Daisuke Watanabe didn’t usually seek out Takumi Saito but the other man was nearly his own age and, most importantly, currently an island of serenity; making the most of a rehearsal break with a book in the first row of seats.
“Mind if I join you, Takumi-san? I don’t want to interrupt your reading; I just want to sit with the grown-ups.”
“Please,” the Hyoutei actor waved at the adjacent seat and smirked. “Trouble in Seigaku Gakuen?”
Daisuke stretched out in the seat with a groan, “Someone sent one hundred cream puffs to Aiba and he generously shared. Last I saw they were building catapults out of hair accessories and screeching in stereo,” he shot Takumi a long suffering look. “How did Shirota handle them?”
“Handle them?” the other man scoffed. “Shirota probably sent the cream puffs in the first place.”
Daisuke shuddered, Well, they make me feel like I’m the last sane person in the asylum and I refuse to go back there until they’ve calmed down. And I’m shutting up now,” he closed his eyes with a heavy sigh and Takumi returned to his book.
True to his word Daisuke was quiet, napping for several moments before opening his eyes and turning his attention to the few actors practicing on the stage. “Is that even legal?”
“Hmm?” Takumi murmured without glancing up.
“The hip shaking,” the Seigaku actor nodded at the stage where Takumi’s Hyoutei castmate and doubles partner was going through a dance routine. “Aoyagi’s barely 18, isn’t he?”
“Are you indirectly calling Ueshima a pervert?” Takumi’s lips quirked in amusement as he shot Daisuke a sidelong look. “He choreographed the routine, after all, and cast Ruito when he was fifteen.”
“If the cat fits…” Daisuke shut his eyes once more.
“If the cat fits in what? And what cat?”
Daisuke opened one eye, brow furrowed. “Isn’t that the saying? The English saying?” Takumi’s brow followed suit as they considered this for several seconds.
“Cap, not cat!” the Seigaku actor started in his seat as Takumi spoke clearly and unexpectedly. He repeated the two words in English, stressing the endings.
“Yes, that makes more sense,” Daisuke admitted. “Your English is good.”
“I get by,” the other man dismissed the compliment with a shrug. “Where did you hear that phrase, anyway?”
“Some American porn film, actually.” Their eyes met in sidelong glances: Daisuke’s vaguely embarrassed, Takumi’s vaguely nonplussed.
“Oh,” Takumi responded, “perhaps you were right the first time, then.”
“You should pay Aoyagi some attention,” Daisuke changed the subject. “He keeps looking over here.”
“He probably thinks I should be practicing.” Takumi turned a page serenely.
“If he wanted you on the stage with him he’d yell over here for you,” Daisuke contradicted. “I haven’t noticed him being shy about bossing you before. No, he wants you to look at him.”
“I thought you weren’t supposed to be interrupting my reading,” Takumi reminded his companion, slumping lower in his seat and setting his book on his knees. It was an ungainly position for a tall, usually elegant, man but perfect for covert surveillance of the stage. Daisuke, watching his companion rather less covertly, noticed the long lashed gaze lift several times to the dancers while the fingers turned not a page.
As though he could sense it, Aoyagi’s movements seemed to take on a new intensity and deeper sensuality than necessary to make fangirls scream, in Daisuke’s opinion. One of the teenager’s glances collided with Takumi’s clandestine peeking and the youngster smiled knowingly.
“See what I mean?” Daisuke murmured, “That’s purely for you, Takumi-san.”
“You worry about your own underage admirer and let me ignore Ruito,” Takumi said firmly, “or not,” he added silently.
“Who are you talking about?” Daisuke demanded.
Takumi rolled his eyes, “Ohhh, yes, Buchou. Thank you, Dai-chan…,” His imitation of Hamao Kyousuke’s enthusiastic, breathless tone and admiring expression wasn’t half bad, Daisuke considered; and only slightly malicious.
As though conjured by Takumi’s mimicking, Hamao Kyousuke wandered onstage. He greeted his rehearsing cast mates cheerfully, his eyes roaming the stage as though searching for someone. As he passed Aoyagi, the boy stepped into Mao’s space and whispered to the younger actor. A moment later Mao turned his sparkling dark eyes and wide smile toward the pair in the seats. Aoyagi skimmed his hand up Mao’s arm, fingertips stroking at the crook of his elbow and deliberately and impishly stuck out his tongue at his elders.
Daisuke smiled benevolently on this by-play, noticing that it cost Takumi some effort to keep his unflappable expression in place. Now chattering eagerly, Aoyagi and Mao vanished into the wings on business of their own.
“Those kids,” Daisuke laughed, “Were you that…bold…when you were a teenager, Takumi-san?”
“Are you kidding? I could barely talk to people I liked, far less flirt!” Takumi stretched his long arms and legs out, arching his obviously cramped back with a sigh. Daisuke briefly and discreetly appreciated the long line of the other man’s throat and the strip of bare skin above his waistband.
“There was another model at the agency my first year – about 25, handsome, sophisticated,” Takumi sat up straighter in his seat and tucked his book under his arm. “We worked together twice and I made a fool of myself tripping over my jaw and blushing every time he spoke to me. I thought...” Takumi’s voice trailed off, brow furrowing.
“I just realised I can’t remember his first name,” Saito’s tone was astonished. “I tied myself in knots over this man for a year and now I can’t remember his name!”
“Such is the fate of all doe eyed teenage first crush objects,” Daisuke patted Takumi’s shoulder soothingly and bit the inside of his own cheek to keep from laughing, “to be eventually consigned to the recycling bin of the heart and mind. Imagine how Mao and Aoyagi will feel in ten years.”
Takumi flinched the tiniest bit. Daisuke chattered on, lifting his fingers in air quotes and his voice in youthful mimicry, “Remember those costars we were so crazy about when we were kids? What were their names again? They must be middle aged by now…Be careful, you’ll hurt yourself,” This last was addressed to Takumi who had stood up so quickly he had nearly fallen over his own feet.
“Thank you.” Takumi righted himself and retrieved his book which had slid back down onto the seat. “Thank you, Daisuke-san for the chat but I should get back to Rui…rehearsing.”
“Thank you for the company,” Daisuke returned, fishing out his phone and keeping half an eye on Takumi as he scrolled through the contacts. Striding determinedly off always looked so much more impressive when one had mile long legs and flowing hair. Sighing, the Seigaku actor found the contact he wanted, added a ‘thumbs up’ emoji and hit ‘send.’
Several days later:
“Everything in the garden is lovely, then?” Daisuke wasted his new English idiom on Mao who glanced round the café they were currently in, gave a confused, if sweet, smile and returned to his dessert.
“I did well then, Mao?” Daisuke tried again.
“Oh, yes, thank you, Dai-chan!” Mao beamed a whipped cream bedecked smile. “Takumi-san came in and swept Ruito off and they had a long talk. They are going to spend some time alone together and perhaps have a few dates. Ruito is grateful for your trouble on his behalf.”
“Who am I to deny Aoyagi happiness?” Daisuke returned the smile. “And it was fun to wind up Takumi like that. The man certainly doesn’t waste any time.” He sobered slightly, “It’s still not a sure thing, Mao-kun. Takumi and Ruito are at very different stages of life.”
“Ruito knows that. He just wants a chance to show Takumi-san what he has to offer and that he’s no longer that little, naïve costar with a crush. Even if Takumi-san refuses a romantic relationship, Ruito is determined it will make no difference to their friendship.”
Scoffing in the face of Mao’s bright eyed, earnest sincerity in his friends would be sacrilege. Daisuke held his peace and was rewarded with a trademark Mao smile like the sun rising over the mountains in springtime. Mao too was growing up and fast leaving behind the schoolboy Daisuke had met two years ago. Unbidden, an image came to his mind of Mao at twenty one, grown into the promise of his lanky limbs and pretty features. His bubbly sweetness matured to gentle empathy, his stubborn streak grown to determination, his open, enthusiastic nature hopefully undimmed by the world. Would his little costar with a crush want a chance with him then? Wouldn’t someone else have snapped up his Mao long before then?
“Dai-chan?” the voice pulled Daisuke out of his morose daydream of waving farewell to Mao and his inamorata from the balcony of the old Tenimyu actors retirement home.
“Would you have dinner with me, next June? The night after my birthday?”