i. “Are you nervous? Don’t be.”
His eyes are closed, chin tilted up as soft fur brushes over his cheeks, his eyelids, his forehead. It’s his first major shoot with Vogue Hommes International, and he feels excitement singing in his veins, hands trembling in anticipation because this is it. This is his international debut.
His stylist is a pink-haired Japanese - Kominato Haruichi, if Eijun recalls correctly - prattling on about his partner for his shoot, a Mi-something-ya but Eijun isn't listening, he never is. So it’s granted that when he asks who his partner is for the Burberry spread (which happens right after the stylist finishes applying gloss on his lips, because it’s Sawamura Eijun and he is never quiet), he gets a disappointed sigh and a gentle smack to the head.
“Miyuki Kazuya, you idiot! Haven’t you been listening?” Eijun shrugs in chagrin, because he has no idea who that is, and the expression on his face shows it. Haruichi rolls his eyes, “The face of the industry, Eijun. Where have you been, under a rock?”
“Well…” a tired laugh escapes from him, because yes, in a way he has been. He’s been too focused on his jobs, too busy trying to claw his way up to the very top to notice. From auditions to test shoots to runways, Eijun has hardly found time for himself. He’s come to realise in a span of a few months that modelling was a lot more than simply looking pretty in overly expensive clothes.
It’s the industry of selling facial expressions and body structure.
The curtains to the makeup area swish open, and a smattering of voices accompanied by a rich baritone laughter interrupt his thoughts. Eijun makes a move to swivel his head towards the intrusion, but Haruichi’s firm grip on his face, the other hand applying eyeliner with practiced movements, prevents him from doing so. “Look in the mirror, if you really want to see,” the stylist chastises him. And so he does.
The man who walks in is perfection incarnate; eyes, nose, lips proportioned impeccably as if they were laid out by God himself. It’s the face printed on the cover page of Harper’s Bazaar and GQ, the face that even the most amateur of amateurs could recognise. While Eijun’s bad with names, he never forgets a single face, and he definitely doesn’t forget a face as iconic as Miyuki Kazuya’s. Eijun finds himself holding his breath, and blinks rapidly to drag himself out of his trance, huffing in annoyance. It should be a sin to look that stunning.
He wrenches his gaze away from the model, as Haruichi puts the final touch ups on his face. However, he can’t stop his eyes from creeping back to the reflection of the man, who had turned away to converse with his own stylist.
“He’s very beautiful, isn’t he?” The stylist remarks, hands nonstop in the fussing of his makeup and hair, “You keep staring.” Eijun makes no sign of agreement, but he really is.
He really fucking is.
He hears faint footsteps approaching, and Haruichi grins at his own handiwork as he finally lets Eijun go. “Good luck,” he winks, before leaving Eijun in his stool and at the mercy of the approaching model.
The man holds a hand out, and the first thing Eijun notices is the quirk of his smile and the long slender fingers. Hesitant, he extends his own hands out and takes the slender hand in his own.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Miyuki Kazuya.”
“Ah, the pleasure is mine. I’m Sawamura -”
“Eijun,” Miyuki finishes, his voice coloured with smugness. EIjun stutters, and Miyuki laughs in amusement. “What, did you think I wouldn’t know? We’re partners for this shoot. Frankly, you should be worried if I didn’t know your name.”
He’s not sure whether he should feel flattered, or amused, or neither. “Ignore him,” he’s told by the photographer that had accompanied Miyuki back in, “He’s an asshole. An asshole with a pretty face, but an asshole nevertheless.”
Miyuki makes a noise of complaint and nudges the photographer (Eijun later learns his name: Kuramochi Youichi, and that him and Miyuki have been friends since forever). “ Hey, that’s not true.” Miyuki pouts at the photographer, but throws a quick wink at Eijun the moment Kuramochi turns away.
“Don’t listen to him, he’s always grouchy. And if he’s not grouchy, it means that he’s probably just played a prank -” The elder model is rudely interrupted by the loud shout from the set.
“ Kazuya! Sawamura! Get your asses over here, I don’t have all day for this fucking shoot!” Eijun winces, but Miyuki only chuckles in response.
Eijun quickly learns that behind Miyuki's pretty face and snarky facade is a heart made of steel and impenetrable walls.
They’re pressed up against each other in hideously expensive trenchcoats of Burberry’s finest quality, and Miyuki has an arm lazily wrapped around Eijun’s hips, cheek against cheek, a distance closer than what he’s used to as they sit on the floor in front of a beige background. The difference in their experiences is painfully obvious, and Eijun feels as if he’s reverted to the amateur that he had been just barely a year ago.
His heart speeds up, and his limbs start to stiffen. He's done spreads varying from solo shoots to group campaigns, but there’s something unnerving about posing with the industry’s best. He shifts slightly, but is immediately reprimanded by a snarling Kuramochi. “Stay still . ”
Doubt creeps into his thoughts. Maybe he wasn't ready for this. Maybe he isn't suited for high fashion, maybe -
"Relax. Pace your breaths with mine if you need to. Remember, we're in the business of selling fantasies. Nothing more, and nothing less." The low murmur is enough to interrupt his thoughts. Eijun closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He hears the pause in the shuttering of camera lens, and takes that moment of silence to recollect his thoughts.
When he opens them again, his eyes are cold and calm, fiery sun melting into pools of liquid gold. His body relaxes, and the gap between the two models diminishes as Eijun hooks a leg around Miyuki’s hips.
They are as cold and still as the marble statues found in the Louvre: powerful, silent, aristocratic. The Burberry trenchcoats swathed around their shoulders, their bodies, the floor.
Camera lens shutter in quick succession.
The photographer pauses to look at the results, then smiles. “ Gorgeous . ”
ii. “Time is the water that slips through our fingers.”
The second time they meet is at the Narita International Airport. The man in front of him at the check-in queue is clad in the Hermes SS 2015 collection from head to toe, with the exception of Dior sunglasses that covers half his face, but Eijun can recognise the curve of the jawline, the shape of the lips anywhere. He contemplates ignoring the man, they’ve only worked together once (in what was admittedly, a highly successful shoot), but his thoughts are interrupted before he gets a chance to think it through.
“If it isn’t Sawamura Eijun!”
Ah, too late.
Eijun gives an easy smile. “Fancy seeing you here, Miyuki. Where are you off to?” Sometimes he wonders if other models are as friendly as Miyuki Kazuya, because he’s only got Furuya and Chris as examples and neither of them can be considered as the most friendly people around. It’s quite astounding, really, because Kazuya is a complete menace in shoots and on runways, and Eijun sees why so many are enraptured by him. The Kazuya off camera however, is a different story.
“Seoul. Landed a campaign with Gucci. You?”
“Hong Kong for me. Walking for Givenchy...I think?”
The elder raises an eyebrow. “You think? How do you not know? Are you an idiot?” He pauses for a brief moment. “Oh, I bet you’re one of those kids who failed out of school.” It’s a sarcastic comment, made to annoy Eijun and Eijun wants to retaliate with something witty, something to prove that he’s smart as well, but his mouth opens for a second before it turns into a pout.
Miyuki barks out a laugh, before he looking at him incredulously. “You really are just a pretty face, aren’t you?” And it’s true, because Eijun has never been good at academics, and it was by pure luck that his agent had been scouting in the mall the day he had travelled to Tokyo with his friends. Countryside boy-turned model, a true fairytale come to life.
Eijun scowls, “And what about you? Why are you modelling? Failed college or something?”
Miyuki hums, and gives a noncommittal shrug. “Not really. It’s a bit of a long story though, wouldn’t want to bore you with the theatrics.” His eyes momentarily gazes off into the distance, as if reminiscing a bittersweet memory, before focusing back on his younger colleague. “Nevertheless, good job. It’s your first year, isn’t it? And you’re already landing bookings with the big names.”
Eijun’s lips curl up into a satisfied smile. “Yeah, it’s been hard work. Worth, though.” Their conversation is interrupted as Miyuki is called up to the check-in counter, and then Eijun. And although Eijun expects that to be the end of their conversation, he sees his newfound companion patiently waiting off to the side as he checks his bag in. They walk towards customs after Eijun collects his passport, the idle chatter of fellow travelers filling the mutual silence between the two acquaintances.
It takes the time from the check-in counter to customs to their walk towards their own gates before Eijun loses his hold on his curiousity. “So, why did you become a model?”
Miyuki hums, momentarily lapsing into deep thought. “Ah, the general gist is that I used to play baseball in high school in a pretty well-known school. There was a scouter in attendance of one of my matches one day, and she came up to me after my match with an offer for an interview and test shoot. I had recently recovered an injury back then, but I knew my chances were slim in making the pros. So …” he trails off, turning his gaze towards the younger boy before breaking out into a grin, “Here I am! The face of the fashion industry 3 years later, making money and traveling the world. Not a bad trade-off, I’d say.”
Eijun purses his lips, and he’s ready to assault the older model with more questions about his past when he’s interrupted by the familiar announcement ring that seemed to be a staple at all airports.
“First call for flight SL715, first call for flight SL715.”
“That’ll be my flight,” Miyuki gives his luggage a tug and quickens his pace. “Maybe we’ll see each other soon?”
The country boy simply shrugs, disappointed by the interruption. There was so much more that he had wanted to ask; he too, had used to play baseball, once upon a time. At a beginner level, but baseball was baseball and it had been so long since he’s talked to anyone about it. Instead, he settles with a brief goodbye. “I’ll see you around, I guess.”
He watches Miyuki leave, one hand on his luggage and the other stuffed in his pocket, and he wonders if the tight feeling in his chest is the loneliness that he’s heard other models whisper about, when they think no one else is listening.
iii. “We are in the business of selling dreams.”
They’re waiting for their turn at the makeup station, and Eijun is struggling to stay awake. It’s a battle between his willpower and the weight pulling on his eyelids, and it’s almost endearing, the way Eijun’s eyes flutter in rapid succession as he wages war against sleep. He leans his head against the elder’s shoulders, eyes attempting to focus on the pages of the book that Kazuya has been reading, from London to Milan to Paris. It’s been three weeks of nonstop shows, and how Kazuya manages to stay flawless and awake, Eijun has no idea.
“Hey, Kazuya, Dolce and Gabbana or Versace?”
Kazuya laughs, and flips to the next page of his book ( Is he even reading? Eijun silently wonders). “The one that pays me most, obviously. But if I had to choose…” he falters for a second, before continuing in a faux stricken voice, in the manner that defines his sarcastic personality. “Oh god, I don’t like either. Really, Eijun? I suppose I’d prefer D&G; their collections are a little more...ah, sane . ”
The younger model chuckles. “Damn right. Versace has some of the weirdest shit out there.” Kazuya rolls his eyes, a sort of Why’d you ask, then? Eijun gives a tired shrug, his gesture jostling the other slightly. He lets out a yawn, curling into the lone couch in a room full of plastic chairs. It’s better to take a nap when he has the chance, he decides silently.
“Wake me up when it’s my turn, okay?”
Kazuya begins to nod, but the recollections of attempting to wake Eijun from his slumber on plane flights over the past three weeks flicker through his mind. Brunet hair brushing against his ears, his cheeks; the gentle rumble of snores; the thin line of drool that escapes from his travel partner’s lips -
It had been impossible to wake Eijun up.
“Wait…wait...Eijun? Don’t fall asleep, please , it’s almost your turn anyway; I’ll let you go ahead of me!” Kazuya pleads, placing the book in his hands on his lap in order to gently shake his companion awake. But it’s too late.The reply to his plea comes in the form of a light groan, before receding back to the gentle snores that Kazuya has become accustomed to.
So he sighs and closes his own eyes instead.
iv. “Fashion is ephemeral, dangerous, and unfair.”
It’s his final show of the year, Alexander McQueen’s Autumn/Winter Collection marking the end of Paris Fashion Week, and they’ve put Eijun in a gorgeous black suit and black boots, tailored specifically to fit him because he’s opening the show for the first time in his career. His hair is slicked back, his face carefully layered in bright, bright makeup: gold on gold, pink blush on lightly bronzed skin and glitter framing the outline of his eyes.
Yet he stands in a corner, his hands shaking from the nerves, and he stares at the ground. What if I mess up? What if I trip, or - or walk to slow or fast or -?
“The more you think, the dumber you get, you know.” Eijun instantly retaliates with an I’m not dumb! before he looks up to see Kazuya’s signature smirk. He’s instantly annoyed, because as gorgeous as the other man is, Kazuya really knows how to get on someone’s nerves. It’s then and there that he decides that Kazuya is adept at making first impressions, but quite lacking in everything else.
“I hear you’re opening the show. Congrats.”
Eijun almost grins at the compliment, but opts to roll his eyes. “That’s rich, coming from you. Aren’t you closing the show?” Kazuya gives him a toothy grin.
“The best deserves the best.”
Eijun has half the mind to punch him, but Kazuya reaches to brush a hand over his cheek and speaks first instead. “You look exceptional. Nothing like yourself, but I suppose blond hair suits your idiocy more than brunet ever did.”
Eijun frowns, before his lips curls into a lopsided smirk. “Is that your way of saying I’m pretty? Because I appreciate it.”
“You brat.” It’s a term of endearment however, with a good ten months since the time they’ve first met; somehow along the way, they've gotten closer.
“Line up! We’re one minute till the opening!” A voice calls above the buzzing of the crowd. Kazuya and Eijun quickly move towards the milling of other models around the curtains. The older man touches the wrist of the nervous brunet, who whips his head up to meet the hazel gaze. “Relax,” Kazuya smiles lightly, “You got this.” Eijun nods his head, watching his companion move to the back of the long line that has formed behind him.
The soft melody of background music begins, the steady repetition of half notes supporting the melody of ascending sextuplets: winter, skates against ice, gentle falling snow.
Eijun feels a tap on his shoulder, and he takes a deep breath before stepping onto a stage of glaring lights reflecting against the marble floor.
One by one, they march down the runway in a picture perfect decadence of aristocratic beauty, an army of tailored suits and flawless skin of pretty young things. They hear the shutters of cameras and the scribbling of pens, but it doesn’t matter, not at all, because they’re all riding the high of the moment.
v. “We live in a dark and romantic and quite tragic world.”
Their meetings become as scarce as the stars in a city’s night sky, but Kazuya vividly remembers the brief hours before the run of Saint Laurent’s Spring/Summer show in London. Kazuya’s seated in the plush stool in the dressing area, waiting for his turn to receive his ensemble for the afternoon. He’s caught a few glimpses of Eijun around the area, but each time he’s greeted with the sight of dark circles accentuating muted golden eyes and a temper as short as a matchstick.
Frowning, he turns and grabs the arm of Haruichi, who’s been flitting around the department with his box of makeup tools, putting on last minute polishes before sending the models off. “Is he okay?”
Haruichi doesn’t need a name to know who he’s referring to, and there’s a frown on his face when he answers. “He’s on a diet.”
Kazuya raises an eyebrow. “As am I, and just about everyone else in this goddamn city.”
“What I mean is, he’s probably the only human alive who can survive purely off of painkillers and coffee.” The stylist looks at the model with a critical eye, before taking a smudge of gel onto his fingertips and running his fingers through Kazuya’s loose locks. He gives himself a nod of approval, before continuing. “Alcohol on Saturdays, and whatever morsel of food I can stuff down his throat on Sundays. Which isn't much, usually.”
“Is that so.” His voice is sour, and Kazuya feels his heart drop like a pebble in the ocean, the sense of dejá vu coursing through his veins, cultivated by his years in the industry spent witnessing the fall of those who couldn’t survive under the constant pressure.
He should be used to this by now, really. He’s seen enough models who shine as fiercely as the morning sun, only to flicker and die out within a few years. It’s rare, to survive long in an industry that thrives on competition and pressure.
“You should talk to him, you know. He really looks up to you.” Save him , is what he doesn’t say, save him before he destroys himself . Haruichi too, has spent enough years painting the faces of numerous models to know where this is going.
There is no good ending to the path Eijun has decided to take.
There's nothing else to say after that, and the model and stylist part ways. They're sucked back into the busy flurry of the show, shoulders jostling shoulders as models pull on their outfits and hurry to the curtains for the last dress rehearsal.
He doesn't talk to Eijun that week.
vi. “The prettiest smiles hide the darkest secrets.”
It’s hard not to notice the sluggish movements and hoarse voice of the younger model, the way his shoulders slump when he thinks nobody's looking. How gravity’s pull on Eijun seems so much heavier than it did on others.
He doesn’t miss the way Eijun’s eyes glaze over during conversations, the sound of pills shaking in bottles and the shuffling of his feet.
But when he's around others, the younger model shines as bright as the afternoon sun, his loud voice accompanied twinkling eyes, his facade of fiery excitement and passion - almost a perfect replica of his former self.
The eye bags are still there. He can't fool Kazuya.
It's a pity, he thinks, for one with so much potential to fall so quickly.
It’s almost routine to see models crumble under the pressure. Every season brings a fresh batch of faces, with each subsequent show weeding out those who unable to keep up with expectations.
That was what modelling was: a survival of the fittest.
But the sight of protruding bones and translucent skin strikes a chord somewhere in Kazuya’s heart, an emotion he doesn’t know how to identify: pity or sadness or -
vii. “Some are blessed with galaxies in their veins."
Gold eyes stare defiantly back at him. “Why what?”
They’re sitting in a café near the city centre of Taipei, a respite from the harsh summer heat in the middle of their campaign shoot for Armani. Kazuya sighs and taps his fingers impatiently against the wood of the table. "Eijun, let's not do this. We both know what I'm asking you about."
He's not sure what he expects for an answer. Perhaps a vehemous denial, or the usual rambunctious laugh and brush off by the younger boy. After all, he’s found that he’s not the only one who hides behind sharp sarcasm and a flirtatious smirk. Eijun too, despite his cheerful persona, has his own demons to battle.
“I’m not doing drugs, if that’s what you’re asking.” The boy gives a weak attempt at a smile, and it falters at the sight Kazuya's impassive face.
"Eijun, I am fucking serious right now, but it's your loss, and not mine if you - god forbid - decide that -"
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry," Eijun interrupts, "I just..." His voice falters, and Kazuya watches as his mask crumbles; watches the way Eijun's shoulders sag in defeat, the way his fingers tremble under the weight of the coffee cup.
Suddenly, Eijun looks like nothing more than skin and bones and Kazuya feels so very ill at the sight.
"Modeling isn't about being thin, you know. It's about presence and memorable faces, the initial impact and its lasting impression on the media. Beauty is subjective. I...know that there's a lot of rumours flying around about how everyone has to be stick thin, but that's not true, that's the abyss that swallows the naïve and throws them to oblivion."
Eijun wrinkles his nose in distaste. “Of course I know that. I’ve seen you scarf down enough hamburgers to feed a whole school.”
A lengthy pause. Eijun's eyes gain a distant look, and Kazuya isn't sure whether he was going to continue. He’s never been good at dealing with emotions, whether it be his own or another person’s.
"It's been difficult. There’s so much pressure and so little time. There’s no breaks between seasons, no momentary pause, because if it’s not a shoot it’s a runway, and if it’s not a runway it’s an interview, and if it’s not an interview it’s a party and I -" his voice cracks, “ - I’m scared, scared that I’ll lose everything I’ve worked for over the past two years if I stop, if I take a break. I’m tired, tired, tired and this headache won’t ever go away and I feel like vomiting every time Haruichi tries shoving food down my throat. It's...easier to swallow painkillers to ignore reality." Eijun laughs bitterly, "It's become a bit of a routine, I'm afraid."
Kazuya’s lips twist into a tight frown. “You’ll lose everything if you keep this up. I’ve seen this happen too many times; the fashion industry is cruel and merciless. If you fall, you’ll never get back up. It’ll be too late by then, with newcomers every season who are every bit as eager as you to reach the top. You don’t need to be a constant presence around here even if you want to stay at the top. A couple memorable campaigns will be more than enough to last a couple months.”
Eijun begins to open his mouth in protest, but Kazuya quickly cuts him off. “Take a 6 month break. Recover. If you’re feeling better by the end, come back and aim for the top. This is my request to you as a friend, not as a colleague or mentor.” Kazuya can sense the hesitation from the other, and he can almost taste frustration on his tongue. Eijun’s motivation and ambition were admirable, but sometimes it was too much .
Gold eyes flicker to his own, before glancing away once again. “I...I’ll try.”
There's a sense of finality, so Kazuya remains quiet. But he reaches out and takes Eijun's hand in his, and that is how they spend the rest of their break: fingers entwined within each other’s, and only the soft murmur of the voices of customers in the background to disturb their peace.
viii. “There’s a certain type of loneliness that comes with cities.”
They fall in love somewhere between flashing cameras and runways, city lights and hazy memories. Their love exists within the spreads of Elle and Harper’s Bazaar , stolen kisses between shows and desperate fucks in hotel rooms and deserted fire escapes.
Their story is told in the warm air that accompanies the clockwork function of MRTs and subways, in the lights of billboards that flicker over the countless of nameless faces that reside within each city.
Yet their time is brief, words and declarations of love exchanged through texts and overly expensive phone calls, because one day they’re in Berlin together, and the next they part, to Moscow, to Sydney, to Montreal and Singapore.
But it’s enough; their love
the vast distance between them because they are eternal and forever
ix. “You consume the thoughts of my every waking moment and dreams.”
Kazuya invites him over to his apartment, and Eijun gladly ditches the Armani Autumn/Winter after party in favour of a fuck instead. It’s not the first time they’ve done this, and certainly not the last, and only a bastard like Miyuki Kazuya could afford an apartment in downtown Paris.
They barely make it past the door and to the bed before they’re grabbing at each other, lips on lips and hands grasping at clothes as they both spare no thought to the destruction of the designer labels they wear.
"I have a shoot tomorrow," Eijun gasps, "In Italy - “ another gasp, “I'd rather not, ahh..." His voice trails off into a moan as Kazuya trails kisses down his neck before sucking at the area where his neck and collarbones meet. “ Kazuya ,” he moans.
“What if I want the world to know you’re mine?” Kazuya's voice is thick and heavy with lust, and shivers crawl down the length of Eijun’s spine. Eijun trails his fingers across the smooth skin of Kazuya’s stomach, chest, face. He brings Kazuya’s face up for another kiss, his mind foggy with lust and love, and he moans as Kazuya grinds down against him, the sudden pressure against his cock sending a jolt through his body.
Kazuya notices, and breaks their kiss to chuckle. “You’re so beautiful.”
I worship you.
x. “You make me want to believe in the impossible.”
It’s 3AM when he’s woken by the incessant ringing of Eijun’s phone. The alarm sounds the default tone, belonging to those of the technologically incapable or to the lazy and uncreative. Kazuya stretches his arm out to shut it off, but it’s too late, he feels as awake as if it’s two in the afternoon and Eijun begins to stir in his arms. And when he speaks, it’s thick with sleep, words muffled.
“I should go.”
Kazuya’s lips twists into a frown, and he pulls his lover closer to his chest, legs tangled underneath the comfort of their shared blanket.
“You should stay.”
“But my flight…” Kazuya silences the younger with a kiss, and Eijun gives a low hum. “...Hm, okay, maybe not.”
Maybe just a few more hours.