Bal – Chapter 01

The patrons of Club Koldun were under a spell, just as the owner intended. The dance floor seethed with trim, hungry bodies as the mixture of pheromones and sweet waves of hundreds of personal scents and perfumes mingled. The air conditioner warred with the sensual heat radiating off the crowd enjoying the vibrant Tokyo nightlife. Music, heavy with bass, thundered inside the chests of the clubbers, increasing their already frenzied heartbeats. Roving spotlights glared down, revealing the euphoria in the dancers’ eyes as they participated in the age-old hunt for a mate for the night…or perhaps longer.

Kouta Sasaki watched the activity from the owner’s suite, the pounding rhythms of the music transmitting through the rich, cherry wood floor. At just over 6 feet, he took pride in keeping himself muscular and toned. His dark brown eyes had an intelligent, mischievous glint that caught the attention of people. His well-shaped mouth, the bottom lip fuller than the top, revealed a smile that was inviting and seductive. Shoulder-length black hair curled past his ears to brush gently against the nape of his graceful neck. Had he wished to dance at that moment, patrons would have cleared a path for him, secretly hoping that he’d linger and satisfy their yearnings for him.

While he waited for Jiro Honda, the club’s owner, Kouta occasionally glanced up at the video displays that highlighted the dancers. He wondered if he’d find anyone attractive that night. From the libido-charged details Jiro had given him, he knew that Koldun was a ripe hunting ground. Unfortunately, with his hectic, erratic schedule; recording, touring, making TV appearances, etc., it was usually too much hassle to be in a relationship. But, unlike many other celebrities, he didn’t indiscriminately choose his partners. A year had passed since he’d been with anyone, short-term or long-term. Still, he was at the club full of delectable people and he was determined to make the most of it.

On the screens, Kouta saw various people who, like him, were well known in the Japanese entertainment world. None of them held his interest, but someone else did – a male figure in his prime. Intrigued, he watched him move to the music. Kouta’s lips slowly curled into a little smile as he zeroed in on his prey. The more the man moved, the more Kouta was enthralled.

Despite the mouth-watering choices in the club, this man was getting the lion’s share of attention. He didn’t promise anything more than a dance or two, but he presented irresistible possibilities. He freely chose from among men and women who were eager to be caught in his gravitational field. Even far above the crowd, insulated in his friend’s private viewing area, Kouta could feel the man’s presence beckoning him.

Casually, Kouta’s eyes roved over the man’s toned body which was encased in a simple burgundy shirt, black slacks and polished shoes. The form fitting clothing served to show off his athletic frame. Like the other clubbers, Kouta was thankful for the view, wishing to know what lay beneath the supple material.

Kouta watched the man throw back his head and laugh, flashing white, even teeth. He could almost hear the deep, rich sound, which called an answering chuckle from him.

As the man turned to dance with a new partner, the lights set him off from the others, shimmering on his coal black hair, giving the illusion of otherworldliness. He had the air of an immortal being, only present for a short dalliance.


Kouta reluctantly looked away as his friend called his name.

“Well what do you think?” Jiro asked, settling his tall, well-dressed body into a seat. “See someone interesting?”

“Ah! The honorable owner graces me again with his presence,” Kouta quipped. Then his face became more serious. “You are right though: I have my eye on someone.”

“Oh?” Jiro’s eyebrows rose with curiosity. “Who?”

Isao, Jiro’s personal bartender, had seen who had kept Kouta fascinated. He smiled, interrupting them to describe the person in question.

Jiro laughed with a roguish gleam in his brown eyes. “Good luck with that one, Kou,” he said, lightly stroking the slight goatee he’d recently grown.

“What do you mean?” Kouta sounded perplexed.

“A lot of people get excited when he shows up here,” Jiro explained. “It doesn’t happen often but everyone can’t help to notice when he comes here. I mean, look at him…”

“Jiro,” there was a sound of frustration in his voice, “who is he?” Kouta pressed.

“I’m not telling you, though I definitely know,” he smiled with a teasing light in his eyes. “I’m surprised you don’t know yourself, considering how much you enjoy animation.” He leaned in closer. “There’s your clue. Think about the anime you own. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure it out without more of my help.”

Kouta had known Jiro for seven years; it was typical of him to be cryptic but he was determined to not let that deter him.

“No name, no details, oh exalted one?” Kouta teased. “Perhaps you don’t have a clue.”

Jiro sniffed derisively at the comment but decided to offer a little further assistance.  “I’m feeling charitable tonight, though I don’t know why… His success in the animation business is growing.  I believe that one of his recent efforts is among your favorites.”

Kouta’s head tilted, trying to understand exactly what Jiro meant.

“Jiro, that was supposed to be charitable?”

Jiro peered closely at Kouta’s face, examining it in the low light.

“Just how much have you been drinking? You honestly can’t figure this out? Anyway, he keeps a low profile, but I’ve seen him here a total of six times. The last time was about three months ago. Believe me; I make it a point to know when he shows up; he’s good for business. He’s usually with that Italian author, Niccolo Vieri.”

Even as Jiro was speaking, Kouta could see on the screen that someone, probably the aforementioned Niccolo, had sidled up to the mystery man. Kouta watched as they talked and laughed.

“Are he and Niccolo a couple?” Kouta asked, feeling a twinge of jealousy. He didn’t like the sensation, especially since it was about someone he hadn’t even met.

“I’m pretty certain that they’re just close friends, I haven’t heard anything else,” Jiro reassured him. He noted the fierce expression of longing on Kouta’s face with a grin.  “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Kouta demanded, sounding slightly irritated. He knew his friend had busybody inclinations and leveled him with a fiery gaze.

Undaunted by the intensity in Kouta’s eyes, Jiro continued to tease him.

“Do I really have to spell it out? No one who’s regularly getting laid should be drooling like you are. Should I get you a bib?”

“Bite me, Jiro!”

“I already have,” Jiro replied, staring pointedly at him. “You know it was memorable.”

“Seriously, I’m curious about this guy. I don’t know why, but I want to meet him in the worst way,” Kouta admitted. He was a bit chagrinned at having been seduced by the mystery man from such a distance.

“Then do something about it,” his friend encouraged, nodding his head in the direction of the dance floor. “Who knows what he could do next? He might be leaving soon.” Jiro gave him a lopsided smile, with a challenge in his eyes. “Get going, Kou.”

Not one to ignore a dare, Kouta left with determination, winding his way down the spiral stairs to the dance floor. He set a course toward the man, clearing his throat, determined to be bold. Club Koldun had a hard policy about patrons not harassing each other, making it relatively easy for Kouta to work his way through the crowd on the dance floor. He worked his way through the crowd, until he reached the object of his interest, who had just stepped off the dance floor. The young man peered up at him, intrigued when Kouta caught his eye.

For a moment, Kouta was speechless, now that he had a close look at the man. He had thought that this prime specimen would be his prey, until he’d looked into those penetrating eyes. They were a clear, rich, brown—almost black. Everything in them showed a confident, intelligent man who was used to getting what he wanted. His well-shaped mouth and strong jaw helped to compose a face that was one of the most attractive Kouta had ever seen. His hair was cut short, parted to one side and shining like a black bird’s wing. The conservative style was at odds with what Kouta suspected was his inner nature. However, guessing was not enough, Kouta wanted to know and that need to find out loosened his tongue and strengthened his nerves.

“Dance with me?” Kouta invited him.

The man nodded, accepting the invitation.

Kouta moved on to the dance floor, not bothering to see if anyone was in his way. A path opened up for him.

The object of his desire left his seat to go to Kouta. They danced close to each other, their eyes daring one another to make a stronger move. Normally Kouta would have held back, preferring not to pursue anyone in such a public manner but tonight he decided he wanted to play.

The dark haired man must have wanted to play too; he surveyed Kouta for a few moments, and then minimized the distance between them. The music throbbed around them, forming a private cocoon until the song finished.

Kouta closed his eyes for a moment, savoring their connection but when he opened them, his dance partner was gone. He searched the crowd but couldn’t spot him. The club had become packed, as the hard core clubbers made their appearance. Kouta cursed and wended his way back upstairs to his seat, only to find Jiro and Isao outright laughing at him.

“I give you an ‘A’ for effort!” Jiro joked.

“Shut up,” Kouta grumbled.

He did another scan for the elusive creature he’d danced with, his body still remembering how it felt to be so near him.

“Any closer and you would have been sharing the same clothing,” Jiro taunted, almost as if he were reading Kou’s mind. He took a sip of his drink, wisely stifling his urge to laugh again.

“Any closer and we would have been one person,” Kouta clarified. He searched for his dance partner once again, dejectedly wondering if he had found a lover for the night.

“You know what, I can’t believe I have to take care of you like this.”

Jiro made a quick call to Nobu, one of his employees.

“You owe me one, Kouta.” Jiro motioned to one of the video screens, which showed that Nobu was walking over to Kouta’s dance partner.

“What’s happening?” Kouta asked.

“Shhh. Just pay attention.”

Kouta saw Nobu speak with the mysterious man, still trying to determine who he was from Jiro’s clues. He watched as the man nodded, then followed the employee off the dance floor. Kouta looked at Jiro, his eyes demanding an answer.

“Kou, you have such little faith in me…He’s coming up here.”

An invitation to the owner’s suite was coveted: Jiro usually only issued one to close friends or people of interest. Apparently tonight was a fitting occasion.

“Now, I can’t do everything for you,” Jiro teased Kouta. “So, make the most of it.” He nudged him with his elbow.

The man came up the stairs, led by Nobu, and paused, surveying the room and everyone in it. Jiro walked over to him, to put him at ease—and to get closer to him.

Kouta stared into his drink, shaking his head, embarrassed and partially wishing he did not have a friend who was so eager to assist with his love life.

“I’ve seen you here before,” Jiro began, “and I do thank you for your repeat business. I saw you dancing with my friend and thought I’d formally introduce the two of you, if you don’t mind.” He led the man over to where Kouta was sitting.  “This is Kouta Sasaki, a great friend of mine.  And you are?” Jiro stared expectantly at the younger man.

“My name’s Kobayashi Ryuu,” he said in a voice like melted chocolate. Ryuu turned to Kouta. “I’d wanted to suggest to my friends that we should stay a while longer, which is why I disappeared. I wasn’t able to convince them and I do have to leave soon.  I couldn’t find you when I returned to the dance floor, or I would have explained. I’d really like to talk to you later. If it’s alright, could I give you my number?”

Kouta remained unable to say anything, frozen in place. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Jiro trying to stifle a laugh, as he offered Ryuu a piece of paper and a pen.

Ryuu wrote down his name and number and, giving Kouta a teasing glance, handed the paper to him.

“Thank you for the invitation,” Ryuu said to Jiro. He glanced at his watch. “I’m sorry; I do have to go.”

“Of course,” Jiro replied, motioning to Nobu. “We wouldn’t want Mr. Vieri or Mr. Tanaka to miss their friend.”

“You know who we are?” Ryuu asked, surprised.

“Naturally, you three are quite popular here, especially you.”

“What do you mean?”

Smiling secretively, Jiro replied, “Enjoy your night, Mr. Kobayashi.”

“Well, thank you again for the invitation,” Ryuu nodding before bowing then making his way toward the door. Before opening it, he flashed Kouta a salacious smile that stirred Kouta’s loins. Then he was gone, embraced by the rush of sound as the door opened to the rest of the club.

Jiro sidled over to where Kouta sat nursing his drink, staring down at the phone number.

“You are going to call him, aren’t you?” The question came out more as an order.

Kouta ran his eyes across the paper and his embarrassment tripled as the connection hit him. Ryuu Kobayashi was one of his favorite animation directors, but he had not even recognized him. He mentally kicked himself. He looked up into Jiro’s gaze.

“Thanks for your help. I’ll call him… soon.” No, he definitely was not going to waste this chance.


Ryuu was in Kouta’s thoughts as he mulled over his dinner. He replayed how they had danced, how it had felt to have Ryuu close against his body. For the past few nights, he’d had vivid dreams of the two of them together. On one hand, he wanted to sleep with Ryuu as soon as he could. On the other hand, he simply wanted to know more about him.  He wanted their first sexual experience to be meaningful for both of them. Either way, Ryuu had constantly been on his mind since that night at the Koldun.

Kouta tortured himself with the indecision of wanting to see Ryuu again without coming across as anxious. After all he was the lead singer of Polaris and no one should have made him retreat the way Ryuu had… in theory.  Kouta’s shyness gave the other man the edge in the relationship Kouta hoped to form with him.

Unfortunately, Kouta mentally grumbled to himself, the confidence I have in my career doesn’t always translate into my personal life. 

His last two relationships had been absolute disasters, to put it mildly.  He didn’t want to make the same mistakes again.

He finished clearing his dishes away and took the well worn sheet of paper with Ryuu’s number out of his wallet, staring at it again. He felt enough time had passed that it wouldn’t look like he was desperate for Ryuu’s company. He made the call and felt a little disappointed when he was only able to get Ryuu’s voicemail.

“Hello Mr. Kobayashi, this is Kouta Sasaki. I met you at Koldun Friday night and you gave me your number. I’m sorry it took a bit for me to get back to you but when you have a chance, please call me. I’d really like to meet for coffee or dinner some time this week, if you’re available.” To make sure Ryuu recalled who he was, Kouta described what he had worn to the club and mentioned that they had danced together. He hung up, hoping that he wouldn’t be ignored. A few hours later, Ryuu called back. His voice was smoky and intimate, “Hello. Is Kouta Sasaki there?”

“Yes, this is Sasaki speaking.” His heart sped up at the sound of Ryuu’s voice. He felt himself harden as the rich, baritone vibrations traveled to him. The reaction startled him and he had to smother his nervousness.

“It’s me, Ryuu Kobayashi. I’m really glad you called. It’s been a few days and I thought you’d forgotten.”

“No,” Kouta said, laughing to cover his discomfort, “and please, feel free to call me Kouta.”  He had made several attempts to call Ryuu in the past week but had always hung up. Jiro had finally threatened him with bodily harm.  “I like to think things through first. I prefer to make sound decisions and not just jump into something.”

“I can respect that. I’m much the same. Please, call me Ryuu.”

“Okay.  So what made you decide to give me your number at the club?”

“Well, I’d heard a bit about you but I wanted to find out more.”

“I see…” Kouta was now hesitant. He wondered if Ryuu was a celebrity-chaser, needing to have stories about screwing famous people—or trying to anyway.

“Don’t worry,” Ryuu said. “I’m not interested in you because of your career. It was your dancing that caught my interest.”

Kou laughed a bit self-consciously, as did Ryuu, but neither seemed sure if the words were truly a joke.

“That’s reassuring…I guess.”

“Honestly, my self-esteem doesn’t depend on whether or not I’m going out with a famous person,” Ryuu assured him, after hearing Kouta’s hesitation. “Remember, you came to me first. What made you do that?”

“I liked the way you danced,” Kouta shyly offered. And you’re so damn hot, he added mentally.

“Okay,” Ryuu commented laughing slightly at the obvious reply, “and on your second attempt, you would say…”

“You have presence, charisma,” Kouta softly replied, “I was curious. Is that enough?”

“It will do for now.”  The sound of Ryuu’s pleasure at his answer was stimulating to Kouta’s senses.  He definitely wanted to get to know Ryuu better, much better, and soon.

“I’m glad, I don’t have much else to work with at the moment.” Kouta planted his face in his hand. That was so stupid to say, he chided himself.

“Would you like to have coffee or dinner with me?” Ryuu asked after hearing a bit of a pause.

“Sure, how about dinner?” Kouta was delighted that Ryuu was so eager to get together.

“Tomorrow night?”

“I’ll meet you,” Kouta told him, as he pumped a victory fist in the air. “Where?”

“How about an Italian restaurant? Are you familiar with La Primavera?” Ryuu asked.

“Yes, I’ve been there. I’ve recommended it to friends because the food is excellent.”

“Ah. Would you prefer somewhere you haven’t been?”

“No, La Primavera is perfect. I like the feeling of privacy the seating affords,” Kouta reassured him.

“Shall we eat at 7 PM?”

“Yes,” Kouta agreed. “I’ll meet you outside a little before that.”


“How do I look ladies?” Kouta asked his small entourage.  The tail of Aki, his miniature Dachshund, wagged faster as Nami, his Russian Blue cat, meowed softly.

Ah, a cat and dog with excellent taste in clothing, he thought, smiling.  He was going to meet Ryuu at the restaurant later this evening.

La Primavera was an upscale restaurant located in the Ginza district of Tokyo so he wanted to make sure that he wore appropriate attire. Suits were a safe bet and he looked good in the slate grey suit with a crisp white shirt and burgundy tie he had chosen. He completed the outfit with a tasteful watch and freshly polished, black dress shoes.

He laughed at himself when he realized how nervous he was again.

Tonight would give him a chance to rethink his approach to dating someone. Perhaps things will work out in my favor this time if only I can remember to take things slowly.  he thought to himself taking a deep breath.

“I’ll be having dinner with a new friend,” he explained to two of his most loyal fans.  Aki barked her approval, her small, brown body weaving between Kouta’s legs. Nami, however, walked away, her plumed tail swaying in the air. She was still a bit upset with him; he’d taken her to the vet early that morning for her check-up.

“Alright, be good while I’m gone,” he admonished both of them, picking up his keys and wallet as he headed out the door.


“I’m glad you didn’t stand me up,” Ryuu joked, when he saw Kouta arrive.

Only then did Kouta realize that Ryuu had been anxious , too. The laugh accompanying his comment had unknowingly added a special ring of truth to his words.

“Fortunately for you, my mother raised me to have excellent manners,” Kouta teased, feeling renewed confidence winding its way through him, bolstering his resolve. “Besides, I’ve been looking forward to having something delicious tonight.”

“You mean the food, of course.”


The word hung in the air for a moment, and they suddenly felt at ease with the coming evening. They smiled at each other then Ryuu led the way into La Primavera.

“Ah, Mr. Kobayashi, welcome,” Stefano, the Italian maître d said. “Would you like your usual table?”

“Yes, thank you, Stefano,” Ryuu answered.

Stefano led them to an intimate table set for two with a “Reserved” sign on it. Their waitress, who had followed him, immediately gave them menus.

“I guess you often eat here,” Kouta commented. “You have a ‘usual table’ and the maître d knows your name.”

“I own the restaurant,” Ryuu admitted with smooth nonchalance.

Kouta liked his casual confidence even if he was a bit surprised.  “Ah. Well, congratulations. It’s definitely top quality.”

“Thank you. I do try to please,” Ryuu smiled playfully.

In short order, they decided on their meals. Ryuu selected the crab linguine, while Kouta chose grilled pork chops stuffed with prosciutto and cheese. For their meal, they agreed upon a shared bottle of Pinot Grigio from the Veneto region of Italy. The delicious and well-presented food reminded Kouta of why this place was his favorite Tokyo restaurant.

Ryuu and Kouta talked as they ate, passing glances back and forth between them. They were in the middle of discussing some of Kouta’s crazier experiences with the paparazzi when their waitress came over.

“I deeply apologize for the intrusion,” she said, bowing first to Ryuu and then to Kouta, blushing slightly. “Mr. Sasaki, one of our guests noticed that you were here. She said that the last time she had dined here, she heard you play the piano so beautifully. She wanted to know if you would do her the honor of playing again— but only if you wish.”

“Well…” Kouta looked towards Ryuu. “Do you mind? It’s a small enough thing to do for a fan.”

“Please do,” he said, motioning towards the piano. “I’d love to hear you play.”

Kouta crossed to the grand piano located a short distance from their table. He pondered for a moment and then began playing the third movement of Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in B-flat. It was a light, playful piece, perfect for the atmosphere of Ryuu’s restaurant.

Off to the left, he could see Ryuu watching him play as he sipped his wine. Ryuu’s intense gaze didn’t waver and Kouta almost missed a few notes of the scherzo. He wondered what was going through Ryuu’s mind.

When Kouta finished playing, there were requests from the other diners for encores. He obliged twice, doing a portion of another classical piece, this time a portion of Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1, then he did the piano arrangement for one of his band’s most recent ballads, Solace. He bowed appreciatively at the applause. He was glad that, even outside of his usual venues for performing, he could be supported by his fans.

“You made an excellent choice with that piano,” he told Ryuu, when he returned to his seat. “It’s a beautiful instrument and you take great care of it.”

“Thank you. My mother selected it. In fact, she insisted on it being here,” Ryuu said, laughing quietly. “She rarely hesitates to give me her suggestions. She felt that music should always accompany a quality dining experience. We hired a pianist, but Mother said she wanted customers to enjoy the piano too. She has a theory that a piano in the restaurant will make people feel welcome to show their skills. That, of course, would be due to the fine dining and the pleasant atmosphere. My mother,” he paused, “has…interesting ideas. Still, quite a few patrons have sat down at that piano, including several high-level Japanese officials.” He shrugged his shoulders expressively. “So, as usual, my mother is right.”

“Well, hopefully only those with talent are brave enough to play.  There’s no point in having sour notes ruin your dinner.”

“Fortunately, we haven’t had that problem yet. And we can always prevent disaster by saying the piano has to be tuned.”

“Do you also play?” Kouta asked.

He’d noticed that Ryuu had strong, nimble fingers. He’d watched how they had deftly handled his glass of wine, as well as his utensils. Kouta did his best not to fantasize about those nimble fingers at work on his body. He feared that indications of his thoughts would show in his eyes. Even now, he felt heat creeping up the back of his neck as he imagined being naked with Ryuu. Giving a stealthy and quick shake of his head, he refocused on the conversation.

“Yes, though honestly, not as well as you. My true passion is for animation.”

“I’ve really enjoy your studio’s work,” Kouta told him.”Especially Oasis.”

Oasis had been about an alien race conducting an experiment on Earth. The aliens made all of the areas on Earth that had vegetation become deserts and vice versa. The movie showed how people reacted to a wide-spread ecological change. Some worked to gain stability. Even though was futile, other had tried to stick to their old ways of living.

“Perhaps you’d like come by my office and I’ll show you around,” Ryuu offered as the shadow of a blush crept to his face.

Kouta was surprised and found it quite attractive. There was an interesting innocence to Ryuu, in direct contrast to the sensual aura that surrounded him. It made Kouta wonder what other pleasing reactions he could coax Ryuu into showing.

“I’d like that very much,” Kouta said.

After they finished their main course, Ryuu enticed Kouta into trying the tiramisu, a layered cake flavored with liqueur.

“We use a special family recipe,” Ryuu explained. “It’s from my mother, who was raised in Vicenza, Italy.”

“I’ve never had it until now. It’s delicious.”

Fascinated by the decadent taste, Kouta momentarily forgot that he was in a formal setting. He flicked his tongue out, licking a bit of the cream from the spoon. He froze when he realized what he’d done. Then, he noticed Ryuu’s intense gaze and heat rose to his face, not from embarrassment but from the flare of hunger he’d seen in Ryuu’s eyes.

Kouta was tempted to tease him about his reaction. Instead, he clicked his spoon gently against the dessert plate, causing it to ring. As he’d intended, it pulled Ryuu out of the moment.

“So, you’re part Italian?” Kouta asked nonchalantly. He stifled a smile as Ryuu took a moment to get his bearings.

“Um…I…Excuse me.  Well, yes, and part Japanese from my father’s side.”

“Aha!” Kouta softly exclaimed as if he’d resolved a mystery. “That explains your features—if you don’t mind me saying that—and why you would open an Italian restaurant.”

“My mother says I have a pleasing intercontinental blend of features. Still, when I was growing up, there were kids who bullied me because of my looks,” Ryuu confided, with tightening lips and a downward glance. “It caused me to become a bit reclusive.”

Kouta didn’t like seeing the flash of sadness that touched his eyes. It made him feel protective of the man sitting across the table. He knew that, had he been around, he would have taken care of Ryuu in their childhood.

“Hey, be careful now. You’re going to make me cry,” Kouta joked, wanting to get Ryuu into a different mood.

Ryuu’s bashful smile appeared again, as he easily shook off the past; Kouta was glad to see him in a better frame of mind. They continued their meal in a playful but calm atmosphere.

After dessert, they talked a bit longer while sipping coffee mixed with a bit of grappa, an Italian brandy, which made for a heady brew. Kouta then decided to try the grappa by itself. He’d never had it like that and the swift path it burned down to his stomach caused his eyes to water a little. He wasn’t a novice at drinking alcohol but this one had managed to take him by surprise. Ryuu laughed at Kouta’s sudden tears but Kouta smiled good-naturedly, not minding that he was the source of amusement.

When the hour grew late, both prepared to leave. Ryuu led the way to the front of the restaurant where they spoke with some of the staff, telling them how much they’d enjoyed the service.

As they emerged to an evening filled with a soft mist from the recent spring rain Kouta felt relaxed, lulled by the isolation they had shared in the restaurant. Then, there was a squeal of female voices behind them.

“Excuse us, Kouta. Sorry to bother you,” he heard. He paused, halting his intended walk with Ryuu to where they both were parked. Kouta turned to see two teenage girls grinning at him, as they bowed several times.

“Hello,” he greeted them with a welcoming smile. These were two of the people who supported his band; he valued the lengths his fans went to show their enthusiasm. They’d always been quite respectful and, so far, he hadn’t required special protection like some other artists. He hoped things could continue this way. He never wanted to feel distant from his fans. So now, he gave the girls his full attention.

“We saw you while we were in the restaurant,” one of them said.

“…but we wanted to wait until you were finished eating,” the other added.

“Thanks, I appreciate that,” he told them.

They gingerly offered him two small pink notebooks and pens, asking him to sign them.

“This will only take a moment,” he explained to Ryuu.

“I’ll wait,” he murmured, walking a short distance away.

“Who’s that with you?” one of the girls started to ask. Then she quickly covered her mouth, her eyes wide.

“Tomoka!” her friend exclaimed, looking absolutely mortified.

Kouta only chuckled at the acute expressions on the girls’ faces. He was reminded of how the magnitude of just about anything could seem amplified to teenagers.

“Sorry.” The girl named Tomoka glanced at Kouta, her face reddening. She bowed several times. “Please don’t be upset. I didn’t mean it!”

Kouta glanced over at Ryuu, curious to see his reaction, but he had turned away.

When Kouta had put Tomoka at ease and finished talking with the girls, he sent them off with a hug before rejoining Ryuu.

“I hope you didn’t mind that,” Kouta murmured. He wanted to spend more time with Ryuu, but if impromptu meetings with fans were going to be bothersome for him, he wanted to know before anything became serious.

“Not at all,” Ryuu gave his assurance. “They seemed very nice.”

“Yes they are,” Kouta agreed, as he thought, Great, he’s reasonable.

“I’d like to see you again,” Ryuu said when they reached their cars.

“The same for me.”

“How about next Saturday night at Koldun? It’s really the only club I go to around here.”

“Why’s that?”

Ryuu explained that he rarely enjoyed the atmosphere of most clubs. Some years ago, he’d gone to Koldun on the suggestion of Jin, a close friend. He returned when the mood struck him because Jiro had his area under control.

Kouta was in agreement with Ryuu because he knew that Jiro was an excellent owner and a businessman who knew how to draw exclusive customers. Celebrities, as well as non-celebrities, could mingle with ease. Troublemakers were seldom present there because those who could not control themselves, celebrity or not, were dealt with swiftly and quietly. The club was rarely in the news unless it was about something positive.

“I hope it’s okay for us to go there again,” Ryuu said.

“That’s fine,” Kouta told him. “We could meet outside at 11 p.m.”

“I’ll be there…Kouta?”

“Yes?” He suddenly became aware that he had been staring at Ryuu’s mouth. The urge to kiss him was overwhelming.  He wondered what it would be like to feel his tongue sliding against his. Kouta’s eyes flicked up to Ryuu’s, embarrassed at being caught in his reverie.

“Do you want something?” Ryuu questioned, an eyebrow raised. The edges of his mouth were twitching in amusement.

“Um, no,” Kouta murmured, denying himself because they were in public.

“Alright.  If you’re really sure…” There was a knowing twinkle in Ryuu’s eyes. He slowly licked his lips, calling Kouta’s attention back to them.

Damn you, Kouta thought. What a tease!

Kouta eased into his vehicle, waved goodbye, and drove home. He felt himself begin to harden just thinking about Ryuu. In his mind, he’d already tasted him so many times.

Next Saturday seemed entirely too far away.

 Read Balance Chapter 2