A.N.: This was the bunny that bothered me for quite some time and wouldn't let me to write my It's never too late until I wrote the first chapter down. To tell you the truth I do have some idea what this will be about, but no idea where this will lead me. Well see.
M+ version of this story can be found on my home page.
Credits: This has been beta-ed by mistress gwen and lovely Andi; all the remaining mistakes are mine.
WARNING: This is GBLT/LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) themed fiction with contents that is NOT appropriate for minors.
What If... you hear the music and recognise the song
Alex sighed, a puff of steam pouring from his mouth. He wrapped his dark red scarf tighter around his neck, covering his mouth with it in the process. He looked around, searching for a scene to photograph. Every year, he hand-made New Year gifts for the ones close to him; and this year he thought he would take pictures that represented winter, manipulate them, and then print them out on a thick paper in black and white. And even after two hours of walking in the city park, looking for the right theme, for those perfect shots, he still thought it was a great idea.
He looked to his right: there were children playing in the distance, snowballs flying between them and he heard their laughter over the music of his Ipod. Alex took his camera out of the opened bag that hung across his chest and took a few photos of the children's play, hoping that among them there would be an image that he could use. He quickly glimpsed through the images. Then he lifted his gaze and his eyes caught sight of a couple who had stopped their walk to watch the children. The smaller one, probably the woman, leaned on the taller one and the taller one, the man, wrapped his arms around the women in a loose hug. The gesture spoke of love and affection.
Alex turned abruptly away from the happy couple that reminded him of the things he was missing. He directed his steps toward the fortified trail that lead through the trees toward the National Art Gallery that was stationed in park Tivoli. There were small clearings, which were used during the summer for lounging and picnics. You could often also listen to groups that gathered nearby to play music. They were very nice spots, those clearings.
He came out of the shadow of the trees, only to notice to his surprise, that there was a big group of people in the clearing. What were they doing? They were filming something. He wondered if it was a movie, commercial or music video. He spotted people in the middle of the clearing playing instruments and head banging, so he assumed it must be the latter.
With his gloved hand, he clumsily pulled out his iPod's earphones and the sound of music reached him. He listened carefully.
The music was loud, the sound of the guitar strong and energetic and the melody was very familiar. Where had he heard that song before?
And then he remembered, recognised the music.
The camera almost slipped out of his grasp. It was bloody Kato Mikumi's song. One of the hottest Japanese singers was playing in the middle of his god forsaken town's park, when even the radio stations and their regional MTV wouldn't play one note of the Japanese artist's music. He felt the urge to jump up and down and squeal in joy like a little girl.
But instead he coughed, fiddled with his glasses and slowly, cautiously inched closer, searching for that, now red-haired guy. The one who had—in his humble opinion—the most beautiful, warm, melodious voice on the world; no, in the universe. The only one who came close to that voice was Gackt, another Japanese singer.
Ah, he finally spotted him. He was standing at the edge of the clearing, surrounded by a bunch of people, rubbing his hands together and casting little glances around.
He looked nice—to tell the truth he looked really gorgeous—but his outer appearance wasn't the reason why Alex loved the man; it was his band's music and that deep, velvet voice.
Alex lifted the camera and did a few discreet close-ups of Kato and then of the band, giving thanks to whatever unknown force that made this possible. He stood near the edge of the clearing, on the far side of the tape that fenced off the area; it reminded him of the tape police use on crime scenes. He was probably the only one in the group of bystanders who knew the band.
He didn't know how long he'd been standing there, but it was getting colder and darkness was slowly covering the sky. The people in the clearing were starting to pack up the equipment, which meant it was time to go. Alex was the only bystander left and no matter how much he wished to continue staring at and listening to The Fallen Souls, he knew it was over. He was about to turn and leave when the sound of something crashing loudly and the commotion that followed stopped him.
It seemed that a large piece of equipment had fallen onto somebody.
Alex quickly pulled his cell out of his bag and started to dial the emergency line. After he completed the call, he went over the yellow tape toward the woman that was standing a few steps away from the others, fiddling with her phone. He tapped on her shoulder. "Oprostite. Erm. Excuse me." He hoped that she could speak English. "I called the ambulance. It should be here soon."
She turned toward him, a small smile gracing her features. "Thank you." She put the phone away.
Alex nodded and turned to leave.
"Sumimasen. You speak English well," her voice stopped him.
Alex turned back and shrugged his shoulders. His English wasn't excellent, but it wasn't bad either, even though he sometimes had problems with his pronunciation.
"Maybe you could help us." She quickly glanced toward the scene of the accident. "Eto. It seems that we'll need a new translator."
So? Alex stared at her. Why was she telling him that?
"Eto…" She fidgeted with her hands. "Could you jump in?"
"What?" They had only exchanged a few words and she was offering him a job? This couldn't be real. Him, a translator? It seemed absurd, especially considering the level of knowledge he possessed... But what the heck, he was so tempted to accept. Who wouldn't jump at the chance to spend more time with somebody whose work they adore? Well, that was actually a really mild way of describing his love of Kato's music. But… Was she for real? "Lady, you have just met me. How do you know I'll be a suitable replacement?"
"You made a good first impression and I have a good feeling about you. The other thing is that… how is that saying…Ah… We're in over our heads." She smiled. "Correct, ne?"
She probably meant that they would be in over their heads. But in Ljubljana there were a lot of people who could speak a little English. He decided not to tell her that. "For how long?"
"For today and if you are good, than for two extra days? The pay is good." She looked at him expectantly. "What do you say?"
Alex pretended to think a little—there wasn't a lot to think about, really, and anyway if it was just for two more days… Tomorrow was Sunday so he had time, and he could take a day off on Monday if he had to. Yeah, making gifts could wait. "Sure."
"Domo arigato gozaimasu." She offered him her hand. "Aika Koshohai, Kato Mikumi's personal assistant.
"Doitashimashite." Alex hoped, as he smiled down at her and shook her hand, that he had said it right. "Alex Valart, office worker. Dozo yorushiku."
"Valart-san wa Nihongo o hanashimashita ka?" She with anticipation looked up at him.
Oh god. What had she asked him? Nihongo meant "Japanese language," so hanashimasu probably meant "talk." He knew some Japanese words and phrases, since he took a crash course in Japanese at the beginning of the fall, but he wasn't any good at it. "Iie, iie, hanashimasen deshita. Maybe just a little. Not enough to communicate in it."
"Oh, I see," she seemed disappointed.
When the ambulance arrived, they watched two rescue-workers put the injured man on a stretcher, load him into the van, and drive off.
"What bad luck. I hope it is nothing serious," she said, then turned toward the man who was calling her name and coming toward them.
Oh. Oh! Alex grinned. It was Kato, wrapped up in a large thick coat with a hood. He watched as Kato and Aika exchanged few sentences—which he absolutely didn't understand—before Aika turned her attention to him.
She introduced them; a quick handshake followed, and Alex found himself grinning like an idiot, thankful that his shawl was covering the lower half of his face.
"We are going to the hotel now, to warm ourselves. Could you go with us? I would like for you to see the schedule and after that Kato and the band would like to go shopping." Aika's pleading gaze meant she was actually asking Alex if he was willing.
"Yes, of course." Alex was all for it. He was slightly surprised when they started walking. He followed them and a few people who joined them down through the avenue, through the passage under the railway and the road that divided the park and the centre of the town, toward the hotel Slon.
On their ten-minute walk, Aika told him that they liked that everything was so accessible they didn't need to bother with finding transportation. They had already explored the centre of the city, and they had seen the castle, where they had filmed a few scenes. Now they wanted to see the shopping district, the BTC city.
Here and there, Alex discreetly glanced at the singer who was quietly walking beside them, with the shadow of his bodyguard (who joined them somewhere at the beginning of their walk) looming over him.
When they got to the hotel, Alex wanted to wait in the lobby, but Aika convinced him that her suite's living room was more convenient place to discuss business.
After Alex made himself comfortable, meaning he got out of his coat, mittens, cap and scarf. He sat down where he was told to, gratefully accepted the tea that was offered to him, and then he went over the timetable with Aika, which was really simple. They scheduled a shopping spree for that evening and, if there was time and interest, a short walk to see the city's night life. There was a shoot the next day, which was in the hotel room and would probably take the whole afternoon. As for Monday and Tuesday, there was actually nothing planned. When he asked about that, Aika told him that those were the back up days.
The telephone rang and Aika went to answer it. She was ending the conversation when the door opened and Kato walked into the room. He took the seat opposite to Alex, giving him a nod and a smile in greeting.
Alex smiled back, and then focused his gaze on his hands. He read somewhere that Kato's English was excellent, but the man hadn't spoken a word of English yet and he was wondering if the article was true.
"I thought you were a girl," a deep voice made Alex look up at the triangular face of the man sitting across him. His face, surrounded with red hair that trailed down his forehead and over his left eye, was without make up. To Alex, Kato's face was even more beautiful in person than on pictures, because it looked artless, real.
Alex put a small smile on his face, although he felt a light blush spread across his cheeks, and he tugged a strand of his brown hair before tucking it behind his ear. "Probably because of the hair." He had meant to cut his hair ages ago, but he didn't know what kind of hairstyle he wanted, so he just put it off and the hair was now past his shoulders.
Kato nodded and poured another cup of tea from the jug, then looked expectedly at Aika who was sitting beside Alex.
She told him something and, again, Alex didn't understand the word of it, but Kato was nodding and smiling with a look of relief. She then turned toward Alex. "I just got a call. The man that's been hurt is alright. It's only a broken leg. A great relief."
"Yes. We were lucky," Kato added and took a sip of his tea before he continued. "Even though the man is not without fault. He was asked to get out of the way, because the equipment is sensitive and not very stable. He didn't listen. But I'm glad he's alright.
"So, Mr..." Kato raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Alex Valart," Alex supplied. It was weird to sit across from somebody who you only knew as a voice from the speakers and as a face from pictures or music videos; those probably never really showed the man's personality.
"So, Alex Valart. I hear that Aika persuaded you to be our translator and guide in our shopping spree and that you even know some Japanese phrases."
"Yes, she did. And I went to a short Japanese class and picked some from animes, but not enough to speak in the language." Alex nursed the cup of tea in his hand, feeling suddenly shy and annoyed by the fact that his mouth felt dry.
"Oh." Kato inched closer toward the table. "Do you know our band's music?"
Alex smiled. "Of course. I even have a few of your CDs at home." He also had a big folder on his computer, named after the man across him.
"Oh!" A big smile bloomed on Kato's face. "A fan?"
"Erm," Alex coughed. "I don't know. I love your music and I think you have very beautiful voice. If that makes me a fan, then yes, I guess I'm a fan."
Kato leaned forward with a content smirk. "You think I have a beautiful voice?"
Alex almost rolled his eyes. Was somebody in need of attention? "Yes."
"You see," Aika said. "There are people living here that know who you are and like your music."
"Yes. Who would have thought?" Kato's eyes were still focused on Alex. "I have a copy of a new single. Would you like to have it?"
"Of course!" Why did he even ask?
Alex watched how Kato jumped from the sofa and enjoyed at the view of that tight, nice looking rear end before it disappeared through the door.
"You made him very happy," Aika whispered as she refilled Alex's cup. "He's so used to fans always following him around that he misses their attention here. Until you, nobody recognised him."
"Ah." Alex crossed his legs and took the cup from Aika's hands. He changed the subject, "You said something earlier about payment?" They still hadn't made the crucial exchange of information that would seal their deal and as soon as they did, he would need time alone to call his friends and family, to squeal and informed them about what had just happened to him.
Alex stood near the big revolving door that lead into the Citypark mall. He was leaning on a wall and slowly smoking a cigarette. He hated the damn things and had been trying for the past year to quit. He had managed to cut the amount he smoked by half, but other than that… the addiction had its tight fist wrapped around him and he just couldn't shake it off.
A minute earlier, he and two of the four bodyguards that came with the band had been stuffing bags of purchased merchandise into the van. Well, he had directed the group through the mall for the past three hours and now that it was over he decided that he was entitled to a five minute break. He had sent John and—what was the other guy's name?—Jim or something like that back inside.
Alex flicked away some ash and put the cigarette back to his mouth, inhaling deep. He still remembered when his addiction began. He was about seventeen years old. The girl, actually she was his first love, had just ended their short relationship and somehow he ended up replacing her with cigarettes. Weird.
"Those are bad for you. You should quit."
Alex looked at the speaker. Why was Kato out here? He looked around to see if he could spot any other member of the group, which would indicate that they were leaving, but other than a shadow of a blonde bodyguard that was hovering by there was no one else there. "I know. I tried."
"You should try harder." Kato put his hands in his coat pockets. "I used to smoke two packs a day. If I could quit, you could too."
Yeah, yeah, whatever. Alex hated when people did that. If I can do it, so can you and blah blah blah. Mind your own business. But he didn't say that, he never said that. It was easier just to shrug his shoulders, smile, and say, "Maybe."
Alex expected the other man to say something, but Kato just stood there silently watching him smoking; actually he was more staring than watching. Alex also hated having a person stare at him. It always made him feel like something was expected from him. So annoying. "Why aren't you inside?"
"Went to check where you were." Kato's fingers appeared to remove the red lock that was poking him in the eye, before disappearing back into the pocket of his coat. "I'm bored. Is there anything else we can do here besides shopping?"
Alex took another deep drag before he extinguished the cigarette in an outdoor ashtray. "There's a go-car route, a movie theatre, and a big complex with pools and water rides nearby." And he was sure that a couple of other things could be found nearby also, but he couldn't think of them at the moment.
Kato didn't seem interested in any of Alex's suggestions. "Can I see where you live, your home? I would like to see how the normal people live."
Alex blinked. He could just see the state his living room was in. Stacks of papers on the desk and on the cabinets, and the stuff he used, colour pencils, brushes and the like everywhere. It was a mess, an organised mess, but a mess all the same. And besides, to somebody who had money to spare his apartment would seem small and the furniture poor. No way. "I don't think that's a good idea. Right now my apartment isn't in a suitable state for receiving visitors."
"So desu ka." Kato seemed disappointed and Alex could see that the man would have liked to press further.
"So desu. Maybe some other time." Yeah right. "Shall we go inside?"
After Kato nodded and moved, directing his stride toward the revolving doors, Alex followed him together with Kato's blonde bodyguard. They quickly found their group—the pinkish and dark green outfits of the two female guitarists, the blue mohawk of the drummer and the black, short spiked hair of the bassist player stood out from the crowd, not to mention a few bystanders who were hovering around and staring. Staring at them like they were weird. Well, Alex supposed they were weird in this environment; Japanese street fashion wasn't something you saw everyday on his streets. So, the members of the band hadn't taken the time to get out of their costumes and let down their experimental hair styles... Yeah, that was something that average Janez had to get a closer look at.
Alex reached Aika and whispered to her, "Maybe next time they should get into something more ordinary." The only one of the band who could blend with the crowd was Kato, even thought he still wore a very gelled and styled coiffure.
"That would be good. We need something for the evening. Will you pick something out?" Aika hooked her arm under Alex elbow.
"Sure," Alex was all for it. He led them all into H & M, which had to be a big difference from the designer's shop they probably usually shopped in... Or at least that's what Alex thought, but they actually surprised him when Naya, the blonde guitarist (the black-haired was Ame) and Siva, the bass player informed him that they shop there regularly.
"Ok." Alex helped with picking out the outfits for a night out, the most inconspicuous clothes that he could find, almost all in black or dark colours. And after that was done, they went on a slow stroll through the mall, stopping here and there, buying this and that. When they finally decided that they had enough it was to Alex's great joy, because his feet were killing him and there was still the fact that he had promised to take them out that night. But there was a bright side to that -besides the fact that he could brag that he was hanging out with Kato Mikumi- for all this work he would receive a big fat check.