’s cooking on a daily basis; his mother’s wasn’t bad, just not as good as Neio’s.
He didn’t realize how loud he was earlier until his throat stung when water coated it, desperately craving some form of soothing liquid at the same time. Clearing his throat didn’t help, and the cold water only seemed to make it worse. The remaining alcohol was also far out of the list of options.
“Pretty surprising how you’re actually not the loudest person in bed that I’ve ever met.”
“I’ll poke your stupid mismatched eyes out.”
“Then I didn’t say anything. Give me your water bottle.”
Handing it to him, Wraith took a slight sip, quickly whirled it in his mouth, and put it back, shaking the bottle and handing it back to Izumi.
“That’s disgusting I’m not drinking that.”
“You’ll kiss me and give me head but you won’t drink after me?”
“One it’s not the same thing and two you just spit in that basically!”
“Keep your sore throat then, or kiss me, I don’t feel like getting up.”
Izumi didn’t want to oblige to either, yet in this scenario, he’d prefer to just take a quick swig of the water than kiss him. Immediately, he tried to erase the thought from his mind, putting the bottle back into the woven basket. At the least, Izumi’s sting was relieved, but at what cost.
“Did you stop the recording?”
“Yea, I’ll probably delete it later or something, I don’t want someone to get their hands on it somehow.”
“Boooo. Consider yourself lucky that I don’t have my own computer or camera or anything.”
Picking up the camera, Izumi scrolled through the gallery until landing on the video, hesitating when it came to pressing play.
“Hey! Let me see if you’re gonna look at it.”
“Yes you are, I know you.” Wraith sat up, slipping the camera out of his palms.
Their size difference was too great for Izumi to successfully reach forward and take it back.
Wraith mockingly extended his pierced tongue. “I’ll never give you back this camera if you don’t play the video at least one time.”
“Ok ok fine just let me fast forward!”
Izumi snatched the camera once it came into reach, annoyingly plopping himself in Wraith’s crossed legs. He perched his head on Izumi’s shoulder, staring at the small screen as the video played.
“Oh wow the quality is pretty good.”
“My mom and I are both photographers so..”
Scrolling through to avoid any further shame, Izumi only occasionally lets the video play, albeit only for a few seconds.
“You’re so into it, look at your face! You almost never look away from the camera.”
“Do you want me to show you what you look like getting oral?”
“Nononono, I’m just kidding. You can do whatever you want with the footage now.”
Truthfully, Izumi didn’t know if he wanted to delete it or not, so he turned off the camera and put it back in the basket for now.
“Where are we gonna go now?”
Wraith shrugs. “I might go home honestly, see how they’re fairing. I asked them to try and handle things for a bit today so I could spend some time with you.”
“You didn’t plan anything else?”
“Pfft no, I told you, I’m terrible when it comes to dates. Just figuring this much out was a lot of work. Unless you have an idea?”
“I only dated someone maybe twice, so I’m equally lost…”
“Perfect aren’t we?” He ruffles Izumi’s hair and stands. “Then yea I’ll just take you back.”
Although Izumi wanted to spend more time with Wraith, he didn’t want to hog him all day, considering the pile of problems that he put aside just to spare a few hours with him.
The picnic sheet was dematerialized, while Wraith decided to carry the small basket along with Izumi who was one his back, transforming his jacket back into its original robe appearance and hanging it over him by the hood so that it would cover more skin. It would’ve been a living nightmare had a coworker witnessed Izumi wearing a skirt, so it was also in an attempt to conceal his face. They took a more humane route back, simply walking from the mountains to town and taking the train.
When the couple was only a few minutes away from the house, a sudden question arose in Izumi’s forever curious mind.
“This is kind of random, but how did you get your name? Specters don’t have parents or anything from what I can tell.”
“We don’t, we’re usually born already knowing our name. I don’t know what mine used to be though, since, you know. I didn’t really bother to come up with one either since I didn’t necessarily need one. Then, with everything related to that time, Lavina ended up indirectly naming me Wraith. Always said some form of abhorrent specter, living corpse, lowly wraith. Last one was obviously her favorite, and it just kind of stuck.”
“Do you like it at least?”
“If it bothered me THAT bad I wouldn’t have let it stick for as long as it did-”
After turning a corner, Wraith suddenly set Izumi down, handing him the picnic basket.
Not long after, a figure followed in suit and Wraith swiftly caught them by their shirt and slammed them against the wall.
The man was unfortunately familiar to Izumi. “Takeda?”
“Your glasses coworker?”
“Yea, he’s fine, you can let him go.”
Even though Wraith listened, he crossed his arms and snarled at the fragile man who nearly soiled himself, still in the process of trying not to as he regained his breaths.
Izumi took over, knowing that if Wraith had to do any questioning, Takeda would get his head bitten off. “Were you following us?”
“HAAAAHH..! Yes! But only because I saw you and was like ‘Hey! That’s Izumi! I wonder who that guy is with him!’ And I was gonna leave you alone since you guys seemed to be you know but I thought aww what the heck let me see where they go.”
“I still don’t see why you would, don’t you know anything about privacy?”
“Of course I do! But I was just so curious, you know? Like imagine you saw me walking with a girl, you’d think ‘Oh wow didn’t know Jun could get laid! I wanna see where this goes.’”
“I would NOT think that and I would leave you alone. If I was so curious I’d ask you at work some other time.”
The timid Takeda only seemed to dig himself further into a hole with every false excuse he made, and the looming threat of Izumi’s overprotective boyfriend became more frightening by the second.
“Ugh, just say what you wanna say.”
“Ok, are you guys dating?”
“Yes. I’m gay. Does that satisfy your curiosity?”
“It does! I’m sorry that I made you come out to me like that though I’ll keep your secret don’t worry….And the skirt thing-?”
“Takeda please just go.”
“Right right right!! I’ll be seeing you!!”
Without even so much as looking at Wraith, Takeda bowed several times and darted off, tail between his legs.
Izumi sighed, brushing off Takeda’s antics as just being Takeda and turned to Wraith.
“Why were you so on his case? I know you well enough by now to know that look, you looked like you would’ve smothered him if I wasn’t here!”
“Something’s off about him. It’s not paranoia, I can guarantee you.”
“That’s just how he is though-”
“No, Izumi, hear me out. He said he saw YOU. There’s no way in hell he could’ve seen your face. Not only was I carrying you so I was blocking most of it, but you’re wearing something completely different from what you usually do and you had a hood over your face. The only person he could’ve possibly seen is me, and he shouldn’t know who I am to know that I know you.”
“When you saved us he was unconscious…” The cogs start to turn, processing Wraith’s theory.
“Exactly. So, he was looking for me in particular.”
“Then Takeda knows who you are..? But how would he even learn that? I thought you said humans can’t see ghosts, only spe-” In the midst of the question, Izumi realizes he answered his own question.
“Specters. A fucking specter. He doesn’t have the scent of one so he didn’t make a deal or anything, but it’s possible they could still have some form of leverage. I could only take guesses at who and why; you went to the ball, basically every specter saw your face and wanted to know who you are and what you mean to me, could give them some form of upperhand or a way to finally make me eat my words.”
“But isn’t there a chance this is all speculation and Takeda isn’t working for a specter? I mean, it’d be hard to work around your territory and all that since if they wanna figure out who I am, they have to take some risks.”
“It’s possible but unlikely, why else would they use a human? Harder for me to trace back than a spirit or shade. There’s the whole thing with the both of you going to that spirit town too, and I’m sure that whole thing was staged. You know, I could just interrogate-”
“No! What if you’re wrong and you just scare the crap out of him for nothing?”
“Why do you care? If they figure out anything about you, you or Eiji or your mother could be at risk, and that’s more important than the trauma of some random middle aged man you barely know.”
“If whoever this specter is had the confidence to have a literal spy so close to me, don’t you think he knows full well you’ll see him eventually? They’re prepared for that so they’d be prepared for you finding out whoever they are!”
Wraith backs down, lighting a cigarette to distract himself. “Fine, I won’t. Then what?”
He thinks for a moment, trying to come up with a plan. “We could just do what he’s doing.”
“What, spy on him? What’s that gonna do?”
“Takeda is...well...kinda timid so he’s the type to just do what he’s told. I don’t think he’ll really try to cover up anything, so we could at least try and figure out whatever that specter’s full plans are. Who knows, it could always be more than what it looks like. Basically he spies on me, I spy on him.”
“But that’s like I’m using you as bait. I’d rather-”
“Go start a fight? Cuss at them until one of them fesses up?”
Leaning against the wall, smoke leaves in the form of a sigh. “You’re really sounding like Lavina now with her innate ability to make me sound stupid. Ugh….it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, I don’t wanna use you like that. The latter sounds more preferable honestly.”
Izumi tries to persuade Wraith not just in words, but in actions as well, closing the distance between them and resting his hands on his shoulders. “You’re not using me I’m offering. Plus, what is Takeda gonna do? Even if I was attacked somehow, you didn’t give me this necklace for nothing. If it won’t protect me, then you or one of the others will.”
The endearing display overcoming what’s left of his rebuttal, Wraith caves. “Alright, but if anything happens, you have to tell me.”
“I will just so I don’t get chewed out again.”
Giving Wraith a peck, they trade a smile.
There was still time left in the day, as it was only around noon, so after changing Izumi called Takeda as soon as possible in order to ‘apologize for his boyfriend’ and arrange a meet up to talk about it, while Wraith pushed his time in order to at least be there for him when he first spoke to Takeda about Wraith. He assumed the form of a german shepherd, since Takeda would likely filter himself more in Wraith’s presence, reading and speaking through Izumi’s mind in order to communicate with him. They sat outside of a cafe, Takeda immediately pointing out the canine.
“I didn’t know you had a dog!!” Takeda kneels over and tries to pet him.
“Izumi if you let him I’ll bite his hand off.”
“He’s um actually not that friendly so I wouldn’t.”
The dog-turned-Wraith glares through him before curling by Izumi’s feet.
“Geez, is he trained?”
“Uhh kind of? He’s not really my dog…..my friend asked me to watch him for a bit. I do actually have a dog though, but she’s with my mom right now.”
“Don’t tell him anything if he didn’t ask.”
“And don’t be so paranoid. I get you’re worried but it’s fine.”
“I’m really sorry if my boyfriend scared you by the way, he’s the protective type.”
“I WOULD say it’s fine, but I nearly shit myself, so it’s half fine. He didn’t want to come with you?”
“No I sent him home since I figured you wanted to ask about us with how weird you were acting earlier.”
A bit panicked, Takeda whips out an excuse on the spot, “Well I mean it’s because I’ve never known someone that’s well um…”
“Why he’s asking. His tone changed.”
Takeda awkwardly tries asking, “Like how do you…?”
“If you try to ask me anything about my sex life I’m going home.”
“Ok ok nevermind nevermind! Then ummmm….can I ask what he works as…?”
Knowing Izumi probably isn’t the best liar, Wraith immediately comes up with something. “Security.”
“He’s a security guard.”
“That explains the fight or flight instinct! I didn’t take you for the type to be with a guy like him.”
Takeda reads Izumi’s confused yet semi-offended expression. “Not in a bad way! Like you’re a nice guy, he kind of gave me...I don’t know...a bad boy feeling? You know what I mean.”
“Ok, then you tell me. What’s he like? Not that?”
He debates how honest he should be, considering Wraith is listening to their entire conversation. “He is a bit? At least he said he used to be but not anymore. Kind of hot-headed, leader type, brutally honest sometimes but he can be nice too, he usually is with me.”
“What made him change?”
“Wraith if you don’t shut up-”
“Uh-...time? Grew out of it, one of those college things. I never really asked him but I’d assume that.”
“Aren’t you guys dating though?”
“We are, but he doesn’t talk much about his life.”
“But that’s...weird! What if he’s a serial killer or something? With how strong he is, I wouldn’t be surprised! You have to know SOMETHING. Ok, let’s start with this. How’d you guys meet?”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“He’s trying to redirect it back to our relationship. If he really is just working for a specter, he already knows who I am. Just say something random.”
“I used to work as a server and he was a regular, was always talking with staff and eventually he asked to meet me off hours. We hung out a lot after that then eventually he asked me out.”
“That’s actually….more normal than I thought.”
“You expected some grand story about how he fell from the sky or something?”
“Well yes but no? He just seemed more...eccentric. With his weird eyes and all. What’d he see in you-? Not in a bad way I’m just curious because you guys are so different and all you know he’s super aggressive and you’re like the opposite of that.”
“I’m thinking...Opposites attract.”
“Is that your actual reason?” He jokes, sensing a hint of Wraith being flustered.
“No, we’re not talking about this right now.”
“I think he liked that in me, the fact that I wasn’t like him. He...considers himself a bad person a lot of the time so I think he took comfort in the fact I didn’t think of him like that while others did.”
“He doesn’t exactly try to be a nice guy! He nearly strangled me!”
“Ok, neglect the fact that you were following us. Anyone would’ve done that.”
“Yes but then he continued to look at me like I killed his wife!”
“How would you be able to trust someone you just met when your first opinion of them is that they followed you for blocks?”
“That- ok fine fine, I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking I was just curious…..can I at least how long you’ve been together? You put so much trust in him so I’m guessing awhile…?”
“We’ve known each other for a few months, but only started dating recently. He’s helped me with a lot though, since I met him, so he means...a lot to me.”
“Then you guys are like….for real..? Full committed relationship and everything?”
“Y-yea...why are you so curious about him in the first place?”
“Well like I said I saw you and thought wow didn’t take Izumi as the relationship type I wonder what kind of uh men he’s into and you’re basically the first gay person I’ve met so-”
“Please don’t say that like we’re a rare breed.”
“Right right!! Sorry! Look, you know what, I’m gonna go, I feel like I offended you a thousand times over so I’m just gonna do some self flagellation for redemption. Yea? Yea. I’ll see you at work-!!!”
Before they knew it, Takeda sprinted away, Wraith taking his place in the chair across, shifting back into his usual form.
“He didn’t even ask you for my name. Don’t you think that if he really was ‘just curious’ that he would ask for the most basic thing?”
“Okay, you were right, I was wrong. He’s definitely suspicious. I’ll just do what I said then, see where he goes with the whole thing and try to figure something out from it.”
“Izumi, just...be careful.” Wraith combs his hair with his hand. “I didn’t want to tell you this earlier but…the spirits that keep invading the territory are looking for you. That’s why I’m so worried and why I’ve been overworking the others. I already knew that someone at the ball had to have spread a rumor about it, and with your coworker friend Takeda that only confirms that someone is targeting you. I highly doubt they think the spirits will do anything, so it’s probably a ploy for something else, but I’m just as lost right now. I doubt it’s to kill you either, since that wouldn’t really achieve anything.”
“There’s no rules for stuff like this?”
Lighting another cigarette, Wraith scoffs, “If I went complaining they’d turn it back on me immediately. Why are you so concerned? Do you have something to hide? People target you and whoever you know all the time. The only thing I’m scared of is if it’s Vahan behind this whole thing, he’s the only one smart enough to know what to look for and how to use that information. He knows he can’t kill me, so it’d probably be some other absurd goal I can’t even think of right now. We can’t even do anything really right now until we get more information.”
Izumi, a little angrily, walks over and snatches Wraith’s cigarette right out of his hands and grinds it into the floor. “Then trust me. You figure out what you can, and I’ll do the same on my side. I promise I’ll be careful.”
Even with his reassurance, Wraith still couldn’t help but feel anxious. Izumi was worth more than he knew, or could ever know, and the last thing Wraith could afford was him getting captured, or worse, killed. And if Vahan was really involved…
Standing, he sighed, ruffling Izumi’s hair. “Promise me that if you feel in danger even in the slightest that you’ll call me. If another Fuhiro happens-mnh-...”
A forced kiss muffles the rest of his sentence along with his paranoia. “I told you, I will. I promise.”
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