It's nothing so dramatic, anyway. I've just been in a bad place in my head. I guess I just want to say something because I'm trying to get better. Like, the permanent kind of better, if that's possible. Because I've been coming and going from that place for half my life now, and that's more than enough.
But hey, fandom's also been with me almost that long! Ever since I discovered Ronin Warriors is the best thing ever and ohwow there's more of it on the internet! So it might be crazy, but I want my writing here to be part of the process. I want to start picking up the pieces I feel like I've dropped or broken here too. If that makes any sense.
I'm going to be trying to post the things that should have been finished but somehow never were. Chapters of the patiently waiting WIPs (trying for the first three sections on my WIP post, basically down to the "stalled" part of the list.). The prompts from December 2011. The 10_whores and 30_dogpile challenges (at least enough chapters to get my plot, dangit! After that it's just fluffy gravy). And a couple other things that should have been posted, yet never were.
So let me start with one of the things from the 2011 prompts. Zebra/Komatsu for rice_kracker
Title: The Sound of his Heart
Prompt: Sense of hearing
Warnings: Introspective Zebra, I guess? I'll try to make him more violently tsundere next time.
Summary: Komatsu's voice was the first part of him that Zebra knew. He doesn't know why, but he wants to fill his ears with Komatsu.
Komatsu had a habit of murmuring to himself while he cooked. Whenever he was inventing a new dish or composing a new menu he talked through each possibility and made delicious little noises to himself when his creations pleased him. Zebra could tell from the lift and dip of inflection, or the sweetly coaxing tone of his voice, when he was having some sort of enigmatic chef understanding with his ingredients or inching his way closer to success.
That voice was the first part of Komatsu he had ever known. While Komatsu cooked for him on his last day at Honey Prison he had focused his ears with a single-mindedness that he normally only bent to anger. There had been something building inside of him, a pressure coiling tighter and tighter until he wanted to explode, but for once it wasn’t anger. It wasn’t a heated desire for violence or sustenance, and so he hadn’t known how to respond.
He had heard an unbelievably wide range of things said of him behind his back. Rarely had anyone made such infuriatingly charitable assumptions about him, and never in his memory had anyone fussed over him. Listening to Komatsu trying to compose a perfect menu specifically for him was an entirely new experience.
For a long time Zebra had only needed three basic responses to the things he encountered. If something was strong enough to be entertaining, then fight it. If something looked or smelled tasty, then eat it. If something pissed him off, then he would completely destroy it. That system had worked for him. It had gotten him dragged to Honey Prison in chains, of course, but he still thought it worked pretty well.
Then Komatsu came along with his distracting little murmurs, and upset the whole system. Zebra certainly couldn’t fight with him. Even if he was a tough little thing in spirit his body wouldn’t keep up. He hadn’t pissed Zebra off. By the time they physically met Zebra was in a good enough mood to keep him. He did look and smell pretty delicious–he even sounded delicious, teasing Zebra’s ears with the steady throb of blood and muscle in a healthy body–but Toriko had been very adamant that Komatsu was not for eating. It had never occurred to him to just ignore Komatsu, as he usually did for things that didn’t fall under one of his usual categories.
Komatsu wasn’t just in a new category, he was an entirely new category that consisted only of himself. It took little time for Zebra to sort out the proper response, and even longer to consciously realize that he wanted Komatsu. Not just lusted after his delicious cooking or was intrigued by his little murmurs but actually Wanted. Him. Badly enough to consider things that he had never bothered with before.
Maybe it was because he didn’t have to choose only a few delicacies when filling his belly, but Zebra had never wasted his time ranking different foods. Once he had finished eating them there was no point in dwelling on how good they were. He’d never wanted a set menu to devote his life to, but eating Komatsu’s cooking every day. . . he could live with that. It was with a burst of unprecedented sentimentality that he had chosen the Mellow Cola that brought them together as the first piece of his full course.
Of course the Mellow Cola had deserved a higher rank than: tastes good, eat it all. No drink had ever felt so good on his parched and abused throat.
It hadn’t been enough to win Komatsu. He should have expected that, but not getting what he wanted right away built up that unfamiliar heat inside that wasn’t temper or hunger. It wasn’t Komatsu being coy or cocky, but confident. Zebra had heard Komatsu’s little heart pounding when he made it clear he wanted Zebra to have a complete full course first. The sound of Komatsu’s blood rushing with excitement to see what he would discover made him throw himself into the tasks he had been given and sweep them aside in a matter of weeks.
Even out of a thousand new ingredients, there was very little worth even considering. They had to be enough to impress Komatsu, and nothing less would suffice. Zebra might not be a master of self control, but his will, once bent to a task, would not be broken.
Yet some time after he had the IGO no longer hassling him and had nothing to do but hunt for his own full course, he caught himself considering even the things that weren’t worth considering. He wanted to know what noises Komatsu would make when he savored the new tastes that Zebra could share with him. No, what he really wanted was to have Komatsu cook for him. He wanted to hear the thoughtful murmur of Komatsu’s voice as he planned and prepared each dish.
No, Zebra began to think he wanted to hear just the sound of Komatsu’s steady heartbeat. He thought about the sound of that strong pulse contained in such a small package, and he caught himself making his way back to where Komatsu was.
Of course it was ridiculous. He was aware of that now that he had Komatsu beside him. One heartbeat sounded very much the same as any other. The sound changed with the body holding it and the health and strength of the muscle, not with whatever-it-was that made Komatsu so interesting.
And he was interesting. When he yelled in shock, when he laughed, or when he made those little vocalizations of pleasure that set Zebra’s ears tingling.
Even if Zebra had decided to himself he would focus on getting stronger and completing a full course that would have to get Komatsu’s attention, he finally couldn’t resist stealing Komatsu away for a few days. It almost didn’t matter why. Even if he wasn’t taking Komatsu on a hunt for anything impressive enough to deserve mention, he wanted to take in all the sounds of Komatsu.
The little noises Komatsu made never seemed to stop. A soft breath, a sleepy murmur, the rustle of cloth and dirt with the slightest shift of the small body lying close to him. Never close enough to touch, but always close. Not that it mattered. Little Komatsu and his little noises would have driven Zebra mad no matter how far apart they settled down to sleep.
Not that Komatsu was asleep either. Zebra could tell by the rhythm of his pulse and his breath, even before Komatsu sat up and called to him with a soft, “Zebra-san? Do you hear something?”
Zebra responded with a low grunt. Komatsu was always trusting that his bishokuya guardians’ senses would pick up approaching danger long before he ever could, and somehow he had become finely tuned to all of their moods, but it still made Zebra irritable that Komatsu had noticed his restlessness. “Just you,” he grumbled.
“Ah, sorry. Was I disturbing you?”
Zebra only grunted again in annoyance. He wasn’t going to say he liked the little noises Komatsu made.
“Can I do something to help you sleep?” Komatsu actually shifted closer, leaning over him. “A midnight snack or something?”
Zebra looked out of the corner of his eye at the fearless little chef. Honestly, anyone else would never hover over a sleepless, ever-hungry predator like himself that way. But Komatsu didn’t just know he was safe, he trusted Zebra with more than his life.
“No,” Zebra sharply shot down the offer. Luckily Komatsu’s senses wouldn’t be enough to detect his embarrassment in the dark. Zebra could feel his ears burning, his pulse quickening until it thudded loud in his own ears, though never loud enough to drown out the little sounds of Komatsu’s body.
For some reason Komatsu didn’t leave him. Zebra raised his head slightly, surprised once again at his own failure to chase the little chef away. The moment he did he felt Komatsu’s hands cover his ears, or at least as much of them as would fit under his small palms.
“Does this help?” Komatsu asked in a whisper.
Zebra hardly paid attention to the words. He was feeling to the steady throb of Komatsu’s pulse teasing at his sensitive ears. It wasn’t loud enough to drown out the world, and yet all he could hear was Komatsu.
“Do whatever you want. I don’t care.”
Komatsu smiled at the brush-off and did just that, staying right where he was.
After Komatsu had finally fallen asleep laying across his chest, Zebra carefully cupped his hands around Komatsu’s smaller hands to keep them in place over his ears. He closed his eyes, counting each beat of Komatsu’s heart.