Kouta wasn’t certain that he’d heard Ryuu’s question correctly.
“Kou…” Ryuu prompted. There was no response.
Ryuu became confused, as he’d thought Kouta would have been happy about his request. However, he was unable to determine how his lover was feeling. In his experience, whenever Kouta became difficult to read, it was often a sign that troublesome emotions were brewing inside him.
Kouta knew that Ryuu was waiting for an answer. Still, it wasn’t about a simple yes or no. They had appeared in public together but the premiere would be on a grander scale. Plus, Ryuu was often annoyed about being in the news. Attending the premier with him would remove any lingering questions about their status. They were likely to get many questions. Now, with such an important prospect in front of him, Kouta wasn’t sure he wanted that kind of scrutiny. However, the more confident part of him finally helped him find his voice.
“Of course,” he said. A slow smile spread across his face and Ryuu laughed, as relief flooded through him.
“Love, I was worried there for a minute,” Ryuu admitted.
“I’m sorry I took so long to reply,” Kouta told him. “It’s just that you’ve been ambivalent about how public we already are. I was stunned by what you wanted. And, I was little concerned about what it would all mean.”
Ryuu sipped his glass of wine, as he considered what to say.
“I saw your reaction to my last interview and what I said hurt you. You’re not my dirty little secret, Kouta. Even if we weren’t a same-sex couple, I’d still value my privacy. With that said, the premiere will be one of the most important nights of my life. I don’t want anyone else by my side.”
Ryuu cleared his throat, as he began blushing.
“What?” Kouta prompted, enjoying another moment of his lover’s awkward charm.
“That sounded so much like a drama!” Ryuu groaned and buried his face in his hands.
“Anyway, what I said was sickly sweet but you know what I mean.”
“I do,” Kouta said, reaching out to grab both of Ryuu’s hands. “From the bottom of my heart, I do. And I never thought this day would happen.” Kouta brushed away an imaginary tear. Ryuu smacked his hands away over the teasing.
“This decision doesn’t just affect us,” Kouta stated, as he became serious. “There might be ripples for our family, friends, coworkers…”
“I began smoothing the path and putting as much support in place as possible. I’ve talked with Yosuke. He’s behind us. He doesn’t believe that us being more open will hurt you or the band.” Ryuu paused, as he assessed his lover’s countenance. “Did I go too far? Should I have spoken with you first?”
“I would have preferred that,” Kouta admitted but he smiled. “I know you were only trying to anticipate any worries I would have and take care of them.”
“I was,” Ryuu assured him. “But I really hope I’m not overreacting. Maybe we’re being arrogant by assuming anyone will make a big deal out of this. They’ll probably shrug it off, since we have been in public together. This is on a larger scale but, in some ways, we’ve already laid the groundwork.”
“Speaking of laying groundwork, we should tell our families too.”
“Should we have started with them first?” Ryuu asked, laughing.
“Yeah. Probably.” Kouta rubbed the back of his neck, looking sheepish. “As long as everyone who’s the most important to us finds out, that’s all that matters.”
“True. How do you think that conversation will go?”
“With our families? I’m sure it will be fine.”
Kouta’s words to Ryuu the previous week were echoing in his head, as he waited for his family’s reaction. The two of them had gone for Sunday dinner at the home of his parents.
“You certainly keep things interesting,” Kouta’s father stated, sounding somewhat displeased.
Kouta looked around at his mother, Yuki and Takeshi to gauge if they would have similar responses. Ryuu sat next to him, trying to avoid fidgeting, even though he was wrestling with discomfort. They had just explained their intention to attend Ryuu’s movie premiere together. The resulting silence amongst the adults after Mr. Sasaki’s remark was strained. Kouta’s twin niece and nephew, on the other hand, continued to playfully chatter to each other as they ate.
“I’m not trying to make either of you feel ashamed,” Kouta’s father assured him. “I’m only wondering if you’ve thought about the consequences.”
“We have,” Kouta replied earnestly. “They might not be negative like you’re thinking.”
“We’re not doing this to make anyone’s life difficult,” Ryuu explained.
“That’s right, Father,” Kouta added, his words changing to a more formal version of Japanese, as he requested support. “This isn’t a decision we came to lightly. And, we’ve been a couple for almost three years. We’ve been incredibly low-key about it too.”
“Why does that need to change now?” Mr. Sasaki pressed.
“What Kouta and I have is very meaningful to me,” Ryuu stated. “I can’t think of anyone else who should be there on that night. If anything, Kouta has been incredibly patient because he has gone to events by himself, while I’ve remained in the background. He has asked me to go but I’ve always told him no; I’ve had the same worries I believe you have. Most other couples don’t have to do that.”
“What happens if it causes an uproar?” Mrs. Sasaki asked.
“Mother, what happens if it does not?” Kouta insisted.
“May I say something?” Yuki asked.
“No,” both parents responded.
“You should be mature enough to listen to our concerns,” Mrs. Sasaki admonished Kouta. “Right now, you have a stubborn tone and that’s not helpful to the discussion.”
“Oh Mother, I am listening,” Kouta replied, his trademark stubbornness beginning to infuse his words even further. “I’m listening to you saying you never supported Ryuu and me. I’m listening to you tell me that, on some level, you’re ashamed that your son is with another man. Why did you let us keep coming to Sunday dinners, if we were such a problem for you?”
“You are not understanding us,” Mr. Sasaki told him, his voice rising slightly. “We want you to be sure about your next steps.”
“We are!” Kouta exclaimed.
Ryuu rested a hand on his elbow.
“Kouta, maybe it’s best for us to change the subject,” Ryuu suggested.
“No. If I stay here, I’ll want to talk about it.”
“And you and Ryuu should have spoken to your mother and me privately,” Kouta’s father added.
After that last comment from Mr. Sasaki silence again settled between the adults. Kouta looked down at his plate, trying to remain in control of his anger. However, when he felt it increasing, when he felt that he was about to say something completely disrespectful, he made up his mind to leave. Going abruptly from a Sunday dinner with his family was something that had happened exactly one other time. His father had offered unsolicited advice about dealing with Takayuki. The conversation had turned into an argument. Kouta, who’d been incredibly insecure during the beginning of his music career, had bristled at his father comments.
Mr. Sasaki had stated that Freefall hadn’t been eager to assist Polaris because the newer band might have appeared arrogant. Mr. Sasaki had continued to point out that, as the leader of the group, Kouta was failing at building the relationships that would help his band succeed in the business. He’d also added that his son had to work harder at gaining traction within the company. Kouta had left the dinner without responding and driven through parts of Tokyo to release his anger. When he’d calmed down, he’d realized that, though he hadn’t necessarily initially liked his father’s views, he could properly consider them.
That experience did not occur to him, during his present state of mind. He was too consumed by his emotions to heed the lesson from the last time.
“Let’s go,” Kouta said to Ryuu. His tone was curt, leaving no room for argument.
“What?” Ryuu looked at him, surprised by the command.
“I said let’s go.” Kouta folded his napkin and laid it next to his plate, though he wanted to toss it down and leave in a huff.
“Kou, there’s no need for you two to leave,” Yuki protested. She looked at her parents, hoping that they would smooth over the situation.
“When you can show true respect for us, you are welcome here again,” Mr. Sasaki told his son. His words were gruff and as uncompromising as those of his son.
Kouta stood and murmured an apology to Yuki and Takeshi for how their night had gone. Then, he and Ryuu left the Sasaki home to go to their car. Yuki hurried after them.
“You know you have support,” she assured them. “Takeshi and I understand why this is important for you two to do. And, Mom and Dad do also. They’re just concerned and maybe didn’t express it in the best way.”
“I’m just surprised about how they acted,” Kouta fumed, as he leaned against the car. “I’m really sorry Ryuu. They’ve been okay with us together for years and suddenly…” Kouta’s voice trailed off, as frustration overtook him.
“Let things from this dinner settle,” Yuki recommended, as she gave both of them hugs. “Hey, before you know it, this situation will be resolved and you’ll be back. Next time, bring Natasha. The twins would love to play with her.”
“Thanks, Yuki,” Kouta murmured.
When they returned home, Kouta was still furious about what had happened at dinner.
“Don’t you have anything to say?” he demanded of Ryuu.
“I’m not sure what to say.”
“Clearly, just like with dinner. You barely were part of the conversation.”
“Do not lash out at me,” Ryuu said, pointing a finger at Kouta in warning. “It all spiraled out of control quickly.”
“Well, I didn’t expect my parents to be unsupportive! I sure as hell didn’t think we’d get banned from the house.”
“But what exactly do we want from them? Are we not going to the premiere together because of how dinner went?”
“No. That’s not what I mean. It’s just that it would have been nice for them to be more positive. Instead, we had to deal with a barrage of questions.”
“All of which were reasonable.”
“Yes at the beginning of our relationship!” Kouta exclaimed, his tone derisive. “Not almost three years into it!”
“Kou, I’m not going to be your verbal punching bag.”
“Come here, love.” Ryuu patted the space next to him on the couch. Kouta sat down and gave a dejected sigh. “What’s really bothering you?”
“I’m thinking that my parents have had a problem with my sexuality all along.”
“And that us being in public was too much for them?”
“Yes,” Kouta responded. His voice was small and weak, as an ache in his heart restricted his ability to speak. “Maybe they’re ashamed and have felt that way for years.”
“Oh, love.” Ryuu pulled Kouta close and Kouta buried his face against Ryuu’s neck. Breathing in the scent of his lover helped to sooth him and after a few moments, he raised his head.
“What should we do next?” he asked Ryuu.
“We’ll take Yuki’s suggestion and give your parents time. Then, we’ll meet with them and talk about this again.”
“Do you really think that will help?”
“Then, it’s a good idea.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Ryuu said, jostling Kouta, trying to lighten his mood. He was rewarded with a small smile.
“I’m sorry about all this,” Kouta said. “I really didn’t expect…”
“Shh, let’s not discuss it anymore. I can think of better ways to spend our time.”
Ryuu led him to the bedroom, finding multiple ways to take his mind off their troubles. Afterwards, Kouta rolled to his side, as he let out a supremely satisfied smile. When Ryuu traced the contours of Kouta’s nose and mouth, Kouta playfully nipped his index finger.
“I like moments like these,” Ryuu said. “Right after we’ve made love.”
“You don’t enjoy what happens before?” Kouta teased.
“Of course I do,” Ryuu responded. He was looking at Kouta through half-closed eyes. A slow smile spread across Kouta’s face.
“You know what that expression leads to, don’t you?” Kouta asked.
“Of course…Round two,” Ryuu said roguishly. “At this moment, I’m having all of the right feelings.”
“And what are those right feelings?” Kouta questioned.
“I’m feeling that you need to touch me here…” Ryuu guided his hand to the desired location.
“I’m not sure I get your point.”
“You will in a few moments…”
Kouta was waiting for a response from the rest of Polaris. When one of their practices had concluded, he’d asked them to remain in the rehearsal room for a little longer and explained what he and Ryuu had in mind. After the dinner with his parents, he was wary. He hoped there wouldn’t be a similar conversation with the guys.
“And Yosuke definitely knows?” Toru asked, carefully.
“Yes and he’s okay with it,” Kouta told him. “He cleared it with upper-level management. They had their doubts but they’re willing to take a chance.”
“Then, I’m fine with it,” Toru said.
“I don’t get worked up about stuff like that, Kou,” Shinji said. He shrugged nonchalantly. “You know that. Do what you need to do.”
Hiro remained silent, listening to the exchange. When he didn’t offer his comments, the rest of the band looked at him.
“Hiro, why have you been so quiet?” Kouta asked, after a few more moments had passed.
“I’m pissed, Kouta,” he announced. “Give me time to process this and calm down.”
“You’re really angry?”
“Yes!” Hiro shouted. “I wanted to be your date to the premiere.”
“You ass!” Kouta exclaimed, throwing his last stick of Almond Crush Pocky at him. “And now you’ve made me waste my snack.”
Hiro chuckled and took a bite of the snack, which he’d managed to catch.
“It’s delicious, like the frenzy you and Ryuu will probably cause,” he joked.