: The Same CirclesPairing
: drama, model agency!AURating
: PG13Word Count
: Prompted by iside89
who fed me this
. ♥ made in just in time! Happy Birthday, Isi ٩꒰ ˘ ³˘꒱۶~♡Summary
: Kame would rather share a closet with Taguchi than share a runway.
It’s one of those glitzy wine and dine parties Kame couldn’t refuse despite feeling like a show dog making rounds, making everyone ooh and ahh at his top pedigree coat. It wasn’t like he wasn’t used to it though. It wasn’t like he could refuse the opportunity to mingle with the upper echelons of the fashion industry. Tonight’s attendance included designers, patrons, endorsement representatives, and publishers from a host of fashion magazines.
“That’s Julie,” his manager whispered as they approached a woman who he hid her age better than common eyes could tell. “Rumour has it she’ll be taking over—”
“Johnny’s Fashions. I know,” Kame mumbled back as they weaved around models preening underneath the chandelier lights. Nakamaru followed, apologising as he caught his cufflink in the net of a model’s dress. Kame slid him a grin when he caught up. “Nervous? You should have more faith in me.”
Nakamaru’s features pulled together in a way that made him look more like a school teacher than the manager of DreamBoys Agency’s top model.
“We can’t mess this up. She rarely comes to events like and we need—”
“I know,” Kame repeated more forcefully before sending a sweet, white-toothed smile at Julie who had just caught his eye. He gave a fluid bow and brushed back the dark bangs from his face, allowing the lights to catch a flattering angle. “Kamenashi Kazuya. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Johnny’s Fashions had been the largest fashion brand in the country for years and it didn’t look like that would change despite the shift in management. With a foundation built on generations, a marketing team that ensured their brand was sold as superior to the rest, and a face like Kimura Takuya’s at the forefront of their promotions, entering the folds of Johnny’s Fashions was akin to hitting the jackpot.
Kame remembered seeing Kimura on the cover of magazines in his late teens, remembered mimicking his poses in the secrecy of his bedroom mirror and growing his hair long to match. As silly as it was, he remembered his idol crush like it was yesterday. It’s why he was here, kissing the back of Julie’s hand as Nakamaru stood by his side, nervously wiping the sweat off his forehead
Kame was just launching into his smooth, well-rehearsed self-promotion strategy when a voice broke in.
“Ah, Julie-san! I’m sorry to interrupt but what an honour to see you here.” Koyama bowed as he sent them all a warm smile and Kame knew Nakamaru had straightened his back, unwilling to let Koyama’s height tower over them.
Seeing as they were both modelling agencies, it wasn’t a surprise that faces from DreamBoys and NTT ran in the same circles. It was as unavoidable as seeing your least favourite cousin at family reunions and the more it happened, the more the rivalry between them grew. Koyama was sleek in the way he manoeuvred into their territory time and again, and although Kame knew he and Nakamaru were old friends outside of work, now was a different matter.
“No, no, we were just noting the same thing.” Nakamaru chuckled stiffly, though not as stiff as when he had been assigned to Kame years ago. Working in the politics of a cutthroat industry had forced tact into him, and with that came the talent to act. Thankfully. “I was about to introduce Julie-san to Kame, the face of DreamBoys. I believe you’ve heard of us…?”
“Oh yes,” Julie answered, throwing Kame an appreciative look over. “You’re rather young in the game, aren’t you? But I suppose that lends an appeal.”
“The fresh look never gets old,” added a cheery voice and Kame’s eyes narrowed instinctively, knowing that he would see the same, perma-sunny smile even before he looked up.
“Oh, I beg my pardon.” Koyama gestured to the lean figure standing next to him who matched him in height. “This is Taguchi Junnosuke. He’s NTT’s rising star for reasons you can likely guess for yourself, I’m sure.”
Kame just barely avoided an eye roll, his gaze involuntarily running up Taguchi’s long legs as he stooped low for a bow and rose back up to his full height with his perpetually bright smile. Where Kame’s tux was a silver-grey with a modern, fitting cut that hugged his waist in a way he knew caught eyes, Taguchi’s was a classic, dashing black. It only stood out because it was worn by someone like Taguchi, although Kame would never say so out loud.
“Enjoying the crowd?”
It was a lie to say that Kame hadn’t notice Taguchi dodging his way through the crowd towards him, but he raised his eyebrows just the same.
“I was until now.” He took a sip from his flute glass, pointedly looking away as Taguchi threw his head back and laughed. Taguchi was always laughing. One day he would wake up with wrinkles and his career would be over and then Kame could attend events like this without being attacked with his constant smiles.
“It’s quite a turnout though, huh? I think I saw a couple actors. How about you, met any interesting folk?”
Taguchi grabbed a drink from a wandering waiter and made himself home next to Kame, ignoring how Kame was trying to ignore him. They stood near the outskirts of the crowd, watching different fabrics catch and throw the light back in different ways. Kame tracked Nakamaru through the throng, watching him attempt to slip his business card to people without the pockets or the merest interest to keep them.
Kame took another sip of his drink before he answered the champagne bubbling on his tongue.
He turned to Taguchi with a cutting smile. “Why? So that you can try to steal more of our contacts?”
It was satisfying to see Taguchi’s brows finally come together in a frown. At least this wasn’t an act.
“Is this about earlier? With Julie? We weren’t—”
Kame snorted. “Don’t flatter yourself thinking you owe me an explanation. I said try
didn’t I? I’ll have the deal closed before the next time we have the misfortune to meet.”
Bizarrely, that had the effect of reviving Taguchi’s spirits.
“I hope you manage it soon, then.”
Kame glanced away quickly, the champagne fizzing its way down his throat as he swallowed.
“You look nice tonight, Kazuya,” Taguchi said and Kame swiveled around, ready to snap at the unpermitted use of his first name, only to be silenced by a soft smile that looked almost… genuine
. “Very handsome.”
Handsome. Kame heard informal variants of that on a daily basis, photographers and editors wanting hot, sexy, ravishing, seductive
—but handsome he hadn’t heard for a long a while. It sounded oddly… innocent. Naïve.
It made Kame give a dry laugh. “Thanks. You look like a butler.”
A butler that turned heads as he passed by. Taguchi stood tall and impressive with his angular hair, asymmetrically cut short on one side and hanging in an inky brushstroke over the other. It was a look Kame knew he couldn’t pull off half as well and not just because he was a full head shorter. Despite all the risqué photoshoots he had done in the past, Kame wasn’t as bold as Taguchi, didn’t have that effortless confidence that made him standout without even trying.
Kame doubted whether Taguchi had ever even practiced making sexy faces in the bathroom.
Not that Kame found him sexy in the least. Or handsome. Even if he was the very definition of tall dark and handsome.
It wasn’t much of a mystery how they ended up making out in the coat closet.
“I don’t,” Taguchi panted as he pulled away and Kame had to reach up around his neck to slam their lips together again. They were surrounded by wool and feathers and seven different kinds of perfume, and Kame felt delirious and hot. So hot. He was burning and yet he couldn’t get enough of the slick heat of Taguchi’s mouth.
Taguchi had to grapple against his hands to pull away again. Kame made an angry sound low in his throat, feeling Taguchi’s chest heave against his.
“I don’t do one offs, Kazuya.”
“Okay,” Kame nodded sharply. Okay now that they had gotten that out of the way—
“Do you want this or not?
” Kame hissed when Taguchi angled his head to the side. He felt Taguchi’s fingers squeeze over the pulse in his wrists.
“More than you know,” Taguchi’s voice was low and hoarse, the wetness of his lips just barely detectable in the dark, “but I mean it.”
,” Kame returned, a note of barely repressed urgency in that one syllable. This time when he surged up, Taguchi let him.
Affairs like these were commonplace. When you worked surrounded by attractive people on a daily basis and were made to sell the ‘forever single and available look’, libidos were bound to run amok and blur the line between a good idea and a very, very bad one.
Kame had foreseen the mistake happening with Taguchi months ago, when they first bumped into each other at a similar party, Taguchi offering his large hand in a handshake and Kame already taking keen note of the grace and seduction of his long limbs. It was an odd mix of regret and relief when it did happen, because at least now Kame would know what he’d be missing before he let go and turned his back for good.
Mistakes were only mistakes if they happened once.
The first mistake Kame had made was when he was a new, bright-eyed model, freshly scouted by Nakamaru after a fashion-show audition.
“You have a very unique walk. You know just how to use your hips. Ah, pardon, I don’t mean it like that.” Kame had gaped as the bumbling man in a grey suit handed him a business card. “If you’re interested, please me a call. I would like to make a star out of you.”
Shortly after, Kame had convinced himself he was in love with his manager.
It didn’t last. It didn’t even launch.
Kame still wondered if it was partly because neither of them wanted to take the risk. It was hard enough finding one person to trust in this business that there was a slim chance it would happen again.
There were several times during the week after the party when Kame’s phone would ring but he refused to pick up. He didn’t know Taguchi’s number but he knew the man well enough to guess. He could also easily overhear Nakamaru’s end of the conversation from where he was talking into his cell just a couple feet away.
“What? How did you get my numb—Koyama. Of course. He…” a side-glance thrown at Kame. Kame shook his head. “He’s not here right now. What do you mean I’m lying?! Oh for the love of—here
Kame found the phone being thrusted at him.
“It’s Taguchi. He says he wants to talk to you.”
“I have nothing to say to him,” Kame replied and watched as Nakamaru’s eyebrows shot up into his fringe. Kame looked away, almost embarrassed as Nakamaru figured him out. “I’m not cleaning your mess, Kame.”
“Isn’t that what you’re here for?” He didn’t mean it quite like that but he was annoyed so fuck it.
Nakamaru’s expression instantly tightened. “Don’t test me.”
“Fine.” Kame drew out a long, angry breath before he grabbed Nakamaru’s phone, snapped a curt stop calling
over the line, and hung up. “There. Done.”
Nakamaru was still tense as he took back his phone, his eyes trained onto Kame despite all the mundane, innocent little movements Kame made to get him to look away. There was a lecture on the way; Kame could feel it the same way the gathering clouds signaled a rain shower.
“You know what position you’re in right now, right? You know that NTT is our biggest rival agency. One wrong move and they’ll take a clean sweep from our board. Don’t let a pretty face let you forget how hard we’ve worked—”
,” Kame hissed before he took a calming breath, hating himself for making Nakamaru worry over his stupid impulses. It wouldn’t have been a problem if Taguchi understood that it was just that, a short-term impulse. “I’m sorry. Shit happens and all that.”
“Well make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Nakamaru shot back tersely before scoffing at the opposite wall as if talking to himself. “I can’t believe it had to be Taguchi
of all people. Brilliant.”
“Yeah? Well let me know if you have better suggestions for who I should fuck next—I mean” –Kame licked his dry lips, eyes narrowed and sharp. He had thought he was over this. He was
— “since you’ve
already bowed out.”
Nakamaru had nothing to say to that, just stood there blinking his doe eyes like a fish who had suddenly forgotten how to swim, silent and wordless. Kame figured it was for the better.
As much as his ego wanted to make him believe it was expected, the thrill of surprise was still there when he received an invitation from Johnny’s Fashions.
“We go in to sign the contract on Tuesday,” Nakamaru debriefed him, his excitement matching Kame’s and spilling into the cracks at the corners of his smiling eyes. They become a notch more serious as he continued, “but you’re on probation for now. The coordinator said you’re scheduled to be on the runway for one of their fall season shows. They want to see how you stack up against the rest of their new candidates.”
Kame’s pulse quickened at the prospect alone. It was a pleasant, hungry sort of anticipation and it wasn’t just the flashing lights, the cameras, the glamour, and the assurance that he could get a hundred pair of eyes roaming all over him that made his mouth water; neither was it that he would be dressed in an ensemble made of the finest, most expensive fabric that clung to him like a lover.
Even without all of that, the competition had always given him a rush.
Nakamaru’s attempts at feigning gravity wavered under his grin. “What, can’t handle it? You nab this, Kame, and you’ll be in their magazine spreads. There’s no going back.”
“Fine by me,” Kame beamed back easily. In the back of his mind, he dared to hope to meet Taguchi again, just to rub in the good news.
He met Taguchi sooner than later.
It took him a long moment of staring at Taguchi’s perfectly styled hair to realise that they were, in fact, attending the same rehearsal for the same runway. Taguchi looked just as surprised and it was hard to tell whether it was the pleasant sort that Kame would have expected from him or… something else. Something else was a good description for the odd whoop-drop happening in Kame’s gut.
“What are you doing here?” Taguchi asked, eyebrows pinching together slightly.
“What everyone else is doing here. Learning how to walk the walk.” Kame could feel a unbelievable laugh building up at the back of his throat. “You got a call from Johnny’s Fashions too? Wait, of course you did. Why else would you be here—unless stalking me through my phone wasn’t enough?”
It didn’t come out right. Or it did but the reception his words received twisted them into something horrible and venomous and it wasn’t what he had intended. Except it was, but not really. Taguchi was supposed to laugh it off like usual and not—
“You know,” Taguchi began with a lopsided, empty smile that Kame hadn’t seen before. The thin lips he had kissed weeks ago made a valiant effort to stretch to their normal exuberance before they gave up the charade and drooped, limp and lifeless. And Kame had always wanted to see this, to see Taguchi surrender like the rest of them, hadn’t he?
“For a while I thought you were ignoring me because you found out I got the call and thought I had gotten in your way again. Even if it was that, I could understand it, you know? I get how much you want this.”
Kame bristled despite himself. It was stupid. There was no real reason to get mad but Kame could feel himself wanting
too. Anger was fixed and grounding, it’s what came easily to him where Taguchi was concerned. There were other things that came easier, certain desires and a vague undercurrent of longing that only rippled when Kame allowed himself to play with what-ifs
. It was stupid
Anger was the safest.
“And now I have it,” Kame replied. The sweep of Taguchi’s hair folded over his left eye, a black veil against the contrast of his pale skin. He was… handsome
. Only marred by the uncharacteristic droop of his lips. “You’re fooling yourself if you think you could get in my way. For that, I’d actually have to consider you as competition.”
The hand gripping the strap of the duffel bag Taguchi had hanging over a shoulder tightened visibly. There was a smile now, icy and distant in its cheery formality.
“I’ve fooled myself in a lot of ways, but if that’s how you see it, Kazuya, then I guess you’re no competition for me either.” Taguchi delivered the message so softly, wrapped in the deep, gentle baritone of his voice, that the blow didn’t strike him until Taguchi had walked past.
The rehearsal went by in a haze of choppy directions: walk, turn, pause, turn, pose, walk, turn left, turn right, pose, walk faster, too fast, left, right, left, right. Don’t smile.
At least that one was easy.
In the last string of outfits, he and Taguchi were to share the runway. Kame would take the first step with Taguchi following after until they would reach the tip of the stage and part, each to one corner before they met midway and swapped positions. The timing was essential and somehow, despite their difference in stride length, they were matched step to step. So much so that they earned a jittery applause from their nerve-shot coordinator.
“Oh, Takki will be so
happy to see you.”
It wasn’t until Kame was soaking in an aroma bath at home that he realised how
they had managed to be in such complete synchrony.
On the day of the fashion show, they were greeted by the same whirlwind of nerves and stress that had fogged up the rehearsal, only multiplied tenfold with an addition of hairspray, cosmetics, and racks upon racks of clothes they would be donning that evening.
Kame was only able to catch a second’s glimpse of Taguchi in the backstage chaos before he was swept away for his makeover. Kame had walked a dozen runways but the assault of hands tugging at his clothes, his hair, his skin, patting at his face and poking at his eyes—it was something he could never get used to. Beauty came with a price, was the old adage, and Kame clamped tight around his watering eyes as an eyeliner painted around them, making him beautiful.
There were sixteen runs to walk in total, each with a new ensemble, and Kame was assigned to ten of them. He could barely count from one to the next as he was pushed onto the runway and pulled back to be erased and made up again into someone entirely new.
He was the frail, dark haired youth who sauntered down the runway in tight maroon pants and combat boots with tattooed thorns decorating his pale chest, trailing down to slip under his navel. Twenty minutes later he had his long blond hair tied back in a ponytail, the slippery fabric of his red yukata sliding over bronzed shoulders as he walked down the stage, sweeping a gaze across the shadowed audience from under his dark eyelashes.
He didn’t know who he was anymore. He was no one, just an entity shedding cloak after cloak.
It all came back to him when he came face to face with Taguchi during the minutes before their last run.
If he wasn’t Kame, then Taguchi wasn’t Taguchi either.
His dark hair was streaked with an electric blue, his lips glossed to look full, shining tantalizingly under the lights. Kame couldn’t help but wonder if they tasted any different. From the wide frame of his shoulders to the lithe muscles of his torso, Taguchi’s outfit was tailored to highlight the nimble shape of his body.
On his feet he wore sandals and above them were dark denim jeans that made Taguchi’s legs stretch on for miles, so tight that it was a wonder he had managed to pull them on in the first place. They hung low on his waist, low enough for the jut of his hip bones to poke out from under the loose, meshwork sweater he wore on top. It was a sweater only by name, an interlocking net made of silky white wool that framed hundreds of windows to the flesh underneath.
Imagining it was the trick of the lights, Kame took a sharp intake when he realised it wasn’t, that Taguchi’s skin shone no matter which angle he shifted or stretched because his body was dusted in gold glitter.
Taguchi was fucking golden and Kame couldn’t look at him straight without a wobble in his knees. He couldn’t stop
“You look good,” Taguchi said at last, polite and cordial and looking fucking amazing. Kame was suddenly thankful for the restrictive leather of his pants.
“Handsome?” he tried, a raspy laugh in his voice.
Taguchi didn’t smile or frown. His expression remained impassive save for the shadowed eyelids that hooded over his eyes, making them even darker. He seemed to have the same problem tearing his eyes away as Kame did.
“Inappropriate.” Taguchi looked to the side, through the crack in the curtains that separated them from the runway. “Ready?”
Just minutes ago, Kame was ready to collapse in an exhausted heap. Now, he could hear his heart pounding in his ears as the voices around them called out that it was time.
It was hard to grapple at Taguchi’s shoulders for leverage when the guy was a whole head taller than him, even trickier when Kame had to somehow not get his fingers caught in the meshwork of his top. Even more
trickier when Taguchi was suckling at his throat.
“Don’t,” Kame gasped raggedly. He couldn’t be marked when his body would be made visible to the world. Taguchi knew this and lapped over the bob of his Adam’s apple apologetically, soothing the sting.
They were in a washroom cubicle this time. Kame was pretty sure Taguchi had toilet paper stuck to the sole of his sandals. Even then Kame found him too hot let go off. Fuck.
Wrapping his legs around Taguchi’s hips required more coordination than he had thought but Taguchi steadied them, his arms winding tightly around Kame’s waist. One of his hands crept under Kame’s shirt to explore the curve of his back and Kame lurched, a moan spilling from his lips at the sudden touch of cold on his scalding flesh.
Taguchi’s lips found his and he drank it in, his other hand cushioning the back of Kame’s head as they teetered and slammed against the cubicle wall.
“Careful,” Taguchi mumbled, breath hot and moist, as one of the stylistic sippers that criss-crossed across the thighs of Kame’s pants got caught in the wool of his top.
“Fuck it.” Kame tried to tug Taguchi back to him by his neck, adding a needy thrust of his hips for the friction he so desperately needed. Taguchi didn’t seem to notice, preoccupied with untangling himself from the zipper.
“I can’t do much of anything
like this,” Taguchi replied. “I think these outfits cost about a third of our paycheck.”
“Should have thought of that before—” you let me maul you into a dingy washroom cubicle
. Kame bit his lip and changed direction. “I thought you wanted me more than anything.”
Taguchi’s fingers stilled. When he looked back at Kame, his face was glazed over in the same, distant calm again. There was a faint tightness at the corners of his mouth that both scared Kame in a way and made him want to thrust up again, see his face crack in pleasure.
“I realise I want something else now.”
Taguchi returned to his task as Kame tried to make sense of the words, hearing them over and over, the rough corners chafing at him in a way that was almost… painful. It didn’t make sense. Why was Taguchi even here then, wrapped between Kame’s legs and a hard on to match? Why did he stare or mislead Kame into thinking he was over him, only to go ahead and let Kame shine when he could have outshone him?
Kame wasn’t stupid. Taguchi had slowed his pace so Kame could keep up with his strides on the runway. Their synchrony wasn’t a coincidence; Taguchi had fucking staged it when he could have left Kame to look like a fool.
Maybe Kame had read it wrong. Maybe that was
what Taguchi had meant when he said he didn’t see Kame as competition. Did he think Kame was so far out that he needed his help
Kame clung on, frozen with mortification and a simmering anger that wasn’t strong enough to surface. Even if it did, the flames would be directed at himself. If Taguchi stuck around, he’d get burnt too but that wasn’t a problem since he had no inclination of staying.
After unhooking the zipper from his top, Taguchi slowly disentangled himself from Kame, taking care that Kame didn’t trip as his feet hit the ground, one after the other. The gentle attentiveness… none of it made sense. The urgent heat they had built up between them trickled away as Taguchi finally stepped back.
They looked at each other for a moment before Kame spoke, suddenly unfamiliar with his own voice.
“Don’t start what you can’t finish.”
The corner of Taguchi’s lips quirked up, humourlessly. “You should heed your own advice, Kazuya.”
“Don’t call me that,” Kame snapped. First Nakamaru and now Taguchi. If they didn’t want him then why didn’t they just fucking leave
“Sorry,” Taguchi dipped his head, “I guess I can be selfish too.”
He turned around and left without another word.
In the emptiness of the washroom, the cold finally crept in and Kame shivered. Through the wide stall door Taguchi had left open, Kame could see his reflection in the mirror above the sink. His skin shimmered, patches of gold sticking to his face, the line of his jaw, his neck… the palms of his hands sparkled up at him.
Kame rejected the thought even as it came to him, unbidden and unwelcomed.
Taguchi had rubbed off on him.
Unlike their previous intimate encounter, Taguchi didn’t call him this time. Which was fine. Kame thought he understood it now and hated himself for not seeing it earlier when Nakamaru had, in his words, “told you so.” They were rivals, opposite players on the same field. The only thing these… mistakes
had accomplished was to set Kame off his game. And wouldn’t it make sense if that was, in fact, the purpose.
It didn’t explain the advantage Taguchi gave him at the fashion show, but it didn’t need to. He had underestimated Taguchi and he wouldn’t do so again.
“I don’t know what he did to set your back—or, well, more than being an annoyance as usual,” Nakamaru modified as they made their way through the third floor of Johnny’s Fashions’ head office, “but it was bound to happen sooner or later. We have more important things to focus on so I can’t say it’s a bad thing.”
“You just like having me all to yourself,” Kame said half-distractedly, his steps coming to a stop in front of a blown up poster of one of Kimura Takuya’s photo shoots framed on the wall. Kimura’s long locks curled about his face as he lay back on a pillow, the black-and-white filter of the photo casting shadows along the dips and curves of his torso as his eyes lured in the camera.
Kame remembered this photo; it was from Johnny’s Fashions’ 50th anniversary edition. Kame still had the magazine sitting on a shelf at home.
“Your obsession with him is just as cute as it’s creepy, you know,” Nakamaru’s voice broke in from beside him. “I don’t get what’s so great about him—I mean, I do
. I do have eyes but—” Kame threw a glance at him, amused to see where Nakamaru would land with his poor aim, “you’re better. I don’t understand how you can’t see that. You’ll go farther.”
Kame laughed, unable to stop preening at the compliment despite it being as outrageous as it was. Nakamaru was a little blind like that.
“I can’t tell if you’re overconfident in my skills or your own,” he smiled, “but I trust you to take me places, Yucchi. You promised after all.”
He watched Nakamaru stutter and tug at his collar before he noticed Taguchi headings towards them over Nakamaru’s shoulder.
Taguchi’s hair was trimmed a little shorter now, so that it scratched his left eye without completely covering it. It was a deep, roasted brown now too. He wore a loose black t-shirt and a pair of faded slim jeans with a silver buckle to match his silver studded runners. He walked with one hand gripping his bag over a shoulder.
He looked like a model in every way, from his movements to his features to what he wore. He probably never had to audition his way into the game like Kame had to; given his beyond-average looks, it wasn’t a wonder that he was plucked right off the streets. Taguchi didn’t need any polishing like most of them.
Yet here they were, head-to-head in the race.
Today they would hear the decisions based on the runway event.
“Koyama didn’t come with you?” Nakamaru asked once he had noticed Taguchi’s arrival, a testy snap slipping into the usual mellow tones of his voice.
Taguchi returned it with a smile, eyes darting to Kame and back. “Hello to you, too. Koyama had things to do.”
Nakamaru’s eyes narrowed. “Are you trying to imply something?”
A tiny woman in a pencil skirt interrupted them before Kame could tell Nakamaru to cool it.
“Takizawa-san would like to request to see Kamenashi-san first.” Kame nodded briskly, receiving a good luck
thumbs up from Nakamaru before he followed the secretary around the corner and up to a pair of metallic grey doors. He pretended not to see Taguchi’s encouraging, good-guy smile.
“You may enter.”
Everyone knew who Takki was. In the hierarchy of Johnny’s Fashions, he was just a peg under Kimura in terms of status and his years with the company. If Kimura was the face for the general public, Takki was the face for their niche market, for the young people who knew fashion, understood its fluidity and wanted to be a part of it.
From what Kame could piece together, Takki had started as a model, the youngest model Johnny’s Fashions had contracted at the age of twelve. From there his business relations rose and it was rumoured that he even shared a portion of the company’s stocks, thus giving him more weight in the management and recruitment process that he gladly took part in. He was held in great esteem and affection by the many junior models he had personally trained and Kame had heard a different set of rumours about just how
his models were selected, but pushed them to the back of his mind.
He knew firsthand how easily petty, vengeful rumours flocked around people who ranked above the rest.
“Ah! Kamenashi-san, come in,” Takki welcomed him brightly from behind his polished black desk. His smile was more dazzling in person than the pages Kame flipped through and it took him a moment to blink away his awe. “Don’t just stand there. Please, come have a seat. Do you mind if I call you Kame? I heard it’s what you go by at DreamBoys.”
Kame bowed and followed Takki’s gesture to the large leather couch that curved wide across the floor of the office; just a foot away was a glass coffee table on which lay a nondescript, stapled document and a single gold-rimmed pen. A contract.
Takki came around from behind his desk and joined him, seating himself closer than someone of Nakamaru’s sensibilities would, not that Kame minded. He rather preferred this, even if it made it harder to look at Takki directly.
“Not at all.” Kame smiled, a tad embarrassed. “Everyone calls me Kame, more or less.”Kazuya.
“Well then, Kame
—it’s a cute name,” Takki flashed him a friendly smile before continuing, “You put on quite the show on the runway. I was sitting front and center and I have to say, I didn’t expect you to pass our test with flying colours.”
Kame could feel himself blush, his pulse picking up at the praise. He did it. He had it in the bag.
It took all his willpower not to grin like a lunatic.
“Thank you, Takizawa-san. It’s a… a pleasure to know that I could have surprised someone with your experience.” Kame bowed his head in deference. “I’m sure you’ve seen all there is to see.”
“Oi, are you poking fun at my age?”
“N-no!” Kame glanced up, startled. “I only meant that—”
A hand slid across the sofa to pinch his side and Kame blinked under Takki’s laughing eyes.
He flushed once more. “Oh. You were joking.”
Takki nodded. “I was. But only about the age part.”
When Kame had recovered enough to look up again, Takki had scooted closer, an arm thrown around the back of the couch, behind Kame’s shoulders. He returned Takki’s smile briefly before turning back to stare at the luxurious zebra patterned rug under their feet. It looked soft enough to roll in. Maybe it was there just for that.
Kame snuck a glance at the contract, reminding himself it was there, just within reach.
The ticking of the clock filled in the silence until Takki broke it with a soft, “Tell me about your ambitions, Kame.”
Kame stared at their knees now, just barely touching; his own clad in black denim and Takki’s in pinstriped grey.
“I would like to… go as far as I can. I don’t want to box myself into fashion shows or magazines. I want to do more. I want to be everywhere.” Kame waited for the chuckle, the patronizing pat on the back. Instead, Takki’s hand landed a little above his knee, squeezing gently at his thigh.
“That’s a brave goal you have there. It’s good. I don’t like to invest in people with little to no dreams.”
Takki’s cologne was thick and overpowering, inescapable.
“Thank you,” Kame returned, ever-so-polite and humble as he watched Takki’s fingers drum against the in-seam of his leg. Tic, tic, tic.
“But you know, Kame, I don’t think your dream is farfetched at all. I was just like you when I met Kitagawa-san. He changed my world—and I would love to help change yours.” He could feel Takki’s breath on his ear now, warm and smelling of fresh mint. “It’s all about how far you’re willing
The hand slid up, palming his crotch, and Kame froze, his mind stuttering to a stop.
“You made quite the figure on the catwalk,” Takki whispered, his lips ghosting along Kame’s jaw. “You say I’ve seen it all but there’s still more of you I have yet to see.”
Takki’s other hand crept up under the hem of Kame’s shirt and a moment after, Kame’s objection was muffled by a pair of full, beautiful lips that Kame had once admired.
It would be so easy, he thought for a fleeting second as everything skittered sideways into hell, it would be so easy to wrap his arms around Takki’s shoulders, reciprocate with a thrust into his hand. Kame wasn’t a fool. This is how it worked. This is how it went.
He was even lucky because while others had to court wrinkly, bloated men with foul tempers and little power that boded but the smallest promotion, he had Takki on top of him. Takki who was gorgeous and fit and who could control the strings behind the curtain. Takki could give him everything he wanted and all Kame would have to do was lay on his back.
It would be so easy, a short-cut to a homerun.Kazuya.
The sound of rustling fabric, his zipper being opened, an unfamiliar hand sliding inside.
Taguchi was waiting just outside the doors, waiting his turn, wishing Kame could luck. Taguchi who wanted Kame despite everything but would never take
him like this.
Kame struggled against the hand in his hair, ripping his face to the side. The assaulting mouth went for his neck instead, a hand working at him from below. The smell was too much, the heat, it was suffocating. The leather of the sofa stuck to his sweaty skin as he tried to pull himself away.“Stop.”
When he felt a tug on his pants, Kame raised his knee and pushed blindly. Pushed hard.
Takki got the message.
Kame panted, his chest heaving as he watched Takki rise to his full height with apprehensive eyes. New eyes. He could never look at Takizawa the same way again. Fuck.
What had he done? What had happened? Kame gathered his limbs together, trying to make himself feel whole again even as an empty void opened up inside him. This was it. He’d fucked up everything. An inch away from the finish line and the race was already over.
Nakamaru would ask.
Kame wiped at his eyes quickly, not daring to obscure his vision for long in Takizawa’s office.
Takizawa wasn’t looking at him; Kame might as well have not been sitting on Takizawa’s couch with his fly open with the complete disregard that was being afforded to him. It only took Takizawa a few minutes’ ministrations to restore his pristine image, the collars of his blazer now flattened and his hair folded neatly.
Kame could only imagine how debauched he looked in comparison. When he finally found his fingers, he pulled up his zipper and cringed at how the sound cut through the silence.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out,” Takizawa said with friendly professionalism, erasing Kame as he looked down at his cuffs. “You can leave.”
Kame didn’t wait a second longer before he tripped around the couch, speeding through the doors and into the hall, past Nakamaru—“That took a while! Did you—Kame? Kame what’s wrong?
”—around the corner, don’t let him see, don’tlethimsee—
Something inside Kame plummeted at the voice and he looked up before it was too late to retreat. He let Taguchi see it. Him. What a joke he really was. A castaway plaything who talked big, full of air and made of porcelain that broke too easily. That was Kazuya.
If there was one thing he couldn’t handle at that moment, it was Taguchi’s face caving in on itself, the anger clouding his searching eyes when he found the answer written in the mess of Kame’s hair, his swollen lips, the red splotches on his neck where Takizawa had—“Kazuya,”
the sorrow in his voice.
Taguchi didn’t know that Kame had considered it for a moment, had let it go as far as it went.
Kame blinked rapidly and ran.
The poster of Kimura was nothing but a blur this time, a distortion of what he had thought was real and had once wanted.
Nakamaru was livid, angrier than Kame had ever seen him before. Watching him pace Kame’s bedroom, his face blotched with red and his slender fingers ready on his cell phone—ready to make the call if only Kame would let him—filled Kame with a strange calmness, his own rage dulling in contrast.
What transpired in Takizawa’s office wasn’t uncommon or a mystery. It just was. Kame wasn’t stupid; it would be his word against all of Johnny’s Fashions and, if he was honest with himself, Kame had always known he’d arrive at this moment in his career. He had heard and seen it happen to others, new faces who rocketed sky-high over night and were suddenly forefront and center, so why not him? It didn’t surprise him that a world that stood for everything beautiful would be so dirty under the glamour.
The thing was—Kame was surprised by himself
He always knew it was coming. He always thought he would go along with it, because why not? A tumble here and a promotion there. What did it really cost him? He’d do it once and catch his big break, make a run for it and never look back like so many did before him. He would become so famous that the past would never touch him.
Taguchi would never do it though and for some reason that mattered. For some reason, that changed everything.
Which is why, when Nakamaru’s phone rang and a few minutes later Nakamaru turned to him tentatively, hedging around his words as he told Kame that it was Koyama—that Koyama had called to let them know Taguchi had been contracted with Johnny’s Fashions—Kame lost it.
He lunged out of his bed, snatching his phone and locking the bathroom door behind him as Nakamaru knocked on it from outside. The thump, thump, thump
felt loud enough to be coming from inside him, a pounding in his head.
He couldn’t look at himself, not without feeling the need to shower, and so he stared at the spotless white of the sink instead. His hand clenched tight along the rim of the sink as the number dialed.
“Did you sleep with him?”
Kame wanted to scream it, make the words bounce off the walls. It came out as a ragged whisper, a plead when it should have been an accusation.
“No. You know I didn’t,” Taguchi answered. There was brief pause in which all Kame could think was of course
. Of course it was that simple. Taguchi wouldn’t. Tagachi was better. “I’m coming over.”
The call ended and Kame let his phone slip from his grip and into the sink with a clatter, Nakamaru’s faint voice asking him if everything was okay from the other side.
Taguchi had sealed the deal without letting Takizawa’s hands into his pants.
Of course. Everything was okay.
Kame made the mistake of looking up. His reflection was dirty, covered in grime on all the places he had been touched. He had changed but he could still smell Takizawa on his clothes, on his skin despite rubbing it raw.
Kame sat himself under the shower head and let the water run hot enough to fog up the mirror.
He had thought he was so much more.
His toes and fingers were pink and wrinkly and the water had grown cold. His clothes were drenched, weighing ten times their weight as he rose to turn off the tap, the last drop tricking down his back and making him shiver.
He felt better now. Cleaner.
There had been pounding on the door earlier. Kame couldn’t remember when it had stopped.
Kame grabbed his towel and patted off what little of himself he could dry. All his clothes were in the closet.
When he opened the bathroom door, he found Taguchi in his bedroom, perched on the edge of his bed. He stood up the second he saw Kame, his eyes raving over him frantically as if he thought Kame had been spilling blood in the privacy of his bathroom.
“Didn’t you hear me calling you? I was close to breaking down the door.” Taguchi sounded angry. That was funny since Taguchi had everything. Kame couldn’t even hate for it. It would have made everything easier if he could.
“No, not really.” Kame turned away and walked to his closet. “Where’s Nakamaru? You must have pissed him off pretty bad to get him to leave you alone with me.”
“Why? Does he… does he like you?”
When he glanced over his shoulder, he caught Taguchi frowning at his back. Kame snorted. “He just doesn’t like you
“I’m more comfortable with that than the other way around, honestly.” The angry undertone of his voice surfaced once more. “You’re soaked to the bone
. What on Earth were you trying to do? Drown yourself?”
“Wouldn’t that be nice,” Kame murmured and pulled off his drenched shirt in one sweep and dropped it onto the floor with a wet splat. “The door’s open by the way.”
“I’m not going to let you lock me out again, Kazuya.”
Kame shrugged and let his pants fall to his ankles in a puddle of wet cotton. He kicked his sweatpants to the side to join his shirt and began to towel down, unmindful of his nudity when Taguchi had already seen it all. Knowing that he had Taguchi’s eyes on him though sent a sweet frisson through him. It was momentary and weak but made him twitch all the same. Taguchi must have seen it.
“I’m sorry but if you’re here to get some, I’m only half up for it,” Kame said out loud. Best to spare Taguchi the disappointment and send him on his way.
Taguchi didn’t seem all that grateful. “After what happ—did you really think I came here for that?”
Kame pulled on a pair of warm, plaid boxers and a soft white t-shirt before he turned to face Taguchi. Even now he hated how he had to look up to meet eyes with him; it was a physical reminder of the many ways Kame fell short.
“I have no idea why you’re here, actually,” Kame said bluntly. “Did you come to hear congratulations? Or throw back all the shit I said to you? I can’t blame you if you did. You win, I lose. Should I add anything else to that?”
Taguchi’s face had grown cloudy, like he didn’t know where to start with his objections. He was in a long black wool coat, standing tall and formidable and Kame suddenly found his bedroom cramped. Taguchi was never supposed to be here, was never supposed to enter this part of Kame’s life.
Taguchi’s deep voice penetrated the silence at last. “You can throw in the fact that you’re too scared to admit you’re in love with me.”
He held Kame’s eyes with a challenge that made Kame’s chest swell and his throat close. He wasn’t—he couldn’t—
“I’m not,” he said when he got his throat working and it was supposed to sound stronger than it did. Taguchi wasn’t supposed to be smiling sadly at him like this, like he was patiently waiting for Kame to realise something he already knew.
Kame felt suddenly unbalanced, more vulnerable now than when he had all of him exposed just mere minutes ago. Fuck.
“You didn’t say which one, Kazuya,” Taguchi said softly but didn’t push any farther. Instead, he bent down to grab something from the bag at his feet and held out a bundle of documents. “Read it. It’s why I’m here.”
Kame accepted the papers curiously and froze at the Johnny’s Fashions logo imprinted on the corners. He flipped through two pages before the words began to skitter and he realised he was shaking. He threw back the contract viciously, watching it hit Taguchi square in the chest before it fell to the floor.
“What the fuck
is this?” What was Taguchi playing at? Did they expect him to return to that office, to open himself up on that couch and finish it off when Kame had regretted it the instant it had started? Did they sign Taguchi a bonus just for that?
Taguchi. Taguchi was supposed to be clean.
Kame could feel himself heaving, had to blink fast to keep his vision clear.
Taguchi was making that pathetic good guy face again and Kame was done with it.
“It’s not what you’re—”
“Did Takizawa send you here to bring me back? Are you my pimp now, is that—”
Kame cut himself off at the darkness in Taguchi’s expression. Taguchi never looked dangerous, not when he was mad or upset or jealous. His corners were always rounded and safe, a carefully crafted joke slipping from his tongue in place of curses and threats. He was safer than Nakamaru who Kame had once thought was the safest of them all.
The deadly grimness Taguchi wore now shocked him into silence.
“Takizawa is never going to lay a hand on you again.”
Kame swallowed. “Yeah? He just decided not to be a fucking creep?”
“No, it’s written in the contract. We won’t be working under him,” Kame winced at the wording as Taguchi scooped up the contract from the floor. He tidied it up before laying it on Kame’s nightstand and turned to face him again. “Domoto Koichi is taking us on. He was in the audience on the night of our fashion show too. You know who he is, right?”
Kame nodded. Domoto Koichi had soared to popularity modelling alongside Domoto Tsuyoshi who had later became his romantic partner; the marketing of their taboo relationship had made them a famous duo for years until Tsuyoshi was injured in a car accident.
With his partner unable to model, Tsuyoshi was overtaken by Takizawa’s era of new fresh faces and he branched into designing instead. His clothing line, KinKi Kids, was among Johnny’s Fashions best selling. If Kame remembered right, he and Taguchi had modelled his outfits on the runway.
“I don’t get it,” Kame said, unable to believe how any of what Taguchi was saying had come about. “I said no. I,” he licked his lips nervously, pushing past the memory, “I pushed him away.”
“I know. I refused too.” Taguchi’s lips quirked in faint humour. “I met Koichi on my way out. I was angry enough to tell him what had happened in, uh, not so friendly terms,” Taguchi scratched the nape of his neck sheepishly and something about the familiarity of the action—the gentleness, the openness, the sheer Taguchi
of it—made Kame unwind and breathe easier, “and he laughed. He said nothing would give him so much pleasure as stealing us from under Takizawa’s nose.”
Or hands, Kame added to himself.
Kame yanked at the hem of his shirt and looked to the side. “And he wants… both of us?” If Taguchi had to use leverage to get Kame signed on too… It wouldn’t really matter save for Kame’s pride not being able to handle it.
Taguchi was smiling at him when he looked back. “He says we complement each other. He’s the one who really sent me here… but to tell you the truth, I would have shown up either way so you can’t blame him entirely.”
That stupid fucking grin was back. Kame loved it.
In three wide steps, Kame had his lips pressed to it, tasting whatever sunshine Taguchi was made of.
The weight of Taguchi’s big hands came to rest on the sides of his waist, holding him both close and at a distance.
“Don’t want to warm me up?” Kame nipped at Taguchi’s lower lip, willing his mouth to open above Kame’s. His hands made it impossible for Kame to lift up onto his toes and Kame cursed his height even though a part of him loved being towered over by Taguchi’s everything, his body, his smell, his heat.
Kame keened low in his throat when Taguchi refused to budge, keeping their kiss chaste and dry. “What if I catch a cold?”
Taguchi’s laugh rumbled through him. “All the better for me to stay away.”
Kame took that brief chance to slip his tongue inside and felt another frisson dive down into his navel at Taguchi’s surprised moan. They tussled for a few minutes until Kame tried to shuck off Taguchi’s coat and Taguchi pulled away.
“I always forget how dangerous you can be,” Taguchi breathed with his forehead touching Kame’s, a sweet, thoughtful smile in place. “I lose my mind around you and each time I say I won’t, but then you happen.”
Mistakes only happened once. More than once and they were no longer mistakes.
Kame couldn’t count how many times they had happened with Taguchi.
“If only I could make you lose your clothes so easily.” Taguchi laughed on cue and Kame let him pull away so that he could keep the pounding of his heart a secret to himself.
Taguchi shouldered his bag and reached out to give a gentle, brief caress down Kame’s bare arm.
“Give it a read but remember, there’s no pressure. Not from my side at least.” Kame nodded and Taguchi exhaled, looking at him squarely. “And… if you want to fight this, Kazuya, I’m with you. Please know that.”
Kame grabbed his hand, squeezed, and let go.
“You said you wanted something else now… What is it?” I’ll get it for you.
It was the least Kame could do.
Taguchi tilted his head, searching for the memory. When he found it, he shrugged wistfully. “I want you to want me for more than an hour, Kazuya.”
So that had been it.
Kame breathed in slowly. This, he could do. This, he had already done.
It took a long time, a lot of hashing back and forth before Kame could convince himself, and then an even longer time to convince Nakamaru.
“Oh right, it’s all fancy offers and shiny designer brands for now
but soon they’ll bargain for your soul and then what?”
Nakamaru had his arms folded across his chest and his best frowning stern face on. Kame liked to call this his Vice Principal mode; it was one of his most endearing. Kame stepped forward and tugged his arms loose, clasping both his hands with his own and moving them to-and-fro until they swayed with their own momentum.
“I hate it when you do this,” Nakamaru grumbled through a grudging smile and Kame grinned.
“Because it always works?”
“I mean it though, Kame,” Nakamaru replied with a more serious edge and the swaying slowed to a stop. “If it happens again… They could ask anything from you at anytime.”
“Only what I’m bound to by my contract, which
you’ve read and re-read so many times that you know it better than your own name,” Kame added with a smile full of gratitude. “And, if they do
come after my soul they’ll have to go through you to get it since I’m bringing you with me. Won’t you be my knight in suited armour?”
Nakamaru blushed and Kame watched in fond amusement as he tried to battle it down by sheer will power.
“I know what you’re doing, you know.”
“I know you do. I just really want you to see me get KinKi on stage, Yucchi.”
“Oh god, here it comes…” Nakamaru groaned and Kame threw his head back and laughed.
“You look very handsome,” Taguchi said when Kame stepped onto the set of the photoshoot.
It was an outdoor shooting today where they would be modelling while strolling down a quaint street sandwiched between high-end shops. The sky was a light grey, clouds just barely hiding the sun; the air was crisp.
Taguchi looked very handsome himself in his dapper suit though Kame returned the compliment with little more than, “Thanks. You too.”
Even just that made Taguchi smile wide and Kame had to look away to hide his own smile. Taguchi was annoyingly infectious and Kame was steadily losing his immunity despite all the time they had been spending together recently, both in and outside of work.
They walked and talked as the photographer clicked away, requesting to begin with candid shots before leading into the poses.
“So what made you decide to become a model?”
Kame glanced up, surprised, and heard the camera go off a few feet away. Now there would be a permanent record of Taguchi having thrown him off guard. Kame hoped that photo wouldn’t make the cut.
Kame began with a shrug. “It’s a cliché story. I was picked on for my looks as a kid. Then puberty hit and I didn’t look the same. The idea of making them realise their girlfriends wanted me more than them was pretty motivating.” Kame huffed a small laugh and kicked a pebble on the street. “It was petty but it got me where I am, I guess. What about you? Let me guess, you were on your way to school when someone snatched you off the street?”
Taguchi laughed loud and big, his eyes disappearing. The camera went off again. This one, Kame knew, would be a keeper.
“Close. I was actually heading to the beach. It was in the summer so I needed a job any way. I wasn’t particularly good at any one thing but Koyama kept saying I was a natural so I stuck with it.” Taguchi looked up at the sky and inhaled deeply, enjoying the day for all it was worth. Kame suddenly felt warm despite the hiding sun. “Plus, I had always liked fashion. And then I saw you.”
“Huh?” Kame stopped in his step monetarily.
Taguchi slid him a sly grin. “I was a rookie so Koyama told me to watch other models my age and learn from them. Your catwalk from three years ago left quite the impression on me,” Kame released a weak oh god
,“You’re… really something else on stage, Kazuya.”
Kame fought the tremendous urge to hide his face in his hands. Three years ago he was all skin and bones and ribs, long hair that made him look like a girl coupled with an uptight strut. Taguchi was insane.
“Why do I even like you?” Kame groaned and blinked when he realised he had said it out loud. Don’t look, don’t look
—there was another click of the camera and Kame had
to know what face Taguchi was making.
And then he had to quickly look away again because he found himself blushing.
“You look like an idiot,” Kame mumbled and heard Taguchi say laughingly, “but I want to know too, Kazuya.”
It was a face Kame wanted to kiss again and again.
When they were passing a street sign, Kame tugged Taguchi behind it, just enough so that their faces would be hidden, and did just that.
All the cameras went off.
The 23rd issue of KinKi Collections was released the following month.
On the 31st and 32nd page, Kame’s confession, as Taguchi would from then on call it, took over a two-page centerfold.
Unsubtle and unretractable, a proof of a mistake that was made with full intention.
On the 33rd page, two smiles—one surprised, the other embarrassed; both uncontrollable and wide—bounced off each other, bright and vivid through the greyscale.
Some mistakes were inevitable.