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Where Do I Sign?

Two months ago...

A quiet knock on the door was answered with, “Come in.” Oki opened the door to Usaka Kazuomi's office.

“They're here, boss.”

“Show them in, then make sure we're not interrupted.”

Oki stood back to allow two men into the office, then closed the door. Usaka stood up from behind his desk and bowed politely. “Iwaki, Katou, please come in and have a seat.” He waved them to a small sitting area. “Thank you both for taking the time to meet with me.”

Iwaki Kyousuke, in his forties now, had aged gracefully into a silvering fox, still slender and fine-featured. His husband, Katou Youji, could easily pass as ten years younger than his actual thirty-nine.

“We're intrigued, Usaka. Why both of us?” Iwaki asked as they all settled into the comfortable chairs.

“I'm assuming you've heard the recent announcement that I'm producing a feature film, starring Saijou and Azumaya.” They nodded. “Well, I'm going to need a few actors with specific requirements that I thought you could help me with, Iwaki. And I need a director, Katou.”

“Me? Direct? I have only directed a few small projects over the years, Usaka.”

“And what sort of talents are you looking for?” Iwaki wondered. “My agency has no specialties when it comes to the actors we represent.”

Usaka gave them a look. “You can understand, I want no details about this project revealed until the last minute. That title I used in the press release is just a filler. Nothing we discuss can leave this office.”

They exchanged glances, then Katou answered for them. “Of course, Usaka. Top secret.”

Usaka produced two copies of the script for A Second Chance at First Love. “Here's the script. Saijou and Azumaya will be starring, but I'll need two featured actors for the side couple and a young woman with a name who will only play a cameo role – she's to be a decoy for the press, I'm afraid. And I want shooting to start by September so we can release it before Christmas. Fast, I know, but rumors are going to start no matter how careful we are. You don't need to read the whole thing to get an idea of what the story is, but please take a look.”

Usaka stood up and went out onto his balcony to smoke, leaving them alone to skim through the script.

The first thing they both noticed was the author. “Usami Akihiko? Seriously?” Iwaki muttered.

“The novelist? He's never written a script, has he?” Katou whispered back.

“Oh...this is...”

“It's a...”

Eyes met. “Gay romance?” they said together. They kept reading, not skimming anything. By the time they had gone through the entire script, the two men were hooked. Usaka was back at his desk, quietly handling correspondence while surreptitiously watching the pair. They're in, he thought, hiding a smile.

“Well, Usaka,” Iwaki finally spoke, “I can see why you want to keep this under wraps for now. And what you meant by 'specific requirements.' Am I right in thinking your stars are going to come out, using this movie as a...announcement of sorts?”

“I thought of your example.” Usaka joined them again. “When you two did Embracing Love, the people accepted your relationship. Saijou and Azumaya have already worked together too many times for it to be an on-set romance, but we want to win over the public for them. Plus, I think it's about time for a big, splashy gay love story, with a modern take. Usami's script, which he adapted from a BL novel, is a fresh look – treating the main couple just like any other love interests in a romance.”

“It's a wonderful script. How on earth did Usami-sensei get involved?”

“Well, that's a story I probably can't share the details of, but he volunteered and he's investing as an executive producer. I believe he's going to come out publicly as well.”

The couple gaped at Usaka.

“And I'm getting two songs at least from Bad Luck for the soundtrack. If you recall, the singer Shindo Shuichi is in a relationship with the writer Yuki Eiri. My...companion Arisu is going to work with them to produce the soundtrack.”

“Arisu? My god. You're grabbing the most prestigious, internationally renowned, soundtrack composer for this?” Katou was floored.

“Your companion?” Iwaki whispered. Usaka let it pass.

“I want nothing but the best. I want this to win awards. I want it so huge, no one would dare snub any of us for making a gay romance. I want to ram it down the public's throat and make them love everyone involved. We'll overwhelm and drown out the stuffy conservatives. This is 2019, and LGBT people need a boost in this country.”

“This could very well do that. The story is excellent, takes their relationship seriously, with none of the ridiculous clichés gay characters usually get stuck with.” Iwaki was thinking. “Could I play the store owner?”

“Iwaki! You haven't acted in ages!”

Iwaki smiled. “What? You don't want to direct me?”

“Direct you? Shit. Usaka, are you sure you want me as director?”

“Yes,” Usaka answered decisively. “You have a light touch and you get the best out of performers. Everyone says your sets were fun and comfortable, and that's important with this one. I researched everything, believe me. And yes, I thought of you, Iwaki, for the role of the owner. Katou can even jump in there somewhere. And I want Usami-sensei and his boyfriend to do cameos. Maybe Yuki and Shindo, too. Though Shindo will have to wear a wig – that pink hair of his is distracting. Oh, and the couple the story is based on. Luckily, it takes place in a department store, so we can mix them all into the shoppers.”

Usaka sat back in his chair and waited to see what they'd say.

“So, the secondary couple – those are the two parts you were referring to with special requirements?” Iwaki asked.

“Yes, there is one kissing scene for them, so the two actors will have to agree to that. The entire cast needs to be okay with this subject matter, even though there won't be anything explicit. We don't want any sour apples making a fuss. I've got an insanely tight non-disclosure contract for the cast and crew, but it would only take one disgruntled person to wreck my plans.”

“Simple enough sets, aside from the store itself. Hmm...six weeks for main shooting...” Katou was already planning. “Set builder, costume designer, location scout, cinematographer...”

“I've already made a list. And there's a big department store that recently went out of business – I arranged to use it. We can remodel the inside as we choose.”

Katou grinned at Usaka. “You've done half my work already!”

“I take it that means you want the job?”

“Where do I sign? Iwaki, this is going to be fun! We haven't worked together in a while.”

Iwaki rolled his eyes. “It's going to be a lot of stress for you. But it's an amazing opportunity.” He stared at Usaka. “You have our support.”

“Thank god. I was counting on you two.” Usaka let out a long sigh. “Take the script with you. Just keep it secure. Katou, I have the contract here. Iwaki, you can confer with him about casting. And we'll meet once a week for updates, next week Saijou and Azumaya will be here. Sound good?”

“Let's do this!”