AFTER DINNER SPEECH by Moon71
SUMMARY: A little follow on to "The Scene in the Sushi Bar." So how did Shuichi get on at Mizuki's party? What songs did he sing? What conclusion, if any, did Eiri finally reach about their relationship? And what happened to the sushi bar scene?
TIMELINE: Same as "The Scene in the Sushi Bar."
RATING: K – T brief mentions of sexy stuff
DISCLAIMER: I don't take credit for Gravitation, or for the behaviour of my OCs.
NOTES: Yes, it's finally here! I just had to make some last minute alterations. Originally I planned "The scene in the sushi bar" to end exactly where it did. As far as I was concerned, there couldn't be a "conclusion" because this was set midway through Eiri and Shuichi's relationship and I could hardly have Eiri declare is undying love and fidelity at that point! But when I got so many encouraging reviews I did think it would be nice to show Shuichi at the party and how others react to both him and Eiri and this extra story began to take I want to thank everyone who took time to review and make such encouraging comments.
SUSHI NOTE: One reviewer pointed out it might be better not to know what the sushi bar scene was really about – a bit like Waiting for Godot, it should remain abstract. That was the plan I had in mind for it; it was a symbol of something Eiri wanted, and, as he finally realised, something only Shuichi could give him. But when this little follow on story appeared in my head, I began to see a parallel between Eiri's characters and his relationship with Shuichi, and I thought I might as well reveal the plot that had been in the back of my mind. I'm sorry if this ruins it for anyone – if so, please skip over Eiri's explanation!!!
AND LAST OF ALL – HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL MY READERS!!! GOD BLESS!!!
It felt like a dream. After the way the evening had begun, he was almost certain it had to be. He was at Mizuki's party – the party he had begged and pleaded to attend. Not only that, but Yuki Eiri – that same Yuki Eiri who had definitively refused to take him – had decided to take him after all, just after Shuichi had just finished declaring to Hiro that his lover would never, never take him anywhere, let alone treat him like a real boyfriend.
And now he was going to sing in front of Mizuki's guests!
For Shuichi it became a valuable lesson in self control. It was so hard not to get swept away by the sheer joy of the moment, but he was determined not to do anything stupid or impulsive which might embarrass Yuki and make him angry and maybe cut this evening short.
The very intimacy of the setting made it overwhelming. He had performed before crowds and on television, but this was so intense. At least twenty pairs of eyes were fixed upon him expectantly; faces so close he could easily read their expressions – some of which suggested extreme scepticism - and only Hiro's acoustic guitar to support him. At first he had been sick with nerves. Now he was dizzy with a strange sense of power.
He had sung a simplified version of the Rage Beat, followed by several of his other songs along with Nittle Grasper's Be there and Sleepless Beauty which made Nakamura Junichi clap his hands in delight.
At the beginning Shuichi focused on the young mangaka as much as he could, instantly recognising a kindred spirit and drawing reassurance from that. If he hadn't had Junichi he would have ended up staring fixedly at Hiro or at the floor. He couldn't meet the eyes of the women, whose gazes varied from motherly to coy to downright suggestive. Unlike Hiro, who returned their smiles with a friendly grin, Shuichi had never really known how to respond to interest from the opposite sex.
The men's stares were less personal and more peaceable, but with the exception of Junichi they were all a lot older than him and the thought that they were all writers or editors or publishers, probably as brainy as Yuki and just as judgemental, frightened him off. Looking at Mizuki's pretty impish face only made Shuichi giggle and blush like a schoolgirl and he dared not let his gaze linger on Yuki.
After the first couple of songs, followed by another of those creamy mint grasshopper things, Shuichi began to warm to his audience. The women giggled at whatever he said and the men, though indeed clever and cultured, were generous in their attitude to him. He managed the required party small-talk without saying anything too inane and when he got into difficulties Mizuki was somehow always there at his elbow, guiding him back onto solid ground.
When Mizuki's guests clamoured for more music, Shuichi completely forgot his nerves. He was doing one of the few things he knew he was good at – entertaining a crowd. When he began to sing Blind Game Again, the song they were supposed to be releasing next, he even began to dance as if he was on stage. To his delight, Hiro began to sing along with him – his friend never usually sang except when the two of them were alone, not having much confidence in his vocals compared to Shuichi's, but though his voice wasn't strong it was a pleasant baritone which complimented Shuichi's tenor.
Shuichi was almost completely in his element – laughing, joking, even lightly flirting – when he finally risked a glance at Yuki and saw his lover staring back at him with a strange, unreadable expression. He didn't respond to Shuichi's quick smile and it gradually became apparent that Yuki was not so much staring at him as through him, as if he was lost in thought. A moment later Shuichi saw the writer slip quietly away onto the patio.
Though he finished his song, Shuichi could not ignore the sudden tightening in his chest and his gut. Frustration and disappointment mixed with anger. Now what had he done wrong? Was Yuki mad at him? Why? He had thought he had been doing everything right – he hadn't said anything stupid; he hadn't tried to touch Yuki; he hadn't even made a scene when he had noticed some of the female guests coming on to his boyfriend and he hadn't got senselessly drunk.
Then again, perhaps it was nothing to do with Shuichi himself and something else had gone wrong.
Something to do with that sushi bar thing, perhaps…?
As soon as he could, Shuichi made his excuses and followed Yuki out into the garden.
Outside, he took a deep breath and looked about him. The patio was illuminated by a series of beautiful paper lanterns and the summer night air had a cool, sweet scent. Entranced, he leaned down to inspect a pot of trumpet shaped flowers which seemed to glow with a greenish-white light of their own, realising it was from them that the fragrance emanated.
"Tobacco plants." Yuki's voice was distant, yet when Shuichi glanced up he found him standing close by. "Ironic, when you think about it." He raised his cigarette to his lips.
Shuichi watched him wordlessly. The gentle light softened Yuki's strong, handsome features, giving them a tender, almost vulnerable quality Shuichi had only ever noticed before in the early hours of the morning, when Yuki was sleeping beside him. It made his heart squeeze with desire but he held himself back.
"Are you okay, Yuki?" Shuichi asked. "I mean… is something wrong? Is it to do with the sushi bar scene?" When Yuki stared at him he quickly went on, "I heard you and Mizuki-san arguing about it while we were singing…"
"We weren't arguing," Yuki grunted, "we were negotiating."
"Well whatever it was, I heard my name mentioned and you pointed at me once or twice. And when Mizuki gave me a second cocktail she told me to drink the health of the sushi bar scene. It's to do with your latest novel, isn't it? What's the story about? Is it set in a sushi bar? Oh come on, Yuki," he cried indignantly as he saw the familiar, impatient scowl settling on Yuki's face, "if I've finally done something to make you happy you could at least tell me what!"
Yuki blinked at him, apparently genuinely taken aback. Something gentle touched those golden eyes; Shuichi could not help a soft gasp as Yuki reached and briefly stroked his cheek.
Then he turned and sat down on a nearby bench. "The book isn't set in a sushi bar, it just has one scene set there." The writer seemed to think deeply for a moment, not even noticing when Shuichi came to sit by his side. "It's about two wealthy families who want to form a marriage alliance. It's arranged for the eldest son of one family to marry the only daughter of the other. The trouble is the "bride-to-be" is already in love with her fiancée's younger brother."
"So the two brothers are in love with the same girl?" Shuichi asked, thinking a little uncomfortably of himself and Usami Ayaka.
Yuki shook his head. "The elder brother isn't in love with anyone. All that matters to him is family honour. That's one of the main themes of the story," he added meditatively, "love versus honour – duty versus free will – tradition versus modernity." He drew on his cigarette and slowly exhaled. "The younger brother and his love plan to elope, but a servant overhears them talking and warns the elder brother. He's determined there will be no such dishonour brought upon his family and so he hatches a plan. That's where the sushi bar scene comes in.
"He takes his brother out for a meal. Each dish the two of them choose is supposed to symbolise something – aspects of their personalities or their changing feelings – sweet, sour, sharp, bitter, whatever. The same dish or the same sauce tastes different to each brother. Even the wine they drink - to the elder brother it tastes of sweet victory; to the younger it tastes of the years of bitter disappointment to come.
"The elder brother tells the younger he'll speak for him at the wedding before the two families and ask them to accept the younger brother instead."
"And the younger brother believes him?" Shuichi burst out without thinking, "man, he must be thick! No – no – " he drew back as Yuki turned to look at him. "I mean – "
But Yuki only smiled sardonically. "He's not stupid. He just loves his elder brother so much that he thinks him as perfect as a god and he can't imagine he'd betray him. So anyway," he added with a deep sigh, crushing out his cigarette on the stone bench, "the wedding day comes. The bride is nervous but her lover has told her to trust him and so she does. But when the time comes, of course, the elder brother doesn't speak up. The younger brother is so shocked he doesn't think to protest, and the wedding goes ahead."
"That's terrible, Yuki!" Shuichi cried helplessly. He didn't mean to keep interrupting – this had to be the longest conversation he had had with Yuki that wasn't an argument and didn't involve him babbling and Yuki grunting monosyllabically. It was certainly the most intellectual conversation they had ever shared. Even so he felt he was walking a tightrope – the experience was stimulating, even exhilarating, but one wrong step and he would fall off, and after that who knew when another opportunity would come? "Maiko always said your books had tragic endings, but I didn't realise they were that sad!"
Yuki's response was remarkably clement. Shuichi had never seen him quite like this – so relaxed, so confident in talking about something he really understood and cared about. "That isn't the end," he explained, "that's only the beginning. The sushi bar scene is a sort of prologue. Only a year after his wedding, the elder brother is killed in a car crash. As the alliance is still wanted by both families it's suggested that the younger brother marries the widow."
Shuichi blinked and sat up straight. "Wow! A happy ending? From Yuki Eiri?" he couldn't resist giving the other man a playful little nudge.
Yuki actually gave a natural smile then, though he turned his head away before Shuichi could see if it formed into a grin. "Not exactly. The girl believed her lover tricked and betrayed her, so whenever she saw him she acted as though she'd fallen in love with her husband. The younger brother believed in her act and convinced himself she'd never really loved him. So now that they've got what they had wanted most, they can't be happy. The elder brother dies at the beginning of the story but really he's always there between them, as though he's still alive."
Shuichi exhaled softly. He almost asked how the story ended, but then he began to wonder if he really wanted to know. Though he'd never been a bookworm like Hiro, he had often been tempted to read one of his beloved Yuki's novels in the hope they could have a conversation just like this one. And yet he had never done it. Yuki's apparently gloomy view of romantic love wasn't exactly heartening for one who was still, underneath it all, far from sure that his lover loved him back.
Even so, he reflected with lighter spirits, this was still a special moment between them and a new view of the man he adored. Yuki had an amazing imagination – when he was so quiet, so far away, was this the world he was living in? If so, it must surely mean something that he was allowing Shuichi a small share of it.
From inside Mizuki's flat he could hear the sound of voices and classical Japanese music. He supposed he should go back inside – it was a wonder Yuki hadn't already complained about the suggestiveness of him following him out.
But then Yuki resumed speaking. "The point is, the Chief Editor wanted to cut the sushi bar scene down to "they ate sushi and the elder brother outlined his plan." Now Mizuki's going to make sure the scene's left in uncut."
Shuichi glanced at him in surprise. "And that's because of me?"
"Don't let it go to your head," Yuki muttered, taking another cigarette from the packet he was holding.
Watching as he tapped the cigarette against the box and raised it to his lips, Shuichi sighed. "I… I'm sorry, Yuki…"
The writer took the cigarette from his mouth and frowned at Shuichi. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Shuichi bent his head. Yuki would think he was an idiot, but he had to say it. "I… told Hiro you were ashamed of me, but I guess I was wrong… tonight's been really great, hasn't it?"
Yuki stared at him so hard he felt his cheeks growing hot. Before he knew what was happening, his lover had taken him in his arms. Yuki's mouth was upon his before he could protest; the kiss was hot and sweet with the taste of the fruit punch Yuki had been sticking to most of the night, and for Shuichi it was every bit as intoxicating as Mizuki's cocktails. Any urge he had to pull away, fearful of being caught by the other guests, quickly melted away.
"Yuki-san…?" Mizuki's musical tones finally forced them apart, though Yuki's arm lingered around Shuichi's waist, concealed by the evening shadows. "The guests are starting to leave, but they're asking if Shindou-san will sing one more song. Is he there with you?"
Shuichi stayed quite still, willing even to hide under the bench until Yuki had gone in, but Yuki simply called back "yeah, he's here," and drew him to his feet. "Come on, songbird, it's time to pay the last of your rent."
It wasn't until they had disappeared indoors that Ono Fujiko allowed herself a small squeal of delight, kicking her legs and hugging her sketchbook to her chest. It was almost too much to bear – a shonen-ai mangaka's heaven on earth. Two beautiful young men locked in the most uncompromisingly passionate embrace!
She hadn't meant to eavesdrop on them – she had in fact been out in the garden before Yuki Eiri. Young Shindou-kun's music had been charming, but the artist's muse had awoken in her the moment that delectable Nakano-kun had entered Mizuki's flat and she could not help slipping away to sketch her first impressions of the guitarist. It always amused her when people assumed she wore a kimono on social occasions out of tradition – they didn't know about the small sketchbook she carried tucked under her obi or the ink pen she always stuck through her traditionally arranged hair. She never went far without either – one simply never knew when the right face, the right scene – or even just the right expression might suddenly manifest itself.
Nakano would be just perfect for her latest seme. For a long time she had wanted to break away from the stifling conventions of the boy-love genre – loud, aggressive, dominating seme versus girlish, constantly protesting uke - and have a seme who was gentle, mild, even reticent when it came to love, to combine with her more spirited, proactive new uke.
Now all she could think of was violent, fraught, passionate romance between an innocent and beautiful youth and a hard, embittered but dangerously handsome man who fought hard to deny their attraction to one another. It was too much – a gift from the gods, dropped right into her lap!
Of course there would have to be heavy alterations when she finally created the finished product – changes in hair and eye colour and general appearance, though she liked the idea of the younger one being a singer, she would have to be careful. Maybe she could keep the musical theme, but take it from a slightly different angle.
Fujiko allowed herself a wicked little grin as she sipped the tequila sunrise she had brought out with her, savouring the bittersweet flavour. Yuki Eiri! Smitten by the charms of a boy! Who would have thought it!
On the other hand she had always had her doubts about that one. The womanising, the macho attitude, the flash cars… it all suggested some sort of overcompensation, and if it wasn't for the size or quality of the family jewels, it just might be a few nagging doubts about his own preferences…
Briefly she teased herself with the idea of blackmail – Yuki Eiri modelling in return for her silence. It might even be worth "outing" him just to wipe the superior look off his face. But of course she wouldn't – she really wasn't that much of a bitch, and besides, knowing the kind of women who lapped up his dreary, overwrought novels, it would probably only double his sales overnight. Still, it would make another good plot… she'd have to make a note of that one too…
And in an odd sort of way, watching that kiss, and the little tryst which had preceded it, Fujiko had felt her heart soften towards the romance novelist. She had never been a great fan of his type. God's gift to women, those ones always thought themselves and didn't seem to think they needed to practice the same manners as everyone else. But there had been tenderness in the way he had kissed that dear little Shindou-kun as well as lust, and he hadn't pushed him aside when Mizuki Kanna came looking for them.
Fujiko sighed as she took another sip of her cocktail and looked down at the quick sketch she had made of the embracing lovers. For a moment she toyed with her pencil, but then she put it down. It sounded as though the other guests were leaving and after all, she'd end up ruining her eyes if she kept working in such poor light…
TBC: Sato Shiho makes a shocking declaration to her fiancée, Hiro meditates on unrequited love and Eiri tells Shuichi how it ends…