Bal – Chapter 17

After returning from one of their nightly bike rides, Kouta and Ryuu were showering.

“I start my tour in two weeks,” Kouta told Ryuu, as he put shampoo in his lover’s hair. He massaged the product through Ryuu’s hair, making him sigh with contentment.

“Yes, I remember,” Ryuu murmured. “I’ve been keeping track of the days. I’ll make it to at least one show.”

“Good,” Kouta responded. “I’d ask you to be there every night but it’s a little unreasonable.”

“Yeah, um, just a little,” Ryuu said, laughing and turning around to face him. “My schedule doesn’t allow for that.” He began to wash the shampoo out of his hair.

“Which concert are you coming to?”

“That’s a surprise. I bought my ticket very early and was able to get a great seat.”

“You know I would have taken care of that.”

“Well, I’m just trying to help a starving artist,” Ryuu teased, pulling Kouta into his arms.

“So, how long is this tour again?”

“Almost three months. I’ll be finished in early May. I think one day, my tours will be even longer. Yosuke plans for us to go to other countries. I’m happy but it will mean more time away from you…”

“Let’s not feel down about this,” Ryuu told him, as he reached to turn off the water. “We’ll enjoy the days we do have together.”

~~17.1~~

The tour for Oasis, the fourth album for Polaris, was going quite well. The band was currently playing the first of two concerts at Yokohama Arena.

The band was onstage during a break between songs. Seated in comfortable chairs, they chatted with the audience. It was a feature of their concert, where the charged atmosphere created by the music was temporarily taken over by a casual conversation.

As Kouta had done at every concert, he explained why their touring schedule had been postponed. It was due to his accident and, while the fans understood, he found it necessary to apologize for the delay. More importantly, he wanted to thank them for their support.

“The time between our third and fourth albums was a little…difficult,” Kouta began. He gave a wry smile. “As you probably all know, I was in an accident. I received so many letters and presents. I just wanted to say thank you and that I’m sorry for making you worry.”

“We love you Kouta,” various fans shouted from different parts of the arena.

“I love you too…” Kouta shouted back.

“Show us your scar,” a particularly loud fan requested. The words caused a ripple in the audience and turned the request into a chant.

Kouta shrugged nonchalantly and laughed; he knew each concert in a tour usually had a few unique moments. The fans roared in answer, when he stood up. He slowly began to raise his t-shirt, teasing the audience with each bit of skin revealed. He paused for effect, when the shirt was just above his navel. The white t-shirt contrasted with his skin and the thin line of dark hair on his stomach.

“I’m not sure about this,” he teased the audience. “I’m kind of shy, you know.”

There were shouts of encouragement.

“Well, as long as you all don’t tell anyone,” Kouta joked, as he took the shirt completely off and threw it into the crowd.

The image on one of the large screens caught his eyes; he was on full display. For a moment, he rubbed his scar self-consciously. Then he shook his head, deciding to push aside his anxiety over what he’d done.

“I’m still sexy, right?” he asked. There was loud support.

“Should the rest of us show our bodies too?” Hiro yelled. The audience became wilder.

“Don’t get too x-rated. We might all get kicked out,” Toru said, adding to the atmosphere. “Do you want that to happen to us?”

The audience responded with, “Noooo!”

“Look, I’ve been booted from a lot of places,” Shinji exclaimed. “It’s not so bad.”

There was a huge wave of noise as Shinji started to unzip his pants. Kouta reached out to stop him, laughing at how ridiculous he could be sometimes.

“Let’s get the second half of the show on the road, before he goes any further!” Kouta suggested. “You all ready?”

The audience screamed, when Polaris started the second half of the show. As with the first part, people sang along, swayed silently or danced, sending the band their emotions. When he left the stage, being the last to wave goodbye to the audience, Kouta felt that the band had done one of its best performances.

As the band walked back to the dressing room, the members reviewed how well things had gone. Hiro was talking about the third song played, when Kouta’s legs buckled. Hiro and Shinji grabbed him, keeping him from falling.

“Kou?” Hiro asked, concern in his eyes. “You alright?”

“I’m okay,” Kouta said, smiling to hide his unease. “Dr. Uchiyama told me it could happen sometimes. My legs only do this when I’m really tired. This last part of the tour is just wearing me out.”

“You sure that’s all?” Toru asked.

“I don’t know Kouta; maybe you should get a check up,” Shinji said. “Just in case…”

His usual joking manner was gone and worry had completely replaced it.

“Guys, it’s not a problem,” Kouta told them, not wanting to burden them.

“Maybe not now but—” Hiro began.

“Let’s unwind,” Kouta said, cutting him off. “I think Yosuke has a few things to tell us. We need to get to the dressing room.”

Yosuke was waiting, along with Minako. She gave each of the guys hugs, expressing how proud of them she was.

“That’s too much praise,” Yosuke teased her.

Kouta stretched out on one of the couches, glad for the rest. His ease was short-lived.

“Tell Yosuke about your legs,” Hiro ordered, not wanting Kouta to brush aside the issue.

“What’s happening?” the manager asked, looking at the lead singer.

“My legs buckled when I was walking back here,” Kouta responded quietly. He sighed when he saw concern appear in Yosuke’s and Minako’s eyes.

“We’ll see if you can get an appointment tomorrow.”

“How do you think we did, Yosuke?” Kouta asked, trying to dodge the serious topic.

“Kouta, you heard me, right?” Yosuke replied, his tone firm. “I’m not letting you change the subject.”

“I heard. I’ll see Dr. Uchiyama after the tour. Promise.”

“I don’t like compromising with you,” Yosuke reminded him. “But I’ll do it this time.”

“Thank you…Please tell us how we did.”

After pointing out some details for improvement, Yosuke focused on what the band had done well.

“This concert was the best so far. We’ll most likely use it, or at least parts of it, for the DVD. For it being basically the end of the tour, you boys had so much energy out there. I was really impressed. Still, I’m sure you’ll do something soon that will piss me off. So, I won’t get carried away with the positive remarks.”

“See now, being nice won’t kill you,” Minako said, smiling at Yosuke. She gave him a quick kiss and rubbed his back.

“Oooh, do we all get the same thing?” Shinji asked, fluttering his eyelashes at her. She kissed each one of the boys kisses on their cheeks.

“After that, your mouth will never touch me,” Yosuke muttered to her, scowling.

Kouta could see he wasn’t serious; an obnoxious gleam was in his eye.

“You can’t resist me,” Minako said, pinching her husband on his  rear. Almost as stunned as Yosuke was, the band laughed when the usually unshakeable manager looked very uncomfortable.

“Woman contain yourself!” Yosuke said, gruffly. “I still have to brief the band.”

“That can wait,” Minako said, gathering her coat and purse. “I’m tired and ready to go. You’re leaving with me.” She grabbed Yosuke’s hand and led him out of the room, even as he protested—lightly.

The band stayed, basking in the glow of its success. Now, the group could look forward to two days off and then they’d do the final concert.

As happy as Kouta was about how things were going, one grating fact surfaced yet again in his mind. It was almost the end of the tour and he hadn’t seen Ryuu. Kouta had thought he’d be at an earlier concert. He’d missed Ryuu a great deal and most of their contact had only been through video chat. As much as Kouta had tried to find out when Ryuu was coming, Ryuu wouldn’t tell him. Now, it looked as if he wouldn’t be attending any of the concerts.

“He didn’t show up,” Kouta murmured. “He said he’d make it.”

“Maybe he was here but he was too far back for you to see him,” Shinji said.

“He told me he had a great seat.”

“Well, maybe he was up front but you still missed him,” Toru offered.

“I doubt it. I looked, a lot.” Kouta stood and walked to the refrigerator. He took out a bottle of water. He leaned against the mini-bar area and sighed. “I told him I could have taken care of getting him his seat. Instead, he did it on his own and probably messed it all up.”

“Or, he became so busy with work that he didn’t even bother,” Hiro mentioned, laughing.

“Okay, that is really not helpful,” Kouta said, glaring at his best friend.

“We still have one more concert,” Toru reminded him. “He could come then.”

 “Exactly. Don’t be Mr. Negative,” Shinji teased. “We had such a kick-ass concert tonight and you want to cap it off by bitching and moaning.”

“Shut up,” Kouta snapped.

“That’s no way to talk,” Ryuu scolded. He was standing at the door to the dressing room and was grinning at Kouta.

“You’re here!” Kouta exclaimed, hurrying over to him.

“Of course.” He gave Kouta quick kiss. “I told you I would come. I went backstage during the encores. I was hiding. The guys knew.”

“Where exactly were you all this time?” Kouta asked.

“I was hanging out with the crew. I know that the band needed to debrief. I wanted to give you some time to do that. Yosuke let me know when you were finished.”

“You’re such bastards,” Kouta said to his mates. “Kept provoking me. Evil pricks.”

“We just can’t please you,” Hiro sighed dramatically. “Ryuu, I don’t know how you put up with him.”

“I wonder about that myself,” Ryuu joked, playfully ruffling Kouta’s hair.

“Oh wait, before I forget, Kouta has something important to explain to you,” Hiro said.

Ryuu focused his attention on Kouta.

“Hiro, you’re one meddling fucker,” Kouta grumbled. Hiro laughed but he gave Ryuu a meaningful look.

“Kouta.” Ryuu’s voice was firm. “What is it?”

“We can talk at the hotel.”

“Alright.” Ryuu’s eyes searched Kouta’s face. Kouta turned away to avoid his scrutiny.

~~17.2~~

While relaxing at the hotel, Ryuu brought up what Hiro had told him.

“Isn’t there something I need to know?” he asked, stopping Kouta’s attempt to kiss him.

“Ryuu…”

“I’m not canceling sex,” he assured Kouta. “I’m just putting it off for a little bit. What did Hiro mean?”

“This bedspread feels comfortable,” Kouta said, laying back on the bed. “And it’s blue; your favorite color.” He sighed when Ryuu didn’t respond but only looked at him pointedly. He finally began to explain. “My legs have been giving me some trouble. We both knew this was possible. I told you a long time ago what my doctor said.”

“Love, you’ll go to the doctor after the tour.”

“I know; I already promised Yosuke.”

“I’ll remind you, until you listen to both of us.”

“The message is loud and clear,” Kouta confirmed.

“Good; now we can get to the fun business.” Ryuu eagerly perused Kouta’s body.

“Mr. Kobayashi, your expression is kind of predatory.”

“Come be my prey…”

After making love twice, the two continued to unwind on the spacious bed.

“The Obsidian is next month,” Kouta said, as Ryuu pulled him closer. “Will you come with me?”

The Obsidian Music Awards would be held at Tanaka Music Hall in Tokyo, which had been named after Kei Tanaka. He was a now deceased, well-known Japanese music producer who’d reached the height of his success in the early 1990s. Each award winner was given a statue made of rainbow obsidian, Tanaka’s favorite stone, in the shape of an obelisk.

The awards were an especially important event for Kouta and he was already imagining appearing with Ryuu. Kouta waited, hoping he’d get the answer he wanted. When Ryuu didn’t say anything, Kouta tried to fill the silence with words that would encourage his lover.

“You’re worried about how things will look but, Ryuu, everyone knows we’re dating.”

“This wouldn’t be typical for us.” Ryuu’s brow furrowed, as he continued to speak. “It would mean arriving in the same car, sitting next to each other, leaving together…”

“That’s the plan,” Kouta replied stiffly. He moved out of Ryuu’s embraced and sat up. He faced him, looking at his lover as a pained expression crossed his face. “Don’t you want to be seen with me?”

“It’s not like that,” Ryuu exclaimed, propping himself up on an elbow. “Besides, Jin and I are planning to go to South Korea during that time.”

“Can’t you postpone the trip?” Kouta pressed.

“Love, we were invited by another animation company.” Ryuu looked at him helplessly, knowing Kouta wasn’t pleased. “I don’t want to insult the company by changing the suggested date. I know how tight animation schedules are. And—”

“Never mind. I understand.”

“Kouta, be fair. It’s not as if I planned the trip just yesterday. Why is it that I can remember when you’re going on tour but you don’t recall my schedule?”

Kouta’s mouth twisted into an angry, thin, stubborn line.

“Maybe I’ll go to a different show with you,” Ryuu offered, trying to soothe him. He reached out to tenderly squeeze Kouta’s thigh. “I’m not ashamed of being your partner.”

“It’s been two years,” Kouta pointed out. “You’ve never gone to any of these events with me. How do you think that makes me feel?” He turned away from Ryuu, who looked at his tense back incredulously.

“You’re being so stubborn! I’ve made it clear that I’m not worried about being seen with you.  It’s about the circumstances. If we go to the awards together, there’ll be so much attention! Our picture will be all over the news for days. It sounds arrogant saying all of that but it’s more likely than not to happen the way I described.”

Kouta remained silent and Ryuu tried to draw him back into a conversation.

“You’ve come to my studio. We’ve gone to the movies, out to dinner, bike riding, weekend trips, on vacations. Isn’t all of that enough for now?

Kouta didn’t reply, nor did he turn to look at Ryuu.

“Fine,” Ryuu grumbled. “Pout until you fall asleep.”

Without warning, Kouta threw back one hand, letting it land squarely and heavily on Ryuu’s chest. Ryuu complained. Kouta chuckled and faced him.

“Don’t be angry with me, please,” Ryuu said quietly. “I’m not saying that I’ll never go to an awards show with you. It just won’t happen on your timeline.”

“I understand,” Kouta murmured.

“Good, now let’s get some rest,” he said, taking Kouta into his arms. He kissed him gently on his forehead. “I cleared my schedule for the next two days. We can spend some time in Yokohama.”

“I’d like that. It’s a nice surprise.”

“See, I can please you.”

~~17.3~~

Kouta, Hiro, Shinji and Toru were sprawled in various ways in Yosuke’s office. He was going over the current agenda.

“I know you’re still unwinding from the tour, the variety shows and so on,” Yosuke began. “However, before a truly long break starts, we’ll go to the company party.”

“I’ve barely been able to relax and now I have to suck up to some suits,” Shinji muttered.

“Those ‘suits’ make it possible for the band to tour and do many others things,” Yosuke reminded him. “Also, some of them are my close, personal friends. You’re going to show respect.”

“Or else what?!” Shinji taunted, giving Yosuke a delinquent scowl.

Yosuke took a menacing step towards him and Shinji waved him away, quickly backing down.

“I’ll go,” Shinji said. “You don’t have to break anything.”

The rest of the bank members looked on, laughing. That kind of scene had played out several other times, with minor variations.

“Now, this party is quite popular with the media,” Yosuke continued. “The first half hour is a press conference but reporters are allowed to stay the entire time. Be on your best behavior—all evening.”

None of the members were particularly enthusiastic about the office party. Even if they hadn’t recently been touring, they wouldn’t have been excited about the function. They weren’t eager to kowtow to executives, their spouses, their friends and reporters who asked prying questions. Still, under Yosuke’s guidance, Polaris navigated the social channels; it was necessary to keep a healthy network in the business.

“After this event, you guys can kick back for a good, long time,” Yosuke promised.

“All of us, except for Kouta,” Toru teased. “He’s probably going to get busy writing more lyrics—the workaholic.”

“Not like Ryuu,” Kouta said.

“You’re right,” Yosuke agreed. “I don’t know how he has that much energy.”

“Especially to keep up with Kouta’s perverted demands,” Hiro joked.

“Now you’re getting into my business.” Kouta gave him an exaggerated glare.

“Speaking of business, let’s finish attending to that,” Yosuke told them. “The press conference begins at 7:00 pm. I expect all of you at the party by 6:30 pm sharp to get settled. I’ll be arriving then too, providing Minako doesn’t make me late.”

“I’m telling her you said that!” Kouta joked.

“You don’t want to have another accident, do you?” Yosuke asked, narrowing his eyes.

“Oh man, that was harsh!” Kouta complained.

“I know,” Yosuke admitted, chuckling. “I’m an evil manager.”

Yosuke spoke to them for a few more minutes. Then the members parted ways, after Yosuke issued yet another warning about acting properly. That time, he’d stared at Shinji, who’d shrugged his shoulders, trying to look innocent.

“We could go to the party together,” Kouta offered, as the band left Yosuke’s office.

“If you don’t mind, Kou, I’m driving with Shizuka,” Toru said. “We made plans for later that night. So, we’ll be slipping out at some point during the party.”

“You guys going to fuck?” Shinji asked.

The old Toru would have blushed and kept quiet. The new Toru, his confidence increased, looked boldly at Shinji.

“Yes, there will be a lot of fucking,” he responded. “But I’ll pray that you get laid too.”

There was a collective, “Ohhh!”

Shinji punched Toru on the shoulder and laughed good-naturedly.

~~17.4~~

It was the night of the press conference and party. Kouta was recovering from the recent round of dealing with the media. The reporters had asked the usual questions about his career but some had gotten bold about his personal life, questioning him about Ryuu. He’d admitted that they were still together and then shifted the focus to upcoming plans for the group. He had looked forward to the interview portion ending. When the conference transitioned into a party, he mingled, but for the most part, tried to avoid calling attention to himself. He went into the less occupied lobby of the party’s venue and looked out the large windows, gazing up at the night sky. His solitude was ruined, after Kaori found him.

“Hello Kouta…” Kaori said, gliding up to him.

“Kaori?”

“Kouta, it has been quite a while.”

“Yes, it has.”

Kouta quickly noted that a few reporters were already watching them.  He thought about how he could politely end the conversation or steer her away from curious eyes.

“I’m with Daitaro now,” Kaori told him. “Did you know that?”

“No. I’m glad you found someone to accommodate you.”

“As am I,” she said, laughing. “We’re only here as friends though.”

“Does he know you’re not serious?” Kouta asked, even as he realized there was a potential issue. Daitaro Yasuda was the son of the president of the record company. He cursed inwardly, remembering Yosuke’s warning.

“He can’t possibly expect more from me…” she murmured.

Kaori emphasized her point by quickly getting up on tiptoe and giving Kouta a kiss. Her action took him back to other instances when he had kissed her, laughed with her, been inside her. No matter what though, he preferred Ryuu. They had their difficulties but Ryuu mattered more to Kouta than any of his previous lovers.

Cameras couldn’t capture all of that. Brilliant flashes of light went off around Kouta, as several reporters took pictures. He cursed and held Kaori away from him, knowing that the truth and the impression the pictures would give were very different.

Read Balance, Chapter 18