Rating: PG-13 (for now, anyway)
Summary: Tatsuha heard a song when he first met Ryuichi - a song that both pulls him in and pushes him away.
Author note: Big thanks go to Anahita and Naoko for being my beta-readers.
Chapter One: Encounter
The dimly lit bedroom of the ill teenaged boy was unusually crowded for a Saturday afternoon. The boy, who was pale and small for his age, was very uncomfortable with all the unusual candles pilling up against his bed. The curtains over the windows were shut tightly, effectively blocking all sunshine from entering the room. The anime figures residing on his nightstand were pushed aside to make room for incense sticks and wooden swords for the exorcism.
Uesugi Tatsuha looked uncharacteristically alert and serious when wearing his Buddhist monk robe and Mala, rosary made of wooden beads, around his neck. Crossing his legs, he sat in front of a wooden relic beside the bed and started chanting Buddhist scriptures in a low, deep voice.
The boy's family looked hopefully at the young priest that was recommended to them by their helpful friends. They were a bit skeptical about his expertise, but their friends assured that he was trained in the most reputable temple in Kyoto ever since he was five, so he was more than qualified for the task.
As the medical doctors could not find any problems with the patient, they were led to believe that the evil spirits were the root of his illness. The family believed that spiritual healing was the only hope for any chance of recovery of the bed-ridden boy.
The room was stuffy with the smell of incense and candles; no one would dare to breathe loudly because of the solemn atmosphere. The boy looked bored as Tatsuha continued on with his rhymed praying; he glanced at the windows and noted the small crack of light coming out of the bottom of the curtain.
Suddenly, Tatsuha ceased chanting and stood up. Brushing the dust away from his monk robe, he glared at everyone around the room.
The boy's uncle asked in indignation, raising his eyebrows, will he be all right? We can always increase the fees if you so desire, as long as you can fix the problems.
Well Tatsuha mumbled.
Please tell us. We are prepared to take any bad news, the mother said gravely. She clasped her hands together and shot Tatsuha a desperate look. A concerned and gentle look was also given to her dear son, but the latter yawned and ignored his mother.
Tatsuha frowned. Pulling the sutra out of his long sleeves, he said, I regret to tell you that the evil spirits are strong, he nodded to the patient boy on the bed, we have to use drastic measure.
Everyone drew in a collective gasp. The boy's grandmother started shaking violently and threw up her hands, Please! Do anything you can to help him! We beg you!
Of course, my lady, I will do everything I can. This is what I am here for, said Tatsuha, In order to save him, I am willing to sacrifice myself to the influence of the evil spirits, at no extra cost,
Tatsuha's speech was momentarily interrupted by the loud air intakes by almost everyone in the room. He waited for them to calm down before continuing.
By bedding with him.
Tatsuha swore loudly as he rode his motorbike to the meeting place proposed by his friends. The wind caressed his black hair into a stylish mess underneath the hemlet as he stepped on the gas and tackled a steep corner. The skin hugging leather black pants made him look more like a normal high school student than the monk-in-training that he was only minutes ago.
Damn! For a second he was convinced that he had his clients fooled, until they roared in anger and kicked him out of the mansion, calling him a charlatan and a pervert, and refused to pay his fees.
Well, it was fun while it lasted. At least he had the chance to watch the cute boy laugh for a good three minutes before his relatives recovered from their shock and banished Tatsuha from the property.
As far as Tatsuha could see, the causes of the boy's sickness were the insufferable company around him and the lack of exposure to any sunshine. Seriously, anyone would have gotten sick for staying indoors paste-faced all the time, not unlike his older brother Eiri did.
Speaking of Eiri, Tatsuha realized that he hadn't visited him for a while. He made a mental note to go visit him in Tokyo soon. Eiri and his lover Shuichi were both amusing to tease. The brothers got along quite well, despite the differences in their personalities. Tatsuha was even asked to watch their house during the summer holiday while they went on vacation.
But before that, there was still the matter of the botched exorcism that he had to deal with. Tatsuha didn't go straight home to report the failure to his father. After the unpleasant event in the afternoon, he needed to relax before he was ready to hear long lectures from his father again. Tatsuha didn't want to be condemned for his irresponsibility as a monk-in-training or how he would turn out wrong like Eiri etc cetera.
He was still sixteen, a teenage that needed to have fun (and get laid) once in a while!
Stopping his bike in front of a popular Karaoke bar, Datenshi Blue, he waved and grinned to his friends who were waiting for him outside.
Hey, Tatsuha, you're late! What's the deal? asked one of his classmates, Nikaidou Arimi, as she punched his shoulder playfully.
Nothing, I was held up on a job. Where's Dachi, that old dog, screwing around with his new girlfriends again?
I'm here! Hey, what, your eyes can only see potential new targets but not your most faithful, wonderful buddy? Suzuki Dachi said. The boys and girls started to snicker and whistle.
Of course not, I'm just not used to seeing you when you're not surrounded by hundreds of girls, Tatsuha smirked, let's go in now!
The group got a private karaoke booth all by themselves. Tatsuha ran towards the projector and snapped up one of the three Karaoke microphones, raising it up in triumph.
Ha, I got it! No one will get to touch this mic tonight, since I'm going to sing Nittle Graspers songs all night long!
Wow, our No.1 Nittle Graspers fanboy is at it again. Honestly, do you listen to nothing but Grasper songs? teased Arimi as she picked up the remote control and punched in the song selections.
Of course! I'll gladly die for Grasper, especially for Ryuichi!
Because of the sheer number of people in the room, Tatsuha didn't get to keep the mic for all night after all, so he occupied his time by flirting with anyone who wasn't singing until it was his turn to sing again.
Shining Collection, one of my favourites! Tatsuha squeaked, causing his friends to laugh again.
Well, looks like someone is singing Grasper songs next door too, Tatsuha! Dachi smiled and slurred down the third serving of his beer.
Technically, he shouldn't have been drinking since he was underage, as everyone was inside the room, however, the Karaoke bartenders could care less because they made more money from alcoholic drinks.
You're right, it's Be There, Tatsuha grinned, I could recognize the melody anytime. However Tatsuha listened on more attentively, pressing his ear to the wall.
The more Tatsuha heard the stranger sing, the more excited he got. The voice sounded awfully familiar for some reasons.
It couldn't be ----!
I have to get going now, guys, thanks, I had fun tonight, bye! Tatsuha slurred as he threw some money and rushed out of the door, almost tripping over his friend's feet by the exit.
What's the rush, buddy? Aren't you gonna finish your song first before you go? Tatsuha! You forgot your stuff!
Tatsuha quickly picked up his jacket and hemlet before he turned his heels and disappeared from the booth.
That voice had to belong to Sakuma Ryuichi. He was sure of it. Tatsuha knew Ryuichi's voice when he heard it. By being Grasper biggest fan for such a long time, how could he not realize it when his idol was singing live next door?
He would have killed for a chance to meet Sakuma Ryuichi in person. Because of the fact that he was the brother-in-law of Seguchi Tohma, one of the keyboardists of Nittle Grasper, all of his friends, (and he himself, at some point) were convinced that this would guarantee his chance to meet Ryuichi ages ago.
However, for some reasons that Tatsuha couldn't fathom, Mika, his sister and the wife of Tohma, was extremely unhelpful when Tatsuha asked her to arrange for him to meet the vocalist. It made him think Mika was almost afraid to let the two of them meet, except Tatsuha knew that his sister wasn't afraid of anything in the world.
Standing in front of the glass door next door, Tatsuha breathed in deeply before knocking on the door. Getting no reply, he turned the door handle and invited himself in.
Sitting in the middle of the room alone and singing in the darkness was none other than the man of his dream, Sakuma Ryuichi himself. Tatsuha felt that he could faint from the excitement at seeing his idol in person. He could almost knee down and thank Buddha or Kami or whatever out there for the opportunity, but his body was frozen on the spot due to the mixture of shock and anticipation from standing several feet away from Ryuichi.
The vocalist sitting in front of him looked as gorgeous as he was on stage;
the leather jacket he was wearing was at least two sizes too small for him,
it could barely reach his torso. His long bangs covered his eyes and face partially,
which intensified his innocent yet attractive look. Many people could hardly
believe that the singer was over thirty years old already, the way he was clutching
his pink bunny to his chest, as if he were a little child seeking a little comfort
from the stuffed toy.
Ryuichi looked incredibly tiny from the way he buried himself into the couch. The world famous vocalist held up his head and observed the intruder with interest; the multiple pairs of earrings on his ears banged together and sparkled when the disco lights showered on his lean body.
Who are you? Ryuichi asked briefly.
Tatsuha felt tongue-tied. For years he had thought about what he should say to Ryuichi when they finally meet, however, none came out of his mouth. Now that the moment he was waiting for all those years was finally there, he had no idea what he should do. He wanted to bang his hand against the door and fled from the scene. However, Ryuichi was waiting for his reply, and Tatsuha could not bear disappointing his idol in any ways.
Tatsuha blurted out the first thing that came to his mind, Sakuma-san, I'm your biggest fan and I recognize your voice from next door, so I just had to come and meet you.
Without waiting for an reply, he continued, why do you always look so sad when you sing Be There, especially during the part if you consider me your burden, I will say so long any time?' Please tell me.
Tatsuha regretted his words once they left his mouth. The question was stupid and rude, and that wasn't how Tatsuha planned to make a first impression on the singer at all.
Ryuichi looked thoughtfully at Tatsuha, but he didn't offer an answer. The older man held their gaze for some time until he broke it off by picking up his mic and began singing Be There again.
Tatsuha, feeling mortified, attempted to fix his earlier transgression by speaking again, until he decided that it wasn't worth making things worse between them.
So he bowed his head and apologized, I'm sorry, Sakuma-san. The question was uncalled for. I'll leave you alone now. Sorry for disturbing your night.
Tatsuha was surprised to hear the singing stop when he opened the door.
Ryuichi said simply.
Tatsuha turned around and looked at the floor, afraid that Ryuichi was going to scold him for disturbing his peace. The younger boy wasn't sure he could take any criticism, let alone loathing, from the object of his adoration, yes, Sakuma-san?
You said you want to know why I look sad when I sing Be There, Ryuichi said softly, patting his stuffed toy Kumagoro on its head, why don't you stay with me and hear me sing it one more time? You may find your answer.
Tatsuha couldn't believe his luck. He settled down on the couch furthest away from Ryuichi before the singer could change his mind.
Ryuichi's familiar voice filled the room completely as he resumed singing. The music was loud, but Tatsuha could still hear every word clearly over the melody. He knew the lyrics and song by heart, however, somehow it sounded different from what he had on CD when he heard Ryuichi sing it live, sing it only several feet away from him, and sing it all for him.
It was as if Ryuichi was communicating something with him through music. Tatsuha felt that he could pass out anytime under Ryuichi's intense gaze. Trying not to blink, Tatsuha attempted to imprint the image of his idol singing inside his head forever, but it was all in vain. He could only stare at the older man's glittering loop earrings in awe.
The song was over before the younger man realized it. He was still spaced out from the powerful impact of what Ryuichi's singing left him.
So, how was it? Did you find your answer? Ryuichi picked up Kumagoro and threw it across to Tatsuha.
Tatsuha caught the pink bunny by reflex. It was great wonderful it was amazing but I I don't
Ryuichi's smile seemed encouraging yet detached, like the time he announced that he was going to go solo in America three years ago. Tatsuha could still remember the news clip so well; the announcement had caused him a week of non-stop wailing.
Tatsuha suddenly gained an insight.
Could it have anything to do with the split up of Nittle Grasper?
Tatsuha thought he saw Ryuichi's eyes flash for a second before he closed them momentarily. Standing up, he walked towards the younger boy, leaning towards him until their faces were only inches apart from each other.
Um, yes, Sakuma-san? said Tatsuha coarsely.
They were so close to each other that Tatsuha could feel his breathe touching Ryuichi's hair. The teenage blinked, unsure about what he should do with the situation. Tatsuha couldn't believe that it was happening to him. He wanted to pinch himself and check if he was dreaming. It was all too good to be real.
The teenager settled on staring at the shining loop on Ryuichi's ears; his breath became much faster and shallower.
Then he retrieved Kumagoro from Tatsuha's clutches, walking away again.
He spoke to his stuffed toy in his childlike voice, Ryu-chan is tired now. Kumagoro, let's go home together!
Tatsuha let out a sigh - one that he wasn't aware he was holding. What, did he expect Ryuichi to kiss him in a shadowy Karaoke private booth, only minutes after they have just met one another for the first time?
Feeling slightly disappointed, he followed Ryuichi and left the private booth.
Tatsuha watched Ryuichi call for a cab using his cellular phone. After the call, Ryuichi gestured for the younger boy to tag along.
The two of them didn't speak for several minutes while they waited for the cab in the open. Tatsuha was too nervous to strike up a conversation, so all he did was to observe how Ryuichi played with Kumagoro by throwing the pink bunny into the air and caught it over and over again.
Finally, the cab pulled up in front of them. Gathering all of his courage, Tatsuha stepped closer to Ryuichi, letting the streetlights illuminate him. A piece of paper with his phone number on was clutched in his right hand. He scribbled it when Ryuichi was making the phone call.
Can I see you again, Sakuma-san? Tatsuha handed over the paper with a shaking hand.
Ryuichi chuckled to his stuffed toy and took the paper. Sure, you're an interesting person. Kumagoro likes you too. Where do you live? Let us give you a ride home.
Hearing that Ryuichi was willing to see him again, Tatsuha threw up his hands and cheered.
Ryuichi giggled, you knew my name already. What's yours?
Tatsuha laughed. His voice got considerably louder than before. Now, where are my manners? I never even introduced myself! I'm Uesugi Tatsuha, you might have heard of me before, since I'm your band mate's brother-in-law. Thanks for offering me a ride, but I have a motorbike out there and
Tatsuha didn't get to finish.
Ryuichi cut him off by opening the cab door to his face.
Loosening his grasp on the piece of paper, the singer allowed it to fly away. He settled Kumagoro down at the backseat before speaking again.
It was very nice meeting you, Uesugi-san, yes, I remember your name all right. His voice turned icy when he addressed Tatsuha by his last name, his eyes narrowed and darkened. He stared at Tatsuha's face with intense, as if he was trying to picture the black-haired teenage as someone else.
However, I don't think I'll be seeing you again after all. Good bye.
Smashing the cab door closed, Ryuichi gave directions and ordered the driver to steer away.
Tatsuha wanted to say something to Ryuichi; he wanted to ask questions, but all he could manage was to open and close his mouth like a goldfish. He felt like he could collapse from the shock at any moment. He wish Ryuichi would step out of the cab and claimed everything he said a minute ago was a joke, but Ryuichi refused to even glance at the teen again.
The cab sped off leaving a trail of dust behind it, as well as a stunted Tatsuha speechless and gawk-eyed at Ryuichi's departure.
Reviews are welcome; they will motivate me to post and write faster. ^_^