“Laurent.” Makoto said the name in between a long swig of champagne, tasting the fizz as he turned to look down at the sparkling lights of Los Angeles. The man hadn’t been here in years. It was a sick sense of nostalgia.
“Makoto.” Laurent answered in turn. Makoto could almost feel the bastard’s smug smile on his chest. The confidence man was waiting for an answer; Makoto felt like Laurent should only get it when he thought he deserved it. His eyes traced the lines of traffic rushing past on the roads below as he contemplated. From here, Makoto could almost see why men like Thierry became con artists. When he was doing small time scams in Japan, he often thought about this kind of allure. He never really wanted it; he was only swindling because he couldn’t do anything else. But the status, wealth, the privilege… now he could see why others were so easily drawn in, despite the caveat of crime. The champagne in his mouth tasted like poison.
The pair of them drew out the time. Laurent chuckled lightly to himself, tracing the rim of the flute with a finger. Makoto’s patience wavered.
“I’m leaving the group. Again. It seems you only listen when I tell you things in person, so, uh, take this as my official resignation. I’ve got a flight booked for tomorrow morning.” Makoto murmured, eyes down at the hardwood floor under him. His grip was too tight on the stem of the glass, knuckles white.
“Oh? If you’re so sure about it.” Laurent stated, leaning back into the loveseat couch. “Such strong conviction. Who am I to deny it?”
“Don’t be smug about it, bastard. I mean it this time.” Makoto hissed under his breath. “You’re not the only one with connections. Good luck getting the gang to track me again.”
“You assume that whatever associates you have, I won’t be able to bribe.” Laurent tsked with all the arrogance he could muster. “But besides that, why don’t you tell me what’s chased you off this time?” There was an uncharacteristic pause. “I thought you were… satisfied, with what we have now.”
Makoto could hear the almost stunned hurt in his word, but couldn’t bring himself to care as the con man took another drink of champagne. “Maybe I am, but it’s a lot harder to enjoy this when I never had the choice to accept it.”
“Is that why you’re breaking up with me, sweet Edamame? The lifestyle’s just too overwhelming for a simple Japanese boy like you? I’m sure it’ll suit you better to be working for pennies, paying off a rundown apartment. Alone with no family to come back to.” Laurent drawled, exaggeratedly stretching out over the couch in mock offense. Makoto bit down on his lip to keep from screaming. “It’s not like you could get a respectable job anyhow. Criminal record, remember?”
“I’ll take whatever I can get. Making a poor living is better than being rich off of someone else’s profits. Regardless if the people we con are crooks.”
Laurent tilted his head in contemplation, apparently not interested in retorting, and Makoto could feel his gaze drag up and down his back. “Hmm. That outfit fits you nicely,” He commented absentmindedly, like what Makoto just said didn’t matter. “I certainly don’t regret buying you that Armani. You’re made for it.”
“Ha. Just like how I’m ‘made for you.’ Shove it, Laurent. Not drunk enough for that yet.” As if to prove his point, Makoto took another sip. He chuckled unsteadily. “Stop talking and listen to me for once.” The giggling was cynical and instinctual, and he couldn’t clamp down on it fast enough. “You never care what I think unless we’re fucking.”
“That’s not true, Edamura.” Makoto flinched at the sound of his real name. “I care about your opinions, and your feelings. And you will always be more to me than a sexual hookup. If this is what’s on your mind, just talk to me.”
“I’m talking to you right now! I’m telling you what the actual problem here is, and I’m going to make you face it for once.” Makoto ground out as he forcefully grabbed the drink bottle and refilled his glass. “But that’s the one thing you don’t want to touch, noooo, you want me to just hang off your arm and go along with whatever new scheme you came up with on the spot. I can’t do anything without it being part of one of your grand plots. S’ tired of it.”
“And yet you love it anyways.”
“I don’t want to.” Makoto whispered, but loud enough in the silent suite to be heard. The tension thickened, and Laurent fell shockingly still. Over his shoulder Makoto could see the morbidly anticipatory expression on the other con man’s face. Makoto recognized that all Laurent was doing was waiting for his opponent to make the first move. Infuriating. Makoto felt the fog set over his brain and the lump in this throat grow larger.
“We both know you’ll never leave this life. Just accept it, Edamura. For me.” Makoto turned around hard enough to jostle the champagne up and out of his glass. It spilled tiny drops over his shoulder as he stared down Laurent. Anger mixed with ethanol and burst.
“I’ll kill you! Come after me again and I’ll kill you!” Makoto yelled, managing to make Laurent slightly, just slightly, recoil. A sick sense of pride filled him as the frustration drove him higher, and he surged forward to grab at Laurent’s stupidly overpriced tie. “Don’t mess with me. I’m telling you, this is it. No more of your-” He wildly gesticulated as best as he could with the glass in hand. “Your goddamn games with me, okay? No more stalking me across the world or trying to drag me back into your life! I’ll get a gun and I’ll learn to use it. I’m leaving tomorrow. We’re never talking again.”
Laurent shifted, leaning forward. The downright predatory smile vanished into a grim line as he swept his gaze up and down Makoto, as if judging the actual weight in that threat. He looked mad, caught off guard in a way that was so unnatural for the con man. It didn’t last long. The smile returned, tiny and crooked. Makoto caught himself wondering how many girls fell for that smile as Laurent spoke again.
“I honestly didn’t think you’d still be this naive, Edamame.” The con man said casually, his restrained grin growing wide and relaxed as he reclined and laid his head back. “If you need a little breather, feel free to go and visit Korea. Take a few months to relax. I’m sure I can fish you out of whatever rural village you find yourself in this time.”
He already knew he was going to Korea. All Makoto could do was stare in dejected shock, feeling the physical exhaustion weigh down on him and seep in. Tears welled in his eyes, and he mentally cursed himself for breaking down like this. In front of Laurent. Might as well have gotten on his knees and begged to leave. He deflated, his next words quiet.
“What are you going to do this time, huh? You’re creative. Bribe my next employer? Get my landlord to evict me? Have someone hang around my mom’s grave.”
“Nothing so mundane. I’ll keep it fresh for you, green bean.” Laurent fucking winked. Makoto clenched his teeth, but the anger was already gone. It didn’t matter if he stressed the point. The tension in his muscles left him as he collapsed into the empty seat next to the man, head in his hand.
“I don’t want to do this anymore.” Makoto whispered, his vision swaying as the tipsiness started to set in. The tears were finally coming, dripping down over his face and running over his fingers. “I went to jail, Laurent, of my own volition so that I could pay for my crimes! So I could finally start an honest life with that off my conscious, and I thought maybe, maybe I was actually starting to be worth something. And you couldn’t leave me well enough alone!” Makoto’s arm was shaking dangerously, chest heaving as he choked through the syllables. Laurent looked disinterested, but he knew better than to think the man didn’t care. Any con man knows to look for vulnerabilities. Yet he couldn’t stop. “You made me doubt myself, honestly made me think that the only thing I’m cut out for is swindling. I could’ve made it if you didn’t keep messing with my jobs, asshole.” Makoto bit down on a sob so hard he felt blood on his tongue.
He wanted to be confident, be assured, but in front of Laurent it always fell apart. “I could have been something if you’d just let me walk away.”
Makoto finally downed the champagne. He heard himself whimper pathetically as Laurent slowly dragged his fingers through the side of Makoto’s hair, his thumb dragging away the tears. Makoto wanted to flinch away, but all he did was close his eyes. It felt nice to let somebody touch him. Easier to just lean into it.
“Why can’t I leave, Laurent?” His throat was raspy as the words came up. The conman’s grin smoothed out into something resembling seriousness, as the hand in his hair took the champagne flute away from Makoto and set both of them aside onto the coffee table. Then Laurent gently put his hand under Makoto’s chin and tilted his head to face him. Makoto desperately wanted to believe that look of understanding was genuine.
“Because you belong here, Edamura.” Laurent said, soft and simply, like a fact. “The second you started pulling scams, you signed on until death. Nothing and no one in this world will give you the chance for an ‘honest’ life now. This world was never honest to begin with. You’d just end up playing into the hands of someone all too happy to take advantage. You would waste away on something that was never worth your time.” Laurent took a deep sigh, looking over the vulnerable man held close to him. “I know all too well the consequences of trying to go back to a normal life.”
“You’re talking about Dorothy. It’s always been about her for you.” Makoto sobbed, tucking his head into Laurent’s shoulder. “Important enough for you to make my life shit.”
Laurent frowned, trying to soothingly rub down his back, but Makoto growled and grabbed at his shoulder. He felt the luxury fabric bunch up under his fingers as he leaned in close enough for the man to smell the alcohol on his breath.
“Fuck you. This is the one thing I can control.” Makoto kissed him. It couldn’t have been pleasant for Laurent, with the tears running down his face and the sharp taste of champagne, but it all made him kiss harder. Laurent pushed up against his chest, but the hesitation quickly melted as he brought his hand to the back of Makoto’s head to bring him in. They pulled apart after close to a minute, panting as Laurent crooked an eyebrow. His roguish smile made Makoto’s heart thump unevenly in his chest.
“Well, I guess I’ll take this opportunity to thoroughly convince you.” Laurent commented, but Makoto glared.
“You won’t do anything. I’m taking what I want this time.” Makoto started clumsily messing with the buttons on the dress shirt, and Laurent knew better than to try and help. The younger man swung his leg up and over to straddle the other’s hips, grinding down onto his lap. Shakily, Makoto leaned down and spoke into his partner’s ear. “You’re just going to have to smile and go along with it.”
Laurent casually threw his arms over the back of the couch, but Makoto dove down to grab those arms and forcibly pin them to his chest. Makoto would let Laurent think he won.
So long as he could keep pretending.
Laurent closed his eyes, slowly blinking them open as he watched Makoto willingly take himself apart over him. Makoto could have anything, anything he’d like.
So long as he keeps coming back.