Disclaimer- OCs: mine. Everyone else: not. Got it?
Chapter Three: Bought and Sold
Written by A Girl Named Goo
Shuichi dragged himself into the apartment, making a big show about being more tired than he was before throwing himself into Yuki's chair. Unfortunately, Yuki was already seated in it, as was revealed by the loud "oof!" that the man made when Shuichi landed.
"Look before you just sit somewhere, all right?" Yuki growled, though he made no motion to push his pink-haired lover off of his lap.
Shuichi sighed, resting his head on Yuki's shoulder and wrapping his arm around him. This surprised Yuki, as Shuichi usually prattled off his complaints a mile a minute when he was having a bad day. This could only mean he was having a REALLY bad day...
"That bad?" Yuki asked.
"Worse. The new manager is a secret agent, Amai is on the warpath because Ukai Saki has a number one album and now Seguchi-san is breathing down my neck to do something fast so she can get her big break, and the new act that Hiro has to work with is completely evil."
"Seguchi-san took him to his house so he and Mika can figure out some way to help him without moving him in here. And no, I did not put him up to it. If anything, you did, since he was steamed when I got there."
Yuki muttered something that sounded like a curse under his breath. He loved his sister and former brother-in-law and respected them and their right to raise their children however they wanted, but sometimes they were both so stubborn that they forgot what was in the best interest of either of the twins.
"I need a vacation," Shuichi whined. "As a matter of fact, so do you. These past few years you've become such a hermit. You don't even go to book signings or interviews anymore. I can't remember the last time you actually left the apartment except to see your psychiatrist. All you do is sit in here and write and watch TV. There's a rumor going around that you're agoraphobic."
"Not agoraphobic. Just worried Tokui will appear and we won't be here," Yuki said softly, wrapping his arms around Shuichi's slender frame. "But now that you mention it, a vacation does sound like a good idea. Maybe after you get Amai's career going and we can get all of this straightened out with Tokui we can go someplace warm..."
Shuichi smiled at the thought. He couldn't remember the last time he was actually alone with Yuki. It would be nice to go into a hotel room on some warm, tropical beach and be able to just be alone without worrying about Tokui interrupting them or overhearing them...
"It's going to snow," Shuichi said suddenly, realizing this fact for the first time all day.
"That was a random thought," Yuki observed, running his hands through Shuichi's soft pink hair. "Did you get a haircut?"
"Yeah, Hiro took me today. He said I looked like a bum," Shuichi confirmed. "But I said that about the snow because I know how much you love snow and we can't leave just when winter is starting."
"You don't like snow," Yuki pointed out.
"I have to. I love you, don't I?¹" Shuichi asked teasingly.
"Yes, you do, for some unfathomable reason."
"And you love me back?"
"Don't push it."
"Simple yes or no. You don't actually have to say it."
"No, you don't love me, or no, you won't answer that?"
"No, I don't need to constantly reassure you of my feelings for you. If I didn't feel the same about you as you do about me would I have tolerated you for seventeen years?"
"'Tolerated'," Shuichi parrotted with a snort. "Nice of you to talk about me that way."
"Well, regardless of what anyone feels about you, what it boils down to is if they can tolerate your boundless energy or not. If it's one thing I've learned from being with you, it's that I have far more patience than I thought I did."
Shuichi smiled and lifted his head, meeting Yuki's lips. Yuki was caught a bit off guard by the sudden gesture, but wrapped his arms around his lover as he leaned into the kiss, immediately assuming control as he forced his tongue into the other man's mouth with little resistance. A first their tongues slid against each other is a slow and obviously practiced dance, but within moments the kiss escalated as their hands began to run over each other, each one fighting with the other's clothes to try to find some way of reaching the naked skin underneath.
Just as Shuichi managed to get his only hand up the front of Yuki's shirt a knock on the door stopped them both dead.
Yuki broked the kiss roughly and shouted, with unconcealed anger and annoyance, "Who is it?!"
"It's me, Eiri-san," came Touma's voice from the other side.
Shuichi quickly stood up from his lover's lap, only thankful that his boss hadn't whitnessed the previous scene between the two. The platinum blonde man hated him and his relationship with Yuki enough without having it thrown in his face, and after what he had done to Hiro, Shuichi really wasn't in the mood to test him.
"Just a second," Yuki muttered, standing up and punching the code into the new security system he'd had installed. As soon as the beep signalled he had successfully deactivated it he turned back around and walked into the living room, once again sitting in his chair as Shuichi sat on the couch. "Okay. It's open."
The door opened, and Touma walked in, followed closely by Amai, who, in turn, was dragging Tokui behind her. Though Shuichi worked with Amai on a daily basis and liked her well enough, he never failed to get a slight chill when he saw the girl and her father standing next to each other. He always felt it was like looking into some kind of twisted mirror.
"He's all yours!" Amai announced, giving Tokui a slight shove into the apartment. Tokui lost his balance and began to fall, but Touma grabbed his shoulder to steady him before he could.
With his hand still on his son's shoulder, Touma sighed. "Mika and I discussed this. Though we wish there was another solution, we really can't see one that would work. So we agreed that your plan is the best course of action. As soon as you are able to take him, he'll be staying here with you."
"We can take him now," Yuki announced.
"Where's he sleeping?" Amai asked, looking around her uncle's apartment. Having grown up spending most of her time with her father, Amai had never gotten as close to her uncle and his lover as her brother had.
Yuki shrugged. "Wherever he wants. He usually takes the couch when he stays here, but there's an almost empty walk-in closet in my office if he wants somewhere smaller and more private. Just have to move a few boxes of printer paper and ink cartridges into a corner and you're good to go."
Tokui nodded and walked in the direction of said area of the house, Amai close behind him, mostly curious to see her uncle's office but partially because she wanted to see her brother's new "room".
"You're really going to encourage this?" Touma asked, his face neutral but the edge in his voice suggesting he was less than pleased with this descision.
"I'm not encouraging it. It's just that he's done this all of his life. I can't miraculously break him of it in one day," Yuki argued, knowing that Touma didn't like to argue with him.
Touma just sighed, his face taking on a resigned expression that Shuichi had never seen him wear. "Whatever you say. You're the one who is going to save him, not me. Just know that if he needs anything, please call me and ask."
Yuki nodded. "I'll keep that in mind."
Amai looked around the closet. It was exactly what Yuki had said it was: plain white with a beige carpet and curtain rods going around the perimeter except for where the door was and a single shelf going along the top above the curtain rod. There were a few boxes on the floor, which Amai had put on the top shelf for her brother. It was considerably brighter than Tokui's converted laundry room at Mika's house and pantry at Touma's, and slightly bigger, big enough to hold a small bed and a stand, precisely what Tokui owned. (His bookshelf wouldn't be a loss, as he kept most of his books in boxes on his floor, anyway.)
The room Yuki Eiri used as an office was actually a second bedroom, converted into a workspace when Yuki had moved in, hence the closet was designed for clothes and shoes, not for supplies and certainly not to be used as a bedroom for a teenage boy. But Tokui seemed to be in heaven in here: not only was it small and enclosed, but also joined to his mentor's work area, where the man wrote the books that Tokui admired so much. Perhaps his uncle's creativity would reach him in this place...
"Well, it's an improvement over what you have at Kaasan and Tousan's houses," Amai assessed with a nod. "At least it's brighter in here." Amai turned and faced her brother, who was still leaning against the door frame. "Well, baby brother, this is it. We are officially not living together anymore. Feels kind of weird, doesn't it?"
Tokui shrugged. "We never really 'lived together', anyway. You spent most of your time with Tousan or at NG and I spent most of my time here or at Kaasan's. And why do you always call me 'baby brother'? You're only seven minutes older."
"I mean we lived together in theory. Now you don't officially live with Kaasan or Tousan, and that's weird. So you want us to send your stuff over?"
Tokui nodded, taking off his necklace and taking off two keys, handing them to his sister, as that was why she had asked him that question.
"Don't worry, baby brother. I'll make sure no one picks through your stuff. Sure you don't want to come home and get the real private stuff first?" Amai asked, pocketing the keys.
Tokui shook his head. "Everything private I have I keep on me at all times."
Amai ruffled her brother's hair. "Smart boy!" She then watched Tokui as he tried to straighten his hair out again, laughing. "You just have to be so adorable, don't you?"
"Is Tousan still talking to Eiri-ojisan?" Tokui asked, ignoring his sister's comments.
"Probably. If he was done he'd have called for me," Amai answered, though she turned to leave, taking the hint. "I'll be back soon with your stuff, baby brother! Stay adorable!"
Amai left the closet then, shutting the door behind her and stepping into her uncle's office. Yuki had never been very big on interior design, choosing furniture and household items based on their practicality, not their style. And his office was no exception, as it only had some bookshelves (with both books and supplies on them), his desk, and two chairs behind it: one a large desk chair, and the other smaller, probably for Shuichi.
After spending only a few minutes to examine the office (as she didn't share her brother's admiration for thier uncle or his profession) she walked back out into the living room. Yuki had moved so he was sitting on the opposite end of the couch that Shuichi was sitting on, but so that he was still close to Touma, who was sitting in his chair.
"He's just getting settled in," Amai announced, leaning against the back of her father's chair. "I actually think he's happy here. Well, as happy as he gets, anyway."
"I was just telling you father about the Neo Grasper idea," Shuichi said, keeping his gaze fixed on the girl and not on the man beneath her. It was awkward enough that his boss, who had hated him for years, was a close personal friend of his lover, as well as the father of his beloved nephew, but his charge didn't have to look so much like him. That was just adding insult to injury.
"I made no promises about that," Amai said firmly. "I'll admit that it's a great idea, since the novelty alone will draw in extra revenue, but not only do I not want to work with Ukai Saki, but I also want to get famous by my own merits, not by cashing in on my father's name."
"That's my girl," Touma said proudly, listening to his daughter's buisness savvy and pride, both inherited from him.
"That's why we want you to do the solo album first," Shuichi explained. "Because if you establish yourself as a solo artist and then join a band, it means that you can make it on your own, you just choose not to. And it's been ten years since Nittle Grasper stopped touring. Adults will remember the original Grasper and might buy Neo Grasper albums for that reason, but we're dealing with a whole new demographic here. You're Seguchi Touma's daughter and you can't even remember Nittle Grasper's heyday. You weren't born before their first run and you were barely six when they stopped the second time. See what I'm getting at? Neo Grasper is, undoubtedly, a cool idea. But then there is the added bonus of having less competition. Right now, you are competing with Ukai Saki for record sales, and she currently has the advantage of having been established for three years now. Plus I just got word that Alexander Sakuma-Winchester wants to start recording albums, so he'll corner the American market. If we can get you all together in one place there would be no competetion: the three biggest acts will be in one place. No one else stands a chance."
Yuki, Amai, and Touma were all gaping at Shuichi and his uncharacteristic lapse of maturity. Shuichi looked around the room, then blushed and cleared his throat. "I've been a producer for five years. I had to have learned something."
Touma nodded. "Well, Shindou-san, it seems your friend sold you short.You really do have a head for buisness."
"Can we go, Tousan?" Amai asked. "I promised baby brother I'd pick up some stuff for him."
Touma gave Yuki one last longing look. "Yes, I suppose it is getting late. I'll see you again soon, Eiri-san. And Shindou-san, I want you to write a formal proposal for Neo Grasper and have it on my desk by tomorrow morning."
"Tousan, I'm not sure if I want to do it yet!" Amai said firmly. "Don't make him work if he doesn't have to!"
"I have to have it on file in case you do decide," Touma told her. He stood and walked toward the door. "Good night everyone."
Hiro had woke up the next morning telling himself today was going to be better. Now he wished he could just crawl back into bed and forget about the day all together.
The first sign that the day wasn't going to be what Hiro would have liked it was Shuichi was late. Three hours late. Hiro had had to wait in the living room, with Tokui tucked in the corner on the floor (no matter how many times Hiro told him he didn't have to sit there he wouldn't move to the couch) and Yuki sitting on the couch glaring at him (mostly because Hiro was sitting in his chair) while Shuichi finished typing a proposal for Touma (on Yuki's computer, as his had decided to crash this morning, which meant Yuki was in an even worse mood).
When Shuichi finally came rushing from the direction of the office, blue folder in hand, he was wearing one of Yuki's old plum colored suits with a burgundy tie draped around his neck. Hiro had had to help him tie his tie and help him into his jacket before Shuichi could put the folder into his briefcase, give Yuki a quick kiss on the cheek (he had aimed for the lips but Yuki, not being happy with him, had moved his head at the last second) and finally left, Tokui in tow.
After arriving at NG, it had been Shuichi's turn to brave his boss and Hiro's turn to head straight to a rehearsal room. And that was when the best part of the day had ended....
Hiro had opened the door to rehearsal room six, the room that he, Kyousei Himeko, and Chen Quon Yue had agreed they would meet each day the day before. After opening the door, Hiro actually groaned.
Sitting in a chair, feet kicked up on the table in front of him, was Chen Quon Yue, smoking a cigarette, with three butts still smoldering on the floor around him. His hair was in two pigtails, the silver and blue seperated so perfectly the only way Hiro could figure he had done it was that he had dyed his hair while it was in the pigtails, he'd had someone seperate it for him, or he had an inhuman amount of patience and a couple of mirrors. His jewelry was unchanged (except, possibly, his earrings, but Hiro wasn't sure as he hadn't really noticed them the first time he'd seen him), and he was wearing a dark blue T-shirt that was cut above his navel, revealing a silver hoop with a dark blue ball, and written on the shirt, in English, with white rhinestones, was "ANGEL". He was wearing faded blue, low-slung bell bottoms, black platform shoes with large silver buckles on the side of each one, a black belt with a silver buckle, and the newest addition to his collection of jewelry were four beaded bracelets in different shades of blue, black, and white on each wrist. His fingernails were painted light blue, and he was wearing dark eyeliner, light blue eyeshadow, and icy blue lipstick. He didn't seem to notice Hiro, even after he groaned, as he had a far-away look on his face, his eyes the same dark blue as his shirt, the pupil of his defective left one twitching slightly.
Hiro cleared his throat, trying to get the younger man's attention, but this also failed to get him from his trance. His cigarette was burning down, and would probably burn his fingers in a moment. Sighing, Hiro walked over to Quon Yue and tapped his shoulder.
This proved to be a big mistake, as Quon Yue whirled around, producing a switchblade seemingly from no where and aiming it at Hiro's throat so that the tip almost touched his neck, his eyes switching from dark blue to the same icy blue as his lips, the same icy blue his eyes had been the first time he had made eye contact with Hiro.
"No one touches me unless I say they can," he growled through clenched teeth, the pupil of his defective eye twitching madly. He took the knife from Hiro's throat, folding it and pocketing it again. Hiro audibly sighed with relief. He didn't know Quon Yue well enough to tell if he was capable of hurting another human being, but if he had to stake money on it he'd guess that he was. One thing was for sure: Hiro wasn't going to push it if this man was so sensitive about being touched.
Quon Yue dropped his cigarette to the floor and stepped on it, along with the other three, which had begun to burn through the carpet. He didn't make a motion to pick them up, though, and Hiro gritted his teeth, knowing Touma wouldn't be at all pleased when he found out. This building was No Smoking, for one thing, and he would have to replace the carpet.
"You're late, Mr. Suit," Quon Yue observed, eyes shifting to the bright blue that Hiro knew meant he was planning one of his evil plots. "Three and a half hours late."
"I had to pick someone up and he was running late," Hiro explained, though he didn't feel he owed him any kind of explanation. "You've been waiting here the entire time?"
"Life's too short to miss any of it by being late," Quon Yue explained, lighting another cigarette with a match from the box in his pocket. "That producer chick was here, but she excused herself and left about two hours ago. God knows where she went." He blew out the match and dropped it on the floor. Hiro noticed for the first time there were four other matches there already.
"I'm surprised you have a philosophy like that," Hiro mused. "You don't seem like the type to be bound by deadlines and appointments."
"Well, Mr. Suit, I'm just full of surprises. I'm suprised you didn't piss your expensive pants when I whipped out that knife," Quon Yue told him with a smile, taking a drag from his cigarette and flicking the ashes onto the floor.
The door opened again, and Hiro sighed with relief when he saw Kyousei Himeko walk in with two cups of coffee. He had a feeling she had left because she was afraid to be alone with Quon Yue and had hidden in the staff room downstairs until she saw him come in. He couldn't say he blamed her; considering what had just happened, he probably would have done the same thing in her situation.
"Good morning, Nakano-san," she said brightly, putting a cup of coffee in front of him. "It is still morning, right?"
Hiro looked at his watch. "For another hour and a half, yes."
"Wonderful. That's enough time to pack up and leave," Quon Yue muttered, rolling his eyes, which were now a stormy blue-gray color.
"No one is using this room for the rest of the day, and I have no where else to be," Hiro told him firmly. "We can stay here all night if we want to."
"Fine. I'm game," Quon Yue said evenly, calling his bluff. He dropped his cigarette and stepped on it.
"First things first: those clothes. Unless that's your image, you can't do that anymore," Hiro continued.
Quon Yue sighed, the icy blue color returning to his eyes. "You're a manager, not an image consultant. I have a gimmick planned. I have songs ready. I know what image I want. I can handle it. You get me the gigs, you make me famous. I know that you have a deal with Seguchi and I know you just want me to get famous so you can move on because you don't like me. Frankly, I don't like you, either. So let me do all the hard stuff, and you do the rest. Got it?"
Both Hiro and Himeko were taken aback by this. They had expected him to fight them every step of the way, but he actually seemed to want to make things easier on them.
Hiro locked his eyes on the younger man's, which were still icy blue and not at all friendly looking. They seemed to be engaging in a staring contest, Quon Yue not blinking, the center of his defective left eye twitching ever so slightly. Finally, Hiro looked down at his briefcase and sighed. "You're right. I get you the gigs, Kyousei-san handles the financial end, you do the work. So as soon as you're ready to record-"
"I need a band," Quon Yue snapped. "A session band. I want to be a solo artist."
"Seguchi-san has some session musicians on call. I'll tell him what you need."
"You do that, Mr. Suit. I'm going to lunch. Joi gin yan²," Quon Yue announced, standing and leaving the room.
Hiro looked across the room at Himeko, who was picking up cigarette butts and matches, though the damage was already done to the carpet.
"I don't think he's coming back. Not today, anyway," she said softly as she dropped the mess in her hand into the trashcan.
"Good. After the way he nearly killed me I need a night to recover," Hiro muttered, not bothering to conceal his hatred for this man.
"Maybe we're not giving him a chance," Himeko pointed out. "We are both judging him by how he looks. We don't really know all that much about him."
"The guy carries around a knife and aims at the throat of anyone who touches him. That tells me a lot," Hiro argued, rubbing the front of his neck for effect.
Himeko shrugged and picked up her briefcase. "I think I am going to go out for lunch, too. Care to join me?"
"Might as well. Not like I have anything else to do."
Shuichi wasn't having much luck in his own endevor as he grasped his folder, waiting for his boss to get off the phone. At first, he wasn't sure who the other man was speaking to or what about, but after a few moments the details started to come together.
When he'd first walked into the room, Touma wasn't on the phone, but it had rung before Shuichi could hand over the folder, prompting Touma to make a gesture that implied that he wanted him to wait before he picked up, his face a perfect mask of false innocence and warmth.
"Moshi moshi. This is Seguchi Touma speaking." Touma paused to listen, his façade disappearing as who was on the other line spoke to him. "How much do you need?" Another pause. "For what?" Pause. "No, not again. That's what you told me the last time. I want to trust you this time, but I am not going to be made a fool of by you again." Pause. "Suguru, I said no. You've been saying that for three years. I just can't trust you anymore." Pause. "Suguru, the only way I will give you that money is if you move to Japan so I can watch you and make sure you keep your word." Pause. "Don't tell me that. I know you are coming to Japan for my wedding. Just pack your stuff and move here entirely. I can make sure you get into the best rehab center in the country. I'll pay for that, Suguru, but I'm not going to pay for your drugs under the pretense you are entering rehab in America. I am sick of you using the fact that you are all the way in Los Angeles where I can't see you to take advantage of me." Pause. "You're in New York now?! When did this happen?" Pause. "Yes, I believe you went there to get away from your Los Angeles life, but I still don't trust you. You can start over a thousand times, but unless you do it in Japan you aren't going to do it with my money." Pause. "Yes, we are family, Suguru. That's why you should have more shame than you do. You are constantly lying to me and abusing my good will. I can only do that so many times before I put my foot down. If I were really to do you a favor I'd get on a plane and drag you here against your will." Pause. "No, Suguru, no. For the last time, no. Look, I'll wire you enough money for a plane ticket. A one way ticket. If you are not at my wedding then I will personally fly to New York and talk to every drug dealer and junky until I find you and drag you back here. And don't think I won't. I'll get the police involved if I have to. I'll hire private investigators. I want to see you get better, Suguru. Not worse." Pause. "Fine. I'll see you then. And I mean it: I had better. I will not be pleased if I have to postpone my honeymoon to go looking for you. For God's sake, you're 32 years old and you're an intelligent man. You could have done so much with your life. You still can. If you can clean up your act I'll give you a job. That's the deal. Now, I have important buisness to attend to." Pause. "No, Suguru. Just for the plane ticket. If you're in trouble then coming to Japan will be the best thing for you. Good bye."
Touma hung up the phone before Suguru could say anything else and looked up at Shuichi, adopting his fake smile again. "All right, Shindou-san. Do you have the proposal?"
"Yeah, it's here," Shuichi said quickly after shaking his head to break the trance the phone call had put him in. He handed Touma the folder.
Touma leaned back in his chair as he read the contents of it, nodding occasionally and rocking slightly. Finally, he leaned over his desk and put the folder down. "Yes, very nice work, Shindou-san. From the typographical errors it's easy to tell you rushed it a bit, and you still have that same horrible signature³, but I can read it and I certainly like what I see. I will file it immediately for when Amai is ready to form Neo Grasper."
"Amai said she doesn't know if she wants to go through with the Neo Grasper idea," Shuichi argued.
"She says that now, but when she releases her solo album she'll change her tune, no pun intended. I am positive of it. She is only saying that because she likes to be difficult and she wants to sound like she doesn't need anyone. She knows that Neo Grasper is just too good an idea to let slip away."
"With all due respect, Seguchi-san, I think you're wrong. She likes the creative freedom of being a solo artist too much and hates Ukai Saki too much to want to form a band with her. The only way I could convince her to consider it was when I brought up you were the leader of Nittle Grasper and she would probably have the same position in Neo Grasper."
Touma leaned back in his chair again. "Yes, that does sound like her. Really, she doesn't know Ukai Saki well enough to dislike her. She just resents that she got to record an album three years ago while she still had to wait. Once she gets this solo career buisness out of her system she'll be ready to join a band. We are both very much alike in that we are both willing to put our personal feelings aside for buisness."
Shuichi bowed slightly. "If you say so, Seguchi-san." And with that he turned on his heel and left the office.
As soon as he was gone, Touma pressed the button that activated his intercom again. "Sako, I'm ready to see Sakano-san now."
End of Chapter Three
¹ This is a play on words. "Yuki" is the Japanese word for "snow".
² "Good bye people" in Chinese (Cantonese).
³ In the manga, when Ryuuichi and Shuichi are comparing handwriting, it's said that both of them have poor signatures because of their bad handwriting and because neither one can write in kanji.