Eiri's main character had just been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor when he first registered the sound. It wasn't a loud noise; in fact, he'd been peripherally aware of it for several minutes. But now that he was alert to the rhythmic rattle, it seemed to take on life of its own, tendrils of sound travelling through walls and assaulting his eardrums.
Shoop-shoop, shoop-shoop. And then there was a clatter and some soft swearing. Shuichi was up to some sort of idiocy again.
Eiri lit a cigarette and stared at his computer screen, willing himself to focus again. He was nearly done, and this time he was even ahead of his deadline. To get the bare bones of it committed, all he needed was a few more hours of uninterrupted --
Shoop-shoop, shoop-shoop. Then there was the clatter again.
Shuichi shouted, "Damn it!"
Eiri stood up and stomped to the door, wrenching it open. He was about to rant at Shuichi but when he saw what was happening, the words died in his throat. In the middle of their living room, a sweaty Shuichi stood with a bright green hula-hoop around his feet.
His eyes were wide as his head snapped up to meet Eiri's stare. "Sorry, Eiri! I'll try to be quieter."
Eiri grunted dismissively and walked into the kitchen to make some tea. He knew he shouldn't ask, he'd regret it, but he did anyway. "What's this all about?"
Shuchi hung his head and said, "It's dumb."
Eiri waited. He knew the idiot would fold and tell him more than he probably wanted to know.
"We have this new choreographer and she doesn't think I'm ..." Shuichi waved a hand around. "Well, she doesn't think I dance sexy enough."
"Huh." Eiri could feel his lips twitch and he turned away, concentrating on making the tea. Behind him, he could hear the hula hoop start its rhythmic noise again.
A few minutes later, he handed Shuichi a steaming cup of tea. "So what's dancing got to do with your new toy?"
Shuichi stepped out of the hoop and collapsed on the couch. "Saku-san says if I can get the hula-hoop to work, that would help me. Something about isometrics. But it's too hard!" Shuichi's voice gained volume as he wailed, "Why do I need to dance on stage, anyway? It's so dumb!"
"Is Nakano doing it?" Eiri sat down next to him.
"What about Fujisaki?"
"A little, yeah. But they don't have to do as much as I do!" He leaned back into the couch and closed his eyes.
"Doesn't Gackt dance onstage?"
Eiri sipped his tea and watched a bead of sweat travel down Shuichi's neck to his collarbone. He licked his lips. "What about the nutbar?"
"You mean Sakuma-san?"
Eiri frowned at the name.
Shuichi exhaled. "Yeah."
"Sounds like it's part of the job. So suck it up."
"I guess." Shuichi leaned against him. "But I'm beginning to think I'll never get it."
Eiri didn't say anymore, but he was very aware of Shuichi, warm and sweaty against him. By the time he'd finished his tea, he was done with just inhaling the dumbass's scent. He stood up, grabbed Shuichi's hand, and dragged him toward the bedroom.
"Wait, what --"
"Shut up." Eiri pulled Shuichi into a rough kiss.
After that, Shuichi wasn't quiet, but he didn't speak anymore.
The digital readout flat-lined just as the main character's ex-girlfriend uttered, "Please don't die, Sae! I'm pregnant with your child!"
Ash fell from Eiri's cigarette as he jumped to his feet. "For fuck's sake, you moron!"
Shuichi was there with his green hula-hoop around his feet. "I can't help it! Tohma threatened me!"
Eiri glared at Shuichi. He was about to unleash his acid tongue when his stomach growled loudly.
Shuichi frowned at him. "Have you been skipping meals again?"
His stomach growled louder and he looked at the clock. He hadn't eaten all day. In fact, he couldn't remember the last time he'd eaten. He sighed, knowing his concentration was broken and not likely to come back with the hula-hoop in action. Besides, Shuichi would pester the crap out of him until he ate.
The death scene could wait.
He walked to the kitchen and washed some rice. Behind him, he could hear the steady pulse of the hula-hoop, two double shoops and then a clatter to the floor. Shuichi wasn't even swearing this time; he was just doing it over and over. He definitely wasn't getting any better.
Eiri retrieved some vegetables and some tofu from the refrigerator. He went about making a quick stir-fry, all to the steady beat of Shuichi's repeated failures.
Later, when he set two plates down at the table, he looked over at his sweaty boyfriend and said, "Maybe you should make that into a song."
"What?" Shuichi picked up his chopsticks.
"Shoop-shoop." Eiri speared some bok choy. "It sounds like a song."
Shuichi's piece of tofu paused on its way to his mouth. His eyes shifted to Eiri's. "A song?"
Eiri shrugged. "You're the musician."
"Wow." Shuichi smiled and then stuffed the tofu into his mouth. "You're awesome, Eiri."
And after dinner, the hula-hoop, not Shuichi, was mercifully silent.
Eiri walked across the parking lot toward the arena to meet Tohma. He felt good. He'd turned in his manuscript, and now he had a few days rest before the rewrites would begin.
"Eiri-san." Tohma greeted him with usual his smile. "How very rare to see you at one of Bad Luck's shows."
"This way." Tohma waved Eiri through security. "I'm certain he's thrilled you're coming to the show."
"He doesn't know."
"Ah, I see. So, you've come to give him emotional support?"
Eiri made a disagreeable sound. "Which way?"
"He's just about to go on, so --"
There was a twang from Nakano's guitar followed by the techno-beat of Fujisaki's synthesizer. Added to the blaring music was a swell of cheers from the crowd. Tohma didn't bother attempting to speak anymore but simply motioned Eiri to follow him, leading him through the barely lit back passages to the right of the stage.
There was a woman standing by the curtain and watching. Her arms were crossed as she openly scowled at the stage. Eiri assumed she was the infamous Saku.
Shuichi looked over at her, and Eiri could see the moron deflate. He looked uncomfortable on stage, and his dancing was worse than Eiri had ever seen, almost painful to watch. How had this woman managed to do so much damage to Shuichi's ego? Eiri bristled at the thought. He'd have to have a talk with Tohma about this.
Eiri looked over at Tohma. His usual smile was gone, replaced by a stone-faced, unreadable stare. His gaze wasn't on Shuichi or the stage. He was watching Saku. And when Shuichi mistimed a step and stumbled on stage, Saku threw up her arms and stormed away. Tohma followed her. Eiri was certain he knew why.
Apparently, Eiri wouldn't have to talk to Tohma after all.
Eiri dismissed them and stepped to Saku's recently vacated spot. The idiot was really struggling on stage. Bad Luck's songs were simple with insipid lyrics, and -- for some reason -- were wildly popular. Eiri didn't really get it except when Shuichi took the mic on stage and something electric happened. The songs became listenable, almost memorable. But this wasn't one of those times, this was a terrible show.
Shuichi glanced over at him and his look of confusion transformed into a more relaxed smile. Eiri crooked a finger at him and waited.
When there was a break in the singing, Shuichi ran over to him, letting Nakano and Fujisaki run the show. Eiri pulled him close and whispered in his ear.
"Remember what we've been doing in bed?"
"Eiri! Now isn't really the --"
"The thing I like so much where you twist your hips?"
"But you --"
"Just do that, dumbass. You're not horrible at it." Eiri straightened up and watched, seeing the connections being made inside Shuchi's pathetic brain.
Shuichi nodded slowly. And then he jumped at Eiri and said, "Shoop-shoop. I finally get it." He gave Eiri a sloppy kiss before running back on stage.
Shuichi's regained confidence was evident as he strutted across the stage, hips grinding away like a dancer in a strip club. The moves were pathetically calculated but did the job, turning the show from disaster to success.
The next week, without any prodding from Eiri, Tohma released Saku from her employment at NG. And Eiri's home life no longer included a hula-hoop.
Three months later, Eiri's book was on the best-seller list and he was on the tiresome requirement of a book signing tour. He was handling the rigors of dealing with people surprisingly well, but he was looking forward to the end of the week and his last public appearance for this tour.
As Eiri walked toward the bookstore, he passed an audio store and caught a glimpse of his goofy boyfriend. He did his best to dismiss the image and continued walking. Half a block away, he paused and retraced his steps to take a closer look at the poster. There was Shuichi with his moronic smile, clad in a crazy outfit of a bright yellow shirt and skin-tight white jeans. And around his hips, a green hula-hoop swirled. The poster declared a new hit single from Bad Luck.
Shuichi had babbled about a new song they were working on before the tour began. Eiri had ignored the chatter at the time, but now his memory relived the conversation word-for-word.
"This song will be our best ever, and it's all because of you, Eiri!"
The single was called "Shoop-shoop", and apparently -- if the advertisement could be trusted -- the stupid song had debuted in the top ten.
"Fuck," Eiri muttered under his breath as he turned away.
He knew he'd never hear the end of it.