Rating/Warnings: PG-13 for taking the slash market by storm.
Summary: Yuki's newest novel was really easy to write, but this whole releasing to the public thing is a bit more problematic.
AN: the sequel to "Quite The Effect", inspired by a comments exchange with ramen_addict. Thanks to musesfool who no doubt really wishes I would stop iming her about anime fic in which she has no interest.
Twelve Million Japanese Women Can't Be Wrong
Writing Japan's first mainstream hit homoerotic novel had been disturbingly easy.
For one thing, Yuki didn't have to constantly check for switched pronouns in the midst of love scenes. Two novels ago, one of those had slipped through the whole way to printing, leaving a nation's worth of school girls sighing over how easily the hero gave up control in bed to his girlfriend.
For another thing, Yuki didn't have to come up with plausible reasons for the main character to be irritated with the attractive young women vying for his attention. He was running out of ideas for those anyway, the skin sensitivity to estrogen solution might have been pushing it.
For a third thing, Yuki didn't have to do any of his own research. When he hit the plot hole in chapter eight which was holding up key action sequences, all he'd had to do was give Shuichi a permanent marker, three condoms, and half a box of peach pocky, and then stand back.
Things were going well enough, in fact, that when Yuki had shown up with the last chapter two weeks ahead of time, Miku was so dumbstruck that she was nearly hit by a car as she left the café. If Yuki had known it would be so easy to get rid of his editor, he would have written this novel years ago.
He was beginning to think there might be no snags at all, until he gave a chance interview about one of his earlier, out-of-print novels being re-released.
It was one of those early afternoon talk shows, where the female host twittered away at guests and dispensed advice about housekeeping, and everyone was supposed to be a better woman at the end of the hour. The coffee was good, even if the mug was pink, enabling Yuki to look more or less non-threatening until it was time for his segment.
He'd done this dozens of times, and it was very easy, you just nodded your head and said yes it is your book and yes it is doing very well and I am so glad that you enjoyed it, and once in a while you gave the camera a piercing gaze and tossed your hair just the tiniest bit.
"Ah, but Yuki-san," the hostess leaned closer just as she should have been winding down, and Yuki wrinkled his brow, "you must speak of the rumors of your newest novel!"
"Eh?" he asked. He glanced quickly at the other guest, a woman who could flambé the perfect duck or some such thing, and saw that she was leaning forward eagerly as well. "Well, it is still in the editing stages, so I'm afraid I can't say very much…"
"It is Yuki-san's first novel with both male protagonists!" the hostess announced proudly, cheeks flushing pink, and a titillated giggle rippled through the studio audience. "Isn't that so?"
"Yes, that's right," Yuki said grudgingly, already plotting Miku's demise for distributing publicity information without consulting him.
"But how does Shindou-san feel about this?" Both the host and the guest peered at him expectantly, edging even closer lest they miss a single word.
Yuki blinked, completely baffled. What the hell did the brat have to do with anything? He didn't even read the damn novels, so far as Yuki knew.
"Shindou doesn't…" he began, but was immediately interrupted by the other guest.
"Kyah, it's so romantic!" she sighed. "Shindou-san sings all those love songs for you, and now you're writing him a novel in return! I wish my boyfriend would write a novel about our love!"
Yuki's nostrils flared, but before he could get a word of protest out, the hostess was announcing they were out of time, and be sure to tune in tomorrow to find out what your dreams say about your marriage.
When Shuichi threw open the door and shouted that he was home that night, Yuki was sitting in front of the TV, still in shock. The remote was resting in his hand, and on the screen Yuki's face was frozen with his nostrils in mid-flare.
"Yuki, it's dark in here!" Shuichi scolded, switching on the floor lamp and flopping down beside him on the couch. "You'll hurt your eyes! What are you…oh, it's your interview from today!"
Shuichi plucked the remote out of Yuki's unresisting fingers and rewound the tape to the beginning of his segment, then hit the play button. Yuki didn't bother to watch, since he practically had the whole thing memorized by now. Instead he looked down at the head using his thigh for a pillow, mind curiously empty, fingers brushing through the pink strands unconsciously.
Until that insufferable cooking woman uttered the words 'my boyfriend', at which point Yuki's hand shot out to snatch the remote from Shuichi and jabbed the power button on the TV.
The picture blipped off, and Yuki threw the remote at the TV just for good measure.
"Yuki?" Shuichi asked, rolling over onto his back so that violet eyes were blinking up at Yuki in confusion.
"I'm calling it off."
"What?" Shuichi furrowed his brow.
"I'm calling off the novel." Yuki got up suddenly, letting Shuichi's head fall back to the couch with a thump. He stalked over to the sliding glass doors and rifled his pockets for his cigarettes and lighter.
"But why?" Shuichi sat up, eyes wide. "You really like this novel!"
Yuki grunted something noncommittal as he lit up, then took a long drag. He brought his forearm up to rest against the glass and leaned his head against his arm.
"I don't understand!" Shuichi whined, getting up from the couch. "You wrote this one in like half the time, you didn't miss any meetings with Miku, and you didn’t even try to kick me out once! This novel actually doesn't make you miserable!"
"Doesn't matter." Yuki watched Shuichi's reflection in the glass and saw his expression go from confused to annoyed.
"Dammit, Yuki!" Shuichi stomped over and tugged his shoulder to turn him around. "Will you tell me what your problem is?"
They stared at each other for several long heartbeats, and it wasn't until Shuichi threw his hands in the air and was turning away that Yuki said,
"They're going to know about us."
"What?" Shuichi turned back, face scrunched back into confusion.
"The novel, it…" Yuki dropped his gaze to the floor and gestured uselessly with his cigarette. "They're going to read it and think it's you in the…and then they'll know. About us."
Yuki was disgusted with the completely incoherence of his response, he was a writer for chrissake, but Shuichi seemed to have got the message.
"But, Yuki," Shuichi's expression softened, even though the confusion didn't clear completely, "people already know about us. We were on the news, remember?"
"It's not the same," Yuki grumbled. He sat heavily on the couch and ashed his cigarette in the ashtray on the coffee table. "They're going to know."
"But they already do!" Shuichi shook his head. "I write songs about you all the time! And people always ask about us at interviews! And we were on the news!"
"Not the same," Yuki repeated. He stubbed his cigarette out, then leaned his head on the back of the couch and closed his eyes.
"It is the same!" Shuichi shouted.
"You're too loud."
"And you don't make any fucking sense!"
Yuki shrugged without opening his eyes. He heard Shuichi give an inarticulate scream of frustration and then stomp out of the living room. A door slammed, and Yuki felt a momentary flash of amusement that Shuichi was trying to avoid him by hiding in Yuki's bedroom.
He was calling Miku as soon as he got the energy to get off the couch.
"Shuichi, you all right?"
"Fine," Shuichi grumbled, lifting his cheek from the tabletop just enough to see Hiro peering at him in concern.
"Really?" Hiro asked.
"Dammit Hiro, YES!" Shuichi shouted, sitting up the whole way so he could glare properly. "Why do you have to ask me the same question over and over! I'm FINE!"
"Good," Hiro relented, sliding into the chair next to Shuichi at the NG conference table, "because Sakano-san is on his way down and you're supposed to have three songs done by yesterday."
Grunting, Shuichi reached into the yellow Nittle Grasper backpack by his feet and pulled out a handful of crumpled notebook pages. He shoved them across the table at Hiro with a gruff "Here."
"They're done?" Hiro's eyebrows shot up, and he picked up the papers to examine them.
"I said they would be, didn't I?" Shuichi snapped, laying his head back down. "I'm not some kind of amateur!"
Before Hiro could reply, the door to the conference room slammed open, and Sakano descended upon the Bad Luck members, Suguru trailing along behind. Sakano launched right into a tearful temper tantrum, wailing and waving his hands and how could Shindou-san do this to him, and he didn't even pause when Hiro stuck the songs that he was screaming about in his hands, and they were all going be fired and have to live in shoeboxes, didn't Shindou-san understand?
In the end, K leaned in the door and fired several warning shots into the ceiling. Sakano clutched his chest and collapsed to the floor, taking Suguru down with him.
"Time to go to the studio!" K announced cheerfully, tossing the unconscious producer over his shoulder and giving the glaring Suguru a hand up. "Quickly now, or as manager I will have to kill you all! Ha ha!"
Half an hour later, Sakano was holding an ice pack to the back of his head and staring fretfully through the glass at Bad Luck as they tried out the second of Shuichi's new songs in the studio. K was standing beside him with his arms crossed, tapping his chin in a way that made Sakano bemoan the fact that he hadn't worn his Kevlar suit.
"These new songs," he began, glancing up nervously when K gave a 'Hmm' in reply. "They don't seem to be Shindou-san's usual style…" He trailed off as the studio door opened and Hiro came out into the booth. Shuichi and Suguru kept working inside the recording room.
"Nagano-san!" K boomed, leaning over Hiro. "Is there something troubling Shindou-san?"
"He won't tell me." Hiro shook his head. Crossing his arms, he came to stand beside K and Sakano and watched his bandmates through the window.
"These new songs!" Sakano began wringing the ice pack between his hands. "They are so graphic! And angry!"
"But they were on time," Hiro pointed out. He raised an eyebrow at K.
"Hmm, yes." K tapped his chin again. "Yes. Perhaps it is not so bad for Bad Luck's new album to have a little variety?"
"Variety?" Sakano stared up at K, lower lip trembling.
"Variety." Hiro laughed quietly.
"But perhaps we should make sure," K gave Hiro a pointed glance and caressed the butt of his gun, "that he is back to his old style for the remainder of the songs." Hiro gave another little laugh.
"Variety," moaned Sakano, pressing the ice to his temple.
"What do you mean," Yuki demanded, "too late?"
"Too late," Miku crossed her arms and glared at the author. "The manuscript has already been sent to the printers."
"Well, stop them!" Yuki shouted. "I refuse to let this novel be published!"
"You just have cold feet," Miku soothed. She guided Eiri to the chair on the other side of her desk and pushed him down into it, then leaned out the door to call for her secretary. "Kameko, bring tea!" And then after another look at Yuki, added, "Decaffeinated!"
Yuki tried to rise out of the chair and was promptly pushed back down.
"Now, Eiri," Miku leaned a hip up onto her desk and regarded the twitching novelist, "it is perfectly reasonable for you to be concerned about your career."
"That's not what I…"
"But there is no need to worry!" Miku pressed on, ignoring him. "We have done some preliminary consumer tests, and they have all come out very favorable. Everything will turn out fine, you'll see."
All of Yuki's further protests were interrupted by the arrival of the bustling secretary with the tea. Twenty minutes later he was sent on his way with a pat on the shoulder and the promise of a record-breaking release in several weeks.
Several weeks later, Sakano was sitting at an NG conference table, moaning quietly to himself and popping antacids like they were Koala Yummies. In front of him lay the final two songs for Bad Luck's album, turned in by Shuichi that morning.
"And how is our esteemed producer this afternoon?" K asked, striding in the door and throwing himself into a chair across the table.
"Have you seen Shindou-san's newest songs?" Sakano asked, waving the papers at K. "They're just as bad as the last batch! They're worse! It's the end of Bad Luck!"
"Let me show you something," K said. Sakano looked up long enough to see that K was holding a pair of CDs. K leaned over to the stereo sitting on the end of the table and put the first CD in. The harsh vocals and pulsing guitar that had been Shuichi's signature sound for the last few weeks filled the room.
"So what?" Sakano asked, laying his head in his hands. "Turn it off, I've been listening to it for weeks!"
"Ah, but listen to this." K popped out the CD and put in the next one. A very similar set of wailing rang out of the stereo.
"That…" Sakano looked from the stereo to K and back again. "That sounds just like…"
"The difference is that this band is number one on the West Coast," K reported, and when Sakano still looked perplexed, added, "in America. They call it 'emo'. It is trendy."
"Trendy." Sakano rolled the foreign word over his tongue. "The West Coast?"
"The West Coast." K smiled as though this entire thing had all been his idea. "Shindou-san's latest temper tantrum might just end up in an international tour."
"Inter…national…" Sakano tipped out of his chair in a faint, and K hurried off to put his gun to Shuichi's head in case he had any ideas about ending his fight with Yuki.
Shuichi trudged down the sidewalk for home, deep in thought. This had been a very strange day.
Yuki had done virtually nothing since his novel had been released except sit on the couch and smoke in silence. He hadn't even shouted at Shuichi, and he kept shooting him these looks that Shuichi couldn't decipher. After the past few weeks of arguing, it should have been a relief, but the signs of stress on Yuki's face were filling Shuichi with a sick dread. This morning Yuki had actually hugged Shuichi before he left for work, which could only be a sign of impending breakdown.
Then at the studio, K had cornered Shuichi and asked him a lot of questions about how he was feeling, seeming progressively more and more pleased at Shuichi's lackluster responses. When Shuichi had finally admitted that he didn't know if he and Yuki would ever make up, K had actually cackled in glee and inquired if Shindou-san didn't want to write a few more songs maybe right now?
And then on the way out Shuichi had run into Ryuichi, who had gushed over how well the album was coming along. Kumagoro, who was sporting eyeliner and a spiked collar, had given Shuichi a big hug and told him things would look up soon. If not, and Ryuichi's voice had made Shuichi shiver all the sudden, there was always California.
"Ooh, Eiri's so sexy!" A female voice startled Shuichi out of his sulk. "I can't wait to get home and read it!"
Shuichi glanced past the giggling school girls and saw that he was standing in front of a book store. In the window was a large display of Yuki's newest novel and a cardboard cutout of two men with their arms around each other. Before he could stop them, Shuichi's feet were carrying him inside the store.
He drifted over to the display and brushed fingers over one of the books. Shuichi didn't see what the big freaking deal was about this book anyway, although he did feel a little smug that it had been published after all, proving that even Yuki couldn't have his way all the time. There were several women lingering near the display as well, whispering and giggling and glancing around as though someone might catch them at any moment.
"Which one do you think is Shindou-san?" one woman asked her friend. "I think it's Daisuke, he's so sweet!"
"No no," her friend was holding open the book and pointing at the page. "It says right here that Mashiro is a good singer! That must be Shindou-san!"
Shuichi furrowed his brow at the book in his hands. They were only characters! Honestly, people didn't really think Yuki's book was just about them, did they?
But as Shuichi flipped through the book, he saw one scene that sounded an awful lot like when he'd come home from his last tour, and another that was suspiciously similar to Yuki's birthday dinner, and here was one that involved a permanent marker, three condoms and half a box of peach pocky…
"I bet this is what they're really like!" a woman off to the right exclaimed, and Shuichi's face flamed.
Maybe Yuki hadn't been so crazy after all.
"I'm home," Shuichi said as he came in the door and kicked off his shoes. "Yuki?"
Yuki was still on the couch, almost exactly where Shuichi had left him, but the ashtray was a lot fuller. The TV was on, but it was muted, and the colors washed Yuki's skin out in reds and blues in the fading daylight. Shuichi turned on the floor lamp with familiar exasperation.
"Yuki." Shuichi came to stand in front of Yuki, hands behind his back. Yuki looked up at him dully. "I picked up something on my way home."
He pulled his hands from behind his back to reveal Yuki's latest novel, purple metallic cover and all. Yuki sneered at it with open hatred.
"I looked through it a little," Shuichi said quietly, setting it on the coffee table. "And some of the things sounded pretty familiar…"
Yuki dropped his gaze to the floor, and Shuichi finally realized that the strange expression Yuki had been wearing lately was actually apology. Shaking his head, Shuichi climbed into Yuki's lap and wrapped arms around the writer's neck. Yuki stared down at him in confusion, as though it was the last place he expected Shuichi to be.
"It's okay, Yuki," he reassured. "You tried to tell me, but I wouldn't listen. But then there were these women at the bookstore, talking about the stuff we do like they knew us…it was creepy. I hated it!" Shuichi shivered a little and nestled closer against Yuki.
"Aren't you angry?" Yuki peered at Shuichi.
"I was." Shuichi shrugged. "Especially when I saw that bit in there with the pocky…" Shuichi's cheeks flushed pink again, and Yuki squirmed a little, "…but then I went and looked at your last novel. And there was stuff about us in there too. And the one before that, and the one before that."
"It's just," Yuki mumbled, looking even more uncomfortable, "you never read them anyway, and…I'd gotten kind of used to…"
"Using your one-night stands as fodder for smut?" Shuichi asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Finding inspiration wherever it might occur," Yuki growled in response. Then he seemed to remember that was what got him in trouble in the first place and dropped his gaze again.
"Yuuuuki," Shuichi sighed, snuggling up against him. He was quiet for a second, listening to Yuki's heart pound against his ear before he said, "Your characters have been a little bit of us the whole time, it's just that people have never noticed before. People sure are dumb, Yuki."
Yuki was still for a long moment before he brought his arms up to crush Shuichi tighter against his chest.
"Keh," he murmured, breath tickling Shuichi's scalp, "they are."
Shuichi heaved a huge sigh of relief and would have wriggled even closer if it were possible, but settled for nuzzling Yuki's neck.
"They aren't worth worrying about, right?" he asked.
"No," Yuki agreed.
"Good, because our new album's coming out in two weeks, and anybody who missed the novel will still be getting the whole picture."
Shuichi let the meaning of that sink in for a good minute.
"God," Yuki snapped, "you fucking brat!"
"Yuki?" Shuichi asked, then squealed as Yuki scooped him up roughly and stood, then tossed Shuichi over his shoulder.
"I'll give you something to screech about, you idiot," he snarled, striding for the bedroom. Shuichi struggled obligingly, flailing elbows and knees while Yuki called him names like he was making up for lost time.
"I better not see this in any novels, you pervert!" Shuichi exclaimed.
Yuki gave Shuichi's ass a stinging slap, and Shuichi bit Yuki's shoulder blade, and when Yuki dumped Shuichi unceremoniously onto the bed, both of them were grinning like idiots because everything was back to normal.
Then Miku called to say that she hoped Yuki was prepared to write Daisuke/Mashiro novels for the rest of his rockstar-shagging life, and Yuki snapped that she was interrupting in-depth research, and Shuichi snatched the cell phone out of his hand and hung up on Miku before hurling it out into the hallway.