Chapter 9

"A little more to your left," Sanda Kyoji instructed Shuichi as he compared the image on a monitor with a photograph. When Shuichi had his hand adjusted to exactly match the picture that was published the week before, Sanda-san--the video's director--called out, "Perfect. Now, Yuki-san, smile."

In response to the director's order, Yuki's expression changed to a riotous grin. Yuki Eiri does not smile.

"No, no, that's not right!" Sanda-san said. "You look like you're in pain. Try to look happy."

Yuki grimaced and gave Sanda an evil look. Then he tried again. This time the smile was slightly better, though not by much. Now Yuki looked cold and calculating.

"Yuki-san, just relax and think happy thoughts," Sanda suggested.

At this completely unhelpful suggestion, Yuki started to look a little feral.

Sanda had taken Suguru's plan to heart and had been almost fanatical in his quest to perfectly replicate the photo from the paper. They'd just spent the last hour being poked and prodded into position then laying still while hair, makeup, set designers, and light people flitted around making minute adjustments. Strangers touching him and people giving him orders were two things Yuki hated the most and that's what had been going on all morning. Yuki had just about reached the end of his rope.

"Please, just one little smile, for me," Shuichi pleaded softly, just loud enough for Yuki to hear.

Yuki's eyes rolled up to encompass Shuichi in the evil look he'd been casting at Sanda.

Casting about for a way to get through this, Shuichi finally came up with a plan. "Yuki... I've got a couple days off next week. I was thinking we could spend some time together..."

Yuki winced slightly at this revelation. First their vacation, then the joint tour, they'd spent the last two and a half months in each other's pockets. Yuki had seriously been looking forward to some alone time when Shuichi went back to his usual work routine.

"But, since you still have to edit your new book, I guess I could find something else to do," Shuichi reluctantly offered. "If you want, I could go hang out with Hiro or visit my family and leave you alone to work." Then to make it perfectly clear that he didn't intend to move out, Shuichi added, "I'll stay out all day and just come home to sleep."

It sounded like Yuki's version of heaven--being allowed to work all day in peace and quiet then having access to a warm and willing Shuichi at night, a Shuichi that hadn't exhausted himself from crying and wasn't pouting and giving him the cold shoulder in retaliation for being ignored. Finally, Yuki's expression relaxed into an actual smile, not the sweet, carefree smile in the picture, but close enough.

"Eyes closed, roll camera," Sanda ordered.

Yuki and Shuichi were on a set that looked a lot like their living room, comfortably sprawled on a couch almost identical to the one they had at home. It had been a long three days of filming and they had finally reached the last scene of the video shoot. Suguru and Hiro's sections had already wrapped earlier that morning with Suguru falling asleep amongst his schoolbooks and Hiro saying goodbye to Ayaka on her front step. Now it was time to film Yuki and Shuichi relaxing in front of the TV.

"Shindo-kun, look at the TV, not the crew," Sanda reminded Shuichi for the fifth time.

"Pretending to watch TV is hard," Shuichi whined.

""How the hell can it be hard?!" Yuki exclaimed, frustrated, tired, and wanting the whole miserable video making experience to be over. "You just have to look at the screen."

"But the TVs off! There's nothing to look at," Shuichi argued, not seeing how Yuki could possibly think watching a turned off TV was easy.

"If the TV was on, you would stop looking at the camera and the crew?" Sanda asked.

"Yeah," Shuichi agreed.

"Okay," the director agreed, chewing on his bottom lip while he examined the set. "Sayako, hook up the cable. Yataro, move those lights," Sanda shouted orders to his crew.

A few minutes later the TV was on, Yuki was flipping through channels, and Sanda was getting his relaxing after a long day of work footage. Then suddenly Shuichi shouted, "Stop! Go back, I love that video."

Yuki ignored Shuichi's demand and kept flipping in the direction he'd been going. Shuichi tried grabbing the remote out of Yuki's hand, but Yuki quickly moved it just out of his reach. Shuichi sat next to Yuki with his arms crossed across his chest for a second, stewing. Then he suddenly leapt into Yuki's lap to make another try for the remote. Yuki was too fast for him, his arm shooting up the very moment Shuichi landed, holding the remote too far over Shuichi's head for the petite singer to reach. Then the game of keep away was joined in earnest.

The cameraman looked to Sanda for instructions, this wasn't in the video plan. They were supposed to shoot fifteen minutes of peaceful TV watching from which to cull a three second shot. Sanda motioned for the cameraman to keep shooting, as he gleefully rubbed his hands together--this was pure gold.

Shuichi was trying to climb up Yuki to reach the remote, but Yuki twisted around to dislodge him. Shuichi made a desperate grab for Yuki's shoulders to keep from falling off the couch--then they both overbalanced and landed on the couch with a thud. Shuichi was lying on his back with his legs around Yuki's waist. Yuki was hovering over Shuichi, hands braced on either side of his lover's head--having managed to catch himself before landing his full weight on his diminutive boyfriend.

Being rather conveniently positioned and momentarily forgetting that they were on a remarkably living room-like set rather than in the privacy of their own apartment, Yuki leaned down to kiss Shuichi.

Shuichi kissed Yuki back with acclarity. Shuichi twined the fingers of one hand in Yuki's hair and slid one barefoot along the back of Yuki's calf.

Yuki slid down the couch slightly to get a better angle and shifted from his hands to his elbows, letting Shuichi take some of his weight. Still kissing Shuichi, Yuki pointed the remote at the TV and switched off the set.

"Cut!" Sando yelled, "That's a wrap!"

Suddenly reminded of where he was, Yuki blinked a couple time then jumped off of Shuichi. Shuichi slowly sat up, blushing furiously. "Come on," Yuki said, grabbing hold of Shuichi's arm. "We're going home."

"But there's an after video party," Shuichi protested as Yuki dragged him toward the exit.

"Don't care," Yuki said in a tone that brooked no argument. Yuki had something better than a party in mind.

Shuichi shrugged and figured missing one party wouldn't hurt. "Bye Sanda-san! It was great working with everyone! I know this video is going to be the best!" Shuichi shouted over his shoulder as Yuki pulled him through the door.

Seguchi Tohma had just put the burned disc of Bad Luck's latest video in his home DVD player and was searching the couch cushions for the remote. Tatsuha had visited the week before and he wasn't nearly as fanatical about keeping everything in its proper place as Mika and Tohma were. Finally locating the remote, and a couple pieces of stale popcorn, Tohma settled in to see how 'Everyday Life' had turned out.

Mika--who'd just passed by the door on her way out to shop--saw her husband on the couch in front of the TV, made a U-turn, entered the rarely used den, and joined Tohma on the couch. "What are you watching?" Mika asked curiously, gesturing vaguely at the still blank screen. Tohma rarely ever watched TV or movies.

"The video for 'Everyday Life,'" Tohma answered as he searched the remote for the appropriate button to push to start the video. "I got it this morning but I had back to back appointments all day."

"This is the one Eiri's in? Or did he back out at the last minute?" Mika asked, somewhat curious about the video herself.

"He's in it," Tohma confirmed.

"I can't wait to see this," Mika replied with glee. Yuki'd given her a hard time on so many occasions of late. Seeing him horrifically uncomfortable in pop video seemed only fair.

Tohma finally got his ultra-deluxe entertainment system working and the video started.

A shot of a bathroom sink with razor, shaving cream, and hair gel sitting on the counter adjacent appeared on the screen, accompanied by brushing sounds. The camera panned up to reveal Hiro brushing his teeth in the bathroom mirror.

Cut to a sunny kitchen. Suguru was eating cereal at a seventies style dinette.

Then the scene changed again, this time it was Yuki and Shuichi cuddled in bed together.

"That looks just like that picture," Mika commented, impressed.

"Sanda-san did an excellent job," Tohma agreed, not sounding at all please.

An alarm sounded and video-Shuichi flailed at a clock on the bedside table. The alarm switched off, Shuichi flopped back on the bed, and J-pop started playing.

Back to Hiro getting on his motorbike followed by Suguru looking out the window of a car. Then back to Shuichi and Yuki who were still sleeping.

Suguru was getting out of a dark blue mid-size sedan parked in front of NG studios. Hiro drove past on his motorbike on his way to the parking garage, waving good morning to Suguru as he passed.

Shuichi sat up in bed, scrubbed at his eyes, then looked at the clock. Apparently just realizing what time it was, he darted out of bed and into the bathroom.

Next scene was Hiro and Suguru in the studio and a harried looking Shuichi rushing in bowing and apologizing.

Then there was a montage of studio scenes. Shuichi singing, Hiro and Suguru with their instruments, all three gathered around the control board making suggestions, etc.

Finally, they all waved goodbye to each other at the entrance to NG, just as the sun was starting to set.

Suguru stepped out of a train depot and walked into a building, the camera panned around to show a close-up of a sign that read, "Ozaki High School for Young Professionals."

Hiro stopped his bike in front of another train station and Ayaka hopped on the back.

Shuichi pelted into Yuki's study and embraced a typing Yuki from behind.

"That would be more accurate if it showed Yuki yelling about being interrupted and kicking Shuichi out of the room," Mika pointed out as the scene changed to Hiro and Ayaka talking over dinner.

"It would," Tohma agreed smiling at the thought.

Next was Suguru raising his hand to ask a question in class, followed by Shuichi receiving Chinese takeout cartons from a delivery boy, then back to Hiro and Ayaka walking arm and arm through the shopping district. Then it was Suguru's turn again. The video showed him tossing his schoolbooks on his bed and switching on his computer.

Finally entering the home stretch, Hiro walked Ayaka to an apartment door, placed a chaste kiss on her cheek and bid her goodnight. Suguru was shown asleep on his bed with schoolbooks scattered around. Shuichi and Yuki were sprawled on the couch watching TV.

Then, the tussle for the remote began and Tohma's eyes widened in shock. Eiri looked happy. His eyes were those of the same cynical jerk everyone knew as Yuki Eiri, but he looked happy. Tohma was looking at a stranger; he was neither the tough facade from recent years nor the sweet innocent boy from long ago.

"That's wonderful," Mika said delightedly. "It's just like when we were kids. I remember when he used to do that exact thing to Tatsuha," she reminisced. "Except with Tatsuha they'd usually end up kicking and biting," Mika added when the impromptu wrestling match turned into a make out session. Then Yuki switched off the TV in the video and the video 'switched off' at the same time.

"Did he?" Tohma said faintly in the ensuing silence. "I wouldn't have thought Eiri-san would have ever done such a thing."

Mika shrugged and said, "Come to think of it, you didn't spend much time with Eiri before..." Mika broke off momentarily, not sure what to call what happened. Then she continued, "Eiri was usually a nice kid, but he could also be an awful brat," Mika explained smiling just slightly. "He used to torment Tatsuha any chance he got. I think it might have been jealousy. Tatsuha has always been father's favorite, even though him and Eiri are almost exactly alike."

"I see," Tohma replied, finally seeing something that up until now he had never realized. It had just occurred to Tohma that perhaps, just perhaps, that his love for Eiri wasn't what he'd thought all this time. Maybe it was all just guilt and need, Eiri's need for someone to lean on and Tohma's need to be needed.

Lately, it had seemed like Tohma didn't know his brother-in-law at all. It also looked like that complete idiot Shuichi had gotten closer to Eiri than anyone ever had in just a few short months.

The evidence was incontrovertible. Things were not as Tohma thought. Tohma was no longer sure that the feeling he felt for Eiri was love. Tohma wasn't even sure if the Eiri that he'd care for so much even existed or if he was merely a figment of his imagination. The Yuki Eiri in the video was a total stranger.

Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, Tohma brushed aside his doubts. Perhaps he didn't know as much about Eiri as he'd thought, but it was just a video. With his usual sanguine smile back into place, he turned to Mika and asked, "Have you eaten yet? I thought we could have a late supper at that new French place on 3rd."

"But you hate French," Mika replied, surprised by her husband's offer.

"And you love it," Tohma replied.

Mika merely smiled mysteriously and accepted his invitation.

Across town...

Shuichi, clad only in one of Yuki's button down shirts, was leaning over the balcony railing. Yuki stepped onto the balcony holding a beer and a steaming coffee cup. Seeing Shuichi's dangerous position, Yuki set the beverages down on the small table they sometimes ate breakfast on then grabbed hold of Shuichi's collar and hauled him back to a safer spot, well behind the railing.

"What the hell were you trying to do? Fly?" Yuki demanded of the pink haired loon currently snuggling against the front of his fluffy bathrobe.

Reminded of what he'd just been doing, Shuichi pulled away from Yuki and looked back up at the sky. "Look at the moon. It's huge! It's almost like I could reach out and touch it."

Before Shuichi could lean over the railing again, Yuki grabbed him around the waist and pulled him back. "You can't. Don't try." Then, with his free hand, he grabbed the steaming cup off the table and handed it to Shuichi. "Drink your cocoa," Yuki ordered as he grabbed his beer off the table.

Sipping obediently and leaning back against Yuki's chest, Shuichi purred in contentment. "Mmmh... marshmallows." After a few moments spent silently basking, the never quiet Shuichi said, "A full moon is so romantic."

"Uh huh, nothing puts me in the mood for romance like light reflecting off a big chunk of rock," Yuki commented sarcastically, after taking a sip of his beer.

"Spoil sport," Shuichi said accusingly. A couple more peaceful seconds ticked by, then Shuichi started again, "Yuki?"

"What?" Yuki asked tiredly, sometimes he just wished Shuichi knew how to appreciate quiet.

"Do you love me?" Shuichi asked.

Without a moment's pause, Yuki answered, "No, not at all."

Shuichi tensed up for a second and Yuki was kicking himself for going with his first impulse and saying the precise thing to set off WWIII. Then Shuichi relaxed back against Yuki and replied with complete confidence, "Liar."

The End