Uesugi Tatsuha was on the brink.
It was an evenly-matched play of dominant stares. As resolute, however, as Tatsuha could make his stare, it was difficult to keep up the weight of one hardcore amber-eyed glare, when the source could make many lesser men crack and forfeit. It hadn't yet reached the point where voltage was crackling in the air, but the atmosphere was heavy.
"Please, aniki!" he begged, falling to his knees before a very pissed-off Yuki Eiri. "Please, please, please, please, please!"
Yuki stepped back before his younger brother could latch on to the knees of his sleeping pants. "For the last time, no, Tatsuha." He shoved a slippered foot in his brother's face, vainly trying to push Tatsuha out the door so he could slam the door in a satisfactory fashion and go back to his morning coffee.
"When was the last time I asked you for something so important?" Tatsuha demanded, grabbing for Eiri's ankle. The author eluded him and stepped back again.
Eiri held up a hand, folding his pinky in. "You asked for an invitation to that mixer two weeks ago. It's not my fault Ryuuichi didn't attend that evening." He folded in his ring finger. "You were willing to sell your soul for the ticket to the VIP box for the Tokyo Music Festival. And not too long ago, you asked for an autographed copy of Nittle Grasper's special concert material." He folded in his middle finger, then pointed his index finger at Tatsuha like a gun.
Tatsuha blinked owlishly. "I asked Shuuichi for that last one; it doesn't count!" he cried.
Eiri bent his thumb like a trigger. "Get lost, Tatsuha."
"Th-th-that's just cruel! This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see Ryuuichi recording his new song, a one and only opportunity to see the two bands recording together!" Tatsuha sputtered, then his expression turned diabolical. He pulled out a clay doll from out of nowhere, and held up a handful of needles. "All right, aniki. I'll just have to...convince...you."
Eiri's foot came whistling down at the speed of sound.
"AAGH!" Tatsuha yelled as the doll was jostled out of his hand and his brother ground the clay object beneath his slippered foot, expression uncompromising. Tatsuha lifted his face, rivers of tears beginning to flow from his wide, unusually doe-like eyes. "Aniki...you really are a demon..."
"Get out, Tatsuha," Eiri said calmly. "If you want something so badly, find a way to do it yourself."
"But I just want to ask Shuu--"
The door slammed into Tatsuha's face, shoving him across the threshold.
Tatsuha peeled himself off of the floor, miniature Kumagoro-dolls dancing a ring around his head. "You're so cruel..." he mumbled, then leapt to his feet with a determined expression. "This time, THIS time, I'm going to see Sakuma-san in person no matter what!"
He crossed his arms and began to chuckle darkly, then threw his head back and let it swell into black laughter, maniacal purpose gleaming in his eyes.
Uesugi Tatsuha would not be foiled.
"Hey, Yuki, who was that?" Shuuichi asked curiously, emerging into the kitchen area with a towel around his waist, rubbing another one over his water-darkened magenta bob.
"No one," Eiri said shortly, setting his kettle on the burner again. While he had been getting rid of Tatsuha, his water had gotten cold.
"No one?" Shuuichi repeated, blinking at him. "But it sounded like..."
"Never mind who it sounded like," Eiri replied forcefully. "Are you going to eat breakfast this morning, or not?"
"Yuki..." Shuuichi clasped his hands together, eyes beginning to shimmer. "You're concerned about me! I'm so happy!" He shimmied over to the cupboard, doing some kind of grossly-exaggerated hula dance on the way there.
Eiri ignored him, turning to the morning paper while the water heated.
Crunch, crunch. Crunch, crunch, crunch. Within moments Eiri was forced to look up again, eyebrow twitching.
"What are you doing?" Eiri demanded, seizing his kettle and turning to glare at the pink-haired vocalist.
Shuuichi looked up at him with wide and unfeigned innocence. "Huh? I'm eating breakfast." He poured more milk into his bowl of cereal and spooned up another mouthful of crunchy...whatever that was. It looked disgustingly sugar-coated.
"When did you start eating breakfast cereal?"
"Yuki!" Shuuichi looked up with the eagerness of a puppy. "Does that mean you've lifted my ban on cooking in the kitchen?" Any moment, now, a swishing pink tail would begin to wag.
"Absolutely not!" Eiri snapped. Quickly, he poured his hot water into the filter atop the insulated cup, getting the quick-brew coffee started. He would have made an even quicker get-away if his eye hadn't fallen on the hardcover book Shuuichi happily pulled up beside his cereal bowl.
Studied disinterest was his normal policy. However, some things even he couldn't let slide.
"Shuuichi, what are you reading that trash for?" Eiri asked, swishing around the filter and cup to even out the brew.
"Trash?" Shuuichi looked up from his current spoonful. Tomato-red color filled up his face from neck to hairline, like the steam that had just risen from Eiri's steaming kettle, and his spoon clattered into the bowl and sent up a splurt of crunchy cereal. Any moment now...yes, now the steam began to pour out of Shuuichi's ears. "Just what do you think you're calling trash!?"
"That trash, right there," Eiri said calmly, unmoved by the fiery wrath of his lover. He pointed at the gilded-letter cover of the hardback, his movement unmistakable.
"J-j-j-just a minute!" Shuuichi flared, jumping to his feet, sloshing milk all over the table. "How dare you call 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' trash!? Yuki! I bet you haven't even read it! How dare you!?"
"It's trash," Eiri repeated, almost beginning to enjoy himself. Shuuichi-baiting wasn't a habit he indulged in often, usually because the results were so explosive. "Utter tasteless trash."
"Yukiiiiii!" Shuuichi screeched, sounding for all the world like a kettle boiling over. "You say the same thing about my lyrics!"
"Well, your lyrics are grade-school level too," Eiri said matter-of-factly. "Which is why you like this 'Harry Potter' so much, I suppose."
Shuuichi's mouth worked for a moment or so before he finally blasted, unfazed by that sting, "Oh yeah? Well, what about your writing? What level would you say that's at?"
Eiri stared for a moment at the panting, furious young man. He actually had one fist raised and a storm of energy all but crackled around his fiery head. Slowly, the towel around his waist began to slip.
"This is a useless conversation," Eiri pronounced, picking up his coffee. He tossed a hand towel over his shoulder on the way out. "Make sure to clean up the mess."
At the headquarters of NG, music production on the cutting edge, a most unusual collaboration was taking place. This was the event that Tatsuha would have sold his soul to be present for; had prostrated himself in front of his brother for; was, in fact, willing to kill for.
It wasn't unusual for Nittle Grasper's Sakuma Ryuuichi to jump onstage and lend his vocals to Bad Luck's live performance. And, in a live world broadcast, Bad Luck's Shindou Shuuichi had taken the crowd by storm to participate in Nittle Grasper's latest single. However, the two had never deliberately collaborated before now. This would be an event, both groups hoped, that would hit the charts like nothing else.
"I want this single to debut at number one on the charts," pronounced Seguchi Touma to those assembled in NG's largest recording studio area, setting down a portfolio and surveying the room with resolute calm eyes. The pale blond man, both head of NG and keyboardist for Nittle Grasper, was a formidable person. His cunning, ruthless business sense was exceeded only by the ultra-polite front that he presented to the world.
K, Bad Luck's manager, thrust forth his fingers in a 'V' sign once he heard this outrageous statement. "With Nittle Grasper's selling power, and Bad Luck's rising fame, I think we can expect no less, Mr. President!"
"Now, if only the vocalists would get here," Sakano fretted. The dark-haired producer was cut of the same mold as a typical Japanese businessman, always impeccably suited-up, neat short hair, glasses and tie. He had a hyper-drive for work and proper protocol which made him an excellent producer, as long as the temperamental artists were toeing the line.
"Ryuu-chan is late," Noriko said with a frown, coming around from behind one of the large synthesizers in the room.
"Shuuichi is usually late," Fujisaki stated with a philosophical shrug. He glanced over at Hiro, Bad Luck's guitarist.
"Don't look at me; I didn't have anything to do with it," Hiro said in response, palming back a handful of his luxuriant auburn hair. "If Shuuichi is late the only one responsible is Shuuichi."
"It doesn't matter," Touma said with a placating smile, moving over to his keyboard. "Knowing Ryuuichi, he bumped into Shuuichi on the way over and dragged him out for ice cream or something. They're not that late."
A pink stuffed animal peered around the doorframe. It was, in fact, a pink rabbit and its beady black eyes regarded the room unblinkingly.
"Kumagoro thinks that Touma-kun shouldn't say things without knowing if it's true or not!" the rabbit informed the room in a squeaky falsetto. "Ryuuichi-kun is only late because traffic was slow. There's always a good reason if you ask!"
"Yes, yes," Touma said with a smile, turning towards the door. "Kumagoro is right, as always. I'm sorry for assuming something like that. So, Kumagoro, will Ryuuichi be coming to work soon?"
"Ryuuichi's here now!" the young man announced enthusiastically, jumping into the doorway and setting the pink rabbit on his own head. "I'm ready to make a song with Shuuichi and his friends! ...Huh? But Shuuichi-kun isn't here!"
"No problem!" K declared, pulling out a sniper rifle from who-knows-where. "I'll go find him right away!"
"Ah, wait, K-san!" Sakano exclaimed, a worried look etched onto his features. "Last time you brought Shuuichi in it took him an hour to recover from his wounds!"
"Maybe we should call Yuki Eiri," Hiro suggested, looking up from where he leaned against the far wall. His dark eyes were on Touma, watchful.
Touma frowned. "There's no need to disturb Eiri-san," he said smoothly. "I'm sure--"
The feeble, ghostly greeting made everyone turn towards the door. Shuuichi stood, or rather, slumped in the doorway, paper-thin and translucent, the opposite wall visible through his body. His gaunt face had huge circles beneath the eyes.
"Shuuichi," Hiro exclaimed, alarmed.
"What happened to him?" Noriko demanded, unused to the young man's rapid, dramatic mood turnarounds.
"Shuuichi!" Ryuuichi exclaimed, barreling forward only to stop short and pinch a fold of his friend's papery skin. "You all right?"
"I'm all right," Shuuichi said hollowly, obviously lying. "Just a little slow today, that's all..."
"Shindou-kun!" Sakano exclaimed, beginning to revolve and spin like a distressed whirlwind. "We have a big project today!! What on earth is wrong!?"
Shuuichi glanced in Touma's direction. The head on NG was watching him with sharp eyes. "N-n-nothing whatsoever! I'm sorry I'm late!" The pink-haired vocalist socked himself in the face several times, making his bandmates and Ryuuichi exclaim in concern, but when he finished his shape had returned to normal. "Let's get cracking!"
He trotted into the room, followed closely by a smiling Ryuuichi. In setting his bag down beside Hiro, Bad Luck's guitarist grabbed his sleeve.
"Yuki Eiri again...huh?" Hiro said in an undertone.
"Well, it was more my fault, really..." Shuuichi said sadly, eyes beginning to wobble. "He was making fun of the Harry Potter books and I said something really mean towards the end!"
Hiro passed a hand over his face. "I don't really want to know, do I?"
Everyone else was beginning to set up in the studio, with Sakano busily overseeing everything. Ryuuichi had grabbed a dead mike and he was warming up on it, belting out the experimental new lyrics. Shuuichi and Hiro continued to talk, overshadowed by the bustle around them.
"Hey, Hiro," Shuuichi said in a pensive tone, looking serious. "Have you ever read any of Yuki's books?"
Hiro blinked at him. "No, don't you know what kind of books he writes? I don't like that kind of thing." He shrugged dismissively. "Ayaka has read them, and she says they're very good but she doesn't like Eiri-san's style."
"I've read a little bit...but I don't know what I think of them," Shuuichi continued, folding his arms, hugging himself as if he were chilly. "I'm not a very literary person, I know. And I know I'm not all that smart, so maybe that's why I didn't completely understand. Is it wrong for you to be in love with someone, if the kind of thing they're most involved in is something you don't get at all?"
"Is that what's got you depressed this morning?" Hiro said with some surprise. He took his clenched-up fist and bonked Shuuichi on the head. "Idiot, if that were a requirement for love, there might not be any happy couples in the world!"
Shuuichi blinked up at him.
"Think about how Eiri-san has been so far," Hiro continued, focusing on Shuuichi. "He may not know a thing about music. He may not really care about the thing you're most involved in. But he does accept you, right?"
Shuuichi's mouth skewed.
"Just don't think about it too much," Hiro told him, exasperated. "You're smartest when you're acting on your emotions."
"Hiro!" Shuuichi said, eyes shimmering, puppy tail wagging. "You're my best friend..."
"I know, I know," Hiro said grandly, pushing himself away from the wall and reaching for his guitar. "Don't forget it. Just focus on work for now, all right? We need you to give this project your all."
"Of course!" Shuuichi proclaimed, striking a heroic pose with his head lifted proudly and his chest puffed out. "Bad Luck collaborates with Nittle Grasper! Oh...it's a dream come true...Sakuma-san!" With that, he launched himself towards Ryuuichi, high spirits recovered.
In the corner quietly warming up his keyboard, Seguchi Touma's knowing eyes had caught every instant of the private exchange. He bent his head to his keyboard, a slight frown of concentration marring the perfection of his brow.
"Hey, Sakano-san?" Fujisaki inquired, sounding a little bit worried. "With three keyboardists in the room, am I going to get to play, or do I have to sit out?"
"Shuuichi, juice?" Ryuuichi inquired solicitously, fishing in his pockets for change. The pink-haired vocalist looked up with a smile and waved his hand 'no,' then turned back to Fujisaki's suggestions for the arrangement. Without warning, Ryuuichi bounced across the room and deposited his beloved Kumagoro in the young man's lap. "Then, take care of Kumagoro! I'll be right back!"
The youthful-seeming vocalist of Nittle Grasper skipped into the hallway, then stopped for a moment and scratched his head as he tried to remember where the vending machine was on this level.
"Ahh...it's been a good morning so far!" he said to himself cheerfully, reflecting on the fun sessions they'd done, both vocal and instrumental, one after the other. "I wonder what's bothering Shuuichi, though..."
The young man had seemed to cheer up after Hiro had talked with him, but he wasn't shining as brightly as Ryuuichi knew he could.
"There's something...there's something...let's see..." Ryuuichi came to a halt before the vending machines. "Ah, juice!"
There was something that was bothering Shuuichi. And that bothered Ryuuichi, because he wanted this performance to be excellent, the best of both bands.
"Ahahahahaha! You'll never catch me!" A voice proclaimed darkly from around the corner, sounding supremely confident.
"Huh?" Ryuuichi tilted his head at nearly a ninety-degree angle. That sounded almost scary...
Someone burst around the corner of the corridor, running full-speed. He was running so fast, and looking over his shoulder so diligently, that in fact he missed seeing Ryuuichi at all and plowed into him at top running potential.
"Oh, NO!" Ryuuichi saw a close-up of the man's face before they both hit the floor in a tangle of limbs.
"Owowowowow..." Ryuuichi complained, prone on the hallway floor and rubbing his head.
"I'm sorry! I--Sakuma-san!" the man exclaimed, dark eyes going wide. He seized Ryuuichi and quickly set him on his feet. Then he proceeded to bow until his upper torso was parallel with the floor. "I am truly sorry for the intrusion!"
"Wooow, strong!" Ryuuichi applauded, mildly impressed. "It's okay. I was just surprised! Um, you can stop bowing now."
The man straightened and looked flustered. "Sakuma-san...it's really Sakuma-san," he exclaimed, as if talking to himself. "I meant to make an impression but not quite a literal one..."
Ryuuichi frowned. "You look like someone."
The man ran a hand through his short, dark hair. He was incredibly handsome, and very familiar. "I suppose I probably look like Yuki Eiri." He laughed, but it didn't meet his eyes.
"Hmmm..." Ryuuichi circled him like a cat. "Hmmmmmm. You look like Heero from Gundam Wing!"
"W-what!?" the man stammered.
"You've never heard of it?" Ryuuichi laughed and bounced on his heels. "It's great! You should come see it some time!"
"No, I didn't mean that...I don't look anything like Heero from Gundam Wing!" the man insisted. "I look like Yuki Eiri because I'm his brother, Tatsuha!"
"Oh, Tatsuha, is it?" Ryuuichi said, peering closely at him. "I guess you look a little like Tamahome from Fushigi Yuugi, then."
"I don't look anything like him, either!" Tatsuha exclaimed.
"No?" Ryuuichi was delighted. He liked this game. "Ken from Weiss Kreuz?"
"Sakuma-san, I didn't know you liked anime so much," Tatsuha told him, looking amazed.
"There he is! Get him!" The voice was from the other end of the corridor, and Ryuuichi glanced over his shoulder. There were two uniformed security guards pointing at Tatsuha.
"Sakuma-san, be careful! That man broke past the public area security!"
Ryuuichi blinked at Tatsuha. "You did? Why?"
Tatsuha gulped hard. "I just wanted to see you, Sakuma-san."
"Really?" Ryuuichi's eyes went wide. "I'm impressed! The security at NG is almost impossible to break through!" He clapped his hands and smiled, innocently pleased. It had been a while since someone had been this determined to meet him face to face.
The security guards were storming down the hall.
"Ahh...I'd better run, Sakuma-san! It was wonderful to meet you!" Tatsuha told him, bobbing in a brief bow.
"Wait, Tatsuha-kun!" Ryuuichi commanded, seizing the man's hand. Tatsuha looked like he was about to swoon, but Ryuuichi ignored that. He whipped a black marker out of his back pocket and scribbled something on the other man's hand, adorning it with his favorite Kumagoro-style head. The security guards were breathing down his neck.
Tatsuha squeezed his hand, then the fingers slipped from his grip.
"Good luck, Tatsuha-kun!" Ryuuichi yelled, waving cheerfully.
He knew if he really wanted to, he could have stopped the security guards. But Tatsuha-kun seemed to be having so much fun, and the security guards too, so he just didn't have the heart.
Humming to himself, Ryuuichi retrieved a juice from the vending machine and skipped back to the recording studio.
Unceremoniously, the security guards dumped Uesugi Tatsuha onto his backside on the pavement outside of NG.
"Don't think my sister won't hear about this!" Tatsuha yelled, shaking a fist at the glass doors as they slid shut.
Since this was the third or fourth time he'd been summarily ejected from NG, Tatsuha didn't think Mika's words held much weight for his case anymore. Besides, he knew just how little Seguchi Touma consulted his wife on business affairs. Brother-in-law or no, he had never been able to appeal to the president of the producing company to enable an introduction to Sakuma-san.
"Damn," Tatsuha muttered, picking himself up off the pavement. He brushed the rear of his slacks off and ignored the stares of passersby with dignity.
Then he glanced at his hand, fondly anticipating an autograph, of happily taking pictures of the precious scribble that Sakuma-san himself had inked onto Tatsuha's hand.
His eyes widened.
"I'm...so...HAPPY!" he shouted loud enough to make Tokyo flinch.
Babbling nonsense that almost sounded like 'happy' and 'wonderful' and 'tremendous,' Tatsuha danced up the sidewalk, regarding his hand in an excess of bliss. "Sakuma Ryuuichi didn't give me his signature! Sakuma Ryuuichi gave me his phone number! Sakuma Ryuuichi wants to hang out with ME!"
Suddenly Tatsuha was adorned with wolf ears and a tail. "Sakuma Ryuuichi wants me to come over to his house..." He came to a halt, clasping his hands together and drooling, looking more than a little distracted.
"Hey...hey, that looks like Yuki Eiri, doesn't it?"
Tatsuha's ears twitched.
"It DOES! Maybe he dyed his hair!"
"Let's go ask him for his autograph..."
Giggle. "Let's go ask him about his love life!"
Uesugi Tatsuha ran for his life.
The door opened on Yuki Eiri's usual disinterested face. He was smoking a cigarette, as usual.
"What are you doing here?" Eiri said, looking almost annoyed, but he inadvertently let the door swing wider.
Seguchi Touma stepped across the threshold at that implicit invitation. "I just wanted to talk a little, Eiri-san," he murmured, turning and pausing with a slight smile. "Is that all right with you?"
"I thought you had a recording session," Eiri replied, frowning over Touma's shoulder at the hallway beyond. He shook his head slightly and let the door shut.
"Shindou-kun?" Touma said, at that look. "He's gone out with Ryuuichi and the others. They went out for ice cream or something like that." He waved a gloved hand.
"Then..." Eiri looked at Touma steadily, expression unreadable.
"Something seemed wrong with Shindou-kun this morning," Touma said lightly, as if unaware that he was treading on ground littered with land mines. "Since it affects our special recording session, I thought I might stop by a friend's house and see if there was anything I could do."
"It's nothing," Eiri said shortly, stalking towards the wide "L"-shaped leather couch in the living room area. He looked at Touma questioningly. "Is that all? I don't bother you when my sister has domestic disturbances."
"Ah, I'm sorry," Touma said, waving his hands in disclaimer. "I'm not here as your family, Eiri-san. I'm here more as Shindou-kun's boss...who happens to know Shindou-kun's loved one."
"Are you telling me to be nice to him?" Eiri asked without emotion. He glanced towards the wide, floor-to-ceiling windows that ran along the living room area, eyes narrowing as if looking for a tell-tale gleam from a sniper's rifle.
"It certainly would help," Touma said mildly. "This collaboration is one of a kind. I fully expect the single we produce to debut at the top of the charts. If it doesn't, I'll be more than a little disappointed. Of course, Shindou-kun's nature has always been more than a little temperamental, but..."
"Enough," Eiri ordered roughly. He pinched the bridge of his nose as if to stem an incipient headache, then moved past the living room for the kitchen area. "This isn't like you, Touma. I know that you still don't approve of Shuuichi living with me. So why should it matter if I'm nice to him or not?"
Touma smiled. "All that matters to me is Eiri-san's happiness."
"And NG's sales," Eiri retorted bluntly.
Touma's smile shifted ever so slightly into something more cynical. "That too, of course." He followed Eiri into the kitchen.
"Is it really all right with you, Eiri-san?" Touma asked him, not pushing so much as testing. He was genuinely concerned. "Your health wasn't so great not that long ago. And with your new book deadline approaching fast..."
"I'm fine," Eiri said impatiently, raking back his golden hair. He put his cigarette out and looked at Touma levelly. "You put up with my request to Nittle Grasper not too long ago."
"Ryuuichi wanted to do it," Touma replied obliquely. "About Shindou-kun, though, I--"
"What about Shindou-kun?" a brash voice interrupted.
Both men looked up, startled.
"Shuuichi," Eiri uttered, amber gaze suddenly focused elsewhere, focused on the figure in the door.
"I'll talk with you some other time, Eiri-san," Touma murmured politely. "Now, please excuse me."
To all intents and purposes he was oblivious to the hard look that Bad Luck's vocalist gave him as he brushed past him and through the kitchen door, on his way out.
Eiri did not move to escort him. As he approached the apartment's front door, he heard the low tone of the author's voice, speaking to Shuuichi.
Touma shut the door behind himself. He donned his glasses, a slight smile on his lips. "Sorry, Shindou-kun...I won't give up. It's Eiri-san's happiness I look out for, and you're not right for Eiri-san."
"You're home early, aren't you?"
Shuuichi still stood in the kitchen doorway, fists clenched at his sides, shoulders shaking. He was staring defiantly right at Eiri. Then he began to yell maniacally, stamping a little bit closer with each word that tumbled out of his mouth:
"If you really want me to leave so badly then tell me -- right now! just tell me! -- and I'll get out, no questions asked this time, I won't try to force you to stay and I won't try to force you to let ME stay, and I won't come back if I'm such a burden, but it would KILL me! Yes, it would kill me, and it would only take about a week but that sort of thing shouldn't trouble your conscience."
And after all of that Shuuichi took in a great heaving gasp and clapped his hands over his mouth, looking immediately sorry. His shoulders slumped.
"Anyway, what was Seguchi Touma doing here?" he demanded in an irate tone. "What?" Then he shut up again and went back to looking distressed and apologetic.
Eiri regarded him silently for a long moment. He pulled his pack of cigarettes out of his pockets, looking at that instead for a moment. He pulled a cigarette free. After lighting that and inhaling his first drag, he tucked the cigarette at the corner of his mouth and turned away, opening the fridge and removing a beer. He could hear Shuuichi's ragged breathing behind him. If this silence went on much longer, maybe...
"I didn't ask you to leave," Eiri said, sounding rough and irritated as he turned around, popping the tab and taking a swallow of the bitter alcohol. He was just about out of patience for this one. All he'd done was criticize the younger man's choice of reading material...and he'd been more tweaking him than truly criticizing.
"I've asked you to leave before," Eiri continued, warming up to his subject, "but that sort of thing hasn't troubled your conscience. Don't misunderstand me. If I wanted you to get out I would tell you to get out."
"Yuki..." Shuuichi said, and Eiri focused on the beer between his hands. If he looked up now, that peculiar light would be in Shuuichi's eyes, the way he looked at him that seemed like Eiri was the only person in the world. He wasn't worth it.
"I've gotten used to you." The admission slipped almost inadvertently from his lips. It was true. He'd had no one by his side as long as Shuuichi had remained.
Now he looked up, and gave Shuuichi a challenging look.
"You're damned right!" Shuuichi burst out, and flung himself around the counter, seizing Eiri's shirt in both hands. But Eiri was the one who lowered his head to kiss him.
Uesugi Tatsuha was entering the shrine of his god.
He hadn't waited very long before trying out Sakuma Ryuuichi's number. He had expected an answering machine to pick up, maybe something with an automated voice, or a fragment of Nittle Grasper music and a tone, or maybe even Kumagoro's squeaky voice telling him to leave a message.
Instead, Sakuma himself had answered the phone. No, he wasn't busy that night. Yes, he would love to watch some old anime. No, he didn't mind pizza -- actually he liked it. Yes, he didn't have any other plans and he could definitely stay the night.
"Score!" Tatsuha muttered gleefully to himself, as he knocked on Sakuma-san's door and put on a suave expression.
The door whipped open, startling him.
"Tatsuha!" Ryuuichi exclaimed, looking joyful. Kumagoro was draped over his shoulder. Before the young man knew what had hit him, he'd been seized by the hand, dragged into the spacious penthouse apartment, and the door slammed shut behind them. "Come in, come in! Has anyone ever told you that you look like Mamoru from Sailormoon?"
Tatsuha froze. "I do not!"
"Just kidding!" Ryuuichi laughed, waving a hand at him. "Joke, joke. Do you want to karaoke? Or should we eat pizza?"
"Ah...I can't sing at all," Tatsuha admitted, rubbing his head.
"Nonsense," Ryuuichi proclaimed, giving him wide eyes. "Everyone in Japan can sing. It's just that some of them shine more brightly than others. And some of them are louder than others. And some..."
Tatsuha cut him off. "I think you shine brightest of all." Ah, god, that line...it was too cheesy, wasn't it? He'd chase Sakuma-san off with a line like that!
"Thanks!" Ryuuichi beamed. "Hey...I have an idea!"
"Oh, I have so many ideas..." Tatsuha muttered under his breath, but put on his best smile. "Yes, Sakuma-san?"
"Let's play hide-and-seek!"
Three hours, a game of hide-and-seek, a few rounds of karaoke, and a food fight later, Ryuuichi and Tatsuha settled down to a late dinner of pizza. One pie had been spared the demolition round frenzy of their breathless food fight.
Tatsuha hadn't had so much fun since he'd been a very small child, and his older brother and sister would still play with him. It had been...a long time.
"Thanks for the wonderful evening, Sakuma-san," he said with a smile, glancing towards the darkened television set. They hadn't watched any anime yet, and he was almost glad. He was afraid of what other characters Ryuuichi might compare him to.
Ryuuichi set down his slice of pizza, shook his head a little and made his shaggy brown hair even wilder, then looked directly at him. All of a sudden, he was confronted with a completely different Sakuma-san. No, maybe this was Sakuma-san. "Tatsuha-kun...why did you want to see me so badly?"
A little confused, Tatsuha replied with the first words that came to him. "Because I wanted to meet Sakuma-san...the real Sakuma-san." He felt a little buzzed, like a strong head rush.
"A lot of people want the same thing," Ryuuichi said steadily. His eyes, they looked the same way he did when he was singing. Sharp and focused. "And they want more, too."
Tatsuha was staggered. It was the same with him. He wasn't any different from the other fans who wanted this from Ryuuichi. What made him different? He could try to elevate himself and say he was the ultimate fan...of course, then he'd probably have Shindou-kun fighting him for the title...but even then, at that level, he was worshiping his perception of something.
It wasn't the same thing as having a right to ask more.
"Well, Tatsuha?" There was the faintest of smiles on this Ryuuichi's lips. "What do you want from me?"
Tatsuha had thought he knew what he wanted. Now, faced by this moment and the look on Ryuuichi's face, he wasn't sure. He could ask and maybe even get what he wanted...only to discover that it was hollow and it would shatter the moment he left this place.
"I want...I want..." What had he wanted all these years? Something selfish, something for himself. He wanted more than just to meet his idol? That was a one-sided feeling. He bowed his head and said miserably, "I want...whatever will make Sakuma-san happy."
It was more than he deserved, being treated like a friend.
There was a hand on his chin. Tatsuha closed his eyes, not sure he wanted to see the expression there.
There was something warm and soft on his lips, yielding but still firm. For an instant Tatsuha had the unlikely thought that Ryuuichi had pressed a slice of pizza to his mouth, initiating another food fight. Then the pressure moved against his mouth and Tatsuha realized that the other man was kissing him.
He was being kissed by Sakuma-san, his idol. No, he was being kissed by Ryuuichi.
After a moment, Ryuuichi broke the warm closed-mouth kiss and looked at him, calm and intent.
"S-Sa-Sakuma-san!" Tatsuha stammered, taken totally by surprise. "Why?" He was still caught up in a net of unworthy thoughts.
Ryuuichi leapt to his feet, grinning down at Tatsuha. "Why don't we go out some time?" he answered, acting like he hadn't heard Tatsuha's question. He dissolved into silliness again. "I think I'd really enjoy that!"
"Sakuma-san..." Tatsuha melted. He was a puddle of Uesugi Tatsuha. He was transported with joy. He would, no doubt, be disowned by his father.
"Ryuuichi is fine," the singer informed him. He held up a cautionary finger. "But if we're going to date, you have to get along with Kumagoro."
"I will! I'll do my best!" Tatsuha grinned, putting his fingers to his lips. They weren't tingling, or anything corny like that. But Ryuuichi's lips had been on his.
He could taste pizza.
By the dim light of the laptop in his darkened study, Yuki Eiri was writing.
His fingers had clicked with regularity, more or less, for the past three hours. It was starting to get late. And he was growing steadily more irritated with the way the manuscript was going.
Shuuichi's defiant expression resurfaced in his memory. "Oh yeah? Well, what about your writing? What level would you say that's at?"
"Trash," Yuki muttered out loud, wanting to shut his laptop, but unable to look away from it for a moment. For some reason, Shuuichi's angry eyes seemed superimposed over the text, to him. "I bet you haven't even read it! How dare you!?"
"It doesn't matter if I haven't read it," Yuki muttered to his hands. "Anything that popular, anything that broadly appealing, is trash..."
An artist didn't compromise their principles, their vision. An author wrote for the masses.
Shuuichi's pink head peeped around the door jamb, looking tentative despite the heavy bedroom session he'd seemed to enjoy very much earlier.
"Want me to cook?"
"Don't be ridiculous." Eiri stood and snapped the laptop shut.
"You're not still mad about what I said, are you? I...I didn't mean what I said, about the level of your writing." With uncanny accuracy, Shuuichi went to the heart of the matter.
"No," Eiri replied. "You're right. The level of my writing...it's useless. It's trash."
"Yuki!" Shuuichi exclaimed, pushing his way into the study.
Eiri lifted his head and fixed him with a piercing look. "Be quiet. I've made my decision...I'm giving it up."
+cue "Glaring Dream"+
*Aniki - casually familiar term for 'elder brother.' If I recall correctly, this is how Tatsuha refers to Eiri. I could be wrong.