There was no denying that it felt more than a little weird every time Naoki had to press that syringe into Adrian's arm. They knew both very well that the term 'medicine' was just a fancy word for what Adrian would call drugs, and that Naoki was now providing Adrian with those drugs, as well as helping him take them.
His own ability to ignore this undeniable fact amazed Naoki. Holding a bit of cotton against the needle in Adrian's arm, he pulled it out with a minimal amount of damage to the surrounding skin. He was getting good at this.
"Mmm," Adrian replied absently.
Naoki smiled, stroking his boyfriend's pale cheek lightly. The shivering subsided again, and Adrian looked almost relaxed despite the dark circles under his eyes.
"I need to go pick up some food. Will you fix the screens before Lucien shows up?"
"Mmm," Adrian said, again.
"You will feel better soon, I promise," Naoki leaned over, and kissed Adrian's damp forehead.
Adrian said nothing, merely stared blankly at the ceiling. Naoki quickly pushed away the feelings neither of them had any use for; he could apologize to his father - and anyone else who wanted an apology for that matter - once it was over. Adrian smiled faintly at him, and in the end, it was all that mattered.
The little screen slid easily in place, dividing the one big room in Adrian's house into two small bedrooms and one larger living room. It looked a bit funny, and Adrian was sure that he could whisper through the 'wall' and still be heard, but this was what Mariko had suggested, so Adrian just did it. They needed an extra room now. Lucien was coming back for a few days before leaving again to become a world famous rock star. Naoki had laughed when he had heard that, so Adrian smiled too. Lucien was weird, but Adrian sort of liked him anyway.
Putting down a big mattress thing on the floor and tossing two pillows at it, Adrian decided he was ready with their new guestroom. There was no place in the main house, so Lucien and his new boyfriend had to stay with Adrian and Naoki. Adrian didn't know if Alex would come back too - Lucien hadn't mentioned him when he called, only a new boyfriend - but a third bed would have to go into the large room, if he showed up too. It had taken Adrian almost an hour to fix this by himself - Naoki had gone shopping - and Adrian thought he needed a break now. Lying down on the mattress in his new bedroom, Adrian fell asleep at once.
Smiling faces. Grins. And then a few winking ones, too. It was a little bit unnerving that Naoki's family kept staring at him with surprise before smiling knowingly, while Lucien was grinning like a maniac, but Alex decided it was better for his sanity not to ask. When prompted, Lucien had only flippantly answered 'yeah, sure, I told them we were coming,' which seemed clear enough. Despite the surprised faces, Alex decided he really didn't need to know more. Ignorance was definitely bliss, when Lucien was involved.
"Hello? Is anyone home?" Alex dropped his bag on the floor in Adrian's little cottage.
"Mmhere," came a sleepy voice from a bedroom, and Adrian appeared from behind one of the paper-like white walls.
Pushing past Alex, Lucien stepped inside and closed the door behind them. It was getting cold outside, and Adrian looked like he'd been dropped off at the North Pole wearing only his underwear. Alex smiled at the tiny blond who was rubbing his eyes tiredly, noting that Naoki must be out.
"Boyfriend?" Adrian said then, staring at Alex with his grey eyes.
Alex inadvertently froze, clearly remembering their little 'what a boyfriend really is' session a few months earlier. That Adrian would mix up the words 'boyfriend' and 'customer' was easy enough to understand, but he really wished Adrian hadn't already forgotten it all.
"No way Adrian, we're not playing that game again. You know very well what a boyfriend is," Alex said with a strained grin on his face, not quite sure whether Adrian was serious or not.
"But I thought. . . Oh. Okay," Adrian scratched his head and sat down on a pillow on the floor. "I'm tired."
It was getting weirder. Even Adrian had seemed surprised to see Alex. Lucien's grin was getting alarmingly wide.
/Don't ask. Just... don't ask,/ Alex told himself.
"So, where's Naoki?" Lucien said cheerfully.
"Went shopping," Adrian answered. "Maybe he's back now. I'll go look."
"Naoki," Adrian whispered, putting his hand in Naoki's free one. "Something strange just happened."
"Come," Adrian pulled him forward.
"Did Lucien show up?"
"M-hm," Adrian confirmed, but said nothing else.
Adrian's house looked like the others belonging to the Yamashita family, but seemed to contain far less. The largest room in the house had been sectioned off by thin screens into two tiny bedrooms and a somewhat larger livingroom. Alex touched the wall tentatively, and confirmed that it was actually made of paper. Although they were only staying a few nights, he hoped Adrian didn't snore. And they could just forget about sex.
Lucien had already made himself comfortable on a pile of pillows in a corner, when Naoki entered the room and made his version of the look of utter surprise that seemed to be the local tradition today. Alex sighed heavily, glaring at Lucien.
"That's it! What's going on here?"
"Heh," said Lucien.
Adrian and Naoki giggled like two schoolgirls, and the grin on Lucien's face told Alex everyone else knew something he didn't. It was obvious that Lucien was the guilty one.
"All right, Lucy? What did you tell them?"
"Nothing," Lucien smiled, putting on his best 'I have no idea what you're talking about' look.
Adrian answered the question. "Mariko said Lucien was coming back for a while and that he was bringing his boyfriend..."
"You didn't... Lucien! I'm not your boyfriend!" Alex wasn't sure if he should blush down to his toes or yell at Lucien.
"Sure you are, sweetheart. Have you already forgotten?" Lucien smiled sweetly, fondling Alex's rear.
"Stop that! Just because we have fantastic sex doesn't mean I'm your boyfriend!" Alex batted away Lucien's wandering hand.
"Aw, you're confusing little Adrian again! Just look at him! Of course we're boyfriends, huh, or we wouldn't sleep with each other?" Lucien elbowed him.
Alex could honestly not tell if the pained look on Adrian's face meant that the boy was trying his best not to laugh, or if they had accidentally traumatised him. Either way, Lucien wasn't serious, and it seemed that Naoki knew this little game very well, too. It was better to pretend, for Adrian's sake, Alex told himself sternly.
"Fine. For two more minutes, then we're through," Alex muttered.
"We only have one spare room..." Adrian noted.
"All right. For a few more days, but that's it!"
"I know you love me, you just pretend you don't," Lucien complained with a feigned hurt look.
"Sometimes I really hate you," Alex glared at Lucien, and he could have sworn his toes felt as hot as his face.
The word 'agent' was just a fancy way of spelling 'devil,' Lucien declared loudly after an hour of arguments with his employers. It seemed easy enough to Lucien - they should accept Adrian's paintings and pay him comission every time it was used on a CD cover - but no, that wasn't how things worked in the music industry. The discussion on the how's and why's dragged out entirely too long, making them all irritated. Which was probably intentional.
Pale as a sheet, Adrian sat back against a wall as Lucien continued pacing the room, talking to his agent on the phone. Lucien had taken pictures of the paintings Adrian had done for him, and then sent them off to his agent. Who had been thrilled, of course. Lucien wasn't sure it was because he had spared them the trouble of hiring their own artist, or because he genuinely liked Adrian's rather unique art.
Nevertheless - an hour later, the agent had called back for contract negotiations, and now they were ready to sign the papers. Lucien sat down beside Adrian, handing him the printout of the contract that would make the boy rich. Well, provided that Lucien wasn't a complete disaster on the video stations. In the end, the music company was the real winner in this deal.
"You need to sign this, and Shizurou needs to sign it too," Lucien instructed Adrian. "Better go get him now."
Naoki leaned over to eye the contract when Adrian had left the room. "One credit per sold copy? Isn't that unusually generous? How much do you get anyway?"
Lucien shrugged. "Nine credits per copy. They wanted to give him ten thousand for these paintings. I made them change their minds."
"You're giving Adrian 10 of your own income," Naoki said.
"Yes." Trust Naoki to see right through it without any effort. "The kid needs a break. Besides, he's worth it."
Through the window, Lucien could see Alex and Adrian making their way up to Shizurou's shrine, clutching their coats tight against them in the cold wind. If he'd had the kind of money they were talking about now, he would have taken them to a warm holiday island in the south. Before it was too late. Because soon, it would be.
"So, was it a good move? Will you really sell ten thousand copies?" Naoki prodded him after a few moments of silence.
"Hah! If I don't sell one million copies within three months, they'll dump me."
In less than six months, millions of teenaged girls would have his image on their walls. That was the idea, anyway. And the music industry rarely failed. Being employed by the biggest company, Lucien had no doubt that everything had been planned to the tiniest detail. Polls had been published in the teen magazines - "what hair colour should the lead in a band have?," "is a girlfriend good or bad for his image?" - and Lucien would be altered accordingly.
Red hair, clothes that would make most of Naoki's family blush, and a pushy "girlfriend" to create some drama and tension between the members of the band, had already been written into his contract. He had even seen detailed plans of his "amazing discovery" and "how he met his girlfriend." In the end, he wouldn't really be Lucien. Even his name would be changed. He was to play the role outlined in his contract, and they would pay him for it. He would earn a lot, they would earn even more.
"You're really doing this, aren't you?" Naoki sounded unusually concerned.
Lucien forced a grin to his face, pushing away the dark thoughts. "I'm going to be rich."
And when he had enough money in his bank account, he'd just tell them to go to hell, and start doing real music. That was his plan.
Things could have been a lot worse, Alex decided later that evening. He hadn't been sure if he wanted to keep his relationship with his former love interest's ex-boyfriend a secret or not, but Lucien had solved the problem his own way, as usual.
Adrian worshipped him now. The small gift Alex had brought back from Tokyo, a puzzle game where you moved around small bricks on a plate to form an image, had almost made the boy cry from happiness. And Naoki seemed to have calmed down considerably as well. Alex's visa application had been approved, and the bonus he'd earned in the military was safely in his bank account.
Things were definitely looking good. Perhaps with the notable exception of the card game they were playing. With his attention divided between his cards and the puzzle game Adrian wanted him to rearrange, Alex kept losing. Badly.
Meanwhile, Lucien and Naoki grinned at each other as Alex played another, obviously stupid, card.
"Mess it up," Adrian ordered.
Alex absently moved around the bricks again, before returning to his cards. He only had a pair of kings. He was pretty sure Lucien had that ace, but--
Adrian prodded his arm, giving back the puzzle in perfect order again. Alex moved the bricks with his free thumb, a little more carefully now since Adrian solved the other one rather quickly. Adrian watched him with deep concentration, as Alex gave the game back.
After careful consideration, Alex put the cards on the pillow they were using as a table. "I'll fold."
Lucien grinned. Even Naoki looked pleased. Damn.
"Again," Adrian prodded his arm once more.
"Again?" Alex examined the puzzle game, and sure enough, all the bricks were in the right place. Alex frowned. He'd only put down his cards, but Adrian still had time to finish the game.
"You're quick," Alex said, while 'messing it up'. Properly this time.
Adrian smiled at him, before returning to the game. This time, Alex counted to twenty seconds before Adrian had moved the 24 bricks back into their right position.
"Did you see that?" Alex mumbled, a little bit stunned, looking at Lucien and then Naoki. Who hadn't been watching, of course.
"See what?" Lucien looked up from his cards.
"Adrian. That game. He solved it in twenty seconds."
Naoki didn't seem as surprised as Lucien. "He's looking at you when you move the bricks in the first place. He's only memorising the sequence then doing it backwards."
"But there must be over fifty steps! And he sees it upside-down! He can't remember all that," Alex protested.
Naoki shrugged. "I've seen scarier examples. Hearing him recite a medical text full of words neither one of us understand... Now that's impressive," Naoki grinned, leaning over to wrap an arm around Adrian's shoulders.
Adrian kept smiling. Naoki and Lucien went back to their card game, which Lucien won with a pair of sevens. A little bit dumbfounded, Alex kept watching Adrian as he solved the puzzle. Repeatedly, always with the same speed.
It was already after midnight when Alex finally decided that he couldn't win against any of them, and had announced he was going to bed. Naoki didn't mind; Adrian had gotten increasingly restless during the evening and looked both pale and weary. Crawling onto the bed, Adrian buried his head in a pillow.
"I think I'm going to throw up," Adrian mumbled into the pillow.
"Is it that bad?" Naoki pressed a hand to Adrian's clammy forehead, as he rolled over.
"I need the medicine." Steel grey eyes looked right at Naoki, making the statement a demand.
"That's not a very good idea right now," Naoki whispered.
Paper walls meant no privacy at all, and even though Alex and Lucien were noisily occupied with each other at the moment, Naoki doubted he could sneak into the bathroom and fix the syringe without either of then noticing.
"Now," Adrian said, obviously not willing to compromise.
Naoki sighed. "All right."
Squinting in the suddenly bright bathroom, Naoki put down the bottle on the sink, and removed the cap from the syringe. It would have been better to use a new one every day, but he didn't have any and he didn't know where to get them either. The disinfectant was the next best thing. It was only for a few days, after all. He had just pulled out the dose from the bottle into the syringe when there was a noise behind him. Naoki froze.
"Hey Naoki, do you have any--"
The door to the bathroom had suddenly opened and then Lucien was there, staring at him in the mirror, seeing things Naoki rather wished he hadn't. Fumbling a bit with the lid to the bottle, Naoki put down the filled syringe on the sink. There was no point in trying to explain anything; it was, in fact, exactly what it looked like. Naoki turned around.
"What the hell are you doing?" Lucien had gone pale, staring at Naoki.
Fingering the syringe, Naoki stared at the little bubbles of air inside the container. He'd have to shake those out before he gave the medicine to Adrian. A quick glance at Lucien told Naoki that he'd have to offer an explanation first, though. Not that he'd ever been able to fool Lucien with a lie. And even without any knowledge of drugs, anyone could tell that what Naoki was holding in his hand probably wasn't legal at all.
"Adrian didn't want to--"
Before Naoki got very far in his attempt to make it all look slightly less bad, Lucien interrupted him. "For God's sake, you can't listen to a junkie! He'll tell you whatever you want to hear! 'Didn't want to'? What kind of crap is that?"
"I don't think Adrian would--"
"What? You thought you could do this without a hospital? Are you really that stupid?"
Naoki cringed as Lucien had managed to grasp the entire situation without any kind of explanation.
"Well, is he making any progress at all?"
"This is so amazingly stupid of you!"
"Look, it's just for a while," Naoki attempted a smile to pacify Lucien.
"How long have you been doing this?"
"Just a few days. It didn't work with the stickers."
Lucien looked like Naoki had just grown a pair of new eyes. Staring at the syringe, Naoki found that his mind had stopped working. A part of him was desperately trying to justify it all, while another part of him only really wanted someone else to take over the responsibility of Adrian from him. Lucien pushed past him and grabbed the bottle.
"You have exactly one hour to explain this mess to Adrian and your father. Then I will, if you don't."
There was no time to react, or reply, before Lucien threw the bottle into the sink with a crash that even Adrian must have heard. "This ends now." The syringe met the same fate.
Naoki stood quietly in the bathroom for many long minutes after Lucien had left. Eventually remembering how to breathe, he picked up the broken syringe from the floor. There was no hope of repairing it. The bottle lay smashed in the sink. Naoki switched the lights off, and closed the door to the bathroom behind him.
As he entered their darkly lit room, Naoki could see Alex staring at him. Naoki looked down. Of course they had both heard everything. Before Alex could say anything, Naoki ducked into his room.
"Tomorrow. We'll talk about this tomorrow."
Adrian looked at him expectantly as Naoki sat down on the bed.
"Where's my medicine?" Adrian said, still huddled up into a little ball in the bed.
"We're all out of medicine," Naoki answered, forcing a faint smile to his lips. How could Adrian not understand?
"I need medicine. It hurts."
"I know. We'll get you more tomorrow," Naoki sighed, laying down beside Adrian on their little bed.
Close up, he could tell how much the lack of drugs affected Adrian. His boyfriend didn't seem entirely aware of the situation, and the tense shivering didn't stop. A cold and clammy hand found its way around Naoki's neck.
"It hurts. It really really hurts," Adrian gasped.
"Can't you wait until tomorrow? We'll go to the hospital when they open. It's just a few hours."
Tensely, Adrian shook his head.
"It's... this noise.... hurts," Adrian muttered, grabbing his hair and pulling at it.
"Okay," Naoki sighed. "I'll try to find you something for the headache."
Naoki made sure Adrian was tucked into bed and at least trying to sleep it off before heading out into the night. After a quick glance at the clock, he decided he would probably make it to the emerergency pharmacy before they closed if he hurried up. While prescription free headache pills would probably do nothing for Adrian, Naoki was hoping they wouldn't harm him either. And tomorrow... They really would go to the hospital.