Many thanks as usual to my dear beta reader, the Albatross. Without whom these chapters would have a good deal less coherency and polish. Also plenty of thanks to my readers. You guys are awesome. I end up reading through reviews when I get stuck on a particular phrase or scene; some cheerful support (and threats) go a long way. Sorry about the lateness, as usual. Life seems to have this way of occupying my time. Hope you enjoy, comments appreciated.He's fashionably late. Of course. What better way is there to show your overwhelming superiority and contempt than being shown to our reserved table twenty minutes past when we were supposed to meet?
Kaga looks effortlessly slick again – this time it only throws me off my game until he's seated and I've had the time until then to ogle and get used to it already. Amano chooses a nice restaurant – twentieth floor on the outskirts of Ginza. Traditional Japanese food and a view out over what can be seen of the Tokyo skyline through an average day's smog. What could possibly make this a more pleasant outing?
From the look Kaga gives me when he sits down, I could use some slightly more friendly company.
He unfolds his napkin and lays it gracefully across his lap. Not a mention of lateness. Nor a greeting. Aside from the introductory glare, he hasn't even looked at me. This is going to get old. In fact, it already is old. I decide to cut through the faux-polite bullshit before we get embroiled in another session of civil weight-throwing.
"My boss wants us on speaking terms before we leave this restaurant."
Raising an eyebrow at me, Kaga finishes getting settled. Then there's no more time for words, or even significant glances, as the waiter arrives to order our drinks. A smile to the waiter from both of us, and then Kaga orders a bottle of wine to share. An expensive one. Then he starts looking through the rest of the menu, completely ignoring me for a few seconds more.
"Speaking terms, was it?" Kaga finally clarifies with a bright smile.
It's not a very comforting smile. In fact, it makes me rather uneasy.
Putting the menu back down on the table, he braces his hands over it, fingers knitted together.
"Alright then, let's talk."
You could give yourself a concussion on the wall of silence that settles between us. I glance to my menu as I try to think of anything to say.
"How's your father?"
"Are you still living in Tokyo Towers?"
Tell me, does 'speaking terms' mean I can justifiably punch you? There is a difference between conversation and a trial of wills.
That one took a bit of doing, in order to unclench my jaw enough to speak.
There's that bright smile again, that I'm starting to want to rip off his face.
"Now, now, Tsutsui-san; you should know by now that I don't discuss my professional going ons with reporters."
Was that patronising?
Is he really being that much of a deliberate asshole?
I stand and excuse myself to the bathroom before I lose whatever is left of my cool.
Ah, the cool porcelain of a sink, what a reassuring weight you are. Compulsively washing my hands lets me sink into a calmer frame of mind. I'm still wondering what it would be like to stab someone with a pair of chopsticks, but I do it much more clinically than I did before.
Imagining the arcs of spurting blood keeps me civil-looking as I reappear from my retreat and sit down opposite Kaga as he pours me a somewhat large glass of wine. Thanking him and smiling like he's done me a favour, a smooth my suit jacket and some dry little corner of my brain intones 'round two, fight!'
"So how's your little magazine?"
"Right. So how's your little newspaper?"
"Sales are up."
My Compulsion to hit him is rising.
I can practically see the wall between myself and the Kaga that I used to know. I can see it in his eyes; he's angry at me. These smouldering little sparks are present in the depths of his gold-brown eyes, but most people would get caught on the charming smile he's throwing out. I suppose former intimacy gives me a greater ability to read past the shiny mask he's made. I get a sudden pang of loss for the messy, sarcastic rebel I had known like the back of my hand. I've never had anyone else get so deep under my skin. And he still knows how to piss me off.
Leaning forward slightly across the table, I try to put my heart in my voice.
"Look… Tetsuo, I'm sorry for what I did to you."
He almost seems to recoil.
"No you're not," he suddenly hisses back, as if trying to get the intensity of a yell into it without the volume. "If you were, you would have said something before your shitty little game force you to."
We stare at each other over the table, Kaga opposite with daggers in his glare and myself only vaguely capable of noting that my jaw is ajar.
"I didn't know."
As quickly as his anger emerged, it's hidden back behind the pleasant façade of the lawyer. He clears his throat and has a sip of his wine before swirling it absently around the glass. I can't help but notice the grace of his long fingers.
"You blamed it all on me. Not that asshole that –"
"I was scared."
"You were rabid."
All of this at a loud whisper through the forest of glasses and cutlery. For a second, things almost feel alright. Silence settles between us as we collect our thoughts and memories.
"I've missed … I've missed your company," I finally admit.
He doesn't look at me when he says it, but there's a finality in his tone that rings true. My innards clench in shock and maybe a moment too late, I try to smile.
"That's great. I'm glad for you."
I suppose it would be polite to ask what she's like, but I really don't want to know. Over the next few minutes, we both manage to consume a good deal of our glasses. The wine goes down like vinegar.
"To… a girl?"
It's about all I can think of to say. Kaga nods in reply, jaw set. Mumbling 'good for you' again, I find something fascinating to stare at about my napkin. Nice white linen. I try counting threads.
The waiter hovers pointedly until we half-heartedly order something.
"When's the wedding?"
"We're not sure, yet."
Now we both stare at our napkins.
"I'm glad you," I clear my throat uncomfortably, "moved on."
"So am I."
Somehow, this makes me feel terrible.
"I didn't want to hurt you. It just all happened before I could think."
Across from me, my ex-best friend, ex-lover, snorts derisively. I keep my head down. The meal arrives and I stay focussed on the plate until it's over and he stands to leave without a word.
"Kaga," I call out, nearly surprising myself as well. He turns, almost reluctantly, and watches as I frown, attempting to verbalize something I don't quite understand.
Eventually, feebly, "Don't worry."
"I won't," he replies with an almost fierce look, before turning his back again and leaving the restaurant.
I'm left feeling like I've fucked something up, but I'm unsure what. The waiter lingers nearby till I charge the bill to my company card and I drift out of the restaurant and back towards the office.
Confused. That's about the only way I can sum up my emotions. I recall once musing that I never wanted to see Kaga's sword-like tongue turned against me, but here I am; my old protector now views me as the enemy, the source of all his woe and problems. It's probably true. The last time I saw him he was telling me he loved me, and my brain can't seem to grasp that several years have passed since our passionate… something, leading to a fundamental confusion that has nothing to do with what I logically know.
'Mm,' is the best answer I can give when Amano asks if I patched things up with Kaga-san, and I spend the rest of the afternoon playing go online and staring distantly out the window. Something's brewing, and it makes me uncomfortably disconnected as my subconscious works towards an epiphany and my conscious struggles to keep up.
I barely notice the uninspiring meal I eat for dinner, then stare blankly at the television, pretending that I'm actually enthralled by the banal happenings on the latest game show.
Hitting the sack early finds me staring at the play of ambient light on the ceiling until well after midnight, and I wake up in the morning deeply dissatisfied with what sleep I had.
I only realize it's the weekend when I'm halfway through my first mug of instant coffee and the host of my usual radio station starts on about weekend traffic.
My first set of articles went on sale today. I suppose I should be interested to see how our newspapers' special edition is selling, but all my enthusiasm seems to have leaked out of me since my lunch with Kaga.
I feel like trash.
It plunges me back into the same frame of mind I had been in when I cried in the bottom of the elevator, but this time I'm less sure that I should have left him behind. I didn't realize how it would affect him. I start to recall all the good times we had together, those times when all I could see was his face, when I had it all and all we were doing was talking across the kitchen table. I suddenly miss him like a severed limb.
Why is it you never realize what you have until it's too far gone to retrieve?