Chapter 8

The next morning Yuki, Shuichi, and the rest of Bad Luck were summoned to NG Records for a joint strategy/making-sure-no-one-does-anything-stupid session with K, Sakano, Mizuki, and Tohma. Sakano thought they needed a strategy for dealing with the latest media frenzy. K, Mizuki, and Tohma were mostly just worried someone was going to do something stupid.

Yuki and Shuichi were the first to arrive. K-not accounting for Yuki's tendency toward punctuality-told them to come at a quarter to nine even though the meeting what scheduled for nine sharp. K was accustomed to having to compensate for Shuichi's chronic tardiness. The receptionist directed them to meeting room three. Shuichi and Yuki went upstairs and made themselves comfortable in the well-padded executive style chairs that were arranged around a long oval-shaped table.

Shuichi spent a good minute playing with his chair, adjusting the height, the tension in the back, and then spinning round and round to thoroughly test out the swivel. Yuki, feeling that he'd been extremely tolerant to let Shuichi's childish behavior go on as long as it had, grabbed the back of the chair- abruptly stopping Shuichi in mid-spin. "Don't play with the chair," Yuki ordered.

Shuichi opened his mouth to protest, noticed Yuki's still stormy expression, and thought better of it. Yuki had been in a foul mood ever since he saw that newspaper. Yesterday, Yuki scarfed down lunch without saying a word to Shuichi. Then, he retreated to his office for the rest of the day. When Shuichi tried to talk to him, they ended up in a stupid fight-screaming at each other over which set of crazy fans, Shuichi's or Yuki's, was responsible for the picture. That night, they went to bed sticking assiduously to their own sides of the bed and still not speaking to each other-something that hadn't happened for a very long time.

Yuki inspected the not spinning Shuichi out of the corner of his eye. Shuichi was gnawing on his bottom lip and his eyes were nervously darting around the room, looking for a distraction. The brat was clearly stressed about something. Yuki started to think he might possibly have been just the tiniest bit hard on the kid. Deciding to take pity on Shuichi, Yuki turned his chair toward Shuichi's, placed one hand at the base of Shuichi's skull, and pulled the singer in for a kiss.

Shuichi froze in shock for a split second when he felt Yuki's tongue slide soothingly over the lip Shuichi had been gnawing at. Quickly getting over his surprise, Shuichi wound his arms around Yuki's neck and moaned encouragingly while unconsciously managing to migrate from his own chair to Yuki's lap.

Just then, the door to the conference room swung open and banged against the wall. K stepped through the door he'd just kicked open, carrying an arm full of newspapers with a spindle of slides balanced on the top. Hiro trailed in just behind him.

K saw Shuichi straddling Yuki, glanced down at his watch, then did a double take. Shuichi wasn't supposed to be there yet. "The meeting doesn't start until 0900. Carry on," K said blithely as he placed the newspapers on the table and loaded the spindle into the slide projector stationed at the back of the room.

"You're early," Hiro observed as he sat down in the chair opposite Yuki and Shuichi.

"Someone told us the wrong time," Yuki said, giving K an evil look. K was oblivious; he was too busy flipping through the newspapers he'd brought in.

Shuichi, noticing that Hiro wasn't as chipper as he had been the past few weeks, asked, "Is something wrong? Everything is still okay with Ayaka and her parents, isn't it?"

"Yeah... I think," Hiro said scratching the back of his head and grinning sheepishly. "Ayaka called me about invitations to the engagement party last night and I kind of dozed off-but she wasn't pissed."

On the band's stop in Kyoto, Hiro visited Ayaka's family, and the couple got permission from her parents to marry. Ayaka's mother immediately approved of 'such a polite, handsome, young man.' Hiro wasn't what she'd been picturing when she'd heard the words 'rock star' at all. Ayaka's father was a harder sell, but after looking at Hiro's earnings statement and investment portfolio, he grudgingly gave his approval as well. Now, Ayaka and her mother were already planning the wedding-one of those elaborate all day affairs with a guest list in triple digits. It was tentatively scheduled the spring of next year.

"She keeps asking my opinion on wedding plans," Hiro went on to explain, "But as long as the marriage is legal, I don't care what kind of food is served at the reception. I think she's starting to think I'm having second thoughts."

"Are you having second thoughts?" Yuki asked pointedly. Shuichi gave Hiro an apologetic look on Yuki's behalf-Yuki only asked questions like that because he didn't know any better.

"No, not at all," Hiro said with conviction. "If it were up to me, we'd elope tomorrow. I'm just worried she thinks I might be because I'm not as excited about flowers and dress patterns as she is."

"Did you tell her what you just told us?" Shuichi asked as he rearranged himself to sit sideways in Yuki's lap instead of straddling him-the better to face Hiro.

"Of course he didn't," Yuki interjected. "Hiro has better sense than that. Telling a woman you don't care about the nitpicky details of 'the most important day of her life' is just asking for a fight."

"So you think I'm going to have to fake enthusiasm for the next year or so?" Hiro asked as if he already knew the answer but was praying someone would tell him different.

"Either that or make a pointless romantic gesture from time to time to make up the difference," Yuki suggested.

Shuichi simply beamed in happiness to see his lover and best friend getting along so well. Hiro had thawed considerably toward Yuki during the tour-seeing Yuki and Shuichi bickering like an old married couple or cuddling on the couch had significantly altered Hiro's perception of the grumpy author. Only hearing about what Yuki had done or said secondhand from Shuichi after one of their blowups didn't paint the best picture of Yuki. After witnessing some of Shuichi and Yuki's better moments, Hiro's lingering doubts about Yuki actually being good for his best friend were finally cleared up.

Yuki found he could tolerate Hiro better than he could most people. Hiro didn't have any outstandingly irritating habits and he didn't want anything more from Yuki than what Yuki was planning to do anyway. All Hiro asked was that he make Shuichi happy. Although Yuki wouldn't be caught dead saying anything to that effect, he really did like to keep his adorable brat happy. Also, Hiro was unwaveringly loyal to Shuichi, and loyalty was a trait Yuki placed extremely high value on.

"I could do something romantic," Hiro said contemplatively, mulling over his options for placating Ayaka. "But it can't be anything too obvious. If I suddenly haul out moonlit walks and candles she's going to get suspicious."

"Do whatever you did when you first met, maybe throw in a nice dinner, but nothing too fancy," Yuki suggested. "It worked for you the first time and it'll be symbolic."

"You're really good at this," Hiro observed.

"I write romance novels for a living, it's my job," Yuki said dismissively.

"Uh, Yuki? Why don't you ever-" Shuichi started.

"Don't even say it," Yuki cut Shuichi off. "Women live for that romantic crap, but you should know better. It's all just a game people play to get what they want. Romance is pretty words and empty gestures that have nothing to do with reality."

"Not everyone is like that," Shuichi protested. Before the argument could go any further, the minute hand on the clock over the door ticked over to point directly at the twelve. Suguru and Tohma walked in-precisely on time. Sakano followed right behind, pushing a cart with tea, coffee, and all the necessary accoutrements.

"Good morning everyone," Tohma said, giving everyone his usual genial smile. Suguru quietly sat down between Hiro and K, and Sakano started passing out beverages fixed just the way people liked them. Taking his place at the head of the table, Tohma continued, "Mizuki-san telephoned to say she's stuck in traffic and to start without her. Everyone please have a seat so we can begin... There's plenty of room for everyone," Tohma added looking pointedly at Shuichi who was still sitting in Yuki's lap.

Shuichi blushed crimson and started to get up. Yuki, whose leg was starting to fall asleep and was about to tell Shuichi to get off anyway, suddenly changed his mind. Yuki shifted Shuichi's weight to his other leg, wrapped his arms around Shuichi's waist to pull him closer, and rested his chin on Shuichi's shoulder. After getting the pink haired singer properly settled, Yuki looked over at Tohma with a dry challenging look, as if to say, "I dare you." Yuki loved Tohma like a brother, but he'd had just about as much meddling in his life from the older man as he was going to take.

Tohma blinked a couple times, smiled benignly at Yuki and Shuichi-ceding the point for now-and took a sip of the tea Sakano had served him. "Excellent tea, exactly as I like it, thank you Sakano-san," Tohma said smiling at Sakano.

"You're welcome," Sakano stammered out, blushing like a schoolgirl.

"K, what did you find out?" Tohma asked.

K picked up a remote and pushed a few buttons. A screen lowered from the ceiling at the front of the room and the lights dimmed. The slide projector clicked on and the picture that had appeared in yesterday's newspaper appeared on the screen. In a rarely heard no-nonsense tone, K began his presentation.

"As you can see there are no reflections nor is there a window frame present in the picture, also taking the perspective of the photo in consideration," here K clicked over to a new slide that had line diagrams of stick figures on beds and possible camera angles, "the perpetrator had to have been in the same room with you when the picture was taken. Neither a hidden camera, nor a person stationed outside the hotel with a telephoto lens could have achieved the same results."

"K-san," Suguru said when K paused to look around the room and check to be sure everyone was following so far. "You said it was a hotel room, how can you be sure? None of the surrounding room or furniture is shown in the photo."

"Excellent question," K said, beaming at Suguru as if he was an enthusiastic professor pleased with a particularly bright student. "I was just getting to that. By the process of elimination, I was able to determine not only that it was a hotel, but which particular hotel it was."

K flipped back to the first slide, "In the original photo the light source is clearly on the right. In their apartment," K clicked over to another shot of Shuichi and Yuki sleeping together-this time both were wearing PJs and keeping to their own sides of the bed, "the window is on the left."

"And where did that picture come from?" Yuki growled at K.

"A manager must take an interest in all aspects of his client's life if he's going to be prepared for any eventuality. I could have taken notes, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words," K explained, finishing his comment with one of his trademark insane sounding laugh.

Remembering that the gun-toting maniac was indeed a gun-toting maniac, Yuki dropped the subject.

Getting back to the original point, K started flipping through pictures of hotel rooms, "The light was wrong for almost all of the rooms assigned to Yuki and Shuichi during the tour. This one, the window is on the left, that one it's facing the wrong direction, the next has a tree in front of it casting shadows." Quickly flipping through a succession of rooms it couldn't be and pointing out what was wrong with each, K finally got to the rooms it could have been, "There were only two possibilities, but one of those hotels uses only cream colored sheets," K flipped past a picture of a bed with cream sheets. "The sheets in the photo are plain white-leaving the hotel in Nagoya as the only possibility," K finished triumphantly, pulling up a picture of the outside of the hotel.

At some point during this explanation, Shuichi had leaned back against Yuki's shoulder and dozed off. Hiro was making a valiant effort to stay awake, but he was just barely suppressing jaw-popping yawns himself. The slides and K's monologue were just too much like science class. Even Yuki was having a hard time paying attention, after the first few slides he started mentally composing the epilogue to his current novel. Sakano and Tohma didn't even attempt listening to the presentation-they were quietly whispering back and forth about the details of some new business contract. Suguru, on the other hand, was sitting up straight, hands clasped in front of him, and paying close attention.

Finally, K got to the point everyone was interested in. "Upon politely questioning the hotel staff, the culprits were overcome with guilt and confessed their crimes," K said, unconsciously caressing his gun in such a way as to imply that K's idea of polite questioning probably didn't match up with any normal person's definition of 'polite' and that the culprits probably confessed out of some strong emotion which was likely less like guilt and more like fear. K brought up the next slide, which consisted of school photos of two teenage girls. "Siagyo Minako and Kamata Ami," K introduced the two girls-pointing to each picture in turn.

Seeing that a point of interest had finally arrived, Yuki nudged Shuichi awake.

"They were working as maids as a summer job and entered the room using their staff pass key. Originally, the girls planned to keep the pictures secret and only for their own personal use," here K smirked, thinking about what kind of use they might have put them to, "But, Siagyo wanted to buy a car, so she sold the pictures to get the money for a down payment. It looks like we're dealing with run of the mill opportunists rather than crazed stalkers."

"I assume the hotel dismissed the girls when this information came to light," Tohma stated.

"They were fired on the spot and the manager immediately called Tokyo University to reverse the recommendations for admittance he'd written for them," K explained.

"Uh... Isn't that a little harsh?" Hiro interjected. "Something as suspicious as a revoked recommendation on their records could keep them from getting into even a second rate college. They're not ax murderers, they just made a mistake."

"I wouldn't worry about it too much. There are plenty of good trade schools that won't even look at their records as long as they can pay the tuition," Yuki replied, not at all sympathetic.

Just then Mizuki ducked into the room. She apologized for being late and sat down next to Yuki and Shuichi, across the table from Suguru, and asked, "What did I miss?"

"Two hotel maids snuck in their room and took pictures. They've been fired and have to go to trade school instead of university now," Suguru explained succinctly.

"Thank you, K-san, for explaining how it happened. But, what are we going to do now? It's too late to avoid a scandal. Everyone has already seen the picture. What are we going to do to keep it from getting out of hand? We were going to release the new single next month, maybe we should push it back till things blow over?" Sakano asked, starting to work himself up to one of his episodes. Tohma headed off Sakano's spaz before itgot as far as hyperventilation by patting Sakano's shoulder and assuring him that all would proceed as originally scheduled.

"I don't think we need to worry about a scandal. Shuichi and Yuki's relationship is already common knowledge. The fact that they sleep in the same bed is hardly shocking news," Mizuki pointed out.

"But..." Sakano started to protest the easy dismissal of his concerns.

"Before worrying about what the press might say, perhaps we should take a look at what they are already saying," Tohma suggested reasonably.

"Right," K agreed as he started to pass out the newspapers he'd brought in. As the papers went around the table, they realized that instead of several copies of the same paper the stack actually consisted of the entertainment and society pages of all the various periodicals published that day which contained some mention of Yuki Eiri, Shindo Shuichi, or Bad Luck.

Looking down at the page he'd taken, Hiro snorted in amusement and read aloud, "'Upon quizzing purchasers of the magazine at a local market, Akemi, 17, said "It's like, if Shu-chan were with some chick, I'd be all 'What does SHE have that I don't?' but since he's with Yuki Eiri that's okay 'cause I'd pick Eiri over me too."' Looks like your relationship is a-okay with Akemi, aren't you glad?" Hiro said grinning in amusement.

"Ecstatic," Yuki said sarcastically.

"This is more of the same," Mizuki added. Then she read aloud from her section, "'Two hot guys... together. That's just so hot. I'm getting excited just thinking about it,' then the writer goes on to detail the best dance clubs in the Gunma prefecture."

"Aww, that's really sweet," Shuichi said, drawing everyone's puzzled stare. "Not that," Shuichi clarified, rolling his eyes. "This," he said holding up the page he was reading. "'It's great to see two people so deeply in love that they seek each other out even in sleep. Those kinds of feelings are hard enough to find in normal life. Considering the pressures of fame, fortune, and also that they just happen to be the same sex, the relationship of Shindo-san and Yuki-san is not only amazing, but inspiring as well. Seeing that picture in the morning post gives me hope that one day I will find my special someone and be just as happy as they are right now.'"

"That is really sweet," Mizuki agreed, sharing a goofy grin with Shuichi.

"Sweet isn't the word," Yuki disagreed, looking like he was about to gag.

Not wanting to sit around all day reading out the statements of gushing fans on the subject of Shuichi and Yuki's relationship, Tohma decided to cut straight to the chase, "Has anyone found a comment on the picture that isn't glowing praise?"

All around the table people shook their heads except for Suguru. "There's an opinion of a sociologist in this one that isn't exactly praise, but it's not critical either," Suguru said, "She says that Japanese women naturally admire romantic relationships between men because women are treated as second class citizens here and two men together is the only possible way a relationship can be between equals. She thinks that if women were treated better in society Yuki-san and Shuichi's relationship would be reviled and considered selfish, but since women are lesser, they serve as role-models and are a valid aspect of pop-culture."

"Now that we've established that most of the women in Japan are completely insane, what are we going to do about the photos?" Yuki said irritably. "It might not be hurting my career any, but I still don't want my personal life spread across the front page of the paper."

"Me neither," Shuichi agreed, massaging the back of Yuki's neck soothingly.

"I'm afraid there's not much we can do at this point," Tohma said apologetically. "The picture has already run. Even if we had found out about it before publication, it's doubtful we could have stopped it. Privacy laws are rarely interpreted to protect public figures."

"If there's nothing we can do, why couldn't K have just told us that we don't have a stalker over the phone instead of all of us having to waste an entire morning for no apparent reason?" Yuki inquired.

"Maybe there is something we can do," Suguru contradicted.

"You have an idea?" Tohma asked curious to know what his cousin came up with. Tohma really did call the meeting to waste everyone's time. Better to kill a morning discussing nothing than to have Shuichi or Yuki talking to the media while still wound up and stressed over the issue-the picture was nothing, but, considering the kinds of statements Yuki and Shuichi had a tendency to make, their reactions could have done some damage.

"The public has already seen parts of Yuki and Shuichi's life that are supposed to be private. We can't take that back. But, the public doesn't have to know that what they saw really was private," Suguru explained.

"Huh?" Shuichi said.

Judging from his audience's expressions, Suguru saw that although his cousin seemed to know what he was talking about, no one else quite managed to follow. To clue the rest of the table in on his plan, Suguru explained in detail, "We're shooting the video for 'Everyday Life' next week. The director already said that he wants to shoots bits of the band's day-to-day life-waking up, brushing our teeth, going to the grocery store, things like that-to cut with live concert footage. If Yuki-san agreed to appear in the video, a scene just like the picture in the newspaper could be filmed."

"Everyone would think the picture was from the video shoot, not a glimpse inside your bedroom," Hiro agreed with the plan. "Maybe I should ask Ayaka to make an appearance. If we're getting married, the press is going to go after her sometime. Everyone seeing us together for the first time in a video has to be better than the media ambushing us on a date," he added, contemplating the implications of his own situation. "At least with a video we've got some control."

"Appearing in a Bad Luck video would be a great promotional opportunity," Mizuki added encouragingly. "It would get you exposure to an audience that rarely reads and could significantly boost sales."

"Yuki, please say you'll be in the video," Shuichi pleaded, turning puppy dog eyes on Yuki full force. Acting with Yuki sounded like a lot of fun.

Looking around the table and seeing that everyone seemed to think it was a good idea, Yuki admitted to himself the benefits of appearing in a Bad Luck video. Not being able to dredge up any negatives to counteract the positives of making an appearance-besides the standard negative of hating to be in front of a camera-Yuki grudgingly agreed to do the video.