Takahashi Misaki was sitting on the couch tying a bright yellow ribbon on Suzuki-san when the great Lord Usami Akihiko, youngest ever recipient of the Naomori Award for Literature (and many others since), member of the esteemed and powerful (and dysfunctional) Usami family, secret author of a slew of hugely popular BL novels, and Academy Award-nominated screenplay writer threw open the door of his office and stalked past Misaki covered in a dark aura.
He headed straight for the balcony, where he dug out his emergency pack of cigarettes and lit one, puffing on it in contemplation. He stood like a model posing for a statue, tall and gorgeous and stately, staring out over the rooftops of Tokyo.
Misaki rolled his eyes. “What now, Suzuki-san? Should I ask him what's wrong and stroke his gigantic ego, or ignore him until he stops being melodramatic? Ignore him? Excellent advice, Suzuki-san.”
Usagi (only the two Takahashi brothers called him that) resolutely pretended he did not hear Misaki's loud “conversation” with the stuffed bear. Instead, he struck another pose and pronounced in his deep, velvety voice, “Shinjū!”
“Is that an English curse?”
“Misaki! Why must you spoil my performance with your disturbingly lower-than-average vocabulary? How can you work in the publishing business and not know what that word means?”
Misaki did know what it meant but he was not about to play along with Usagi's theatrics. He tried to derail.
“Apparently, I work there because Aikawa needs my constant help managing you, Isaka thinks I'm fun to tease, and Kirishima took pity on me. And maybe because they thought I'd also be a big help with Ijuuin-sensei. None of which requires me to know more than the average middle-schooler. They keep me around for troublesome authors and the president's amusement.”
It worked. Usagi was distracted and dropped his pose. “Huh? What are you babbling about?”
“I learned a new big word recently. Nepotism. When I was asking Aikawa to join IT&S, she explained the concept to me in little words I could understand. I got the job because of you, not on my own merits.” Misaki was surprised by the hint of bitterness in his voice. He hadn't given it much thought after that conversation, but it must have irked him more than he knew.
“Don't be absurd. You are a hard worker and you're smart and everyone loves you. Whatever the reason behind you being hired to begin with, you've proven yourself ten times over since. And don't mention that mangaka! He may have realized he was wasting his time chasing you, but I still want to punch him.”
Usagi stubbed out his cigarette and stalked into the kitchen to wash his hands, splash water on his face and rinse out his mouth. Sneaking a smoke was allowed but the lingering smell would make him want another.
Misaki watched him go through the little routine with a smile. Usagi had given up smoking for him. Usagi was currently frowning in jealousy over him. And Usagi had reassured him immediately, telling Misaki only the bald truth. Usagi did not stroke Misaki's ego when it came to these types of discussions. In fact, Usagi would rather he didn't work at all, especially now, and would not say Misaki was good at his job if he wasn't.
“So...how shall we avoid your deadline, then? Shinjū by which method? Poison? Slit our bellies open? Jump off the balcony hand-in-hand? Find a river to drown in? No, that one's unreliable - one of us might survive and ruin the whole thing.”
“Misaki!” Usagi pounced on him, knocking poor Suzuki-san onto the floor. “Little liar! You did know what 'shinjū' means. But why should it have anything to do with my deadline?”
“Why else would you want us to die gloriously in a romantic double-suicide pact? You're way behind schedule and Aikawa will soon be screaming at you over the phone, right?” Misaki asked, holding his theatrical lover close, where in the past he would have struggled and tried to shove him off.
“I have no idea what you might be referring to. I never miss a deadline.”
He felt Usagi take a deep breath. “I can't focus. It's not about the book, it's about the world. I keep checking to see if we can fly to England. We can't. I know we can't. The world is a disaster and I'm lucky to have you here safe with me. It's getting worse, not better. The number of people infected is skyrocketing. I feel like I should do something, but I can't do anything except write. I'm useless.”
Usagi was eccentric and had hermit-like tendencies and could be incredibly self-centered at times. Those were self-preservation techniques. He was sensitive and moody and emotional beneath the surface. No one could write the way he did - stories full of passion, confusion, anger, laughter, despair, and hope - without having a deep well of empathy and a wild imagination. Like all artists, he sometimes doubted there was any real worth to what he created.
“Usagi, your...you have a lot of money, don't you?” He never asked, didn't really want to know how rich Usagi was. Misaki made a big deal about living on a budget and not over-spending but was fairly certain it wasn't and would never be a concern for them.
Usagi raised his head from Misaki's shoulder to stare at him. “Shall I toss money around? That's unlike you. Or is there a worthy cause you want me to support? I donate money regularly but if there is a specific charity you have in mind, just tell me. We may not be married yet, but what is mine is also yours. I know. I'll transfer half my money into an account for you.”
Misaki was horrified. “No! That's not...You can't! I don't want it. I don't know how to handle money like that. You keep it!”
“You are a strange creature, Misaki my love. Why did you bring it up then?”
“Well, sales spiked in every department at first. People need entertainment right now. But...many people aren't working or are afraid they may lose their jobs. They will have to stop spending money on anything but the bare necessities.”
“I wondered if you could give away free copies of your books and others, or maybe sell them at a discount. Something like that. You'd have to work it out with Isaka. And the movie – it's not due to be released for purchase until next month, but maybe Usaka-sama could make it available sooner?”
“Misaki, you shame me. That is a very personal way to reach out to people right now and I should have thought of it myself. It encourages them to continue staying home and it also means my next book needs to be a good one, doesn't it? You are very clever and thoughtful and generous, even if your vocabulary sucks.”
“That would be okay? You shouldn't go overboard. I'm sure your investments and so on are being affected-” Usagi kissed his mouth shut.
“Since. When. Do. I. Ever. Go. Overboard?” Each word spoken as another clothing item flew across the room.
Last were Usagi's underpants, draped carefully over Suzuki-san's glass eyes. “There! Nobody's watching. You can be as depraved as you like when you ravage me. Come on, little pervert. Let's act out a new scene for my next BL novel.”
Misaki laughed. Then he growled and bit Usagi's throat and did his best to drive his wonderful, mercurial, playful, and loving fiancé wild.