Shuichi hadn't felt the need to do more than kiss, but he could tell Eiri wanted more, so he went along with it. It hurt, yes, and he hadn't been able to sit properly for a few days (how was he convinced to do it three times?), but he didn't regret it, not really.
He was looking forward to going over to Eiri's again tonight. Since he'd moved out of his parents' house, he'd hardly spent any time at his new apartment, but his family didn't need to know that. He'd been dutifully checking his phone messages so his mother didn't freak out when he didn't call back soon enough. That should take care of their need to know what he was doing, so maybe they wouldn't find out he'd been spending most of his nights at Eiri Yuki's. At his lover's house.
His lover's house. Never in his wildest dreams - and he'd had some wild dreams, - did he imagine that he'd have a lover at this point in his life, let alone that it would be a guy. And of all the people to fall in love with! Eiri Yuki was gorgeous, smart, and cool, but he also was cutting, mean and sarcastic. If he had to fall in love with a guy, why couldn't it have been someone like Hiro? Besides being a jerk, Eiri didn't have the market cornered on smarts. Hiro was smart too, and thoughtful, sweet and loyal.
He looked around his small 2½ tatami studio apartment. It was the best he could do for now, especially in this neighborhood. Hiro had accused him of renting an apartment in the same neighborhood as Eiri Yuki in order to be closer to him. That wasn't exactly true. It was the nicest inexpensive apartment he'd been able to find on short notice. Yes, it made it more convenient to visit his lover when he lived nearby too, but that wasn't really the reason he lived there, or at least that's what he told himself.
He heated a frozen entrée in the microwave and gulped it down quickly. After swallowing a glass of water, he grabbed his backpack and ran out the door. He practically ran to Eiri's house.
On the way, he took in the night air, smelling the shrubs and flowers that were beginning to bloom. He couldn't wait to be in Eiri's arms, to smell that peculiar combination of cigarette smoke, beer, sweat, and a hint of sweetness – maybe it was citrus, maybe it was floral; he couldn't quite place it – that his lover exuded. He smelled so great, he could just eat him up!
He passed a house with jasmine bush by the sidewalk. It gave off a strong and distinctive smell. Then it clicked. That was it! The sweet smell on Eiri's skin was jasmine.
When he arrived at Eiri's house, a few lights were on, but fewer than usual. He rang the doorbell. No answer. Then he tried the door. The door was locked. He knocked on the door. No answer. He knocked on the door again, louder this time. Still no answer. Then he pounded on the door. There was no response.
He was bummed out. It seemed like Eiri wasn't home. True, they hadn't specifically made plans to meet tonight, but they'd met every night so far this week, and Eiri hadn't said anything about going out.
Shuichi turned around and dejectedly walked back to his empty apartment. It looked like he'd be sleeping alone tonight.
Shuichi fretted the following morning. He'd called and left a message when he got home but he hadn't heard back yet. He was beginning to worry that something might have happened to Eiri.
It was too bad he didn't know Tatsuha's cell phone number. Of his lover's two siblings, Tatsuha was the most likely to know Eiri's whereabouts and plans. Tohma might know too, but Shuichi had sensed tension between the two of them and wouldn't ask Tohma about it unless it was an absolute emergency. That meant that he would spend the entire day at work distracted and worried until he heard from Eiri.
"Are you leaving now?" she asked. He was pretty sure her name was Keiko.
"What does it look like?" he answered as he buttoned his shirt. He'd already pulled his pants on. He ran his fingers through his hair while glancing at the mirror over the dresser to see if he was making any progress in taming his unruly mop of hair. Discovering that he wasn't, he took a comb out of his pocket.
This girl…her bed…it all seemed so familiar, even though he'd only been at her place a few times. True, she'd been to his place too, but that was before his current predicament threatened to derail his carefully constructed life.
Nowadays it wasn't safe to bring women back to his house for the night. That Shindou kid he'd slept with kept showing up.
He could have told him not to come over tonight, but the kid knew his last book was finished and that he hadn't started another yet, so he would have had to invent an excuse. If he said he was going out, the kid would want to know where. If he'd said he was doing something specific, the idiot would offer to stop by when it was over.
Eiri didn't want to lie. Lies unraveled and were discovered eventually, and he didn't like engaging in arguments he didn't start himself. But he didn't want to tell him the truth, either. He didn't want to see the kid's face crumble, or watch him cry again. Shindou was so young and idealistic he might even leave if Eiri told him the truth. Eiri wasn't sure how he'd feel about that.
What was the truth? It wasn't as though Eiri had planned on having a relationship with him or with any guy. He'd tried that before and it had ended in pain and death. When he told Shuichi he'd be his lover, he didn't promise him exclusivity, even though Shuichi might think it was part of the deal. Mostly he said it to get Shuichi to have sex with him, partly as a test of his sincerity and partly because sex was an integral part of his relationships – in most cases, the only meaningful part.
Why did he hesitate to let Shuichi know that Eiri Yuki wasn't going to change his modus operandi for some punk kid barely out of high school? He got laid and broke hearts, assuming hearts beat under the breasts of the women he slept with. Love them and leave them; that was his motto.
He looked at the clock at the bedside. It was almost seven a.m. and Keiko, or whatever her name was, had to be at work in two hours. It was better that he leave now instead of lingering. There was no reason to linger here anyway.
He noticed the scent of jasmine mixed with harsher smell of cigarettes and semen as he walked out of the bedroom.
Instead of heading home, he wandered around, stopping for more cigarettes and beer and for groceries. Even though he was famous, if he went grocery shopping early enough he could still shop in relative comfort and obscurity. The day had not yet arrived when he was reduced to ordering his groceries over the phone or the Internet.
He preferred shopping in person anyway, as he was picky about what he bought. Even if the store selected and delivered the best produce, it still would rob him of the experience of holding it in his hands, weighing what to purchase, which item represented the best deal, and which was in the best shape.
The same was true of meat and fish. Having been raised Buddhist and hence the next best thing to vegetarian, he didn't eat that much red meat, but he ate a lot of fish and a little chicken. It was better to choose his own and to haggle with the man at the counter over the best cuts and the right amount than to buy the prepackaged shit.
He'd started cooking for himself again recently. He'd learned a little about cooking from observing his mother before she died, and he'd learned more when he was in New York and Tohma wasn't around when it was time to start dinner. Eiri didn't like the food the Mexican housekeeper Tohma had hired cooked – it was too rich and spicy for his tastes - so he'd learned to make some dishes himself.
He'd even learned how to make some dishes from…No, he wasn't strolling down that memory lane. That particular path was usually blocked off with a sign reading 'Danger - Road Closed'. He didn't feel like revisiting it, ever.
Eiri arrived home, grocery bags in hand, to an overflowing answering machine. He wished he could ignore the thing until it was convenient for him to check it, but it insisted on blinking like a traffic light until he relieved it of its contents and saved or deleted the messages. Usually he deleted a message as soon as he knew who had left it.
Five messages from the insufferable brat! Why had he shopped practically all morning to cook for that idiot?
Maybe a better question was why he thought the brat was coming for dinner. He hadn't invited him, and Shuichi usually didn't show up until later. He would mutter something about heating food up in the microwave or getting takeout if Eiri asked if he'd eaten.
Gah! How was this brat of a kid, barely out of high school, turning his orderly life upside down?
Realizing that he would continue to be barraged with calls if he didn't respond to the messages, Eiri called Shuichi's cell phone, hoping the call would go to voicemail and he wouldn't have to talk to him directly. He had no such luck, however. Shuichi had his phone on vibrate so it wouldn't interrupt rehearsals but he pulled it out of his pocket as soon as he noticed the vibration signaling an incoming call. When he saw from whom the call was, he yelped "Gotta go" and ran out to the hallway, heedless of the band members he abandoned mid-song.
"Hi, Yuki," he said into the phone.
Eiri was a little taken aback that the twit knew who was calling, but the phone was equipped with caller ID and Shuichi had his number memorized, so there was no reason for him to be surprised. For all he knew, Shuichi had even assigned him a distinctive ringtone, although that level of obsession was a scary prospect.
"Hi," Eiri said, trying to sound calmer than he felt. "I'm sorry I wasn't here to take your calls." He wasn't sorry at all, but he couldn't admit that. He'd never hear the end of it. In his mind, that kind of little white lie was no different from telling a woman that her outfit looked nice when it didn't.
"I was worried when you didn't answer this morning! You weren't there when I stopped by last night either."
This is when Eiri normally would remind the person on the other end of the line that they'd made no promises to each other and he was free to come and go as he pleased. But, for some reason, he couldn't do it.
Why did he care? He wasn't attracted to men, so why did it matter to him if the idiot became the latest of many castoffs who couldn't tolerate his unfaithfulness? And why the fuck had he told him he could stop by any time anyway? His entertainment value was rapidly diminishing as his interference with Eiri's social life increased.
Instead of telling him off like he should have, though, Eiri said, "Why don't you come over a little earlier than usual tonight? We can have dinner together."
Shuichi wondered if this was Eiri's way of making it up to him. Calling it an apology would be a little strong; after all, Eiri had never promised to be home every evening at eight when Shuichi usually stopped by. Without any hesitation, he answered, "Sure, Yuki! What time should I be there?"
Eiri wondered what possessed him to invite the little rascal over. The brat had better be prepared for the fuck of a lifetime for this show of goodwill on his part. "Be here at seven," he growled.
Shuichi picked up on the change in tone. "Is something wrong?" he asked, concern evident in his voice. Did he just screw up his opportunity to spend time with and get to know the grumpy and difficult man for whom he'd unexpectedly fallen?
"No," Eiri said, trying but not completely succeeding to keep the sullen tone out of his voice. He didn't have much practice hiding his feelings. "Just…be here at seven, or I'll start dinner without you." With a flash of sarcasm, he added, "And you'll get to find out if my cooking causes food poisoning."
"You cook? Wow, I'm impressed!"
Eiri thought the kid was probably impressed because the closest he ever got to cooking was using the microwave. That might be giving Shuichi too much credit, but Eiri had no way of knowing that. "Yeah, I learned a while ago. This morning I bought more food than I need for myself so I thought I'd invite you over." He hoped this hint that he'd been thinking of Shuichi when he bought extra food would prevent Shuichi from asking him what he'd been doing the night before, even though his buying extra food had nothing whatsoever to do with Shuichi.
"All right. See you at seven," Shuichi said, and hung up.
Eiri spent the rest of the day editing what he'd already written and convincing himself that he invited Shuichi over for dinner as a prelude to more sex, not because he particularly liked the guy. Shuichi showed up a little before seven bearing several bottles of wine and a box of pastries from a nearby bakery. "I forgot to ask what we were having for dinner," he said as he handed the bottles to Eiri, "so I didn't know what type of wine to get."
Eiri snickered to himself, as Shuichi had chosen relatively inexpensive and sweet wines that weren't what Eiri normally would drink on those rare occasions when he drank wine. But he had enough manners to not make fun of a present meant to thank him for inviting Shuichi over for dinner. Besides, the pastries would come in handy since he hadn't made any dessert.
They ate the steamed sea bass, rice, and vegetables he'd prepared in a silence broken only by the clatter of chopsticks and glasses clinking and by Shuichi complimenting Eiri's cooking skills.
"Thank you," Eiri mumbled, reluctant to make a big deal out of it.
"Where did you learn how to cook like this?"
Eiri picked up more rice with his chopsticks and chewed, gesturing to indicate that he'd respond when his mouth wasn't too full of food to reply. "Some of it I learned by watching my mother cook and some I learned as a teenager," he said while still chewing a small amount of remaining rice.
"Your mother must be a really good cook."
"Hm-mph" was all the answer he got. Eiri shot him a warning look and Shuichi got the sense that he was treading on shaky ground for some reason. He cast about for another subject to talk about.
"So how was your day? Did you get a lot written?"
"It was okay. I spent most of the day reviewing and rewriting stuff I'd already written."
It was like pulling teeth to get the man to talk about himself. Eiri intruded on these thoughts by asking, "How was your day?"
"Good," Shuichi said. "Hiro and Noriko laid down the instrumentals for our next single and I worked on the lyrics."
"Another love song?" Eiri asked, arching his eyebrows.
"Yeah, you'd probably find it pretty sappy," Shuichi said, sighing. Shit, he'd forgotten what a touchy subject lyrics were for the two of them. He didn't bother adding that the lyrics expressed his feelings about his host.
They'd finished dinner and Shuichi was helping clear the table so they could have dessert when Eiri's doorbell rang. Eiri went to the intercom, baffled as to who it might be.
"It's me," a feminine voice announced.
Shit. He'd forgotten that he'd made plans to take Murasaki to a dance club tonight. Awkward.
"Come on up," he said as he buzzed her in.
When he turned around, Shuichi looked like someone had punched him in the gut. In a sense, Eiri thought, maybe he had. He hadn't meant to lead him on; he'd made an honest mistake. But that did nothing to assuage the kid's hurt feelings.
"Who is she?" Shuichi asked, his voice breaking.
Eiri couldn't think of a good way to answer the question, so he sidestepped it. "Her name is Murasaki. I made plans with her last week and then forgot about them. I didn't deliberately invite you over just so I could run out on you." He thought about apologizing, but the damage had already been done. He didn't think Shuichi would believe him anyway.
"Really?" Shuichi said, looking at him accusatorily. "Because all the times you've been a dick to me on purpose make it harder for me to believe you when you say you're being a dick without meaning to. What do you really want, Yuki?"
"I don't know what the fuck I want."
"Hmph." Shuichi crossed his arms and his eyes bored into Eiri's like daggers, even though he had to tilt his head up at an almost awkward angle to do so.
After a quick knock, the front door was opened so abruptly that it banged against the wall. Shuichi shrank away from the noise. Eiri whispered, "Go sit on the couch while I talk to her. I'll get rid of her."
Shuichi's stood his ground and his eyes flashed. "Just because you feel like you can treat me like shit and I'm so pathetic that I'll put up with it doesn't mean you should treat other people that way."
Eiri looked at him, shocked. "Are you telling me not to throw her out?"
By now, Murasaki had made her way from the entryway into the living room. She threw her jacket on the couch, huffed, and seemed put out that Eiri hadn't greeted her at the door.
"Some welcome this is!" she griped. She looked over at Shuichi, who had started edging away from Eiri when she entered the room. "Eiri-san, who's this?"
Eiri looked down, thought fast, and came up with, "He's a, uh, cousin who dropped by unexpectedly. We were about to have dessert. Would you like to join us?"
She pulled out a stylish silver cigarette case with engraving on it, tapped out a cigarette, and said in a bored voice, "No, thank you. I don't like dessert. I hope you won't be too long, as I'd like to get there early before it gets extra crowded. Do you mind if I smoke in your bedroom while you finish up?"
Eiri said, with a shrug, "Sure. Make yourself comfortable. We won't be long."
She turned to Shuichi and asked, "So what's your name, Eiri's cousin?"
Shuichi almost turned red and choked at this question, but decided the safest thing was to give her his real first name. "It's Shuichi."
"Are you an Uesugi or something else?"
That was a poser. He didn't want to claim to be an Uesugi, but he didn't want to give his real last name either. Bad Luck was starting to become better known and it was possible that the kind of woman who hung out at Tokyo dance clubs would be familiar with the group.
Eiri was starting to worry as well, and he took the heat off of Shuichi by saying, "He's a cousin from my mother's side of the family, so his last name is Yamamoto," which was his mother's maiden name. Luckily, he really did have some Yamamoto cousins, though none Shuichi's age. He added, finally remembering that he hadn't introduced Murasaki, "Shuichi, this is my friend, Murasaki Takachi."
"Girlfriend," she amended. "One of many, though," she added, looking at Shuichi and smirking.
She then slouched down the hallway. Eiri heaved a sigh of relief when she disappeared into his bedroom and closed the door.
Eiri sat down at the table but Shuichi remained standing. Eiri looked at him with raised eyebrows and said, "Aren't you going to sit down?"
"Nah," Shuichi said. "Somehow I'm not really that interested in dessert any more. Though I don't know why she's not" – he inclined his head in the direction of the bedroom – "she's thin enough. And pretty," he said in an almost accusatory tone of voice.
Eiri wondered what Shuichi expected; hadn't he gotten the bulletin that Eiri Yuki was famous for attracting, dating, and sleeping with hot chicks only? He folded his arms and said, "Do you really want me to go out with her tonight?"
Shuichi looked up at the ceiling. "Of course not! But you made plans with her before you invited me over."
"You're the retard for insisting that I be nice to her. What do you want me to do?"
Shuichi let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding in. "Go out with her tonight like you'd planned. Fuck her, or whatever it was you were planning on doing with her to begin with. Don't send her home. But when it's over, when she wakes up in the morning or whatever, tell her that's the last time and you're not going to see her anymore."
"And if she asks why?"
Shuichi looked straight into Eiri's eyes. "Tell her you're seeing someone else."
"So…you want me to stop seeing anyone but you?" Eiri asked in a tone of mild astonishment.
"Yes. That's the idea."
"And if I don't?"
Shuichi face crumpled a bit and his eyes starting tearing up. "Then…I guess this will be the last time I see you."
"I could lie to you, you know. I could say I'd stopped seeing anyone else and still continue to."
"You could, but I'd find out eventually, and I'd still leave."
Eiri wasn't sure he believed him, but Shuichi spoke with complete confidence.
Shuichi said, "I'll come by tomorrow night at seven. I expect to be your only company for the night. Same deal every time I come here. If I find out you're cheating on me, whatever it is we have is over."
Eiri nodded and turned away as Shuichi headed for the door.
Shuichi turned back just before he exited the living room, and said, "And I expect you to save that dessert for tomorrow."
"Understood," Eiri said. "Good night."
The front door closed with a thud, echoing the pounding of Eiri's heart as he contemplated the prospect of giving up the playboy lifestyle he'd grown accustomed to. He felt nervous and a little nauseous but was surprised to note that he also felt relieved. He never thought he'd want an exclusive relationship with anyone, much less a teenage boy years younger than he was, but maybe this was going to work out after all.