Complete silence reigned over the upscale, tastefully-furnished apartment of the famous romance novelist, Yuki Eiri.
This was not only an unusual incidence, it was more than a little unsettling as the silence had reigned for over ten minutes now. In the part of his life Eiri now referred to as 'before,' this kind of silence would have been an everyday occurrence. As a writer and best-selling author, Eiri preferred to spend a good deal of time closeted alone with his laptop and the sound of nothing but the keys chattering beneath his fingers.
That had been before Shuuichi.
The handsome author looked up from his laptop for the third time with a distracted air, running a hand through his neat blond locks, messing it up briefly before finger-combing the strands back into place. He leaned back in his chair. "Shuuichi?"
Since sharing his living space, his bed, and far more of his life than he'd expected to -- or really wanted to -- with the hyperactive rising music star Shindou Shuuichi, Eiri had learned never to take silence for granted anymore. It was difficult to come by. However, with Shuuichi home as he had been for several hours, silence was no longer a cherished commodity. It was a suspicious, perhaps truly disturbing thing.
"Shuuichi?" Eiri called again, wondering if the boy had stepped out unexpectedly. No, he would have told him about ten times by now where he was going and when he would be back -- even if it was just a trip to the corner store.
A couple of faint clinking noises answered him, then some odd rustling.
With an irritated sigh, Eiri pushed himself back from his desk and stood. "This isn't another slump of some kind, is it?" Mentally he was already crossing that out. When Shuuichi was unhappy with him, Eiri was never the last to know.
Shuuichi liked grand gestures. And he didn't just communicate his emotional states, he telegraphed. With the equivalent of fifty-meter-high flaming characters.
At any rate, whenever Shuuichi was unhappy with him, silence was not usually the first recourse. Eiri padded through the expansive apartment, lighting up his third cigarette of the hour. This silence had been distracting him for the past fifteen minutes, so it was time to ferret out the source. As more clinking noises came from the other side of the apartment, Eiri began to wonder if Shuuichi had brought a pet home and was trying to keep it from him.
He froze in the doorway to the kitchen.
Practice with this kind of shock made Eiri clamp down reflexively on the cigarette between his lips. The last thing he wanted was burn-scars marring the smooth finish of the wooden floor. "Shuuichi, what are you DOING?" he demanded, wondering why the smoke alarm hadn't set up a klaxon before now. Then he noticed the open window, where thankfully all of the dense black smoke was headed.
"Cooking," Shuuichi answered piteously, aiming huge wobbling eyes in his direction, unshed tears gathering at the corners.
"What the hell for?" Eiri demanded bluntly. "You can't cook." This had been proved on more than one occasion; did Shuuichi have to go and prove it again?
"WAAAAH!" Shuuichi gave up on the smoking pot on the oven and launched himself at Eiri. "It's ruined, it's completely ruined, you're right and I can't cook! I'm so ashamed!"
Eiri tried to sidestep but Shuuichi's animal cunning threw him. The boy had calculated a trajectory for the space Eiri sidestepped into, and having aimed himself perfectly, latched onto Eiri's knees. "I can see that," Eiri ground out, eyeing the scorched pot that continued to billow smoke. He sniffed. "What is that...burnt chocolate?" And another pot went to the trash can.
"Yeees!" Shuuichi wept, clinging to his knees. "It's burnt chocolate! I was practicing, but I'm so terrible I can't even practice!"
That made Eiri frown. "Practice? What are you talking about?"
Shuuichi blinked up at him and cinched his mouth shut. He shook his head vigorously. He imitated a clam.
Eiri sighed. "All right, all right." He began the process of trying to pry the boy off his knees. "Come on. It can't be helped. Let's open the windows and go out for dinner." At least until the smell had been aired out somewhat. There was no help for it, indeed; the short-lived silence was gone and the stink of carbonized chocolate would drive him out of his study even if Shuuichi's loud penitence didn't do so.
"Really?" Shuuichi perked up, leaping to his feet. "You'll take me out for dinner?"
"Yes, yes," Eiri waved a hand, already moving for the stove once liberated. As he'd suspected, the burner was still turned up on high. "Just open all the windows, okay?"
"I gotcha!" With bottle-rocket enthusiasm, Shuuichi leapt out of the kitchen, doing a pirouette on the way for the living room windows.
Eiri dumped the stinking mess in the sink and hosed it down before he pitched it in the trash-can. From out in the apartment, the sound of "Yuki's treating me for dinner! Yuki's treating me!" floated in to him. In spite of himself, Eiri smiled.
"RALLY-HO!" Shindou Shuuichi thundered, shouldering open the studio door and planting his foot on the threshold. His eyes gleamed. His smile was wide and flawless. His vigor was undoubtable!
"Ah, Shindou-kun!" Sakano, Bad Luck's producer, perked up hopefully. "You seem cheerful today!" When Shuuichi was in a good mood, it meant work went more smoothly for all of them.
"That's right! I am cheerful!" Shuuichi advanced into the studio, hands on his hips, taking exaggerated steps. "And the reason? The reason, huh? I'm so glad you asked the reason..." he continued, even though no one had.
It was a full Bad Luck studio, and Hiro and Fujisaki looked up in that pause. Hiro's expression was all amused tolerance; Fujisaki was industrious impatience.
"Well, you know, the reason..." Shuuichi continued, sidling towards the center of the studio and batting his eyelashes, "it's--"
"You got lucky with Eiri-san last night, huh, Shuuichi?" Hiro interrupted, a half-smile on his face.
"WAH!" Sakano rushed to clap his hands over Fujisaki's ears. With an irritated shrug, the keyboardist shrugged him off.
"Wha--!?" Shuuichi deflated. "Hiro! I was going to say 'It's a secret!'"
"Yeah, but everyone knows." Hiro waved a hand dismissively. "So, you got lucky, right?"
"Yuki took me out to dinner!" Shuuichi swooned. "And it was a nice dinner, really nice. And then he took me home, and the house didn't smell burned anymore, and so...and so..."
"And so nothing sloppy or dangerous happened!" Sakano interjected, making a lunge for Fujisaki's ears again.
Shuuichi blinked several times. "And so the rest is none of your business!"
They keeled over.
Shuuichi looked around energetically. "So what's the plan?" he demanded. He'd already produced more than enough lyrics for Fujisaki to start working on arrangements for new album tracks, so he was feeling pretty confident today. There was nothing that particularly called for his genius talent.
"We're waiting for K," Fujisaki said dejectedly. "I got here early as usual, but K hasn't been here. We've got work to do!"
"Oh, don't worry about that so much," Shuuichi waved a hand at him. "There's always work to do."
Fujisaki looked like a kettle ready to boil. "Not when I've got midterms coming up! If there's no work, I want to be excused!" The stress of the midterms had been making his temper shorter each week during the month.
"Hey, hey, I'm sure he'll be here soon," Hiro interjected, putting himself physically between the two diametrically-opposed bandmates. He focused on the pink-haired teen. "Setting that aside for the moment, Shuuichi, have you heard the news?"
Shuuichi blinked at him, obviously befuddled. "News? What news?"
"You haven't heard about Yuki Eiri-san's press announcement?" Sakano interjected, jumping into the conversation eagerly. Anything that concerned Shuuichi's possible happiness was his concern, too, after all.
Hiro gave him a dirty look and drew Shuuichi aside. "You mean...you didn't watch television this morning?"
"Not the news," Shuuichi said scornfully. "I don't watch current events when I'm trying to digest my breakfast. They just don't mix!" He beamed at Hiro.
"Eheh..." Hiro rubbed the base of his neck. "So you didn't hear that Yuki and his publicist announced the release date and title for his latest novel?"
"Ahh! I can't believe I missed that!" Shuuichi clutched at his hair. "I mean, I knew he was leaving the house early and all after he was shut up with his laptop all week, but... Yukiiii~! How mean!"
Hiro began to back away at the manic expression on Shuuichi's face, but he wasn't fast enough. The vocalist leapt on him, grabbing the collar of Hiro's shirt in both hands and shaking him like a dog with a particularly tough bone.
"Tell me! Tell me tell me tell me tell me..."
"Sakano-san," Fujisaki agonized, "if they won't work, at least set me up somewhere where I can work on arrangements for the new songs."
"That might not be a bad idea, Fujisaki-kun."
"All right! All right!" Hiro cried, regretting the fact that he'd ever brought up anything to do with Yuki Eiri. "Just let me go, I can't breathe!"
"Eh? Oh, sorry, Hiro!" Shuuichi promptly released him and the guitarist collapsed.
"Ouch," Hiro wheezed, then straightened up. "The title of his new book is 'corpse.' That's with a lower-case 'c' in English, in case you were wondering."
The sarcasm went completely over Shuuichi's head. "And? And? And?"
"Relax," Hiro sighed. He looked at Shuuichi's expectant face, definitely kicking himself for bringing up the interview. Still, it would have been worse if Shuuichi had caught the interview alone at home, or if he saw a repeat. "After the publicist announced that 'corpse' would be released near the middle of the month, Eiri-san took the mike."
"And? And? And?" Shuuichi repeated, impatience edging the words.
"And...Eiri-san said it was a love story about an idiot who succeeds against all reason," Sakano said outright, helping Fujisaki gather up some half-completed scores.
Shuuichi stood there and blinked.
"Shuuichi?" Hiro said, a little concerned. Shuuichi's expression wasn't disturbing so much as it was a complete lack of expression. "Uh...Shuuichi, you okay?"
The vocalist shook his head vigorously, fluffing out his pink hair. He shook like a cat that had gotten water in his ears -- so hard, Hiro practically expected fur to fly. "Nnnnn! Nothing's wrong! Everything a-okay!" He pinched his thumb and forefinger into an 'okay' signal. Then he gave them a reassuring smile. "Really, I'm not a literary person. I'm not sure I'll even read Yuki's new book." But there was something not quite right about his smile.
"Shindou-kun," Sakano said, clearly concerned.
The studio door burst open for a second time, smacking against the wall.
"Everyone can relax!" a giant blond American announced. "I have a battle plan for today."
"K, finally!" Fujisaki said with relief.
"Who's up for a Bad Luck field trip?" K beamed.
"Ehhh? No! We have deadlines to meet!" Sakano protested. "Besides, we've got this studio booked until four."
"No field trip? All right then, we go with Plan B," K said calmly, pulling out a map and tearing it in two. Before anyone could sneak a look at it he stuffed the pieces in his back pocket.
"Oh, that reminds me..." Shuuichi floated over to K, a dreamy expression on his face. "K? Hey, hey? K? What is Bad Luck doing for Valentine's Day? It's nothing, right? It's nothing important? Right, right?"
K looked down at the floppy two-dimensional Shuuichi that had attached itself to his arm. "I have plans that day," he announced, then shook his arm, dislodging the floppy superdeformed singer.
Shuuichi drifted to the floor, eyes sparkling. "Yay..."
Sakano looked curiously at the manager. "K? What plans do *you* have? Does that mean we're not working?"
"They're secret plans," K answered, then pulled a Magnum from his shoulder holster. "Now, Bad Luck, let's get cracking!"
"Thanks for your hard work!"
Shuuichi skipped happily out of the studio on the heels of those words. By the end of their practice session, Fujisaki had actually looked pleased for a change, instead of seeming like his face hurt him. The kid had been way too uptight for the last few weeks...then again, he took the midterms really seriously, way more than Shuuichi ever had. And they'd been extraordinarily productive, improvising and working with some ideas the keyboardist had for new arrangements.
After the initial struggle they'd gone through, Shuuichi was happy to slough the work of new arrangements off onto Fujisaki, and could even admit grudgingly from time to time that the boy was better at it than he was.
Only once in a while, though.
"Let's see, coffee..." Shuuichi fumbled in his pockets for loose change. Milk coffee, the hot kind, not the cold kind. The only thing that lingered in his mind from earlier was Hiro mentioning Yuki's press conference. Why hadn't Yuki said anything to him this morning?
Yuki's new book was called 'corpse' and it was about an idiot who succeeded at love no matter what. It was going to be released in a few weeks. Shuuichi stared at the cans beyond the thick plastic, not really seeing any of them.
Did that mean Yuki wanted him dead?
No, no, no...Shuuichi shook his head vigorously, the way he'd done that morning. He needed to snap his thoughts out of that kind of thinking! Of course Yuki loved him, even if he didn't want to admit it -- to himself or to Shuuichi! But he knew, nevertheless. That kind and gentle Yuki that surfaced, every now and again...or the way Yuki would sometimes be almost unwillingly considerate...that Yuki was all his!
"Shuuichi, why are you standing there? Isn't there any coffee? Oh, no, there has to be coffee!"
The voice of his idol, Sakuma Ryuuichi, speaking in his childish idiom startled Shuuichi out of his tight little closed loop of thought. He looked up at the star of Nittle Grasper, who seemed as if he was Shuuichi's age despite being decades older.
"Oh! Sakuma-san! Sorry, I didn't mean to get in your way," Shuuichi apologized, moving over so that Ryuuichi could use the vending machine if he wanted. He peered at Ryuuichi. He already seemed hyper enough. "Sakuma-san, you drink coffee?" Maybe that was the secret.
"Oh, no." Ryuuichi waved his hands vigorously, giving Shuuichi a charming grin. "They don't let me have coffee. Touma says it makes me too hyper. The coffee is for Noriko...she was up late with her daughter last night."
"Go ahead," Shuuichi gestured, giving the other man room. He frowned a little, remembering what he'd been thinking about just a few moments before. Was it even worth getting worked up over? But...with that kind of statement...
"Can't choose?" Ryuuichi asked him, not bothering with such conventions as personal breathing room and peering in his face. "You were standing in front of the vending machine for about five minutes, Shuuichi! Whenever I get a drink from the vending machine, I always pick the same thing! It makes it easier."
He beamed ingenuously.
"Th-that's right," Shuuichi said, forcing a laugh. "Well, usually I do too. I guess I have a lot on my mind today."
"Kumagoro has a lot on his mind, too!" Ryuuichi announced, producing the pink stuffed animal from out of nowhere. He examined Shuuichi, then turned so that he and Kumagoro were examining the vending machine. "Hmm..."
"Oh? What does Kumagoro have on his mind, Sakuma-san?" Shuuichi asked, genuinely curious.
"Kumagoro's upset!" Ryuuichi told him, covering the stuffed animal's ears and leaning forward in a conspiratorial fashion. "No one will do anything with him for Valentine's Day. I keep asking, but everyone is busy! Even K!"
"That's too bad," Shuuichi sympathized, thinking of his own smoking Valentine's Day plans. Maybe Hiro would let him practice over at his place.
Then again, maybe not.
"That's not fair, huh?" Ryuuichi asked, tucking Kumagoro away again. He paused with a coin in his hand. "Hey...Shuuichi, what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" His face lit up.
"Ah, sorry, Sakuma-san!" Shuuichi waved his hands vigorously. "I have plans with Yuki."
Ryuuichi's face dimmed. "Ah, of course. Poor Kumagoro." He inserted his change into the machine, then plucked the coffee from the dispensing tray.
"B-But...don't let Kumagoro get sad!" Shuuichi tacked on, hastily improvising. "I'll set something up, Sakuma-san!"
"Really?" Ryuuichi enthused, looking energized. "Shuuichi, that would be great! I don't want Kumagoro to get lonely on Valentine's Day! I'll see you later!" He trotted off, coffee in hand.
"Hee hee hee..." Shuuichi walked off, forgetting about his milk coffee entirely. "I'm so brilliant. Just you wait, Sakuma-san!"
He had an idea for the perfect date for his idol!
"Is this really okay with you?" Seguchi Mika tossed back her long, dark hair. "Eiri! You never listen to anyone, do you?"
"As little as possible," Eiri replied dryly, lighting up another cigarette. "It doesn't matter. No matter how much I don't listen to him, he always gets through anyhow."
Mika's eyes were troubled as she regarded her brother. "That boy has gone through a lot for you, hasn't he?"
Eiri made no reply to this, looking past Mika out the wide, floor-to-ceiling windows that ran along the living room.
"Still..." Mika glanced in the same direction, then looked at his expression and sighed. "Eiri, you know that we only have your best interests at heart."
Eiri ground out his cigarette. "You should give up. It's not like I could make any sort of overtures now to the girl our father picked out. And I'm not giving it a second try."
"Well, Ayaka-san is dating one of Shindou's friends now, and since he's serious enough to visit her home" -- Mika paused significantly -- "I think the subject is closed."
Eiri looked distant. "Whatever will happen is going to happen. The book release date is scheduled for Valentine's Day."
"Yes, but..." Mika worried at a bracelet around her wrist, then glanced away from her brother. "Is it really all right? This is worse than some announcement or leak to the media. Now you're getting your career involved, and your fans..."
"If they don't understand the aesthetics then they're not the fans I want."
Eiri frowned and adjusted his desk lamp.
"Yuki, I said...naa, Yuki..."
With ruler precision, Eiri reached out and straightened his pen-holder, aligning it with the stapler, the tape dispenser, and the mug of coffee.
This game couldn't go on forever, though.
"Yukiiii..." Shuuichi's voice delved into the realm of subsonics, and the famous novelist known as Yuki Eiri snapped.
"What?" he finally gave in, shutting his laptop with an ominous click.
"Come on, don't be so testy," Shuuichi wheedled. "Your novel is being released soon, so that means you're not working on it anymore, right?"
"Idiot," Eiri replied, almost amused by that assumption. "Just because I'm done with a particular piece of writing doesn't mean I wouldn't be working on something. You finished your last album, so why are you working right now?"
"Because I'm going to make Bad Luck a hit, and we're going to surpass Nittle Grasper!" Shuuichi said enthusiastically, jumping to his feet, making Eiri sorry he had asked.
"Right, of course..." Eiri put a hand to his head. "So what do you want?"
"I told you," Shuuichi said reproachfully, "to become a hit--"
"No, I mean right now," Eiri stressed, pinning him with a very direct look that said 'get to the point or die.'
"Ah, as for right now..." Shuuichi wilted. "I wanted to ask you, what are you doing for Valentine's Day?" He crouched beside the desk again, looking small and hopeful.
Eiri opened his laptop again, looking away from those wide vulnerable eyes. "I'm busy," he replied curtly.
"All day? NO WAY!" Shuuichi hopped to his feet again, brandishing a fist. "No, I don't believe it! Not all day! Even though...even though..."
"It's the release date for 'corpse,' so I'm busy all day," Eiri replied coolly. "I'll be home late. My publicist set up a tour of book-signing around the city that day."
"Unfair..." Shuuichi groaned, slumping to his knees and clinging to the edge of Eiri's desk. "Unfair, unfair, unfair..." He began to pound his head against the desk.
In any normal human, this would be cause for alarm. Since it was Shuuichi and he'd become moderately accustomed to the boy's habits, Eiri didn't even blink.
"Stop that, it's really noisy," he told the vocalist, lighting a fresh cigarette and concentrating on the laptop screen.
Shuuichi lifted his head. A trail of blood threaded its way down from his brow and dripped from his chin. "If I stop, will you free some time on Valentine's Day?" he asked with a ghoulish air.
"It's already scheduled," Eiri said, putting a note of finality on the discussion. "So stop asking."
Shuuichi resumed banging his head on the desk.
"Stop it!" Eiri repeated, more than moderately irritated now. "You're shaking the desk. My coffee's going to spill."
"Ah, that's right!" Shuuichi leapt to his feet again, smacking a fist onto his open palm. "I almost forgot!"
"Huh?" Almost, Eiri let the cigarette dangle at the corner of his mouth. He clamped his lips together. Ever since he'd burnt a favorite silk shirt he had sworn not to let Shuuichi catch him by surprise again. Quitting smoking wasn't an option.
"Your brother Tatsuha, where is he right now?"
"Ta-Tatsuha?" Even Eiri had to blink at this rapid shift in gears. "What does he have to do with anything?" He wanted to turn his attention back to the laptop now, but he was wary of the trouble Shuuichi could get into on his own.
"Is Tatsuha going to be in town for Valentine's Day?" Shuuichi said, with transparent guile. He looked like the cat with a besmear of cream here and there on his whiskers.
"You are not going out with Tatsuha on Valentine's Day," Eiri said adamantly, an evil glint entering his eye. Ever since he'd wandered in on Tatsuha trying to strip Shuuichi and call him 'Sakuma-san' that one day, he no longer trusted his own brother in his apartment.
"No, no, that's not it," Shuuichi backpedaled, waving his hands in disclaimer. "I don't want to go out with Tatsuha!"
"Then why do you want to know where he is?" Eiri raised a brow. If this was some foolish scheme to get him jealous, he was putting a stop to it here and now.
"I'm going to set him up with Sakuma-san!" Shuuichi said happily.
After Eiri had picked himself off the floor, righted his chair, and seated himself again, he leaned forward, setting his elbows on his desk and lacing his fingers together. Once he had regained his patience by dint of clamping onto it even more tightly than the cigarette pinched between his lips, most notably by counting backwards from ten in English, he turned to face Shuuichi again.
"What exactly makes you think you can play matchmaker for my brother and Sakuma Ryuuichi?" he asked with glacial calm.
Blink, blink. Shuuichi looked quizzically at Eiri. Blink, blink, blink.
Eiri sighed. "Forget I said that."
"Then?" Shuuichi said eagerly, all but clinging to his leg. "You'll tell me?"
"Coincidentally, my brother Tatsuha is already in town," Eiri said dryly. He reached for a pen, scrawling the number down. Then he held it up between two fingers.
Shuuichi whimpered and made a grab for the note.
"Ah, ah..." Eiri held it up beyond his reach. "If I give you this, you'll leave me alone until I'm finished writing for tonight."
Shuuichi wriggled anxiously at his feet. "Un, un!" He nodded hard enough to snap something in his neck. "Un, un!" And wriggled some more.
"It's a deal." Without the slightest qualm for Tatsuha's well-being -- Sakuma was like a god to him, after all -- Eiri handed over the note.
"Sankyuu, Yuki!" Happily Shuuichi seized the note and began to prance out the door. "I'm going to call him right now!"
"Hm. Shut the door behind you."
Springtime approached, but not fast enough. Still, even in the tail end of winter Valentine's Day was an occasion to act as if the cherry blossom petals were in the air. Girls were clustered at bookshops everywhere, spending on the latest copy of their favorite author's new book. They gathered in line at markets to buy the ingredients for homemade chocolate. And one Shindou Shuuichi trudged to work at the NG building with a disgruntled expression.
His plans for Valentine's Day were in shambles, and young girls were swooning in the streets over the copy of Yuki Eiri's latest book. As far as Shuuichi was concerned this was hardly cause for celebration.
He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, shaking his fist at the heavens. "Who names a book 'corpse' anyhow!?" he demanded.
Other than receiving some startled glances from passersby, Shuuichi's question went unanswered.
"Right, that's enough for me..." Dispirited, Shuuichi resumed trudging towards work. Somehow he wasn't feeling very productive today.
As he neared the building he spotted a familiar brunet head.
"Sakuma-san!" Shuuichi called out, breaking into a sprint. At least he could take care of someone else's happiness, if not his own! "Oooi, Sakuma-san, wait up!"
Ryuuichi stopped, looking about for the person who was calling his name. A wide smile appeared. "Shuuichi-kun! I thought I heard you calling!"
Shuuichi skidded to a stop. "Hey, about Kumagoro...did you find someone?" He paused, apprehensive. He didn't want this to fall through, too! He wanted to do a favor for both of them.
"No," Ryuuichi said, bright expression falling into a less-happy one. "Kumagoro's going to be lonely..."
"Don't worry!" Shuuichi filled in quickly, pleased with his solution. It just wasn't right that Sakuma-san would be alone on Valentine's Day. "After you're done with work, wait here outside. Right outside NG, okay? I found someone who will come and make sure Kumagoro's not lonely this evening!"
"Okay!" Ryuuichi agreed, cheered instantly. "Shuuichi, what time?"
"Oh, eight o'clock!" Shuuichi told him, grinning every bit as widely as his idol. "So don't be late, okay?"
"I won't!" Ryuuichi promised. "Now...I've gotta dash, or I'll be late!"
"DASH!" The older vocalist sped headlong into the revolving doors, whipping them up to gale speeds, and torpedoed into the building.
Shuuichi grinned and prudently decided to take one of the regular doors.
Inside the building, Sakano, Fujisaki, and Hiro were already waiting for him. K was nowhere in sight. Sakano, the traitor, was already reading a copy of 'corpse.' He recognized the blood-red cover of the novel even across the room.
"Rally-ho," Shuuichi sighed feebly, waving at them. His arm fell to his side. He felt leaden.
"Ah, Shindou-kun, you're here," Sakano greeted him, flipping the book shut and stowing it away.
"Where's K?" Shuuichi looked around.
"He's not coming today, remember?" Hiro said.
"Oh. Yeah," Shuuichi said unenthusiastically, dragging himself over to the bench.
"Shuuichi?" Both Hiro and Sakano regarded him with concern.
"I knew it," Fujisaki said bitterly. "I knew our productive streak was too good to last. Can I be excused?"
"No!" Sakano exclaimed. "We have deadlines! Shindou-kun, pull yourself together!"
"I'm together!" Shuuichi said indignantly. "I just don't feel like giving it my all. That's all. Sakano, was that a copy of 'corpse?'"
"No, it wasn't," Sakano said hastily. "Now let's get to work, okay?"
They had the studio until four that day, but after a few hours as Hiro and Sakano tried one tactic after another to console the despondent Shuuichi, at last Fujisaki got fed up. Citing the pressure of mid-terms, he left work early, promising to return with completed arrangements for at least two songs.
"He's such an energetic youth..." Shuuichi stared after him with hollow eyes. "My, I envy the young."
"Shuuichi, you're only a few years older than him, yourself," Hiro told him, irritated.
"Shindou-kun, maybe it would help if you read a copy of..." Sakano held up the ubiquitous red-jacketed book that he'd been seeing all over the street.
Shuuichi pounced, becoming a sleek killing machine with snapping jaws and row upon row of teeth.
"WAAH!" Sakano tossed the book in his direction and scooted back.
"Got it!" Shuuichi seized the book in both hands and dashed for the door to the recording booth. "And I'm not giving it up until I'm done!"
"Shuuichi?" Hiro stared at him.
"Ahh, Shindou-kun, we only have the room until four!"
Shuuichi slammed into the recording booth, dragging the door shut behind him. Then he locked it. Then he braced his legs against the door.
"I may be an idiot but your books are printed with furigana," Shuuichi muttered, thumbing through the slender volume briefly before settling on the beginning.
"Shuuichi! Hey, Shuuichi!"
Sakano and Hiro were banging on the door. The soundproofing wasn't as good as it should be. Shuuichi scowled up at them, mouthing 'I'm busy!' and settled down to read.
And read, and read, and read.
"Oh, no, it's almost six," Sakano moaned, slumped near the door and looking drained.
"What? Almost six!?" Hiro leaped to his feet, alarmed. "Why didn't you say something?"
"Huh? W-wait, Hiro-kun, where are you going? Shindou-kun is still in there!"
"I know but I can't stay any longer!" Hiro tossed over his shoulder, grabbing his jacket and already headed for the door. "Shuuichi will recover...if I don't pick up Ayaka at the train station, she will never forgive me!"
"Oh, it's that sort of thing..." Sakano lapsed back against the wall, a faint smile on his face.
"I leave it up to you!" Hiro told him, and then he was gone.
Sakano sighed. At least no one else wanted the room. He hoped that no one else noticed they were still here...they could be billed for the extra time, and billed even more for extra time without notice.
"Shindou-kun," Sakano said miserably, regretting that he'd ever handed over 'corpse' to the temperamental young man.
The clock ticked.
An hour ticked past, then two.
It was nearly eight o'clock.
Sakano started to fall asleep. Though still in his twenties, he worked very hard as producer for Bad Luck. He worked harder than most of the members realized. And if he hyperventilated or had fainting spells, they chalked it up to Sakano's relentless devotion to duty but that was only a small part of it. Really, he worked too hard and didn't get enough sleep.
All at once and without warning, the door to the recording booth slammed open. It swung wide, and the knob of the door cracked against the wall so hard it went through the plaster.
Too late. Shindou Shuuichi had burst forth, and he was on a trail of fire that nothing could extinguish.
"Shindou-kun," Sakano said weakly. He hitched himself up and peered into the vacated recording booth. Face down, spine bent open to the last page, the red copy of 'corpse' had been left on the seat.
Sakano picked it up.
"Na no na no na no da..." Ryuuichi sang tunelessly, ambling along an island of greenery. "Na no na no na no da...ne, Kumagoro, wasn't it nice of Shuuichi-kun to find someone to keep you company tonight?"
He fished the pink stuffed animal from his vest and perched on the edge of the concrete ledge. "Almost eight..."
Someone was coming. He looked up eagerly.
"Sa-Sakuma-san," said the dark-haired, very good-looking young man. "What are you doing here?"
A trail of fire spun out of the revolving doors at the front of NG. Ryuuichi and Tatsuha both turned to stare as the flames took coherent shape in the form of one Shindou Shuuichi, raising a fiery fist.
"Just you wait...just you wait, Yuki!" Shuuichi cried.
"Ehh, it's Shuuichi!" Ryuuichi waved gleefully. "Shuuichi, what's going on? You said there was going to be someone for Kumagoro to do something with tonight!"
"Huh?" Shuuichi's fires flickered and went out. "But...but...here he is! It's Tatsuha! Tatsuha, I told you to come here at eight...here you are!"
"Umm..." Tatsuha looked briefly uncomfortable, then he put on a 'smooth' look every bit as good as his older brother. "Of course I'm dependable, Shuuichi-kun, but..."
"Shuuichi, no!" Ryuuichi stamped a foot. "Tatsuha-kun and I already HAVE a date for tonight! I wanted something for Kumagoro to do so that he wouldn't get jealous and lonely!"
"Uh...uh...I see..." Shuuichi uttered weakly. He was utterly and completely pole-axed, and it was an infrequent experience for him. "Kumagoro?"
"Yes, Kumagoro!" Ryuuichi straightened, giving him a serious look all of a sudden, clear-eyed and calm. "Did you think I meant me, Shuuichi-kun?"
"Sorry!" Shuuichi apologized, rubbing the back of his head. He felt sweatbeads cluster profusely across his forehead. When had Tatsuha-san met up with Sakuma-san? "I guess...I guess...if Kumagoro wouldn't mind, I can take him with me. I don't have any plans, after all."
"Shuuichi-kun..." Ryuuichi uttered, still looking serious.
Beyond him, Tatsuha had his hands in his pockets and he was looking beyond smug.
"Then, I leave him up to you!" Ryuuichi said brightly, depositing Kumagoro in Shuuichi's hands.
Shuuichi gaped like a fish out of water as his idol, Sakuma Ryuuichi, latched on to Tatsuha's arm and they left the square together. He sighed and hugged the pink stuffed animal. Then the fires kindled in his eyes again.
"Just you wait, Yuki Eiri!" he shouted, flames roaring up behind him as his determination was renewed.
And he set off once more, leaving a trail of fire behind him.
On a flashy street in one of the busier evening districts, Hiro and Ayaka walked side by side towards a karaoke bar, laughing and talking.
The trail of fire blazed past.
"Right now...was that..." Hiro staggered, clutching onto the nearest support. Once he stopped spinning, that is.
"Shindou-san!" Ayaka gasped, then blushed furiously as she realized Hiro had a good grip on her.
"Shuuichi!" Hiro yelled after his departing friend, face crimson.
"Happy Valentine's Day!" Shuuichi yelled back, and the blaze of fire disappeared up the street.
In the upscale, tastefully-furnished apartment of the famous romance novelist Yuki Eiri, the silence was broken as the door came crashing down. Shindou Shuuichi stood over the splintered ruins of the door, chest heaving, Kumagoro clutched in the crook of one arm.
Yuki Eiri was standing in the living room. His cigarette fell. Quickly, with an irritated look he stamped it out.
"YOU LOVE ME!" he accused, leveling a finger at Eiri.
"Even if you never admit it...even if you never tell me...even if you never, ever say it out loud, you love me and don't think I don't know it!" Shuuichi railed, running on without giving Eiri the chance to speak. He advanced into the room, flushed, looking actually angry. He stalked towards Eiri. "That book! That was an admission! It was more than just an admission to me, it was an admission to the world!"
Eiri was silent, looking at him.
"And...and it was the best Valentine's Day present you could ever give me!" Shuuichi melted, giving the novelist a gushing glance. "Even if you did make me a female J-pop star. And even though you were a vampire that I brought back from the other side with my unreasonable love."
"Idiot," Eiri told him, grinding the ruined cigarette beneath his house slipper.
"And you have a bad attitude," Shuuichi shot back, moving towards him with slow steps. "And I can't cook. And you smoke too much. Want to make something of it?"
Eiri narrowed his eyes at the younger man. "Right now...you're a little bit cute."
"And...?" Shuuichi's confidence seeped away all of a sudden. He stood looking up at Eiri, sidling to a stop before him, wide-eyed and vulnerable.
Eiri snorted. "Get over here. Idiot." He bent to pick up his wasted cigarette, tossing it towards an ashtray. When he glanced over his shoulder, it might have been a trick of the light. Or he might have been smiling. With Eiri, it was hard to say.
"I want to make something of it."
+cue "Glaring Dream"+
I wanted this to 'read' like an episode or script of 'Gravitation,' so the visuals were pretty clear in my head. I hope I succeeded!
* "I may be an idiot but your books are printed with furigana." -- In Japanese, you probably know there's more than one syllabary; there's kanji, there's katakana, there's hirigana. 'Furigana' is what they call it when hirigana is printed next to the kanji (or just the difficult kanji) to make it easier to read. As I understand it, furigana is mostly used for children's books (or those aimed at younger audiences) and some manga. So Shuuichi's essentially calling Yuki's book a child's book...or at least slamming the reading level of his target audience.