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Just Dessert

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Mochimune had not ordered dessert, so he was startled when the waiter set a small plate in front of him.

"There must be a mistake," he automatically said.

The waiter coolly replied, "We don't make that kind of mistake here. This was ordered for you by the gentleman next to the fisherman sculpture."

Mochimune followed the waiter's glance to the gentleman in question, who turned out to be Yoshizumi Naotaka. Yoshizumi lifted his glass in a silent toast and then returned his attention back to his companion, Kenzaki.

Kenzaki had also been looking at Mochimune -- presumably to share in Yoshizumi's mischievous pleasure at watching the director get caught off guard. However, instead of following Yoshizumi's cue, he continued looking at Mochimune.

Mochimune felt his own eyebrows rise as he locked stares with Kenzaki. You want something from me?

Kenzaki's lips unexpectedly curved up. Then the host turned back to Yoshizumi, who was shaking his head. It was an expression Mochimune had seen on Yoshizumi's face whenever there was a territorial dust-up on the set -- a clash between two crew members on who got final say on a tech issue, for instance, or the ongoing jockeying between two of the supporting actors for both Mochimune and Yoshizumi's attention.

Mochimune frowned. From what he'd heard through his sources, he'd believed that Kenzaki and Yoshizumi's relationship was not serious enough for him to factor into his direction of Yoshizumi. That hard stare and sardonic smile from Kenzaki had just informed him that he'd miscalculated very badly indeed.

What was more, it was now clear to him that Yoshizumi had deliberately cultivated that misapprehension. Mochimune rapidly reviewed all the conversations he'd overheard where Yoshizumi had reinforced the world's impression of him as a confirmed bachelor -- of someone serenely self-sufficient when it came to personal relationships. Yet, at this moment, it was abundantly, blatantly obvious that Yoshizumi and Kenzaki were every bit as much of a couple as Iwaki and Katou: the two men hadn't said a single word since he looked in their direction, and yet the air between them was practically crackling with both affection and exasperation, on both sides.

Goddammit, Mochimune thought to himself. If I could fire Ninomaya -- I wonder what it would take to persuade Kenzaki to replace him--

The tap of a fork on his dessert plate interrupted his thoughts.

"Are you going to eat that," Miyasaka demanded, "or are you just going to glare at them all night?"

Mochimune re-focused on his dessert, which consisted of three black sesame rolls. They were shiny and slippery, and the surface fleetingly reminded him of dark, reflective water -- of the pools at shrines he had visited, and of how polluted rivers were at times better mirrors than ones that ran clean and clear. The thought made him turn his head once more toward Yoshizumi and Kenzaki.

As if sensing his preoccupation, Yoshizumi happened to glance at him right that instant. There was no hint of fear in the actor's face as he registered Mochimune's attention -- merely a sort of weary amusement, as if he was about to take on babysitting an ill-behaved child or pet.

Well, fuck. Mochimune recognized that look as well; it was his own look when dealing with dimwitted actors who hadn't yet given him what he'd asked for. How dare an actor give him that look -- especially when he hadn't made any outrageous requests yet? Granted, he now really wanted to, but only if it didn't affect Yoshizumi's work on the movie --

Fuck. Yoshizumi truly had him over a barrel on this. Because Yoshizumi wasn't an Iwaki, who had needed goading into letting the colder, darker edges of his personality come out to play. Yoshizumi's ability to convey ruthlessness and calculated cruelty had never been in doubt: look at how he'd been first choice for the Aisawa character in Cicadas. Mochimune had cast Yoshizumi as the lead in their current project in part because Yoshizumi had been the only actor who had managed the right blend of passion and indifference in all the audition rounds. Passion was easy to find -- there were hundreds of actors capable of conveying desperate yearning and attachment. It was indifference where most of them missed the mark, mainly by overplaying some aspect of bored, rebellious, surly, robotic, or some other moronic misinterpretation of "not giving a damn."

Yoshizumi had understood what Mochimune wanted from the get-go: his character didn't give a damn about what other people wanted from him because he was a fanatic about being true to his work. That was how Mochimune felt about filmmaking. That was how Yoshizumi felt about filmmaking. Mochimune didn't need to play any games with Yoshizumi -- couldn't, in fact -- because to do so would be to risk undermining the exquisite balance the actor was bringing to the role.

Across from him, Miyasaka made an impatient noise and dragged the dessert plate over to his side of the table. The motion caught the attention of both Mochimune and Yoshizumi.

Out of the corner of his eye, Mochimune saw Yoshizumi failing to hide a smirk: My lover gives me all the space I need to do my job, it seemed to say. Does yours?

Tamping down the urge to scowl or snarl, Mochimune reached over to the dessert and sliced an inch off one of the rolls, spearing the unraveling strip of jelly onto the tines of his fork. It resembled a floppy strand of plastic, suddenly reminding Mochimune of old recording tape. As a child, he'd not-so-secretly enjoyed playing with the remains of old cassettes; he had found something satisfying about the way the flimsy brown film wrinkled and crumpled at the lightest disturbance.

Just you wait, Yoshizumi, he thought to himself. I will have to write you a part that will knot you up, and your partner too--

"Well, at least you're looking at your food again," Miyasaka sighed. "But are you really going to study it all night instead of actually eating it?"

"Patience, Miya-kun," Mochimune murmured. "I have a reason for everything I do."