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At 5 o'clock PM Shuichi's day ended, and by 5:15 he would be at their apartment door.
Except tonight, of all nights, he wasn't.
At 5:25 Yuki glared at the empty Shuichi-shaped space in the apartment where Shuichi was not, then stalked back to his office and rebooted his laptop. He opened the second file of his recent documents, his current novel, and scrolled to the bottom, the beginning of page fifty-nine.
At 5:35 Yuki stubbed out his cigarette and reached into his pocket for his pack, to find it empty. He belatedly recalled that he had promised Shuichi he wouldn't buy another until Thursday. At the time it had seemed reasonable. Thirty-six hours and five cigarettes later, with Thursday still two days away, it seemed more akin to insanity. Besides, he swore he had had seven cigarettes left when he made that vow.
He paced to the kitchen for a beer instead. Paused when he opened the refrigerator and saw the jar of lychee and the condiments lining the door and the greens filling the glass drawers. Even Shuichi couldn't fail with stir-fry. The six-pack had been shoved behind the carton of orange juice. Orange juice, when he didn't even have vodka in the house.
At 5:45 he had finished the beer and was back before his laptop, still on the first line of page fifty-nine, and Shuichi still had not returned.
At 6:05 both of these conditions persisted. Yuki decided there must be a connection: Shuichi had in fact run off with his muse, and the pair of them were at this very moment on a plane to Hawaii, sipping screwdrivers and smoking his missing cigarettes.
He turned on the radio to hear the news, not because he was concerned, but to see if there might be a reason for the delay, such as the traffic jam which was downtown Tokyo being more tangled than usual, or a giant monster attack. He was unable to find a traffic report, but he did observe a phenomenon he had first noticed over six months ago, that if he spun the dial at least one station would be playing a Bad Luck song. No mention, however, was made of the immediate whereabouts of Bad Luck's vocalist.
Yuki tuned the radio to a classical station. He wasn't worried, not so as he would actively be seeking Shuichi. It was simply that he had been expecting his presence at this time. Living with Shuichi took effort, after all; he had enough energy for five boys half his age and would inflict this vivacity on anyone in the vicinity. If Yuki wasn't braced for it the exuberance would flatten him. But now he was rather like a man who had prepared himself to walk into a gale and instead encountered no resistance. He stumbled.
Of all nights, for Shuichi to be late tonight—not that it would ever occur to Shuichi to glance at a calendar. He never kept normal hours, would work without stopping for breath for a week straight, then suddenly would freeze in his tracks, dry up and be perfectly useless for just as many days. How his band endured it Yuki couldn't begin to fathom. A definite advantage of being a writer; his work and his talent relied solely on his own self.
Except that talent, like his lover, had apparently deserted him. Not that he believed either loss was permanent. He was curious, perhaps. Annoyed. Not worried.
At 6:10 he called NG studios.
"No, Shuichi isn't here," K's accented Japanese assured him. "He left about an hour ago."
Yuki thanked him curtly and hung up, not questioning why K himself was still there. He wasn't interested and he didn't particularly care for the man as it was. What was that American motto? 'Speak softly and carry a big gun.' Something like that. Yuki had no fondness for firearms. Though he did confess to a degree of respect for anyone who dared manage Shuichi.
At 6:20 he called Master's to cancel the reservation, and ordered take-out Thai instead from the place down the street.
At 6:45 he heard a rattle at the door and came to get his food, only to be confronted in the entryway by the top of a magenta head, bowed as Shuichi removed his shoes. He looked up and gave a little start to see Yuki standing over him. "Tadaima, Yuki! Sorry I'm late." As he spoke he sidled toward the living room, making a generally ineffective attempt to conceal an object behind his back.
"I thought you were dinner," Yuki said. "What are you hiding?"
"Ah, er, nothing," Shuichi squirmed, then was saved by the bell. By the time Yuki had collected the take-out from the man at the door and turned back around, Shuichi was right where he had left him, except his hands were empty and he was smirking with furtive satisfaction.
Unwilling to let him win that easily, Yuki ignored both smirk and mystery, and went to the cabinet to fetch plates and chopsticks. As they ate Shuichi prattled on about the day's recording session and the possibility of doing a single with Ryuichi and the program he had seen on TV during his lunch break, but no mention was made of his late return or reasons for it. In turn Yuki did not ask, but recounted his conversation with his agent and the sixteen pages he had managed to produce before his muse had set off to idle with his lover.
"Sixteen pages," Shuichi sighed. "I wish I could write songs that fast!"
"Songs aren't as easy as prose," Yuki found himself replying. "You have to fit the words exactly to get meaning across in such a limited space."
He immediately afterwards wished he had kept his damn mouth shut, but Shuichi seemed not to notice, only nodded thoughtfully, perhaps recalling the song Yuki had written for Nittle Grasper.
The conversation continued, but despite Shuichi's usual high spirits there seemed to be a tension to it, a something going unspoken which emerged in the breaks between exchanges. Those pauses lengthened as they ate, and by the time they reached dessert, complete silence had fallen.
Yuki sat with his arms folded as Shuichi cleared off the plates and stowed them away in the dishwasher. "We'll have to run it tomorrow," he reported, but the effort dropped into the silence without even a splash, raising no ripples. The clock ticked past quarter to eight and Yuki wondered if they would go to bed without another word.
And he hated it, this silence, which hadn't manifested for such a long time. They didn't talk all the time, but generally the quiet points were moments of companionship, spaces where words weren't needed and just the presence of the other was enough. Not this deadly stillness. Like they had noticed a poisonous snake in the room and were holding their breaths waiting for it to strike.
Before it had always been him, that serpent inside of him, and he had almost asphyxiated himself trying to keep it hidden. Secrets, it all came down to keeping secrets. Hard to have trust when there were things that couldn't be spoken of. It had nearly destroyed him—destroyed them. And he wasn't having it again. Especially not tonight.
"Shuichi—" he began.
At the same moment Shuichi, standing in the dining room doorway, said, "Yuki—" and then was the first to recover, giggle and say, "What?—you go first."
He pushed back his chair to face him, cleared his throat. "Did you take two of my cigarettes?"
Shuichi's face turned a shade strikingly close to that of his hair. "Eh..."
"Never mind," Yuki dismissed it.
"You know they're bad for you."
"I said forget it. Why were you late?" He noticed that Shuichi's hands were again behind his back. "What are you hiding?"
"We-e-ell," Shuichi said, coming forward until he stood directly before Yuki. "It's actually all the same answer. Here." And he thrust the something behind his back at Yuki.
It proved to be a flattish box, approximately the size of his laptop, wrapped in red with an elaborately tied silver ribbon. Yuki took it gingerly, turned it over in his hands. There was no card or hint to its origins.
"Open it," Shuichi told him. "It's for you." The color which had almost faded from his cheeks rose again. "Because, well, you probably wouldn't remember or anything, but—I know it's not your birthday or a holiday, but it's kind of a holiday to me. Since it's, it's our...it's been a year. Since the park. When I lost my lyrics and you found them."
"A year," Yuki repeated, as if he couldn't believe it. On some level he couldn't. A year. That meant almost a year that they had been living together—three hundred fifty-one days from when Shuichi had moved himself in. A year that his life had turned upside down and inside out, and somehow when all the broken pieces had been put back together this purple-eyed, pink-headed, energetic idiot of a rock star had ended up being a significant percentage of that life.
"So it's our anniversary. Sort of," Shuichi concluded. "And that's your anniversary present. Come on, open it."
Yuki unraveled the ribbon, put it aside, then peeled off the tape fastening the paper. The red was hand-dyed, delicately swirled in different carmine shades. Expensive wrapping. He unfolded it carefully, placed it next to the ribbon, then raised the lid of the plain white box left in his lap. Gray tissue paper rustled. He brushed the crinkled layers aside and saw his own face.
He lifted the silver frame out of the box and stared at the photograph. Shuichi, every pink strand of hair defined and the sparkle in his eyes captured like magic, and all the stunning life in that gaze focused on the blond-haired, golden-eyed man who had one arm around his shoulder and was looking down at him with an expression of matching adoration.
Yuki desperately hoped his smile wasn't always that ridiculous. He never looked that way in any of his publicity glossies, certainly. He had a sinking feeling that this explained the knowing smirks he and Shuichi seemed to get in public every time they went anywhere together. He had assumed it was because everyone was aware of the entertainment news, or because Shuichi always wore his heart so plainly plastered on his sleeve.
He looked at his image a second time. No, he was definitely never going to leave his house again. At least not with Shuichi.
"I had to get it engraved," Shuichi was saying, "that's why it took me so long to get back. I kept working late and I didn't want to go in the afternoon when lots of people would be there."
Yuki took a closer look at the frame. It was beautifully crafted, the silver etched with a fine detailing of intersecting spirals, and the engraving done in faint kanji which blended with the patterns. Down the right side was written 'Yuki', and down the left, 'Shuichi', and on the bottom in the center, every stroke perfect, was the single character of 'ai'. Love.
"Do you like it?" Shuichi asked anxiously.
"Where'd you get the photo?" Yuki asked.
"Oh, I gave Hiro a camera a couple months ago and asked him to take some pictures. When we weren't looking. So it would be real. I picked the one I thought was best, but there's others, if you don't like that one."
"A couple rolls."
Yuki wondered if he looked that idiotic in all of them. "Really," Shuichi was saying, awkwardly, "it's not that big a thing. I mean, you can just stick it in a drawer, no one has to see it..."
"There's a place for it here," Yuki said, stood and crossed the living room to put it on top of the TV set. He looked at Shuichi's photographic face one more time before he removed his hand. The life in his expression was really quite remarkable. Beautiful.
"Wait there," he told Shuichi, who was still standing by his chair, and went to his office. Took the print-out from the drawer and scanned it quickly, noticed a misplaced kana he had missed in the dozen times he had read it over before. Cursing under his breath he started up his laptop again, revised the document and printed out another copy, snatched the single page as soon as the machine spooled it out and strode back to the dining room.
Shuichi had taken his chair and was sitting with his chin in his hands and his elbows on the placemat, looking in the direction of the television, his brow furrowed. Yuki set the paper down on the table right in front of him. "Here," he said.
Shuichi blinked and lifted his head. "It's for you," Yuki elucidated.
Cautiously Shuichi picked up the paper, the wrinkle in his brow deepening. He saw the first line, frowned and skimmed the rest. "Yuki..."
"This—is it a poem? It looks like..." He stopped. Read it again, his eyes widening. "Is it a song? Yuki? You wrote me a song? For Bad Luck?"
"Eh." Yuki shrugged with elaborate nonchalance. "I figured if you could do it, anyone could."
Shuichi read it a third time, slower, his violet eyes tracking back and forth across the page. "It—it's great! It's really great, I can hear a melody for it already—I want to sing this!" Halfway down he paused, the tip of his tongue touching his top lip in concentration. "It's not exactly a love song, is it?"
"I thought Bad Luck had done enough of those for now. Even if they are so popular."
"But still, it's so...it feels like...the way time passes..." He broke off, unable to clarify his thoughts further. "Yuki, why'd you write this?"
"Well..." He couldn't quite maintain the nonchalance, even when he tried. "It is our anniversary..."
That was all it took for Shuichi to end up in his arms, locking their lips together. Swept up in the draft from the window, the lyrics fluttered to the floor, the hands which might have caught the paper too busy exploring other territory.
At 8:30 the bedroom door closed—though not on silence—and didn't open again until well into the next day.
Love to know what you think!
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