AFTER DINNER SPEECH by Moon71
PART 2: After the party, Sato Shiho makes a shocking revelation to her scandalised fiancée… and Eiri tells Shuichi how it's going to end…
NOTE: Thank you to all those who have taken time to review on FFnet, Gurabite and LJ. There will be more stories coming in the new year, but for now, let me wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009!!!
Just a quickie – thank you for the supportive comments about Fujiko! I am always nervous about OCs, especially female ones because the last thing I'd want to be accused of is Mary-Sueism! She's partly a parody of a boylove mangaka and partly a parody of all of us (that is to say, those of us who start squealing at the sight of two boys kissing in an anime and feel the need to write fanfics about it!!!! Ahhh… I can still remember the day I saw that kiss in the lift for the first time, and thought – "blimey, they actually DID it! Two blokes just kissed in a cartoon!")
Sato Shiho unwound her obi with a deep sigh of relief. "Thank God for that," she cried as she shed her kimono, "sometimes wearing that thing makes me feel like I'm being squeezed by a sumo wrestler all night…"
"Enough of your adulterous fantasies," her fiancée joked cheerfully as he loosened his tie. "Anyway, you look real cute in it!"
"I'm sure I'd look good in a corset, but it doesn't mean I'd like to wear one…"
Junichi grinned. "Not even for me…? Besides, it's all your own fault for dressing up like one of your own characters!"
Shiho snorted. "At least I don't dress like an extra from a Yakuza film!"
"I like black," Junichi answered patiently, hanging up his suit with loving care, "colours are distracting!"
"A strange attitude for a visual artist…" Slipping on a gown and untying her long hair, Shiho turned to smile at her companion. "So… did you enjoy the party, Ju-chan?"
Junichi smiled back at her in that open, amiable way she had come to love. She knew some people laughed at them – some even sneered and called her a cradle snatcher, though she wasn't all that much older than he was. And she couldn't totally blame them – even without the age gap they made a rather unlikely couple. When they had unexpectedly clicked at their first meeting, she had looked forward to nothing more substantial than a brief affair – and now look at them! Sometimes it still felt like a particularly pleasant dream from which she must inevitably wake.
And yet, at other times it felt as though she had been waiting for Nakamura Junichi all of her life.
"It was brilliant," Junichi declared with bright eyes, "all of it! I was kind of dreading it, you know, though I like Mizuki-san – I mean, we both know why they bothered to throw the thing in the first place, so I thought it'd be really embarrassing, but it was totally cool!"
Shiho felt her heart flutter with joy as observed his guileless honesty. Silly old cow, she scolded herself, acting like a lovesick teenager…
But it was so good to be with a man who didn't waste time affecting an air of worldliness! Her ironic wit, her successful career – and, of course, her lack of stunning good looks – tended to put off young men like him. Her previous lovers had all been older than her, with a tendency to smug cynicism – rather like Yuki Eiri, she reflected with a wry smile, though she doubted she'd ever been on his list of potential conquests.
"Actually it feels a bit like a dream," Junichi was saying, "I mean – fancy Yuki Eiri knowing Shindou Shuichi and helping Bad Luck!"
"He's changed," Shiho noted thoughtfully. "Yuki, I mean. I can't say I've ever cared for him much… I mean his writing is superb, I can't argue with that, but his miserably unhappy endings get a bit predictable. I mean, not everyone is a two-faced backstabber, horrible things don't always happen to nice people and not all love affairs end in disappointment! But tonight he seemed – different. Kanna was hinting a few weeks ago that he might actually have actually found… you know… that special someone… and in fact…" Shiho grinned slyly at Junichi, "I think I have an idea who it is!"
Junichi chuckled indulgently as he moved across and slipped his arms about her waist. Though she felt a fool, she still felt a small shudder of excitement whenever he touched her. "Yeah, sure, Shiho-chan," he smirked, "and who might that be?"
Shiho thrust her head back triumphantly. "Shindou Shuichi!"
"Shiho!" Junichi spluttered indignantly, releasing her and scowling down at her with flashing black eyes, for all the world as if she'd named Yuki's true love as Junichi's own mother.
"Oh come on, Ju-chan," she countered, "even you must have seem the way he kept staring at the boy whenever he thought we were all too busy listening to the music…"
"We were all staring at Shuichi-kun! We were watching him sing!"
"But even when they weren't performing Yuki kept stealing little glances," Shiho continued eagerly, warming to her subject, "and I'm beginning to wonder if that's all he's been stealing! I don't really buy that story about helping Shindou-kun with his lyrics – I wonder if they're having an affair…!"
"Shiho, you have to be pissed," Junichi scoffed, "I told you to stay off the bucks fizz, it goes straight to your head! Shuichi-kun is not gay!"
"I think you're in denial, darling…"
"And I think you've been spending too much time with that Ono Fujiko and her weird friends! They think every man in Tokyo is potentially gay!"
"I didn't say Shindou-kun was necessarily gay… only that Yuki Eiri might be…"
"But he has loads and loads of girlfriends!"
"That doesn't mean anything! At any rate, gay might be too strong a word… it could be… you know… an infatuation… maybe Shindou-kun doesn't even know about it… and thinks Yuki's only helping him out of the goodness of his heart…"
Junichi seemed about to object once again when his eyes suddenly met hers and they connected just as smoothly and effortlessly as they had that precious afternoon in the reference library. "Unrequited gay love…?" the mangaka murmured doubtfully.
"Two handsome young men?" the novelist took up the thought like a relay runner taking the baton from her team-mate. "One hopelessly in love with the other but totally unable to admit it? Do you think it would fit in?"
Junichi frowned. "I don't know, Shiho-chan… my readers probably wouldn't go for it…"
"Oh come on Ju-chan, who cares about that? You're starting to sound like Kanna! Anyway, remember we're aiming this at my readers too… and they just might love it!"
"Shit," Junichi muttered and then fell into a pensive silence. Sighing sympathetically, Shiho padded into the kitchen to make some coffee, picking up her notebook on the way. A pity… it would have been so sweet to spend the end of this magical night making love. But what hope was there when two writers got together?
Nakano Hiro lay on his bed, absently smoking a cigarette. He had never been much of a smoker or a drinker, moderate in his habits more by nature than design. Perhaps that was why he and Shuichi had clicked almost the moment they had met and had stayed so close ever since – Hiro's calm balanced Shuichi's hyperactivity; but Shuichi's adventurous spirit and irrepressible optimism also shook Hiro from a sort of obedient passivity which might otherwise have pushed him in to a medical career he had no heart for.
This had been a good night. It had also been one full of surprises; the biggest surprise of all the fact that it had even happened. Yuki Eiri really was the most contradictory man alive. No wonder poor Shuichi never knew where he was with him – Hiro had seriously begun to wonder if Yuki even knew where he was with himself.
Had Hiro been in Shuichi's shoes, he could not have put up with it. But Shuichi wanted Yuki – possibly for reasons even he himself didn't understand. He could see something in that apparently cold-hearted man that Hiro had only caught a glimpse of once in awhile. And when Shuichi wanted something…
Tonight would have been good even if the party had been crap, just for the excitement and the happiness in Shuichi's eyes as Hiro had helped him get ready. As it was, the party hadn't been crap, for all that Hiro had never seen himself as the type to attend cocktail parties and make small talk. That Mizuki Kana was kind of cute and she obviously had Yuki's number – Hiro had been rather relieved on Shuichi's behalf to see no evidence of anything going on between the writer and the editor. Ono Fujiko had been a bit frightening, but nothing Hiro couldn't handle. And singing with Shuichi - just the two of them with Hiro's guitar - had been terrific.
Perhaps, he reflected as he leaned over and crushed out his cigarette into an ashtray lying beside the bed, it was just as well Yuki had phoned when he had – Hiro could hardly believe how close he had come to telling Shuichi about Ayaka.
A deep, weary sigh escaped him as he thought about that. It was ridiculous – he was like some stupid schoolboy with a crush. He had to put her out of his thoughts. Even if she no longer loved Yuki – which was surely unlikely, even if she had given him up to Shuichi and insisted that all she wanted was to see her fiancée happy at last – there was no reason to believe she even thought about Hiro, except perhaps as a friend.
He had called her once or twice; ostensibly just to see she was all right. She hadn't seemed to mind, but she had never suggested she would be coming up to Tokyo again and Hiro could not think of a good enough excuse for inviting her.
Besides, they were from different worlds; she was hardly the type of girl he usually went for and he doubted a long-haired rock guitarist was much compensation for a rich, handsome, successful writer from a similar background to her own, even if Yuki Eiri was also a misanthropic womaniser who apparently liked boys too. Yuki had could be charming and courteous – he had been tonight. If that was the only side to him that Ayaka had ever seen, what chance did Hiro have?
And yet he still couldn't stop thinking about her! Her pretty face and sweet smile; her delicate, graceful manners; her persistent sense of innocence mixed with a fiery determination that had brought her alone all the way from Kyoto to Tokyo – and an unflinching realism which had made her give up the man she loved when she saw they would never be happy together.
She just wasn't like any girl he'd ever met…
Idiot, Hiro thought with a soft grunt of laughter. You're just as bad as Shuichi. And you're supposed to be the sensible one!
He supposed he should get up and take a shower and have some tea or something and then try to get some sleep. But he didn't feel like moving. So he lay where he was and began to sing the words of The Rage Beat, just as he and Shuichi had sung it at Mizuki's party; and as he did so he let himself dream about Usami Ayaka just a little bit longer.
As he heard that tone in Shuichi's voice, Eiri considered feigning sleep, but then he remembered that his being unconscious wouldn't stop Shuichi talking, and pretending to be dead would probably only slow him down for a while.
"Um… I was all right tonight, wasn't I?"
Eiri exhaled heavily and propped himself up on one elbow, gazing through the shadows at the boy watching him so expectantly. So the euphoria had finally worn off – on the drive home, Shuichi could talk of nothing but how totally cool everything was and what a great performance he and Hiro had given. Now he sounded genuinely uncertain.
"You were fine," Eiri answered simply. Then he startled himself by adding, "actually, you were…charming."
He winced as he heard Shuichi gasp, readying himself for the inevitable onslaught of kisses and embraces and declarations of love. But Shuichi remained quite still.
"You really think so?" he heard him whisper at last.
"Weirdly enough… yes."
Shuichi shifted a little closer. "Yuki…"
"How does it end? Your story, I mean."
Eiri sighed. He wasn't sure he wanted to think about this again, and he greatly doubted Shuichi would care for the ending he had worked out. "After years of making each other miserable, they finally reach a sort of… compromise." Not unlike the one I had planned for us, he silently admitted, though I'm beginning to wonder if that's such a good ending after all… "It's too late for them to start again, but at least they stop hurting each other."
"I don't think I like that ending very much," Shuichi replied thoughtfully, "it's kind of depressing…"
Eiri felt a quick, sharp jab of anger. Just who the hell was this ignorant little brat to offer an opinion on the work of a serious writer? But then he remembered a night in the park not all that long ago when he had made a harmless boy cry with an unsolicited and unnecessarily harsh critique of his lyrics, and he held his tongue.
Besides, there was the fact that, rather annoyingly, another ending had begun to suggest itself as he had watched Shuichi and Nakano perform. An ending where the unhappy couple finally confronted each other, learning the truth through mutual accusations of treachery and faithlessness and purging the malign spirit of the dead brother at last. All that he had been these last six years rebelled against such a rebirth of hope for his characters – yet there was something incredibly cathartic in such an ending, after the suffocating atmosphere of unbroken tension running through the story… and it would make for one terrifically dramatic scene…
"I guess I'm not very good with compromises," Shuichi suddenly went on with an uncharacteristic note of sorrow in his voice, "whatever I want, I want it completely… you know?"
Oh yes. Eiri knew. Only too well. But after tonight he was beginning to think he wasn't so good at them either. This evening had surely proved he was no better than Shuichi at letting go.
For six years he had done everything he could to stay in control of every aspect of his life. But there was another answer. He could just… go with the flow… and see where it took him…
And may heaven help us both, he thought with a sigh.
But then he looked down into Shuichi's troubled gaze and could not help smiling at him, stroking the hair back from his face with soothing fingers. Sushi bar or no sushi bar, I was proud of you this evening, he silently admitted to him, and I'm glad you're here with me tonight.
He couldn't say it – not aloud. So he leaned over and kissed Shuichi's lips.
At once, strong, slender arms slid out to embrace him and he felt heat flush across Shuichi's body in sympathy with his own. There was no aggression in Eiri this time – the sexual tension which had built up during the party had been diffused when they had fallen upon one another as soon as they reached home.
Oh yes, that made for the most unexpected and exquisite torture – watching Shuichi looking so damn cute – watching him in his element, being admired; even desired by others and not being able to do a thing about it…
He had never really been in that position with Shuichi before; most of the time they had spent together had been within the privacy of Eiri's flat. Except for that first night, when he had left Shuichi's concert and waited for the boy to follow him home, as he had known he would, he had had Shuichi whenever and however he wanted him. He had thought that was enough – more to the point, he had thought that was all it ever could be like. They couldn't go on "dates" like an ordinary couple, could they?
Tonight had to be a one-off. Surely. And yet… Shuichi was right. Tonight had been… great.
At least Eiri could be fairly sure he was too good at hiding his emotions to have given anything away to the other guests. Even when that blasted Mangaboy insisted on "just one more encore" in return for a signed, limited edition box-set of his latest series and Eiri had fantasised about telling Shuichi his mother was dead just to get him out of the front door.
Now he was warm and sated and all he could manage was the kind of languid and gently playful sex that Shuichi loved but didn't often get.
Eiri would certainly regret all of this in the morning – probably as soon as he woke up and saw Shuichi smiling at him with just a little more love and just a little more possessiveness, and felt him kiss him good-bye as he set off for NG studios with just a slightly stronger sense of confidence.
But tomorrow was tomorrow, and tonight was tonight. And tonight Shindou Shuichi was simply… irresistible.