Hayato had dreamed about being on a red carpet plenty of times. What aspiring filmmaker didn’t, really? And his dreams were always filled with him being calm and confident, waving and smiling at adoring, cheering crowds.
Now that he was facing a real-life red carpet, he was terrified. But he didn’t want to show it.
The day of The Viewer’s Choice Awards had gotten off to a good start. They’d gone to Koichi and MiA’s apartment to collect the final version of their costumes – which were absolutely stunning.
“I found a bunch of red leather suits that had probably been dumped in the warehouse sometime during the ‘80s,” Koichi said. “I altered them to fit you guys, tricked ‘em out, and voila!”
Each one was tailored for its wearer’s personality, with black leather inlays, flashes of sparkles and, in Chamu’s case, spikes on the shoulders. Koichi had even crafted a spiked black leather mask for the bottom of Chamu’s face, and cut off the bottom of Hayto's so they ended just below the knee, covering the edges in black.
“And,” Koichi added, “I went to another place that dumps T-shirts and such that have slight flaws. I found these red tank tops – most of them have stitching errors in the sleeves, but you’ll never see them under the jackets.”
The shirts all had black human hearts printed on them. They were a perfect complement to the rest of Koichi’s work.
“Koichi,” Hayato said, “how do we thank you?”
“You just tell anyone who takes your picture on the red carpet who designed your outfits. Oh, and be sure to get the name Counting Goats in there, too. That’s our design company. And look at what they’re writing down to make sure they got my name kanji right! Somebody botched it big-time and it ended up coming out more like Gouchi.”
“That’s why my stage name is written in romanji,” said MiA quietly in the background. “Less likely for a mistake like that.”
“What are you wearing on the red carpet, Koichi?” Kana asked him. The pink-haired man was dressed in a simple yukata at the time.
“You’ll see!” he said. “Now, off with you all! I’ll see you at the awards!”
“That means he wants to start getting ready,” MiA said. “And it’s like a magician with his tricks. Nobody sees any part of it until the final illusion is unveiled to the public.”
So off they went, costumes in tow, to Yuuki to get made up. The place was just slightly chaotic, which Yuuki finishing Subaru’s look just before they arrived, and the newly-styled Tomoya, Junji and Mahiro all hanging around.
“Look at all this red and black,” Yuuki said, surveying the outfits. “I’m going to have to go strong with your facial colors to balance this, or else nobody’s going to see anything above your shoulders at all.” He sighed. “Not exactly what I’d choose. I don’t think Koichi believes in balance.”
“Koichi and Yuuki kind of are style rivals,” Subaru whispered to Hayato. “This happens all the time.”
After their hair and makeup was styled, they went back to their own apartment to get changed – because there was no way there was any room in the traffic jam that was Yuuki’s place – and awaited their van. And it was when it arrived that panic set in.
This is it, Hayato thought. I’m going to be on the red carpet. I’m going to have my photo taken like a pro – like the guys I always watched getting their photos taken at the JAVAs. Heck, I’m going to be WITH guys who have their pictures taken at the JAVAs.
When they all got in the van, Kana squeezed his hand. “This is going to be the most amazing night ever – right?” he said.
Hayato, for once, didn’t know how to answer. This was yet another turn on the roller coaster their life had become since their name was called as the winners of Aoi Presents. And it was probably the most thrilling – and nerve-wracking – one yet.
* * *
Koichi started to walk away from the mirror – and then walked right back over to it. One could never survey his outfit too many times – especially for an evening as important as this. It wasn’t the JAVAs, true – but it was the first event of its kind. Meaning, the media would be out in force.
MiA walked into the room. “Koichi?” he said. “The car’s outside.”
“You got in touch with Mahiro, right?” he said. “His group was going to arrive on the red carpet a full 15 minutes before us?”
“They’re already there,” MiA said. “The photographers will be done with them before you arrive. You won’t have to worry about having your thunder stolen by Geisha Boy this time.”
“I haven’t called him that since we made peace,” Koichi said. “You look extremely beautiful, by the way.” Of course he did – Koichi had chosen the outfit himself. It wasn’t every guy who could pull off a long black leather coat, studs on the shoulders, with black leather booty shorts. MiA definitely could.
“Thanks,” MiA said. “And you’re . . . breathtaking.”
“Of course I am,” Koichi said. “I worked hard on this!”
Since he’d gone feminine at the JAVAs, this look was more male – but with an androgynous bent. Elegant Gothic Aristocrat waistcoat and vest, ruffled shirt, wide black ribbon around his neck for a tie, silver chain with a big pocket watch and tailored black pants. It was a little bit steampunk, a little bit vampire, a little bit Victorian child – and, of course, a hundred percent Koichi. And, of course, with the photographers done with Mahiro and his kimono gang before he got there, there wouldn’t be anyone to distract attention from him.
This, he thought, is going to be a good night.
Finally, he tore himself away from the mirror and headed toward the door. “All right,” he said to MiA. “I’m ready.”
And, he thought, I hope the photographers are ready for me.
* * *
Uruha sat in the car, idly playing with his phone. He didn’t know why he felt sort of on-edge.
“Relax,” Kai said. “This is just going to be a fun evening. It’s not as big a deal as the JAVAs, and from the volume of fan mail we receive? Our guys are going to do just fine.”
“I know I should relax,” Uruha said. “But I have a feeling that Heavy Hitter is going to find a way to fix the voting.”
“You don’t honestly think they’d resort to hacking, do you? Because that’s what it would take. This is supposed to be fan votes only.”
“Hacking, ballot box stuffing, who knows?” Uruha said. “I don’t put anything past them – and I hate it that I have to be so paranoid.” He dropped his phone. “And sometimes I wonder why it matters so much.”
“It matters because of you. You actually care about what you’re doing, unlike some people in this business. You put your heart and soul into it.”
“And sometimes I wonder why I do,” Uruha said. “Maybe I should be saving my heart and soul for when I move on from this and do REAL film.”
“Baby,” Kai said, “what do you think you’ve been doing? It IS real film. It’s specialized, to be sure, but it’s real.” He paused. “I didn’t tell you about that call I took for you on your phone when you were getting ready, did I?”
“No,” Uruha said.
“It was a distributor of specialty films – pink film, horror, that sort of thing. He saw Swashbucklers and loved it. He wants to know if we can do a softcore edit of it that can be licensed to his company.”
Uruha blinked “A . . . a softcore edit?”
“He said there’s a market for gay pink film, as well as for pink films with a lighter tone, without as much violence and S&M. He thinks a softcore version of Swashbucklers would be a smash, because it has an entertaining script and some good performances. He said Subaru is adorable and the romance subplot with Manabu and Kouki is charming.”
Immediately, Uruha was thinking about how to do this. The sex scenes would have to be shortened and shots of penetration taken out – they could use digital scrambling if necessary. But with some alternate angles substituted? It could be done. The concluding foursome would probably have to be dropped altogether, but the film could easily end on the two-way scene that proceeded it. The running time would be shorter than the original, of course, but Swashbucklers ran kind of long for a porno anyway . . .
“Now, they wouldn’t ask for a softcore edit if the film couldn’t stand on its own without the really hardcore stuff, right?”
Uruha suddenly turned around and grabbed his lover by the forearms. “Kai . . . this is brilliant!”
“See?” he said. “I told you that you’d like it!”
“This is something to hold over those bastard’s heads! If Heavy Hitter gives me crap about ANYTHING, I’ll tell them that I’ve been asked to do a softcore edit! Which will reach MUCH more people than the hardcore version! It might even be shown on cable TV! They can’t say that about any of THEIR videos, can they?”
Uruha was suddenly full of joy about this whole thing. He had a new weapon to use against his arch-enemies – one they had no counter for.
Oh, yes, the evening was suddenly looking a lot brighter.
* * *
“We’re here,” Kana said as the van pulled up to the curb. The driver got out and opened the door.
“Damn,” meN-meN said, leaning over to look out the window. “There’s a LOT of people here.”
Hayato just stared at the crowd, mouth open. Wow, he thought. Just wow. Over there were two guys from Adonis that he definitely recognized. On the other side of them was a very big producer who had moved between companies over the years and was currently associated with Hard Candy. Several feet down the red carpet was an up-and-comer at one of the smaller indie companies, who rumor had it was currently being courted by several different major companies.
“It’s just like a porno Disneyland,” he said in an awed whisper.
Their door was opened, and they stepped out on the red carpet. Hayato found his head swiveling this way and that, looking all around him. We’re a part of this world now, he thought. We’re really a part of this!
“Looks like we’re late to the party,” Chamu said as they slowly started to walk through the throngs. “Is this going to reflect badly on us?”
Hayato shook his head. “Nope,” he said. “There’s a lot of big names that haven’t gotten here yet. This is just getting started.”
Kiryu Video was definitely there. In fact, they were at the center of a group of photographers, posing and showing off their very brightly colored traditional-style outfits. Hayato would have waved, but he didn’t want to harsh the groove they had going – they were working the camera like a group of highly experienced models.
Kana reached over and squeezed Hayato’s hand. “Nobody is going to know who we are,” he whispered.
“That’s okay,” Hayato said. “It’s better that we . . .”
At that moment, the photographers started thanking Kiryu Video and moving away from them. One of them headed in the direction of Codomo Dragon – and stopped. “Wow!” he said. “Great outfits!”
The group looked at each other. They didn’t expect something like this. “Well, thank you,” said Hayato.
“I need pictures,” the photographer said, raising his camera. “Give me a pose!”
Another photographer caught a glimpse of the first one, and wandered over to see who was so interesting. “Hey,” he said. “Who are these guys?”
“I’m not sure,” said the first photographer, “but they look great!”
“We’re Codomo Dragon!” meN-meN said. “We won the Aoi Presents contest at PSC Productions!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s why you look familiar!” the second photographer said – just as a third wandered by and took notice.
“I saw the thing you did for Aoi!” he said, getting out his camera right away. “You guys were terrific! You’re going to have a HUGE career in the industry!”
And suddenly, the novice filmmakers found themselves having to figure out how to be models – quickly – because photographers were suddenly starting to surround them like sharks around a wounded swimmer.
* * *
Koichi sat in the back of the car, feeling a strange sort of calm steal over him.
“This is the best I’ve felt about a red carpet in a long time,” he said. “We waited enough time, they’re going to be done with Geisha Boy . . .”
“Koichi, you said you weren’t going to call Mahiro that anymore.”
“He may be my friend now, but all’s fair in love and the red carpet. No, when I arrive, the photographers will be all mine. And I’m going to give them a whole new angle on my style! The elegant angle!”
They pulled up to the awards. Their door was opened. This is it, Koichi thought. I’m going to step out there, and the photographers will all come my way – they’ll know it’s me, there’s no way they can miss my hair. And then . . .
His high-heeled boots hit the ground. He eased out of the vehicle, stepped onto the red carpet – and saw a ring of photographers surrounding somebody.
“What the hell is this?” he said. “They were supposed to be done with them!”
Oh, crap. MiA knew that tone – it was the growl of a Fashionista Scorned by Photographers. He got out of the car, slowly. “It’s not Kiryu Video,” he said. “They’re over there.”
“Then who could it possibly . . .” Koichi stalked toward the group – and froze.
He caught a glimpse of red-and-black hair through the forest of cameras.
Sure enough, there was Codomo Dragon, posing and smiling, getting the attention of all the photographers who should have had their attention on him.
It was the height of irony. Koichi had been upstaged by his own designs.
“These guys are newbies, aren’t they?” one of the photographers was saying.
“Yep, they’re the guys who won the Aoi Presents contest,” another one said. “But Aoi chose well. They’re going to go far. Not only are they great filmmakers, they’ve got an incredible sense of style!”
That was it. Koichi was NOT going to let anyone else take credit for HIS work. He suddenly pushed between the photographers and marched into the middle of the red-and-black throng.
“Hey!” one of the photographers yelled. “You’re ruining the pictures!”
“Ruining the pictures?” Koichi said “I just wanted to let you know that I am the one responsible for their look! I designed their entire outfits! It’s all my concept!”
“Oh, yeah – you’re that pirate movie guy, aren’t you?” one of the photographers said. “Kobuki?”
“It’s KOICHI. And I’m a designer as well!” He whispered to Hayato, “Did you mention Counting Goats?”
Crap, Hayato thought. I’m in trouble. He quickly shouted, “Yes! It’s true! He did the design! Koichi has a great design company called Counting Sheep . . .”
“Counting GOATS!” Koichi said. “And it’s not just mine! Their jewelry is by my partner Tzuzuku, and . . .”
“I will NOT let you take credit for their WHOLE look!” another voice shouted from the edge of the circle of cameras – right before Yuuki pushed through, bristling from the crown of his pink hair to the tips of his spiked leather jacket and matching leather pants. “You might have done the clothes, but the hairstyling and makeup is MINE!”
“You just put the icing on the cake!” Koichi said. “The outfits are the real basis for how they look tonight!”
“If it wasn’t for what I did, nobody would even see their faces!” Yuuki said. “With colors that strong . . .”
Yo-ka’s voice suddenly yelled from the edge of the circle, “Oh, look, isn’t that Yoshiki I see over there?”
“And I think Sakurai is with him!” MiA’s voice added. “What a surprise!”
The photographers suddenly left Codomo Dragon and stampeded over to where the new arrivals got out of the cars. Of course, there was no Yoshiki and Sakurai – but there was a very perplexed Byou and Jin, who were wondering why they were suddenly in a volley of flashbulb fire.
“What did you do that for?” Koichi said.
“Sorry love,” MiA said, “but I didn’t want this to turn into full-blown warfare.”
“Same here,” Yo-ka said. “It was getting a bit dangerous.”
Koichi sighed. “They didn’t get any pictures of my outfit, did they?”
MiA wrapped an arm around him. “At least they know whose outfits were the real hit of the night,” he said. “Besides, once they know that Yoshiki and Sakurai aren’t really over there? They’ll be back.”
The Codomo Dragon group was just left standing there, blinking. “Is it always this nuts?” Kana said.
“Maybe,” Hayato said. “Not exactly what we expected, is it?”
Part of him was hoping it would get crazier. Part of him was hoping it didn’t. But he knew one thing was for sure – this was the most excitement he’d had out of bed in years.
* * *
When everyone was hoarded into the building by assistants, Hayato decided if they stuck close to Subaru, they’d be all right. He’d been through this before – right?
“Actually, I’ve only been to the JAVAs before, and that was just once,” Subaru said. “I’m just about as lost as you are. But maybe if we stayed near Mahiro . . .”
“Don’t follow us, we’re lost, too,” Junji told them. “This is a brand new awards. We have no idea where they’re putting anyone.”
Fortunately, one of the assistants was able to direct them. “Let’s see . . . Kiryu Video? Codomo Dragon? You’re both at table 6.”
“What about us?” Subaru said. “Eros Video?”
The assistant looked at his iPad. “Who, specifically, from Eros Video?”
“Subaru and Tomoya?”
“Ah, yes. You’re at table 6 as well.”
“Yes!” Subaru said. Uruha must have pulled strings to make sure they were sitting with Mahiro.
They settled in at the table, and Subaru looked around him. “Just us?” he said. There were twelve seats at the table – just enough for the whole Codomo Dragon group, the whole Kiryu Video group, and him and Tomoya.
“Looks like it,” Mahiro said, sitting down on Subaru’s other side.
“We get to be tablemates at my first award show!” Hayato said, leaning over and holding a fist out to Subaru, who quickly fist-bumped him. He glanced over to his left – PSC Productions had a smaller table to their left, and next to them was another table with the Eros Video people, including the former Avalon Video people. MiA waved to Subaru – this was the first time they wouldn’t be sitting at the same table at an event since Subaru started in the industry.
He had to admit that he was a bit sad about that.
Also at MiA's table was Yuuki, who was looking just a bit annoyed. “He's not sitting with us!” he said. “He's always sat with us!”
“I'm sure they had a reason for the seating arrangements, baby,” Yo-ka said. “And it's not like they put him at a table full of Heavy Hitter people. He's with people he wants to be with – Tomoya, Mahiro and those new guys.”
“You mean my models for the evening,” Koichi said, proudly. “Come on, Subaru's a big boy. He's been in the industry over a year now. He's seen everything by this point.”
“Well, not quite everything,” MiA said. “We saw some stuff in the past that we don't want him to see.”
“And if I have anything to say about it, he never will!” Yuuki said.
At Uruha’s table, the director was glancing around the room. As always, he was keeping an eye out for his arch-nemesis, Sakai Osamu, producer at Heavy Hitter Productions.
He left me alone on the red carpet this time, he thought. That means he’s planning to say something during the post-awards press conference – when it would be even more public.
Uruha knew that he had the softcore edit to hold over their heads, sure . . . but he had to come up with something else. A true zinger. Something that would leave Heavy Hitter with their jaws on the floor, just like the signing of Kiryu Video at the JAVAs had.
There was an idea forming in the back of his mind, one that he’d discussed with his boss before – but they hadn’t put it into action yet. He got out his phone – he’d quietly text the boss now and see if it was okay for him to move forward with it. He didn’t see how it couldn’t be.
Whatever happened with the awards themselves tonight, he was going to make sure they came out on top.
* * *
By the time the lights went down, everyone was getting near the bottom of their first drinks. The waiters quickly took orders for second ones, so they weren't trying to hear shouted requests over laughs and applause.
A comedian bounded out on stage, and a groan went up from Yuuki's table. “This guy AGAIN?” Koichi whispered. “Does he do every porn awards show known to humanity?”
“Hello, hello, hello!” the host said. “Welcome to the first ever Viewer's Choice Awards, where the fans get to have their say! Yes, everything that will be given out tonight was chosen by the people who put money in your pockets – the viewers! This is the only industry where we can get away with saying the fans are a bunch of jerkoffs – because we WANT them to jerk off!”
Yuuki and Koichi both facepalmed. They might have been style rivals, but they were united in their disdain for this type of humor.
“So here's how it's gonna work,” the host said. “Our hot and sexy presenters will get up here and call three guys to the stage. Those are our three winners in the category – but we're not gonna tell you who got first, second and third at first. We're gonna give out gold, silver and bronze medals, just like the Olympics. There's three platforms – numbered in both Japanese and English, for those of you who are bi.” Pause. “Lingual.” Another pause. “Well, you have to at LEAST be bi, or you wouldn't be in this industry, right?”
“Kill him,” Yuuki muttered, nearly burying his face in his glass. “Put us all out of our misery.”
“So, without further ado, let's call up our first presenters of the evening, to give out our first award, Best Company Web Site . . .”
Subaru leaned over toward Mahiro and whispered, “You're presenting, aren't you?”
“Yes,” Mahiro whispered back. “I'm giving out the Comeback Performer of the Year awards. So with any luck, I'll be giving one to someone we both know well.” He nodded his head toward the other Eros Films table – Kouki had been seated there, and when he caught Mahiro's glance, he waved at him.
PSC Productions, as it turned out, picked up a silver in Best Company Web – before Hard Candy, but after Adonis. Somewhere where there's room for improvement, Uruha thought. There's always room for improvement.
This was followed by Best Porn Blogger – a category where the announcer said they'd just call out the winners, but there would be no onstage acceptance, since “Not all of our bloggers want to be seen in public.” Good thing, because the award went to Sparxxx – who NOBODY had ever seen in person.
“You talk to Sparxxx all the time,” Ruki said to Uruha. “You have ANY idea who he-or-she is?”
Uruha shook his head. “Not a clue,” he said. “All I know is the person has more inside info than anybody – somehow.”
“And now,” the host said, “we're going to give you what you REALLY want to see – hot guys fucking! I mean, awards actually given out to performers! Because that's what you're here for, right? Oh, you're here for the orgy? That's AFTER the awards. To present the awards for Kinkiest Performer, here's a dynamic duo from Adonis Video . . .”
“You're a shoo-in,” Yo-ka whispered to Yuuki.
“Not necessarily,” Yuuki said. “There's a guy at Hard Candy as of late who's done some pretty wild specialty stuff. And I mean wild.”
“Will the following three performers please come up here?” the presenter said. “Boba from Hard Candy . . .”
“That's the guy I was telling you about,” Yuuki whispered.
“T from Heavy Hitter, and Yuuki from Eros Films.”
Yuuki got up out of his seat and headed for the stage, high-fiving Subaru on the way. The three men lined up at the edge of the stage.
“So here you have it,” one of the presenters said. “According to the fans, these are the three kinkiest bastards on the face of the earth!”
“But now it's time to see who's the sultan of spank!” the other performer said. “The duke of domination!”
Yo-ka could see his lover's jaw twitch. Yuuki was clearly regretting leaving his whip at his seat. These two guys were clearly getting their gags from the same writer as the host.
“The bronze medalist is . . .” The first host ripped an envelope open. “T, from Heavy Hitter!” The performer – short-haired and muscle-bound like most of that company's cast – got up on the lowest platform, and lowered his head to accept his medal, a forced smile on his face.
“The silver medalist is . . .” A long pause, then the second presenter ripped open the other envelope. “Boba! Meaning the gold medalist is Yuuki from Eros Films!”
“YES!” Hayato leapt out of his seat, flinging himself into the air like a basketball player going for the slam-dunk, punching his fist skyward. Everyone at his table either laughed or shook their heads, because it was just Hayato being . . . Hayato.
The hosts brought a mike over to Yuuki on the top platform – because the top winner was honored not with an anthem (pointless anyway since they were all Japanese), but by being able to say a few words to the fans. “Thank you all,” Yuuki said. “I kind of don't believe this myself – your support means a lot to me, and I mean a lot.”
The audience applauded as the winners went back to their seats. “Where the fuck are we going to put this?” Yuuki said to Yo-ka. “We can't just put this on the counter with the other awards!”
“Hang it off a lamp?” Yo-ka said.
The awards continued. Kai got a bronze medal in the Super Seme category. They came up empty in Best Box Design (more room for improvement, Uruha thought), but they did pick up another gold when Aoi won for Social Media Superstar.
“I put the Superstar in Social Media Superstar!” he said. “You all are beautiful people for following me!”
“He's being unusually humble for him,” Ruki whispered.
“That's humble?” said Byou.
“He didn't say, 'You're all beautiful people for following me, but not as beautiful as me.'”
The host returned to the stage. “And now, to present the Orgasmic Oralist awards . . .”
“This is it,” Kai whispered to Ruki. He remembered very well their conversation about Ruki's reaction to losing the past three oral awards, and how a fan award ultimately would mean more than a JAVA.
“It's just a piece of fancy neckwear,” Ruki whispered back.
“Will the following please come up here?” said the presenter. “Byou from PSC Productions . . .”
“Fuck, not again,” Ruki whispered. Byou had beat him for the JAVA two years ago.
“Masa, from Heavy Hitter . . .”
“Double fuck!” Ruki whispered. That was the bastard who'd beaten him out this past year.
“And . . . okay, did you think we WEREN'T going to call this name? If that's the case, you know NOTHING about this industry, baby! . . . Ruki, from PSC Productions!”
“About fucking time,” Ruki murmured, as he headed to the stage with the other two.
“The bronze medalist,” the presenter said, “is Byou, from PSC Productions!” Ruki breathed a sigh of relief. Well, at least that was out of the way.
“The silver medalist . . .” The presenter opened the envelope – and paused. And paused. And paused. The audience began to yell names out. The presenter just grinned. Ruki was sure he was sweating bullets by now.
“Ruki . . .”
Shit. SHIT. Beaten by that lunk from Heavy Hitter again.
“Is our GOLD medalist! Do you think he'd be anything else?”
Ruki just stood there, stunned. Did this son of a bitch just . . . oh, yes, he did. He called HIS name for gold – after giving him a heart attack.
The whole room rose to its feet, stomping and whistling. They knew they were seeing something long overdue. They all knew about Ruki's recent losing streak at the JAVAS. And he couldn't believe it – even when the ribbon was being put around his neck.
When the mike was brought to him, the first thing Ruki said was, “Well, fuck.” The whole room laughed. “I'm . . . kind of flustered right now,” he said. “A couple of months ago, when this award show was first being talked about, a friend and I had a discussion about how these awards would mean more than any other, because it's our fans that pick them . . .”
He glanced over at Kai, who gave him a million-megawatt grin and a thumbs up.
“I don't think I ever knew what that meant until now. I'm humbled. Thank you.”
He walked off the stage, thunderous applause still in his ears. Well, damn. His losing streak was over. He didn't have that fucking JAVA yet, but at least he had this.
* * *
Subaru hadn't given much thought to winning awards himself. Most of these guys had been in the industry longer than he had. They had bigger, stronger followings. Why would anyone pick him?
Which was why he was shocked to hear himself called to the stage for the Uber Uke award. The other two guys – one from Hard Candy, the other from Adonis – were both relative veterans.
“Okay, we're gonna do it a bit backward this time,” the presenter said. “We're gonna name the gold first, and that gold is . . .” He opened the envelope. “Subaru.”
Subaru nearly fell off the stage. He just kind of stared at the top platform. The presenter bodily picked him up and put him up there, as the audience roared with laughter.
When the mike was brought to him, he said, “Are you sure you have the right guy?” The audience roared again. “I didn't expect this – obviously – so I don't have a prepared speech, but – everyone who voted, thank you.”
He was about to go back to his seat – when the host bodily stopped him. “And where do you think you're going?” he said.
“Um . . . to my seat?” said Subaru.
“Oh, no, you stay right up here. You're up for Nice and Naughty Newcomer, too. And may I ask your co-winners to come up . . .”
Subaru won the gold for that one as well. “Um . . . wow,” he said. “This is getting . . . I'm going to wake up any moment now, right? This is a dream?” The audience laughed again.
He went back to his seat, the hardware clanking against each other on his chest. He looked down at the two medals, still not believing it.
“Congratulations!” Hayato high-fived him when he came back, and Mahiro gave him a quick hug – then headed to the stage. It was his turn to present.
“Two awards?” Tomoya whispered as he hugged Subaru. “That's amazing!”
“I still can't believe it,” Subaru whispered. “And the fans chose these, Tomoya! The FANS!”
“Of course they did,” Tomoya replied. “They love you!”
On the stage, Mahiro was talking about how a comeback means a performer “seemed to fade away for awhile, but now they're fully back. And these performers? I think we're all hoping they stay around for awhile.”
“Next year, I'm writing the scripts,” Jin whispered at the PSC table. “I can come up with better stuff than this.”
“Will the following people come to the stage?” Mahiro said. “Fuuma, Hard Candy. Masaru, Heavy Hitter. And . . . “ He tried to suppress a big smile. “Kouki, PSC Productions.”
Mahiro wondered if anyone would notice if he read off a different name from the gold medal envelope if it wasn't the one he wanted to see. He decided it wasn't worth it.
“The bronze medalist is Fuuma,” he said. And then, opening the next envelope . . .
He couldn't suppress the smile that time. “The silver medalist is Masaru, which means Kouki is the gold medalist!” But he didn't pass the mike over to him just yet, facing the audience and saying “I know presenters aren't supposed to talk about winners, but I worked with this guy on Swashbucklers and Kabuki Disco – which we just wrapped – and he's all-pro. He deserves to be up here!”
When he handed Kouki the mike, Kouki just smiled and said, “What am I supposed to follow that with? Just . . . thanks!”
“Can he do that?” Kai whispered to Uruha.
“Mahiro, you mean?” Uruha whispered. “It's not usually done, but it isn't flat-out illegal, either.”
And he got the name of the video out to the public long before the release, Uruha thought. He knew this was being streamed – and the fans were watching.
* * *
A few awards later (including the Body Beautiful award, which was another shutout for Uruha's company – and two out of three of those prizes were taken by Heavy Hitter), they announced the Tempting Twosome award for Best Chemistry Between a Duo. And when they called “Yo-ka and . . .” Subaru was fully expecting to hear Yuuki's name.
Instead, he heard his own.
“Me?” He looked around, baffled. “ME?” Why him and Yo-ka? Surely Yo-ka had more chemistry with his offscreen lover – right?
Yo-ka held his hand out to him. “Come on,” he said. “We're needed up there!”
“Why us?” Subaru whispered when they were on their way to the stage.
“Probably because of Heart of the Ocean,” Yo-ka whispered.
They didn't win the gold – they got the silver. (A longtime real-life couple from Adonis who, rumor had it, had gotten married in Hawaii got the gold). But still, that was now three medals clanking around on Subaru's chest. He wasn't going to be able to move if this kept up.
“I think I like the JAVAs better,” he whispered to Mahiro and Tomoya when he got back to the table. “You can just put them down in front of you.”
They were up to the biggest awards – Best Picture, Best Actor and Supporting Actor, and Best Overall Company – considered the biggest prize of the night. Because of the cutoff for the awards, Swashbucklers was eligible – and Uruha was considering it an acid test of how the video was going to go over at the JAVAs.
“Have you been keeping count of how many we've won overall compared to Heavy Hitter?” Kai whispered to Uruha.
“I think Adonis is ahead of both of us in the overall medal count,” Uruha whispered. “But we have more golds than Heavy Hitter does, definitely. And we have the most medals for a single performer.” He gestured at Subaru – who was taking the medals off, one by one, and putting them on the table in front of him.
“But it's Best Overall Company you're most concerned with, isn't it?” Kai whispered.
Uruha nodded. “If we can snatch that away from them? They won't be able to say anything to us. Nothing at all.”
His “acid test” for Swashbucklers bore fruit right away when Mahiro was called up to the stage for the Supporting Actor award – and won the gold. Good, Uruha thought. Good, let's keep the momentum up.
When Mahiro came back to the table, Junji stood up to hug him. “I knew you were going to come back with the gold,” he said.
Mahiro was just quiet. Why didn't he feel good about winning this award? He should, right? It meant the public held him in high esteem. That was a good thing.
So why this uneasy, nervous feeling?
For Best Actor, Ruki was called up there for Tomorrow Never Dies, and ended up winning the silver – which Uruha considered a huge accomplishment, considering that the video barely made the eligibility cutoff. Now I've got two guys with multiple awards, he thought.
When it was time to announce Best Video, the host, rather than call out another presenter, said, “Okay, I'm gonna take care of the last two awards of the evening myself. We're gonna do things a little differently for those. For Best Video, I'm gonna call out five nominees, like we do with the JAVAs – but only one is going to win. And the nominees are . . .”
One title from Heavy Hitter. One from Adonis. One from Hard Candy. Then, “Swashbucklers, PSC Productions and Eros Films . . . and Tomorrow Never Dies, PSC Productions.”
Two videos, Uruha thought. Two in the running. That means prospects are excellent for the JAVAs. Plus we'll have Boy in the Bottle out by then, and Kabuki Disco . . .
“And your winner is . . . SWASHBUCKLERS!”
The host was holding out the award – not a medal this time, but something like the extra-fancy rosettes given out as the top prize for major dog shows. Uruha fairly leapt onto the stage, and then gestured for the rest of the cast to come up there with him.
“I am so glad you all liked this video!” he said. “We had a fantastic cast, one of the best we've ever had, great locations, a terrific script . . . just everything you need for the perfect video!”
“And that foursome!” somebody from the audience yelled out.
“Yes, and the foursome at the end,” Uruha said.
“We enjoyed that, too!” Koichi yelled.
“So, again, thank you, everyone!” Uruha said. “And we'll see you at the JAVAs!”
They came down off the stage – as the host came back about again. “Okay,” he said. “I'm not going to call out nominees for Best Overall Company – because if you have a company, consider yourself nominated, because we got support for just about everyone. Seriously, we have some great audiences out there. But . . . one company pulled ahead of the pack . . .”
Uruha sat nervously at the edge of his seat, gripping the rosette. Go on, he thought. Stop fucking around and just announce it!
“. . . and I have to say, it came as something of a surprise . . .”
Uh-oh, Uruha thought. This doesn't sound good.
“ . . . especially considering that they haven't won very many other awards tonight.”
Shit, Uruha thought. Definitely not us.
“ . . . but they obviously have built up a lot of love and goodwill over the few years that they've been around, so it gives me a great deal of pleasure to present the first Best Overall Company Award to . . . KIRYU VIDEO!”
The Kiryu crew just stared at each other. “Did . . . did we just . . .” said Junji.
“We did,” Mahiro said. “We beat Adonis, and Hard Candy, and Heavy Hitter, and . . .”
“Ourselves,” said Takemasa. “Since we're PSC now.”
Their producers were already heading to the stage – and they were gesturing for the actors to come up there as well. They sort of stumbled over their fancy kimonos, looking stunned.
Mahiro just stood there, gawking out at the audience, as their bosses talked about “what everyone brings to the table” - Junji's sets, Takemasa and Mitsuki's scripts, Hiyori's concepts for the My Dragon comedies . . .
“And we have the finest actor in adult video today. Mahiro has proven he can handle anything from silly comedy to the gravest drama with grace and ease.”
Well, now Mahiro could only just kind of smile and wave to the audience, and dammit, why was he feeling edgy again, he had to stop thinking about that, why couldn't he just enjoy these awards . . .
And then, a picture appeared in his mind clear as day. Himself up against a wall, terrified. His old boss at Hard Candy poking a broken umbrella at him, yelling that he didn't deserve the award he'd just own.
Mahiro swallowed hard and took a deep breath, trying to hold it together, as their boss yelled a final “So thank you!” and they were being led off the stage as the crowd continued to cheer loudly.
“Okay, that's our show!” said the host. “Gold medalists, go to the press conference in the next room – that includes representatives of PSC and Kiryu Video – the rest of you, we'll see you at the parties! Don't have any orgies on the way out!”
* * *
Uruha was halfway to the press conference when his path was blocked by a very clear obstacle stepping in front of him.
“So, you found a way to fix this voting, did you?” the obstacle said.
Uruha sighed. Yep, the inevitable had happened. He couldn't avoid his nemesis – Sakai Osamu, producer at Heavy Hitter Productions – any more than Batman could avoid the Joker. Or Godzilla could avoid Mothra.
“Good evening to you, too, Sakai-san,” Uruha said. “And what makes you think anyone fixed anything? Your crew just about swept the Body Beautiful category, you scored in the area where you place your highest priority, didn't you?”
“I'm talking about the kink award! Sakai said. “There is no way your Yuuki beat my T. No way in hell! All your Yuuki ever does is mild stuff with bondage and a little smacking. Has he ever done the really hard kink?”
“Sakai-san, this is a viewer's choice award,” Uruha said. “It is voted on by the fans, and the winners are determined by how the fans perceive things. If they think Yuuki fits their definition of kinky? They're going to vote for him. Now if you excuse me, I have a press conference to go to.”
“I'm not going to excuse you until I have proof you didn't fix the vote!” Sakai said.
“You have proof already,” Uruha said. “We didn't win Best Company, did we? Neither of us did. Don't you think if I was going to fix the vote, that would be the one I'd fix? The biggest one of the evening? Now, please let me get through.”
“The fact that we won Body Beautiful just means I'm right about your actors, you know.”
Uruha turned to face the other man. “Excuse me?”
“Fans prefer real men to your scrawny Blythe dolls. I was right – PSC puts out Blythe porn.” And before Uruha could say anything else, he stormed off.
Uruha shook his head as he walked into the next room. Subaru and Yuuki were already sitting up at the table, and they waved Uruha over.
“We saved you a seat, Uruha-san!” Subaru said.
“Thanks,” the director said, sitting next to Yuuki. “Mahiro will be here soon, right?”
Subaru nodded. “Did you run into anyone on the way here? I saw you talking to somebody.”
“Oh, I did,” Uruha said. “But it wasn't anyone worth running into.”
Mahiro walked to the front of the room and sat down next to Subaru. “You okay?” Subaru said, gently. “You . . . don't look right.”
“I'm okay,” Mahiro said. “Just . . . didn't expect to be here, that's all. At the press conference.”
Subaru put an arm around him and hugged him. “You underestimate yourself a lot sometimes, you know that?”
The head of the porn press association that was sponsoring the awards came into the room. “Okay,” he said, “I know everyone has parties to go to, so let's get started! Raise your hand if you have a question, when I call on you, you say who the question is directed to and ak it. Starting with you over there, Morishita-san . .”
The first journalist stood up. “This is for any of the performers who won awards to answer,” he said. “Do you think this award counts for more than a JAVA, and why or why not?”
Creampuff question, Uruha thought. If they're all like this, that means they're not thinking very deeply, and we'll be out of here quickly.
The next few questions were also creampuffs, about how the winners felt about sharing awards with two other winners (Subaru answered that one, saying there's “plenty of love to go around to everyone”) and if anyone thought that these awards would be harbingers of the JAVAs like the Golden Globes were harbingers of the Oscars.
And then, one reporter said, “This question is for Uruha-san. You formed alliances with several indies companies – yet most of the awards tonight were still won by majors. Do you think the trend is swinging away from so-called Suicide Boys, and do you regret your alliances now?”
“First of all,” Uruha said, “I'd like to point out that your statement is inaccurate. Kiryu Video, which won Best Company, is still technically independent. We merely handle their distribution, even though their actors have been involved in our videos, and vice versa. Also, several actors associated with Kiryu and Eros Films were award winners tonight. Which brings me to a new development for our company.”
Subaru and Yuuki looked at each other quizzically – this was the first they'd heard of it.
“We will be setting up a distribution arm for Eros Films' solo productions, as well as the videos produced by Kiryu Video and our newest group of creators, Codomo Dragon. It's an umbrella company for independents, but we're still very much letting them do their own thing. And as for the name . . .”
He smiled to himself. Here was his bombshell.
“It seems that Sakai-san of Heavy Hitter described my actors as looking like Blythe dolls. He even called our videos Blythe porn. Personally, I consider it a compliment, since Blythe dolls are considered attractive and known the world over.”
Another pause. “Now, I would like to use the term Blythe Porn Video, but it seems the term Blythe is very much copyrighted, at least while referring to the dolls. So, we'll just have to use the initials. Our new distribution arm will be called B.P. Video.”
The audience broke into spontaneous applause. Uruha just smiled. Take that, you bastard, he thought. I took the insult you threw at us and turned it into a positive.
He'd have a very public event to launch the new line, too. And he planned to have Subaru very much involved. He'd be appearing in Kiryu, Codomo Dragon AND Eros productions, so he'd just about be the face of B.P. Video.
And they'd call the launch event Family Party.
* * *
Subaru couldn't help but notice that Mahiro was quiet as they rode in the van to the Suicide Ball.
They'd piled everyone who'd been at their table . . . yes, Uruha's B.P. Video announcement made their seating arrangements seem a lot more clear now . . . into one van, which meant things were rather stuffed, even though the van had three bench seats in the back. Takemasa volunteered to be the one to ride in the front seat with the driver.
Hayato, of course, was happily babbling away. “Kamijou said hi to me!” he said. “KAMIJOU! He said he saw our video and he loved it!”
“He's not going to be at the Suicide Ball, you know,” meN-meN said. “He's major.”
“I know he's not!” Hayato said. “That's why it's such a big thing that he said hi to me at the awards! Oh, and I got interviewed! My first red carpet interview! And I've heard that some real actors might pop in at the Ball, like . . .”
Meanwhile, in a seat in front of him, Junji and Tomoya were whispering to each other. They had plans for the evening – regarding a certain someone. “I'm going to ask him to sit down with us for a little while when we get to the ball,” Junji said.
Tomoya glanced over at meN-meN quickly. “Do you think he'll go for it?” he said. “I mean, it's his first party in the industry . . .”
“Of course he'll go for it,” Junji replied. “It's not like we're asking him to come upstairs with us.” Pause. “Yet.”
Subaru leaned over and squeezed Mahiro's hand. “Sure you're all right?” he said. “You're not tired, are you?”
Mahiro shook his head. How could he put into words what was really bothering him? He would sound foolish if he talked about how what had happened that OTHER awards night was playing over and over in his head . . .
This is dumb, he thought. I've been to other awards since that happened, right? I presented a JAVA to Yuuki, I co-won a JAVA with Junji . . .
He figured he'd be all right once he got to the party. That was in a totally different locale than that one on the fateful evening. All he had to do was go into the mansion, have a couple of drinks . . . and he'd relax and forget all about it. Right?
* * *
Hayato walked into the party with his head swiveling from the right to the left and back again, trying to take in everything at once.
“My God, Kana!” he said. “Look at this place!” They were walking into the foyer of an elegant mansion – the same one where the Suicide Ball had been the previous year. “Even the paint looks expensive! Look at that furniture – I'd be afraid to even sit in it!”
“It's impressive, all right,” Kana said, holding onto his arm. He was looking around the room, too – though not quite as rapidly as his lover.
“You think we might have a place like this someday?” Hayato said. “You never know. If we make enough money doing films . . . real films, that is. We're still going to move up to real films someday, right? This is just a launching pad for us. But my God, what a launching pad!!”
A waiter walked up to them with a tray of champagne. Hayato's eyes nearly bugged out. “Look!” he said. “Mobile champagne service! Amazing! And I'll bet it's the good stuff, too! Of course it is, they wouldn't serve just any old crap on an occasion like this, would they? I think that it's . . .”
“Sir,” the waiter said in a clearly holding-back-his-patience tone, “would you like to take a glass?”
“Oh, yeah, sure!” Hayato said. “Can I have one for me and one for my date?”
“That is what they are there for, sir,” the waiter said.
“All right!” Hayato took the glasses, and the waiter got away quickly, apparently glad to be putting distance between himself and this odd creature.
Across the room, meN-meN had already headed for one of the bars, deciding he was going to take advantage of the free drinks, because a guy didn't have an opportunity like that every night. A short distance away, two men were sizing up their target.
“I'll go up to him and ask him if he's enjoying his evening,” Junji said. “Then you just casually sidle up to me. We open up conversation about the awards show, and then we'll take it from there.”
“What if he doesn't want to go with both of us?” Tomoya said.
“We play it by ear,” Junji said. “But I can tell you from experience, these parties do get people to do things they normally wouldn't. Hey, a party like this brought you and I together, didn't it?”
Closer to the room where the dining tables were being laid out, Yo-ka grabbed Subaru. “How are you making out?” he said.
“I'm making out great,” Subaru said. “Well, other than having three medals around my neck. Why?”
“Just making sure that things are going well with the relationship. Or maybe it should be relationships. I was going to ask you at the awards, but I didn't want to say anything in front of Yuuki. You know how he can be.”
“All too well,” Subaru said. “There's nothing to be concerned about, Yo-ka. Really. I'm happy with the way things are. Really, truly happy. They're all, well . . . terrific. We have to work at it, of course – but it's so worth it. It's not something I would have envisioned myself in when I was a teenager, of course, but . . . I wouldn't have envisioned myself in this business when I was a teenager, either.”
Back at the bar, meN-meN suddenly found himself with a guy on either side of him – Junji from Kiryu Video, and wasn't that Subaru's boyfriend with him? - paying him more than a fair amount of attention.
“So you made it through your first awards show without being bored out of your mind?” Junji said. “That's quite an accomplishment in the modern porn industry.”
“I think I was just confused most of the time,” meN-meN said. “There was so much going on all at once, and all I could do was kind of smile and nod.”
“We've all been there,” Junji said. “Right, Tomoya? You went to your first awards show at the most recent JAVAs.”
“Oh, yes,” Tomoya said. “It was an experience, all right.”
“You get used to it as time goes on,” Junji said. “Right now, though, it's just time to relax and have fun. The having to listen to boring stuff is over. Well, it's not boring when you or one of your friends is nominated, but until then . . .”
And then, he saw something out of the corner of his eye that made his blood freeze. There was Mahiro, in a corner, leaning against the wall, looking . . . well, the only way that it could be described was pain. Not physical, either. Emotional.
Oh, shit, Junji thought. Shit, shit, shit . . .
He suddenly bolted, yelling over his shoulder, “Tomoya, I need to go.”
“What's wrong?” Tomoya called.
“I'll tell you later,” said Junji.
The hell with conquest of a hot guy. His baby needed him.
Meanwhile, Subaru was talking to Yo-ka about the filming of Boy in a Bottle when saw Junji flying across the room, and the way the other man was running, it couldn't be good. He turned to his friend. “Yo-ka? I think I need to go.”
“It's Mahiro, I think. Junji just went running over there.”
Junji arrived at his lover's side, and threw his arms around him. “Baby?” he said. “What's wrong?”
Mahiro took a deep breath. “It's nothing.”
“It is NOT nothing and you know it. Come on, I'm getting you out of here.”
“I don't want to take you away from the party,” Mahiro said.
“Bullshit,” Junji said. “If you're looking like that, there's no way in hell I'm going to hang out here having fun.”
Subaru rushed over to them. “What is it?” he said.
“He hasn't told me yet,” Junji said.
“I'm fine,” Mahiro said. “Go back to what you were doing.”
Tomoya rushed up to the group. “What's going on?” he said.
“All right,” Junji said. “Since you refuse to leave the party, we're going to take you upstairs to one of the bedrooms and you're going to tell us what's bothering you. And we're not letting you out of the room until you do.”
Mahiro sighed. “Fine,” he said.
The group led him upstairs, finding the first room that was available – it was early in the evening, so people hadn't started pairing and tripling off yet. Junji shut the door and guided Mahiro to sit on the edge of the bed. “All right, baby,” he said. “What is it?”
Mahiro looked at the wall for a long moment. Finally, he took a deep breath and said, “I thought I'd be okay. I've been to two awards shows since then and I was fine. I was even on stage to get another award with you last time. But something about tonight . . .”
He sighed and ran a hand over his hair. “It's like someone flipped a switch in my head. Or opened a door up there. And all the memories of THAT night came out, and they wouldn't go away. It's like . . . like it's a video playing over and over. I hear him telling me his boyfriend was supposed to win that award, that I didn't deserve it, and then him shoving the broken umbrella at me . . .”
Subaru began to feel ill. He knew exactly what Mahiro was talking about – the night he won the Best Supporting Actor JAVA, when he'd been attacked by his boss at Hard Candy. He suddenly sat on the edge of the bed, hugging Mahiro – and Junji sat on the other side, hugging him from the other direction.
“Baby, it's all right,” Subaru said. “It's okay. That's in the past. It happened, it's over, you survived. You're here with us now, and you're perfectly safe.”
“But why now?” Mahiro said. “Why am I having these flashbacks, why won't they leave me alone . . .”
“PTSD,” Tomoya said. “It's post-traumatic stress. Anyone who's suffered any kind of trauma can suffer it to at least some extent. And being attacked by a boss is a trauma.” He sat on the bed and reached out, putting an arm on Mahiro's shoulder. “You were triggered by the award you won tonight.”
“But . . . but I won an award this past JAVAs . . .”
“You had me with you then,” Junji said. “This is the first time you've gone on stage alone to accept an award since that night. And you received a Supporting Actor award – that's the same award you got that evening. The same one that bastard said you didn't deserve.” Junji hugged him again. “But you DID deserve it. Just like you deserve the one you won tonight.”
“What you did NOT deserve was what he did to you,” Subaru said. “Nobody deserves that.”
“But nobody is going to hurt you,” Junji said. “Nobody's going to hurt you like that ever again – or they'll have to answer to me. I've got some pretty heavy tools I use to build scenery.”
“You have us,” Subaru said.
“All of us,” Tomoya added.
Mahiro reached up and put his hand on top of Tomoya's. “You didn't have to come up here with me,” he said. “You could have stayed at the party and . . .”
“Yes, I did,” Tomoya said. “If any of us is hurting, the rest of us are hurting. That's how it is. We're all together, right?”
Mahiro leaned forward, so his forehead was gently touching Tomoya's. “Thank you,” he said. He hugged the other two closer. “Thank all of you. I wasn't going to bother you with my . . .”
“Mahiro, I love you more than anything, but if I hear you say something like that, I'm going to whap you with a pool noodle,” Junji said. “This was no bother at all. I have my priorities, and my top priority is you. Always. You know that.” He kissed Mahiro's lips, softly. “Hey – I have an idea. There's a rich people's bathroom attached to this bedroom.”
“How do you know that?” Subaru said.
“Mahiro and I were up here last year with another guy,” Junji said. “Not anyone you know. So anyway . . . there's a hot tub over there, remember? We're going to deposit you in the hot tub and let you have a nice, long relaxing soak. And at least one of us will be next to you at all times. In fact, we're only going to leave your side if you want something to eat or drink. We'll go downstairs and get it.”
Mahiro was going to say something else – but he just hugged his lovers again. “What did I do to deserve you?” he said.
“You're you,” Junji said. “You're just you.”
They led him to the next room, where there was a rather sizable hot tub. Junji and Subaru, working together, rid Mahiro of his fancy costume, laying the pieces out on a cabinet. Mahiro went over to the shower, rinsing off as the others filled the tub.
“Now, into the water with you,” Junji said. “And just lay back and relax.”
Mahiro stepped gingerly into the water. It was damn hot, all right. Just about at the border of too hot. In other words, a proper Japanese bath.
He sank down, exhaling a long breath as he felt it bubbling all around him, the water moving around his naked flesh, seeming to relax every muscle, to ease the tension out of him. The anxiety, the post-traumatic feeling, was still there at the back of his mind, but . . .
There was less of it than there was before. A whole lot less.
Subaru leaned over the side of the tub. “Want company?” he said.
Mahiro opened his eyes. “That could be fun,” he said.
“All right!” Subaru said, heading for the shower. “Hey, could someone go downstairs and bring back some beers? That might go great with being in the hot tub!”
“I'll go!” Tomoya said. “I'll be right back!” He left the room.
Junji sat at the edge of the tub, draping an arm across Mahiro's chest. “How are you feeling?” he said.
“You're messing up your outfit,” Mahiro said.
“So?” said Junji. “There's more important things than an outfit.”
“Don't let Koichi and Yuuki hear you say that,” Mahiro said. “They'll have heart attacks.”
Junji leaned over so his face was against Mahiro's hair. “Seriously – how do you feel?”
Mahiro closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Better,” he said.
“Good,” Junji said. “And you know that we're all going to stay with you as long as you want or need, right?”
Mahiro nodded. “You and Tomoya had plans tonight, didn't you?”
“You mean meN-meN?” Junji said. “Well, yes. But the operative word there is had. I have my priorities, and nothing is bigger priority than you. There will be other chances with him. But when you need me? I drop everything.”
Subaru came out of the shower, naked and wet, and hopped in opposite Mahiro. “Oooh!” he said. “This is . . . nice! Hot, but really nice!”
“Kind of like Mahiro himself, huh?” Junji said.
“He's really hot,” Subaru said. “One of the hottest guys I've ever seen. But . . . there's a lot more to him than physical, right? I mean . . . you have a beautiful soul. A truly, truly beautiful soul.”
Mahiro suddenly leaned over and kissed Subaru – long, hard and wet. Subaru responded right away, wrapping his arms around his lover and pulling him closer, gently pushing his tongue into his mouth.
Junji leaned over toward the two of them, putting his arms around both their shoulders. “Hey, hey, what's this?” he said. “Am I going to let the two of you have all the fun here?”
Subaru eased back from Mahiro, and Junji took his place, kissing him hard, not caring that he was on the verge of falling over into the hot tub. What did it matter? The main part of the evening was over. It was, at the moment, just them. So what if his finery got wet?
He leaned back and said, “What do you say we get you two toweled off and we take this back to the bedroom?”
“But . . . do we have . . .”
“They equip these parties,” Junji said. “Believe me, they know what's going to happen.”
When Tomoya came back bearing four beers – which the bartender had thoughtfully put in a six-pack carrier – he nearly dropped them on the floor. He wasn't expecting to see Subaru, Mahiro and Junji on the bed, all naked.
Compounding things was the fact that Subaru was leaning over Mahiro's chest, tonguing his nipple slowly, and Junji was down at the other end, kissing the tip of Mahiro's growing erection, his fingers moving up and down the shaft.
Tomoya set the beers on the floor, slowly. He wasn't sure what to do. Did he take his own clothes off and join in? Did he quietly go downstairs and leave them to what they were doing? Or did he just stand there and watch . . .
His decision was made for him when Subaru raised his head. “Hi,” he said. “Come over here, love.”
Tomoya didn't waste time. He stripped his clothes off, leaving them on the floor with the beers, and sat on the bed next to Subaru, who raised his head, pulling Tomoya in and kissing him as deeply as he'd kissed Mahiro before.
Junji moved up and kissed Mahiro's lips, flicking his tongue in and out of his lover's mouth, and Mahiro ran his hands over Junji's chest. Junji reached around, stroking and caressing Mahiro's ass, drawing a small moan from his lover.
Mahiro rolled over on his back, and instantly, Subaru and Junji pounced on him, kissing either side of his neck, caressing his chest and stomach.
Tomoya watched them for a moment. Until now, even when all four of them had been in bed together, it had been Mahiro with Subaru and Junji with Tomoya, or Mahiro with Junji and Subaru with Tomoya. But right now, something felt different.
Maybe it was his desire to comfort Mahiro after his traumatic flashbacks. Maybe it was just that time in their unique foursome had deepened his feelings for the man. But suddenly, he wanted to do more than just watch . . .
He bent over, running his tongue slowly from the bottom of Mahiro's erection to the top, and Mahiro raised his head, gasping. “Oh, my God!” he said.
The surprised expression of pleasure just made Tomoya all the more adventurous. He opened his mouth, wrapping his lips around the tip of the other man's hardness, starting to suck, moving down slowly.
He felt different in his mouth than Subaru did, or Junji . . . and the difference was all the more thrilling. He found himself moaning as he started to suck, to move his head up and down.
Subaru let out a soft whisper of “Tomoya . . .” He sounded surprised, and amazed, and more than a little bit turned on.
Junji just watched in amazement. Watching one man he loved going down on the other man he loved? Fuck, yes, it was hot. He watched Tomoya as he eagerly moved up and down, the cock sliding through his lips, and then he let his eyes travel up to Mahiro's face, wearing an expression of bliss, reaching down to caress Tomoya's hair.
Well, Junji wasn't the type to just watch. He was going to take action. He reached in the nighttable drawer, looking for something . . .
Tomoya suddenly drew in a deep breath, raising his head off Mahiro's erection, when he felt lube poured on his ass. There was a feeling of the cheeks being gently spread apart, and something draped between them . . .
As Junji's tongue pushed into him, Tomoya nearly choked on Mahiro. He started sucking faster, harder . . .
Now it was Subaru who didn't quite know what to do. He was mesmerized by the sight in front of him – Mahiro writhing on the sheets in bliss, an ecstatic look on his face; Tomoya eagerly sucking him, head moving rapidly back and forth; Junji with his face buried in Tomoya's ass, pleasuring him as Tomoya was being pleasured, tongue-fucking him as Tomoya's mouth was fucked by Mahiro . . .
And then, Mahiro was reaching out, finding Subaru's ass, running his hand along it. Subaru quickly found the tube of lube that Junji had used on Tomoya, grabbed it, and poured lube on Mahiro's fingers.
He got on all fours, making sure his ass was in Mahiro's reach. Mahiro ran his fingers along the cleft, gently starting to push one in, moving it in and out, feeling for the sensitive spots within the younger man that would make him moan and cry out.
Subaru gripped the bed, mind filling with a picture of how this must look – Mahiro's fingers in him, his cock in Tomoya's mouth, Junji's tongue up Tomoya's ass. They were all connected, all moving together, all moaning in bliss.
Mahiro slid a second finger into Subaru, then a third, moving faster, opening him up, and Subaru moved back against him, moaning louder, wanting to be opened up, to be ready for him.
Gently, they separated, Junji moving away from Tomoya first, then Tomoya from Mahiro. Mahiro reached for the lube, preparing himself quickly. He knew what he wanted to do next. Subaru got up on all fours, and he got behind him, leaning over him . . .
As he gently started to push in, Junji lubed his fingers, bending over Tomoya, pushing one into him – and whispering in his ear about what he should do next. Tomoya shuddered a little – the prospect of it was a big intimidating, but it was hot. Oh, yes, so incredibly hot.
He was most definitely game for it.
Mahiro's ass was sticking up in the air very nicely as he gently began to thrust inside Subaru – and it was nothing at all for Tomoya to slide a finger inside him, starting to open him up. Mahiro's eyes flew open, and he let out a gasp . . .
Oh, my God, was Tomoya going to . . . yes, he really was, Mahiro was going to experience taking and being taken at the same time, he was going to belong to both of them at once, he was going to be sandwiched between this beautiful couple who had shown him so much love.
Tomoya moved quickly, eager to open him up, but careful not to move too fast – he didn't want to under-prepare him. This had to be special for them all. He felt Junji parting his own cleft, pouring lube over it . . .
As Tomoya positioned himself behind Mahiro, Junji positioned himself behind Tomoya. Subaru felt the additional weight, looked over his shoulder . . . and nearly came just from the sight.
There was Mahiro fucking him, Tomoya fucking Mahiro, Junji fucking Tomoya . . . and Subaru felt like every one of them was making love to him.
Tomoya was breathing deeply as he sank into Mahiro and Junji sank into him. Oh, God . . . this was amazing. He'd fantasized about what it would be like to take and be taken at the same time – especially in the wake of the first time he'd bottomed to Junji – but this was beyond even his wildest dreams. It was sensation seeming to come from every pleasure center. It was filling and being filled, experiencing both the hardness of Junji's cock and the tightness of Mahiro's ass . . .
Mahiro, meanwhile, was just reveling in the warmth, in the sensation of being enveloped in hot, sweat-damp man-flesh, of feeling Subaru moving under him and Tomoya behind him, knowing Junji was moving against Tomoya as well. He began to move faster, pushing into Subaru, feeling Tomoya push into him, speeding up when they sped up . . .
They fell into a rhythm, nobody really sure who was setting the pace, nobody caring, just that they were all in sync, moving as one being, moaning louder as they sped up more. Junji pushed harder into Tomoya, who thrust harder into Mahiro, who pushed deeper into Subaru . . .
Mahiro leaned his head back, moaning uncontrollably now, feeling like he'd dissolved completely into the others, there were no individuals, just one big mass of ecstasy, he just might merge into all of them for good . . .
Their breathing got heavier, their movements increasingly ragged and erratic, and it was just a matter of who was going to explode into ecstasy first, they were all trembling on the brink . . .
It was Mahiro who suddenly arched upward, then forward, pushing back against Tomoya, forward into Subaru . . . and he cried out at the top of his lungs, ecstasy shooting through his whole body like fiery heat, coming and coming, feeling Tomoya thrust hard into him again as the last shudders faded.
Mahiro reached around Subaru's body, wrapping his fingers around his erection and stroking rapidly, and Subaru was the next to dissolve into bliss, thrusting hard into Mahiro's hand as he poured out over him, and poured some more.
Tomoya came within seconds of Subaru, his cries harmonizing with his lover's, and Junji was not long after that, pulling out of Tomoya, coming all over his ass, some droplets spattering over the other two.
The four of them collapsed to the bed, breathing heavily, not willing to let go of each other. They were silent for a long moment – because they were stunned at what had just happened, at the intensity of it all.
Mahiro was lying with his head on Subaru's chest, and Tomoya's head pillowed in the juncture of his neck and shoulder. He reached out and gently caressed the hair of both men.
The intimacy between him and Tomoya for the first time brought a whole extra dimension into this passion – into their relationship as a whole. He felt like they'd all taken a step together, that they'd strengthened their bond even more.
His trauma, the stress, the memories of that awful night at the JAVAs were far away now.
Mahiro raised his head. “I love you,” he said. “I love you all . . . ever so much . . .”
“You know that I love you, too,” Subaru said. “I always have, and I always will.”
“I don't think I need to say anything, do I?” Junji said, leaning over and kissing his significant other.
Tomoya didn't reply. He just clung to Mahiro. He wasn't ready to say it aloud, but he didn't need to. They all knew what tonight meant.
* * *
They looked as if nothing had happened when they came down the stairs, laughing and talking, the now-warm-but-nobody-minded beers in their hands. Well, Junji's fancy outfit was still a little damp, but hey.
Hayato came up to them. “Hey!” he said. “Where have you guys been? We've been having a great evening! First we ran into a couple of friends of Yuuki's, and they introduced us to . . .”
He began rattling off a tale of meeting the cream of the indie porn crop, moving from person to person, telling them how terrific they all were, being flustered when he received praise for their video. “I mean, can you believe it?” he said. “They've all watched it! All of them!”
“See? I told you everyone would love your video!” Subaru said.
“And then I went looking for you guys, to tell you all the people I've met, but I couldn't find you, and then I ran into MiA, and I told him all about it, and I asked him where Koichi was but he said Koichi was off talking to someone, and then I went looking for meN-meN to tell him all our good news, and . . .” He took a deep breath.
“We couldn't find him, either,” Kana said.
“And I asked around, and finally someone told me that he'd gone upstairs, and you wouldn't believe who he went upstairs with!”
Junji and Tomoya exchanged a glance. “Who?” Junji said.
“Koichi! I didn't believe it myself, but hey. They seem kind of mismatched, and Koichi has a boyfriend already, but hey, who am I to judge, I've fooled around with you guys, right, and you have a boyfriend, too. Two times over, you have boyfriends! MiA didn't seem bothered, guess because he's been in the industry awhile, too. In fact, for some reason, he got out his phone and called Director-san – you know, Uruha. He's at the other party, I think.”
Now it was Subaru and Tomoya who exchanged a glance. They knew that MiA hadn't wanted to resume his affair with Uruha until Koichi had found a side lover. Now, it seemed, he had found one.
“So, yeah, I'm glad I found you guys! I haven't really eaten yet, I've been too busy!”
“We tried to get near the food room,” Kana said. “But every time we did, we met up with someone else.”
“So . . . wanna see if they have some food now?”
Mahiro smiled. “I'm actually hungry,” he said.
“Me, too,” Subaru said. “Let's go eat!”
As they headed for the next room, Tomoya whispered to Junji, “Well, it seems meN-meN found someone other than us.”
“It's okay,” Junji whispered back. “I think we had a pretty damn good evening anyway, right?”
Tomoya smiled over at Mahiro. He thought about the new bonding that had taken place that night, the strengthening of their relationship.
As bad as it was that Mahiro had to go through the traumatic flashbacks, something very good had come of it.
“We had a very, very good evening,” he said.
* * *
Mahiro woke up on the floor, yawning. Of course, everyone else was on the floor, too. Soon as they got back to his and Junji's apartment, they'd just thrown some futons down, taken off their fancy outfits, tossed them anywhere and collapsed. They hadn't even bothered with blankets, and pillows were whatever they could grab.
He lifted his head and saw the sunlight glinting off the Supporting Actor medal. He blinked at it.
It had none of the power it had the night before. It wasn't going to bring back bad memories, return him to the moment when he had a broken umbrella shoved in his face. His lovers had broken that spell.
He looked around The others were all still sprawled about – Junji on his back, Tomoya with his head pillowed on Junji's stomach, Subaru kind of rolled in a ball next to Tomoya. One of his hands was touching Junji's – which Mahiro found kind of symbolic.
He hoped something would happen between Junji and Subaru next, like something had happened between him and Tomoya last night, and complete their circle of intimacy.
Mahiro got slowly to his feet and stumbled toward the bathroom. When he came out, he had a yukata tied over his underwear.
Which was a good thing, because at that moment, there was a knock at the door.
He stumbled over to answer it – to find Hayato and Kana in the hall. Hayato looked only slightly less energetic than he had the night before. Mahiro couldn't figure out how he did it. He quietly wondered if the fledgling filmmaker had a battery pack somewhere in his back.
“Hey, there,” Hayato said. “How are you guys doing?”
“Asleep,” Mahiro said. “Well, the others are asleep. I just woke up.”
“I just hope you guys had as much fun as we did,” Hayato said. “Seriously, it was one of the best nights of my life. Just incredible!”
“He hasn't stopped talking about it,” Kana said.
“I want to go to more awards shows,” Hayato said. “Heck, I don't want to just go to them, I want to be nominated!”
“You will be,” Kana said. “You're talented.”
“So, yeah, what did you do after we ate?” Indeed, the group had gone back into the “food room,” found enough food to satisfy them all – there was actually more left than they thought, since most people at the party had priorities other than eating – and then went their separate ways.
“Went home and fell asleep,” Mahiro said.
“We went home, too,” Hayato said. “And everyone was there but meN-meN. He didn't come in until much later.”
“He woke us up,” Kana said.
“And then when Kana and I got up, I tried to message you guys, but you weren't answering. So I tried to get hold of MiA to see if he wanted to go out and catch Pokemon, but he wasn't answering, either.”
Mahiro quietly wondered how MiA's evening ended. He remembered very well him calling Uruha.
“So, yeah, we decided to come see how you were doing, but if you're still sleeping, we'll leave you alone.” He paused. “You DID have a fun night, didn't you?”
Mahiro didn't know how to answer it. The first part, with him consumed by flashbacks and anxiety. But the second . . .
He glanced back to the group on the futon and remembered the feeling of being enveloped in their warmth, safe from anything the world could throw at him.
“Yes,” he said. “Better than I ever thought it would be.”