Title: Feathers, Fur and Fleece
Author: bakayaro onna
Category: Romance
Pairing: E&S
Completed: 25 January 2006
Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: Gravitation is the property of Maki Murakami, Sony and TokyoPop. No money is being made from any ventures with these characters. I am just a fan who writes and draws in this universe because of my love of the series.

Summary: One-shot. A masked man is apprehensive about what his partner will be wearing at a masquerade gala.

Acknowledgements: A heartfelt and sincere thank you to Joules, who slogged through the first draft of this story, whacked it repeatedly with her magical beta hammer and wrench and made it easier to read. You are a godsend to this overly verbose idiot.

Another sincere thank you to Aja, who found bits and pieces to adjust to help smooth the ride. This helped solidify characterisations and visuals.

Quick Author Notes at the Beginning: This is an exercise in description. If you cannot stand reading descriptive fiction, skip this and go find something simple and superficial to read, like some of my short-short stories.

A much more in-depth Author Note with references is after the story. Also note - British spellings, words and turns-of-phrase will be apparent in this piece.

Eiri slammed his empty highball glass on the bar, startling the bartender. Seeing he had the young woman's undivided attention, Eiri agitatedly gestured for a refill with his left index finger. He was already annoyed, fed up and not feeling remotely tipsy, even after swallowing six large drinks in little over an hour. He scanned the guests socializing or dancing to the big band orchestra's excellent cover of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" but still did not detect his partner in the milling crowd. He scratched his left cheek under his mask and sighed as he started on his seventh straight whiskey of the evening, inwardly grumbling about his present location, his lack of consort and not being 'in the mood' for the gathering.

Some dolt at NG Studios had decided to use the American Halloween holiday theme this quarter to promote the latest music videos and CDs. According to the company's televised press release, a masquerade ball would be a 'fresh' and 'novel' way to celebrate the newest NG offerings while the glittering spectacle would provide unique and festive images for the morning editions and music magazines. All attendees, including reporters and photographers, would be required to dress in resplendent and outlandish costumes paired with decorative, identity-concealing masks. "The evening would be one of riddles, secrets and flirtation," concluded the announcement.

Three people dressed like Western playing cards dashed by Eiri, closely pursued through the crowd by a somewhat rotund person outfitted as a bejewelled Queen of Hearts bellowing, "Off with their heads!". Eiri shook his head at the Lewis Carroll idiocy as he wondered which executive had been responsible this ridiculous decision. He suspected the infamous JPop psychotic, Sakuma Ryuichi, who had lived in America at various times throughout his career, was partly responsible for this lunacy and Eiri's current discomfort and annoyance. Halloween was just the kind of celebration Ryuichi would find enjoyable.

Eiri had been a little too old to actively participate in the American holiday while he was living in New York City during his mid-teens. He DID remember the children of his apartment building ringing the doorbell throughout the holiday evening and screeching "Trick or Treat!" behind ugly plastic pre-formed masks and garish face paint. Eiri's brother-in-law had enjoyed passing out chocolates to the noisy brats. But the shabby homemade and cheap manufactured store-bought getups the kids had worn to mob neighbours for sweets paled against the lush and extravagant ensembles currently being displayed by these partygoers.

The sight of the swirling masked couples waltzing to "The Blue Danube" and the laughing guests on the outskirts of the dance floor had Eiri imagining a weird mélange of "The Masque of the Red Death", "2001: A Space Odyssey" and the musical, "Phantom of the Opera". Any moment, Eiri expected his brother-in-law to make an entrance in a flowing crimson cape and skull-shaped full head mask. After swirling the fabric around himself in an artful manner, Seguchi Tohma would break into an operatic melody with a JPop rhythm track, only to suddenly turn into a squealing monolith. Amused by the bizarre vision, Eiri idly wondered if his sister would also be in attendance – perhaps dressed as a large leg bone, a donut-shaped space station or a rat carrying the Black Plague. Knowing his sister and her expensive tastes, Mika would probably be bedecked in something resembling a high fashion, lethal succubus.

Hmm, perhaps the alcohol WAS starting to kick in.

Eiri did not recognize anyone in particular in the enormous ballroom and no one who had accosted him so far had spoken with a recognizable voice. The orange-embossed text on the black velum stock of the special guest invitations had claimed part of the fun and games would be trying to guess true identities during the evening's festivities without removing facial disguises. The mystery would be revealed at midnight, when everyone would unmask before one final dance.

Eiri eyed a tiny Mardi Gras harlequin in gold-trimmed purple, green and yellow satin and matching mask with a long comic nose, large bells on asymmetrical hems jingling as he passed. At the jester's side glided a statuesque fairy, glittering in a silver bodysuit with silver tinsel-shot feather trim at cuff and neck and sheer shimmering wings, who laughed merrily from behind a silver sequin-covered butterfly-shaped mask.

The masks the participants wore helped conceal more than faces in certain cases, especially when the garments purposely obscured gender. Some womanly forms were clad in masculine attire. A few frippery-laden dresses hung from male frames. Eiri knew first-hand how costumes could be padded to fool the eye. His life partner had used stuffed augmentations to convincingly dress as a female during their early years together more times than Eiri could count. Thankfully, cross-dressing was reserved only for music videos and stage performances now. Eiri preferred his lover being himself and looking like a man.

Eiri impatiently surveyed the room again, craning his neck to search above the plumes, fur and sparkles and trying not to invite unwanted attention by making eye contact with anyone. Both male and female admirers had already scrutinized the tall, striking blond man a number of times that evening. The ones who had actually been bold enough to address him had received a well-rehearsed and suave rebuff, including a toothy smile that accentuated the clip-on fangs he was wearing. Those foolish enough to ignore the danger signs would then become a victim of the menacing gleam in Eiri's glowering yellow eyes through the eyeholes of his mask. The angry, low growling rebuke rumbling from deep in his throat quickly dispersed the flirts from Eiri's proximity. He was taken, damnit!

Admittedly, Eiri's vanity preened from the compliments. No one knew who the famous person was under the disguise and they were making moves on him purely because of his façade. His ego swelled a little each time someone flirted with him, even as his annoyance grew and he snarled at anyone thinking they could distract him from the one person who tenderly cradled his dysfunctional heart and soul. Where WAS that man?

Eiri acquired another drink and moved away from the busy open bar. He found a small section of blank wall to lean against, shoved his tail out the way, gulped a few swallows of his fresh beverage and stewed irritably. Shuichi was the reason why Eiri was stuck in the middle of this misery in the first place. Once again the writer's maniac life partner had cajoled him into making an appearance at one of NG's public events instead of ungracefully bowing out and spending a quiet evening at home together. Like many of the bands under the NG label, Bad Luck was required to make an appearance at these various functions to promote themselves and their projects. With a new CD in the works, that in-progress enterprise would be announced tonight.

Eiri grudgingly acknowledged the obligatory 'kissing-up' and 'back-scratching' sometimes required to curry favour in the entertainment business, but it was tiresome. Throughout their years of commitment, the couple had demonstrated their continued support for each other's livelihoods by attending various essential posh events together whenever their busy schedules allowed them to do so. When people became pushy about obligations and patronage at these engagements, they had each other as excuses to retreat. When the functions were boring, they entertained each other, thus making the gatherings more tolerable. In the beginning, a few of their 'entertainments' had generated their ejection from some events and their removal from guest lists, which had been fine with Eiri. A few less receptions to attend meant more time to spend in private with his life partner.

He observed two handsome pirate men with multiple facial and body piercings, clad only in matching red and black horizontally striped pants and thick black leather collars - to which were attached chain leashes. They were being led by a gorgeous, diminutive barbarian girl in thigh-high black leather stiletto-heeled bucket boots, a crystal-trimmed chain mail and red leather bikini just covering her well-endowed frame. There was no mistaken sex with those costumes! He could not help but smirk behind his free hand even as he wished he had Shuichi on a similar lead so he would know his lover was close-by.

Eiri placed his empty glass on a passing waiter's tray and sullenly crossed his arms as he leaned back against the wall. The writer's vexation stemmed from the fact he was here without his better half. The party had begun over an hour ago, he had been flirted with by at least a dozen miscellaneous people during that time, the copious amount of alcohol he had ingested was not making a dent in his foul mood and he was standing in a roomful of people, alone. He understood his lover was busy with Bad Luck's next release but it was now past time for Shuichi to get his divine arse to this gathering - Eiri wanted his lover to be next to him, now.

The blond checked his pocket watch again and sighed exasperatedly. Shuichi had repeatedly said he would meet Eiri at the gala after the band had completed their day. The grumpy man knew his lover's "Yuki Detector" would 'sniff' him out immediately upon arrival and Shuichi would unerringly find Eiri wherever he was, even when in another country. Since Shuichi was not physically connected to Eiri's side in his usual, obnoxiously endearing manner, the blond knew his partner was not yet at the ball. The singer's absence was becoming increasingly frustrating to the novelist.

Eiri wandered over to one of the many snack tables for something to keep him occupied. The offerings on this sweets table were definitely not Japanese and he warily contemplated his choice. Orbs of popcorn fused together with something tan sat on a glass tray with apples speared with sticks and coated with a drippy, slightly shiny light brown covering. Packets of small tri-coloured candy pieces shaped like little fangs reposed in a pumpkin-shaped ceramic bowl. An orange bucket with a green hand sticking up from the middle contained colour-striped paper straws with something that sounded like sand inside when Eiri shook one. A white bowl adorned with black spiders held some kind of unknown confection packaged in orange or black waxed paper wrappers. Numerous other novelty bowls held a bountiful variety of individually wrapped American candies. Rubbery-looking worms, spiders and other creepy-crawlies were mixed in some weird brown powder and green goop concoction to be spooned out of an orange plastic bucket with a small black shovel and served on a dessert plate. Little round cakes baked in small pleated paper cups, iced with brown and orange frosting and topped with candy witches and bats were arranged on a ghost-shaped platter. Several types of homemade biscuits were nestled in small wicker baskets decorated with colourful dried corn still on the cobs, scarecrows and autumn leaves. The orange crystal-dusted sugar biscuits looked like the safest bet to Eiri, so he placed a few on a cocktail napkin, backed away from the table of horrors and made a hasty retreat to the security of his wall.

Eiri removed his fangs, thrust them into his vest pocket and bit aggressively into the hapless biscuit as he speculated about his lover's costume and how it would complement what he was wearing. When he had finally agreed to attend the party, Eiri had told his partner in no uncertain terms – Shuichi was not to dress up like a woman. No French Revolution, no innocent schoolgirl, no geisha, no winged fairy princess, no medieval tavern wench. Nothing remotely feminine would be acceptable. Shuichi had to be a male character and wear a man's suit or some other sort of masculine attire or Eiri would refuse to attend. If Shuichi showed up wearing anything the slightest bit girly, Eiri would immediately exit the party. Shuichi also had to refrain from wearing any toy-boy slut-wear like the costumes he used for his stage performances. Eiri wanted his lover to be decently covered at an NG function for a change, especially someplace where people would be able to touch him easily. Shuichi readily agreed to the deal, overjoyed Eiri would be attending the masque with him and pleased with his cranky lover's subtle but still apparent jealousy after so long. They sealed the bargain with a test run of their new novelty dildo and pina colada-flavoured lube.

Eiri watched a young couple in matching Goth Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes tramp by and shuddered at what could have been as he savaged another biscuit to its demise with his teeth. He hoped he had nipped the related ensemble idea in the bud by prohibiting any female attire, but he knew Shuichi's creative mind could come up with some kind of twisted and illogical alternative, and that worried Eiri. The writer's current ensemble was surprisingly tolerable to him; Shuichi's choice for a counterpart to Eiri's apparel, however, could be almost anything, and that was a frightening thought. Would the band show up dressed from the Western fairy tale, The Three Little Pigs? Would Shuichi pull a practical joke on him? Eiri would not be surprised.

One Saturday morning, after raiding Eiri's closet for a few sizes and measurements, Shuichi had gone to an upper-end costume shop to pick out the perfect apparel for himself and the love of his soul. After hours of worry, Eiri had finally heard the front door slam, indicating Shuichi's return home. The writer had stuck his head out of the office and noticed his lover held no shopping bags. Shu had explained he had made his selections and would be picking them up prior to the party. Then he bounced off to re-heat some leftovers for their lunch. Immediately, Eiri's warning alarms went off, but the only physical proof something was up was the evil smirk his partner had given him before entering the kitchen. No amount of badgering could loosen the singer's lips. Even the splendid afternoon sex, with Eiri on the bottom as an unspoken bribe, could not entice Shuichi to drop even a microscopic hint about his choices.

The pink fink had kept their ensembles away from Eiri's scrutiny until the morning of the ball. Shuichi knew his lover well. Eiri would try to discover his selections if the outfits were anywhere in the apartment. Hiding them would not have kept the blond's curiosity in check, either: he was adept at finding concealed objects, especially when he methodically tore their living quarters apart looking for something, like his emergency cigarettes when Shuichi had tucked them out-of-sight. Shu could not even keep any presents under wraps for long, thanks to his snoopy partner, so he knew he would not be able to keep Eiri from sneaking a peek at the costumes if he brought them home early.

The morning of the gala, Eiri had woken up cold and alone in their bed. Shuichi had tip-toed through his morning constitutional without waking his comatose lover and had conveniently left without giving Eiri a chance to evaluate both costumes, let alone approve or disapprove of them. A note from his partner was found by the groggy blond, taped on the bathroom mirror. The scribbling had stated Eiri's outfit was hanging on the inside door hook of his clothes closet and Shuichi would change into his own costume at the studio. The slip of paper also had a mushy hearts-and-flowers promise to rendezvous at the gathering that evening. Eiri had snarled at the note, torn it off the mirror, scribbled the date on it and lovingly stashed it in the carved cedar memory box in the far right corner of his underwear drawer.

After fortifying himself with an entire pot of extra-strong coffee, Eiri had opened his closet door and discovered an extra-long fabric garment bag on the door hanger. A few large and mysterious squarish lumps distended the deep red container. Printed on the bag in gold letters were three lines: "Trust Comes First", "Ayame" and "Value from the Heart" - the word in the middle larger and written in flowing kanji strokes. Eiri had taken a deep breath, grabbed hold of the large zip pull and slowly exposed the bag's contents. He had stood gaping at the exposed insides for a few moments, pleasantly surprised with Shuichi's choice. The body of the outfit did not even look like a costume as it hung on the sturdy hanger. A large sack dangling from the hanger neck had contained the mask and other character components in protective boxes. What Eiri saw was something vastly different from the terrors he had imagined and Shuichi had intimidated him with repeatedly. What DID Shu have up his sleeve?

During the weeks prior to the party, Shuichi had found it infinitely amusing to taunt and threaten his partner with TV and magazine images of various outfits that screamed bad taste from head to toe, hinting he just might have made a similar choice for his lover. At one point, Eiri had worried he would be dressed as one of those old-style rappers with gold lamé saggy-crotched pants and vest, masses of thick heavy gold chains dangling from his neck and a glitzy sequin-covered baseball cap with the brim turned sideways. Shu had also threatened him with Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask, characters Shuichi adored and Eiri utterly abhorred. Luckily, cosplay of any sort had been considered inappropriate for this high-class function and had been prohibited from being worn; if cosplay HAD been allowed, Eiri suspected his lover would have dressed them as a pairing from some disgustingly sappy boy's love manga.

Eiri was brought back from his disconcerting musings by a female couple strolling elegantly through the crowds in full high Renaissance finery glittering with faux jewels and metallic trims. The shorter and more androgynous of the two women wore the male clothing quite convincingly, he noted with a nod of approval. As a matched pair, they looked very good together. Eiri could only hope he and Shuichi's attire would successfully balance each other in the same manner...The final biscuit fragmented quickly under the novelist's rigorous chewing. He knew his stress levels were higher than normal because he did not know what to expect this evening, but he could not help being paranoid about the mystery. Shuichi was unpredictable, even after all their years together, and the idea of complementary costumes picked by his slightly demented lover still distressed Eiri.

He brushed the biscuit crumbs off his furry lapels, clipped his fangs back onto his teeth, threw his wadded-up napkin into the rubbish bin, then contemplated both his clothing and Shuichi's sudden good taste. The choices Shuichi had made for his lover had been unexpected: Eiri decided the costume designer must have had a lot of input and influence on the selection. The vocalist preferred comfort over style and Eiri's ensemble this evening had style.

The core of the costume was a slimming, medium grey morning suit. Cut away below the single button, the jacket front curved from button to side seam to the long, calf-length tails at the back, exposing the trousers, whose narrow grey and black vertical stripes added to the lean visual line of the cut. Eiri wore the jacket unbuttoned so the rest of the costume could be seen easily.

His pearl grey shirt with its Edwardian wingtip collar beautifully set off the heather grey Ascot cravat, the silk fabric subtly self-patterned with a fur effect and embellished below the hidden knot with a black pearl. The deep antique-gold Victorian-styled velvet waistcoat with its shallow v-neck, straight bottom hem and old-gold filigree buttons, accentuated Eiri's amber-flecked hazel eyes and blond hair.

Eiri removed the gold pocket watch from his right vest pocket one more time and turned it over. The back of the timepiece had a raised design featuring three wild furry beasts running through a snowy landscape. A draping gold chain attached to the watch's top loop ran to the golden animal-head watch fob pinned to the outer edge of the pocket seam.

The attention to detail included the hands and feet. Old-gold velvet buttoned spats partially covered the gunmetal-grey leather oxford-style lace-up dress shoes, and swirling designs in dark grey and gold embroidery embellished the tops of the dove-grey fingerless gloves.

The ensemble was elegant, smart and remarkably comfortable, but what turned Eiri into a beast were the accessories. He had to admit he was impressed; the various costume elements could easily be detached so the elegant tuxedo could be worn to a formal affair. The designer had engineered the outfit skilfully, using a combination of ready-made pieces and handcrafted elements with subtle details to enhance the character.

Two grey fabric-covered buttons were already in place on the back of the jacket, about six inches apart and centred between the back vent of the coattails. Between those buttons and sewn along the waist seam were a line of small, almost invisible loops of strong, clear plastic thread. The flat end of the outfit's realistic fake-fur bushy tail had a series of black hooks along its edge, which fastened to the loops on the jacket so the tail hung flush to the body and didn't pull the back of the jacket out of line. The tail stuffing was a featherweight foam material, and soft and pliable enough to compress easily but quickly pop back into shape when released. It was a perfect design for anyone needing to sit but not wishing to flop down on something bruisingly hard.

The medium-length grey fabric fur used for the costume elements resembled real animal hair, complete with a directional nap: each fur strand was banded - soft golden tan at the base, medium grey in a wide band across the middle, and the very tip was black - and incredibly soft and pet-able. Eiri had evaded more than a few people wanting to grab the appendage and stroke it. His tail belonged to one person only.

On the waistcoat, hidden hooks and eyes allowed an extended lapel covered with soft, mottled oyster and white fake fur - reminiscent of a furry animal's neck ruff and stiffened so the fabric would lie flat - to be clipped to the lapels. The expanse of pale fur had tempted more than one person to try and run their fingers along the fluffy lapels and Eiri had repeatedly eluded the uninvited caresses.

Triangular-shaped grey fur ears with pale amber ear linings and a fuzzy point on the tip were anchored to the top of the half-wig headpiece so they sat in a natural animal position on the head. A sparkling gold loop earring dangled mid-way along the outer edge of the left ear: Eiri had also dodged hands trying to fondle his furry ears and play with his earring.

High-quality wig hair in various shades of dark grey and antique gold were attached to the wig cap, which had open sections where Eiri had pulled sections of his own hair through to mix naturalistically with the fake. Hair sections at the back of the wig reached to the middle of his back and had been pre-gathered into a loose ponytail, mirroring the shape of the tail, with a painted leather band ornamented with pale grey hackle feathers and silver seed bead loops.

Due to his leather-craft research for a book, Eiri knew the designer had taken a flat piece of soft and flexible grey-dyed cowhide, thoroughly soaked it with water, draped it on a three-dimensional face form and manipulated it into its current shape and facial expression. It covered the face from the forehead to right below the nose and curved along the sides to Eiri's ears. The cheek-lines dipped down slightly to frame the exposed mouth, and the bottom edge of the mask cupped the tip of Eiri's nose to help keep it in place. The edges of the mask had been clipped and the leather strands twisted while still wet to resemble fur wisps.

Paint embellishments and feathers suggested fur, while beads and crystals accented the mask's artistry. Large eyeholes with slightly scowling ridged brows and silver and opalescent paint accents resembling strands of fur accentuated Eiri's eyes and small round faceted gold crystals were mounted in the paint in a curved pattern above the brows. Small silver and gold seed bead tassels dangled by the ribbon head ties on the sides of the mask and lines of thin grey and black hackle feathers added fur enhancement.

Finally, clip-on fangs completed Eiri's transformation from a handsome but ill-tempered blond writer to an elegant but testy grey and gold wolf.

Eiri was in the middle of brushing off a persistent person of unknown gender in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit when he felt his own "Idiot Radar" tingle. He removed the molester's offending hands from his jacket and quickly slipped through the partygoers to put enough distance between himself and the annoyance to be well out-of-reach. Once he knew he had shaken off any pursuit, he quickly dodged revellers as he moved closer to the right-hand side of the ballroom's main door.

The room's large entrance opened on to a broad landing above the main floor. Three steps ran along the curve of the half-circle platform - except where the limited access ramps next to the walls on opposite sides of the doorway were cut into the platform and separated by protective railings - allowing access to the doors from all angles of the ballroom.

Eiri did not see the other band members as he looked up toward the doorway: only the beautiful vision of his lover, softly glowing in the pale light from behind him and the atmospheric lighting from within the ballroom, filled his vision. All his trepidation melted away. Shuichi had kept his promise to wear something manly and he looked delicious in Eiri's eyes. He felt his breath catch in his throat as he gazed at the man who held him so dear.

Although he was in his late twenties, Eiri's body always reacted like a 15-year-old boy's to the sight of his sexy soul mate and life partner. Shuichi was exquisite while remaining masculine and had only become more attractive and handsome as he matured. At the moment, he was magnificent in a dazzling ivory notch-lapel cut-away tailcoat tuxedo with pleated trousers. Eiri licked his lips and almost stabbed himself in the tongue with his fangs but he did not care. Shuichi was unquestionably ravishing tonight.

The singer intently scanned the partygoers on the far side of the ballroom, directly opposite Eiri. The novelist watched his lover without being discovered and relished the visual feast. Even at the very beginning of their relationship, Eiri had always enjoyed scrutinizing his partner when Shu was not aware of it.

Shuichi finally turned toward Eiri, the visible areas of his face scrunched up in concentration, then their eyes met and electricity passed between them. Shuichi's eyes first showed surprise, then his entire face under the mask lit up with absolute elation as he focused on his handsome lover in the crowd below. Shu's perpetually effervescent reactions to the sight of him continually baffled Eiri, who still occasionally felt inadequate about his self-worth and undeserving of his life-mate's attentions. For some mysterious reason, the man loved Eiri unconditionally and accepted him, warts, bad temper and all.

Eiri watched Shuichi's body language turn from sparkling to predatory. Shu's head nodded slowly as his gaze caressed the wolf. Eiri felt like a willing sacrifice on an altar and he slowly pivoted to show off just how exceptional he looked. When his back was facing Shuichi, the wolf shifted his hips, setting his tail swinging. Glancing over his shoulder in a flirtatious manner to see his lover's reaction, Eiri noted Shuichi's tongue sticking out, ever so slightly, and the drool glistening at the corners of his smiling mouth. Score one for the wolf.

Shuichi's knowing smirk, seductive swagger and continued eye contact as he moved determinedly down the stairs and through the whirling and colourful throng made Eiri's body thrum with excitement.

Shuichi's jacket hem started a little below his natural waistline then curved up to almost waist-high at the hip: from there the extensive tails draped elegantly to just below the back of Shuichi's knees. The jacket fell open at the front, with no means to close it. Instead, three decorative mother-of-pearl buttons placed at an angle on each side of the jacket accentuated Shuichi's lean form.

The pale ivory shirt, with its Edwardian wingtip collar and colour-on-colour curlicue pattern, had tiny fabric ruffles stitched along the front placket pleats, and a line of mother-of-pearl stud buttons ran down the front. Instead of a traditional tie, Shuichi wore a raspberry pink band, reminiscent of a priest's collar. A large mother-of-pearl button graced the center of the band between the collar wings, and dangling from the button was a small golden bell.

The spats, waistcoat and jacket lapels were all made of a short, nubby oatmeal-coloured sheep's fleece fabric. Mother-of-pearl shank buttons decorated each piece of clothing, and with the shirt studs, unified the outfit. The spats capped black leather oxford-style lace-up dress shoes while black fingerless gloves with stem-stitched écru curlicue patterns on the top of the fabric covered Shuichi's hands.

The creamy white, tightly-curled wig covered most of Shuichi's head. Dangling from the back were shoulder-length cream ringlets shot with light pink and fuchsia strands. Like Eiri's wig, open sections allowed Shuichi's own magenta hair - styled to merge in with the curls - to blend with the fake.

Écru fleece sheep ears with pink satin linings stood out horizontally from the sides of Shuichi's head above his natural ears, which were hidden under the wig. They were encircled by bronze-coloured suede horns, small enough not to be a danger to others or hinder the wearer's hearing, yet still resembling the curves of a mature ram's horns. Sparkling gold glitter paint suggested the spiral ridges.

The shape and construction were so similar to his own, Eiri assumed the same artist must have made and decorated both masks. Shuichi's bleached tan, sculpted-leather face covering had the same large eyeholes, but rounder than Eiri's slanted ones. The mask edges were scalloped with pale buff glitter paint swirls defining the cut edges, bringing the curves into the overall design. Spiralling painted swirls decorated the leather, and small faceted round clear iridescent crystals dotted along the eyeholes and curves helped lend focus to the features. Like Eiri's, the mask left the lower half of Shuichi's face exposed to allow for easy eating, drinking, talking, and - Eiri fidgeted in anticipation - kissing.

The costume metamorphosed Eiri's lover from an exuberant JPop singer to a dapper, full-grown ram.

Eiri expected Shu to cavort toward him like a lamb. Instead, the ram stalked the wolf. The resolute gaze met Eiri's as Shuichi moved into the predator's personal space so their bodies were almost touching.

"Baaaa…" murmured the ram in a husky tone, lowering his eyelids seductively before contemplating the wolf's countenance.

Eiri pulled Shuichi into a squeeze so quickly and tightly the ram squeaked in surprise as he almost lost his balance. His arms scrambled to grab hold of Eiri's body to steady himself, clasping his lover's shoulder blades firmly.

"Ahh-oooohh," came the deep rumbling whisper of a wolf howl close to Shuichi's ear, the sensual voice raising a shiver along his spine. Eiri's right hand reached for Shuichi's luscious arse: discovering the long flattened and floppy fleece tail dangling from the back of Shuichi's jacket, he grabbed it and began lightly spanking his lover. "You are late and made me wait," growled the wolf.

Shuichi slipped his right hand along Eiri's spine, teasing the wolf with seductive touches and scratches, until he reached the middle of his lover's back. He discovered the dangling furry appendage, took it in hand, then made Eiri's tail wag quickly back and forth like a happy puppy. "But you are still glad to see me," laughed the ram.

"I feel fleeced," murmured the wolf. Eiri took Shuichi's exposed chin in his left hand and guided their lips together for a hello kiss. Shifting to press their groins together - the evidence of their happiness to see each other growing obvious between them - their hands cupping each other's backsides, they pulled each other closer. Finally they broke the delicate kiss and smiled, focussed on each other as they remained lost in their own private world.

"Mmm, a little wood, a little sweet, a little charcoal smoke… whiskey, right?" said Shuichi, savouring the end of the kiss.

Eiri nodded, contented and relaxed, his grip easing a little, left hand shifting and fingertips gliding in small comforting circles on Shuichi's back. The singer was finally in his lover's arms where he belonged. Shuichi snuggled into Eiri's embrace, luxuriating in his lover's tender possessiveness, and, mindful of both his horns and mask - he didn't want to cause injury - rested the side of his face on Eiri's right shoulder.

Shuichi's right hand ran sensuously through the cream fur on Eiri's lapels. "You are so sexy in this tux, lover," he purred.

"You look good enough to gobble up in one bite," leered the lupine.

"I am so afraid the big bad wolf will eat this poor little lamb," lamented the singer.

Eiri snorted. "You can count on it, mutton meat. I will be devouring lamb chops and sausage later tonight, after we are done kissing business 'ass'."

Shuichi giggled. "It will be worth waiting a few hours for that meal, just to hear you howl in ecstasy when I finally kiss and bite your 'ass', dog breath."

"Ah, but this big bad wolf is going to blow more than your house in," rumbled Eiri. "I am going to blow you all over our house while blowing your mind away!"

Shuichi reluctantly pushed out of Eiri's arms so he could face his lover, dodging the wolf's paws as the novelist tried to grab him back. "If we keep talking like this, we are not going to last long here, and I have to stay until after the announcements."

Eiri's fleeting look of disappointment touched Shuichi. He dropped his head so his chin was close to his chest, then with big eyes under hooded brows, looked up innocently at the wolf. He shyly held out his hand in invitation. "Come and dance with me."

Seizing the hand possessively, the wolf grinned, baring his fangs.

After noisily bitching and whining, they had finally broken down and taken private ballroom dancing lessons, just for occasions such as these. Both men had discovered they were smooth and elegant on their feet as they learned the steps and, surprisingly, they were synchronised as though they had been partnering for years: and, focused as they were on one another, they forgot the annoyances any tedious event might cause them. When they had initially started dancing publicly, people had first paused, shocked, to see two men together on the dance floor - then watched, fascinated, as the pair went through the complex patterns with grace and ease. Now, the regular party guests at the various posh functions batted nary an eyelid at the famous male couple gliding along the dance floor.

What no guest realized was what the men were actually doing. Eiri and Shu both found dancing in each other's arms a way to temporarily stave off some of their intense lust for each other while at public events. They could kiss and hold each other while moving in accord across the dance floor, brazenly making love in public as one body brushed and teased against the other. It was a sensual foreplay that always promised heightened senses during sex later in the evening.

Leading the way, Eiri spun Shuichi out into the revolving crowd and they began a slow foxtrot together, stepping to the beat of Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine". After they fell into the rhythm of the other couples moving around the dance floor, they relaxed into the easy comfort and trust they had nurtured after so much strife at the beginning of their relationship. Eiri found himself amused by the song for their first dance of the evening. It was somehow fitting to be dancing with a currently popular Japanese musician who was inclined to one particular man, to the music of a popular American musician from the past century who had been inclined to pursue the company of other men...

Eiri glanced down at Shu's radiant face looking up at him adoringly, and the wolf twitched the sides of his mouth into a small smirk as he pulled his ram more closely to his body. He knew he would have to relinquish his tight grip on his lover as soon as the announcements began and Shuichi would have to be in the spotlight with the other bands in attendance, paying his dues. Until then, he would make it a point to keep Shuichi in constant contact with him.

Later that night, by the dappled light of the moon strewn across the bed, the wolf DID lie down with the lamb, and - this time horizontally - they howled and danced once more.

Author Notes:

I used quite a few sources to gather Eiri and Shuichi's tux elements together so the reader could see the final outfits. You can see these elements here: wwwDOTangelfireDOTcomSLASHplanetSLASHonnacrapSLASHfeathersfurfleeceDOThtm

Lewis Carroll wrote "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" in 1866.

Did you recognize any of the sweets on the table? Popcorn balls and caramel apples, candy corn, Pixie Stix, those nasty cheap black and orange wrapped caramel things, German gummy worms and creatures in a mixture called 'Dirt' and cupcakes.

A link to make Dirt: wwwDOTthatsmyhomeDOTcomSLASHrecipes-for-kidsSLASHworms-in-dirtDOThtm

I needed some interesting place for Shuichi to look for costumes, so why not Sohma Ayame's clothing shop for Male Romance from the manga/anime, "Fruits Basket"? I suppose I could have dressed Eiri and Shuichi up as a doctor and a high school boy, or a seahorse and a cat, since their seiyuu voiced Hatori and Kyô respectively, but that would have been too obvious and considered cosplay, which was not allowed at this NG event. Did you wonder, just for a moment, if their costumes could have been those characters?

"In the Mood" was written and performed by the American composer and Big Band bandleader, Glenn Miller, in 1940.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote "The Masque of the Red Death" in 1842. Read it here: bau2.uibk.ac.atSLASHsgSLASHpoeSLASHworksSLASHreddeathDOThtml

Stanley Kubrick produced and directed the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 1968. wwDOTkubrick2001DOTcomSLASH gives a great overview and speculations about the movie using excellent Flash animations.

Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, "The Phantom of the Opera" debuted on stage in 1986. Visit the official website for more information about both the stage show and the movie at wwwDOTthephantomoftheoperaDOTcomSLASH

Hackle feathers are long feathers from the neck or saddle of a rooster. Imagine these dyed light grey:




The images here show the feathers strung together. When they are separate, they can look like clumps of long fur with narrowed tips.

"Begin the Beguine" was written and performed by the American composer, Cole Porter, in 1935. Bios/info here: wwwDOTcoleporterDOTorgSLASHbioDOThtml and gaytodayDOTbadpuppyDOTcomSLASHgarchiveSLASHreviewsSLASH020199reDOThtm