Who: Harada Asaki (Japanese name order), Kurowa Hideki (Japanese name order), Tristan Norcross
What: In which a new player enters the scene and our lovely couple realizes the power of the press.
Rating: PG-13 (and thus the yaoi continues)
A lone figure sat in the area outside the recording booth, arms crossed over his chest, listening to the playback of a song that had only been recorded a few minutes before on a set of headphones. He never liked being interrupted while like this, absently tapping his hand on the table in front of him to keep time with the song, face screwing up in annoyance at a note or place in the song that did not seem quite right to him.
The troubles of being a perfectionist while being in the recording industry.
When a hand tapped him on the shoulder, he slipped off the headphones, faint echoes of the song emerging from the headphones that were now hung around his neck.
A solitary hand held out a magazine to him, though the man himself never turned around. He took the magazine, recognizing it as one of Japan's most prominent entertainment magazines.
"Ah. Good. Get me some coffee, would you?" he asked, slipping the headphones back on and beginning to flip through the magazine.
He never heard the "yes, sir" noise from the person behind him, who immediately scampered off to do as he had asked. He continued to flip through the magazine, then paused, backing up a few pages to glance at something again. What he saw made his eyes narrow in annoyance.
It was a picture (according to the caption, taken the night before after a concert) of Harada Asaki and his "boyfriend?" Asaki was on the floor... on top of...someone, whose head was tilted back towards the camera, eyes wide with shock. He knew that face.
"This is..." he whispered, staring at the picture. He could feel his hands tightening around the corners of the magazine. Without another word, the magazine flew through the air to smack against the far wall, where it fluttered to the floor, laying open on the offending picture.
It was never good when you got a phone call from anyone at seven in the morning. The voice was not demanding to know where he was, but demanding he get over to the recording studio immediately. Tristan had been curious at the time, having planning on being over there by seven thirty, but the voice, belonging to one Magira Yuka, had insisted this was unacceptable. She wanted him over there by seven, as that was when Asaki usually showed up.
He had wanted to meet up with the rest of his staff that would be arriving that day, but, of course, now that would be impossible. He left a message on one of his worker's cell phones, telling them where the room they had been assigned was and to move things in without him as he would be needed elsewhere for a few hours.
Thus, he hailed a taxi and made his way over to the recording studio. After searching through the building for Magira, he finally found her, clutching a rolled-up magazine.
"Magira-san? Is everything all right?" Tristan asked, curious.
"Let's wait for Asaki to get here first. I need to discuss something with the both of you."
Needless to say, Asaki wasn't in the mood to meet this morning... even less so than usual.
He had returned to his apartment the night before with a headache that only got progressively worse, and that no amount of aspirin would kill. It certainly didn't help to walk in to find the light on his answering machine blinking, the tense, hurried message from a very worked up Magira. She quite literally ordered him to be at the studio in the morning, and... while on other occasions, this would only inspire Asaki to be defiant... there was something in that shrill tone that suggested his future with this company would become very unstable if he did otherwise.
The morning came too fast and, simultaneously, not fast enough, for he barely slept. Without having touched so much as a drop of alcohol, the way he felt was distinctly similar to a horrible hang over. Every inch of him ached from exhaustion, vision and mind hazy. But more than anything else, there was the nagging feeling that he'd done something extremely regrettable.
He knew exactly what that was, of course, so he shouldn't have been surprised... and yet...
Asaki stepped into the room yawning, quickly rubbing at one of his stinging eyes and sliding back the dyed section of hair. Before he had a chance to focus on the two already present, let alone speak, a magazine was whipped at him from a few feet away. He caught it against his chest, despite his state.
"Go ahead, Asaki-kun... Take a look through there..." His manager sounded considerably more calm than she had on the answering machine. Nevertheless, that meant nothing... and could possibly be even worse.
Sighing, the groggy singer began to flip through the pages, each one curled from mild abuse. Eventually, he came upon a photograph that caught his attention and made his eyes squint in search of clarity. That didn't help... it was still exactly what he feared he saw.
"Nani...!?" He shouted abruptly. "That guy had a camera!?... When the hell... Why is this even in here?" Turning to the cover of the well known magazine, back to the page, then glancing up at Tristan and Magira, he stared at them as if they held the answers. "...This shouldn't be such a big deal!"
Tristan had a similar reaction to Asaki's when Magira had tossed the magazine at him. He remembered his reaction clearly, was nearly tempted to tear the magazine in his frustration. He decided against it, opting to listen to Magira berate him instead.
She would do the same to Asaki, he knew.
"It is a big deal," Magira told Asaki, crossing her arms over her chest. "Because the two of you couldn't stop fighting long enough to consider what you were doing, we now have this to contend with." She sighed, running a hand through her short black hair.
"Yes we do, Magira-san," Tristan agreed, hoping to distract her before she went on another verbal rampage. Asaki didn't need to put up with it. Rather, he had no intention of listening to the same rant twice in one day. "So what are we to do about it?"
Magira gave him a look, smiling a bit. "You two are simply going to have to be seen together in public a lot more."
Tristan's jaw nearly dropped to the floor upon hearing this, although he regained his composure a lot sooner than he had thought he would. Her tone of voice was enough to indicate what she wanted of them. She wanted them to pretend to be lovers... all because of that damn picture and that damn reporter with the camera.
Tristan was going to kill someone for this later.
"Excuse me?" was all Tristan could bring himself to say.
"Pretend to be lovers," she replied, smiling that infuriating smile of hers. "You two are good at that, aren't you?"
"You're out of your bloody mind, woman!" Tristan exclaimed, scowling at her and crossing his arms over his chest. He refused to admit that part of his mind was definitely not going to mind this arrangement. That would be a good idea right about now. He had learned very quickly that people in this field survived by concealing their emotions.
And he was going to survive.
It was a nightmare... It had to be. He was still in his apartment, sprawled across his bed in the same position, the same clothes he had collapsed in. He would wake up any minute, look at the clock, and realize just how much of this had been a dream.
Asaki did nothing more than stand exactly where he was, blue eyes blank but nonetheless focused on Magira. By settling into stunned nothingness, he hoped to hurry along the waking process... and yet...
He was still there in that room, the magazine curled in one hand by his side.
The conversation between his manager and designer sounded distant while confusion, disbelief, and anxiety circulated through him, took priority. He watched them as if he was on the outside of all of it, looking in. However, it wasn't long before one sentence... one simple combination of words... shook him violently back into reality.
Pretend to be lovers.
"NANI!?" Asaki's outburst mixed simultaneously with Tristan's. The magazine slipped through his fingers and fluttered noisily to the floor, leaving his hand free to tighten to a fist.
That smile on Magira's face... She knew just how torturous this would be and was more than prepared to use it as ammunition... as a sort of punishment. But could she really be aware of the degree to which his blood boiled whenever he was in Tristan's general proximity, how alive he felt while in the heat of an argument or merely the clashing of their personalities...? He already had the urge to kill on several occasions... or at least hurt.
Yes... hurt... that had been the only reason why he'd pinned him...
The idea of spending any more time with Tristan was plenty unfathomable as it was... but to do this?
"...Mo ichido... itte... kudasai..." Asaki spoke slowly and harshly through gritted teeth, that false, bitterly polite manner of speaking when riled having rubbed off on him a bit. "What do you mean... 'pretend to be lovers'...?"
"Just the way it sounds, Asaki-kun." Magira answered, unfazed. "Be seen together... Hold hands, hug, maybe even kiss if the opportunity calls for it." The wicked grin faded only slightly as she sat up even straighter and began to explain seriously. "Both of you know by now how the press works. They'll take something like this and blow it out of proportion until it's on almost everyone's minds. It's always the most irrelevant that catches their attention and it'll only be worse if you do nothing... That's when you'll have people constantly coming up, asking where the other is, wondering if you 'broke up', what happened and whatnot. If you play along however, it will become old news quickly. They'll lose interest and forget.
...It can't be all that bad, ne?"
"You obviously haven't seen the way the press works in England," Tristan muttered in English, sighing. The British press always seemed to focus on the most inconsequential things. To make matters worse, they never dropped them. Ever. This, of course, complicated things. The press always did.
He just hoped Magira was right and this would get them to drop things quickly this time. He could barely keep his sanity around Asaki. He knew why, of course, though the designer would never admit it to the Japanese man. He liked him, plain and simple. It was a foolish attraction; he knew that.
And he would always hate Asaki for it.
Although, now... now this predicament might have it's advantages...
He sighed, absently flicking his hat out of his eyes. "Fine. Fine. You have a point, Magira-san. If we go along with this, the press might lay off, but there's no guarantee..."
Tristan shrugged. "It seems we have no choice. I'm game if Harada-san..." He cut himself off, a smile and the barest hint of a laugh following this. "Sorry... if Asaki-kun is. Anything to get the press off our backs, ne? I'm more of a behind-the-scenes man, myself. I'm not used to being in the spotlight."
This was true. The most he usually got was a casual mention in the newspaper and that was about it. He knew people knew his name. Other than that, not much. He'd prefer to keep it that way. But now he didn't really have much of a choice, did he?
"Well, Asaki-kun?" Magira asked, turning to look at him. "Either way you choose, the press is involved, but, if you go my route, you'll get them to leave you alone for a bit. Which is it?"
His entire body stiffened at that playful sound. Wasn't Tristan infuriated by this? He expected him to decline Magira's suggestion as if she had very well asked him to throw himself into traffic. Instead he was willing to play along. Unless that annoyingly calm-when-riled demeanor of his was even more perfected than he thought, then Tristan had a few things about him Asaki had yet to understand.
The reality was finally sinking in.
He turned a dark glare on the designer that lingered, unwavering, even when Magira chimed back in. He still blamed Tristan for this... all of this... including what was felt beneath the rage.
Still not answering Magira directly, Asaki stifflly stepped forward. His boots created a quiet clicking noise as he approached Tristan and didn't stop until he was hardly an inch away, just about touching without reaching out.
"...You'd better not enjoy this." He growled, the words acting as an answer in themselves. Lifting a hand he took hold of the brim of Tristan's fedora then pulled it down to partially cover the eyes that were staring back at him.
Abruptly turning to face Magira, he asked in exasperation.
"When do we start?"
Tristan smiled at the childish-ness of Asaki's actions. Yes, at the moment, Asaki was little more than a child. He smiled. He didn't really care. Just another side to Asaki that he would have to uncover and use to his advantage during the coming weeks.
"You start immediately," Magira replied, smiling. "I'm going to be in meetings for a bit, but I want you and Norcross-san to head down to the recording booths and start working, okay? I'll join you two as soon as I'm able to do so."
Tristan simply nodded. "All right, Magira-san. We'll see you there. Come on, Asaki-kun." He chuckled a bit, amused, tone carrying an edge of playfulness to it. After all, if they were to act as though they were a couple, might as well start now, right? To get used to it, of course.
I will not act like I'm enjoying this, Tristan thought to himself firmly as he made his way down the hall. I will not act like I'm enjoying this I will not at like I'm enjoying this I will not act like I'm enjoying-----
Tristan's thoughts abruptly cut off. He turned to go down the hallway towards the recording studios and all but rammed into a person coming down the hall in the opposite direction. Tristan's eyes widened a bit and he stumbled back, startled by the newcomer.
"Ah... Sumimasen," Tristan apologized, bowing quickly. "I didn't see------"
The other man chuckled softly, twisting a hand around to tap Tristan's chin to get him to look up. "You should pay attention to where you're going, ne? You'll just walk into walls otherwise."
Tristan paused, recognizing the voice. Silently, he straightened from the bow and looked up. Simple blue jeans that hid a pair of black boots, a silver link-chain belt around the waist that was just barely clinging to one hip, black collared shirt, then upwards even more. Black hair fell over his right eye, the rest, long, was kept in a ponytail tied off just below the nape of his neck. His only visible eye was closed in a smile that made him look almost child-like. Tristan could see another man lurking behind him, but Tristan didn't really care about that man. No, the one he cared about was the man standing directly in front of him.
"Ku----Kurowa-san!" Tristan exclaimed, fighting to keep his face emotionless. "Wha---what are you doing here?"
"I work here," Kurowa said in response, looking amused. "Surely you haven't forgotten that?" Then he glanced over at Asaki, seeming to see him for the first time. "Ah! Asaki-kun! Konnichiwa."
"........Asaki-kun?" Tristan asked in a hushed whisper, glancing from Kurowa to Asaki and back again. "You two know each other all ready?"
"We're old friends," Kurowa said by way of explanation, smirking. "Much like we were... Tristan."
Tristan froze, glancing up at Kurowa for a minute. "We were never friends as I recall." And you never used my first name before...
Again that title... that implication of endearment that Tristan was getting just a little too familiar with too soon... caused Asaki's mouth to form a firm line, momentarily stunned, instantly annoyed. At least that was the appearance he presented.
Why did he feel as though he'd just been lured into a very inescapable trap? Maybe he was still dreaming...
Gradually slipping back into the daze, the singer gave no response to Tristan's words or Magira's departure, but instead simply followed the Englishman down the hall, a few paces behind, arms crossed tightly. Okay... so this wasn't the way... lovers... were supposed to walk, but the entire notion was going to take more than a few minutes to get used to.
Would he get used to it?... On some level, Asaki already knew the answer.
As he walked, false blue eyes remained fixed on the man ahead of him, watching the long hair sweep across his back with each step. However, it wasn't much longer before his attention was easily stolen away...
...And he was further convinced that he was still asleep, entangled not within a dream but a nightmare.
It was him.
Spotting the figure a fraction of a second before Tristan nearly crashed into him, Asaki went completely numb, his feet halting beneath him and his frame locking. The initial exchange between the other two sounded too distant to be comprehended while he was this overwhelmed. But the moment Tristan exclaimed that name, reality struck again with a blinding pain.
He looked far too good... as always. How long had it been?... Of course he remembered... Despite working in the same spaces, it was amazing how well they'd managed to avoid each other all this time. That is, until now...
Fortunately, Asaki's widened eyes narrowed severely, fear and hurt skillfully concealed, just before those piercing green eyes shifted to him. Suddenly, the playful way in which Tristan spoke his name was now preferable in comparison. He fought back a shudder, the urge to shrink back against a wall.
"...Right. Old friends." There was no hatred that compared to what Asaki felt for Kurowa. None whatsoever, and it was perfectly obvious.
He glared as if wishing he was boring holes into him. Nevertheless, that intensity did nothing to keep him from being thrown off guard by the use of Tristan's first name. The designer's response was strangely reassuring... but that didn't keep him from responding.
"And just how do you know him, Hideki-san...?" Asaki asked... quietly demanded, rather... as he stepped closer, unconsciously placing himself between the other singer and the Englishman. "Shouldn't you be off in your own world, cackling about how insignificant we mortals are? Or are you just waiting for us to fall down on our knees...?"
Tristan wasn't sure what Asaki's reaction to Kurowa would be. The fact that Asaki was acting as though he hated Kurowa was probably not what he had been expecting, although it made him feel a bit better to see that Asaki apparently despised him as much as Tristan did.
This was good. He could work with this.
Although when Asaki stepped in front of him to confront Kurowa, Tristan's eyes widened unconsciously. Well, at least he was stepping into the boyfriend role a bit more, but the fact that Asaki hated Kurowa somewhat seemed to be effecting his judgment.
...just how do you know him, Hideki-san...?
They were on a first name basis? Since when? Tristan felt himself growing more and more confused as the exchange went on.
Kurowa snorted in derision, taking a step closer to Asaki and catching the other man's chin in one of his hands. The smile on his face was no longer kind, Kurowa's other hand threading through Asaki's dyed hair. "You used to do much more for me than falling down on your knees."
That was spoken in a hushed whisper, and yet Tristan heard it. Tristan froze, staring at the two of them in shock as Kurowa whispered something indiscernible to Asaki (what he had said was something along the lines of "beg for me again. That's the position you belong in, Asaki-kun.", but there was no way for Tristan to know this). What exactly had their relationship been before the hostility...?
It was when Kurowa moved around Asaki and towards Tristan that Tristan actually felt himself start to panic. However, he simply felt his hands clench into tight fists and watched as Kurowa wrapped an arm around Tristan's shoulders and pulled him close. "He's the one I came to see, Asaki-kun. Not you. It's been many long years since I last saw him. Isn't that right, Tristan?"
"Hai," Tristan whispered, not meeting Kurowa's gaze. He hated how close Kurowa was, but the other man had a firm grip on his shoulders and therefore Tristan couldn't shove him away.
"So... Asaki-kun is your new boyfriend, ne?" Kurowa asked, chuckling. "It's all over the papers, although I can't imagine why. Asaki-kun was never very good in the artistic department. He should just leave that to people like me and have done with it. Don't you think so, Tristan?"
Tristan had been listening to this, closing his eyes and trying to ignore it. However, Kurowa's voice was getting on his nerves...Kurowa's free hand was wandering far too much.
That was where he drew the line.
"Shut up," Tristan snapped, breaking himself out of Kurowa's grip and immediately moving closer to Asaki. "I don't work for you any more; you have no right to act like that in front of my current client." Crossing his arms over his chest, he added, "Now that I'm working for Harada-san, I'll make sure he surpasses you. The music industry could do with a few less pricks within it." It was blatantly obvious he was speaking of Kurowa, even though he made no indication that he was.
"Oh?" Kurowa asked, chuckling. "You've grown more defiant since I saw you last, Tristan..."
"Thank you for reminding me why I never liked you very much to begin with."
It had been his intention to pull away as violently as possible. However, when Kurowa stepped close... much too close... grasped his chin, Asaki was suddenly aware that he was frozen. Those horribly familiar green eyes bored into him, reminding him, leaving him powerless, and with each stroke of that hand through his hair, Asaki fought back a sickening weakness, the urge to flinch. God, why couldn't he find the strength to lift his hand, catch Kurowa's wrist or push him away...? Why couldn't he do anything but stand there and stare? His breath had caught and his pulse ran fast, though whether it was from intense hatred or the disgusting feelings he had never had the chance to fully purge, he couldn't be sure.
You used to do much more for me than falling down on your knees.
The helpless sensation only tugged at him more fiercely as the other singer leaned closer to whisper in his ear. Asaki felt his stomach turn and the muscles in his legs threaten to give. Everything he had attempted to repress... For that split second, a length of time that was immeasurable within him, it was as if nothing had ever changed. The degrading search for a selfish lover's attention, the need, the submission, and the unspeakable pain... it all returned in a paralyzing flash.
...beg for me again.
He was left inwardly reeling when the other moved away. Taking a moment to exhale, Asaki then turned stiffly, and what he saw, what he heard, immediately caused his widened eyes to narrow. The only thing worse than feeling Kurowa's hands on him was seeing them on Tristan. It was a strange reaction that he was in no state to question, but it filled his already adrenaline rushed body with rage. Tensing more, his hands curled to fists at his sides, his expression darkened to a harsh glare. He could hardly keep from watching the fingers wandering much too freely across the Englishman's clothes, even while Kurowa's smooth voice dripped insults. The very last taught thread of Asaki's self control was just about to snap, when Tristan surprised him.
His gaze shifted to the designer as he broke away and stepped over to him. Was he actually defending him?
Now that I'm working for Harada-san, I'll make sure he surpasses you. The music industry could do with a few less pricks within it.
The words brought a grin to Asaki's lips, which only spread wider, became smugger as his eyes returned to Kurowa. That response couldn't have been any more perfect, and anger was actually replaced with the desire to burst out into bitter laughter. Resisting, of course, he merely reached out to take hold of Tristan's wrist.
"Aa. Thanks for wasting just a little more of our time, Hideki-san... Let's go, Tristan."
Pulling the man as he started in the opposite direction, Asaki planned on heading to the closest exit. He didn't care what they were supposed to be doing, nor did he particularly want to focus on the fact that his designer had worked to improve his rival's image... not yet anyway... all Asaki wanted right now was to get himself, and Tristan, as far away from Kurowa as he could.